A new software license package for small to midsize businesses, System Center Essentials Management Suite, combines the System Center Essentials systems management software with Virtual Machine Manager for virtualization management. The suite gives smaller organizations a convenient way to buy several Microsoft management products that help them distribute software, manage inventory, and centralize for both physical and virtual machines. It is available from Microsoft through OEMs and includes rights to upgrade to the next version of System Center Essentials, expected in the second quarter of 2010.

OEMs to Offer Suite

System Center Essentials (SCE) 2007 is Microsoft's systems management software for small and midsize businesses. It combines Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and a subset of Operations Manager 2007 features into a unified product with a simplified console designed for administrators. Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 is Microsoft's software tool for provisioning, managing, and storing virtual machines (VMs) for hardware virtualization, allowing organizations to consolidate production applications onto fewer, better-utilized servers. System Center Essentials Management Suite is purely a licensing bundle that lets customers acquire one license for the two products.

System Center Essential Management Suite is only available through OEMs. Dell has been selling the Suite since May 2009 and the Microsoft announcement in Sept. 2009 indicates that other OEMs, including Fujitsu and Lenovo, will also offer the Suite. The Suite is likely being offered now because customers want to move into server virtualization as soon as possible to realize the cost advantages of consolidation, but have balked at the cost of VMM which is designed and priced for large-scale virtualized environments.

The SCE Management Suite sold through OEMs typically includes a server license to run the SCE and VMM management infrastructure, 10 Server management licenses (MLs), and 50 Client MLs, but Microsoft allows OEMs to tailor offerings to up to 30 Server MLs and up to 500 Client MLs. A Server ML is required for management of each server operating system environment (OSE), and a Client ML is required for management of each non-server OSE.

Microsoft also announced a time-limited promotion available Oct. 2009 through its volume licensing channel so that organizations can acquire free upgrade rights to System Center Essentials 2010 when it is released in 2010. The promotion includes one year of Software Assurance (Microsoft's subscription-based upgrade guarantee program) and discounted licenses for SCE 2007 and VMM 2008 Workgroup Edition.

Customers should note several features of the offerings. First, customers who acquire the Suite license via OEMs will get a full version of VMM 2008, but with a Suite license restriction that limits its use to managing a maximum of 30 physical servers. With the promotional program, Microsoft volume licensing customers get discounts on a package that includes SCE 2007 and VMM 2008 Workgroup Edition (which includes a license to manage up to five physical servers as well as the right to run VMM infrastructure software) both with Software Assurance (SA). VMM 2008 R2 will be included in SCE 2010, so volume licensing customers who opt for SA on SCE 2007 will get the virtualization tool as part of the upgrade. Finally, SCE 2010 is expected to increase the limit to 50 managed server OSEs and 500 managed client OSEs.


System Center Essentials is described in "System Center Essentials Supports Midmarket" on page 9 of the Sept. 2007 Update.

Virtual Machine Manager is described in "Virtual Machine Manager 2008 Released" on page 7 of the Dec. 2008 Update.

Microsoft System Center Essentials home page is at www.microsoft.com/sce.

The System Center Essentials Management Suite announcement is at www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2009/sep09/09-01virtmanagementpr.mspx.

The discounted Microsoft promotion is described at www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/en/us/SCEVMM.aspx.