SCCM for device management is a dead end

I have always done my best to avoid Microsoft System Center, especially Config Manager. I don’t hate the product (It’s fine, whatever.), but I loath the culture and business decisions that SCCM enables and in many ways represents – turn every knob, customize every widget, control ALL the things.

SCCM is the embodiment of big, ponderous IT driven by big, nonsensical bureaucracy. It’s not the tool’s fault, it’s just how everyone ended up using it.

“We built a task sequence to swap out all the standard Windows icons with ones the CEO likes better. Your CD drive icon is now a portrait of Grover Cleveland.”

“The auditors said we need to index all the .ini files on everyone’s laptop. Then they asked what an .ini was.”

“Oracle wants us to show them a software report so they can charge us more.”

SCCM made it easy for IT departments to do stupid, expensive things and create unsustainable processes. I have rarely come across a business, that after spending thousands (if not millions) of dollars implementing and customizing, didn’t view SCCM as a grotesque monster – especially when they were trying to find people to maintain it.

Goodbye, Mr. Dinosaur

The unwieldy IT that SCCM supported is dying. Businesses are shifting to lean, cloud-based IT with less customization and little, if any, on-site server infrastructure.

SCCM doesn’t fit that model. Cloud-based MDM does and Microsoft seems to realize this despite their messaging on the topic being confused and noncommittal.

“More SCCM features are coming to Intune.”

“More Intune features are coming to SCCM.”

“SCCM isn’t part of System Center 2016.”

Huh?

Rebooting device management

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft began baking in a new management API that could be controlled independently of domain-based solutions like SCCM. Windows 10 includes enhancements to the API and adds a Linux-like package manager for software installs as well as runtime provisioning, removing the need for traditional imaging.

These are technologies for an MDM like Airwatch or Intune to plug into. It’s BYO and cloud-tech. Tech that lets businesses move fast and light. WMI and the standard SCCM tech is still there, but only as a bridging solution.

Given Microsoft’s focus on the cloud and enablement of technologies like Azure Active Directory (and being able to cloud-domain-join Windows 10 computers), I doubt they’ll continue investing in SCCM in its current form. If SCCM is your core skill set, I’d say you have 2-3 years of runway ahead of you.

My current money is on this scenario:

SCCM gets split and “goes away”. The device-focused tech gets rolled into the Intune platform and everything else gets shoved into the cloud-based Operations Management Suite, which is more server focused.

No more SCCM distribution points, no more impossible-to-find specialists, no more turning every dial. Oh, happy day.

Alternatively, SCCM winds up sitting in some weird middle ground where no one understands what it does or if they need it or not and Microsoft’s device management portfolio becomes an even more confusing mess than it currently is. This will incite an IT admin mob that chases SCCM through the village before cornering it and killing it with torches and pitchforks.

That, or the first thing. I’m fine with either.

Image Credit: Andee Duncan