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System Center Essentials 2010 Beta Released

Microsoft announced the beta release of System Center Essentials (SCE) 2010 on Tuesday.

The solution is designed to help IT professionals at midsize companies automate the management of physical machines (both client and server), virtual machines (VMs) and services using a single console.

SCE 2010 represents Microsoft's next-generation management solution, combining the earlier SCE 2007 technology with Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008, according to Donald Retallack, Ph.D., research vice president for systems management and security at Directions on Microsoft, a consulting firm.

The "Essentials" part of the product name can cause confusion. It's not a bundle of System Center products, but it does use functionality from System Center Operations Manager, Microsoft Update, Windows Server Update Services and SQL Server, according to Microsoft's FAQ.

"Microsoft is inconsistent with naming various products 'Essential' or 'Essentials'," Retallack said in a telephone interview. "In general, however, the name often refers to a product -- sometimes a bundle -- that is aimed at small-to-midsize businesses and provides fundamental capabilities."

Retallack said that SCE 2010 may be attractive to many organizations trying to use virtualization to consolidate servers because it will include a version of VMM 2008 R2, which can manage VMs running under Windows Server 2008 R2.

Earlier in September, Redmond announced the availability of the Microsoft System Center Management Suite, which is offered as a licensing option through specific OEMs, such as Dell, Fujitsu and Lenovo. The suite, which combines SCE 2007 and VMM 2008 solutions, is restricted to managing a limited number of VMs and servers, according to Retallack.

"[Microsoft] basically came up with a way that smaller organizations could get the virtual machine management component without buying the expensive Virtual Machine Manager," Retallack explained.

The SCE Management Suite licensing option features a free upgrade to SCE 2010 when that product is released. SCE 2010 will be available in the second quarter of next year, according to a Microsoft team blog. Retallack said that he expects to see most organizations move to Essentials 2010 at about the same time they move to Windows Server 2008 R2.

Users of SCE 2007 Service Pack 1 can't upgrade to SCE 2010 beta, although an upgrade path will be established when SCE 2010 is released to manufacturing, according to a Microsoft forum post.

The free beta is available for a 180-day trial and can be accessed at Microsoft's TechNet site here.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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