Start Learning About Configuration Manager 2012

I first became an MVP with a Configuration Manager expertise.  It was kind of odd timing; I had done quite a bit of writing and blogging on it but not in a while; I’d actually moved on to Hyper-V at the time!  That was because I was working in the hosting space where there were no desktops to manage, and, well, hosters do everything on the “cheap” because it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there!

But I love ConfigMgr.  Sure it’s big, and yes you can sometimes find your head is swimming with all the options that it has.  But if you’re an IT megalomaniac like I am, then you’ll love having the ability to know everything about your infrastructure and be able to effect change whenever you want.  You can even do mad things like creating a recurring advertisement to play the sound of a nuclear explosion or kill OUTLOOK.EXE/NLNOTES.EXE on the PC of some user that has annoyed you … not that I would do that myself or recommend that you do it either!  It will leave an audit trail.  You’re better off using task scheduler or Remote Desktop Services Manager to do that sort of thing.

Anyway …

ConfigMgr 2012 will be out later this year and Jeff Wettlaufer has been recording some videos to demonstrate the functionality of it, including how the new user-centric features work.

Once you’re done there, head on over to Windows-Noob to see what Niall C. Brady (ConfigMgr MVP) has been writing on ConfigMgr 2012.  He’s been at it since beta 1.

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Configuration Manager v.Next Beta

Call it what you want, ConfigMgr v.Next, Configuration Manager 2011, but the beta has just been launched.  It brings a bunch of new stuff in what is not just a refresh:

User centric application management  – Empowering Administrators to define intent, and end users flexible access to the right application at the right time

  • Allow the administrator to think users first
  • Application management model to capture admin intent
  • End user self-service software portal

Infrastructure simplification – Simplify management infrastructure, processes and administrative overhead

  • Unified management across PCs and devices
  • New role based administration and end-user experiences
  • Automated content distribution and troubleshooting
  • Redesigned core infrastructure and improved scalability

Simplify Client Management – Daily tasks, model based configuration management and improvements over existing capabilities

  • Automated compliance remediation
  • Client health and auto remediation
  • Remote control enhancements
  • Offline servicing of OS images

I’ve already blogged about what I’ve seen so far.  This is a very exciting new release.  The last version seems to focus a lot on OS deployment.  This release is emphasising getting the right software to the end user, and allowing the end user to pull that software down on demand.  The demos are impressive.  Go check out the beta now.

Reminder: Best of #MMS2010 on Monday 17th by MS Ireland

Remember that Microsoft Ireland is hosting a “best of MMS 2010” event next week on Monday the 17th.  Speakers from Ireland, Redmond and from MS UK will be presenting on some of the content from the show.  I’m most looking forward to the ConfigMgr, Service Manager and Opalis presentations.  MS UK is also running something similar so check out your local feeds.

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Configuration Manager 2007 R3 Beta Released

In case you missed it in one of my MMS posts, the beta for ConfigMgr 2007 R3 is now public and is available on Connect.  I received the following in an email earlier today:

“Yesterday at the Microsoft Management Summit, Brad Anderson announced during his keynote the release of ConfigMgr07 R3 Beta. Power management is at the core of the R3 release, it addresses the need that many organizations have to monitor and reduce the power consumption of their computers. ConfigMgr07 R3 Power Management leverages the power management features built into Windows to apply relevant and consistent settings to computers in the organization. There are three major components to power management in ConfigMgr07 R3:

  1. Monitoring and Planning: Power Management collects information about computer usage and power settings for computers in the origination. Reports are provided to allow the administrator to analyze this data and determine optimal power management settings for computers.
  2. Enforcement: Power management allows the administrator to create power plans which can be applied to collections of computers. These power plans configure Windows power management settings on computers, and different power plans can be configured for peak and non-peak working hours.
  3. Compliance: After applying power plans to computers in the organization, the administrator can run reports to validate that power settings were correctly applied and to calculate power and carbon footprint savings across collections of computers.

In addition to power management, ConfigMgr07 R3 will provide customers with enhanced scale and performance support (scale to 300K managed clients per hierarchy, delta AD discovery, dynamic collection updates), as well as enablement of further capabilities for operating system deployment. A full list of the R3 features can be found on Microsoft Connect at the “What’s new in R3” post”.

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MMS 2010 Keynote: User-Centric Client Management

I’m blogging live once again using the live webcast from the Microsoft Management Summit 2010.  Today’s featured speaker is Brad Anderson.

