Microsoft Management Summit 2010 highlights

This week sees the annual Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) taking place in Las Vegas, with over 3500 attendees from around the world, even though there are many people stranded by the current flight restrictions in Europe.  According to Microsoft, that’s 50% up on last year – and those delegates have access to 120 break out sessions to learn about Microsoft’s vision and technology for IT management – across client devices, the datacentre and the cloud.

The keynote presentations are being streamed live but, for those who missed yesterday’s keynote (as I did) and who are waiting to hear today’s news, here are the main highlights from the event, as described by Paul Ross, a Group Product Marketing Manager for System Center and virtualisation at Microsoft.

Cloud computing is a major trend in the IT industry and many customers are trying to balance new models for elastic computing with trying to get the best TCO and ROI from their existing investments.  There are those who suggest Microsoft doesn’t have a cloud strategy but it’s now 5 years since Ray Ozzie’s Internet Service Disruption memo in which he set out Microsoft’s software plus services approach and Steve Ballmer reinforced Microsoft’s Cloud Services vision earlier this year.

For many years, Microsoft has talked about the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), later known as Dynamic IT and the transition to cloud services is in line with this – model driven, service focused, unifying servers and management, thinking about services instead of servers, and automated management in place of manual approaches. Meanwhile, new deployment paradigms (e.g. virtualisation in the data centre) see customers shifting towards private and public cloud environments.  But customers are experiencing a gap in the consistency of security models and application development between on premise and cloud services – and Microsoft believes it is the key to allowing customers to bridge that gap and provide consistency of infrastructure across the various delivery models.

Some of the new products announced at this year’s MMS include the next version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), slated for release in the second half of next year, and which will take a service centric approach to management – including new approaches to deploying applications. Alongside SCVMM, System Center Operation Manager (SCOM) will also be updated in the second half of 2011 – itself making the transition to a service-centric model.

Before then, June 2010 will see the release to web of the Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit for System Center which provides enterprise customers with the foundations for creating a private cloud with concepts such as on demand/self-service provisioning, etc.

Today’s keynote will focus on the shift from device-centric computing to a user-centric approach.  Many organisations today operate separate infrastructures for different client access models – and there is a need for unification to manage IT according to end user requirements.  Central to this vision is the need to unify the products used for security and management of the infrastructure, reducing costs and focusing on user-centric client delivery for the cloud.

Earlier this week, we heard about the beta for Windows Intune – offering security, management, Windows Update and MDOP benefits within a single subscription for small to medium sized businesses.  Today’s headlines are enterprise-focused and will include the announcement of the beta for System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 R3 – focused on power management and unified licensing for mobile devices alongside traditional desktop clients.  SCCM vNext (again, scheduled for the second half of 2011) will be focused on user-centric management – offering a seamless work experience regardless of whether applications are delivered via App-V, VDI, or using a traditional application delivery approach.  In addition, SCCM vNext will incorporate mobile device management (currently in a separate product – System Center Mobile Device Manager), allowing a single infrastructure to be provided (so, to summarise: that’s licensing changes in SCCM R3, followed by the technology the next release).

In other news, we heard yesterday about the release of System Center Service Manager (SCSM) 2010 and System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) 2010 – both generally available from June 2010.  SCSM is Microsoft’s long-awaited service desk product – with 57 customers in production already and around 3000 on the beta – which Microsoft hopes will disrupt service desk market that they describe as being “relatively stale”.  Built as a platform for extension by partners SCSM includes the concept of process packs (analogous to the management packs in SCOM) and Microsoft themselves are looking to release beta compliance and risk process packs from June, helping to grow out the product capabilities to cover a variety of ITIL disciplines.  As for SCDPM, the product gains new enterprise capabilities including client protection (the ability to back up and recover connected client systems) – and both SCSD and SCDPM are included within the Enterprise CAL and Server Management Suite Enterprise licensing arrangements.

For some years now, Microsoft has been showing a growing strength in its IT management portfolio – and now that they are starting to embrace heterogeneous environments (e.g. Unix and Linux support in SCOM, ESX management from SCVMM), I believe that they will start to chip away at some of the territory currently occupied by “real” enterprise management products.  As for that image of a company that’s purely focused on Windows and Office running on a thick client desktop, whilst that’s still where the majority of its revenue comes from, Microsoft knows it needs to embrace cloud computing – and it’s not as far behind the curve as some may believe.  The cloud isn’t right for everyone – and very few enterprises will embrace it for 100% of their IT service provision - but, for those looking at a mixture of on-premise and cloud infrastructure, or at a blend of private and public cloud, Microsoft is in a strong position with a foot in either camp.

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