Microsoft Offers Its Take on Cloud-Enabled Mobile Management

System Center Configuration Manager is taking a cloudier turn and IT pros will want to get ready, according Microsoft's Brad Anderson.

Microsoft cloud mobile management

The writing's on the wall. Cloud-enabled enterprise mobile management is the future for System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) administrators.

SCCM is Microsoft's PC and server management toolkit, which can be extended to cover mobile devices with the company's cloud-based Windows Intune product. Expect the cloud to figure more heavily in the near future, according to Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Windows Server and System Center.

In a message to SCCM administrators on the company's blog, Anderson said he wants to help them "see a way to use the cloud that isn't overwhelming or counterintuitive or contrary to the work they do on-prem." It's a conversation that can't wait simply because the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon has already had a major impact on user IT with no signs of slowing down.

Armed with a forecast from IDC, Anderson argued that SCCM administrators "are going to and want to be responsible for PCs and devices." IDC predicts that by 2017, smartphone and tablet shipments will hit 1.579 billion and 368 million units, respectively. By comparison, PC shipments are expected to reach only 292 million units in 2017.

To empower administrators against such a backdrop, "Microsoft will continue to invest and innovate in SCCM's capabilities and the hybrid integration with Intune," said Anderson. "These innovations will continue to add to the heavy-duty PC management that all SCCM administrators use broadly today, while extending SCCM to the cloud with Intune for mobile devices."

Given the way mobile-device management (MDM) practices are wending their way into enterprises, the burden may ultimately fall to an organization's SCCM team, he argued.

"At times there are other teams managing mobility, such as a central security team, and in some cases the networking team," said Anderson in his survey of the current landscape. Yet, in his interactions with business executives, "there is a general agreement about the need for a single team that focuses on delivering an incredible end-user experience across PCs, tablets, phones and beyond."

That team—made up of SCCM administrators, incidentally—is going to be "absolutely critical to the success of the company," added Anderson. First, however, they'll have to shed their suspicions about the cloud and how it safeguards their data.

Anderson also explained that while Windows Intune integrates Azure Active Directory to extend on-premise Active Directory deployments to the cloud, only a few select attributes, including user names, are synced between the two. Passwords are not part of deal.

Further, when "a user authenticates to [Azure Active Directory], they can be redirected to your on-prem AD and the actual authentication occurs against AD," he said. An understanding of this process typically lays the worries of IT professionals and security teams to rest, said Anderson.

In addition, adopting cloud-enabled IT processes is a way to help improve one's job security, he suggested. "Microsoft is committed to empowering current SCCM admins with the tools to extend their current skill set into the cloud-based future of IT."

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...