In this third part of this four part overview of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 we’ll look at the VMM 2012 SP1 improvements that are not directly related to the changes in Hyper-V 3.0.

Improvements in VMM not directly related to Windows Server 2012 are:

  • Windows Azure VM support
  • Copying of VMs from your private to a public cloud
  • Enhancements to Hyper-V host provisioning
  • VMM console extensibility by third parties

As Windows Azure is now offering IaaS support through hosting of VMs you can deploy, operate and manage these VMs from VMM as well as copy a VM from on-premises to Azure simply by storing it in a library and then uploading it. With network virtualization it can keep its IP address and with new abilities in Azure to link your network it can continue to appear as part of your network. App Controller SP1 also offers this functionality.

Whilst the RTM version discovered hardware information of hosts through Baseboard Management Controllers (BMC) it wasn’t very deep. One area where this surfaced was discovering multiple NICs on the motherboard with almost identical names; in SP1 it’ll be easier to separate the right NICs for assignment to different types of networks in the host profiles.

Service template based VMs can now be deployed to hosts in a DMZ, in a workgroup, untrusted AD domains or domains with one-way or two-way trust. A capability that was originally going to be part of the RTM release was import and export of VM configuration information through Open Virtualization Format (OVF), it’s coming in SP1.

In VMM RTM you can define a SQL Server DAC package together with a “sysprepped” instance of SQL server so that a service that’s deployed can automatically setup and configure it’s backend database. Most large environments however don’t have separate SQL VMs for each application, rather they have big (physical) SQL server farms with hundreds or thousands of databases and each application has its database housed there.

In RTM this scenario could be catered for by containing the necessary information to connect to the right database in a DAC package rather than installing SQL. SP1 brings this capability to web deploy packages, allowing web sites for applications to be spun up on a central IIS farm rather than in individual web server VMs. This can conceivably lead to service definitions that don’t actually contain VMs, only DAC and web deploy packages.

The scalability numbers today are that VMM can handle 400 hosts and 8000 VMs and Microsoft expects to increase these figures in SP1 but no exact figures have been published yet. The ability to extend VMM with additional tabs for managing various parts of your infrastructure will make it even more useful, Cisco (for UCS servers), Dell, HP and NetApp have already announced that they’re working on such extensions. Another boon for service providers / hosters will be the new tenant administrator role; members will only be able to see their own resources but can author their own networks (in the coming beta) as well as create additional roles with further delegation of given resources.

Services are getting better in SP1; whilst you could add one pre- and one post-install script to a deployment in RTM you can now have multiple, ordered scripts with handling of exit codes etc. and if a deployment fails you can mark a script as idempotent and it will run during the second try, RTM simply disabled the script in case it was the reason for the failure. SP1 will also be able to manage disconnected VMs that have no network connections by providing the necessary software through a mounted ISO file.

Server App-V is a part of VMM with a bright future, I believe that the future of smooth service (VMs and applications in one simple package) deployments lie in virtualized server applications. New in SP1 is support for applications that create scheduled tasks and more interestingly, Remote application packaging. This lets you capture an already installed application on a server using the Sequencer packaging workflow, very useful when the original installation media is no longer available. There are some limitations, Web Deploy packages can’t be captured, if the application uses environment variables or local users / groups these have to be deployed separately, the application has to be MSI based and can’t use COM / DCOM.

In the next, fourth and final part of this overview of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 we’ll look at what’s new in App Controller 2012 SP1, Service Manager 2012 SP1 and the brand new Service Provider Foundation.


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