Microsoft System Center 2012 review: Streamlined cloud service management

Pricing and the task of putting together components have been vastly simplified.

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Microsoft released the final version of its System Center 2012 suite of components in April at a conference in Las Vegas. I've taken a hard look and used it in a variety of tests, and I find it a compelling product that has lost a lot of its licensing and complexity baggage. Let's drill down.

System Center's goal

The original idea behind System Center was to provide a product that delivered on three main tenets: to allow your infrastructure to become more productive and efficient, to make your applications and services more reliable and to bring the cloud into your on-premises systems.

With System Center 2012, Microsoft wants you to use what you already have in terms of hardware and software investment and simply wring more out of it in terms of efficiency, uptime and performance. It's not just about Windows, either: Microsoft collects massive amounts of usage data from its Customer Experience Improvement Program, which shows that nearly 20% of customers are monitoring Linux with System Center.

System Center delivers tools and products that not only make the applications behind your business deliver predictable (and high) uptime, but also have excellent analytics for when things go wrong. With code that Microsoft acquired from AVIcode in 2010, System Center can now see deeply into applications. For example, an administrator can actually view the individual SQL calls that are taking the longest in an application -- an issue that directly impacts the performance experience for end users.

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