Review: Microsoft System Center targets cloud, virtualization

New management suite delivers orchestration tools for large-scale, multi-vendor environments

With the revamped System Center 2012 suite of management tools, Microsoft has launched a powerful new weapon in the battle to control the virtualized data center and the cloud, both private and public.

Although it's a totally gruesome/forklift installation (yet better than before), for the first time in recent memory, all of the modules that comprise System Center are in nominal revision sync, and have increased their coverage to include the competition.

Private cloud is well covered in System Center 2012, although the focus is poised more towards Windows Azure, Microsoft's public cloud platform. Virtualization is also heavily covered, and although the emphasis is on Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor, there is also support for many heavily used, but not all, features of Citrix XenServer and VMware ESXi/vSphere.

Systems Center 2012's coverage includes plenty of other non-Windows devices. You can deal with Windows Phone, Apple's iPad/iPhone's iOS 5, and perhaps that pesky department with the Android phones, too -- if there's a link to Microsoft Exchange Server controls. Microsoft is trying to change its Windows-only stripes. It's the most egalitarian coverage we've seen from Microsoft, and while the added coverage is welcome, it does add to the complexity level.

We divide our review into two parts. One roughly covers SC 2012:Orchestrator, the upgraded workflow tool that Microsoft bought and presented as Opalis vNext, along with SC 2012: Configuration Manager. (See our test methodology.)

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