Downsides to consider with System Center 2012 features

Your enterprise may want to avoid System Center 2012 if you have cost or mixed infrastructure concerns.

System Center 2012 features are clearly compelling for modern networking scenarios. The suite features state-of-the-art server management tools that assist in automation, handling virtualization and a lot more.

Microsoft's System Center 2012 has its upsides: The scalability of System Center's Virtual Machine Manager -- and its ability to support 8,000 virtual machines on a cluster across the globe -- is a boon for many IT admins. It's cloud-ready: VMs can be moved to Azure and back again. And it's BYOD-ready: Configuration Manager goes beyond managing workstations, configuring phones and tablets.

But System Center 2012's features might not be a good fit for every shop. Consider some of these potential disadvantages:

Complexity. The System Center 2012 suite consists of multiple large products that come together in some ways but are separate in others. From the start, System Center was developed as discrete products that differ in functionality and reporting approaches. Administrators generally use one member of the suite, Configuration Manager, to deploy software, set policies and implement a uniform management structure throughout a network. If you manage a lot of VMs, you need proficiency in Virtual Machine Manager. If you automate deployment and in-house application operations, Orchestration Manager is another piece of the puzzle. Training is certainly required, as System Center isn't a product you simply "figure out" quickly.

Cost. Even with Microsoft's recent simplification of System Center pricing, a license covering a single two-socket server running an unlimited number of virtual machines runs $3,607 (with the price doubling for every additional two physical processor sockets you license).

If you have more than one host running server OS instances that you want to manage, you need to license those servers. And you have to deal with client access licenses (CALs), depending on which components of the client stack you manage. Those can run from $22 list for the security endpoint protection CAL to $62 for Configuration Manager targets to $121 for Operations Manager targets, all of which applies on top of the previously mentioned server licensing fee. And don't forget to add a SQL Server license fee, as this is not included in the quoted figures for System Center. For smaller shops, System Center may be prohibitively expensive.

Lack of heterogeneity. If your organization lives and breathes Windows, System Center is an obvious choice. But other utilities like LANDesk and Goverlan may be a better systems management choice if a good portion of your clients and servers run OSes other than Windows. Universities, research labs, medical offices and other specialized lines of business often require applications and servers running Linux and Unix, and System Center 2012 does not or only provides limited support for these products.

About the Author
Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a consulting firm based in Charlotte, N.C. He's also an editor at Apress Media LLC. Reach him via email at jhassell@gmail.com.

This was first published in April 2013

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