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Microsoft Systems Center: Poised for Takeoff?

When one talks network and systems management tools, four companies come to mind: BMC, CA, HP and IBM. Should a fifth, Microsoft, be included? "Microsoft certainly has gained a lot of ground in the management space and now has a large, well-entrenched customer base," notes Mary Johnston Turner, research VP, enterprise system management software, at IDC.

Because of the new bundling approach, customers may be enticed to use a few of the modules that normally they would not want to pay for and drive sales of other Microsoft products. But the system is not a panacea. "Microsoft has done well in managing systems but does not offer customers much functionality for overseeing their network devices," states IDC’s Turner.

A second new element, code-named Concero, provides fluidity in assigning IT resources. Concero provides the application owner with access to preselected resource pools based on cost, security, performance and other policies. Consequently, departmental business managers can now deploy and move their own applications across data center infrastructure while IT professionals remain responsible for the overall management and control.

However, this is an area where Microsoft’s newfound product-agnostic outlook falls short of its goal. While the vendor stressed its commitment to treating VMware vSphere resources as first-class citizens in the Concero environment, IDC’s Johnston notes that, initially, Concero’s public cloud visibility is limited to Windows Azure solutions and integration with additional public cloud solutions has been relegated to being a future enhancement.

As noted, Microsoft has had success in the network and systems management market, but it really has been more on the periphery rather than the core of the market. "In the past couple of years, Microsoft made serious inroads into enterprises that need to centrally manage their system endpoints," says Rod Trent, president of myITforum.com, an IT manager social networking site. But the tool is often still not a linchpin of the data center.

Will the latest release change that outlook? Hard to tell. There seems to be little doubt Microsoft will be able to hold its ground. However, only time will tell if it offers sufficient functionality so the vendor will gain ground on its competitors.

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