Recently we looked at what's coming in the next version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) In this article, we're going to look at Operations Manager (SCOM) and Data Protection Manager (DPM). Given that Microsoft has put System Center overall on the back burner, let's see what we can expect in this imminent release.

Operations Manager

We looked at the Technical Preview 4 of OM 2016. As we noted, Microsoft took back responsibility for the Management Pack (MP) catalogue and presented it in the console. This was a good step forward. In the 1711 release, the Updates and Recommendations feature now gives you recommendations and updates for third-party MPs as well as Microsoft's own. System Center Semi-Annual Channel release 1801 now available – in this article we look at what’s just been released in SCOM and DPM.

The inclusion of Linux and Unix in SCOM continues with Kerberos support for Linux. When management servers use the WS-Management protocol to talk to Linux systems, they can do it over Kerberos. This negates the need to enable basic authentication for Windows Remote Management (WinRM).

If you're using Fluentd to monitor Linux, you can now use plug-ins from the Fluentd community and search through log files. This now supports more options, putting it on par with Windows Server monitoring.

The web console is now fully HTML based, finally burying Silverlight. SCOM 2016 still used Silverlight for Dashboard views. It's still pretty basic though. Third-party providers of web-based interfaces to SCOM needn't worry—there's still a market for their products.

The integration of Operations Management Suite (OMS) and SCOM continues—in the 1711 flavor, there's integration with Service Map. This cool technology in OMS (based on the acquisition of BlueStripe Software) automatically discovers applications and services on multiple servers. It then builds diagrams to illustrate the dependencies and communications paths. The integration with SCOM means OMS now dynamically creates and updates the distributed application diagrams you had to create (and keep up to date) manually in earlier versions of SCOM.

Configuring OMS Service Map in SCOM

Configuring OMS Service Map in SCOM

Data Protection Manager

DPM 2016 was a big step forward for Microsoft's premier (on-premises) backup solution. The big ticket was Modern Backup Storage (added in Update Rollup 1), which uses the Resilient File System (ReFS) and its support for block cloning to store incremental backups. This provides efficient data storage (up to 50% space savings) as well a huge performance increase (3x faster backups).

The 1711 release extends the benefits of Modern Backup Storage to VMware VM backups. If you've got vCenter/ESXi version 5.5 or 6.0, you can now use DPM to back up those VMs. It's agentless—just provide the IP address or fully qualified domain name (FQDN) and login credentials. And of course you can use DPM to back up to a local disk first for quick restores and then on to Azure for long-term archiving.

If you're using folders in vCenter to organize your VMs (most large environments do), DPM will automatically detect new VMs added (on a daily basis) and back them up. You can store protected VMs on a local disk, cluster storage, or network file system (NFS). Best of all, if the VMs are running Windows, you get the advantage of item-level recovery (ILR). This lets you recover individual files and folders without having to restore the whole VM first.

Detailed information—including steps to configure credentials—is available here. Note that if you were previously protecting a VMware VM as a Windows Server, you'll need to identify it differently. If you used an IP address previously, use a FQDN when configuring protection and vice versa if you used a FQDN to set up protection originally. Also, DPM cannot protect VMs with pass-through disks and physical RAM device mapping (pRDM).

Note that VMware support in DPM has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Originally added to 2012 R2 UR11, they slated it for DPM 2016 as well, but it took until now to get it into the product. This was actually due to VMware not supporting the components required on Windows Server 2016. Since DPM 2016 supports Windows Server 2016 as a host OS, the product team had to wait for VMware.

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Not a lot is new in DPM (unless you're a VMware shop and you've been waiting for VMware support in DPM) and frankly not a lot in SCOM either. Is it worth upgrading? If you're on SCOM/DPM 2012 R2 or earlier, it definitely makes sense to move to a more modern System Center. If nothing else, the integration with Service Maps from OMS is useful in larger environments. If you're on 2016 already, do your due diligence before deciding whether an upgrade is worth the hassle.


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