Microsoft Updates Tools to Manage Linux, VMware

Microsoft opened its annual Management Summit in Las Vegas Tuesday by announcing broad beta testing of two key products in its System Center management tool set.

During the opening keynote, Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, announced that System Center Operations Manager 2007 Cross Platform Extensions and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 have reached public beta.

As a key underlying theme at the conference, executives are emphasizing the products’ openness and interoperability with competing technologies and products – including those from arch competitors.

“We’re extending [our tools] to manage heterogeneous platforms, including Linux and Unix,” Larry Orecklin, Microsoft general manager of server infrastructure marketing, told

Indeed, the Operations Manager 2007 Cross Platform Extensions provide management support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, as well as HP-UX and Sun Solaris, according to a company statement. That means that Operations Manager 2007 will be able to manage those other systems from its own console.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also released the public beta of VMM 2008, which had previously been codenamed Virtual Machine Manager “vNext.” There too, the marketers’ interoperability and openness talking points came into play. For instance, VMM does not just support managing Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor but also competitor and market leader VMware’s ESX Server.

A hypervisor is a small operating system that runs at the closest level to the actual computer hardware, and runs multiple higher-level, “guest” operating systems, such as Windows or Linux, on top of it. Each guest operating system runs in its own “virtual machine,” or VM, and as far as it is concerned is the only software running.

While still in its infancy in terms of adoption, virtualization is expected to explode as it comes into its own — simplifying management of desktop and server applications, enabling server consolidation and, ultimately, lowering IT costs.

Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor is advertised as an integral part of Window Server 2008, which launched on February 27 at Microsoft’s Heroes Happen Here event in Los Angeles. However, Hyper-V itself is still in beta test and is expected to be released in the second half of the year.

Microsoft’s earnestness about openness and interoperability is driven by customer realities and company pragmatism.

“From one simple ‘pane of glass,’ I’m able to manage not only Windows but also VMware,” Orecklin said. “We believe this positions Microsoft to be the true enterprise partner that our customers have asked us to be,” he added. VMM 2008 also supports Microsoft’s older Virtual Server 2005 Release 2 product.

“Customers sometimes have multiple systems management packages,” Orecklin said. What’s more, those customers increasingly insist that competing products interoperate.

For example, Microsoft also released the public beta of its updated System Center Operations Manager 2007 Connectors. The new connectors will enable Operations Manager to interoperate and exchange System Center monitoring data with third-party management tools including HP OpenView and IBM Tivoli Enterprise Console, he added.

In fact, Microsoft’s moves speak to a larger motive, that of retaining its relevance in a multi-vendor environment, not only in systems management but also virtualization.

“Heterogeneous management support will become a critical factor for users as adoption of multiple hypervisors takes hold across desktop, server, and storage infrastructures … managing across platforms is a huge step forward for Microsoft,” Stephen Elliot, director of enterprise system management at researcher IDC, told in an e-mail interview.

“[This is] the year of product execution,” Elliot added. “From products, beta, and roadmaps, this event is an opportunity to work with Microsoft to drive virtualization to the application layer moving forward.”

Still, vision and commitment do not guarantee success.

“[The] Downside: They must nail platform propagation with Hyper-V, and get into production environments as soon as possible to accelerate customer trust and deployments,” Elliot said.

The public betas of System Center Operations Manager 2007 Cross Platform Extensions, Connectors, and Virtual Machine Manager 2008 can be downloaded here.

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