Insights

Configuration Manager Technical Preview Mid-Year Review

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We have seen a lot of exciting new features in ConfigMgr Technical Preview this year so far. Traditionally, I blog about each release, but we are doing things a little different this time: a year-to-date rollup blog.

As always, I highly recommend that you set up a technical preview lab. While you’re only limited to managing 10 clients, it’s a fantastic way to get a handle on things that are changing before it hits the production release. This guide will take you though some of the highlights, why the changes are useful, and a few links to other blogs for setup walk through.

What’s New

Third-party Software Updates (1806)
With this release of ConfigMgr Technical Preview, admins no longer need to depend on SCUP to sync third-party software updates. Currently you can subscribe to HP client update catalog, but you should expect to be able to add more catalogs with later implementations. For setup, check out MVP Niall Brady’s blog post about TP 1806.

CMTrace on Clients (1805)
CMTrace.exe, the log viewer tool that ships with ConfigMgr, is now available on all clients with the new client installed. While it isn’t the default log viewer, the fact that it already exists on the client is helpful when troubleshooting issues within the full OS. It takes out the mild panic when something goes wrong with a device and you have to figure out how to get CMTrace onto the client to view logs. Sure, you could use Notepad if you’re a glutton for punishment. If you want to get something done, you’ll use CMTrace. As pictured below, you can find CMTrace in %windir%\CCM.

CMPivot (1805)
CMPivot allows you to query for real-time data rather than wait for an inventory or status message. CMPiviot uses Azure Log Analytics to query for real-time data. You can get more information in this blog by MVP Anoop C Nair.

ConfigMgr Toolkit Tools Added to ConfigMgr Installation (1804).
For the first time this is added to Setup. Unfortunately the tools will not launch so the old ones will need to be downloaded. Stay tuned for a fix. (Spoiler alert, this is fixed in 1806!)

The server tools are found in %CM_Install_Dir%\tools\ServerTools and the client tools are found in %CM_Install_Dir%\tools\ClientTools. These tools are useful for managing and troubleshooting infrastructure and endpoints.

Remote site server content library (1804)
This is a shiny feature that can be used to free up disk space on the site server. This does not impact content on other distribution points. Essentially, admins can move the content library from one disk to another on the site server, or (preferably) onto a SAN. This feature is another step to building up high availability (role) readiness. This is not the same thing as actually cleaning up the content library. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out MVP Maurice Daly’s blog post on automating cleanup using a tool he wrote.

Custom Tabs in SW Center (1803)
IT admins can now add a custom tab in Software Center, allowing links such as a company portal or ticketing system within the Software Center application.

AutoPilot HW Inventory Report (1802)
The hardware hash needed for Windows AutoPilot enrollment is available by hardware inventory. This adds a different angle of automation, enabling administrators to collect the hardware hashes without running a script. This is useful in organizations that have a lot of policy around running scripts in the enterprise. Devices still need to be uploaded to the Store for Business or the Intune portal. Fortunately, this made it to the Current Branch release as well.

Approve Application Requests for Users per Device (SW Center) (1802)
In the modern workforce, many users have more than one device issued to them. Now they can request software from their current device and the approval request follows that device which cuts down on license overuse by minimizing unnecessary installations. Check out MVP Peter Egerton’s blog post for more info about this feature.

Re-assign a DP (1801)
While there is no way to test this feature in Technical Preview due to the limitation of a single primary site, an option was added to the console for admins to re-assign a distribution point by right clicking on the target distribution point and selecting Reassign Distribution Point.

This is a big deal for environments with a large number of distribution points assigned to a secondary site (or simply wanting to re-assign distribution points). Theoretically, you could reassign the DP and eliminate the secondary site without needing to redistribute content. Efficiency is shiny, and MVP Eswar Koneti has a blog post to walk you through this feature.

Phased Deployments (1801, 1802, 1805)
Phased deployments allow for automation in task sequence-based deployment. While this technically means you could use phased deployment for the rollout of software via a task sequence, it is particularly useful for Operating System deployment. Admins select a pilot group and a desired success rate that dictates if the deployment can continue to another group. Admins also can defer the deployment to the second phase (in days) and set a deadline (in days) on the second phase once the broad group is targeted.

Starting with Technical Preview 1802, admins can manually kick off the second phase with an SQL statement. In Technical Preview 1805, admins now can add up to 10 phases, as well as manually configure phases. With Phased Deployments, admins can still use their favorite P2P solution.

Conclusion

The changes so far are quite shiny and add more automation and a richer set of features to the beloved product. It is great to see User Voice items from community members become actual features in the product. Take some time to read through the full changelog for each technical preview version to gain a full understanding of what is new as well as what may have been changed or eliminated. The product team is always listening, so if there is a feature you see that could be expanded, please speak up! As always, continue following Adaptiva on Twitter and checking out Adaptiva Insights for ConfigMgr news.

 

Upcoming Webinar: Windows 10 OSD Best Practices with ConfigMgr

If you are migrating to Windows 10 with ConfigMgr, I invite you to join me for an upcoming webinar. I’ll give you best practices for migrating rapidly to Windows 10 and prevailing post-deployment with automated servicing and security. You’ll also see live demonstrations of community tools and Adaptiva technologies to help ensure your success.

Windows 10 OSD Best Practices with ConfigMgr Webinar
Microsoft MVP Ami Casto
Tuesday June 26, 2018
9am PDT / 12pm EDT / 6pm CEST

Click here to register!

Ami Casto
Technical Evangelist

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