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System Center Configuration Manager Technical Preview 3 Released

Microsoft today released its third "technical preview" of its next System Center management suite.

However, like the May release of Technical Preview 2, this release only includes the Configuration Manager and Endpoint Protection components of the System Center suite. Update 8/20: Microsoft's Evaluation Center download page just lists those two components, but other System Center components also are available. Updates for the other components, such as Data Protection Manager, Operations Manager, etc., are described in this blog post and the download links can be found in this TechNet blog post.

As a preview, System Center Configuration Manager Tech Preview 3 (SCCM TP3) is just for testing by IT pros. It's not intended for production environments, so it shouldn't be used to roll out new Windows 10 clients in organizations.

SCCM TP3 has Windows 10 client management capabilities but it's not a complete package yet. Full capabilities will arrive with the finished product, which is planned for release in Q4 this year, according to Microsoft's announcement today.

While these tech preview releases clearly reflect what Microsoft intends for its next management suite product, which will be called "System Center 2016," Microsoft intentionally doesn't use the System Center 2016 label when describing them. It's an unexplained quirk. Update 8/20: A Microsoft spokesperson said today that "the official name is System Center 2016 Technical Preview 3."

New SCCM TP3 Capabilities
Microsoft briefly described a list of the new Configuration Manager capabilities in Technical Preview 3 at this TechNet Library page. They include new mobile device management (MDM) capabilities for Windows 10 clients, among others. Here's the list:

  • Diagnostics and Usage Data
  • Service a server cluster
  • Support for SQL Server AlwaysOn for highly available databases
  • Deploy Windows Business Store applications
  • App deployment to Windows 10 devices with on-premises MDM
  • Compliance settings for Windows 10
  • Improved workflow for creating mobile device configuration items
  • Updates for Windows 10 in-place upgrade
  • Updates for bulk enrollment of Windows 10 devices with on-premises MDM

SCCM TP3 also includes the new capabilities that were introduced in Tech Previews 1 and 2, Microsoft explained in its announcement.

SCCM TP3 unlocks MDM management capabilities for Windows 10 PCs and mobile devices when managing them on premises. It allows IT pros to "manage Windows 10 devices using Configuration Manager integrated with Microsoft Intune (hybrid) without the need to store your data in the cloud," the announcement explained. This capability will require having a Microsoft Intune subscription in place, though. There are some prerequisites, too, and Microsoft lists them in its TechNet library article. For instance, devices need to have certificates and "User Discovery" needs to be completed. Also, right now, there's no Windows 10 Phone client support.

Microsoft is also highlighting the use of SCCM TP3 to service clusters. IT pros get control over the percentage of servers that are online when updating them. In addition, they can specify the actions to run both before updating a cluster and afterward.

Microsoft added "high availability and disaster recovery for the Configuration Manager database" when using SQL Server 2014 AlwaysOn Availability Groups with this SCCM TP3 release. "AlwaysOn" is Microsoft's branding for the use of data mirroring to keep databases highly available. An Availability Group consists of primary databases along with "one to eight sets of corresponding secondary databases," according an MSDN library description.

Lastly, Microsoft highlighted the ability to use its Windows Server Update Service to run cleanup tasks with this SCCM TP3 release.

Other New Releases
SCCM TP3 can be used to perform in-place upgrades to Windows 10, which is Microsoft's preferred upgrade method. However, that's just for testing purposes right now with the preview.

Organizations performing Windows 10 upgrades in production environments today can instead use Microsoft's current System Center Configuration Manager 2012 and 2012 R2 products with the latest service packs and cumulative updates applied as they support Windows 10 deployments. Also, Microsoft released its Deployment Toolkit 2013 Update 1 solution yesterday, which supports Windows 10 deployments.

Also released today was Technical Preview 3 of Windows Server 2016, which features Windows Containers support. Microsoft's Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) for Windows 10 is available today too, which can be downloaded here. This RSAT release lets IT pros remotely manage the Windows Server technical preview via a Windows 10 client.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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