Self-Service in System Center 2012 by Michael Lubanski

image“Self-Service” is one of the core features of a Private Cloud. Self-Service gives the user the ability to request computing resources for his/her use with minimal or no interaction with their IT staff. In some cases, it may be as simple as browsing to a website, entering some information, such as the number and type of resources needed, then poof the resources are built and ready for use in a few minutes, without anyone on the IT staff having to manually build new machines.image

And while you might think the idea of requesting and getting IT resources without a long wait and lots of human interaction sounds too good to be true, with System Center 2012 it’s not only is it true, but quite easy to setup and make a reality.

System Center 2012 comes with 3 options for Self-Service. For the purposes of this article, I’ll classify them into good – better – best and explain why in each section to help you decide on the best approach for your needs.


Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Self-Server Portal. This in-box solution is nearly identical to the VMM 2008 R2 Self-Service Portal. The main difference is that it prompts the user for what cloud they want to deploy their virtual machine to, based on what they have permissions to use. Note that This is a basic, simple portal that is not easily customized.

It can be setup in 4 simple steps:

  1. Install it from the Virtual Machine Manager setup menu
  2. Add user accounts to the self-service user role in VMM
  3. Grant users access to a cloud
  4. Grant users access to deploy a template

That will give users access to the self-service portal and the ability to create and manage new machines based on the templates they have access to. This “good” solution is easy and fast to setup, but is limited in its ability to customize its experience.


AppController 2012 – A new option in System Center 2012 is AppController 2012. This is the new portal that is designed to provide a common self-service experience across private and public clouds that can help you easily configure, deploy, and manage virtual machines and services in both environments.

AppConroller can manage multiple Virtual Machine Manager servers and Azure subscriptions. It also gives the user or application owner a self-service view for deployment and management of services and VMs. It provides a simple diagram view to help a user deploy a new service or VMs, from templates. It also provides the interface to deploy apps and services to Azure and the ability to scale-out existing deployments for better performance. This “better” solution is also easy to setup but provides more functionality for the users for deploying services and managing both private and public clouds from a single interface.


Service Manager 2012 Self-Service Portal – A full deployment of System Center 2012 would include Service Manager 2012 and the new Cloud Services Process Pack. Service Manager provides an integrated platform for automating and adapting your organization’s IT service management best practices, such as those found in Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). It provides built-in processes for incident and problem resolution, change control, and asset lifecycle management.

Service Manager is designed to provide a full IT Service Catalog that can be beyond just virtual machine provisioning. Service Manager has Orchestrator integration to launch runbooks in other System Center components such as Virtual Machine Manager, Data Protection Manager, Operations Manager or Configuration Manager. It is more of a toolkit to build out Service Offerings and Request Offerings that can offer a wide range of self-service options for users – Active Directory requests, security access requests, capacity requests, change requests and more. The possibilities are plentiful given the Orchestrator integration.

Likewise, the Cloud Services Process Pack is Microsoft’s infrastructure as a service solution built on the System Center platform. With the System Center Cloud Services Process Pack, enterprises can realize the benefits of infrastructure as a service while simultaneously leveraging their existing investments in the Service Manager, Orchestrator, Virtual Machine Manager, and Operations Manager platforms. In a nutshell, the Cloud Services Process Pack gives you a great first step toward realizing the reality of Infrastructure as a Service providing Service Manager components and Orchestrator runbooks. It provides a startup IaaS solution and building blocks to further expand those offerings.

This “best” solution has the potential to be a rich self-service experience for your entire service catalog. It also includes the capabilities for different approaches to approvals and notifications.


As always, your individual needs will determine what is the best solution for you. Do you need to manage your public clouds? Do you need to customize the experience for your users? Do you need a workflow of approvals and notifications? Fortunately, System Center 2012 provides options to meet your needs no matter where you land and they are all easy to setup and configure. With System Center 2012, you can provide Self Service of IT resources to your users !!

Also, it is important to note that all 3 components (VMM, AppController and Service Manager) can be controlled through scripts and automation using PowerShell modules or cmdlets. Here are links to that info:

  • Scripting in Virtual Machine Manager – link
  • Using AppController cmdlets – link
  • Cmdlets in System Center 2012 – Service Manager – link

Michael Lubanski
Americas Private Cloud Center of Excellence Lead
Microsoft Services

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