Over the last few weeks I've heard a lot of new acronyms bounded about which seem to skirt the world of Exchange.  There seems to be a lot of talk of scm and scom and sce out in the field but to be honest I don't know a lot about what does what and which bits I should know about as a messaging specialist.  This is a very quick blog which I hope will make things a bit clearer and help you understand where Microsoft is going with this....

So Microsoft System Center is the product which is tasked with easing the overall management of your environment so that support staff have much better control over the service they are offering and can shift away from reactive based support to support on a more proactive basis.  System Center is closely aligned with the principles associated with the Microsoft Operations Framework and is the name given to a family of products made up as follows:

  • System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)

This will be known to most as MOM.  It is the monitoring component of System Center and in my opinion is the best of its kind out in the market place today when used with Exchange Server.  I particularly like the reporting functionality and the 'built-in' performance monitoring.  Administrators who are new to Exchange and who deploy SCOM with the appropriate management agents will get a real head start in being able to successfully manage their environment and build a good understanding of the issues that they are likely to come across day to day.

  • System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)

This is the SMS bit and will be used to manage software & O\S deployments and their configuration, and of course gain a handle on what has been deployed where.

  • System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM)

DPM is Microsoft's data protection solution aimed at managing the backup, protection and recovery of SQL, Sharepoint, AD etc.. and is going to be particularly important for the world of messaging.  DPM will bring backups, data protection and data recovery back into the domain of the Windows and\or messaging people. I have been involved in numerous scenarios where Exchange Servers are down for longer than they need to be because of the gulf that often exists between the backup team and the exchange team.  We know how an Exchange recovery should work and the backup team understand tapes and tape libraries but neither understand both sufficiently if procedures don't exist of fail.  DPM might be a solution for companies which suffer from these challenges.  I have written about DPM a couple of times (e.g. here) and there is now loads of information about how DPM can be used to protect your Exchange data and ease recovery including the 'Protecting Exchange Server with DPM 2007 White Paper'.

  • System Center Essentials (SCE)

Essentials is a new product and is an integrated management and monitoring solution specifically designed for 'midsize' businesses (up to 500 PCs and 30 Servers).  Monitoring, managing updates, software distribution, reviewing events etc can all be done through Systems Center Essentials.  It is really designed to bring the tools that administrators in smaller business' use like Event Viewer into the umbrella of one management tool.

  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM)

As you'd expect this is the tool with which you would manage your virtualised environment.  As Microsoft do not currently support running Exchange Server 2007 in any virtualised production environment for the moment us messaging people are not going to have a great deal to do with virtualisation. We should certainly be keeping this on our radar though as this will change when Microsoft Virtual Server and Microsoft Virtual PC support 64-bit guest systems with Hypervisor and Windows 2008.

  • System Center Capacity Planner (SCCP)

SCCP 2007 is currently in Beta and is the version of the capacity planner that will be used to plan the deployment of Exchange Server 2007 (& MOM 2007 [SCOM?])  I haven't had a chance to look at SCCP 2007 but it is designed to be able to predict message latencies over poor network links, disk latencies with different RAID sets, the impact of using Outlook in cached mode etc, etc, etc...  It looks like a fantastic tool, and if it works like it sounds as if it supposed to, it really is going to help messaging administrators.  It will be easier to understand what the impact of changes to their messaging infrastructure might be and should allow us to generate new designs, test them out against best practise and thus reduce the risks associated with new deployments......

There is quite a lot of stuff on about Systems Center including whitepapers and demos - try this link to start