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Wednesday, 18 January 2012 16:42

System Center 2012 goes to RC, free to download


Microsoft has made available a pre-release version of their much awaited System Center 2012 suite of infrastructure management tools. With a focus on cloud computing as well as improvements to system deployment and protection, the updated suite aims to build on the success of the current versions while adding powerful new functionality.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft has jumped onto the bandwagon and is spruiking their cloud story to everyone and anyone who will listen. But this update to the suite that was released in 2007 offers some significant improvements.

Cross Platform Support

In the past, Microsoft took a very self-centred approach to infrastructure and software. However, their DNA has changed, perhaps as a result of the many legal issues they have faced over allegedly anti-competitive behaviour. System Center's management console provides IT managers with the fabled "single pane of glass" view at all their systems.

This includes support for multiple hypervisors including VMWare vSphere, and Citrix XenServer as well as their own Hyper-V. They can monitor servers running Sun Solaris and various Linux and Unix distributions and integrate toolsets from HP, CA, BMC, EMC, and VMware into automated workflows.

Configuration Management

End-point management and provisioning used to be a nightmare. Most IT manager will remember the days of multiple Ghost images stored on servers so that every different model and variant of PC, notebook and user was covered. System Center Configuration Manager, or SCCM, reduces the number of images you require by allowing you to push system builds and software through your network to end-point devices.

In the past, SCCM was focussed on delivering applications to specific devices but the 2012 release promises a more user-centric focus. In addition, there's integrated support for mobile device management that can help manage Windows Phone, Symbian, iOS, and Android-based hardware via ActiveSync for the pushing of policies, remote wiping and reporting.

Application delivery also takes into account the actual device that is being used so that an application can be delivered to each device in the most appropriate way whether that's local installation, remote access or application virtualisation.

Endpoint protection

Microsoft Forefront is to be replaced with System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection. This makes sense as the new product integrates with SCCM rather than being a bolt-on. However, we see this as a potential point of risk for Microsoft.

The malware business is very tricky. Microsoft's past in delivering security software has been somewhat chequered. Despite the huge leaps forward made over years since the advent of the "Trustworthy Computing" memo sent to all Microsoft staff 10 years ago, there have been some hiccups such as the changed status of Microsoft Security Essentials. Before that, there was an ill-fated attempt to include anti-virus software in Windows, back in the 1990s.

More recently, a hacking group, 'The Lords of Dharmaraja', claim to have access to the source code for Norton Antivirus and would release it into the public domain. Although Microsoft is a very cashed up and well resourced, they will be an even larger target to thieves and tech vandals.

However, easier integration of security software and policies will be seen as significant benefit for many IT managers.


Microsoft has provided a detailed licensing fact sheet that covers the license model and transitional arrangements for those on Software Assurance and other models.

There are two editions of System Center 2012; Datacenter and Standard. The key difference between the two is the number of Managed Operating System Environments (OSEs) per license. The Datacenter edition supports an unlimited number of OSEs with Standard limited to two.

The licensing details data sheet can be downloaded from this link [PDF link, 445kb].

Download the Software

The Release Candidate version of System Center, System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection can all be downloaded from the Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform site.

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