Introduction to Configuration Manager 2012 (Beta)

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I’ve become a huge fan of System Center Configuration Manager and I’m really excited about the eventual release of System Center Configuration Manager 2012. SCCM 2012 brings with it a number of changes that make it very different from previous versions of the product. Personally, I’m getting started early on my own evaluation of the product in preparation of a production rollout at Westminster College as quickly as possible after Microsoft releases it to manufacturing.

I should note that everything in this article is based on the beta 1 release for SCCM 2012.  It’s entirely possible – and likely – that some items will change between beta 1 and the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) release.

SCCM 2012 system requirements

The SCCM 2012 client is supported on the following:

  • Windows XP Professional SP3
  • Windows XP Professional 64-bit SP2
  • Vista Business, Enterprise, Ultimate, SP1, SP2, 32-bit & 64-bit
  • Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate
  • Windows Server 2003 SP2
  • Windows Server 2003 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 Standard, Enterprise & Data Center (Itanium systems are not supported)
  • Windows Server 2008

The current Beta 1 release does have a few limitations you should understand if you decide to do some of your own testing:

  • Data Center editions of Windows are not supported
  • In Server Core installations:  Settings Management, Software Center, Configuration Manager Client user interface and out of band management roles are not supported.

Expect these two issues to be resolved by the time RTM hits the streets.

Other requirements

Before you install SCCM 2012, make sure that you also install the .NET Framework 4.0. This will probably require a restart of your system. .NET Framework 4.0 is not included in Windows Server yet, so you’ll need to download it from Microsoft.

In addition to the .NET Framework 4.0, you’ll need to install the following role services and features from Server Manager:

  • Remote Differential Compression
  • Background Intelligent Transfer Service
  • IIS WMI Compatibility Component

You will most likely have to restart your computer after installing these components. In Figure 1, you’ll see an example for what it takes to install these prerequisite components.

Figure 1:
Installing the SCCM 2012 prerequisite components

SQL Server requirements

Like its predecessors, SCCM 2012 requires the use of a SQL Server-based data repository into which all SCCM data will be written.

  • SCCM 2012 requires a dedicated SQL Server instance that doesn’t also house other application data. This doesn’t mean that you need a separate, dedicated SQL Server just for Configuration Manager; you can simply add an instance to an existing SQL Server that you have running in your organization.
  • If you choose to use a named instance of SQL Server rather than a default SQL Server instance, you must use the SQL Server Configuration Manager to configure the selected named instance to listen on port 1433.
  • Whichever instance you choose to use for Configuration Manager must use case-insensitive collation.
  • The SQL Server that you choose to use for SCCM 2012 must be running a 64-bit of SQL Server.  32-bit SQL Server is not supported.

For beta 1, SQL Server 2008 R2 is not supported. I find it unimaginable that this will be the case with later betas and with the eventual RTM version of Configuration Manager 2012.

Installation process

To get started with the main installation process, browse to the location to which you downloaded SCCM 2012 and double-click the splash.hta file. Note that, in Beta 1, some of the functionality on this screen doesn’t work yet. However, the Install option does work and is the selection you should choose to move forward with the process.

Figure 2:
The SCCM 2012 installation splash page

You’re next presented with a screen that provides loose prerequisite information. There’s not much to see here so just click the Next button to move on.

Figure 3:
Prerequisite information regarding SCCM 2012

For your initial installation, you’re presented with a couple of options with regard to installation. First, you can choose to install a Primary Site Server. Or, you can choose to install a Central Administration Site. If you choose to do a primary site server installation, you can also fast-track the process by selecting the checkbox next to Use typical installation options for a single server installation. In order to make sure you see all of the options, I’m not going to go the easy route. Figure 4 gives you a look at the setup options.

Figure 4:
Choose your setup option

In Figure 5, you’ll see the next step in the installation process. This is a fun-filled page that asks you to verify your product key and read an exciting license agreement. Once you’ve done so, click Next to proceed.

Figure 5:
Product key and license page

As a part of the installation, the installer looks for updated prerequisites. In order to do so, you must create a directory for this purpose. As you can see in Figure 6, I created a folder named downloads and have specified this folder as the download destination. In Figure 7, you’ll see the download progress.

Figure 6:
Download updated prerequisite components

Figure 7:
Prerequisite component download status

If you’ve used Configuration Manager in the past, the information requested on the Site and Installation Settings page (Figure 8) will be familiar. Here, you’re asked to provide your Configuration Manager site code, site name and the location to which you want to install the product. I’ve used a site code of TST and have opted to install the Administrator Console.

