Let me preface this article by saying that I don’t believe that these are the only five upcoming Microsoft releases that will have a major impact on IT in the coming years. I specifically chose these products because I have some strong opinions on how they will help shape Microsoft’s enterprise future.

1: System Center Configuration Manager 2012

In a former life, SCCM was known as Systems Management Server (SMS). With the upcoming release of SCCM 2012, Microsoft is introducing major changes to the product designed to enhance the end-user experience and streamline IT operations.

For example, in SCCM 2012, Microsoft is making the user the focus rather than computers. This really makes sense, particularly as users begin to rely on more and more devices. With SCCM 2012, as users roam between different computers, their applications can follow them.

To this end, Microsoft is also adding a better software portal to SCCM 2012. While SCCM has always had a concept of a portal, it wasn’t very intuitive. With SCCM 2012, the software portal is a Web-based service from which users can proactively choose to install new software.

The big deal: These features are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s new and good in SCCM 2012, but they demonstrate Microsoft’s focus on the end user, which, along with initiatives such as BYOD and even VDI, are the continuation of a trend in this direction.

2: System Center Operations Manager 2012

For quite a while, SCOM has had availability monitoring for network devices, and there have been third-party tools that could get more detailed information from network devices. However, SCOM 2012 provides support for much more in the way of native device monitoring. SCOM 2012 offers the ability to discover and monitor network devices, including the various interfaces and ports on those devices. With SCOM 2012, you can go far beyond simple up/down monitoring in SCOM.

The big deal: Microsoft offers various System Center bundles that make the products available in affordable ways. Now, SCOM can be used for much more than it could before. SCOM has always been an outstanding monitoring tool for Microsoft environments. SCOM 2007 added support for some third-party platforms, and SCOM 2012 extends the infrastructure monitoring capabilities of the product.

3: Windows 8 client

Much has been written about Windows 8, and Microsoft is certainly making the product an emphasis in the coming form factor war. If Windows 8 works the way that Microsoft seems to want it to work — and the market accepts it as a viable option outside the confines of the traditional computing space — the product could revolutionize computing by allowing the same operating system and applications to run seamlessly across a wide variety of devices, including PCs, laptops, tablets, phones, and even gaming consoles. Obviously, Microsoft has Windows Phone 7 as another mobile option for mobile devices, but the interface similarities may help when it comes to widespread adoption.

The big deal: It’s clear that Microsoft has an uphill battle ahead of it when it comes to the mobile space. If the company can get Windows 8 right, it could create massive opportunities for developers to get their applications in front of audiences on any device form factor they use.

4: Lync

I like Lync. The product has the potential to seriously disrupt the telephony space, and it adds serious unified communications capabilities to organizations that deploy it. Lync 2010 added a number of user-centric features, including the “me” area, which allows users to set their own status and track their own visibility. Lync also enables users to share individual desktops and to collaborate with other users. In addition, Lync includes audio and video conferencing capabilities and much more.

The big deal: Between Lync and Microsoft’s Skype acquisition, the company is well positioned to own the voice and video space if it can execute well. Lync can be a full-fledged replacement for an existing PBX and makes person-to-person communication very easy via a number of different channels.

5: Hyper-V 3.0

Microsoft has gone on record to say that Hyper-V 3.0 will catapult the company’s virtualization efforts and move it, in some ways, beyond what even VMware is offering. Hyper-V 3.0 will add the ability to perform multiple concurrent live migrations and introduces the new VHDX virtual disk format, a virtual fibre channel adapter and boot from SAN capabilities.

From a scalability perspective, Hyper-V 3.0 supports up to 160 logical processors on a host, as well as up to 2 TB of RAM. Guests will be able to support 32 vCPUs and up to 512 GB of RAM.

The big deal: Again, this is not intended to be a complete Hyper-V 3.0 primer. However, this is another instance where a combination of circumstance and feature gap closing may help Microsoft. VMware has, in the opinion of many, made some serious errors in its new licensing schemes. This may provide an outstanding opportunity for Hyper-V 3.0 to begin to supplant VMware in some environments. Hyper-V 3.0 will begin to erase some of VMware’s feature lead, which may help this process along.

What do you think? Will Microsoft supplant VMware in any significant way?