Microsoft has a habit of being behind on things, but it seems to have caught on that to remain relevant, you have to have some form of agility. With System Center 2012, Microsoft was in a bit of a difficult situation: Windows Server 2012 was “coming soon.” So, do you wait for a monumental OS to be released or do you release System Center 2012 on Windows Server 2008 R2, and provide an update later that supports the new OS when it releases? I think Microsoft made the right decision to get System Center 2012 out there first.
The new System Center 2012 suite was released in the first quarter of 2012. Months have gone by, and organizations have used the suite in their production environments, possibly as a foundation for their existing infrastructures or looking ahead to features that are now on the table, like setting up their own cloud environment or taking the step toward integrating with Windows Azure.
Finally, Windows Server 2012 was released in the fourth quarter of 2012. Now, we have a problem: System Center 2012 was not officially supported on Windows Server 2012, neither was Windows 8 supported as a client with System Center Configuration Manager 2012. Microsoft has been good to provide support for “supporting products” within 90 days of their release. In other words, after Windows Server 2012 was released, Microsoft should have updates for a major product like System Center 2012 so it supports that OS.
So here we are with System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 on our door steps. This really starts 2013 off on a good foot for Microsoft. This service pack isn’t just a bunch of fixes; not only does this update System Center 2012 so it provides official support for Windows Server 2012, but it adds a bunch of features to the System Center 2012 suite itself to support and take advantage of some of the advanced features of the new OS.
It is currently available for Microsoft TechNet and MSDN subscribers, but it will be more widely available soon. I would expect trial versions and also pre-built VHDs to be available shortly for organizations that are looking to evaluate the features before making a purchasing decision.
System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 really shows Microsoft is serious about giving you what you need to implement your own cloud by bringing functionality that applies to private, public (using Windows Azure) or hybrid models.
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are the new features I’m most excited about by far:
- Windows 2012 and SQL 2012 supported
- External API (“Service Provider Foundation”)
- Windows 8, Apple Mac and Linux/UNIX now supported as manageable clients (most features all supported)
- Upgrade or deploy Windows 8
- Windows Azure-based distribution point
- Windows PowerShell support
- Integration with Windows Intune
Data Protection Manager
- Windows Azure online backup
- Support for ReFS and deduplicated volumes
- Support for CSV 2.0
- New Integration Packs for Exchange and REST services
- Chargeback model
- Windows 8 support for Service Manager console
- Improved integration with Operations Manager
Virtual Machine Manager
- Network virtualization capabilities
- Support for Hyper-V extensible switch
- Extendable user interface
- SMB 3.0 is supported
- Support storage migration of VMs
- Support for VHDX file format
- Integration with TFS 2010 and 2012
- Improved APM monitoring
- Management packs for Server 2012 and IIS 8
- Support for CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu Linux
- New functionality with Windows Azure
Notice how Microsoft has felt your pain when considering one of the newest headaches on everyone’s IT agenda: “BYOD policies.” It’s ramping up its Windows Intune service as a stand-alone service or one that can also integrate with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1. I’ve already added this BYOD feature to my “to learn list” for 2013.
The exciting conclusion to all of this news is that TrainSignal has you covered! System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager is a very important piece of Microsoft’s cloud vision, and TrainSignal is set to release a course covering SP1 very soon, taught by Elias Khnaser, VMware vExpert and Citrix CTP. You can sign up to be notified when the course is released by visiting the System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager training page.