With the release of System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) in the third quarter of 2007, many Windows administrators wondered what happened to Systems Management Server (SMS) 4.0. Well, it never actually made it into the market. Instead, Microsoft rebranded it under its System Center line of products, and Configuration Manager was born.
Configuration Manager 2007 is Microsoft's all-in-one systems management assistant; a self-service solution a designed to evaluate, deploy and update servers and devices in a variety of environments. It also provides administrators with the tools to control all aspects of their IT system while keeping costs low.
SCCM has adopted several key SMS features along with some new ones, but one of the most noticeable changes may be the new hardware and software requirements.
Other significant changes were inspired by user concerns and requests for specific patch deployments. In response, Microsoft incorporated Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) 3.0 with Configuration Manager to give administrators the extensive patch system support they were looking for.
"We're giving [IT shops] one tool now to update across the entire environment," said Eric Berg, director of product management in Microsoft's Windows and Enterprise Management division. "That is a major infrastructure upgrade."
In late summer 2008, Microsoft released the most recent version of SCCM – Configuration Manager 2007 R2, which included new support for Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008.
SCCM 2007 R2 provides administrators with the capability to manage all aspects of Windows-based desktops, servers and devices from a single hub, giving them even more control over their IT infrastructures. Other capabilities include hardware and software access management, straightforward software updates and advanced performance and security features.
In August 2010, Microsoft announced the release candidate (RC) for Configuration Manager 2007 R3, which is set to include a host of new power management features. A beta for the next version of SCCM, currently dubbed v.Next, is also available.
Virtualization packs – SCCM 2007 R2 includes the Microsoft Application Virtualization Platform where administrators can create virtual application packages that they can promote and distribute to other Configuration Manager 2007 users who can then run the apps without any sort of software installation.
Forefront security – Configuration Manager 2007 R2 also comes with advanced protection in the form of Microsoft's Forefront Client Security agent, which shields users from security risks that can threaten laptops, desktops and even whole systems. The platform is made up of two parts, the Security Agent and the central management server, which provide a window into the vulnerability of an IT environment with synchronized security alerts and status report capabilities.
Reporting Services capability – Configuration Manager 2007 R2 integrates with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) so administrators can document all Configuration Manager activity in the formats provided through SSRS.
Client health diagnostics – In addition to documenting activity, administrators can also track "client health" with Configuration Manager by referring to a number of data sources for information such as client activity, inventory and discovery stats, and policy request log files.
Improved operating system deployment – Microsoft has updated some of the operating system deployment features in Configuration Manager, including unknown computer support and an upgrade from unicast OS deployment to multicast deployment for network bandwidth preservation.
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