During my job as Microsoft Consultant/Architect I found several customers that speak about Microsoft System Center as a single product.
They don’t have clear in mind that System Center is a suite of products designed to work together but with different capabilities for each product. So with this post I want to give an high level overview of the products that form the Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 suite (the last version released on September 2013).
I want to write only few words just to provide a quick (but not comprehensive) understanding of the different parts/products of this suite.
System Center 2012 R2 – Virtual Machine Manager
This product (also called SCVMM) is similar to VMware Vcenter and provides an extended and complete management of different hypervisors (Hyper-V, VMware, Xendesktop). You can manage clustered hypervisors, create clouds, virtual machines, virtual networks, deploy VMs templates, define services, use libraries…
In few words: control your On Premise virtualization environment (Private Cloud).
System Center 2012 R2 – App Controller
Honestly, I don’t have experience with this product. It provides a single pane of glass between a Private Cloud managed by SCVMM and a Public Cloud (Azure only).
“App Controller provides a common self-service experience that can help you easily configure, deploy, and manage virtual machines and services across private and public clouds”
System Center 2012 R2 – Data Protection Manager
This is a backup product that uses local storage to store several data snapshots and can be integrated with long term backup systems like tape libraries. With DPM you can backup every kind of data but it’s also optimized to support the protection of several Microsoft services like Hyper-V, Exchange server, SharePoint Server, SQL Server, Microsoft File Servers…
System Center 2012 R2 – Operations Manager
SCOpsMgr is a product that provides monitoring of servers (phisical or virtualized), clients, services, application code, network appliances and can perform log collection, service level Agreement, alerting and more several tasks releted to monitoring and performance.
It’s possible to integrate SCOpsMgr with SCVMM in order to dinamically balance the VMs placement depending on the resource allocation/availability. (something similar to VMware DRS) Personally, I like very much this product due to the good architecture and the availability of several Management Packs.
A Management Pack is a set of pre configurated rules for a given product that Microsoft or other vendors released (for free or for pay) and that provides a very good starting point for monitoring a product/service.
Do you need to monitor an IIS server? Download the IIS Management Pack for free and SCOpsMgr will begin to monitor the IIS server collecting performance counters, monitoring service level, creating alerts… The only thing that you need it’s to tune the Management Pack in order to fit your environment.
Example of useful Management Packs:
Hyper-V Management Pack http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36438
VMware Management Pack http://www.veeam.com/news/veeam-introduces-free-system-center-2012-management-pack-10-pack-for-vmware-monitoring170.html
System Center 2012 R2 – Configuration Manager
I think that SCCM is the most used product of this suite. It provides Configuration management capabilities like hardware/software inventory, asset inventory, software/update distribution, desired configuration management, software metering, operating system deployment, remote control, wake on lan, management of internet clients and Linux and MacOsX clients (limited) SCCM can also be integrated with Microsoft Intune in order to provide MDM (Mobile Device Management) capabilities.
It’s my favorite system center product because it’s very complete, scalable and reliable.
System Center 2012 R2 – Endpoint protection
This is a classic enterprise class antivirus product integrated with SCCM. It’s not possible to run Endpoint protection without an istallation of SCCM.
I don’t have much experience with this product so I don’t want to write more words…
System Center 2012 R2 – Service Manager
Service Manager (SCSM) provides built-in processes for incident and problem resolution, change control, and asset lifecycle management (it’s built to apply ITSM best practices).
It provides similar capabilities to BMC Remedy.
It’s possible to integrate SCVMM, SCOpsMgr, Orchestrator and SCCM with Service Manager in order to create complete and complex workflows.
System Center 2012 R2 – Orchestrator
Orchestrator (SCOrch) is a powerfull product that provies automation and orchestration. It’s possible to use it to easily create complex workflows that can interact with the other System Center products or with third part products.
Like SCOpsMgr, Microsoft or third part vendors provide some product releted extensions called “Integration Packs” (IP) that can help the administrator to build the workflow.
For example using with the following IP for vSphere it’s possible to use pre configurated actions like “Create VM” or “Attach Network Adapter”.
System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 Integration Pack for VMware vSphere http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=34604
Here the list of available IPs: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh295851.aspx
You can define a workflow using both pre configurated actions and classic powershell Scripting.