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Microsoft Releases System Center Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2

Microsoft today released the second beta of its System Center Configuration Manager 2012 (SCCM 2012) product.

The solution for managing and updating endpoints is supposed to be available at the Microsoft Connect portal (it requires a Windows Live ID). However, if you can't find it there, try the Microsoft Download Center or the System Center trial page here.

The product is expected to appear on the market later this year, but Jeff Wettlaufer, technical product manager for Microsoft System Center, said that SCCM 2012 represents a big step over SCCM 2007. He emphasized the new mobile scenarios with the release.

SCCM 2012 supports "Windows Phone 6.5.x, Windows Mobile, Windows CE, and Nokia Symbian mobile device clients," according to a Microsoft description of supported configurations (PDF download). However, the text at the Microsoft Download Center adds to that description, saying that SCCM 2012 supports "Windows Phone, Symbian, iOS, and Android-based devices" via Exchange ActiveSync.

So, it appears that IT pros will have the option of using SCCM 2012 to manage software updates, security and distributions for popular devices, such as Apple's iPhone or iPad, in addition to devices using Microsoft and Android mobile operating systems.

The usual Windows client and Windows Server roles are supported by SCCM 2012, although 64-bit support varies (see Microsoft's supported configurations list). However, even though Microsoft did not announce it, other server support is being planned, according to Don Retallack, an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft consultancy.

"Other interesting things are cross-platform configuration management in Configuration Manager, starting with servers, and clients will be announced later," Retallack said in a phone interview. "You will be able to use Configuration Manager to manage things other than just Windows Servers."

Such a prospect would seem to be good news for IT shops running systems other than Microsoft-stack products. However, beyond an occasional tweet from the Microsoft Management Summit, currently ongoing in Las Vegas, few details about the cross-platform support have been publicized.

Wettlaufer also emphasized the "consumerization of IT," with SCCM 2012 enabling self-servicing. SCCM 2012 uses the new Office "ribbon" style for menu navigation.

There's also role-based administration via a new console, which shows only what's required for certain tasks. Microsoft provides predetermined roles, but IT pros can create their own hierarchies. Microsoft added more wizards, filters and autodeployment tools as well, Wettlaufer said during a product demo. For instance, IT pros can set up alerts if Windows 7 client compliance drops below a certain percent. The autoremediation features in SCCM 2012 are new, as this capability wasn't present in SCCM 2007, Wettlaufer said.

Microsoft provides plenty of caveats for those installing the SCCM 2012 beta in the release notes. Other links and information can be found on Microsoft's product details page for SCCM 2012.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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