Chapter 1: Introduction to the System Center Suite

Excerpt from Microsoft System Center Enterprise Suite Unleashed

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  • Incident management—Incident management is probably better known as a “help desk”; however, beyond just taking in problem reports and processing the problem reports from users, SCSM ties into the System Center Operations Manager product so that errors and events coming off servers and workstations automatically trigger incident events in SCSM. Additionally, users can submit problem tickets or incidents whether through a console screen or by submitting the request via email or even text message that enters the incident management system where help desk or IT staff can provide support and assistance. The incident management system in SCSM, as shown in Figure 1.13, provides the ability to have problems or incidents easily submitted to the organization’s IT support personnel.

  • Figure 1.13

    Incident management within SCSM.

  • Change control—Built in to SCSM 2010 is a change-control monitoring and management system. Change control leverages a workflow process where a change request is submitted, and a workflow routes the change request to key personnel who need to review and approve the change to be performed. Beyond just a workflow approval process, SCSM 2010 tracks that change control, logs the change, monitors and manages the change, and keeps a running record of the change so that if problems occur in the future on the system, the information about all historical updates and changes are tracked and available for the administrators to see.

  • Consolidated reporting—SCSM 2010 collects information from other Microsoft System Center products as well as creates connectors and links to the databases in other System Center products for consolidated reporting. Rather than having each individual database store isolated information, data from multiple sources can be viewed and analyzed to help make decisions about the operation, maintenance, and support of the environment.

  • Self-service access—Rather than simply a help desk submission system, the self-service access feature in SCSM 2010 allows a user to search the knowledge base to see if anyone else in the organization has had the same problem and, if so, what the fix was to the problem. Many users would rather fix a problem themselves if the fix is known and works, and as such, SCSM tracks the problem tickets and solutions of previous fixes on systems and databases. The problems and solutions can be queried by the IT staff or by end users to share the knowledge and experiences of previous service requests.

Background on System Center Service Manager

System Center Service Manager 2010 is the first version of this product released to the public; however, internally, this product has been five years in the making. The product effectively had its version 1.0 release several years ago as a SharePoint-based tool, which was called System Center Service Desk at the time that Microsoft released it in beta to a limited number of organizations. Although the feedback was very positive on the feature sets, because it was based on SharePoint (2003 at the time), the product did not fit into the mold of other System Center products at the time, such as the robust management consoles found in System Center Configuration Manager or Operations Manager.

Microsoft went back to the drawing board and released a new version of System Center Service Manager, this time with the same management interface found in other System Center products. This release, probably dubbed v2.0 of the product, was limited to just help desk–type incident management and reporting at a time when all other management tools in the industry had evolved to support more than just trouble tickets, but to really address fully formed ITIL-based change-control and incident management systems.

Not ready yet for release, Microsoft spent another couple of years adding more functions to the Service Manager product to get it at par with what other service management tools on the marketplace included. With the release of System Center Service Manager 2010, the product is probably like a v3.0 or v4.0 of the product, with years of development, redevelopment, and updates before its formal debut.

What to Expect in the System Center Service Manager Chapters

In this book, three chapters are dedicated to the System Center Service Manager 2010 product. These chapters are as follows:

  • Chapter 14, “Service Manager 2010 Design, Planning, and Implementation”—This chapter covers the architectural design, server placement, and planning of the deployment of System Center Service Manager 2010 in the enterprise. The chapter addresses where to place management console servers as well as self-service portals for users to access, submit, and get responses back from the SCSM system. This chapter also covers the integration of SCSM 2010 into other System Center products as well as the integration of SCSM into Active Directory.

  • Chapter 15, “Using Service Manager 2010 for Incident Tracking and Help Desk Support”—Chapter 15 drills down into incident tracking and help desk support features in SCSM 2010 on how to configure the tracking system as well as how IT personnel and users interact with the tracking and incident management system. This chapter also covers the self-service features and capabilities built in to System Center Service Manager 2010.

  • Chapter 16, “Using Service Manager 2010 Change-Control Management”—Chapter 16 details the change management control process where information comes in from System Center Operations Manager as well as from users and administrators to be managed and processed. This includes the workflow process, the integration of the workflow into day-to-day systems management, and the scheduled maintenance and update process key to a managed change-control system.

System Center Service Manager 2010 brings together the various System Center products into a single tool that helps IT organizations manage problems or incidents in their environment. Jump to Chapters 14 through 16 of this book for specific information and deployment and configuration guidance on how SCSM can be best leveraged in your enterprise.

Understanding System Center Capacity Planner

Not formally included in the licensing of the System Center suite, System Center Capacity Planner 2007 is a tool that helps organizations run models for determining the size and system requirements for products like Microsoft Exchange and others. By entering the number of users, the amount of messages sent and received, the number of sites, and the workload of communications traffic, SCCP helps IT architects and designers map out a design and plan for servers to host applications in their environment.

The System Center Capacity Planner 2007 main screen, shown in Figure 1.14, provides the main console for launching capacity assessments.

Figure 1.14

System Center Capacity Planner main screen.

