Microsoft Previews System Center’s Semi-Annual Release Future

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Beginning with version 1711, Microsoft will issue twice-yearly updates to its System Center suite of data center management tools.

Microsoft Server Management Update

Microsoft System Center, a  collection of data center monitoring and management tools, is following in the footsteps of Office, Windows 10 and Windows Server with new semi-annual feature updates that dispense with the longstanding practice of appending a product’s launch year to its name.

For example, Microsoft used its Ignite conference in September 2016 to launch both Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016, with general availability in the following month.

A year between major software releases no longer aligns with the company’s cloud-inspired release cadence. So to acclimate customers to the new update schedule, Microsoft released a preview version of System Center version 1711 for November 2017.

Bala Rajagopalan, Microsoft’s principal group program manager of System Center, explained that the focus of “this first semi-annual channel release is on enhancements and features for System Center Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Data Protection Manager, based on feedback from our customers,” in a blog post.

“Security and bug fixes, as well as support for TLS [Transport Layer Security] 1.2 will be available for all System Center components” including the Orchestrator components, Service Manager Automation, Service Provider Foundation and Service Manager.

System Center version 1711 expands on its support for the software-defined data center features present in Windows Server, Linux and VMware.

Used with Windows Server version 1709, System Center enables users to configure encrypted software-defined networking virtual networks and to provision Linux-based shielded virtual machines using Hyper-V, Microsoft’s own virtualization platform. It also supports the operating system’s host monitoring and management capabilities, Rajagopalan said.

Also on the Linux front, System Center Operations Manager now allows more in-depth log file monitoring using a software agent based on Fluentd, an open source data collector. “Linux log file monitoring is now at par with that of Windows Server,” said Rajagopalan.

Operations Manager also gains support for the Linux Kerberos authentication protocol and an improved user interface while maintaining a large number of Management Packs, each of which contains monitoring settings for applications and services.

Microsoft has also expanded on its Management Pack Updates and Recommendations feature to include third-party packs. To Help facilitate pack discovery and updating, the feature was first introduced in System Center 2016. Finally, Operations Manager’s web console has been ported to HTML5, allowing support for any browser along with dashboard widget customizations.

Meanwhile, System Center Data Protection Manager does a better job of backing up VMware virtual machines. Using the company’s performance-enhancing and capacity-optimizing storage technology, called Modern Backup Storage, organizations can cut backup storage by up to 50 percent, Rajagopalan claimed.

For hybrid-cloud customers, Microsoft has enabled Azure Resource Manager virtual machine and Azure Active Directory management in select regions using the Virtual Machine Manager add-in. A new integration between System Center Service Manager and Azure can be used to automatically create support requests in the help desk software based on alerts generated by Azure resources.

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