System Center 2012 SP1: What's new?

Central Perspective

4KB Sector Support

In Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V supports 4KB disk sectors for the first time. Hyper-V 3.0 also supports virtual hard disks with the 512e emulation format; many disks sign on with this if the operating system does not support 4KB sectors. The firmware of the hard drive then stores incoming data packets in the existing 4KB sectors.

For SANs in Windows Server 2012, storage locations can be assigned directly to virtual servers. In Hyper-V 3.0, administrators can grant virtual servers direct access to the SAN using virtual Fibre Channel connections. This improves performance and allows Hyper-V hosts to connect to multiple SANs, which can mean real added value – especially in live migration.

Another important innovation in this area is support for Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX). Windows Server 2012 caches the data traffic between the SAN and the operating system in a buffer. For very large data sets, Windows Server 2012 can handle this kind of action without the host system by talking directly to the control software of the SAN.

System Center Configuration Manager 2012 SP1

The second major product in the package is System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). As of SP1, it also works with Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8. Even Surface devices and other tablets with Windows RT can be managed with SCCM 2012 after SP1 is installed. For companies that use Windows 8 Enterprise Edition, the Windows To Go feature provides the option of installing the operating system on a USB stick or an external hard drive, without virtualization (Figure 1).

Figure 1: System Center Configuration Manager 2012 supports Windows To Go on Windows 8.

SCCM is also compatible with Windows Azure and can provision and manage servers worldwide in the cloud. As of SP1, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Intune cooperate; the latter provides cloud-based management of workstations and therefore actually competes with System Center Configuration Manager 2012. Although Windows Intune is optimized for managing clients through the cloud (e.g., for home offices and small offices), SCCM 2012 focuses on Windows networks. In collaboration, the two products combine their strengths (Figure 2).

Figure 2: As of SP1, Windows Intune works with System Center Configuration Manager 2012.

For example, the administrative tasks in Windows Intune can be integrated with the administration console of System Center Configuration Manager 2012. In the future, user licenses will replace device licenses. Windows Intune is thus shifting the user into the limelight, just like SCCM. Each user can then use up to five managed devices. Additionally, there will be a license for Windows Intune that allows it to manage connected devices with SCCM 2012. Thus, Microsoft will in the future be offering Windows Intune at reduced prices for companies that use System Center 2012.

As of Service Pack 1, Windows  8-optimized apps and apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8 RT can be provisioned. The administrative consoles of the various System Center products can now be Installed on Windows 8.

As an integrated solution, Windows Intune and System Center Configuration Manager improve the security and management of Windows 8 PCs, Windows RT tablets, and Windows Phone 8 smartphones. Even devices from Apple and Android-based platforms can be integrated into the administration workflow, as can computers with OS X and Linux. Configuration Manager 2012 includes agents for both platforms; for Linux machines, however, it only supports hardware inventory and software distribution. For OS X, administrators can also configure various settings.

Data Protection Manager

System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 with SP1 can efficiently back up virtual servers installed on SMB shares on servers running Windows Server 2012. So, for example, virtual servers can be backed up on the fly while a live migration takes place. For this to happen, Windows  8 and Windows Server 2012 use the new SMB-3 protocol that is optimized for streamlined access to network drives (e.g., for SQL Server databases or Hyper-V drives). The new SMB version allows multiple parallel access to file shares; thus, individual requests over the network no longer slow each other down.

SMB 3 also allows improved failover behavior between cluster nodes when deployed on clustered file servers. Windows Server 2012 takes into account the user's SMB sessions and maintains these even if the administrator moves virtual file servers between cluster nodes. However, this setup only works for clients with Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

SMB Direct is also enabled without further configuration between computers running Windows Server 2012. This setup allows servers to transfer data from a system's RAM across the network to another server that currently has capacity to spare. To make this feature available, the built-in network adapter must support the RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) function and be very fast. Suitable adapter types include iWARP, InfiniBand, and RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). Hyper-V and SQL Server 2008 R2/2012 will mainly benefit from this technology.

Also, Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 can access the SMB protocol directly. Thus, virtual disks in Hyper-V 3.0 (VHDX) no longer need to be stored directly on the Hyper-V host but can be on a network share. Access is then very fast using SMB Multichannel, SMB Direct, and Hyper-V over SMB. High-availability solutions such as live migration also benefit. The shared cluster disks then no longer need to reside on an expensive SAN; all you need is a server running Windows Server 2012 and sufficient space.

Cluster Shared Volume (CSV), which is the Hyper-V service required for shared disks in clusters, now also supports the SMB 3 protocol and its new features.

Buy ADMIN Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs

Support Our Work

ADMIN content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you've found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More”>


		<div class=