One of the primary focuses of the System Center (SC) 2012 SP1 release, is the integration with the latest Microsoft server technologies—especially Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012. With the upcoming SP1 release, SC 2012 SP1 will fully support running on the new Windows Server 2012 OS. In addition, internally, SC SP1 will also support the use of SQL Server 2012 for its own database requirements. Not surprisingly, considering that the System Center 2012 Suite consists of multiple products, there’s way too many new features in the SP1 release to list in this brief newsletter. Some of the standout features in the SC 2012 SP1 release include System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2012 SP1’s ability to deploy and manage Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, the use of Windows Azure-based software distribution points to reduce infrastructure costs, and Service Manager (SM) 2012 SP1’s more granular chargeback information.

Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012 SP1 provides improved multi-tenancy for hosting organizations and Windows Azure IaaS integration, with the ability to move on-premises virtual machines (VMs) to Windows Azure. Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2012 SP1 adds the option to provide on-line server backups to the Windows Azure cloud. However, considering the growing importance of the private cloud, I think the most important new feature in the SC SP1 announcement was VMM 2012 SP1’s enhanced virtual networking capability that Microsoft is calling Hyper-V Network Virtualization. This feature is similar to VMware’s Distributed Network Switch and it enables software defined networking (SDN) for the virtual infrastructure. With VMM 2012 SP1’s new SDN capabilities, the policies that define a Hyper-V VM’s networking characteristics are moved with the VM as it is migrated live between Hyper-V hosts.

To help clear away the cloud around the Cloud OS, Microsoft wants to make it clear that when they refer to the Cloud OS they are not referring to Windows Server 2012. Although the two are often discussed together, Windows Server 2012 is more accurately referred to as the cornerstone of the Cloud OS. The Cloud OS is really a term describing a combination of Microsoft technologies. Satya Nadella, President, Server & Tools Business for Microsoft, in his blog post characterized Microsoft’s vision of the Cloud OS as “The Cloud OS does what operating systems have always done: manage hardware and provide a platform for applications. But it also expands to include services and technologies that have not previously been considered part of an operating system.” The Cloud OS concept describes a datacenter without physical boundaries that transcends today’s physical datacenters. Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure deliver the core of the Cloud OS, while System Center 2012 provides a consistent management experience.

You can find out more about the new features in the SC 2012 SP1 release at What’s New in System Center 2012 SP1. Microsoft’s SC SP1 is currently in beta and you can download it and try it for yourself from the Microsoft Download Center.