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Microsoft: success of cloud depends on management

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Private clouds built on the right foundations can help IT organisations meet their companies’ demands for more agile services – and allow them to carry forward current investments as they adopt public cloud computing.

That was one of the big take-aways from the first day of the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS), which is being held in Johannesburg for the first time this week.
The event, which drew some 400 IT professionals from South African businesses and other technology companies like Intel, saw Microsoft experts discussing the various technologies, tools, and guidance to help enterprises progress toward the benefits of cloud computing – starting with virtualisation and continuing with private cloud management.
Keynote speaker Chris van Wesep, a 10-year Microsoft veteran, is responsible for marketing the company’s cloud and data centre management products. He says even with the compelling economic arguments that support public cloud computing, public cloud is not yet be feasible for many companies. By contrast, private cloud computing offers real advantages today, and can be built on existing data centre investments.
“Private cloud computing has to be simple and must build on pre-existing investments and skills. As they progress toward the cloud, customers want to carry forward their IT investments, including multiple-vendor hypervisors, other operating systems and third party tools and infrastructure,” says Van Wesep.
However, the business of IT is all about ensuring that the applications that run the business are available to users. As businesses virtualise and begin to access the power of cloud computing, IT needs to be sure that the focus on applications continues.
“Virtualisation is an important first step on the journey to cloud computing. But don’t forget, the workloads that are virtualised still need to be managed, so intelligence about the apps is critical,” Van Wesep says. “It’s about the business apps, not virtual machine black boxes. Your apps drive the resources, not the other way around.”
Gartner sees strong interest in private cloud computing through 2014, with 30% of data centre executives planning to invest in private cloud computing in 2011.
“The move to cloud computing significantly raises the bar for what is expected in enterprise management solutions,” says Chris Wolf, research VP at Gartner. “It’s easy for a vendor to create a tool that automates the creation of a virtual machine and call it ‘cloud management'.
“However, the real value of IT management comes from keeping a service up and running, which means tools that automate configuration and operations must take advantage of application knowledge to ensure an optimal life cycle. Organisations should take this management paradigm shift as an opportunity to reassess current processes and move forward with a platform capable of meeting the complex demands of tomorrow’s cloud-enabled IT services.”
At the event, Van Wesep demonstrated Microsoft’s new System Centre 2012. He says it will enable IT managers to deliver private cloud services that empower business teams, provide greater insights into application performance, and allow IT to carry forward current investments as they adopt public cloud computing.
System Centre 2012, slated for release later this year, enables IT managers to build private clouds with the infrastructure they know and own today – including other vendors’ platforms and virtualisation technologies.
In his keynote, Van Wesep demonstrated the Virtual Machine Manager capability in System Centre 2012. Using this core component of Microsoft private cloud solutions, IT managers can efficiently standardise infrastructure and application services and delegate them to business partners for fast deployment of applications.
“Our IT customers have told us that their focus is helping their businesses deliver the critical applications that will strengthen their bottom line, while maintaining necessary control and compliance,” he adds. “Virtualisation and server consolidation are important steps toward cloud computing, but it’s essential to have management tools that provide intelligence about how the apps themselves are doing, not just management of virtual machine black boxes.”
Microsoft believes it is unique in the marketplace in that it provides common management, identity and development tools that work across both private and public cloud environments, and across Microsoft and other vendors’ platforms and technologies.