Business Solutions Addressed by System Center Capacity Planner

System Center Capacity Planner is used to proactively (rather than reactively) size and scale servers for applications. Rather than building out servers based on a guess and then having to add more RAM, disk space, or CPU to the configuration to support the number of users or the amount of traffic/system demand of the users, Capacity Planner 2007 generates a model that suggests the type of system configurations and network bandwidth utilization anticipated in a system rollout.

Even for organizations that have already rolled out something like Exchange Server 2007 that might be facing sluggish performance or users complaining they are getting response-time errors, a model can be run based on actual user data to determine what SCCP suggests the servers should have in terms of performance and capacity.

SCCP can be used either proactively during the planning process or reactively after performance problems are experienced to determine what might be appropriate for an environment in terms of system configuration.

Major Features of System Center Capacity Planner

The System Center Capacity Planner tool has a number of built-in features and functions for performance and capacity modeling; some of the major features in the product are as follows:

  • Performance assessment modeling—System Center Capacity Planner 2007 allows for information about an environment to be input into the system with a model simulation to be run to confirm the anticipated performance of the configuration. In the System Center Capacity Planner tool, simulation results are generated and displayed in a report similar to the one shown in Figure 1.15.

  • Figure 1.15

    Simulation results report out of System Center Capacity Planner 2007.

  • Capacity analysis—SCCP can also be used to perform a capacity analysis to determine peak performance demands as well as maximum capacity of a specifically configured environment. This is helpful for organizations that are growing quickly and want to determine the maximum number of users or the maximum size mailboxes that the environment can realistically support. This peak load and maximum capacity analysis can be used to determine the suitability of adding an additional server or adding more memory or processing performance to an existing system to see the results of the configuration.

  • Current usage analysis—Another angle to performing capacity analysis is to enter in the current usage of the environment and determine what percentage of workload the current usage is placing on the existing environment. Are the servers running at 25% of capacity or 75% of capacity given the current workload and configuration? This helps an organization ensure that the servers in place are configured to meet the current and near-terms demands of the organization.

  • Reporting and recommendations—The end result of SCCP is the reports it generates. Reports are generated that provide an analysis of the capacity usage and demands of the environment. These reports can be used to determine what type of hardware needs to be purchased or can be used for budgetary purposes to project what hardware will be needed over the upcoming year to keep up with the operating demands of the organization.

Background on System Center Capacity Planner

System Center Capacity Planner has been available as a download for the past several years, initially as a basic Windows Server capacity analyzer and modeling tool, and more recently with additional components added to the product that enhanced the modeling capabilities of current applications. Today’s rendition of the System Center Capacity Planner provides support for modeling Windows Server as well as Microsoft Exchange messaging environments, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) environments, Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) environments, and System Center Operations Manager 2007 (SCOM) environments.

Microsoft continues to add more modeling components to the System Center Capacity Planner to keep up with the addition of new products and new server models available.

What to Expect in the System Center Capacity Planner Chapter

In this book, a single chapter is dedicated to the System Center Capacity Planner product. Chapter 17, “Using System Center Capacity Planner for Predeployment Planning,” covers what SCCP is, how it fits into the modeling assessment for applications, and the step-by-step process of running models and simulations as well as how to read and understand the reports generated.

System Center Capacity Planner 2007 is a helpful tool to run either proactive planning or reactive assessment simulations to determine or to confirm the capacity of servers for given applications. Jump to Chapter 17 of this book for specific information and deployment and configuration guidance on how SCCP can be best leveraged in your enterprise.

Understanding System Center Mobile Device Manager

System Center Mobile Device Manager is a product that Microsoft has been selling for the past few years. The current rendition of the product is System Center Mobile Device Manager (MDM) 2008 SP1. MDM provides tools to manage Windows Mobile devices in the enterprise, such as mechanisms to patch and update mobile devices, to inventory and track mobile devices, to enforce policies on mobile devices in terms of password change-control policies, and the like. The Mobile Device Manager console, shown in Figure 1.16, is the main menu for the MDM 2008 product.

Figure 1.16

System Center Mobile Device Manager console.

Business Solutions Addressed by System Center Mobile Device Manager

Just a few years ago, a mobile device was usually just a mobile phone that a user would occasionally make phone calls on when they were out of the office. However, in the past couple of years, mobile phones have become the primary communications device for many users. Mobile phones are no longer just for making and receiving phone calls, but also act as email clients, web browsers, or even information access systems to acquire, store, and manage files and documents over the Internet.

Additionally, as these mobile devices do more, what used to be $50 mobile phones that were not important to inventory and track in a network are now $299 or $399 devices that many times cost as much as a full-blown laptop or desktop these days. As such, organizations are inventorying the devices and tracking them as assets in the enterprise.

System Center Mobile Device Manager helps organizations keep track of their mobile assets as well as helps users maintain the privacy and security of the information stored on the mobile devices. With users synchronizing email messages to the mobile devices, or remotely accessing documents or spreadsheets and viewing the data on the mobile device, MDM needs to help organizations protect and secure potentially confidential or legally protected information.

Major Features of System Center Mobile Device Manager

The System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 SP1 product provides a whole series of features and functions specific to the management of mobile devices; some of the major features in the product are as follows:

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