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Looking Inside System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

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This chapter discusses the internal working of Configuration Manager. It looks at how ConfigMgr sites publish information in Active Directory and how ConfigMgr clients use directory information. The chapter then discusses how ConfigMgr clients and servers use WMI. It examines some of the internal storage of the ConfigMgr database, and how ConfigMgr processes and threads work together to implement key features. It also examines how sites replicate data and content. Finally, it presents examples of how you can use ConfigMgr status messages and logs along with some other tools to drill down into the inner workings of Configuration Manager.
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This chapter examines the inner workings of System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr). It describes the design concepts and working principles of ConfigMgr, along with information about how the product utilizes core Windows technologies, specifically Active Directory (AD) and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). It also discusses the various components of ConfigMgr, how they communicate with each other, and how they work together to implement product features. The chapter looks inside the site database, which is the heart of ConfigMgr. It shows how to view the inner workings of ConfigMgr through its status messages and logs, as well as through other tools for viewing database and process activity. This chapter focuses on depth rather than breadth. The authors have chosen some of the most important feature sets and data structures to use as examples throughout the chapter, rather than try to provide a comprehensive account of all ConfigMgr functionality.

If you are simply planning to get ConfigMgr up and running, you may find some of the material in this chapter unessential. However, you will find a basic understanding of the product architecture and knowledge of techniques for viewing the inner working of ConfigMgr invaluable for troubleshooting purposes. If you have not decided whether to extend the AD schema, you will want to review the “Schema Extensions” section of the chapter. The “SQL Replication Crash Course” and “Configuration Manager Database Replication” sections may also be helpful for hierarchy and site system planning. Should you want a deeper understanding of what is going on behind the scenes with ConfigMgr; the material in this chapter can help you grasp the architectural principles of the product and guide you into exploring its inner workings.

Design Concepts

System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) delivers a variety of configuration management and system support services via a flexible and distributed architecture. The product utilizes standards-based network protocols and object models for its internal working and interaction with client systems. ConfigMgr components store and use data about ConfigMgr infrastructure and activity, the environment, and managed systems in the site database. Sites in a hierarchy replicate data for effective management across the environment.

ConfigMgr 2012 builds on the core functionality of ConfigMgr 2007 and adds an enhanced feature set that includes native 64-bit code, role-based administration, simplified hierarchy design, user centric management, advanced power management, and client status reporting.

In this latest release of its systems management software, Microsoft emphasizes security and compliance, scalability, and operational simplicity. This chapter focuses on some key architectural principles System Center 2012 Configuration Manager uses to support these goals:

  • Integration with core services: Rather than reproducing existing functionality, ConfigMgr leverages the rich set of services provided by Windows Server and other Microsoft products. This chapter describes some ways ConfigMgr utilizes Active Directory and WMI. Other chapters present various other integration points. For example, Chapter 14, “Software Update Management,” describes Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) integration, Chapter 18, “Reporting,” discusses the use of SQL Server Reporting Services, and Chapter 19, “Operating System Deployment,” describes Windows Deployment Services integration.
  • Distributed database: System Center 2012 Configuration Manager has replaced many of the inboxes used in ConfigMgr 2007 and previous versions of Systems Management Server (SMS) with SQL replication. Database replication provides efficient communications and eliminates redundant processing.
  • Flexible distributed component architecture: System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, like ConfigMgr 2007, implements specific features and functionality as individual threads within the executive service. These threads can run on a single server or across many servers. ConfigMgr 2012 improves on communication between components by replacing many file based exchanges with database updates. This provides high scalability and allows administrators to adapt their deployment to their environment.

ConfigMgr leverages key elements of the Windows platform to implement much of its functionality. The two most important Windows components are AD and WMI. The next sections look in depth at how ConfigMgr uses these technologies.

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