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Microsoft gives Config Manager the service overhaul

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 6, 2015
Frequent updates coming to key enterprise PC management tool to support 'Windows as a service' model of Windows 10.

windows upgrade

Microsoft will soon kick off a faster update and upgrade cadence for System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), the cornerstone of the company's enterprise-grade System Center device management suite.

The more frequent updates are meant to align the core PC management functionality with the accelerated cadence of Windows 10, Microsoft latest operating system, analysts said.

"This plays perfectly with Microsoft's strategy with mobile now getting updates from the cloud, but also signals something bigger," said Rob Young of IDC. "Updates for Config Manager will be just like the [Windows 10] OS, not big, heavy complex upgrades, but smaller and more frequent."

The Windows 10 model, as pitched by Microsoft, relies on a regular evolution of the software -- it's never truly "finished" -- with multiple updates annually as opposed to the old-school strategy of releasing an entirely new OS every three or four years.

Unless Configuration Manager is updated in that same fashion, it will fall behind and will not be able to administer and control the new features and functionality that drop into Windows 10.

Microsoft's premise with Windows 10, said Young, was that traditional personal computers must adopt the mobile mentality of putting new features and functionality in front of users faster. If that's the case, management tools must keep pace. "It's all part of the 'mobile-first' story," said Young, referring to the "mobile-first, cloud-first" slogan that CEO Satya Nadella has been reciting since his first day. "It's all about getting features and functionality out to the end user faster. Before, business users had to wait," Young added.

With the "Windows as a service" mindset dominant at Microsoft, Configuration Manager had to follow with a more service-like refresh tempo.

Microsoft will drop the awkward nomenclature of Configuration Manager -- the current is called "System Center 2012 Configuration Manager" -- for "System Center Configuration Manager" along with a month/year label, as in "v1512" to denote a December 2015 update. Even so, there will be -- and apparently to confuse customers -- a System Center 2016 Configuration Manager next year.

The latter will be part of the suite-wide replacement for the on-premises System Center, a collection of tools that range from the lifecycle management of Configuration Manager to asset management for keeping track of how many devices are in the organization, and where they're at.

The pace of Configuration Manager's updates will mirror those of Windows 10 itself, although they will not necessarily be simultaneous. Those updates will be delivered as an in-place upgrade, analogous to the "service pack" model that Microsoft once applied to Windows but that it abandoned once the disastrous Windows 8 appeared.


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