This content is part of the Essential Guide: The evolution of Microsoft System Center
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How new System Center 2012 features ease cloud management

New System Center 2012 features offer flexible and scalable management options no matter your server location.

With Microsoft System Center 2012, Windows administrators can integrate several management features into their toolkits. New capabilities enable admins to manage growing environments more seamlessly and without regard for where servers reside.

These new features squarely target IT shops moving to the cloud and attempt to smooth management headaches of the System Center 2010 components. The new release is part of a larger strategy to make Windows Server a cloud-ready operating system.

The traditional challenge of network administrators everywhere is to corral disparate systems, clients, servers and network devices so that they can carry out management and administration from as few places as possible. And System Center centralizes the management of computers distributed throughout an organization.

How the cloud changes traditional management

But the cloud changed things. Servers just as likely run as virtual machines (VMs) in other entities' data centers. Users probably connect to the network and services not just with a corporate-issued laptop on an enterprise network but also with personally owned smartphones and tablets running a variety of operating systems. And yet job descriptions haven't changed. Admins are tasked with managing it all -- and the "all" has expanded, moved and morphed. Thus, your tools need to change as well.

System Center is Microsoft's tool of choice for managing the Windows platform, whether that platform resides on your desk, in a server closet in your company's data center, in a cloud service or somewhere else.

With System Center 2012, Microsoft set out to bring the knowledge, experience and capabilities of cloud computing into private data centers so that you can use the same methodologies and features of public cloud services on-premises -- and even combine their management with a single tool set. As a result, the cloud becomes a logical boundary, not a physical one. When you manage your IT assets from within System Center, the data center sheds its boundaries and control exists no matter where a physical server is located.

New System Center features

System Center 2012 introduces several features that offer scalable and flexible management, no matter where your servers are located. Consider a few key features:

  • System Center and the "cloud operating system." System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager now enables administrators to move Hyper-V VMs that run on a corporate network up to Windows Azure and back again; System Center Data Protection Manager, in Service Pack 1, adds support for the Windows Azure Online Backup Service Monitoring performance of applications and self-healing capabilities.
  • Scalability. Windows Server 2012 supports up to 8,000 VMs on a cluster, and that cluster can be distributed geographically -- not just in one data center.
  • Just-in-time management. System Center Configuration Manager 2012 builds real-time configurations based on user roles and available hardware and launches virtual desktops based on these attributes. It also focuses on managing smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
  • Management of devices from the cloud. System Center integrates well with the Windows Intune cloud management service, touching client PCs, tablets and other devices not joined to the domain, then applying uniform management and security policies among those devices, too. You can manage Intune devices and standard System Center clients all from within the System Center console.

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

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