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SCVMM 2012 beta goes to second round

Microsoft released a second beta of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012 to a broader audience May 26, bringing the product another step closer to general availability.

Due out in the second half of 2011, SCVMM 2012 may bring greater feature parity with VMware’s vCloud Director. New features include new administrative roles and workflows for self-service portals, which are meant to support Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), plus automated, wizard-driven provisioning of virtual machine (VM), network and storage hardware through Virtual Machine Manager.

One new tidbit that jumped out at me looking through information about this new beta is that it requires Microsoft’s SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 R2 back end. For one beta tester, this will mean running multiple versions of SQL Server, at least temporarily.

“The majority of our apps that require SQL are still only supporting SQL 2005, so we predict we will be in a migration mode for the next few years,” said Rob McShinsky, senior systems engineer for Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.

Running multiple versions of SQL isn’t totally unheard of, but “I have always thought Microsoft products ‘requiring’ other Microsoft licenses without an alternative option seems a bit self-serving,” McShinsky said. “A combined license with the primary product, a free option like SQL Express or an alternative supported database would [be preferable].”

SCVMM 2012 will also use the Storage Management Initiative-Specification (SMI-S) standard for integration with data storage infrastructure in private clouds. SMI-S, which is overseen by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), specifies a means for clients to communicate with storage arrays of different types and from different vendors, through modules called SMI-S Providers.

By picking an evolving storage industry standard, Microsoft is trying to make it easier for Windows shops to bring multi-vendor storage to its System Center Virtual Machine Manager. But whether or not Microsoft has made the best choice will ultimately depend on how well the standard continues along its development track, and just how well it is embraced by the storage vendors.

At this year’s TechEd conference, meanwhile, Microsoft partner NetApp revealed it is using an Opalis-based workflow management system layered over several hundred custom PowerShell commandlets to communicate with System Center. Similarly, in early May, EMC Corp. announced support for Hyper-V  that included PRO pack and RESTful API integration in addition to SMI-S integration into System Center.

Microsoft conducts beta testing in multiple phases, according to a spokesperson. The first phase, the Technical Adoption Program (TAP), sees a product released to a select group of partners and users as the product is still being developed. TAP program members are often involved before the first public beta of a product.

For SCVMM 2012, the first public beta was released in March; two months on, the second beta will also see the opening of the Community Evaluation Program (CEP), a guided product evaluation process open to a broader audience. The next step is usually a Release Candidate (RC), and then a Release to Manufacturers (RTM).

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