Announcements and speculation have been coming out fast and furious since the Microsoft Ignite conference, but one point stood out for me. The introduction of Microsoft Endpoint Manager, which merges device management services from System Center Configuration Manager and Intune into a more unified experience.
One of the key features bundled within Microsoft Endpoint Manager is co-management, which was initially developed as a bridging technology to help organizations migrate from SCCM to Intune. Co-management wasn’t supposed to become a solution in and of itself, but most organizations encounter challenges that obstruct or significantly delay complete migration.
Microsoft really worked their marketing magic on the branding (it’s horrific) for Endpoint Manager given SCCM and Intune have completely different origins, nevertheless, they do integrate well and that is the advantage that Microsoft is attempting to leverage.
Lots of the IT professionals I talk with, myself included, weren’t anticipating that Microsoft would shift its perspective on co-management from being a temporary, transitional methodology to a viable, long-term device management strategy.
Seriously, how long has Microsoft been trumpeting the importance of migrating everything to the cloud?
Regardless of our preconceptions, Brad Anderson made it abundantly clear at Ignite that Configuration Manager was here to stay for those who need it and that Microsoft Endpoint Manager is the new direction.
Personally, I think Brad’s announcement was intended to address the elephant in the room, that many customers are facing an uphill battle when it comes to unifying device management and they needed some reassurance that their on-premise management solution wasn’t going to be mothballed any time soon.
I got a better picture of Microsoft Endpoint Manager while I was at MMS Jazz the following week. At MMS Jazz (a smaller, more interactive conference), we were able to get a more nuanced answer from David James, the Director of Engineering at Microsoft, along with additional details from Microsoft MVPs and Microsoft Employees that were in attendance.
Here are my key takeaways from those conversations.
First, if you don’t need features exclusively found in Configuration Manager then proceeding directly to Intune is a safe route. Just make sure you understand Intune’s capabilities and do your due diligence to identify the device management features your organization’s needs.
Second, the transition to exclusively cloud-managed devices could take much longer than anyone at Microsoft anticipated. Realizing that they got out over their skis, Microsoft wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t in a rush to get rid of SCCM.
Third, co-management has evolved into a viable device management strategy. You have to realize that Configuration Manager still does quite a few things very well and organizations have built their own in-house solutions and workflows to take advantage of SCCM’s services. This technical debt is not easily vetted or migrated or ported (whichever the case may be), so completely transitioning an organization with extensive dependencies on SCCM to Intune is risky and sometimes, impossible.
To recap, Intune fulfills the cloud component of Microsoft Endpoint Manager and Configuration Manager handles legacy, on-premise devices. The tight integration between the two frameworks creates a better together story where cloud capabilities can be introduced when and where it makes sense.
Despite the marketing hype, promoting co-management as a destination for device management still doesn’t ring true for me because there are organizations actively transitioning to cloud-based IT. On the other hand, the need for on-premises infrastructure management will remain a challenge for years to come.
My advice is to do your homework and use what makes sense and to re-evaluate your device management practices a couple of times per year to make sure you’re getting the most out of your Microsoft Endpoint Manager environment.