- Groundbreaking announcements at the Microsoft Management Summit 2008 reveal the company's plans to embrace competition while demonstrating the value proposition of a unified management infrastructure. In this exclusive interview, Microsoft's Brad Anderson and Larry Orecklin speak to Microsoft's plans for extending Microsoft System Center to manage Linux and UNIX on physical and virtual machines and enabling System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage non-native hypervisors, such as VMware's.
Two highly significant announcements are emerging at this year’s Microsoft Management Summit (MMS): In addition to Windows environments, the System Center family will manage various flavors of Linux and UNIX, both physical and virtual; and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) will manage non-Microsoft hypervisors such as VMware’s. These and other major developments demonstrate the company’s determination to acquire a competitive advantage by adopting the openness mandated in Hilf’s statement.
In an exclusive interview, Microsoft’s Brad Anderson (general manager, Windows and Enterprise Management Division) and Larry Orecklin (general manager of System Center and virtualization) disclose groundbreaking announcements and discuss how System Center products will embody and advance Microsoft’s strategic commitment to support heterogeneous environments.
Manage Non-Windows Devices
Forster: What MMS System Center announcements do you consider important?
Anderson: One will be our support for systems other than Windows. We’ll be releasing into beta a Microsoft solution that allows System Center to manage non-Windows devices. We’re coming to market with the infrastructure that allows System Center to manage Linux, Solaris, and other flavors of UNIX. We’ll provide that infrastructure for partners to deliver incremental value on top of System Center. We’re leveraging the existing back-end systems of \[System Center\] Operations Manager and \[System Center\] Configuration Manager \[SCCM\] and leveraging an open-source agent on the managed device. We’re working with the Open Pegasus community to deliver the integration of that agent into our back-end systems. That’s where we’ll start to expand System Center capabilities to manage past Windows.
Forster: Allowing System Center to manage heterogeneous systems sounds like the old “embrace and extend” philosophy.
Orecklin: I think it reflects a maturing of the industry and of Microsoft. We recognize that there will be heterogeneity in enterprise environments. As we’ve become more adopted and accepted in large data centers—we have 75 percent of the servers in data centers today—we believe Windows is the best platform to virtualize your data center. We believe System Center is the best management platform. So we want to ensure it’s as easy as possible for customers to adopt that as their standard.
Manage Heterogeneous Hypervisors
Forster: Managing competing OSs is a radical move for Microsoft, but the business advantage is clear. How far will this new commitment to heterogeneity extend?
Anderson: There’s another flavor of heterogeneity that we’ll also be putting into beta for the next release of VMM. That’s the ability to manage hypervisors other than Hyper-V. We’ll be able to do the same types of activities, tasks, and scenarios if a customer is using a hypervisor from VMware, using ESX, in the same way we manage Hyper-V. In the same way we’re going to extend our reach to monitor and manage more than Windows, we’re going to do the same with hypervisors. We’ll start with VMware and extend that over time to include XenSource. This VMM beta will have all the capabilities of intelligent placement of virtual machines \[VMs\] on your hardware, plus physical-to-virtual and virtual- to-virtual migration. You’ll have all those capabilities independent of whether you’re using Microsoft’s or VMware’s hypervisor.
Forster: When you say virtual-to-virtual migration, will you be able to migrate a VM running on ESX to a VM running on Hyper-V?
Anderson: The answer is absolutely yes.
Forster: When will this version be available?
Orecklin: We’re announcing the beta for the next version of VMM at MMS. It will be released to market in Q3, as soon after Hyper-V as possible.
Forster: Why is interoperability so important for System Center?
Orecklin: The key is that the hypervisor will become ubiquitous. We believe management is that key differentiator that will allow customers to take an interesting fad and make it highly leveraged and valued in their environment. That’s why we want System Center to be that point from which you manage the environment. You may have deployed ESX for a couple of workloads. We do not want to force you to change that. But as you add workloads, we want to make it as easy and economical as possible to do that on the Windows platform. And if, over time, you want to change and migrate, fantastic.
