Great news!  More betas and release candidates of the System Center 2012 tools are available today for download!  Like many of you, I have been waiting patiently for these gems, and I can’t wait to start playing with them.  These round out the pre-releases of tools that allow you to support private and hybrid cloud solutions.

Released today:

  • System Center Configuration Manager 2012 Release Candidate (RC)
  • System Center Endpoint Protection 2012 RC
  • System Center Service Manager 2012 Beta
  • System Center App Controller 2012 Beta (formerly codename “Concero”)

System Center Configuration Manager 2012 has already had a couple of betas, so it’s nice to see that it is now up to Release Candidate status.  Some of the improvements:

  • Diverse mobile device management support through Exchange ActiveSync including support for iOS, Android, Symbian as well as Windows mobile devices.
  • User-centric application delivery across multiple devices
  • Integrated settings management with auto-remediation
  • Integrated desktop antivirus management with System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection
  • An Improved, modern administration user interface with built in search concepts

Furthermore, new capabilities released in this RC release include:

  • Improved endpoint protection functionality, with integrated setup, management and reporting for System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection.
  • Improved application catalog design that provides a better, more responsive experience when requesting and downloading applications.
  • New support for Windows Embedded devices, including Windows Embedded 7 SP1, POSReady 7, Windows 7 Think PC, and Windows Embedded Compact 7.
  • Improved client health checks for Configuration Manager services and features
  • Improved compliance enforcement and tracking, with the ability to create dynamic collections of baseline compliance and generate hourly compliance summaries.
  • Platform support for deep mobile device management of Nokia Symbian Belle devices. Pending a platform update by Nokia later this calendar year for these devices, customers will be able to try out the management of Nokia devices with ConfigMgr.
  • Additional scalability and performance improvements.

System Center Endpoint Protection 2012 is a name that you have never heard before today.  That’s because it is an official re-branding of what was Forefront Endpoint Protection.  “This name change better reflects the integration between management and security that we have been working towards…” says it pretty well.  I think the fact that this solution is not only integrated with, it is “built upon” System Center Configuration Manager is a key part of this, too.  It makes sense. 

“Sounds great.  Which betas are available today?”

The first of the two betas released today is System Center Service Manager 2012, which is, as the name implies, the service management part of the solution. 

“You mean, like a help-desk support ticket manager?”

Yes, and much more.  I know I’m just scratching the surface of all it can do when I say this – but think about how you will provide a self-service interface for your users and the business units you support.  Service Manager is the tool that you will use to create that portal, and then to allow you to act upon requests; and not just manually.  Those requests can be handled by you and your staff, or trigger some automation to take care of the request.  (See System Center Orchestrator 2012).  Also, Service Manager 2012 adds the tracking of SLAs.  So if you have a service that you have promised a certain response time or up-time for, Service Manager can track your actual performance against those goals.

For a private cloud, you have to grant people the ability to request and acquire services without having to know the details of the underlying architecture (the “fabric” - Storage, Compute, Networking).  Service Manager is one way to provide that interface.  More details about the current version, Service Manager 2010, can be found here.

Happily managing cloudsAnd the other beta available today, formerly known as codename “Concero”, is System Center App Controller 2012.

“Let me guess.. It controls your apps?”

Well.. yeah.. in a sense.  More accurately, though; this is the tool that bridges the gap for the management of private and public cloud services.  Once the fabric is configured, and the clouds are defined; meaning: once you folks in the datacenter have created the building blocks for the services you provide, and have defined the abstracted layer at which your users can request and manage services (See?!  Sometimes it’s just easier to say “cloud”, isn’t it!), or through which you can make changes such as scaling-out your services. For example, adding more instances of the web-tier in a muli-tiered application, for example.

“Couldn’t I just use System Center Virtual Machine Manager to do that?”

Sure, you could – if that person has the VMM 2012 admin console installed.  And if all of your clouds are local.  But what the application owner doesn’t have that console installed?  Or what they also manage multi-tiered applications (or call them “services”) running in some other cloud like Windows Azure?

“Wait.. what?  I can manage my Windows Azure-based services with this?”

Yep.  As I said, App Controller bridges that gap for you.  It’s a self-service portal where the application owners can go to manage their applications that are running in your private and/or public cloud spaces.  For those folks, it’s not about managing the infrastructure or the plumbing you’ve provided.  For them, “It’s all about the app.” 

You can find instructions for installing and configuring System Center App Controller 2012 here.

“So.. the obvious question remains: When will these products be released?”

They are shooting for the first half of calendar year 2012.

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DOWNLOAD and try these tools out.  But wait just a minute and let me start my download first.