Last week I attended my seventh MMS event. As usual I’ve given some thought to the experience and figured I’d write something up.

Location Location Location

One of the greatest parts of this year’s travelling MMS event was the location. There was just so much to do apart from MMS that an unprecedented number of attendees arrived early to take it all in. So many of them brought their significant others that it quickly became the “MMS Significant Others Edition”. Which for me was a lot of fun because …

MMS Is The Family Reunion You Want to Go To

Due to its size and propensity to sell out MMS has a great mix of repeat and first-time offenders. Over time you come to recognize the group as your tribe. They’re definitely not normal. They fit in almost nowhere else. However, if you want to argue some piece of minutia of systems management then there’s no better place. It was a true pleasure to meet some of their long-suffering companions and offer them my sincerest condolences. How many times have we excitedly explained some super-awesome piece of technology to them in excruciating detail that they couldn’t possibly care about? They are the true heroes here.

They’re There. You’re There. Don’t Waste It!

Another hallmark off MMS events for me has been the presence of the product team. Not the marketing team; the people actually working on the product itself in both planning and engineering capacities. They are there for one reason: to get feedback from the community. There were sessions with the product group showing off some cool new stuff, a state of the union address, a pure Q&A session, plus numerous Jam sessions where you could sit one-on-one and talk about the issues you face. In what has become a recurring theme, several console UI fixes and features were checked in live during the event as a result.

If you find yourself at an MMS event don’t waste any opportunity to provide the team feedback based on your experience. It’s literally why they are there! Holding back for whatever reason (ie: you’re apparently the singular introvert at an IT conference) just defeats their purpose and your purpose for being there. If you need to justify your presence I can think of nothing easier to explain then “Nowhere else will I get this answered by someone looking at the source code”.

What Does ‘Better Together’ Actually Mean?

I know that for some the timing of MMS, the week after Ignite, was difficult. For me though it was perfect. Ignite laid down the vision and at MMS we could poke and prod to see what that vision actually amounts to. And boy oh boy … was Ignite 2019 a doozy for system administrators. In case you weren’t paying attention: ConfigMgr and Intune have been put under one umbrella called Microsoft Endpoint Manager. What the heck does that really mean? No idea, so I came to MMS hungry for details.

First, a quick bit of history. At Ignite 2017 ‘mistakes were made’ leading to the ‘SCCM is Dead’ mantra that many of us have heard and maybe even believed. In 2018, while in full damage control, the ‘Better Together’ mantra started to emerge but the technical reality of co-management didn’t really live up to it. The most compelling argument for co-management was Conditional Access. I mean sure, it’s awesome, but I couldn’t imagine orgs tripping over themselves rushing to enable co-management just for that.

Fast forward to late 2019 and I think there’s a real story here now. Most importantly, it’s not just Intune providing value to ConfigMgr. Soon AutoPilot will support running ConfigMgr task sequences to achieve things not possible in stand-alone AutoPilot. ConfigMgr’s distribution points are easily configured as on-prem caches for Delivery Optimization (DOINC) which has been renamed to Microsoft Connected Cache (try and act surprised, the Project Managers like that). In ConfigMgr TP 1911, Connected Cache has been extended to support locally caching Intune’s Win32 application content. You can now use your ConfigMgr Compliance Items as part of your Intune Compliance Policy (here). If you were a fan of Windows Analytics it’s being retired and turned into Desktop Analytics which is built on the info that ConfigMgr feeds into it. In such a short time that’s a heck of a list and that’s just the value ConfigMgr is bringing into Intune.

If you look at it from the other way, Intune is going to bring some really interesting capabilities to ConfigMgr that couldn’t exist any other way. Any client-based solution benefits from something external that will monitor and report on its client’s status. Intune provides exactly that in its Client health with co-management feature. It can even deliver the client as part of AutoPilot to make sure your devices join ConfigMgr. If you need to remotely wipe or restart a device then Intune’s got you covered.

Arguably the most exciting thing system administrators saw at Ignite was the long-desired web-console for ConfigMgr: Microsoft Endpoint Management Admin Center. Ok, calling it a console is quite a stretch but if you’ve wanted a limited set of information and actions for your helpdesk then the product team is finally delivering. You can get real-time data from clients and will be able to trigger Client Notifications and run Scripts and CMTrace.

System Center Configuration Manager is Dead. Long live Microsoft Endpoint Manager Configuration Manager

For as long as I’ve been in this space I’ve never fully understood what the System Center suite of products was. Oh, I understood the pieces and on some level how they could fit together. I just don’t think they ever became more than the sum of their parts. So the announcement that Configuration Manager is now part of a new suite of products called Microsoft Endpoint Management makes sense to me. Look at the previous paragraphs: ConfigMgr, Intune, and a group of other technologies are slowly combining into what feels like a cohesive collection that actually belong together. They can stand alone but they also complement each other by bringing capabilities to the table that only they can do. Want to do really precise on-prem content distribution? Yea, ConfigMgr can do that for Intune now. Want your helpdesk to be able to remotely view the event log and run scripts on a device? That’s a thing Intune brings to the table.

Lastly, Microsoft has removed a significant barrier: licensing. Trying to understand Microsoft licensing is simply an exercise in futility and self-loathing. For ConfigMgr and Intune it has been made dead-simple as it applies to workstations: you can’t own one without the other now. With licensing out of the way the only other requirements is Azure AD. Microsoft is basically pointing a gun (ie: Office) at your head and telling you that you will have Azure AD and that you will like it. The end result is that owning Office 365 and either ConfigMgr or Intune means you have everything you need for co-management.

Taken a a whole then, with the products truly enhancing each other and with licensing removed from the picture the case for co-management has become far more compelling to me. Moreover, it’s just the beginning. Both Intune and ConfigMgr are being thought of and marketed as a product group now. That bodes well for further integration.

Oh Yea, The Jackets!

If you didn’t make it to MMS Jazz that’s super unfortunate. You missed out on fashion so impeccable that it almost made these two Canadians palatable to the eyes (almost):

c/o Adam Gross

Whatever you do, don’t miss out again. You’ve got two chances available right now: MMSMOA (May 4-7) in Minneapolis and MMS Midway Edition (Oct 12-15) in San Diego. Both events will almost certainly sell out so get your crap together and order your ticket now!