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System Center Joins Microsoft's 'Semiannual Channel' Release Model

Microsoft recently issued System Center version 1801, the first release under the company's "semiannual channel" update framework.

Office 365 ProPlus, Windows 10 and the service-enabled Windows Server product already use the semiannual channel model, which typically entails two releases per year -- the first in spring and the second in fall. A semiannual channel release is just a software product update containing major feature changes.

Now, all eight System Center components follow the channel update model. The Configuration Manager component of System Center has long followed Windows 10's channel release pattern, but it's actually the lone exception to Microsoft's typical biannual update release pattern.

"Everything, except System Center Configuration Manager, is semi-annual," a Microsoft spokesperson explained via e-mail. "SCCM is updated three times a year as customers asked us to refresh more regularly to support new device types faster."

The spokesperson confirmed that organizations will need Software Assurance, on top of the licensing, for the whole System Center suite if they want to get channel updates for the suite's components. Typically, each channel release is supported for 18 months before organizations must move to the next release in order to stay supported and patched.

Last year, Microsoft had suggested that its System Center semiannual channel releases would be timed with its Windows Server major update releases. This timing appears to be Microsoft's goal, although the System Center updates may lag a little.

"We know that customers want System Center and Windows Server to be aligned from a timing perspective," the spokesperson indicated. "From an internal engineering perspective, System Center is built on top of Windows Server and so System Center releases will typically lag Windows Server releases. We are doing our best to align these as much as possible moving forward."

Version 1801 Improvements
Microsoft's announcement offered a long list of feature improvements that arrived with System Center version 1801. Notably, all System Center version 1801 components are getting updates to support Transport Layer Security 1.2 protocol. Microsoft previously announced plans to remove the older versions of this protocol, including from Office 365 services.

Microsoft highlighted the following feature additions to System Center version 1801 components:

  • Virtual Machine Manager has new configuration options for nested virtualization, software load balancers and storage quality of service, and it's possible to "migrate VMware UEFI VM to Hyper-V VM"; an add-in to Virtual Machine Manager also permits the management of Azure virtual machines using Azure Resource Manager.

  • Operations Manager has improved Linux monitoring that's "on par with that of Windows Server" and Linux Kerberos support was improved; Microsoft rebuilt the Web console using HTML5; the ability to update "third party" Management Packs was added; more details are listed here and there's a quick-start deployment guide.

  • Data Protection Manager can perform faster backups of VMware virtual machines.

  • Service Manager can be set up to automatically show alerts for both "Azure and non-Azure resources"; Microsoft also published a Service Manager Authorization Tool that can be used to customize Service Manager functionality and modify Management Packs.

Microsoft offers trial downloads of System Center version 1801 via its Evaluation Center portal or its Volume Licensing Service Center. Links to evaluation Management Packs and virtual hard disks are provided in this Microsoft post.

Long-Term Servicing Channel
In addition to this service-enabled version of System Center available with version 1801, Microsoft also plans to continue releasing its more traditional System Center product.

The traditional System Center product is said to follow the so-called "long-term servicing channel" update model. System Center components on the long-term servicing channel don't get as many feature updates. Major updates arrive maybe every two or three years. The long-term servicing branch product also gets the traditional "5 + 5" support, namely five years of "mainstream support" followed by five years of "extended support."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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