Microsoft System Center Gets First Semi-Annual Release

Microsoft's data center monitoring and management solution gets its first semi-annual release with a big push to improve Virtual Machine Manager.

Microsoft cloud

Microsoft has made its latest version of System Center, its data center monitoring and management toolset, generally available. And with the release of System Center 1801, administrators who are familiar with the numbering scheme used in System Center 2016 and previous versions will have to get accustomed to a new one.

Microsoft announced in November 2017 that System Center was joining Windows 10, Windows Server and Office by following a semi-annual release schedule. Gone are year-based releases, so users shouldn't expect a System Center 2018 or 2019 release.

Instead, the Redmond, Wash., software giant plans to issue major feature updates twice a year, each marked by four-digit version numbers that represent a targeted release date, give or take a month. The first two numbers represent a year and the last two numbers pertain to a month, or in the case of System Center version 1801, January 2018.

In its first semi-annual release, System Center's Virtual Machine Manager component bows in with several new capabilities, according to Bala Rajagopalan, principal group program manager of System Center at Microsoft.

"Customers can now set up nested virtualization, software load balancer configuration, and storage QoS [quality of service] configuration and policy, as well as migrate VMware UEFI VM to Hyper-V VM," stated Rajagopalan in a blog post. "In addition to supporting Windows Server, version 1709, we have added support for host monitoring, host management, fall back HGS [Host Guardian Service], configuration of encrypted SDN virtual network, Shielded Linux VMs on Hyper-V management, and backup capabilities."

Also new to Virtual Machine Manager is floating IP support for Software Load Balancer (SLB) guest clusters and seamless updates to non-domain host agents. The tool's Enhanced Session mode also now supports remote access to virtual machines.

System Center 1801 promises to make VMware backups more efficient and cost-effective, courtesy of Microsoft's updated Data Protection Manager component, added Rajagopalan. Using the company's Modern Backup Storage technology, users can expect their storage costs to fall by up to 50 percent.

In System Center Operations Manager, users will find a customizable Linux agent based on the FluentD data collector project from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. The update bridges the gap between Windows Server and Linux log file monitoring, claimed Rajagopalan. In addition, Operations Manager's web console has been ported to HTML5, a move that improves browser compatibility and delivers a better overall user experience, he said.

Users seeking third-party Management Packs that extend System Center will have an easier time finding solutions that fit their needs, added the Microsoft executive.

The Update and Recommendation feature, first introduced in System Center Operations Manager 2016, initially supported Management Packs from Microsoft. Now, it supports a number of Management Packs from external partners, including Calcomp, NiCE and Opslogix. System Center Operations Manager also features an improved user interface and support for the Kerberos network authentication protocol.

In hybrid-cloud implementations, System Center Operations Manager includes an Azure Service Map integration that enables users to map out application, network and server dependencies for diagnostic purposes. Users can also now manage Azure Resource Manager virtual machines, Azure Active Directory and resources in "special" Azure cloud data centers (U.S. government, China and Germany) using a Virtual Machine Manager add-in.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...