System Center 2012 App Controller review - Part 2

In the second part of this review of App Controller we’ll look at how it manages Windows Azure subscriptions, the exciting new functionality that’s coming in SP1 allowing you to move a VM from a VMM cloud to Azure as well as earlier versions of self-service portals from Microsoft.
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Paul Schnackenburg

Paul Schnackenburg works part time as an IT teacher as well as running his own business in Australia. He has MCSE, MCT, MCTS and MCITP certifications. Follow his blog TellITasITis.
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Azure in App Controller ^

The big drawcard in App Controller when it comes to managing Azure subscriptions is the authorization model. Through user roles and scoping in App Controller you can assign access for various users and groups to different Azure subscriptions without having to hand out your Windows Live accounts that actually control those subscriptions.

Azure services have two states – production and staging. The idea is that when you upload a new version of an application you test it in staging and when satisfied its working you then flip the Virtual IP (VIP) between the two states. If there are any issues with the new version you can simply flip back to the previous version. This VIP swap is easy to do in App Controller.

System Center 2012 App Controller - Connections

Managing all your App Controller Cloud connections in one place.

Moving VMs to the cloud in App Controller ^

The most exciting feature coming in SP1 is being able to move a VM from on-premises to Azure seamlessly using App Controller. To achieve this you’ll first need store the VM in the VMM library, be aware that whereas VMM gives you fine-grained control over exactly how much memory, CPU and disk resources your on-premises VMs have, this will be mapped to the different Azure VM sizes (Extra Small to Extra Large) as close as possible. You’ll also need to have setup VPN network functionality between your own environment and Azure. Note that there isn’t a simple way to move a VM back to your network; although the VHD file could of course be downloaded it’d probably be easier to just deploy the source VM that’s stored in your VMM library.

System Center 2012 App Controller - Connections

For each cloud that you’ve been assigned, Administrators can control how much of that capacity you can utilize.

Self-Service Consoles galore ^

Microsoft has had several shots at the elusive target of self-service consoles in System Center. VMM 2008 / 2008 R2 has a web based console that’s also part of VMM 2012 but only for backward compatibility. Then the Solution Accelerator team produced a portal for free download. The stance now is that all of these other cloud / virtual machine portals are deprecated in favour of App Controller. This makes sense as App Controller has the most functionality and is gaining more scope in SP1 with the addition of the Service Provider Framework (SPF). This new functionality means that in App Controller 2012 SP1 hosting providers can provide a hook into App Controller so that you can manage your private, Azure and third party hosted cloud capacity in one place.

Conclusion ^

App Controller is a great tool, easy to use and navigate for non-IT folk. Being able to manage both Azure and multiple VMM clouds in one place makes a lot of sense and with the addition of other hosting providers through the SPF framework things can only get better.

The one thing I’m looking forward to is someone creating SPF add-ins for Amazon’s cloud – now if you could manage ALL clouds using this one tool, that would really be something.

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