Microsoft System Center has been around since 2007 and is a monolithic suite of management utilities provided by Microsoft that allows managing, configuring, and monitoring Microsoft infrastructure at scale in the enterprise datacenter. Microsoft has continued to improve upon the System Center product since 2007 and with each release, it has become more and more powerful.

Microsoft has continued to stress its aim for hybrid interoperability between on-premises workloads and Azure housed workloads so that these resources will blend more seamlessly from a System Center and management perspective in general. With System Center 2019, this is certainly the case as Microsoft is making sure there are several hooks from within System Center 2019 to Azure and vice versa.

In this post, we will take a look at System Center 2019 New Features and Capabilities to see new enhancements that have been made to the System Center product and how organizations can make use of these new tools.

System Center 2019 New Features and Capabilities

Enterprise data centers are continuing to grow and cloud migrations are progressing along with more hybrid and cloud-native applications being utilized by organizations today. Microsoft is providing the tools that businesses need both on-premises and in the cloud. Looking at on-premises, new tools have been introduced to allow managing those environments.

When looking at where each tool fits into the overall management scheme, let’s take a look at the tools that exist today and how they are used:

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Windows Admin Center – Management of Windows Server instances. Windows Admin Center provides modern management tools for “single” server management and relatively small environments.

Microsoft System Center – Datacenter management and monitoring, Windows Server management at scale

Azure security and management – spans all the way from on-premises as well as into the cloud.

Customers need the set of tools to evolve needs from the on-premises datacenters up to the cloud. Workloads are being migrated to the cloud more than ever. With System Center 2019, customers will have the features and tools needed to complement existing tools used to manage both on-premises and in the cloud.

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Environments are becoming much more hybrid in nature with both on-premises and cloud workloads (image courtesy of Microsoft)

Windows Admin Center is best suited for small deployment or single server management while System Center clearly sits in the datacenter and allows managing nodes at datacenter scale. One of the System Center suite of product, SCOM or System Center Operations Manager, recently received the 2018 customers’ choice for Performance Monitoring Suites so it is obvious that customers are certainly making use of its capabilities. SCOM offers infrastructure monitoring and insights into application performance monitoring.

A few things to note about System Center 2019:

  • As hybrid becomes more reality, connectivity with Azure will be further integrated into the core System Center release
  • Release cadence. The LTSC is the traditional release cycle that customers have been used to. This provides the longest term support and is the typical release cadence
  • The Semiannual channel is a must faster release cycle that allows Microsoft to listen to customer feedback and produce releases at a much faster release cycle. This contains new feature releases. 18 months of support is included with these releases and are typically released every 6 months

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System Center Suite Overview of capabilities (image courtesy of Microsoft)

System Center 2019 Virtual Machine Manager

Virtual Machine Manager 2019 or VMM 2019 has new storage optimizations. Many customers who spoke with Microsoft about desired enhancements needed help to optimize storage for capacity. A problem area for customers running highly available VMs on Cluster Shared Volumes or CSVs is that when storage space runs out, these VMs are taken offline. When this happens the VMs halt. New with SCVMM 2019, as CSVs get close to running out of space, VMM 2019 will automatically orchestrate dynamic optimization of the storage space to move the VM to another CSV that has free space.

Storage Health in VMM has been drastically improved. Storage Spaces Direct has been a fairly successful software-defined solution. Much of the success can be attributed to S2D allowing customers to utilize commodity storage instead of more proprietary storage. However, commodity disks can often fail. Microsoft has received feedback to provide better visibility into the health of the storage in a S2D cluster which is now possible and visible in SCVMM 2019.

Upgrading Storage Spaces Direct clusters will be possible in System Center 2019. The upgrade will function the same way that a compute node would be upgraded. The roles would be drained from the host, the OS upgraded, and the node would then be placed back into the cluster. Since in an S2D cluster, storage synchronization happens between hosts, after the host is brought back into the cluster, the upgrade process will wait on the storage synchronization to complete before proceeding through the remaining hosts. So, with a single click, customers will be able to upgrade their S2D clusters using VMM.

VMM Roles allows assigning permissions based on roles. A new role has been added to System Center 2019. The VM Admin role allows managing the virtual machines, but also allows visibility into the fabric for troubleshooting purposes. However, this new role will not be able to make any changes to the fabric as it is only a read-only role.

