System Center 2012 SP1 hits RTM, adds Windows 8 management support

Microsoft released the System Center 2012 SP1 RTM, which lets IT deploy and manage Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, but it requires a clean install.

Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1 has been released to manufacturing and this important update is slated for general availability in January. With it, Windows administrators may get an unpleasant surprise.

Now that System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) of the management tools suite has reached the released to manufacturing (RTM) stage, customers face a task that rubs some of them the wrong way -- reinstalling SP1, even if they tested the beta version previously.

Specifically, users will not be able to simply install the update over the test version. Instead, administrators will need to perform a clean install when the final code is delivered.

Because of that, many administrators will likely delay the update until after the first of the year, said Don Retallack, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft, an independent analysis firm based in Kirkland, Wash.

In fact, a smooth upgrade from the SP1 beta is only supported for technology adoption partner (TAP) customers who previously installed the release candidate (RC) of the suite, according to Microsoft. That can be annoying, said both customers and experts.

Microsoft System Center 2012

System Center used to be an a la carte collection of tools. With the release of System Center 2012, Microsoft included all of them in a single package, which features Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and Data Protection Manager, among others.

"I routinely hear that the requirement for a clean install is a real pain for many TAP customers and commonly prevents them from doing large production deployments of products before they go RTM," said Philip Moss, managing partner for U.K.-based IT solution provider NTTX.

Additionally, although its name might seem to indicate System Center 2012 SP1 is a relatively insignificant release, that's not the case. SP1 is more than a roll-up of bug fixes.

For example, when System Center 2012 was released in March, Microsoft had not yet released Windows Server 2012 or Windows 8. So until now, System Center could not be used with the two new operating systems.

Now, administrators can use SP1 to deploy and manage both new systems.

The final release of Microsoft System Center 2012 was a significant upgrade in itself, adding support for new features such as cloud computing and a unified tool installer. Microsoft quietly disclosed SP1's achievement of RTM status in a post to the TechNet user forums late last week.

"SP1 is basically the Windows Server 2012 [and] Windows 8 compatibility release of System Center 2012, and that in itself is key as it allows most organizations who rely on System Center to now smoothly make the move to Server 2012 and Windows 8," Moss added.

It also adds support for Windows RT, which ships on Microsoft Surface RT tablets.

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