As providers of Microsoft System Center solutions, a question we get frequently around System Center is, “What is the future of System Center?”. It is understandable with more and more software providers strictly moving to a SaaS model. Microsoft themselves have been pioneers in this field with O365 and now, Windows moving to cloud based apps. System Center customers should feel more at ease with Microsoft announcing the availability of System Center 2019 this month. The 2019 version will only be available under the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). The release includes an extensive list of changes, mostly focusing on improvements the monitoring and management tools for data centers, better support for Windows Server 2019, and more hybrid management capabilities with Azure.

System Center 2019 has the following areas of focus:

  • First-class tools to monitor and manage data centers
  • Support and manage capabilities in the latest versions of Windows Server
  • Enable hybrid management and monitoring capabilities with Azure

One of the biggest changes is Microsoft will take a major shift in terms of System Center 2019’s product upgrades and lifecycle support. System Center has two release trains today – Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) and Semi-Annual Channel (SAC). There is also a release train called Update Rollups (URs). Microsoft plans to drop the semiannual channel (SAC) update model with the System Center 2019 product. Users of System Center 2019 will get the traditional five years of “mainstream support” and five years of “extended support”, but new feature updates will arrive as Update Rollups every six months. These feature updates won’t have a lifecycle limited to 18 months as they did with the SAC update model, so organizations will have more time to complete their product upgrades— up to 10 years. Great news on the finance side as well, there will not be a price increase with System Center 2019.

System Center 2019 will support upgrades from two prior SAC releases so customers running System Center 1801 or System Center 1807 will be able to upgrade to System Center 2019. System Center 2016 can also be upgraded to System Center 2019.

It is very important to note that System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is not impacted by the 2019 release change and will continue current branch release cadence of three times per year. It will still track with the Windows 10 semi-annual channel update model (twice per year), although Microsoft releases three feature updates per year for Configuration Manager, and that will continue with System Center 2019.


Hybrid Environments

As enterprise environments now span on-premises to the cloud, customers look to leverage the innovation in Azure services using their on-premises tools. System Center is integrated with a set of management services in Azure to augment the on-premises tools.

  • Service Map integration with System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) can automatically create distributed application diagrams in Operations Manager (OM) that are based on the dynamic dependency maps in Service Map
  • With Azure Management Pack, view perf and alert metrics in SCOM, integrate with web application monitoring in Application Insights, and monitor more PaaS services, such as Azure Blob Storage, Azure Data Factory, etc.
  • Virtual Machine Manager 2019 enables simplified patching of VMs by integrating with Azure Update Management


Dashboard for Azure resources in SCOM web console

Security

Security continues to be top priority for customers with threats growing in number and sophistication.

  • System Center products now support service logon and shun the dependency on interactive logon aligning with security best practice
  • VMM 2019 now includes a new role, VM administrator, which provides permissions for read-only visibility into the fabric of the data center, but prevents escalation of privilege to fabric administration

Software Defined Data Center

Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) is a significant trend in on-premises data centers. Customers see lowered costs by using their servers with high performant local disks to run compute and storage needs at the same time.

  • Manage and monitor HCI deployment more efficiently with VMM– from upgrading or patching Storage Spaces Direct clusters without downtime to monitoring the health of disks
  • VMM 2019 storage optimization placement of VHDs across cluster shared volumes and prevents VM outages caused when the storage runs full

Modernizing Operations and Monitoring

Customers have come to rely on SCOM for its extensibility and the ecosystem of management packs to monitor Microsoft and third-party workloads.

  • HTML5 dashboards and drill down experiences in the SCOM web console, simplified layout and extend the monitoring console using custom widget and SCOM REST API
  • Notifications in SCOM have been modernized with support for HTML, email notification about the alert, its source, and the applicable rule/monitor with links going to the SCOM HTML5 console, and email alerts and addition of ‘OR’ and ‘EXCLUDE’ operators to the criteria builder
  • New alerts experience for monitor-based alerts whereby alerts have to be attended to and cannot be simply closed by operators when the respective underlying monitors are in unhealthy state
  • Enhanced Linux monitoring by leveraging Fluentd and now is resilient to management server failovers in Linux environments
  • All management packs will now support Windows Server 2019 roles and features


SCOM web console

Orchestrator 2019 and Service Manager 2019

  • Orchestrator 2019 supports PowerShell V 4.0 and above, enabling you to run 64-bit cmdlets
  • Service Manager 2019 will ship with an improved Active Directory (AD) connector that is now capable of synchronizing with a specific domain controller

Faster backups with Data Protection Manager 2019

Data Protection Manager 2019 will provide backups optimized in time (faster) and space (consumes less storage).

  • DPM improves performance of backups with a 75 percent increase in speed and enables monitoring experience for key backup parameters via Log Analytics
  • DPM further supports backup of VMware VMs to tape
  • In addition to DPM now provides backups for new workloads on Windows Server 2019, SharePoint 2019 and Exchange 2019