First published on CloudBlogs on Dec 08, 2015
Today is a really significant day. Earlier today we released the latest version of System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) – and, by a wide margin, this is the most significant and important release of ConfigMgr ever . Why is this the most significant release in the history of ConfigMgr? Simple: With this release we have completed the work of turning ConfigMgr into a cloud-connected solution – we have effectively “SaaSified” ConfigMgr. In this post, I’ll describe what we have built and why it’s important to you, as well as provide a view into the future about how we’ll be continuously releasing updates to ConfigMgr going forward.

The World is Moving to SaaS

The world is already well on its way to operating on the SaaS model. Obviously, every app an organization has is not going to move overnight to a SaaS model, however a significant amount of the new apps organizations will be either building or buying will be delivered via SaaS. Also, ask yourself this question: If you were going to launch a new startup, would you build data centers or would you consume as much as you could (with the goal of everything) via SaaS? This move to a SaaS model includes the Operating Systems we are using on our devices. Windows, iOS, and Android are all being delivered via a SaaS model; I don’t think many of us would have predicted this 5 years ago. As more of what you use moves to SaaS, and in the case of PC and Enterprise Device Management, you need to move your management to the SaaS model as well.

“SaaSifying” ConfigMgr

The biggest things you will notice about the new ConfigMgr are 1) the version number is very different, and 2) going forward you will be getting continuous updates via the SaaS model to ConfigMgr. Over the past year we have substantially modernized the ConfigMgr architecture and connected it to the cloud (Intune) to put us in a place where we can continuously deliver new capabilities and value. The current branch of ConfigMgr that was made generally available today is 1511 . This is the current branch of ConfigMgr as of November (the 11 th month) of 2015. Going forward, you will see continuous releases of ConfigMgr. We have already moved to a monthly release cadence, and we’ve been posting these monthly builds for our Insider or TAP customers, as well as publically since June. There will also be monthly ConfigMgr preview releases where everyone will be able to see what features are coming in future production builds. This is how we will support the continuous stream of capabilities being released in Windows 10. You will now be able to use Intune or ConfigMgr to test and deploy the new capabilities being released in Windows 10. Here is a representative view of what a year of ConfigMgr releases may look like going forward. You’ll see 1512, 1601, 1602, 1603, … 1612. On a regular basis we will declare one of the monthly builds as Current Branch, which will be the release to which we recommend all enterprises update. So you could see, for example, 1602, 1606 and 1610 be declared as Current Branch and the ConfigMgr infrastructrures around the globe upgraded to these builds. This is a huge benefit for our customers . This gives us a way to get new value out to you faster than ever, and this new shipping rhythm and velocity will allow us to deliver new Windows functionality (as fast as windows ships), or new MDM functionality (supporting all the features Intune adds), or just deliver new SCCM features or enhancements requested on User Voice .

Keeping ConfigMgr and Intune Aligned

A core part of our vision is to have ConfigMgr and Intune be a continuum of capabilities. We are a Cloud-First organization – which means we innovate rapidly in the cloud and then bring whatever capabilities that make sense on-premises. With ConfigMgr 1511, everything we have built into Intune for Enterprise Mobility Management is also exposed in the ConfigMgr console with the exception of just a couple features (both of which will be shipped in a ConfigMrg preview build this month – more on this next week). Back in May 2015, when we released ConfigMgr 2012 SP2, we also had 100% of the new features from Intune exposed in the ConfigMgr console. Between May and today there were a handful of features that were built into Intune that we were not able to light-up in ConfigMgr. To light them up we needed to make some changes to the ConfigMgr infrastructure that are now done in ConfigMgr 1511. Going forward, we will be able to keep the ConfigMgr closely aligned with Intune. Thank You for the Tremendous Early Adoption! There are over 500 companies running the ConfigMgr preview bits, and, of those, customers, 500,000 production machines are already being managed already by 1511. We have been working closely with these organizations over the past few months as they rolled out the monthly updates, and they have provided us tremendous feedback. We currently have all of Microsoft running on 1511 – there are well over 305,000 PCs and more than 80,000 mobile devices under management of ConfigMgr and Intune. Our IT runs in the hybrid model with all the administration of PC’s and mobile devices through the ConfigMgr console. It was amazing a couple of weekends ago as the final bits were rolled out across Microsoft to see the seamlessness of this process. We updated all the server infrastructure over a weekend, then we staged the update of the clients on the 350,000 PCs over 10 days.