I admit it: I never liked Microsoft's System Center server management suite. If you are one of my long-time readers, you know I mention it only sporadically, and even then without enthusiasm. It's felt like a patch job of unrelated products. But the forthcoming System Center 2012 -- now available in the form of a release candidate -- might just change my mind. That's not a certainty yet, but what I've seen so far of its integrated client-to-cloud management capabilities is causing me to warm up to it.
Microsoft is positioning System Center 2012 as a cloud management tool for both your "private cloud" of internal servers (Windows, Solaris, and Linux) and for public cloud services. That "public cloud" claim is a stretch, though, as it means only resources hosted in Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud, not in competing public clouds.
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Also new in the 2012 version is System Center 2012's ability to manage Android, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone 7 mobile devices using the same EAS (Exchange ActiveSync) policies that Microsoft Exchange has long had to manage the same devices. System Center also remains a desktop and virtual-desktop management tool for Windows PCs, as in its previous version.
In the coming months, I'll go deep into several components of System Center 2012. But first, here's an overview of its core components:
App Controller provides a single interface for managing both your Windows Azure services and, via the VMM (Virtual Machine Manager) tool, your internal virtual machines. Tie-ins to the Overview interface for both Virtual Machine Manager services and Windows Azure services let you deploy and configure new services and entire machines easily.
SCCM (Configuration Manager) helps deploy operating systems, software applications, and software updates, as well as inventory hardware and software and do remote administration of computers. You may recall the original SMS (Systems Management Server), which was very hard to work with. Relax: SCCM is light years ahead of SMS in capability and ease of use.