A new feature in VMM Networking includes new host Layer 2 network information which shows layer 2 constructs by means of Link Layer Discover Protocol (LLDP). You will be able to see this new information inside VMM 2019. This allows seeing which VLANs, switchports, and other information that makes it much easier to troubleshoot network issues.

Customers will also have the ability to connect your virtual network with datacenter physical network. VMM 2019 allows GUI support for L3 forwarding via an L3 gateway. Additionally, encrypted traffic can be mandated between.

With SCVMM 2019, Generation 2 V2V conversion from ESXi to Hyper-V is now supported. VMware vSphere 6.5 environments can be migrated.

For patching your guest virtual machines, you can use Azure to manage patching for on-premises virtual machines running in VMM on-premise. Also, further integration including backup, automation, site recovery, and Azure migrate are some of the integrations either proposed or that Microsoft is already working on.

Read more: Complete Overview and Step-by-Step installation of SCVMM 2019

System Center Operations Manager

Improvements have been made in the following areas: hybrid, monitoring experience, improved fundamentals, monitoring surface.

  • Hybrid – Integration with Azure Service Map and Enhancements to Azure MP
  • Monitoring Experience – HMTL5 dashboards, Linux log file monitoring, MP discoverability for 3rd party, MPs & Linux workloads, enhanced notifications, better alerts management
  • Improved fundamentals – No more silverlight dependencies. Support for SQL server 2017, disable interactive login, in-place upgrade
  • Monitoring Surface – Monitor Windows Server 2019, latest application servers, latest Linux distros, and VSAE support for Visual Studio 2017
  • HTML5 dashboards will have no dependencies that need to be installed. This will allow providing easy access, extensibility, faster resolutions, inline actions, and it is operator friendly
  • Notifications and subscription enhancements have been made in System Center Operations Manager. Notifications and subscriptions are often the first visibility to issues. Microsoft has enhanced this process by providing an enhanced criteria builder with ability to perform “OR” and “Exclude” operations. Rich HTML email notifications. This includes rich HTML5 email notifications and provides the flexibility to customize HTML content
  • Enhanced alert management for monitors is also included in SCOM 2019. When an alert is active, it will not allow closing out an alert. This way you don’t have active alerts that have simply been suppressed
  • Linux/UNIX monitoring enhancements have been introduced as well that allow monitoring these environments for alerting when failover scenarios happen, updates & recommendations for
  • Linux workloads, and Linux log file monitoring
  • Application Performance Monitoring Agent will be included in SCOM 2019, Schedule Maintenance Mode in SQL, service map integration, and other hybrid scenarios

Data Protection Manager

DPM 2019 includes support for Windows Server 2019, SQL Server 2017, VMware to tape backup, Modern backup storage improvements using ReFS and making much more efficient use of storage space capacity. Greater flexibility in recovery from Azure and interoperability with the cloud will be included.

It will also include better Reporting and monitoring with DPM 2019 when connected to an Azure subscription. If you are pushing data from DPM 2019 or Azure backup server from on-premises into Azure storage, you can now have rich reporting regarding the data that exists in hybrid storage, failed backups, and do this across backup servers. This allows aggregating data and creating log analytics. This allows better alerting and notifications of these tasks.

System Center Configuration Manager

SCCM will continue to be a part of System Center 2019. It will support patching scenarios enabled for servers and VMs, current branch releases align with Windows and Office and cadence continues to be 3x per year.

System Center Orchestrator

System Center Orchestrator 2019 will add 64 bit support and PowerShell support and will allow process automation, configuration management, update Management, Azure Functions, Heterogenous support of Windows and Linux. The Service Manager will have improved UI responsiveness, AD connector improvement, SQL 2017 support, and support for TLS 1.2.

Concluding Thoughts

These are just a few of the System Center 2019 New Features and Capabilities to be aware of in Microsoft’s flagship management and monitoring solution for the enterprise datacenter. System Center was designed to manage resources at large scale. Microsoft has taken that theme and evolved System Center into a hybrid management and monitoring platform for both on-premises and cloud workloads in Microsoft Azure. Customers can now better integrate between their System Center environment managing resources on-premises and their Azure workloads. By utilizing System Center 2019, businesses will have an all-in-one management plane to monitor and manage at scale in the enterprise. Look for even more interoperability between on-premises environments and Microsoft Azure in the future releases of the System Center product in 2019.

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