There is a upward trend in today’s business environment that staff are working in new ways and in new places.  This shift, driven by new technology in both the datacenter and the client, is magnified by the new generation of workforce, often referred to as generation ‘Y’ getting their work done in coffee shops, airports, at home and on the road.  These trends place emphasis on the communication vectors that both the business and staff rely on to remain, and can increase productivity.  Communication and Collaboration infrastructure is being used to share data, communication formats, and presence.  Emails are no longer the only way people talk.  VOIP, Instant Messaging, email extensions to hardware like unified communication telephony systems, and social networking have become simply the way offices stay in touch. 

This stress on communications is no longer just the email administrators job.  The world of communication and collaboration fabric is now made up of instant messaging servers, document libraries, web experiences like portals, and voice integration.  System Center (#sysctr) brings a collection of tools and capabilities to this platform, ensuring that not only are the servers ‘on’ – whether they are physical or virtual – but are systems performing to SLA an OLA terms.  When drift from those desired levels occurs, there is little tolerance for outage.  This introduces high demand for not just automated incident remediation, but proactive monitoring of that fabric.

In the Microsoft (#Microsoft) world, the core platform for this fabric is based on Microsoft Exchange (#MSFTExchange) and Microsoft Sharepoint (#SharePoint) services, running on top of Windows Server 2008 R2.  This relationship spans both physical and virtual environments, and often, 1 service (say Outlook Web Access) can be made up of a mix of both physical and virtual services.  System Center looks at the service.  Configuration, security, performance and backup are viewed from the workload view, not the boxes where they reside.  This centralized view of the message service, or the collaboration platform service, is the sweet spot for some key System Center capabilities.  Lets take a quick look at these:

Microsoft System Center helps administrators leverage and extend key benefits of Exchange by:

  • Increasing messaging availability with end-to-end management of physical and virtual environments
  • Improving compliance through best practice automation
  • Optimization through specific configuration and performance monitoring capabilities at the app level

Helping an administrator proactively pinpoint an issue before any impact to end-users is achieved with integrated client, server and synthetic transaction monitoring. System Center also decreases issue resolution time and simplifies management with rule-driven notifications and clear escalation paths. The bottom line is the collab environment is highly visible, and integrated to most of your staff’s day.  Outage or performance issues have far broader impact now to your users, and your business. 

One way administrators can get ahead of the curve is through the use of health models – called Management Packs -  to analyze performance availability, configuration and security settings, as well as the status of server resources.

When we think about other areas of messaging, there are also potentially different backup and data protection strategies for different elements of the services.  For example, an SLA may define mailbox recovery to be within the last 30 minutes.  That same SLA may define that the Global Address list may only be recovered from the last 24 hours.  The bottom line is that within the service, some things need different management strategies.  System Center thinks at that level, and provides centralized controls to manage the application.

The collaboration infrastructure contains some of your organization’s most sensitive and important information. It is critical that this information remains secure and that the infrastructure that contains it remains compliant.  System Center delivers server compliance solutions to help you adhere to regulations by automating, monitoring and reporting on server deployment and maintenance, and proactively identifying variations in configuration that may put your organization out of compliance.  Partners also add value to this space, through different forms of add on Packs, found here in the new PinPoint site. 

If you are beginning the new year with some resolutions to reduce your cost, complexity while increasing your teams ability to work together anywhere, its a good time to think about a few key technologies.  Collaboration platforms, service consolidation, physical and virtual landscapes, management toolset consolidation and remote connectivity tools all have abilities to greatly impact both your direct and indirect costs of your business.

Thanks for your time, here are some links for more information:

System Center product site
System Center Team blog
Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications
Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony


bio picJeff Wettlaufer 
Sr. Technical Product Manager
System Center

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