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Next up for Microsoft systems management -- the cloud

Microsoft GM Brad Anderson talks about new management platforms and about seeing more System Center products offered as online services.

In the first of a two-part interview, Brad Anderson, general manager of Microsoft's management and solutions division, spoke to senior news writer Christina Torode of about what Windows shops can expect from Microsoft's System Center line. What topics did you hear about most from developers and IT managers at the recent Professional Developer's Conference and TechEd 2008 Europe?

Brad Anderson: Virtualization and cost. I didn't talk with a single customer who didn't see a budget reduction in the future. Some said they expect as much as a 45% reduction in their IT organization…and those are personnel cuts.

In Europe, I spoke with many customers whose end users are requiring and asking for access across a broader set of devices. Consumerization of IT is driving a lot of conversation. Some are looking at [virtual desktop infrastructure], others are looking to introduce programs where they give employees a stipend to buy their own end device of choice and IT is trying to figure out how they can deliver applications and data down to non-corporate devices. I talked to one IT professional who said he spent 50% of his time getting record and compliance data from auditors. Cloud computing was a big theme at PDC. Is Microsoft developing a management platform for cloud services?

Anderson: It's something [Microsoft] is working on but it's not something that I can talk about in detail. We want to enable both on-premise and cloud. But think about Windows Update. That's a service that moves more bits and more data around the world every month than any other service. How can that infrastructure be extended to patching, asset management, monitoring and host protection? We're starting to put the pieces together as far as what is needed for online management. You can run on-premise with traditional System Center products, but this can also extend to the cloud. You offer asset inventory management as an online service. Can we expect to see more of your management products become online services?

Anderson: We are already offering new things in asset inventory, such as new reporting capabilities that show where you are under or over with licenses. We can tie other things into that service as well, like the ability to feed information like a battery recall into the system and have it identify which machines are affected. I'll say more at Microsoft Management Summit [in Las Vegas in April]. You talk about managed services or management-as-a-service. How is this different from the managed services provider?

Anderson: In the older model, organizations were trying to use software that was never built to run as a service but they were trying to host it as a service. That's a tough business proposition because even if you're using virtualization you're still deploying unique server information for each customer. With management-as-a-service, it truly is a service built from the ground up to be a service and multi-tenant in its inherent nature.

One challenge that these MSPs and ASPs had was if you deployed that application down to a desktop and it broke another application, what were your costs to fix that? It became cost prohibitive. [Using] application virtualization I can deploy an application to a desktop with full confidence that it's not going to adversely affect any other application on the system. I think the market has [also] become more comfortable with what it means to consume services -- some still aren't, but many are.

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