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Microsoft issues release candidate of System Center 2012

The company says the software can help businesses more efficiently manage their use of cloud services

Microsoft on Tuesday said the release candidate of System Center 2011, software that companies use to manage their cloud services, is now available.

Customers are already managing more than 100,000 virtual machines using the software as part of an early access program, Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, said during a video conference about the news.

Using System Center, an organization can manage its internal private cloud as well as applications and services it is running in public clouds. This hybrid approach -- where a company may run an application in a public cloud but retain the corresponding database on a private cloud, for example -- is increasingly common.

System Center 2012 combines eight former products into one and addresses one common complaint customers have, said Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Management and Security Division. "We hear a lot that licensing is complex," he said. System Center 2012 aims to simplify licensing by combining several former products into one and by offering just two different versions.

In addition, Microsoft bases its license on a slightly different model than its competitors, he said. Customers pay for System Center 2012 on a per-server basis, rather than a per-virtual machine basis. That can keep costs down for people who are running many virtual machines per server.

During the video conference about the release, Microsoft showcased a few companies that have already been using System Center. They include Luftansa, T. Rowe Price and Unilver. Those companies said that System Center 2012 has let them quickly expand their infrastructure and automate the management of their systems.

Microsoft says that using a tool like System Center can help organizations more efficiently manage their cloud environments. The company typically hears from customers who have full time IT administrators managing 30 to 40 servers. But Microsoft itself, which operates huge data centers to run services like Bing, Azure and Hotmail, finds that each of its IT workers, using System Center 2012, manages as many as 5,000 servers.

System Center 2012 has also expanded to allow IT administrators to manage non-Microsoft devices, including mobile phones. Rather than thinking of devices as being at the center of the management process, System Center 2012 puts the user in the middle, said Anderson. That means a manager can set policies for an employee that applies no matter what device the employee is using, including Android phones, iPhones or a variety of tablets.

The release candidate of System Center 2012 is available immediately. Provided users don't find any major bugs, the next step should be general availability of the software.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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