Anderson says that Windows Update updated 90million Windows 7 computers in March 2010.  This session will focus on management of the PC.  The role of the desktop administrator will change, involving cloud (that’s #1) and security.

Configuration Manager 2007 R3

As promised by Jeff Wettlaufer in a TechNet Edge video, Configuration Manager 2007 R3 is now in public beta (after a lengthy TAP).  Jeff comes on stage to show power management of R3.  This is all about learning about power usage, policy creation/enforcement, and reporting.

We see power consumption reporting being enabled on a collection.  A series of reports are viewed, e.g. the cost (local cost defined by you) of the power based on KwH.  That might be useful for servers.  Power management settings are also configured in the collection.  All the familiar ones are available from Windows 7.  You can define peak and non-peak as well as on battery and plugged in.  You can also define a wake-policy to tell a machine to power up, get some policy/updates and go back to sleep.  Now you run reports to see how you improved your power consumption, e.g. environmental impact.  You can quantify the savings from pre- and post-policy.  A report shows the types of activity that keep computers awake in relation to computers/monitors being active/asleep.  Handy for tuning policy or trying to figure out why something never powers down.

The CEO of 1E is featured in a video.  He couldnt’ travel because of the travel chaos.  MS missed a UC demo opportunity here.  1E is one of the biggest players in extending ConfigMgr functionality.  They’ve built upon the power management of ConfigMgr with a product called Night Watchman.  Claims it saves Dell $26/PC/year in power costs.

XenApp Management with ConfigMgr

A distribution type for XenApp can be created in ConfigMgr Software Distribution.  New package and programs are created in there.  A advertisement is set up to install the package onto the XenApp servers.  Users get drained from the servers, the apps get installed and then users can log in.

Dynamic Memory and RemoteFX

Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 is now talked about and how the new Hyper-V features positively impact VDI – more machines per host and better graphics.

Michael Kleef comes out to demo.  This is the first time non-NDA people get a demo as far as I know.  You can see a VM being started up with 1GB RAM and it will be able to grow to 3GB RAM.  Additional memory will be allocated as required and released back to the host when not required.  The current usage is shown in the Hyper-V console.  VMM will get an update to enable this management.

RemoteFX is aimed at VDI. The host has a high end graphics card.  This will be shared by Hyper-V VM’s on the host for graphics processing for the VDI machines.  A demo of 720P video is shown running on a remote VM.  Aero features like peek and flip are there.  The GPU does the work, not the CPU.  This is shown in Performance Monitor.

ConfigMgr Advanced Hardware Power Management

ConfigMgr can audit machines that aren’t even powered up, e.g. Dell 11G servers.  You get an audit of the racked, networked machines that are still powered off.  When ready, ConfigMgr can power them up and deploy an OS.

ConfigMgr To Consolidate Security – Forefront

ConfigMgr allows you to eliminate a separate security infrastructure by integrating with ForeFront End Point Protection.  You don’t need new servers and you get an integrated console.  Updating, policy analysis, reporting were already there since the 2007 R1 release.

Demo: Forefront appears in ConfigMgr as a set of packages by default.  The install program has logic to be able to remove other AV solutions – just like Trend Micro has/had (it’s been a while).  A set of collections based on different states are created – allowing context sensitive advertisements.  A new Forefront node is created for policy creation.  Here you can configure scan preferences, exclusions, how to get updates (default is ConfigMgr), scheduled scans, etc.  You can then assign the policy to a collection.  Reports are available to show status breakdowns, infections, etc.

This is a tidy solution.  I still see lots of people not adopting it which is unfortunate.

System Center Configuration Manager in the Cloud

He said “cloud”!  You know the drinking game rules: 1 shot – now!  OK – put the bottle down.  You’d already have alcohol poisoning if we played the MMS 2010 cloud drinking game.

Here’ comes Windows Intune.  See my previous launch post.  An admission that this is not nearly (not even way) as powerful as ConfigMgr.  However, it will be updated quite frequently.  It’s not a rival to ConfigMgr but it will be an alternative entry point to centralised management.

We get a very quick Windows Intune demo where we see update management.  We see something ConfigMgr doesn’t have – update automatic approval policies like WSUS has.

Service Manager

We hear how a corporation used the beta to create a CMDB (ITIL/MOF configuration manager database) that integrated many System Center databases into one.  That was done in 2 hours: a singe data warehouse for all configuration data.  Nice!

On top of Service Manager 2010 MS has built in some auditing functionality.  SMSD customers have access to Service Manager now.

