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Microsoft Updates System Center 2012 SP1 With Windows Server 2012 Support

Microsoft on Friday released the second community test preview (CTP 2) of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, which works with Microsoft's latest state-of-the-art products.

System Center 2012 SP1 CTP 2 can be downloaded here, but it's just for testing purposes and not for use in production environments. Microsoft plans to release a beta of SP1 in the second half of this year.

This SP1 CTP 2 release is notable for being the first System Center release that works with Windows Server 2012 "release candidate" and SQL Server 2012. Microsoft updated all six components of the System Center suite in the CTP 2 release, adding many new features, although it's not feature complete yet.

"This is a big, big release for us," said Vijay Tewari, principal group program manager on System Center Virtual Machine Manager, in a talk on the subject at last week's TechEd in Orlando, Fla. He explained that System Center 2012 SP1 actually represents a "full-featured release" of the product but was named as a service pack by Microsoft's marketing team.

Microsoft had initially released System Center 2012 back in April, but it just was designed to manage Windows Server 2008 R2 at that time. The company had released CTP 1 of System Center 2012 back in March, but that release just updated two of the six System Center components.

One of the new benefits in SP1 is the ability to take advantage of the Windows Azure virtual machines (VMs) feature that Microsoft announced earlier this month. Using App Controller, users can move on-premises VMs to Windows Azure, which is Microsoft's cloud-based platform and infrastructure as a service. Moreover, the App Controller and Orchestrator components in System Center 2012 can be used to manage those Windows Azure-based VMs, a Microsoft blog explains.

Global Service Monitor
SP1 CTP2 adds a new cloud-based application monitoring capability called "global service monitor." Global service monitor works with System Center 2012 Operations Manager to test Web sites or Web applications.

Tewari explained during his TechEd talk that the tests can be created in Operations Manager locally and then executed worldwide. Users get a dashboard view of an organization's apps and they can drill down into the code to isolate performance problems. Tewari also described a "clime-site monitor" for monitoring app performance in which "we inject a little bit of JavaScript code and it's sent to the edge client." This approach allows the IT pro to get a sense of how an app is performing for end users.

Service Provider Foundation
SP1 CTP 2 adds a new "service provider foundation" capability that helps users consume services from hosting service providers. Users can access an OData REST-based API via System Center 2012 App Controller to access these services. Tewari described it as allowing "IT pros to get resources on an as-needed basis for your environment."

Many more details about service provider foundation are described in a blog post by Travis Wright, a principal program manager on the System Center engineering team. He said that service provider foundation was added to help reduce the amount of time service providers spend in managing tenant networks and IP addresses. Instead, they can delegate those tasks in a self-service model. The service provider foundation functionality will be extensible, but SP1 CTP 2 users won't see that extensibility until the beta is released, he noted.

Private Cloud Chargeback
Another new feature in SP1 CTP 2 is a "chargeback" charting capability that works with System Center 2012 Service Manager and Excel. It shows pivot charts of cloud data that can be sliced and diced, according to Tewari. Users can create price sheets with fixed costs and running costs for private clouds.

The chargeback feature, which is described in this blog on Service Manager, is designed according to Microsoft's IT role delegation model envisioned in System Center 2012, in which there are backend administrators (called "providers" by Microsoft) and application managers (called "consumers"). The idea is to let departments request and manage their own private clouds without trampling on the turf of backend administrators. In this scenario, the chargeback feature is a way of communicating those infrastructure and management costs.

Even More Improvements
Microsoft describes overall component improvements in System Center 2012 SP1 CTP 2 in this list. Virtual Machine Manager additions are described here. New Operations Manager capabilities are listed at this blog. Data Protection Manager enhancements can be found at this page.

Microsoft also announced last week that System Center 2012 SP1 CTP (the first community technology preview version) includes management and security support for Mac and Linux devices, as well as for Windows 8 machines. With System Center 2012 SP1 CTP installed, Configuration Manager can be used to deploy and update software for Mac and Linux mobile devices. System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection with SP1 CTP installed can be used to provide antimalware protection to Mac devices, according to Microsoft's announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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