Anderson: I’d submit that you cannot achieve the benefits promised by virtualization without that strong management solution. It enables you to recognize the savings. Customers want one cohesive, unified way to manage the virtualized environment and the physical. We’ll be able to do that in Windows, non-Windows, with Hyper-V, as well as other hypervisors.
Orecklin: It’s all about infrastructure and cost. Think about the skill sets of your readers. They only need one tool to get their job done. They don’t have to think about scaling up on different kinds of tools and worrying about is this physical or virtual; is it this environment or that environment?
Server Application Virtualization
Forster: Hyper-V is receiving lots of attention, but Microsoft has also recently made announcements about other layers of the virtualization stack. How does System Center relate to your overall virtualization strategy?
Anderson: We can manage all the way from bare metal through the application or services running inside a VM. Other solutions tout the ability to manage your virtual machine environment, but the reason you deploy a VM is because you have a service or application inside it. We have all the models and knowledge about the applications running in the VMs. We understand Exchange’s needs and SQL’s needs. There are 200 management packs that are available that run in conjunction with Operations Manager. So our vision is to do your VM management, understanding the needs, characteristics, performance, and capacity of the application in the VM.
Forster: Last February, you announced that Microsoft Application Virtualization (formerly Softricity products) would support virtualized applications on Windows Server, in addition to client-side applications.
Anderson: The focus was how we isolate the application from the OS. How do you take that to the enterprise? SoftGrid will also support server applications, so we’ll be able to separate the application from the OS on the server. Now you’ll have that flexibility to move applications between servers by keeping them separate.
Forster: How does that affect IT?
Anderson: The number of images IT will have to manage will be dramatically lower. The combination of hardware virtualization and application virtualization will mean IT will have a very small number of OS images— literally a handful. And then they’ll have a set of images based on VHD \[Virtual Hard Disk\]. We’ll align the formats for hardware virtualization and application virtualization, and you’ll have a set of images of just the application Then, you’ll be able to bring those together. So think about that from a servicing model. If you need to patch the OS, you only have to patch a handful of images because the applications are separate. If you need to patch an application, you patch the single application and don’t have to update the OS.
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Forster: What are the implications for System Center?
Anderson: At MMS, we’re demonstrating the combination of Microsoft Application Virtualization version 4.5 and how it integrates with the SCCM 2007 R2 release. With Softricity, you package—we call it “sequence”—the application. Now from within the Sequencer, you’ll be able to automatically publish that application into SCCM, just like you can any other MSI application. SCCM will automatically replicate those applications around the world, down to your end devices, and put them in your cache. So when the end users click on the application, they won’t know if the application is virtual or standard. The other thing we’ve done is taken the ability to stream down the bits required to get an application running and then bring the other bits. This streaming server now becomes a role inside SCCM.
Forster: How do you summarize the focus of MMS this year?
Anderson: There are all these different computing models and ways of accessing data and applications. System Center can give you one consistent way to get to your applications and data, the things you need to do your work, anytime, anywhere. And we’ll manage all that intelligently. The goal is a consistent working experience, independent of device or location.
The Big Picture
Microsoft is moving from fear of opensource competition to a newfound confidence in the value proposition of a consistent and unified management infrastructure across servers, clients, and applications. (For Anderson’s and Orecklin’s perspective on the “Dynamic Desktop” aspect of the new strategy, see the Web-exclusive sidebar “System Center and Anytime, Anywhere, Any-Device Management,” InstantDoc ID 98434.) This revolution has been developing for the past couple of years. But the breakthrough came when Microsoft realized that virtualization creates an opportunity to embrace competition while defining a competitive edge based on a unified management infrastructure. Combine that with emphasis on playing nicely with (some) competitors, Software + Services, a platform orientation, and reliance on established Microsoft skill sets, and the company looks to have a new determination and energy to dominate the market.