What is System Center Virtual Machine Manager?

Flexibility and consolidation are two of the focuses of System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Microsoft's virtualization management solution.

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System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) is Microsoft's virtual machine support center for Windows-based systems. SCVMM upholds Microsoft's focus on efficiency with features to help administrators consolidate multiple physical servers within a central virtualized environment.

Before Virtual Machine Manager, administrators used Microsoft's Virtual Server product to meet their needs, including the creation and management of virtual machines. Released in 2004, Virtual Server came in two versions, Standard and Enterprise edition. In 2006, Microsoft released the upgraded version, Virtual Server 2005 R2, which is still used in some organizations today.

When Virtual Machine Manager was delivered in 2007, however, it became the go-to program for virtual machine management from Microsoft. Originally designed to build on Virtual Server, Virtual Machine Manager was later added to the System Center product line and is now a standalone product.

Several core components make up the foundation for SCVMM's more advanced functionalities: the manager server, library server, manager database, Administrator Console and virtual machine host.

When Virtual Machine Manager 2008 was released, Microsoft combined these core competencies with SCVMM 2007 features and added several upgrades for enhanced performance and functionality. The updates include support for Microsoft Hyper-V, access management through three different user roles and Hyper-V failover cluster support with Active Directory.

In 2009, however, Microsoft revamped SCVMM yet again and delivered Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 with added support for Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines. Other improvements include increased flexibility when working with virtual machines, simplified host management and storage enhancements.

The most recent addition to SCVMM is the optional System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal 2.0, released in July of 2010. The portal offers extensive user-based customization of virtual machines [VMs].

"Companies have been moving to virtualization for many years now and this lets them better delegate virtual machines and virtual resources," said Don Retallack, systems management analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a consulting firm based in Kirkland, Wash. "The dashboard lets you do more than just allocate VMs though; it expands the capabilities to where users can customize their own workflows, and individual business units can manage their own VMs."

NEW FEATURES

  • Smoother VM migration – SCVMM 2008 R2 includes improved virtual machine transfers with Live Migration, which allows a virtual machine to be transferred from one host to another without any downtime. Note that an upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 is necessary for Live Migration to work with Virtual Machine Manager.

  • Added backup support – With Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, VM migrations can now take place using storage area networks (SANs) with automated capabilities to eliminate the manual work that previously accompanied VM migrations. Other SAN-related upgrades include enhanced iSCSI and cluster support.

  • Consistency with CSV – SCVMM 2008 R2 helps eliminate the issue of complex LUN configuration and management with Cluster Shared Volumes (CSVs), used to simplify virtual machine failovers. Additionally, Cluster Shared Volumes provide a simplified overall storage system.

  • Riskless maintenance mode – Maintenance mode is another addition to SCVMM 2008 R2 that provides secure upgrades and maintenance without threatening the virtual machines in a cluster. When in maintenance mode, administrators can transfer virtual machines into a "saved state" or use Live Migration.

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Intro | Configuration Manager | Operations Manager | Data Protection Manager | Virtual Machine Manager | Essentials | Service Manager |
Mobile Device Manager

This was first published in August 2010

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