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Users find Microsoft System Center 2012 simplifies virtual systems management duties

By , Network World
April 24, 2012 01:02 PM ET

Network World - Switching from VMware to Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization environment is saving money for two businesses that are also using Microsoft's System Center 2012 to manage and monitor applications and the infrastructure that supports them.

Both businesses say they were attracted by the Systems Center bundle of management tools for data centers and client machines that can help with monitoring, configuration and security that gives them features they need now and that they may need in the future. If they do, they won't have to pay more, they say.

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Both businesses, The Walsh Group construction company and online apartment rental business Apartments.com, say they were driven to the Microsoft offerings by VMware's pricing. And because of Systems Center 2012 features, are both considering whether they can take advantage of cost savings by adopting public cloud services.

The Walsh Group regarded using the Microsoft platform as already paid for as part of its enterprise agreement with the software maker, and started a pilot of Hyper-V as a VMware replacement, says Patrick Wirtz, the firm's manager of technology innovation.

The VMware-based data center had a combined total of about 200 physical and virtual servers, and it supported more than 150 sites with 100 virtual machines initially, plus more at job sites. The 12 regional offices each have a physical server running four virtual machines.

The company uses 3D modeling for its auto CAD applications that are used in remote locations by engineers. It didn't perform that well with VMware, but Microsoft's Remote FX could use the 3D cards on workstations to support the auto CAD, Wirtz says. "There was no such option in VMware," he says.

To start its transition, Walsh Group installed Hyper-V virtual machines on new physical server as the company needed more capacity. Gradually it is replacing VMware with Hyper-V on existing servers as well. Today about 80% of its environment is Microsoft.

Most of the sites left to transition are regional offices with no IT staff, and they will migrate to Hyper-V when the physical servers there need to be replaced.

Staffers needed to study up on Microsoft live motion replication of virtual machines vs. VMware's VMotion, but that was relatively painless because most of the IT group is versed in Microsoft. Older versions of Live Motion were more involved than later versions, so required more education.

The company started using System Center 2012 beta in its development environment in October 2011, using one component of it, Virtual Machine Manager, heavily, then switching System Center into the production network about two weeks ago with the release-to-manufacturer version.

Managing job sites is easier with System Center 2012, Wirtz says, particularly through use of two other components, Orchestration Manager and Operations Manager, which enable configuring virtual machines to pick up the function of others when they go down, he says. Help desk workers can perform this task without escalating for help from IT admins. "The power is in the hands of the people that need to solve the problem," he says.

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