The Future of Configuration Manager

First published on CloudBlogs on Oct 27, 2015
Windows 10 has been an incredible early success in the market – with more than 110M devices already running Windows 10 (8M of those in the Enterprise). This quick start represents the fastest adoption of Windows ever ! This week is especially exciting because we begin shipping some of the new Windows 10 devices we announced a few weeks ago . With Windows 10, we have dramatically rethought and re-architected the way you can manage Windows in the Enterprise. The most significant change is the fact that we are now delivering Windows-as-a-Service (WaaS). A lot of IT leaders haven’t yet grasped just how significant of a change this is. To put this shift in perspective, I want to consider three questions: How is this going to make your organization more agile? How is this going to delight your users with a continuous flow of new capabilities? How do you need to change your tools and processes to take advantage of the new Windows? One thing that should immediately become obvious with WaaS is that the management solution you’ll use to manage Windows 10 must also must be a service. Each and every time a new set of Windows 10 capabilities gets released, your management solution will need to be updated as well. This means that you are now going to need immediate support for Windows 10 capabilities multiple times a year. On a personal note: As an engineer, what the Windows team has accomplished in a single release is inspiring. I remember when the Windows leadership discussed their ambitious vision for Windows 10 internally. I loved their perspective on how the operating system could and should change in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. I loved how they leaned into that opportunity and challenged all of us to do the same. One of the most significant changes inside of Microsoft over the last 1.5 years is the fact that we are now working on a single, common, shared vision across the entire company. The planning for what Windows 10 would eventually become stretched across the company – including the work my team would do in System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) and Microsoft Intune to enable organizations to embrace this new Windows. My team and the Windows 10 team had common planning, common prototypes, and they worked closely together to deliver the end-to-end scenarios that Microsoft needed. It should be obvious, but I’ll call out it out here anyways: If you are asking yourself what solution is right to deploy and manage Windows going forward, it’s the end-to-end integrated solution from Microsoft. Who better to manage Microsoft than Microsoft?! :)

Today we are announcing more details on the future of ConfigMgr and what we have referred to in the past as “ConfigMgr vNext.”

Over the past three months, you have seen us release a steady stream of Technical Previews – culminating most recently in our 1510 update (more details are here ). During this time, we have completed the work necessary to deliver ConfigMgr more as an “as-a-Service” product. Going forward, we will release frequent updates to ConfigMgr – and these updates will be denoted with a year and a month, i.e. YYMM. In terms of taxonomy for these updates, we’ll simply be referring to the ConfigMgr product as System Center Configuration Manager + year and month. For a more detailed explanation on the new System Center Configuration Manager, check out this post from the ConfigMgr team. In a lot of ways, this pivot is not as revolutionary as it might seem. In fact we started this work with ConfigMgr 2012 when we built the integrated hybrid solution between Intune and ConfigMgr. With the 2012/R2 product , we released service packs that significantly upgraded our hybrid capabilities. Now, with this release of the new ConfigMgr, we have really finished the work to provide the agility and speed you need –, e.g. we can update Intune and within a very short period of time have all those changes that were made in Intune be exposed via the hybrid solution within ConfigMgr. This provides that single pane of glass for managing all your devices (PC’s, phones, tablets, etc.). This is a unique capability that is only being delivered by Microsoft . The combination of ConfigMgr and Intune is the only solution that provides the full solution for managing all the versions of Windows, as well as all mobile devices. One of the great things about delivering solutions (like ConfigMgr) as a service is that the telemetry we get back enables us to build increasingly better solutions. With this telemetry, our engineering teams get nearly immediate feedback on how the capabilities we have released are working (or not working), and we can then quickly adjust to address any issues. Another example of the value of telemetry is that we are able to see configuration data that helps us engineer and test the configurations that are in production.

Here’s a concrete example of how we used ConfigMgr telemetry while engineering vNext:

In the telemetry we could see the SQL database schema that is in place for our customers. As you can imagine, because customers update at different times (and some do not update at all) there is a wide variety of schema in place around the globe – stretching into the 100,000’s of ConfigMgr deployments. Through the telemetry coming back to us, we were able see that 75% of the ConfigMgr customers are on one schema (thanks for staying updated with us J) and that 95% of the ConfigMgr customers are covered with a finite set of SQL database schemas. To better serve everyone, we added these configurations into our test matrix, and we are now very confident 95% of the ConfigMgr customers will have a quick, problem free upgrade. It’s the telemetry that enables us to deliver this better experience. We have been trying to solve the challenge of SQL database schema problems during ConfigMgr upgrades for more than 15 years – and now telemetry has enabled us to solve it.

Here is another interesting pieces of telemetry you’ll be interested in:

Amongst all the customers reporting telemetry back to us ( i.e. customers running in an Intune/ConfigMgr hybrid mode, or running the ConfigMgr Technical Previews – it’s a really large number) we already see that more than 70% have deployed and are managing Windows 10 devices through ConfigMgr/Intune . WOW! That is a really big number and really, really fast adoption. It shows exactly how the world is going to use the Microsoft solution to manage Microsoft. Again: WOW!!! Our goals with ConfigMgr in this release cycle are all centered around finishing the work we started back in 2010 (when we were building ConfigMgr 2012) to deliver ConfigMgr as a service. We began that work as the way we would connect ConfigMgr and Intune to provide the single pane of glass for managing all devices. With this work now completed, and with ConfigMgr/Intune being delivered as services, here is what we are able to do for you:
  • Update ConfigMgr easily each and every time new Windows capabilities are released.
  • Update ConfigMgr each and every time updates or iOS and Android are released.
  • Deliver the single-pane-of-glass for managing all devices – with immediate support across Windows , iOS and Android without having to go through complex individual upgrades. We’ll do the work for you.
I’m really proud of the value the team has built. This is an incredibly compelling solution that is going to deliver the value, savings, and agility that organizations will require going forward.