And goes public too at the same time. (It showed up for downloads on 24. May, but I didn’t notice it the same day.)
Downloadable from https://connect.microsoft.com/ConfigurationManagervnext
I think it was about six months back that Microsoft disclosed that the roadmap for the SCMDM product would be a merge with SCCM in what has been codenamed v.Next. This would bring about the grand unified management console enabling you to manage both client computers, servers, and mobile devices from the same place. I’m having mixed feelings about this, not because I enjoy having to relate to different interfaces for managing different devices, but because managing computers and mobile devices aren’t necessarily the same thing. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to it though, and if it’s pulled off the right way it could make sense. This is a topic I could rant on about for hours though, so we’ll leave that discussion aside. Microsoft has made a strategic choice, and I will of course try to evaluate what is available in this build.
I don’t have hands-on experience with SMS/SCCM from before since I mainly deal with MDM solutions. Even given this the installation experience went pretty smoothly. Sure, there are some beta issues, but nothing you can’t solve easily (at least when it comes to installing it). I’m not going to cover the installation process, as I’m trying to focus on what you can do with v.Next, and the install process is sure to change before RTM.
Microsoft and Nokia have both stated that Symbian devices will be supported by System Center, but it is not known whether this will apply to the current Series 60 generation, or only to new (and unannounced) devices. iPhone and Android are unsurprisingly not supported at the time of writing, and from what I can tell it seems like only Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 are supported for now. This probably isn’t a problem as far as having an introductory look.
In this post I’m only going through the interface, and commenting on a few of the features I can see. I have not done a deep dive in the available technical documentation, and this means I might get something wrong/incorrect/missing too 🙂 I intend to do some actual testing of devices in the (hopefully) near future.
It seems the enrollment concept we saw in SCMDM is still present here. You need to fill in details like which OU to place device, which CA to use (you can easily choose), etc. The certificates you enroll are used by the device for authentication purposes, but not for establishing a VPN tunnel. The Mobile VPN feature is gone in v.Next, and last thing I heard it’s not clear if it will be re-introduced, and if so in what form.
After creating the enrollment policy you can create devices – either single devices or importing from a csv file:
The ability to distribute applications is naturally present. Most likely still based on the robust WSUS distribution engine underneath.
Normally I refer to settings like Power-on-Password, device encryption, etc as security policies. In v.Next this is called “Configuration Items”. You’ll recognize most of these categories from Exchange (2007 & 2010), and SCMDM. Or other MDM solutions for Windows Mobile for that matter.
After checking the relevant categories you’ll be prompted for the specific settings. I’m thinking this might be more intuitive for new admins, but such things have a touch of personal preference so you might disagree. It’s nicely wizard-driven at least.
With policies implemented through Exchange there are some loopholes, and one can try to get around the policies. With SCCM we can have the devices report compliancy which would uncover such attempts.
You may check the operating systems you want to apply the settings to.
If the wizard configuration items aren’t enough you can also create custom settings; I’d say this is a nice and user-friendly way of setting registry keys (especially compared to having to build custom adm files in SCMDM):
You can also specify “Windows Mobile OMA URI”, but I’ll admit I’m not sure of how this URI should be formatted:
After you have created a couple of different policies, and perhaps an app or two, you can group it together as a baseline to apply to devices.
There’s obviously an inventory view as well, but since I haven’t enrolled any devices there wasn’t all that much info present in it 🙂
For a beta I’m very happy with the responsiveness in the UI, and I’m not seeing many hiccups in the UI either. I don’t see any fantastic new features at the moment compared to what SCMDM has to offer, but it’s a slightly different mindset required for administration (if you’re used to SCCM already I’m guessing it’s familiar stuff already). Of course, it’s not impossible for new features to surface as we progress through the beta builds.
This was a sort of “quick and dirty” article, but I wanted to get some initial impressions out there as quickly as possible. More testing and evaluation will be performed once I’ve verified the base deployment is working, and I’ve had time to read through some white papers.