Figure 8:
Configure your site and installation settings

You may be adding your new SCCM 2012 site to an existing Configuration Manager hierarchy. For this initial beta 1 release, however, I’m creating a standalone SCCM 2012 site in my lab. Figure 9 gives you a look at the site installation options at your disposal.

Figure 9:
What kind of site are you installing?

As was the case in older versions of Configuration Manager, you can choose between running SCCM 2012 in either Native or Mixed mode. Although Native mode provides more security, it requires you to have a public key infrastructure in place, which I do not have in my lab. Therefore, this test site will run in mixed mode.

In mixed mode, you are not able to manage Internet-based clients.

Figure 10:
Specify the mode by which SCCM will operate

The database server is an integral component in your SCCM infrastructure. I’ve already installed SQL Server 2008 on the same server to which I’ll install SCCM 2012. On the screen shown in Figure 11, you’ll notice that I’ve provided the name of my SQL server (SCM2012), the name of the database (SMS_TST) and a folder that will be used for SQL replication snapshot.

If I’d decided to use a SQL instance, I would have specified the database as instancename\SMS_TST instead. In my case, I’ve decided to use the default instance.

Figure 11:
Connect the SCCM system to your database server

The next page of the installation wizard asks you to specify the server to which the SMS Provider will be installed. The SMS Provider is the component responsible for console to SCCM database communication. In Figure 12, you’ll see that I’m installing the component to the server named SCCM2012.

Figure 12:
On which server should the SMS Provider be installed?

Configuration Manager is made up of a number of components that can be distributed across multiple servers. In the case of the SCCM 2012 beta 1 release, you’ll note that you can install two roles during the installation process – the management point role and the distribution point role.

The management point roles acts as the intermediary between SCCM clients and the SCCM site server. The distribution point role is used to store packages that are then distributed out to clients.

On the screen shown in Figure 13, you’ll see that I’ve decided to install both roles on the server named SCCM2012.

Figure 13:
Specify the roles that should be installed as a part of the initial installation

Client agents are used by SCCM to perform various client-based tasks. In Figure 14, you’re asked to choose which client agents should be automatically enabled once the installation is complete. By default all client agents – with the exception of the network access protection agent – are selected.

  • Software inventory. Performs an inventory of all of the executable files, as well as other specified files, on a client computer.
  • Hardware inventory. Dictates on what schedule a hardware inventory will be performed.  The default is every 7 days.
  • Advertised programs. Tells a client how often it should poll the SCCM server for policy updates.
  • Network access protection. If you enable this client agent, the client will be subject to NAP rules to keep non-patched clients off the network. This requires additional infrastructure in order to operate.
  • Software updates. Allows software updates to be deployed to the client and also schedules the software update polling interval.
  • Software metering. Records use of software applications as configured by the SCCM administrator.
  • Desired configuration management. Makes clients periodically evaluate compliance status with configured baselines.
  • Remote tools. When enabled, the client can be remotely accessed and operated.

Figure 14:
Identify which client agents are to be enabled during installation

In most of its products, Microsoft offers to allow customers to join the Customer Experience Improvement Program. In SCCM 2012 beta 1, you aren’t provided with an opportunity to opt out of this program. On this page, simply click Next to move on with the process.

Figure 15:
Yes, you will take part in the Customer Experience Improvement Program

On the Settings Summary page (Figure 16), the installer follows up with a summary of all of the selections you’ve made throughout the process. Review your selections and click the Next button to continue.

Figure 16:
Here’s your installation summary page

Once you’ve reviewed your settings, the installer reviews your system to ensure that it meets all of the requirements. In Figure 17, you’ll note that my lab system fails some of the tests and includes some other warnings. To get more information about what steps to take to correct the deficiency, highlight the warning and look at the bottom of the window. Understand that this beta 1 release does not yet include all of the necessary documentation so some additional research may be required to correct some of the issues you run across.

In my lab, I’ve chosen to ignore the warnings and correct just the errors. This will provide me with enough to move forward with my testing.

Figure 17: In beta 1, the prerequisite check runs after you’ve made your selections

During the installation process, you’re kept in the loop. Figure 18 shows this in action.

Figure 18:
This is a look at what you’ll see while the installation progresses

When you’re done, you’re told that the process was successful (hopefully!). At this stage, you also have the option to launch the console right after the installation is complete.

Figure 19:
The installation is complete


At this point, your new SCCM 2012 beta 1 installation is complete and you’re able to start investigating the new features and the console, which is exactly what we’ll be doing in the next part of this article series.

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