Microsoft provisions Systems Center Essentials for the cloud

System Center Essentials isn’t a cloud offering but some users are finding it necessary

“Every time something bad happens in the world like a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a tsunami, there’s a tremendous peak for us for processing power,” said Peter Zoll, CIO of statistical model maker I-MAG STS Corp. “We need a lot of processing power because we have hundreds of millions of equations to deal with … [so] the cloud is a godsend.”

I-MAG STS creates advanced statistical models to forecast the impact of various events on economies, businesses, even whole countries. That’s a lot of compute cycles, which brought Zoll to an event last week in San Francisco where Microsoft presented tutorials on its various enterprise software platforms -- cloud and on premise. Zoll joined about 70 other participants in a session on how Microsoft System Center Essentials 2010 can give medium-sized companies a flexible IT organization to scale up and down as business changes.

I-MAG STS has been busy of late. It analyzes the impact of world events of which recently there have been many: the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant crises in Japan; unrest in Libya; the overthrow of the government of Egypt; and violence in the Ivory Coast where the defeated president refused to cede power and hundreds were killed. Another part of its business is doing economic impact studies of magnetic levitation high-speed train systems, hence the word “MAG” in its name.

While System Center Essentials (SCE) isn’t a cloud offering in and of itself, it helps manage I-MAG STS’s information technology. The company uses SCE 2008 but plans to upgrade to SCE 2010 in May to give it the added processing power to crunch numbers in the event of another triple threat like that which struck Japan, Zoll said.

SCE 2010 manages widely used Microsoft tools such as Active Directory, SQL Server, Exchange Server, SharePoint and the like. SCE also uses Microsoft’s Hyper-V to provision virtual servers. It’s called Essentials because it provides the essentials that medium-sized businesses need to manage their Windows IT, but without a “full-blown” System Center for enterprises, said Chris Avis, senior IT evangelist at Microsoft, who provided the tutorial.

Essentials is targeted at enterprises with between five and 400 PCs, between five and 50 servers and an IT staff of from one to five professionals because staffs that size are usually made up of IT generalists, not specialists, Avis said.

Those medium-sized users include many of the clients of SF Bay Link Network Services, a provider of IT services for small and emerging businesses, said company president Tim Carney. He uses a previous version of SCE to help customers provision virtual servers with Hyper-V. “I wanted to get more familiar with the latest 2010 version. It looks like it’s really easy to use. I like the integration with the different pieces, managing the virtualization and Windows Update services,” Carney said.

Microsoft’s Chris Henley, also presenting at the San Francisco event, said that while the company would like customers to upgrade to the latest version, “there are no sales quotas.” The training sessions are also intended to acquaint existing users of SCE 2010 and other products with the features so they get the most out of them.

Besides the session on SCE, Microsoft officials hosted workshops the same day on other cloud-specific offerings like Windows Azure and Intune as well as a session on software development. The West Coast swing for this Microsoft TechNet tour continues in Bellevue, Wash., today, Portland, Ore., April 19, Irvine, Calif. April 20 and Los Angeles April 21.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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