As the executive in charge of building System Center – and we have great news on that today, with the release candidate now available – one great part of my job is meeting with CIOs and CTOs, touring their datacenters and hearing about their experiences and plans. A common theme I hear in these discussions is that they have realized a great deal of value and savings through virtualization, but now they are ready to take the next step to cloud computing. Not just to save money, but to move faster and help their businesses grow with new applications and capabilities.

Something I often ask these customers about is the ratio of IT employees to servers in their datacenters. This gives me a good idea of the maturity and efficiency of the organization. It is pretty common to hear a ratio of one full time employee to 30 to 40 servers in a typical enterprise datacenter. By contrast, when we look at the Microsoft datacenters that host our cloud services (Bing, Windows Update, Hotmail, Windows Azure) we see a ratio of one employee to four or five thousand servers.

When we were defining the capabilities that would be included in the new System Center 2012 private cloud management release, our primary goal was to apply our learning from building and operating the cloud services across Microsoft, and significantly increase the efficiency of IT professionals around the world. We wanted to enable them to significantly scale the work they do and the number of servers each employee could be responsible for. That’s the kind of efficiency that public cloud computing can deliver, and CIOs want to take advantage of it.

The public cloud brings incredible efficiencies and capabilities, and in the long run public cloud computing is where the world is ultimately headed. However, most customers tell me that they will take a “hybrid IT” approach for years to come. Yes, they will be using public clouds more and more, but for a variety of reasons, customers will also want to build their own private cloud and consume cloud capacity from a number of partners.

Our cloud strategy and solutions match up with this. The public cloud is now what we call our “design point” for how we build software. We design and build for the requirements of the public cloud, such as scale and security, and then bring that value and efficiency to customers to deploy in their own datacenters. I do believe this is one of the things that differentiates Microsoft’s offerings from others on the market. Every single day here at Microsoft we live with the challenges and opportunities of operating some of the world’s largest cloud services. There are some learnings that truly only come through experience. We take those learnings from our cloud services and drive them into Windows Server and System Center to bring to our customers the private cloud solutions.

We are about to enter our third decade of building management solutions. It all started in the early 90’s with the first release of what is now System Center Configuration Manager. Cloud computing is the combination of great virtualization and great management capabilities. This is, by far, the most impressive release of System Center, and in combination with Windows Server, is the foundation upon which customers can build their cloud computing strategy.

With the right management, customers can transform their IT infrastructure into services the business can use to quickly and reliably deliver the all-important business applications from the cloud. After all, the reason why we deploy infrastructure is to host apps, and this is where I believe System Center really shines. We have a deep understanding of the applications that customers are running, whether those applications are running on physical servers, virtualized servers, private clouds, hosted clouds or public clouds. Customers have the flexibility to make the choice of how and where they want to run their applications, and we bring it all together for the IT professionals in an easy-to-use solution.

Today, Server and Tools President Satya Nadella and I participated in a Webcast for enterprise IT leaders about their opportunities with the Microsoft private cloud. We talked about how customers, such as Webcast participants Lufthansa Systems, T. Rowe Price and Unilever, can use System Center 2012 to build private clouds and manage their applications across both private and public clouds.

The move to the cloud is on, and management will be critical as customers progress into the new era of hybrid IT. You can watch the replay of the Webcast, including videos of those customers, and find out more here.

Posted by Brad Anderson
Corporate Vice President, Management & Security Division, Microsoft