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Microsoft touts Target, launches System Center 2012

Microsoft Corp. revealed its new beta of System Center 2012 today.

At the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas, the company said System Center 2012 will “enable IT managers to deliver private cloud services” and “allow IT to carry forward current investments as they adopt public cloud computing.”

While news today about Microsoft’s presentations at MMS is fairly high-level, deeper details and demos on the virtualization management portion of System Center 2012, System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM 2012), were offered in November at Microsoft’s TechEd conference in Berlin.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also revealed a new reference customer this week, Target Corp., which recently made a move from Microsoft’s Virtual Server to Hyper-V at its 1,755 retail store locations in less than 45 days, according to a new guest blog post on Microsoft’s website by two members or Target’s technical team.

According to the post, Target began virtualizing its servers with Virtual Server in 2006 at its store locations. In each store’s control room during the summer of 2009, the company moved to running Hyper-V instead on pairs of Dell R710s, and was able to do so remotely through a combination of Microsoft and Target-written scripts.

Today, the company uses System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) to manage 15,000 servers, 29,000 workstations, 52,000 point of sale registers, and has SCCM agents on some 70,000 mobile devices.

The project was prompted when performance bottlenecks with the legacy technology were slowing down how long it was taking store employees to unload trucks; following the conversion, “Hyper-V satisfied the demands of … [our applications] and helped us get those trucks unloaded on schedule,” the post reads.

Sounds hunky-dory on the surface, but Microsoft would not make Target reps available for follow-up questions. And the “win” here for Microsoft was technically against its own product; the only discussion of a competitive comparison with VMware was a relatively vague reference to the choice to go with MSVS over VMware in 2006, which is described as follows: “based on our analysis of the technologies at the time, and on our close relationship with the Microsoft product teams, we felt Microsoft offered the highest value for our investment.”

Especially in 2006, this was not the conclusion a majority of Target’s enterprise peers arrived at, judging by market share numbers to date. It would be extremely interesting to know exactly what had a blue-chip like Target becoming an early adopter of Microsoft’s virtualization.

Meanwhile, did Target re-evaluate VMware before going from Virtual Server to Hyper-V? Does the company run exclusively Hyper-V in its central data center? Why or why not? If it does, how does the remote experience with Hyper-V compare? If not, how does the remote experience with Hyper-V integrate with Target’s overall operations workflows? How will System Center 2012 change all that?

Along similar lines, what kept Target running its store infrastructure on Virtual Server until 2009, when many Microsoft shops had already made the jump to Hyper-V? And what’s on this retail giant’s wish list for the virtualization technology now that it has made the move?

The world may never know…

For a look at how Microsoft tried to pitch Target’s story with a cloud computing angle, check out Carl Brooks’ take.

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