Trying out System Center 2012 RC… or not

I have evaluated several versions of System Center Essentials over the years, and after getting past the initial “ooh, shiny MMCs” reaction (the the terrible installation experience), I generally have found them to be lackluster.


System Center 2012 comes around and even makes the news: Microsoft is of course “all-in” to the cloud, so SC2012 is hyped to help create and manage your “Private Cloud”. Additionally, Microsoft has streamlined the licensing process so that instead of Several different products (Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, Data Protection Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, Service Manager) there is just one product (well… two, but they only differ in virtualization instance counts) including all the technologies, and the price is fairly reasonable. The product now contains the following components:

  1. App Controller – (new) “Cloud”-style application management (App-V, server configuration templates), application performance monitoring (J2EE & .NET – Visual Studio Integration)
  2. Configuration Manager – Software deployment, update management, configuration compliance / enforcement, administration
  3. Data Protection Manager – Backup (server, workstation, bare metal)
  4. Endpoint Protection – Anti-Malware, firewall configuration
  5. Operations Manager – Performance / availability monitoring
  6. Orchestrator – (formerly Opalis) Data Center workflow management (?)
  7. Service Manager – Helpdesk, trouble tickets, process compliance
  8. Virtual Machine Manager – Self explanatory

I realize I’m probably demonstrating my naïveté here, but there does seem to be some overlap – Configuration Manager, Orchestrator and Service Manager all list process / configuration automation in the feature list. Considering these used to be separate SKUs I understand why this might be, but it makes for a very unpolished appearing product. If I want to deploy an application to users machines, do I use the “App Controller”? Or Configuration Manager”? Or do I  “Orchestrate” it?

Sounds like the answer is “sure.”


Getting Started

The download for System Center 2012 is available here:;TEC_103_1_33

Out the gate, things are not looking good. Despite touting the new “System Center 2012 Unified Installer,” the download includes 8 files of various names and extensions, none of which are instructions.

Also of note: the creepy total size: 6.66 GB…


There should be some documentation hidden here: Microsoft Private Cloud Evaluation Resources

So I have my VM ready to go, but no idea how to proceed. Checking the Unified Installer user guide – which is really poorly written – I discover than you need a separate server for each component, except for Service Manager, which requires two. So I hope you have a powerful virtualization server… or a bunch of extra workstations lying around, because that is a whopping 8 servers to perform a complete install.

That’s right – System Center 2012 requires it’s own private cloud just to run. (Our data center only has about 8 servers to be managed!) That is 8 windows licenses. That might even be enough to cause a TechNet static activation key to stop working. One could virtualize, but the Standard license only allows you to manage two virtual machines… this thing isn’t even licensed to manage itself.




At this point, even after spending the time setting up VMs for it, I am tempted to scrap the whole thing. Too many servers, too many manual steps, poor documentation, and a high likelihood of fatal-non-resumable-installer-errors-after-hours-of-non-reversible-changes (see SCE 2010) all sums up to a poor allocation of resources.

I can do 90% of what System Center 2012 does with Group Policy (free with Windows Server), WSUS (free), Microsoft Security Essentials (Free) and Zabbix or Quest FogLight (free or free to a point).



Update – To Be Continued…

Three more virtual machines later, and I have all the necessary servers. I went through with the installation successfully and will post the steps soon.

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