Service Pack 1 for System Center 2012 [Podcast]

Author by Nathan Lasnoski

Nate Lasnoski, one of three MVP's at Concurrency, discusses Service Pack 1 (SP1) for System Center 2012.
Nate Lasnoski photoOur clients desire to make their infrastructure more flexible, with features like the infrastructure they are seeing in the public cloud. This update helps with this and many other features.
Nathan Lasnoski is the Team Lead of Concurrency’s Infrastructure Practice, a Microsoft Virtualization MVP and a recognized leader in Core Infrastructure Design, SharePoint Infrastructure, Virtualization, and Unified Communications technologies. [display_podcast] Transcript of this podcast:

Marek: Welcome everyone. Today we have Nate Lasnoski with us again, and Nate will present to us some information about Service Pack 1 for System Center 2012.  Welcome Nate.

Nate: Nice to be here.

Marek: Nate, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule. Please tell us about Service Pack 1 for System Center 2012.

Nate: Well, one of the things that we've found in working with our customers is that they're looking to accomplish a couple key things with System Center and their core infrastructure.  First, they’re looking to take their infrastructure and make it flexible.  They’re looking to take an infrastructure that they currently have been running for several years and make it similar to the software as a service, or infrastructure as a service model that they are seeing happening in the public cloud. They’re also looking to better take advantage of the public cloud, so they’re looking to take advantage of the software services that are offered to them that they can consume without having to deploy services on premise.

We're also seeing that companies are looking to deliver services in a more flexible way to their end users in a cohesive way.  They’re looking to be able to manage it all from one place, and finally they're looking to take advantage of the most advance core infrastructure technologies that they're deploying, whether it's Windows Server 2012, or software defined networking, or its expansive sand environments that are looking to utilize to the max.  We're finding that companies are trying to optimize their core infrastructure investment whether it's on premise, or in the public cloud space.

So what I'm going to talk about today is a little bit about how System Center 2012 solves for those areas. Solves for those key areas where a company is trying take advantage of either the hybrid cloud on premise or the public cloud that exists that they're consuming from Internet based providers. So, one of the things I'm going to start with is simply discussion of where we are at this point. Up until this point, Microsoft has delivered from Windows Server 2012. It's the latest platform for on-premise core infrastructure delivery. It offers virtualization capabilities that are unmatched. It offers flexibility and security. It offers a usability that is able to work with a basic core infrastructure individual, but also is customizable in a way that allows for people with very advanced needs to be able to automate against it.

System Center 2012 extends System Center Support to support both the Windows Server platform, the latest version of the Windows Server platform, as well as other platforms they might be running on premise as well, such as UNIX platforms. So, System Center 2012 gives us a capability set that allows us to be able to manage the most advanced features within the Sever 2012 capability suite, as well as other third party solutions like UNIX where they may have historical products deployed, or even more recent products deployed. System Center 2012 also allows us to leverage capabilities where we're using outsource services like AZURE. So AZURE is Microsoft's product that allows them to be able to host your Infrastructure services at Microsoft's premise located in data centers all over the world. So what System Center 2012 lets us do is manage those highly advanced core infrastructure services we have on premise as well as the highly advanced core infrastructure services in the cloud in AZURE all from one console, and that's really helpful because as companies are looking to transition their services up to the public cloud, or even manage certain services in the public cloud and certain services on premise that allows them to see it all in one particular place, and I find that particularly useful.

Also allows them to take concepts that are extremely complex like software defined networking and manage them in a cohesive and simple way. So Windows Server 2012, for example, has the ability to abstract the network aware that operates in front of the individual virtual machines that you're running such as they can have even the same IP space, but have a network layer in front of them that abstracts them. It allows you to manage those complex network relationships in a way, which is a lot similar. Why add so advantageous is because that's the same kind of networking component that you’re going to be managing in the public cloud where your IP space isn't necessarily something that your managing quiet so much as you are managing the logical networks.

