Gartner being strict on VMware vCloud Suite 5.1 & Microsoft System Center 2012

At Gartner Catalyst Conference 2013 in San Diego a very interesting presentation was given by Alessandro Perilli. He  currently leads the private cloud computing research in the Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) research division.

The title of the presentation is “Sizing Up Cloud Management Platforms: Microsoft vs. VMware“.  It can be watched online for FREE here. You just need to register. After registration you can watch three sessions for free.

This session provides an in-depth comparison between two cloud management platforms (CMPs): Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1. The session highlights the key differences between the two CMPs in terms of feature set and technical implementation.


To summarize the content of the session:

Gartner developed a Cloud Management Platform (CMP) assessment tool. This tool evaluates CMP’s using over 200 criteria. Gartner started to assess both Microsoft System Center and VMware vCloud Suite.  This research took about 4 months and included many hours spent in homelabs. VMware vCloud Suite scores slightly better, mainly because of its good implementation of charge back and life cycle management. Gartner hopes to force vendors in a certain direction. The criteria in the Reference Architecture Template  are a way to lead vendors to adjust their products so it has features the customers really want.

Hightlights of the presentation

This posting has a summary of what was presented in this session. I very much recommend to watch the session yourself.

Key questions addressed in the session include:

• Which vendor, among Microsoft and VMware, offers an enterprise-grade CMP for large-scale production cloud environments?
• What are the key differences in terms of features and implementation between Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1?
• What weaknesses in each product constrain an organization’s capability to address different use cases for cloud computing?


Alessandro starts with a slide showing the results of the assessment. VMware vCloud Suite (light blue bar) has a higher score than Microsoft System Center. But you need to know the context of how the score was determined before jumping to conclusions.


Gartner compared the most comprehensive edition available  of both products . These are  Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1 Datacenter Edition and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1 Enterprise edition.

Both Cloud Management Platforms offer a lot of features which are delivered by various components. However not all components are a must in a CMP according to Gartner.   In SC 2012 Gartner did not consider Data Protection Manager and Endpoint Protection in the assessment.  In vCloud Suite Gartner did not consider Site Recovery Manager and some parts of vCloud Networking and Security in the assessment (because those are part of the virtualization layer).

Gartner reviewed the portions of the suites which are marked in yellow in the slide shown below.

In the picture below you see VS which stands for virtual services. This are virtual machines. The components shown on top of  the virtualization layer are the components Gartner believe are needed to construct a private cloud. The level of integration of the components tells a lot about the maturity of the cloud management platform. The other aspect showing maturity is feature overlap. The more overlap, the less maturity. Gartner sees feature overlap more as a marketing bundle than a cloud management solution.


Gartner described 202 criteria to compare any cloud management platform on the market. The features are divided into three groups: required, preferred and optional

If a product scores 100% in the required features section it is seen as  an enterprise product ready for mission critical deployment on a large scale. Large scale means 10.000 managed objects or more. Gartner states the market of CMP  is highly immature. There are about a hundred cloud management platform vendors. The framework is meant to push vendors in a direction which Gartner believes is important for its clients.

A  feature gets a yes/checkmark  in the scoreboard if the feature is documented and if the feature is ready to be used out of the box. If a vendor professional services is needed to implement a feature , costing the customer money , it will be documented by Gartner as a no for that feature. So some slides show a NO for some features while the product does have the feature. Only the vendor did not have a written statement to prove it actually works.

The slide below shows the components in vCloud Suite and System Center and how they map. In quite a few categories there is an overlap of features delivered by vCloud Director and vCloud Automation Center (vCAC pronounced as vCAKE)

The foundation of vCAC is based on DynamicOps Cloud Automation Center 4.5 software. DynamicOPS  was acquired by VMware in July 2012. The current version of vCAC is 5.1.

DynamicOps and vCloud Director used to be competitors. Now they are part of the same suite. Hence the overlap in features.

vCAC enables automated provisioning of both virtual machines and physical servers (including the guest operating system). Provisioning of both on-premises and cloud infrastructures is supported. vCAC enables authorized end-users to quickly have access to servers without IT having to perform the provisioning. Provisioning is so reduced from days to minutes. More on vCAC in my post here.


In the remaining part of the presentation Alessandro discusses some of the categories and how they scored.

VMware has a clear lead in chargeback, life cycle management  and service catalog category when compared to System Center.

Mind however VMware Chargeback Manager only supports vCloud Director! It does not support VMware  vCloud Automation Center.


The integration of SC Configuration Manager with other components of SC is not exceptional and there is a lot room for improvement.

Lifecycle Management is an extremely important category. The way Lifecycle Management is implemented in vCAC is very wel done compared to Microsoft SC. Gartner is less positive about life cycle management of vCloud Director. Implementation is done in a totally different way than vCAC. So it is important to understand that difference if you are going to upgrade from vCloud Director to vCAC. You will need to learn again how to manage Life Cycle management.

The Platform category has the worst score  for VMware because they have no checkmarks in the required features. They do offer most of the features listed in this category. However they get a NO for all features. This is because Gartner only gives a Yes when features applies to all components of the platfrom.  Support for mainstream operating systems is not uniform across all components of the vCloud Suite (and in lesser extent in SC as well). Also  components of the vCloud Suite use different database technologies. So  one component supports Oracle and  Progress databases while the other only supports only SQL Server. This means the customer has to manage several database soltions.  So because the lack of uniformity VMware vCloud does not get a single Yes in this category.

Gartner confirms what former VMware CTO Steve Herrod has told an Italian VMUG meeting in 2012 that the  VMware’s cloud infrastructure suite is still only loosely integrated and that the company has plans to do better.
See this post at the Register titled VMware CTO reveals future directions in VMUG Speech in Italy says acquired techs ‘don’t work well enough together yet’
Also VMware did not provide written support statement for some of the features in this category. Another requirement to get a checkmark.


One of the last slides of the presentation is Recommendations.


One of the recommendations is:  to take your time. Building a prive cloud is not an easy task to perform. Zero to cloud in 20 minutes as some vendor says is a dream. Organizations will start to implement one or max two components of the suite and add more later on. Give priority to implementation of the features you require.

Gartner already has a paper describing SC 2012 . It is titled Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1: In-depth Assessment for Cloud Management. Written by Alessandro Perilli (G00235076). More information on this 69 pages paper here. For VMware vCloud Suite the paper will be released by Gartner around mid august 2013.

Gartner sees a growing interest in SC2012 especially by customers of which VMware Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) is about to expire. Those customers are starting to look around for alternatives. Gartner also sees a good penetration of the market of the DynamicOps  (now VMware vCAC) product in enterprises.
Customers using VMware vCloud Director ran into limitations of the product over time and start looking for alternatives.
The long term stratey of cloud management platform vendors is to replace individual components customers already use by their own solutions. Contrary to what vendors tell, the integration with other vendor solutions is not so good. Think about integration of CMP with Servicedesk tooling or Self Service portals.

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