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Microsoft betas System Center service pack for unified control

SP1 beta increases InTune integration

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Redmond's been talking about how System Center will be at the heart of its reboot of the Windows franchise for months now, and now it has released the beta of its first service pack.

System Center 2012 was officially launched in April, but with SP1 the code base now supports the release of Server 2012, as well as SQL Server 2012. Since Server 2012 is all about the cloud, as Microsoft repeatedly points out, the beta also gives better control over private and hybrid cloud systems and Hyper-V systems.

The level of integration with Azure has also been beefed up, so that Azure virtual machines can be controlled and moved via System Center, while updated Data Protection Manager code eases the use of Azure for online backups. The beta also adds the Azure "Global Service Monitor," which allows IT managers to check how applications are performing in real time around the world.

But the beta also includes updates to System Center's Configuration Manager module, which will make the management of Windows 8 and Server 2012 systems easier for IT managers.

For Windows 8 users, the module now supports Windows to Go USB drives and can detect devices that use 3G and 4G networks to schedule updates with minimum cost, as well as supporting embedded devices and point-of-sale systems in the management console. PowerShell support has also been beefed up, as Microsoft tries to get Server 2012 users to dump the GUI and get back to its roots.

These changes will be coupled with updates to the InTune management software that are designed to add cloud support for Windows RT and Phone 8 systems, which can be managed from within System Center, Redmond said.

"With System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 and the next version of Windows Intune, Microsoft is taking the first step in delivering interoperability between these products through Configuration Manager’s administration console," said its server and cloud platform team in a blog posting.

"This will enable customers to add mobile devices managed through the cloud with Windows Intune into their System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 console and manage all the devices through one tool."

This will necessitate some changes to InTune's licensing terms, however. A single license will now cover both InTune and Configuration Manager, and the coverage is now on a per-user basis, rather than per device, where each user can have up to five devices managed by InTune. Microsoft will announce a change to its pricing structure later. ®

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