Top 10 Admin Console Improvements in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager
As we work on the System Center 2012 Configuration Manager release, I would like to share some of the improvements you can expect in the Administrator Console experience. While the emphasis is all about the new look and feel (yes, it’s not the Microsoft Management Console anymore) and the new ribbon integration, the features that will be critical will be the ones that help admins discover objects easily and allow better navigation to accomplish complex workflows. Here are ten key improvements in the Admin Console:
1. The Workspace
The System Center 2012 Configuration Manager workspace, unofficially called “wunderbars,” is the starting point for any workflow. The nodes you are familiar with are now logically classified into four workspaces; Assets and Compliance, Software Library, Monitoring, and Administration. Each workspace has nodes that are logically related, which should enable specialized admins to accomplish their workflows within a single workspace.
2. Overview Pages
The overview pages have improved graphs and alerts, which help draw attention to the critical information in the system. The graphs are interactive and, when clicked on, take the admins to the underlying data list view. This helps in troubleshooting.
3. The Ribbon
The menus and toolbars have been replaced by the ribbon. The ribbon is designed after the Office 2010 Outlook ribbon, so those familiar with Outlook 2010 should have a very short learning curve. The actions/commands on the ribbon are quick to find, as they are organized into logical tabs and groups. For example, the Home tab on the Collections node has actions that are applicable to collections. In the screenshot below, the ‘Create’ group has actions that are node specific such as create object or import. The ‘Search’ group is also node specific and is available on nodes that allow search. The ‘Collection’ group, which appears subsequently, has actions that are applicable to the objects that are selected in the list view.
The screenshot below is of the Search tab, which has all the search actions that can be carried out on the selected node.
All actions are still available on the right click menu.
4. Organization Folders
Organization folders can be used just like the folders in the Windows explorer to organize objects. You can create new folders, nest them one inside the other, rename them and delete them. We allow moving objects from the root node into folder and from one folder to another. While not all nodes support folders, the nodes where the count of objects is expected to be very high – such as collections and applications, for example – do support folders. Folders are not securable objects.
Groups are just another form of organizational units that can also be target-table (unlike folders). For example, an Update Group can be deployed directly to a collection. Object types that support groups are Software Updates, Boundaries, Distribution Points, Drivers, Configuration Baselines, Devices and Users.
6. Detail Pane
Under the main list view you will see a panel that shows more details.
Depending on the type of object being viewed, the Details Pane may have multiple tabs of information. The first tab will always show summary information about the selected item as shown in the screenshot. Other tabs may display more details about the selected object or provide a view of related objects. For example, in the screenshot above, you can view the Deployment Types for the software item that was deployed as part of the selected deployment in the list view.
7. Related Objects and Sticky Nodes
The Detail Pane can also feature a “related objects” section for some object types, which contains a set of links that, when clicked, take you to a list view for the related objects, filtered by source object. The related objects show up in a special node called a “sticky node,” which is temporary and will be gone once the console is closed out. For example, after clicking the related object link for Collection in the above screenshot, a sticky node opens in the Assets and Compliance work-space under User Collections as shown in this next screenshot. The collections related to the selected deployment are seen under this sticky node.
Another place where the sticky node appears is when you want to view the members of a group. For example, in the screenshot below, the sticky node under All Software Updates is an update group and the list view shows the members of that group. To get this view, you simply double-click the update group or click the Show Members action in the ribbon. Also note that the ribbon changes to show a contextual tab that provide relevant actions for the update group.
We have a more efficient search experience in the console, also modeled after the Outlook 2010 search experience. You can now search for objects based on parameters in a given node, with the choice of searching in the context of a selected folder or all sub-folders. The search bar offers an easy-to-use interface with options also available on the ribbon. Once you have created a working search query, you can save it for any future use by yourself or other admins by clicking Save Search and providing a name for the search query. From the saved search menu, you can manage, edit, rename, or delete your searches. You can also choose to do a global search across all nodes and work-spaces, by selecting the All Objects action on the ribbon and providing a search string. Once the results are returned, all actions for the various object types returned are available for you to execute your workflow from within the search results.
By moving away from the MMC form, we now have better performance for our console. For example the multiselect operations are now done on a background thread, which keeps the console responsive. This differs from the previous version, where the backend intensive operations happened on the main UI thread.
10. Relationship Viewer
Relationship viewer is a UI interface that shows a graphical representation of relationships between the selected item and certain related objects. The UI can be invoked from the ribbon or from the right click menu, which appears as shown in the screenshot below. This viewer is currently only implemented for Application dependencies and supersedence relationships.
I hope you enjoy using all of the new features in the System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Administrator Console. Let us know what you think as you try them out.