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Microsoft Issues Updates of System Center 2012 Products

Some of Microsoft's System Center 2012 management applications got fresh test versions this week.

Microsoft first unveiled most of the solutions in March as betas, with final product releases expected by year's end. This week, Microsoft made three new test solutions available for download, as well as announced a product name change: Forefront Endpoint Protection 2012 is now called "System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection."

Forefront is Microsoft's enterprise-class suite of software security products, and it looks like Microsoft is just trying to rebrand Endpoint Protection under System Center. However, there also may be some sort of code and integration changes involved. According to a Microsoft blog, System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection "is built on [System Center] Configuration Manager," and that may represent a new architecture for the product. No real explanation was provided for the name change.

Private Cloud Management
On the cloud management side, Microsoft released betas of App Controller and Service Manager, as well as a release candidate of Orchestrator, which are all within the System Center 2012 product family.

The App Controller beta, which runs on Virtual Machine Manager infrastructure, can be used to provide a management view of applications running in private or public clouds. It lets users "configure, deploy, visualize and update multi-tier application components," according to an announcement by Anant Sundaram, a System Center product manager. The views can be role based, allowing self-servicing by users; at the same time, administrator controls can be maintained.

The Service Manager beta appears mostly aimed at service providers to help them standardize how services are delivered to an organization. Microsoft plans to release a System Center Services Process Pack that will help set up self-service capabilities for end users tapping private clouds. Service Manager works with a configuration management database that contains setup data from "virtual machine templates, service templates, runbook automations and user roles from Active Directory," Sundaram explained.

The Orchestrator release candidate is a process automation solution for datacenters or private clouds. It's based on technology that Microsoft acquired from Opalis Software in December of 2009. Microsoft had released a beta of Orchestrator in July of this year. Orchestrator can be used by service providers "to integrate and extend their existing toolsets and build flexible workflows (or runbooks) that can span across multiple organizational silos and IT systems," Sundaram stated. Standardization and self-service experiences can be enabled when Orchestrator is used with Service Manager, Sundaram added.

Client Management
On the client management side of things, Microsoft issued a release candidate version of System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. This release integrates with the System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection solution to enable better reporting, Microsoft claims. The application catalog was designed to be more responsive. Support for embedded devices was added, such as "Windows Embedded 7 SP1, POSReady 7, Windows 7 Think PC, and Windows Embedded Compact 7," according to a blog post by Adwait Joshi, senior technical product manager on the Microsoft management and security team. Compliance enforcement and tracking were also improved with this release, Joshi claims.

System Center Configuration Manager 2012 release candidate provides management support for Nokia Symbian Belle mobile devices. However, this capability appears to depend on Nokia's timing.

"Pending a platform update by Nokia later this calendar year for these devices, customers will be able to try out the management of these Nokia devices with ConfigMgr," Joshi wrote in the blog.

Microsoft also rolled out a utility-type of solution aimed at helping System Center Configuration Manager 2007 users who want to manage their applications using the new 2012 version of the product. The solution is called "System Center Package Conversion Manager," which is available as a release candidate from the Microsoft Connect portal here.

System Center 2012 solutions are currently available in various test versions. For a broad list, see this Microsoft blog page, which includes download links. Microsoft has not specified a date when the new System Center 2012 suite will be generally available.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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