So the idea is that with System Center we're able to manage identities and provide those logical identities in manners that can be consumed in specific segments and offered on an on demand basis to our users so rather than simply managing our services as the morph is blob that we don't really have a lot of control over we're able understand what we own and manage, but we are able to cut it up in segmented ways, isolated ways that lets our consumer even in the IT business take advantage of them. So with System Center 2012 we're able to do those things.

Also with System Center we're able to integrate and automate against those sources so if I'm delivering some services from the public cloud like my end user website were someone is ordering a particular product from me or they're interacting with me through an intranet or I'm storing data out in that public cloud environment or on-premise environment where I'm managing my Active Directory or I have an on premise Active Directory Services environment or I'm running Workstation Deployment. I don't want to be able to manage that environment all from one place and I also want to be able automate against that environment.

I was recently working with a variety of companies that are trying to automate request against their core infrastructure. Where when they're provisioning servers or provisioning Virtual Network Infrastructure they want to allow for that request to be done through a self service interface and hide all the complexity behind the scenes using a tool like Orchestrator. So one of the things that were added into Service Pack 1 is the ability for Orchestrator to integrate both against the Windows Sever 2012 environment on premise as well as the AZURE environment in the cloud using out of the box integration activities that are now available. That's something that I've found really useful.

Another example that isn't so data center heavy is user provisioning. So if a company is saying, look I spend 15-30 minutes on every user provisioning process and I want to have that user provisioning process to be totally automated. What they've done in Service Manager 2012 Service Pack 1 as well as Orchestrator is they've built in more and more integration activities that are going to make that faster and faster to provision, such as in Exchange Integration Activity Pack and updated integration activities for interaction with web services as well as Active Directory. So they've done a very good job of delivering integration activities that allow for us to more rapidly deploy end user centric automations as well as automations into cloud based services.

We're also seeing people wanting to leverage not only on premise infrastructure and infrastructure as a service offering in AZURE, but also software as a service offering in things like Office 365. So the capabilities in Orchestrator Service Pack 1 allows to build or integrate with the capabilities offered in Office 365 in that user provisioning process.

Another capability that they've delivered in Service Pack 1 for System Center is the ability to mange multi tenant environments that are using software defined networking. So if I'm using software defined networking I might have a core infrastructure that has say a hundred physical servers and in that physical server environment I have tenants which are my customers that are asking to have isolated virtual machines running with same IP spaces, offering services to my customers that not having any interaction between those environments. So what Service Pack 1 allows me to do is set up segmented software networks for those environments and control them in a cohesive way even having some of those environments running in AZURE if it's an opportunity for me to run it there.

Another capability that exists in Service Pack 1 is the ability to take data that I have on premise and back it up to the cloud. So a lot of companies have been doing tape back up for years and they started to move away from that with technology like Data Protection Manager. So they've been replicating Data Protection Manager instances from point A to point B and giving themselves on premise or even remote redundancy of their backed up data. What DPM now has is the ability to leverage data targets that exist in AZURE. So I might have an AZURE data storage location that I can connect to with Data Protection Manager Service Pack 1 to replicate data up to AZURE and leverage it in that space.

Another really cool capability that's been delivered in System Center Service Pack 1 is operations manager support for different types of operating systems as well as configuration mangers support for different types of operating systems. That's something that really adopts an idea that with these tool sets you can manage both Microsoft and non-Microsoft devices.

One capability that's been delivered as well is the ability to use something called Global Service Monitor. Global Service Monitor is a capability of AZURE that allows for me to monitor public environments that I've delivered from outside my company. So for example I was doing a lot of Operations Manager deployments and what we're finding is that in addition to want to monitor on premise they want to know if their public environment went down. Now the challenge is lets an Internet connection to an Internet goes down. If that Internet connection goes down I have no way of communicating to my users that the Internet connection went down because I'm monitoring from on premise. Now Global Service Monitor lets me deploy capabilities for monitoring outside of my company to monitor my on premise infrastructure through a 360 degree perspective, pretty awesome stuff.

