System Center 2012 is here and Microsoft recently held its annual MMS 2102 conference focusing on this expanding product suite. I’ll give you an overview of what was covered, and resources you can use to start evaluating this massive release.

Bret Fisher

Bret Fisher has been a Windows admin for over 15 years.He has nearly 30 Microsoft certifications as well as previous Cisco, Citrix, and SANS Institute for security.

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I recently attended the Microsoft Management Summit in Last Vegas with 5,000 fellow admins and engineers who specialize in the System Center product line. In its 14th year, MMS is still a unique Microsoft conference for sysadmins in that it’s focused exclusively on systems management using a pure Microsoft stack.

MMS 2012

Good News! If you missed MMS, nearly all the sessions and keynotes are free online at the Digital MMS site (over 150 hours worth!). If you want to take the videos offline, someone’s written a PowerShell script to download them. Common topics beyond System Center 2012 include Hyper-V, PowerShell, Windows 7 deployment, MDT, and many more.

When you see session ID’s like EC-B101 in this article, search that ID on the Digital MMS site to watch it.

System Center 2012 is now a suite of eight products, but licensed as one suite. Even though Microsoft would like you to think it’s one product, they are still deployed as separate server apps… that is, you don’t have to deploy all of System Center 2012 to use just one component:

  • Configuration Manager (SCCM. getting started: CD-B207, what’s new: CD-B330)
  • Operations Manager (SCOM, what’s new: FI-B317)
  • Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM, what’s new: SV-B206)
  • Data Protection Manager (SCDPM, what’s new: FI-B405)
  • App Controller (VMM self-service portal plus. intro session: AM-B305)
  • Orchestrator (task/job automation)
  • Service Manager (user service desk)
  • Endpoint Protection (previously Forefront. what’s new: CD-B332)

The Private Cloud ^

Microsoft is claiming that if you implement most of these products, then you’ll be on your way to enabling the “Private Cloud” in your sever room. Checkout session SV-B308 where Young Chou details what the private cloud really entails, which I found enlightening. The key takeaway for me is that virtualization of your servers is just the first piece in making your own Cloud infrastructure. You also need:

  • Self-Service (Limited number of clicks to deploy a new system, high level of OS and server app deployment automation)
  • Resource Pooling (Standardization plus optimization plus systems management)
  • Elasticity (Grow and shrink number of virtual machines based on demand)

If you’ve ever seen the 4 stages of the Infrastructure Optimization Model (Basic, Standardized, Rationalized, Dynamic) which is a way to rate the maturity of your systems and processes, then just know that Private Cloud likely starts in the Rationalized stage. If your shop spends most of your days controlled by support tickets (reactive), and it takes you a day or more to set up a new virtual machine, then you’re likely in Basic (hey we all start there). Implementing the System Center suite could be one of the steps you take to mature your IT org toward the more advanced and automated stages where system admin life gets easier.

A few popular sessions ^

Are you a SCCM guru? Then Configuration Manager “State of the Union” CD-B102 will catch you up, and they also pitted common scenarios in SCCM 2007 R3 against SCCM 2012 (spoiler: 2012 killed it). A little quirky and fun.

  • For OS deployment, a good bet is to search sessions by Michael Niehaus and Johan “I write a script” Arwidmark.
  • In the troubleshooting arena (a skill I am always trying to hone) you want to check out Laura Chappell’s SV-B407 “Top 10 Reasons the Network is Slow” for some Wireshark kung-fu, and CD-B347 Troubleshooting Windows 7 Deployments for a exhaustive list of MDT and SCCM log locations and tips by Ben Hunter.
  • Vlad Joanvic and Matt McSpirit have a unique session “Understand How Hyper-V and System Center Stand Up against the Competition” AM-B323.

The key takeaway is that all these products are “better together” as Microsoft likes to say: Data Protection Manager uses Operations Manager as a Central Console for multiple DPM servers. Orchestrator makes heavy use of Service Manager and Operations Manager. Service Manager pulls data from Configuration Manager for support tickets and some automation. The list goes on and on.

Further learning ^

Microsoft has a Virtual Academy with a growing System Center syllabus of documents and videos.

“How do I evaluate System Center now?” you might ask. Microsoft has an Eval Center where you can download a trial of System Center 2012 and get a summary of all the pieces to this expanding puzzle. The bundled download includes a Unified Installer that lets you run the System Center suite installer on one server, and remotely installs the components on other servers. MS says the Unified Installer is only for simplifying test environment installs.

Each product requires its own Windows Server OS (or more) so you’re looking at a minimum of 9 (yep) lab virtual machines to test out the full suite. The User’s Guide and MMS Sessions FI-B330 “System Center 2012 Unified Installer” and FI-B328 “How to Build a Microsoft Private Cloud…” can help you out.

Have you been at the MMS 2012? Please share your impressions!

Are you an IT pro? Apply for membership!

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4 Comments
  1. Renee 7 years ago

    This was the next best thing to actually being there! Thank you Bret!

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  2. Author
    Bret Fisher 7 years ago

    TechNet Edge just posted a bunch of SC2012 videos as well. Looks like some are from MMS http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/edge/ff832960?Category=System%20Center%202012

    1+

  3. NikeMike 7 years ago

    SCCM 2007 R3 vs. SCCM 2012
    This is an unfair fight, and even though R3 is supposed to be a prep release in what is to come, it is more a butter knife at a gun fight. Power Management, condition based deployment, and Forefront integration are just some of the things that most people should be excited for.

    For OS deployment, a good bet is to search sessions by Michael Niehaus and Johan “I write a script” Arwidmark.

    IMO it gets no better than these two when it comes to SCCM and breakouts. SCCM is a product that everyone loves to hate, because just when you think you know it, you realize you have so much further to go. However, Johan and Niehaus do a bang-up job bringing it to simplicity and demonstrating some cool techniques. You did forget to mention Mikel, who is the Johan's counterpart.

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  4. Author
    Bret Fisher 7 years ago

    Thanks NikeMike,

    I feel the same, using and implementing various System Center products for over a decade and still feel like a noob.

    BTW I'm a big fan of the Forefront client. Been using it for years and just learned that you can actually sysprep with it installed (if you follow this walkthrough), which is usually a big no-no with AV products. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg193355.aspx

    1+

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