At TechEd 2014, I had talks with several folks about DSC versus SCCM’s configuration auditing functionality. My feeling at the time was that SCCM could easily become the tooling we need atop the DSC technology, and that Microsoft could more or less transparently migrate the SCCM auditing capability to use DSC.
They still could, but I’ve changed my mind after thinking about the bigger picture. I’m presently thinking that, long-term, SCCM as it is today doesn’t have a distant future.
There are a lot of reasons why I feel this is true, but the most compelling is probably the simplest: Microsoft could never offer “SCCM Online,” because the SCCM architecture just wouldn’t do it. That said, Microsoft does have an “SCCM Online” called InTune, which works well for them. Granted, it’s missing some of the key pieces of SCCM, but those can be added – and in “cloud candence,” that wouldn’t necessarily take long. InTune already provides the Mobile Device Management capabilities attributed to SCCM. While it might need to be supplemented with on-premises elements to reach better SCCM parity, I don’t think SCCM per se is going to fit Microsoft’s current vision.
Another problem is that SCCM is a hulking, monotlithic architectured product that just doesn’t fit in well with what the rest of MS is doing, server-wise. That’s a fuzzy statement, but it reinforces my gut feeling that MS is looking elsewhere to solve the need.
And then I look at the foundational technologies MS is releasing. DSC obviously solves part of what SCCM does, although at the moment it lacks management tooling. OneGet, coming in Windows Management Framework 5, could enable DSC to be a much more powerful software deployment tool by taking some of the heavy infrastructure out of software deployment. InTune is already geared to do things like inventorying and app deployment, and it could well take on that role for laptops in large enterprises, too – perhaps supplemented by local package repositories, to manage bandwidth better, but without the overhead of a current Distribution Point.
One area, which I discussed a lot with a fellow in my class last week, is that InTune doesn’t do bupkis for OS deployment, which is a big deal. WDS is a more-or-less-purely PXE approach to OS deployment, which isn’t always what organizations need. But from a technological perspective, OS deployment is actually an easy beast to tackle – witness the number of times Microsoft has done so. What’s hard is to come up with the right feature and workflow mix. SCCM works really well for some folks (in terms of OSD); less so for others, so there may be room for change.
InTune technologies would obviously need more scale, too, to push large companies off SCCM, but I think right now that scale is more a Microsoft product decision and less a technical limitation. InTune doesn’t presently support servers, but again, I feel that’s a product decision more than a technical limitation. Product decisions can be changed literally over a weekend – I’m not sure there are a bunch of insurmountable technical hurdles to making InTune “the answer.” And it would certainly fit Microsoft’s direction of sticking everything in the cloud and renting it to you.
Now, I think this is all pretty far off, and regardless what Microsoft does there are organizations with massive SCCM investments who will take forever to move to something else. Which is fine, if it suits their needs. But in a forward-looking way, I’m not entirely sure I’d make a massive new investment in SCCM. At the least, I’d certainly think hard about other ways Microsoft might be pointing. There’s certainly time to let the pieces on the board move around a bit more – InTune isn’t currently positioned to devastate SCCM, for example, and we’ll have a few of its product cycles to see if it does start moving that direction.
Microsoft has always had an awkward relationship with config management, so whatever happens, it’ll be interesting to see if they really nail it.
And of course I could be completely off-base :). As I said, it’ll be interesting to see. Right now MS is clearly at an odd crossroads with CM.