Microsoft has released the much-anticipated follow up to the market-leading System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. This release introduces fundamental changes that have significant implications for the management of Windows 10 and mobile devices.
For starters, the new release of Configuration Manager introduces a monthly release cycle for the product. Brad Anderson, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Enterprise Client and Mobility, refers to this as “SaaSifying” Configuration Manager. This rapid-release cycle is in stark contrast to the previous method for updating Configuration Manager, which involved service packs and other updates that were released over a much longer timeframe. The monthly release cadence will enable Microsoft to add new functionality and updates to Configuration Manager in a more timely fashion.
This fast-release cycle also made changing the name of the product necessary. Most people originally expected this new version to be named “Configuration Manager 2016,” which obviously would not work for a product that will be updated monthly. Officially, it will be referred to simply as System Center Configuration Manager without a year or version designation. The build version, which is based on the year and month of the build release, is visible inside the administration console. For example, the November 2015 build is version 1511 to correspond with the 11th month of 2015. Future releases will look like 1512, 1601, 1602, etc.
One of the key advantages to this release cadence is that it will allow Configuration Manager to match the rapid-release cycle of Windows 10. As additional functionality is introduced with new Windows 10 builds , the ability to manage and deploy that functionality will be close behind, if not simultaneous, in Configuration Manager. This ability to enable the deployment and management of new Windows releases is essential for a company of any size.
Of particular note, this new release of Configuration Manager will enable a company to see at a glance which builds of Windows 10 are active in the environment and provide an easy way to ensure that Windows clients get new builds as they are approved for use at the company. In a nutshell, Configuration Manager will enable a company to manage the well-designed “in-place upgrade” functionality of Windows 10.
Another key aspect that was in every Microsoft announcement about Configuration Manager 1511 is its tight integration with Microsoft Intune. The integration between Configuration Manager and Intune was first introduced in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, which provided the option to set Configuration Manager as the management authority for Microsoft Intune. This provides a single pane of glass for Configuration Manager administrators to manage both on-premises workstations and mobile devices.
The feature parity between stand-alone Microsoft Intune and Microsoft Intune integrated with Configuration Manager has been getting better as that integration has matured. With the release of Configuration Manager 1511, Microsoft notes that this feature parity is nearly complete. As Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune are now both on a rapid-release cycle, this will enable Microsoft to maintain this feature parity with Microsoft Intune going forward.
This tight integration between Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune will continue to be significant as companies leverage both products to manage the computers and mobile devices that connect their users to company applications and data.
In summary, the new release of Configuration Manager is significant on many levels, and companies should begin planning their migrations to this version. This will be especially pertinent to companies that are planning to deploy Windows 10.
For information about the rest of the changes in System Center Configuration Manager, the Configuration Manager documentation includes a “What’s New” page that details a wide variety of updates and additions to Configuration Manager.