How Microsoft System Center 2012 Manages the Private Cloud

September 20, 2012   //   Microsoft System Center, , , , , , , ,

In my last blog post I explained what the Private Cloud was. So now I wanted to discuss how we create this Private Cloud and how we manage it. Microsoft’s System Center 2012 is designed and built around the concept of the Private Cloud and provides a complete toolkit for your organization to create your very own Private Cloud.

Here are the System Center tools that allow organizations to adapt their very own Private Cloud:

System Center Virtual Machine Managers (SCVMM)

Virtual Machine manager is a pivotal tool in creating and managing your Private Clouds. VMM allows you to create and manage multiple Private Clouds based on your organization’s needs, and enables you to set security scopes for each cloud you create. SCVMM also allows you to provision all of the underlying fabric such as: Networking, Storage, Security, Virtualization and orchestrated software patching. Once the fabric has been configured we can then create and deploy entire services from the VMM Console or Web Console. Further, you can set Quota Points for the amount of resources your cloud users can utilize when deploying services or VM’s to your clouds. This ensures your environment doesn’t become over capacitated. Finally, SCVMM allows you to manage your HyperV, VMware and Citrix Zen Server Hypervisors. This allows organizations to become more flexible and better prepared to support multiple Hypervisors. Say you are acquiring a company that uses VMware, and your current environment is based around HyperV. Thanks to VMM 2012, we can simply attach the VMware clusters to VMM within minutes and begin managing and provisioning them.

System Center Application Controller (SCAC)

Application Controller is a superset of features that ride on top of VMM. Application Controller allows you to manage your Private Clouds like VMM, but it also allows you to manage any Microsoft Online Services you may have, such as Windows Azure. In larger environments with multiple VMM servers, Application Controller can manage all of the VMM servers from one console. You can then share content from different VMM Libraries, move VM’s from cloud to cloud (even if they are on different VMM servers, or mixed between onsite clouds and hosted clouds), and create and deploy services to any of the VMM servers and clouds you have configured. Finally, the web console in Application Controller allows you to deploy services and VM’s; the VMM web console only allows you to deploy VM’s. By configuring security scopes based on your needs and by deploying services through the web console, you have greatly reduced the time it takes to deploy entire solutions to your organization, while maintaining a high level of security.

System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)

System Center Configuration Manager is becoming the industry standard for desktop deployment and management. SCCM is a powerhouse when it comes to Operating System Deployment, Application Deployment, Mobile Device Management, Patch Management and Asset Management. Included in SCCM 2012 is Microsoft’s Endpoint Protection, which is Microsoft’s solution for antivirus and antimalware. SCCM now allows administrators to deploy very robust and flexible Endpoint Policies to the desktop. The SCCM integrated console now gives you access to manage every aspect of your desktop management. But we’re talking Private Cloud right? How does SCCM fit in?

What does this means for the Private Cloud?
SCCM isn’t a cloud solution per say, but it does however provide many features to the System Center tools that do provide your Private Cloud services. I have listed some of these features below.

  • SCCM provides orchestrated patching to your VMM host machines. What’s even better is that it gives access to the PXE Services, OS Deployment Services and Software Update Services that VMM can then use to deploy baremetal servers from scratch and manage them throughout their lifecycle.
  • SCCM can deploy AppV Applications, MSI, Mobile Cabinet Files and OSX applications (In SP1) which we can use to deploy to the resources in our Private Cloud.

System Center Orchestrator (SCO)

Orchestrator is a workflow management solution for the datacenter. It allows organizations to automate many of the mundane tasks that are inherent in any environment. Orchestrator gives your Private Cloud an efficiency boost as we can now automate thousands of tasks throughout the entire System Center Suite, Active Directory, and many 3rd party vendors and products. By doing this, we free up the time of our engineers to focus on more strategic tasks relating to the organization’s IT environment rather than creating user accounts, deploying software, configuring backups, configuring alerting, or manually configuring VM’s. Simply download the proper Orchestrator Integration Packs, configure your Runbooks, set your schedules, and sit back and relax and watch as Orchestrator makes quick work for all of the repetitive tasks in your current environment.

For example, let’s say we have a single Orchestrator Runbook that we’ve created. In that Runbook, we can create, configure and deploy a VM, install software on that VM, create an AD User Account, add the user to specific Security Groups, and then link the new VM to the new User Account in SCCM. The user logs in to the new VM and is off and running within minutes. Your creativity and organizational needs are the ingredients needed to create a very powerful and robust Orchestrator Deployment. But how can we leverage Orchestrator for your Private Cloud?

What does this means for the Private Cloud?
As you begin your journey to you own Private Cloud, you will find yourself doing the same tasks over and over. Things like creating AD accounts, creating VM Templates and configuring backups for your new resources will consume much of your time; and will create inefficiencies along the way. By utilizing Orchestrator 2012 you can now automate these processes in an accurate and controlled manner, allowing you to focus on more strategic tasks.

System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)

Operations Manager is a comprehensive and robust monitoring and alerting platform. We can monitor and alert on Windows, Unix and Linux devices. But that’s only the beginning! We can also monitor networking devices, and.NET and ASP has been added to SCOM’s Application Monitoring capabilities. With the new features of custom Dashboards and Security Roles, we can create granular dashboards and scope them to the appropriate audience. The SCOM hierarchy is Highly Available right out of the box in 2012! No need for Microsoft Clustering and added complexity for a Highly Available SCOM implementation. Did I mention that it has a web console too! But how does this assist in your move toward your Private Cloud?

What does this means for the Private Cloud?
In terms of your Private Cloud, SCOM can group resources based on their roles and monitor accordingly. Say you have just deployed four Exchange Services in your Private Cloud. We can group the Exchange Servers in SCOM and install the Exchange 2012 Management Pack and scope it to this group. Within minutes, we are monitoring all of the critical process and services for the Exchange Servers running in your Private Cloud. As your cloud grows, rest assured knowing that SCOM is there to monitor and alert on all of the critical pieces that make up your cloud environment from the physical network all the way up to your applications.

To learn more about how Microsoft System Center 2012 can help you and your Chicago business, please join IT solutions provider, SWC Technology Partners, for our next Chicago area Microsoft System Center event.