Microsoft Kicks Off Semiannual Updates for System Center with Preview Release

Microsoft this week released a preview version of System Center version 1711, which will be the first release under the management suite's new semiannual update model.

The preview is available here. It's notable for being a signal that Microsoft is now initiating the entire System Center suite into its service-enabled update model. Under that scheme, products get more frequent upgrades, with major updates (called "semiannual channel" releases) typically expected to arrive maybe twice per year.

Microsoft had indicated back in June that the System Center suite would track with the channel release model, and that it would be "aligned with the Windows Server semiannual channel timelines." Windows Server version 1709 had its first semiannual channel release last month, so the System Center channel release is perhaps a bit delayed. Both of the service-enabled products require that organizations have Software Assurance coverage on top of the licensing to use the semiannual channel update model.

The System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) component was the first one out the gate to adopt Microsoft's faster update model. SCCM has to keep pace with Windows 10's frequent update releases and semiannual channel model. There's a new preview of update 1710 for SCCM that's available, which Microsoft released late last month.

Preview Additions
With this System Center semiannual channel preview, Microsoft mostly focused on feature additions to "System Center Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and Data Protection Manager," according to Bala Rajagopolan, principal group program manager for System Center, in the announcement. Microsoft added software fixes and TLS 1.2 support to the Orchestrator and Service Manager components as well.

One notable addition with System Center version 1711 preview is support for Windows Server version 1709. It adds support for managing Shielded Linux Virtual Machines on Hyper-V, too, which is Microsoft's security scheme that protects against the copying of VM files.

The updated Operations Manager component now enables "granular log file monitoring in Linux." Rajagopolan added that, with the preview release, "Linux log file monitoring is now at par with that of Windows Server." The Operations Manager console was redone in HTML5, too, and is supported by all browsers.

The updated Virtual Machine Manager component enables "nested virtualization, software load balancer configuration, Storage QoS configuration" and other perks, Rajagopolan noted. Data Protection Manager now has the capability of carrying out faster backups of VMware virtual machines.

The Management Pack Updates and Recommendations feature that appeared in System Center 2016 now can find and use Management Packs that are created by so-called "third-party" (non-Microsoft) software producers, Rajagopolan indicated.

System Center version 1711 preview also has improvements for organizations that use Microsoft Azure services. For instance, Operations Manager now can show Azure network, server and application dependencies through integration with Service Map. The Service Manager component now enables automatic alerts to be set up for "Azure and non-Azure resources." An add-in to Virtual Machine Manager permits the management of Azure ARM VMs, as well as Azure Active Directory.

Coming Next Year
Microsoft will describe updates for the next System Center semiannual channel release "in the first quarter of 2018," Rajagopolan noted. However, he offered a couple of advanced details about Data Protection Manager this week.

The next semiannual channel release will let organizations monitor the Azure Backup service using either Data Protection Manager or the Azure Portal, with data visualization customizations supported by Power BI. Rajagopolan described a perk when Data Protection Manager gets used:

We keep the job data in Azure Backup for 3 months in a free storage account (up to 1 GB) when you connect DPM to Azure Backup. You can thus complete monthly or quarterly reports without additional infrastructure.

Another feature coming with the next semiannual channel release is the ability to set a recovery point on Azure, which will enable the restoration of files and folders "in a matter of minutes" using Data Protection Manager.

About the Author

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


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