Microsoft System Center 2012 review: Streamlined cloud service management

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Pricing and the task of putting together components have been vastly simplified.

Microsoft released the final version of its System Center 2012 suite of components in April at a conference in Las Vegas. I've taken a hard look and used it in a variety of tests, and I find it a compelling product that has lost a lot of its licensing and complexity baggage. Let's drill down.

System Center's goal

The original idea behind System Center was to provide a product that delivered on three main tenets: to allow your infrastructure to become more productive and efficient, to make your applications and services more reliable and to bring the cloud into your on-premises systems.

Requesting private cloud components

After the initial installation of the suite of components, which went as expected with no surprises (pleasant or otherwise), I prepared the system as an administrator:

  • I created a template for a service request, which allows me to define the types of resources that end users will be able to ask for from the system.
  • I then created a workflow for approving service requests, taking them from the submission stage and routing them over to another administrative account I set up. This other account represented a separate administrator who was responsible for, say, resource control.

Once the host is deployed, VMM takes over with a New Private Cloud Wizard. I created a new private cloud through the simple screens designed to get information about the appropriate resources, network infrastructure information, load balances for the cloud (if any), available storage space, how many virtual machines I could use in this cloud, what memory was available and which hypervisor to use.

After a bit of waiting, my new cloud was set up and ready to serve up an application. If I wanted, I could have delegated capabilities to other administrators while limiting the scope of their selection; in Microsoft's lab, for instance, I delegated the creation of resources to another user role that I defined, and I limited the number of virtual machines that users in that role could create to seven.

Other settings can be controlled in this way as well, and this is useful for giving junior administrators or business unit IT liaisons the ability to fulfill some requests while ensuring the larger resource picture is known by the data center group that owns the compute power.

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