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Microsoft System Center Configuration Management Basics

This chapter serves as an introduction to System Center Configuration Manager 2007, discussing the Microsoft approach to Information Technology (IT) operations and systems management.
This chapter is from the book

System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) 2007 represents a significant maturation in Microsoft's systems management platform. Configuration Manager is an enterprise management tool that provides a total solution for Windows client and server management, including the ability to catalog hardware and software, deliver new software packages and updates, and deploy Windows operating systems with ease. In an increasingly compliance-driven world, Configuration Manager delivers the functionality to detect "shift and drift" in system configuration. ConfigMgr 2007 consolidates information about Windows clients and servers, hardware, and software into a single console for centralized management and control.

Configuration Manager gives you the resources you need to get and stay in control of your Windows environment and helps with managing, configuring, tuning, and securing Windows Server and Windows-based applications. For example, Configuration Manager includes the following features:

  • Enterprisewide control and visibility—Whether employing Wake On LAN to power up and apply updates, validating system configuration baselines, or automating client and server operating system deployment, Configuration Manager provides unprecedented control and visibility of your computing resources.
  • Automation of deployment and update management tasks—ConfigMgr greatly reduces the administrative effort involved in deployment of client and server operating systems, software applications, and software updates. The scheduling features in software and update deployment ensure minimal interruption to the business. The ConfigMgr summary screens and reporting features provide a convenient view of deployment progress.
  • Increased security—Configuration Manager 2007 provides secure management of clients over Internet connections, as well as the capability to validate Virtual Private Network–connected client configurations and remediate deviations from corporate standards. In conjunction with mutual authentication between client and server (available in Configuration Manager native mode only), Configuration Manager 2007 delivers significant advances in security over previous releases.

This chapter serves as an introduction to System Center Configuration Manager 2007. To avoid constantly repeating that very long name, we utilize the Microsoft-approved abbreviation of the product name, Configuration Manager, or simply ConfigMgr. ConfigMgr 2007, the fourth edition of Microsoft's systems management platform, includes numerous additions in functionality as well as security and scalability improvements over its predecessors.

This chapter discusses the Microsoft approach to Information Technology (IT) operations and systems management. This discussion includes an explanation and comparison of the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), which incorporates and expands on the concepts contained in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standard. It also examines Microsoft's Infrastructure Optimization Model (IO Model), used in the assessment of the maturity of organizations' IT operations. The IO Model is a component of Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), which aims at increasing the dynamic capabilities of organizations' IT operations.

These discussions have special relevance in that the objective of all Microsoft System Center products is in the optimization, automation, and process agility and maturity in IT operations.

Ten Reasons to Use Configuration Manager

Why should you use Configuration Manager 2007 in the first place? How does this make your daily life as a systems administrator easier? Although this book covers the features and benefits of Configuration Manager in detail, it definitely helps to have some quick ideas to illustrate why ConfigMgr is worth a look!

Here's a list of 10 scenarios that illustrate why you might want to use Configuration Manager:

  1. The bulk of your department's budget goes toward paying for teams of contractors to perform OS and software upgrades, rather than paying talented people like you the big bucks to implement the platforms and processes to automate and centralize management of company systems.
  2. You realize systems management would be much easier if you had visibility and control of all your systems from a single management console.
  3. The laptops used by the sales team have not been updated in 2 years because they never come to the home office.
  4. You don't have enough internal manpower to apply updates to your systems manually every month.
  5. Within days of updating system configurations to meet corporate security requirements, you find several have already mysteriously "drifted" out of compliance.
  6. When you try to install Vista for the accounting department, you discover Vista cannot run on half the computers, because they only have 256MB of RAM. (It would have been nice to know that when submitting your budget requests!)
  7. Demonstrating that your organization is compliant with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), or <insert your own favorite compliance acronym here> has become your new full-time job.
  8. You spent your last vacation on a trip from desktop to desktop installing Office 2007.
  9. Your production environment is so diverse and distributed that you can no longer keep track of which software versions should be installed to which system.
  10. By the time you update your system standards documentation, everything has changed and you have to start all over again!

While trying to bring some humor to the discussion, these topics represent very real problems for many systems administrators. If you are one of those people, then you owe it to yourself to explore how Configuration Manager can be leveraged to solve many of these common issues. These pain points are common to almost all users of Microsoft technologies to some degree, and Configuration Manager holds solutions for all of them.

However, perhaps the most important reason for using Configuration Manager is the peace of mind it brings you as an administrator, knowing that you have complete visibility and control of your IT systems. The stability and productivity this can bring to your organization is a great benefit as well.

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