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The features and functions of Microsoft System Center 2012 R2

Find out everything you need to know about Microsoft System Center 2012 R2, an enterprise system management tool that contains multiple modules to help monitor infrastructures.

Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 is an enterprise version of system management software, with multiple modules that allow administrators to manage their IT infrastructure.

Microsoft System Center consists of a variety of products, including:

  • Configuration Manager allows IT professionals to deploy operating systems, software apps and install updates. It can also maintain hardware and software inventories, and remotely administer computers.
  • Virtual Machine Manager enables users to create and manage virtual machines. It can interface with Microsoft Azure's Hyper-V virtual machine hypervisor system. For admins who want to interface with existing VMware hypervisors, an add-on called System Center 2012 R2 Integration Pack for VMware vSphere is available at no additional cost.
  • Endpoint Protection is a system security and antimalware client that allows administrators to monitor client workstations. It sends an email alert whenever it detects that malware has been installed.
  • Service Manager is System Center's integrated IT service management platform, allowing IT professionals to track incidents, resolve problems and more. It interfaces with Operations Manager and Configuration Manager. 
  • Operations Manager deploys a monitoring agent to each endpoint, and it is the main monitoring software included in the System Center pack. Add-ons allow monitoring for a wide range of services, such as Apache, Tomcat, VMware and SQL servers. 
  • Data Protection Manager is a backup and disaster recovery product that's compatible with multiple types of servers.

The System Center licenses can be purchased as Standard Edition, which is tailored for mostly physical server environments, and Datacenter Edition, which is tailored for highly virtualized environments. Licensing is determined by the number of Operating System Environments (OSEs), or the number of devices, using the software.

Pricing for components of Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 is based on Open No-Level licenses. An Open No-Level (NL) license is essentially a license without a discount. Microsoft offers discounts for companies depending on the number of licenses purchased at once. These discounts are called levels, and a No-Level license means no discount is applied. Both packages include two-year software support agreements.

Pricing for the software-as-a-service Standard Edition starts at $1,323 per two-year NL license, while the Datacenter Edition starts at $3,607 for a two-year NL license. The Standard Edition is limited to two physical processors and two OSEs per license. The Datacenter Edition is also limited to two physical processors, but it allows unlimited OSEs.

A full version of Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 is available for trial for 180 days.

The System Center component that is geared to the management of virtualized environments is System Center Virtual Machine Manager. VMM is primarily designed as a tool for managing Microsoft's Hyper-V, and it also provides limited management capabilities for VMware and XenServer. 

This TechEd video provides
an overview of System Center 2012 R2.

VMM provides core capabilities, such as the ability to create, manage, delete and migrate virtual machines. Virtual machines can be created manually, or by using templates.

Unlike some virtualization management products, System Center Virtual Machine Manager isn't really designed to be a storage management tool. VMM is designed to manage Hyper-V, which is a part of Windows Server. Windows Server contains its own storage management capabilities, such as the ability to create storage tiers and storage pools.

It is also worth noting that System Center Virtual Machine Manager does not provide chargeback capabilities on its own. If an organization wants to issue chargebacks to its users, then Microsoft recommends making use of Virtual Machine Manager and another product in the System Center suite, called Operations Manager.

System Center VMM provides the ability to build private clouds and to allow authorized users to perform self-service provisioning of virtual machines within those clouds. The entire private cloud environment can be constructed natively within Virtual Machine Manager. Even so, VMM does not have its own self-service portal. However, self-service provisioning can be accomplished through a free add-on called Microsoft Azure Pack.

VMM relies heavily on other System components for automation and reporting. Microsoft's main product for virtualization-related automation is System Center 2012 R2 Orchestrator. Similarly, reporting services are provided by System Center Operations Manager.

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