This week, Microsoft is holding its TechEd IT Forum 2007 event in Barcelona, Spain, so you can expect to see lots of announcements. Today, I can tell you about news around the System Center line of products. Later this week, in the Windows Vista Update email newsletter, I’ll summarize some announcements about Windows Vista.

So far this year, we’ve seen the release of System Center Operations Manager 2007 (Ops Manager), System Center Capacity Planner 2007, and System Center Essentials 2007. Today, Microsoft announced that three more elements of the System Center management platform are available to customers: System Center Configuration manager 2007 (SCCM), System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 (DPM), and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 (VMM). For a list of articles covering these new releases, see the end of this blog post. But the most interesting news to me is about a new management software bundle called the Server Management Suite.

New Management Suite

The Server Management Suite comes in two flavors: Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition. The System Center Server Management Suite Standard Edition is priced at $468 and provides the management of system hardware and the base OS, plus System Center’s monitoring, troubleshooting, audit collection, reporting, continuous data protection, and configuration management for workloads including storage, file and print, and networking, and other management agents on the system. The package's System Center products are:

  • System Center Operations Manager 2007 Standard Operations Management License
  • System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Standard Server Management License
  • System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 Standard Server Management License.

Eric Berg, a director of product management in the System Center group, told me: “Now you can buy one license that allows you to get the capability of all those products at a very economically attractive price. Traditional management vendors have always priced for mission-critical workloads. They’re not assuming you’re going to cover a large majority of the servers. So by bringing down the price and allowing all that capability, we think it’s very reasonable for customers to cover every one of their Windows servers with this license.

The System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise Edition’s price is $1,290. According to Microsoft, this is a “comprehensive solution for end-to-end management of physical and virtual server environments.” The Enterprise Edition includes Enterprise Server management licenses for

  • Ops Manager 2007
  • SCCM
  • DPM

The big addition to that the Enterprise Edition brings is the license for VMM. In a competitive move aimed at VMware, Microsoft is including with the System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise Edition, “the rights to manage an unlimited number of operating system environments on a single server.” In other words, you can manage as many virtual instances as you want.

Berg said, System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise Edition is “not only a really great deal just for that physical box, but because Virtual Machine Manager is one of the components of that license, we’re allowing you to manage an unlimited number of virtual machines on that server. When you look at what we’re doing from a virtualization standpoint, it really opens up the ability for people to think about using virtualization much more broadly. Today, a lot of the management solutions for virtualization scale by number of virtual machines, whereas this says, ‘Hey if you cover that box, you can run as many virtual machines on it as you want.’ We think that’s going to be pretty compelling.”

When does it make sense to purchase this package? Berg said, “If a customer is going to buy any two of the products in that bundle, it’s more economical for them to just buy the suite. That one license covers that complete physical box, and you can run as many virtual machines on that box as you need.”

It’s important to note that Microsoft’s licensing for the System Center products is per box, not per processor or per core. Berg said, “That’s how our licenses are today, but on our standalone licenses, it’s moving to what we call ‘per OSE’ (per Operating System Environment, which means per virtual machine, essentially). But in the Enterprise SML, what we’ve provided is that virtual machine-independent pricing. Cover that physical box, and you can run as many virtual machines on it as you want. I don’t care how many processors are on it. You have just the one charge. And we’re talking about sub-$1000 for all that functionality on one server. It’s a pretty good deal.”

Microsoft’s Key Takeaways

With the announcements of the availability of SCCM, VMM, DPM, and the new suite, Microsoft is touting the benefits it believes customers will get from these offerings. Here are the benefits Microsoft lists:

  • Client and server deployment and update. As customers look to ease the deployment, upgrading and management of desktop clients and servers, System Center Configuration Manager 2007 builds on its proven strengths in desktop management, found in its predecessor, Systems Management Server 2003, by improving and enhancing those existing client capabilities and adding new server-specific requirements to extend into datacenter environments, including automating the deployment of server operating systems for bare metal and delivering updates to existing servers.
  • Server virtualization management. Customers interested in benefiting from the significant economic and infrastructure advantages offered by virtualizing their datacenter environments also require the right tools to manage those dynamic new configurations. System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 enables IT departments to rapidly provision new virtual machines and centrally manage their virtual infrastructure. With the System Center suite of offerings customers have a comprehensive solution designed to monitor, protect and update virtual machines.
  • Line-of-business applications monitoring. Ensuring that line-of-business applications are at peak performance is critical to any business; downtime equals a loss of worker productivity, causing ripple effects throughout an organization. The System Center suite, including System Center Configuration Manager 2007, Data Protection Manager 2007 and Operations Manager 2007, provides IT organizations with the tools they need to help effectively manage, protect and monitor their business applications and databases to ensure optimal service delivery and performance.
  • Data backup and disaster recovery. For any business, data loss means loss of revenue, increased expenses and potential damage to customer relationships. Whether the data is centralized or located at branch offices, the System Center Data Protection Manager 2007’s backup, restore and recovery capabilities provide the peace of mind IT organizations need by helping ensure their data is protected and available when they need it.

For information on the System Center products and demos, see http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/evaluation/trial/default.mspx. Also, you can read Microsoft’s System Center blog at http://blogs.technet.com/systemcenter.

Articles About the New System Center Releases:

“Data Protection for Windows Server Workloads” http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/97500/97500.html

“System Center Data Protection Manager 2007” http://www.sqlmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=95981&puuid=2F421067-1279-9119-12C8813476288852

“Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 Licensing” http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/97230/97230.html

“A DBA’s Eye View of System Center 2007” http://www.sqlmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=96071&puuid=2F421067-1279-9119-12C8813476288852

“The 4 Pillars of System Center Configuration Manager” http://www.windowsitpro.com/Windows/Article/ArticleID/95959/95959.html

“System Center Puts DSI into Practice” http://www.windowsitpro.com/Windows/Article/ArticleID/94969/94969.html

“Virtual Machine Manager’s Significance” http://www.windowsitpro.com/Windows/Article/ArticleID/95994/95994.html

“Windows Server Virtualization Preview” http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/viridian_preview.asp