My Trip to MMS 2008

I spent the last week in Las Vegas at Microsoft Management Summit 2008.  MMS is a conference that focuses on the technologies that Microsoft offers to manage infrastructure like desktops, servers and beyond.

I hadn’t realized how much the technologies had changed in the last several years.  When I was still working for Microsoft I spent a lot of time with my customers working on solutions around Systems Management Server (SMS), Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), and even had some early adopters of Data Protection Manager (DPM).  SMS is now known as Configuration Manager and DPM is stronger than ever with its new version which protects advanced application data (SQL and Exchange) as well as your existing files and folders.Those technologies have all changed and evolved all underneath one umbrella.  Enter Microsoft System Center.

System Center ties all of these components together.  From deployment of desktops and servers, to asset management, service center (help desk) management, and protecting your data.

My focus for this week was to try to understand how the evolution and advancement of all of these products fits together.  I was particularly interested in learning more about System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), Hyper-V, and DPM.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager

SCVMM has a 2007 version which allows you to manage instances of Microsoft Virtual Server from a single MMC.  Those familiar with Virtual Server know that it was administrable only through the web interface.  The change to the MMC seems to be mainstream and provides a lot more functionality.

Microsoft announced the beta availability of SCVMM 2008 during MMS.  SCVMM 2008 brings a number of new features including the ability to manage Hyper-V hosts as well as Virtual Server.  The big feature was received the most attention is it’s ability to manage VMware ESX hosts.  Not only can you manage ESX hosts machines and their guests, but you can also initiate VMotion right from within the SCVMM console.  What a powerful feature.   They hit the mark by tying these technologies together and are considering how they can tie other technologies into the mix such as Virtual Iron and Xen.  A Live Migration feature similar to VMotion is also in the works.  It’s timing for a release at this point is unknown.

The SCVMM 2008 beta is available for download on the Microsoft Connect website.

Hyper-V

Hyper-V beta is available on x64 builds of Windows Sever 2008 and easily installable by adding the Hyper-V role to your selected server roles in the Server Console.  Hyper-V is not available on the 32-bit platform.

Updates including the release candidate and final code will be downloadable through standard channels like Windows Update.  No special changes will be required to upgrade to the final code.

Once installed, the Hyper-V Manager is installed in the Administrative Tools.  The Hyper-V Manager is similar to SCVMM with less functionality and doesn’t include the ability to take advantage of a SCVMM library.  It is also limited to the number of hosts that you can manage.  Obviously, Microsoft wants to encourage you to upgrade to System Center Essentials which allows you to manage up to five Virtual Server or Hyper-V hosts, or for unlimited capabilities, the full-blown System Center suite.

Data Protection Manager

DPM is also part of the System Center umbrella.  DPM’s core function is to manage and protect your data by creating regular recovery points and also providing disk to disk backups in addition to disk to tape backups all while the whole entire process is automated.

DPM protection is configurable through a wizard and agent installation.  DPM provides agents to protect your normal files and folders, but also includes advanced protection for transactional data such as SQL or Exchange.  In addition, you can also protect your SharePoint systems and DPM 2007 SP1 will include support for Hyper-V hosts and guests.

In coordination with Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS), a consistent snapshot of data can be taken without having to take applications or services offline.  This allows you to backup applications like SQL or Exchange which normally in most environments must have no service interruptions while they are completely live without skipping a beat. 

The core storage for DPM are fixed disks that are converted to dynamic disks to allow for on-the-fly expandability.  However, DPM can also taken advantage of SAN solutions that offer VSS hardware providers in addition to other integration components.

Microsoft plans to ship Service Pack 1 for DPM in Q4 of 2008.