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Microsoft Demos System Center and Windows Azure Services at MMS Event

The Microsoft Management Summit kicked off on Monday with a joke about the Internet service being down in the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

"Is there an IT pro here that can help us find the Internet?," quipped Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of the Management and Security Division at Microsoft, who led the keynote presentations. Microsoft needed the Internet connection to run its various test labs at MMS. A solution to the problem was later found by running lab demos off Nokia smartphone connections.

"That's an example of learning by doing," Anderson added.

During the keynote talk, the MMS crowd got the usual message that Microsoft's products run best with other Microsoft products. Anderson also tried to sell Microsoft's cloud vision to IT pros. He argued that Microsoft has put its experience in running the Windows Azure cloud OS into various other Microsoft products. Trotted out were Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 and Windows Intune.

Microsoft operates more than 200 unique cloud-scale services, servicing more than one billion users, Anderson said. Skype use is at two billion minutes per day. More than 20 percent of organizations worldwide use Office 365 services, he added, describing Microsoft's cloud experience.

Anderson urged IT pros to embrace change, saying that organizations that differentiate can come out ahead. He cited four coming trends that Microsoft is highlighting, including cloud computing, social networking, the explosion of data and consumerization of IT. Those trends are driving innovations in virtualization, networking and storage, he claimed.

Companies Tapping Virtualization
Anderson offered a few examples of companies going that route. Ancestry.com is running 1,500 virtual machines (VMs) on 91 hosts. Pedcor Companies, a property management agency with 17,000 rental units, moved to using Hyper-V and reduced its downtime. Blue Cross/Blue Shield has deployed a 64-node cluster, which can support up to 8,000 VMs.

The example that no doubt got IT pros thinking was that of Domino's Pizza. Dominos delivers one million pizzas a day from its 5,000 stores and $1 billion comes through the ordering system. One third of the company's business comes through online sales. The company has two IT administrators managing 15,000 VMs using System Center. After moving to Microsoft Hyper-V, the company had a 99 percent reduction in help desk calls.

Anderson claimed that Windows Server 2012 supports the largest virtual disk size and that it is 32 times larger than those of Microsoft's competitors. He didn't name the competitors.

Microsoft's Six Demos
The latter part of the talk consisted of six Microsoft product demos. Anderson said that all of the capabilities shown were available to organizations today. The keynote and the demos can be viewed at this page, which also provides step-by-step overview guides, as well as PowerShell scripts, in some cases, to try.

The demos included pushing up a SharePoint farm template into Windows Azure using the same VHD files used with Windows Server 2012. A second demo showed how Windows Server 2012's "storage spaces" feature can aggregate just a bunch of disks (JBODs) to save on storage costs using thin provisioning. There was some talk about how Microsoft is using software defined networking (SDN) technology, which enabled two apps to run on a VM without conflict. Microsoft also announced at the event that it had become a Founding and Platinum Member of the Open Daylight Foundation, which is a collaborative and open source project of the Linux Foundation that is working to speed SDN adoption.

A third demo showed how System Center Advisor and Global Service Monitor are integrated with System Center 2012 SP1. System Center Advisor, which offers best-practice guidance to IT pros, now works with Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V Server 2012. Global Service Monitor is a Windows Azure-delivered service that can be used to track Web app performance worldwide. The demo showed how an IT pro can hand off the drill-down performance metrics reported by the GSM service to the development team to fix Web app performance issues. Anderson commented that Microsoft uses its own GSM service to constantly run 7,000 tests against various Microsoft services.

A fourth demo was about scaling up a cloud using System Center Operations Manager to check operations, as well as Orchestrator to automate tasks. Anderson commented that Microsoft performs more than 50,000 networking changes a day in Windows Azure, and so it has built its tools to help automate processes, offering a consistent automation platform across both public and private clouds.

The integration of System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune was demonstrated in the fifth demo. The demo showed how that integration can be used in the management of apps for Android, iOS, Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone devices. The process of provisioning apps for delivery is carried out via "sideloading." End users get URL connections to install these sideloaded apps via "deeplinking." Both processes are described in this Microsoft blog post.

Lastly, Microsoft showed off some data protection schemes with its Dynamic Access Control feature of Windows Serve 2012. IT pros can set conditions for the access of documents, which can be device specific, as well as being tied to the user's Active Directory credentials, according to the demo.

StorSimple Talk
There was some talk at the event about StorSimple, which Microsoft acquired in November. The product is a "block solution" that simplifies cloud-integrated storage. Hot data can be set for local storage while cold data can be put into Windows Azure storage. "StorSimple is one of the most amazing acquisitions I've been a part of," commented Vijay Tewari, a principal group program manager at Microsoft.

An anecdote about StorSimple was related during the keynote. The Sundance Film Festival lost their storage area network (SAN) days before the film event was to start. The organization was using StorSimple, and it was able to use it to backup from Windows Azure. The festival went on without a hitch.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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