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Q&A with the Microsoft Configuration Manager Product Team: Part 1 of 2

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MMS 2016 Configuration Manager Q&A

At last week’s MMS conference in Minnesota, I attended a lot of amazing technical sessions about System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). My favorite, by far, was the technical session with the Microsoft SCCM Product Team. The product team was very open and engaged. Microsoft is definitely interested in hearing what people need and want so they can build it into the product. It was a fascinating session that I thought I would take a moment to summarize for those of you who weren’t able to attend.

Microsoft Configuration Manager Product Team members presenting included: Aaron Czechowski, Senior Program Manager; Kerim Hanif, Senior Program Manager; Dune Desormeaux, Program Manager; Kerwin Medina, Senior Software Engineer; David James, Principal Director of Software Engineering.

It was interesting to see that while SCCM is not a Microsoft-blessed abbreviation, the product team still calls it SCCM in speech if not in writing…. Okay, on to the Q&A!
Answers are summarized, not a word-for-word transcript.

Question

Are you planning to bring back the ability to update drivers through the SUP?

Answer

This was there in 2007 and early versions of 2012, but was removed because there were too many drivers being synced in. It took forever, and there was database replication and such. Scale is a problem. We are planning to allow some driver updates through SUPs in SCCM CB, for just some items.

There is room for improvement in driver handling. One of the most important things you need to do is get those drivers onto devices, either through OSD or through patching the drivers, and the product doesn’t make that as easy to do as it can. Scale is one challenge, but there are others. For example, the drivers through WU are often not as good as drivers published online, they are often two to three to four versions old. It is definitely on our roadmap to figure out a way that has less friction and is more automated for you to deliver the right drivers as easily as possible.

Question

I haven’t upgraded yet to 1602, but one of the things that I’m trying to do is see if there’s an easy way to see which configuration baselines are compliant or not compliant?

Answer

Overall, we are working on UI integration, such as integrating some information available in reports into the console. If your ask is to make it easier to view compliance in the console instead of a report, yes, we’ll go look at that. Put it on user voice.

Question

Where are you at with SCUP integration into the SCCM console for third party patching?

Answer

The team talks about SCUP integration every single day. We think about the content all the time. This is something that’s definitely on our roadmap. There are two parts of integration. 1) SCUP, why is it a separate tool? Just put it in the console. 2) Get more content that SCUP can consume. It should be able to pull down patches from anywhere, not just WU. Would love to reach out to hardware manufacturers or software manufacturers and just pull their software in. I can’t give you a timeframe. I’ll be anywhere from this fall to a few years down the road, but we see it happening.

Question

Can we turn telemetry off?

Answer

The challenge is, telemetry is how we get visibility into the 80% case of how the software is being used. This way we don’t spend a lot of time trying to satisfy one person who is the only user of a capability. Features that everybody needs to do will appear in the shorter term rather than the longer term.

Question

Don’t you think Telemetry is a little skewed, because if a feature is not really working well, you’re not going to use it.

Answer

We don’t assume that absence of usage in telemetry means no one wants to do it. But we do assume that high usage in telemetry means people do use it.

We have features that we’ll build and ship only to discover that usage is extremely light. There were a couple of features in 1511 that were hardly used. We don’t assume, “No one’s using it, let’s throw it away.” We ask why. Why is no one using it? Then we get on the phone and we go to talk to customers. We’ll say, “why after talking to you for years, thinking that we understood and were building what you needed, why is it not something you use?”

Really telemetry is key for us in knowing, now that we’re going so fast in development and release cycles, how do we make the right decisions about where to invest.

Question

Do you plan to provide enhanced application approvals?

Answer

We plan a lot around this. The problem brought up here is that people want a single portal for everything including non-SCCM things like devices, phones, etc. The goal would be to provide hooks for people. Our strategy is go talk to customers, and get requirements. Some people want Service Manager integration. Some want some basic functionally in the SCCM console. Some want SDK hooks. We’re probably going to do all three.

Question

Are there any plans to change how the supercedence model works in regards to deployment?

Answer

Yes. Supercedence is definitely on the list. We talk to two customers a week on supercedence. We don’t think it’s a case where it’s simply bug fixes, it looks like a more significant effort. We want to step back and understand the big picture, and then build it in smaller pieces. Currently, we are looking at the big picture and trying to get a roadmap of where it should go.

Question

How would you move from CAS to only a single primary? We have a CAS and four primaries, and want to remove the CAS and move to just one primary. We have roughly 20,000 clients.

Answer

There will someday be a feature that will let you just remove your CAS. You can migrate now, because that feature doesn’t exist today. Or you can wait for that feature with the understanding that we cannot in any way commit to a ship date or even a loose timeframe. If what you’re doing now is working, then you may want to wait. If not, then you have to do a migration off of the hierarchy. We hate doing migrations. The reasons customers are still on 2007 is because migrations are hard.

Question

Are you looking at how to do better site server resiliency and redundancy throughout the environment?

Answer

There will be a feature coming out that will let you spin up a backup site server that you can fail over to. [Audience applauds.] We started building this feature because availability and business continuity are really important. But in the process of trying to build this feature we found some additional really sweet ways to use it. Say you want to move off hardware, just buy the new hardware and then fail your site over. Or say you want to move one of your primary sites into Azure. Just fail it up over into Azure. We’re pretty excited about this feature. It’ll be in some of the tech previews, possibly as soon as the later half of the summer.

Question

Version control for OSD automatically backs up into an XML file, but is there a way to import a backed-up task sequence from an XML file?

Answer

Yes, you can. It’s not straightforward, you may need to remove a couple of lines from the the XML file in some cases. There are community tools and blogs on version control and importing.

Who would want in-console version control for task sequences? [Everybody raises hands.]

One of the projects being worked on in the hackathon is source control. [The hackathon is an MMS event where the community suggests new features and developers from Microsoft and Coretech try to build them during or shortly after the conference.]

Some of the challenges include, what if one admin owns sub-task sequences, but shouldn’t have control over others? It’s already complicated. Adding more “developer-like” tools will give some people the power they want, but it will add more complexity that’s going to make it harder for others to get going with OSD.

Question

Are there plans to make MDT part of the base SCCM?

Answer

In short, yeah.

Our goal is to keep MDT as a good standalone tool, but integrate all the capabilities directly into SCCM. It makes sense to make the investment in SCCM itself and raise up those capabilities. We should be able to say, SCCM is the premier way to deploy an OS, you don’t need to go bolt on a free tool to make it work.

That said, there will always be MDT. There will always be a need for non-SCCM customers to deploy Windows, which is an important goal. However, there should be no need to go to two tools. So it’s a goal to take the best of MDT and put it into the SCCM product. SCCM should be a superset.

Look for Part 2

There were a lot of questions, so I’ve broken it up and this is “Part 1 of 2.” Part 2 is coming soon. Subscribe to the blog to be notified when part 2 is published.

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Bill Bernat
Director of Product and Content Marketing, Adaptiva