But System Center is extensible enough that Microsoft can manage Amazon EC2 later on if it chooses, and the on-premises management suite already can handle both Windows and Linux. In an interview, Anderson said Microsoft works with Novell to ensure support of Novell's enterprise SUSE Linux distribution. Microsoft is also able to manage Red Hat Linux, even though it doesn't cooperate with Red Hat itself. "Several partners" have helped Microsoft add support for Red Hat servers and clients into System Center, Anderson said. System Center's supported platforms also include Solaris, HP-UX and IBM AIX, according to Microsoft. Debian is not on the list.
On the virtualization front, System Center has been able to manage VMware's hypervisor for several years, even though VMware is a competitor to Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization platform. Just this week, Microsoft announced System Center Virtual Machine Manager support for Citrix's XenServer, making the product capable of managing all three major hypervisors, Hyper-V, VMware and XenServer.
On the other hand, a new ability to virtualize server applications, while it works with multiple hypervisors, only applies to Windows Server applications, and not Linux. (See also: "Next level of virtualization unlocks Server OS, applications.")
Anderson acknowledges there are limits to Microsoft's management of competing products, but says Redmond genuinely wants to provide parity between Microsoft and non-Microsoft software.
In the case of Hyper-V, "there are certain things we build inside System Center that are specific to Hyper-V, just like VMware builds vSphere that manages their underlying hypervisor," Anderson said. But "if you believe most customers are going to be hybrid in using multiple clouds and using multiple hypervisors, your strategy has to be that they're all first class citizens," he said.
Anderson boasts that two-thirds of enterprises with at least 500 PCs use System Center, and says Microsoft manages more Windows servers than any other vendor, even the ones in the Big Four.