Microsoft System Center 2012: Infrastructure Management

As before, a quick review of Microsoft System Center 2012 (SC12). Nine different programs make up Microsoft’s System Center 2012:

 

  • System Center Operations Manager
  • System Center Configuration Manager
  • System Center Endpoint Protection Manager (now integrated into Configuration Manager)
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager
  • System Center Data Protection Manager
  • System Center Orchestrator
  • System Center App Controller
  • System Center Service Manager
  • System Center Advisor

 

These programs are split into three sections dealing with Application Management, Service Delivery & Automation, and Infrastructure Management.  Today we will be looking at the third group of programs that handle the Infrastructure Management.

 

If you have been following these articles on SC12, you might remember that two months ago we looked at the Application Management section of SC12 which is made up of Virtual Machine Management (VMM), App Controller (AC), and Operations Manager (OM).  This reminder is specifically so that you won’t be confused when we again refer to VMM and OM.  Although these two programs are used in Application Management… they are also used in Infrastructure Management.

 

The other two programs used in Infrastructure Management are Configuration Manager (CM) and Data Protection Manager (DPM).

 

VIRTUAL MACHINE MANAGER

 

As just a quick refresher to your memory… VMM enables a way to manage your physical and virtual infrastructure from a single pane allowing you to increase server utilization and optimize resources across multiple virtualization platforms.

 

For a deeper review of Virtual Machine Manager, please refer back to our original article on the subject here.

 

OPERATIONS MANAGER

 

In OM, SC12 provides a deep visibility into the health, performance, and availability of IT environments regardless of the application, operating systems, hypervisors or hardware.  This is all accomplished from a single view.

 

For a deeper review of Operations Manager, please refer back to our original article on the subject here.

 

CONFIGURATION MANAGER

 

Let’s start again with Microsoft’s definition of CM12:

 

  • With System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, you can manage your PCs and servers, keeping software up-to-date, setting configuration and security policies, and monitoring system status while giving your users access to preferred applications from the devices they choose.

 

In the changes that have taken place in System Center 2012, none has been as great as what has taken place in the Configuration Manager (CM).  SC12 now allows IT to configure and manage devices for Windows, OS X (Apple), Linux, and UNIX.  Yes, those last two are correct… open source operating systems.  It also allows for support of Windows Phone, iOS, and Android.  Not only has CM morphed into an eclectic device management tool, it now is closely approaching an enterprise-class mobile device management software platform.

 

Let’s look at the top new features in CM12:

 

  • The biggest change in CM12 is moving from Device-Centric to User-Centric management.  Software is now distributed by user instead of by machine type.  This major change is most felt in security.  For example, in a not-for-profit company, many volunteers might use the same computer.  Instead of targeting software to the box itself, software can now be targeted to the individual user giving the appropriate software to the appropriate people.  Further, IT can define a primary device and created different software policies for primary and non-primary devices.  This again enhances security… if a manager signs onto an employee’s computer, the system sees that the device is not the primary device for the manager and does not load any restricted applications onto the non-primary machine.
  • Compliance Management is always a hassle in IT.  In CM12, a new feature has been added called “remediation.”  This feature has the ability to remediate WMI, registry, and script settings that are not compliant.  This auto-remediation reduces the time frame that non-compliant configurations stay out of compliance.  This feature can be applied to desktop/laptop, servers, mobile devices and users.
  • Previously, Software Distribution was targeted at groups of devices.  With the shift to user-centric functions, CM12 now uses specific preconditions for software deployment.  Some of the parameters are available hardware (memory, drive space, etc.), software prerequisites (Office is installed before OfficeSP1 tries to install), and user parameter (primary devices vs. non-primary).  Failure to install is limited because the new deployment schema is dependent upon pre-defined required environments.
  • Finally, CM12 has an “App Store” type function built into it called Software Center and Application Catalog.  This app store model minimizing the challenges for IT in managing devices and applications for the more mobile workforce found in today’s enterprise.  This “store” allows the user to set some configurable settings (such as updates) as well as requesting and installing available applications.

 

DATA PROTECTION MANAGER

 

Microsoft has a very good definition for the DPM12:

 

  • Data Protection Manager (DPM) lets you protect and recover data for Microsoft workloads like Exchange, SQL Server, Hyper-V, SharePoint, file servers, and client computers.

 

The reason this is such a good definition is that it states right there… “Microsoft workloads.”  One main limitation of DPM has been, and continues to be, protection of non-Microsoft workloads.  However, this particular product really shows its muscle in a Microsoft shop.  These Microsoft workloads consist of SQL, Exchange, Windows Servers, etc., - basically Microsoft products.

 

In DPM12, you now have certificate based protection, role based access, remote console, and central console management.  With the new release, we also have a radical increase in the speed of SharePoint backups and individual recovery of items from Hyper-V virtual machines (this can even be done when DPM12 is running as a virtual machine.)

 

These are not the only improvements for DPM12.  With the release of System Center SP1, Microsoft increased the protection of remote SMB shares in Azure, protection of virtual machine live migration without interruption, and protection of Server 2012, SQL 2012, and Win8 including de-duplication volumes on Server 2012.

 

The ease of use for DPM12 comes from the Administrator Console.  The Console allows admins, from a single pane, to handle every aspect of managing backups.  To do this DPM12 uses five main tasks: Monitoring, Protection, Recovery, Reporting, and Management.

 

Although all five tasks are critical to an optimized environment, admins will find themselves concentrating on one areas more than others: Monitoring.  Monitoring shows any errors/warnings regarding scheduled backups so that issues can be resolved before critical failures begin.

 

CONCLUSION

 

We at Uncommon hope that you have enjoyed, and been educated, by this series on System Center 2012.  This set of programs has under gone tremendous improvements and taken as a group offer a completely new way for administrators to manage their environments.  The new user centric model will allow employees a greater sense of empowerment and raise user adoption for IT upgrades.

 

We encourage you to review Microsoft’s data on SC2012, or to contact us to learn more about how System Center 2012 can bring your IT into the 21st Century.