Microsoft Calls Cloudified ConfigMgr 'Most Significant' Release Yet

A new version number scheme aside, the latest release of System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) marks a big milestone in bringing the PC and server management software into the SaaS era.

Microsoft cloud

Today's release of System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) version 1511 represents a major, cloud-enabled evolution of the software toolkit used by many enterprise IT administrators to manage their Windows PC and Server fleets.

Characterizing the new release as "the most significant and important release of ConfigMgr ever," Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise, said in a Dec. 8 announcement that the 1511 branch of System Center Configuration Manager was developed for organizations that are growing ever more comfortable with cloud-delivered software services. "With this release we have completed the work of turning ConfigMgr into a cloud-connected solution—we have effectively 'SaaSified' ConfigMgr."

System Center Configuration Manager 1511 features new Windows 10 management capabilities, including options that enable in-place upgrades to the new operating system from older editions. New Windows Update for Business compatibility allows administrators to fine-tune their update strategies, including the sought-after option to delay Windows 10 updates.

Future versions of System Center Configuration Manager will arrive at a more rapid, yet predictable clip, said Anderson. Explaining the new numbering scheme ("1511" stands for the 11th month of 2015), he said administrators should prepare for continuous releases going forward. "We have already moved to a monthly release cadence, and we've been posting these monthly builds for our Insider or TAP [Technology Adoption Program] customers, as well as publically since June."

A year of System Center Configuration Manager releases will follow the pattern set by version 1511. "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," said Anderson.

System Center Configuration Manager 1511 is already managing more than 500,000 customer production systems, revealed Anderson. At his own company, "there are well over 305,000 PCs and more than 80,000 mobile devices under management of ConfigMgr and Intune," the latter of which is Microsoft's cloud-based mobile device and application management product. "Our IT runs in the hybrid model with all the administration of PCs and mobile devices through the ConfigMgr console," he said.

In addition to adopting a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-like model for System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft has stamped out the last of the issues preventing full compatibility between ConfigMgr and Intune.

"Back in May 2015, when we released ConfigMgr 2012 SP2, we also had 100 percent of the new features from Intune exposed in the ConfigMgr console," said Anderson, before admitting that "there were a handful of features that were built into Intune that we were not able to light up in ConfigMgr."

Those troubles have since been sorted out. "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," assured Anderson.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...