NOW Service Manager gets the welcome it should have.  Nicely done by the speaker :-)  The team deserves a lot of credit – they wrote a product, got bad feedback, scrapped it and started all over.  Not many will do that.

We get a demo on how Service Manager is used to assist with PCI compliance – stuff to do with credit card payments processing certification.  A library of 350 (!) compliance documents is built into the package.  You can pull from this.  The demo pulls documents to do with American Express.  Objectives are presented that IT will understand.  Now you work on them, update your progress and track your progress.  Some of this could be duplicated in other projects but Service Manager knows this and strips out redundant new steps.  There is integration into OpsMgr, ConfigMgr and AD.  Demonstration of compliance can be done using this too, making auditing much easier.

User Focused

This is something I firmly believe in: we need to put some power back in the users hands, e.g. self service provisioning.  Whether it be OS deployment, virtual machine deployment, software deployment, etc.

ConfigMgr v.Next is demonstrated now.  It has some cool user focused stuff. 

Desired Configuration Management (DCM) is shown.  It will have remediation, not just the current reporting feature.  In the demo, a file association no longer works.  That’s because someone has uninstalled it.  ConfigMgr uses a state to decide what software should be installed.  AT LAST!  This has been needed since SMS 0.0.  V.Next will remediate the state (software is assigned to the PC but missing) by reinstalling the software.  DCM can also remediate things like firewall, IE settings, etc.  Enabling the remediation is a simple tick box operation for the administrator.  Doh – the demo falls into the trap of trying to do things too quick in ConfigMgr.  ConfigMgr is not meant to be a hurried product.  Things in large enterprises take time.

The beta will be out in May.  Everything is re-rewritten to leverage the DCM state engine.  That’s the way it should be.

Road Map

VMM v.Next, ConfigMgr v.Next, OpsMgr v.Next, Service Manager 2010 R2 all appear in 2011.  MMS 2011 will be a crazy busy conference.

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That was a keynote that had the content you want – lots of demos and lots of new stuff.  Nicely done!

Configuration Manager 2007 Dashboard

The ConfigMgr 2007 Dashboard is a recently released free add-on from MS to allow you to quickly view the status of the most important items in your deployment.  The listed benefits are:

  • Actionable information out of the box. The dashboard comes with a wide range of valuable, built-in reports that IT managers can access without using the Configuration Manager console.
  • Centralized, near-real-time access to key information. The graphical dashboard lets customers view any Configuration Manager data set in near-real time—without leaving their desk.
  • Easy to build and configure. The dashboard’s wizard-based tools let customers easily create new dashboards in minutes.
  • Easy to customize. The dashboard can easily be customized to meet the needs of different departments and other groups. Any data set in the Configuration Manager database can be presented on the dashboard, in chart, gauge, and table formats.
  • Flexible & interactive. Users can easily filter data and create ad hoc, custom views. Filters allow users to quickly drill down from high-level to more specific data.

It had been a long time since I’d done any ConfigMgr work.  But recent lab work using a couple of deployments got me hooked with this uber powerful system.  It’s huge, can put it’s fingers (at your control) into everything, and puts you firmly in control.  Pair it with OpsMgr and the network is tamed like a wild horse.  The Dashboard will give you a customisable at-a-glimpse view of what is going on in ConfigMgr, just like you already can do with dashboards in OpsMgr.

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System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Guides

Microsoft published a bunch of guides for engineers and administrators who work with ConfigMgr 2007:

  • System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Deployment Guide: This guidance provides information on how to design and deploy a Configuration Manager infrastructure within a healthcare organization. It allows the healthcare organization to be confident that the Configuration Manager infrastructure being designed and deployed is using current best practice.
  • System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Operating System Deployment Guide: This guidance helps healthcare organizations when implementing and using the operating system deployment feature of Configuration Manager. This guidance provides the information required to quickly become familiar with the operating system deployment feature and understand the appropriate decisions that need to be made in order to deploy and use the solution. It also provides step-by-step guidance showing how to install and configure the required components, and also how to use the most common features.
  • System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Software Distribution Guide: This guidance provides the information required to quickly become familiar with the software distribution feature and understand the appropriate decisions that need to be made in order to deploy and use the solution. It also provides step-by-step guidance showing how to create the objects required within Configuration Manager to perform the software distribution.
  • System Center Configuration Manager Software Update Management Guide: This guidance provides the information required to quickly become familiar with the software update feature, and understand the appropriate decisions that need to be made in order to deploy and use the solution. It also provides step-by-step guidance showing how to install and configure the required components, and how to use the most common features.

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