Also I had the ability to leverage that in monitoring both AZURE capabilities and non-AZURE capabilities, so a lot of technology there. Something else that's been delivered around client management is, if I have Mac devices, if I have iPhones, if I have Windows 8 phones, if I have Android devices I can now extend my management capabilities to those types of devices. Both through SCCEM's native capabilities as well as integration with Intune. So Intune is the capability that Microsoft has to cloud manage many of my devices and what I can do is I can interact with that cloud based management technology through my phone. It allows me to deploy settings to interact with it and manage it through one pane of glass using Configuration Manager, which is a huge advantage.

 So kind of summing it up the general idea with System Center 2012 is to manage a hybrid on premise and cloud based environment both for data center services and for client services plus allows me to be able to be more efficient in the way that I manage those technologies as well as allows me to transition technologies from on premise to the cloud and from the cloud back on premise and automate against those devices.

So if I would state in a business sense, the business perspective on this is we’re trying to achieve visibility, we’re trying to improve our processes or trying to automate, right? So one of the things that we can do with visibility is, visibility allows us in the System Center stack from on premise or in the cloud to be able to understand what I'm running, what I have paid for, and how it's performing, whether or not it's healthy, what it costs to run. The System Center stack allows me to understand that whole picture. That's becoming more and more important because a lot of companies think that when they move up something to the cloud all of a sudden they don't have to manage it. That's completely not true. Once it's moved to the cloud it just shift the context of your management. So visibility is super important because if you're paying to have a service in AZURE or anywhere else and you want to manage and understand how that it's running and if you have to increase capacity or reduce capacity that allows you to understand that service as a whole and what you're doing to support that service from a work perspective.

Adding to visibility as a capability within the Service Manager stack that lets you even take that data and present it as charge back information. So for example, if you have a variety of tenants or variety of business units that are leveraging your services, I can present that as charge back information based on usage tied to how they're leveraging those different services from my data center on premise or from my data center in the cloud because they share a very common infrastructure.

Something else that we can do is process improvement. So if a company says well now that I've gained visibility I want to improve these processes that I'm using for incident or release, or deployment. Process improvement allows me to be able to take those different services and improve the way that I do my business. So process management really allows me to be able to capture IT in it's responsive actions like incident management, it's change based actions, it's problems or support actions like problem management or it's risk actions. Where I'm managing a risk tied to a compliance requirement that I have. So service Pack 1 allows for me to be able have better vision into the processes, better vision in what I'm doing in those processes and in those technologies and wrap process around it which is great.

Also finally inside of automation and I think this is a huge sweet spot for System Center is that it allows me to take processes which are traditionally very manual and as I'm moving it into the cloud really automate provisioning and automate work that I use to do manually and as I have more and more things that are able to be automated it turns me as an engineer into a person who is really automating tasks that responsible for creation of automations versus a person who's responsible for doing manual tasks everyday. So I think we'll find that with System Center we are because of all the different hooks into the different things I’m managing whether it's Microsoft or non-Microsoft. So if it's Hyper-V or VMWare, or if it's a Mac or a PC or if it's an iPhone or Windows 8 device this allows me to be able to control and manage those systems. So I find that this is one of the most important areas for us as IT people to be focusing in and really if we want to build a business that's able to be flexible and build a business that knows about what we're delivering to our customers. This really allows us to be armed with those tools and capabilities to be effective.

So it was a pleasure talking to you guys today about System Center 2012. If you want to learn more about concepts around System Center 2012 or even very specific technical capabilities or technical deliverables around System 2012 you can visit our blog at You can also follow us on Twitter and you can learn about us by giving us a call and we can talk to you about different things that you might want to accomplish.

Marek: Thank you very much for your time and the information you provided. So again everyone who is interested in speaking with Concurrency Experts go to There's a great section where Concurrency Engineers are blogging and providing their valuable expertise information on their blog. Follow Nate, follow other Concurrency Experts and learn a lot of interesting information on Microsoft technologies. Nate, thank you very much for your time today.

Nate: Thank you.


Nathan Lasnoski

Chief Technology Officer