To All the SCCM Admins We've Loved Before

To All the SCCM Admins We've Loved Before

Don't be afraid of the Cloud, embrace it.

That's what Brad Anderson has posed today to administrators of Microsoft's on-premises System Center Configuration Manager solution.

Read it here: Success with Enterprise Mobility: Empowering SCCM Admins

ConfigMgr is Microsoft's biggest and best selling product in the System Center Suite. It's the cash-cow of the System Center brand. And, that represents a problem. Really? A problem with making money hand-over-fist? Yep.

ConfigMgr is an on-premises solution that got its start as Systems Management Server (SMS) in the early 1990's. Over time and through community efforts, the product has become the standout market leader in endpoint management solutions. And, therein lies the problem. Up until a few years ago, all management was done on-premises – the Cloud was just a fluffy cotton ball in the sky used to supply children's imaginations with visions of rabbits that casually floated by on a clear day. Fast forward to today and vendors are erasing those childhood visions and replacing them with visions of beefy datacenters that are transforming technology.

And, so, managing endpoints on-premises has very little to do with Microsoft's Mobile First/Cloud First direction. If Microsoft is truly to achieve Satya Nadella's vision, managing endpoints can't reside solely in the hands of IT Pros who are afraid for their jobs due to the proliferation of Microsoft's Cloud services. It must be handed over to those IT Pros that are willing to embrace what the Cloud has to offer, particularly from a mobile management perspective.

In Brad's post today (which has a definite coach's half-time speech feel) he suggests that the role of ConfigMgr Admin needs to change. Those ConfigMgr Admins that choose to embrace the Cloud instead of being a blockade, will benefit from added toolsets like Azure Active Directory and Windows Intune.

Windows Intune, of course, is Microsoft's stop-gap technology to infuse management of iOS, Windows Phone, and Android devices into ConfigMgr through a Hybrid Cloud conduit. Windows Intune continues to receive, reportedly, more development focus than the on-premises ConfigMgr and that makes sense. For Microsoft to achieve the Mobile First/Cloud First objective, it has to win over the current stock of ConfigMgr admins. And, this responsibility rests solely on the shoulders of Brad Anderson. Brad and his team have a mighty big job ahead since attitudes toward the Cloud must change. Building great technology is the easy part of the equation. Changing customer attitudes represents the real work.

As he always does, Brad makes a great case. He's a believer and his call-to-arms today proves this. We'll just have to see if he can make believers of the thousands of ConfigMgr admins out there who are decidedly determined to retire before letting the Cloud seep its tendrils into the currently successful environment built and managed through years of experience and hard work.

Unfortunately, a majority of those Brad needs to convince were long-time attendees of the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) which Microsoft decided to roll up into TechEd this year. Though the result was deemed unsuccessful by those that chose to attend TechEd 2014 out of curiosity, it will get better. It has to. Many ConfigMgr Admins hold Brad personally responsible for the death of MMS, though I know he had very little to do with the final outcome. ConfigMgr Admins had their own conference, suited just to them, since around 1998. The community that was built around the event is legendary. Now, that community is being pushed into an event that is comprised of a general IT population. There's no focus and no exclusivity. So, yeah. There's that.

Recently, Microsoft was omitted from a Gartner report that highlighted leaders in the EMM space. In truth, Microsoft is relatively new to the EMM space and its competitors have a long history of experience and development in managing mobile devices. Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do in this area and is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Netscape/IE days of the mid to late 1990's. And, how best to catch up quickly and pop-up on Gartner's 2015 report, than to get all the ConfigMgr Admins in the world to start using Microsoft's Cloud-based EMM solutions instead of everyone else's.

Brad ends his post with…

Industry wide changes like this aren’t always easy to work through, but avoiding these changes as long as possible, isn’t a viable solution. For SCCM admins dead-set against using the cloud, I would say you are missing out – but for admins who can see the opportunity within this change, there are some very exciting developments afoot. Microsoft is committed to empowering current SCCM admins with the tools to extend their current skillset into the cloud-based future of IT.

Right now (literally right now) is an opportunity for SCCM admins around the world to use this technology to take a strategic position within their organization by enabling mobility and embracing the BYOD trend. We have built the hybrid SCCM/Intune solution to provide the SCCM teams with a single end-user experience and a single IT Professional experience across PCs and mobile devices. With these resources available, SCCM admins can use their existing skills to really make an impact.

Again, he makes a great case. Microsoft is moving forward, whether customers decide to now or not. Personally, I believe there are huge advantages in the Cloud – at least pieces of it. At the end of the day, though, customers will ultimately need to decide if Microsoft's vision of the Cloud fits the business.

And, what is the alternative? I truly believe Microsoft does have the customer at heart. Other vendors like Google and Amazon have an all-or-nothing mentality. These companies built the Public Cloud first and are now trying to somehow retrofit a Hybrid offering. Microsoft is the only vendor that is allowing customers to choose. The company is building its Cloud services to mirror existing on-premises operations completely, allowing companies to take advantage of a seamless experience. Microsoft isn't forcing you to move to its Public Cloud services, but instead is providing a pathway between on-premises and public offerings so you can take advantage of how much or how little you want. And, really, choice is what makes for a most valuable offering.

Whether or not you're ready to believe what Brad professes, it's at least thought provoking enough to reflect on your future in the IT profession. I know many have been doing that already, but I believe we're coming to the point where not focusing on it will leave many stuck in dead-end situations.

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