System Center 2012 SP1 eventually lets IT manage Windows Server 2012

IT pros itching to manage Windows Server 2012 with System Center 2012 can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but will still have to wait a bit.

IT pros welcome the new server and cloud management features in Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, but some grumble about how long the update is taking.

When Microsoft released System Center 2012 this spring, a few significant features were missing, including the ability to manage Windows Server 2012, which was to be tightly stitched with Windows Azure and its new cloud capabilities. Last week Microsoft released the beta of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which does support Windows Server 2012. The timing, however, frustrates some IT professionals.

"Even with a quick turnaround, we probably won't see the release for a few months," said Rob McShinsky, a senior systems engineer at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. "That is a big problem, since … there is still no enterprise class way to manage or backup Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012."

Microsoft doesn't plan to deliver the final System Center 2012 SP1 code until early next year.

More System Center 2012 SP1 features

Microsoft service packs typically offer incremental upgrades, but System Center 2012 SP1 is more important than its name suggests. The release will also offer support for deploying and managing Windows 8. (Neither Windows 8 nor Windows Server 2012 were available when Microsoft released the first version of System Center 2012 in April.)

More on System Center 2012

Hyper-V SMB shops seek System Center 2012 alternatives

Microsoft pushes System Center 2012 for private cloud

VMware shops eye new System Center 2012 licensing

Tools that include Configuration Manager, Operations Manager and Virtual Machine Manager were previously available in an a la carte fashion. Last spring, Microsoft consolidated the tools into a single comprehensive suite with a common installer for all eight of the management tools included in System Center at that time as well.

When System Center 2012 SP1 ships, Microsoft will also add the ability to manage and deploy Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 instances using Configuration Manager 2007 (with Service Pack 2), letting admins choose to use either the newest release of System Center or the older release. "Many IT organizations wait until they have done significant testing of a new version of System Center before they deploy it, so the ability to continue to use the previous version is important," said Don Retallack, research vice president at Directions On Microsoft, an analyst firm based in Kirkland, Wash.

"They're able to go both ways, and that's good for customers," he said.

System Center 2012 SP1 will also bring cloud computing management features through support for updated Windows Azure public cloud capabilities. For example, the service pack will support management of Windows Azure Virtual Machines, Microsoft's new Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering.

"[SP1] is important if you're using Windows Azure IaaS features or intend to become a hoster of Windows Azure Virtual Machines for other than your organization's employees," said Roger Jennings, a Windows Azure MVP and developer in Oakland, Calif.

Other new capabilities coming in SP1 include interoperability between Windows Intune and the System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Console to allow cloud-based mobile device management, including management of Windows RT and Windows Phone 8.

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