Microsoft releases major System Center update

New release shows a future with more frequent updates

A Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10
A Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 Credit: Blair Hanley Frank

Microsoft released the latest version of its System Center Configuration Manager on Tuesday, giving system administrators new tools to manage fleets of devices across their organizations. 

The release gives users a variety of new features, including new ways to deploy Windows 10. That's particularly important, as more companies look into rolling out Microsoft's new operating system. It's also key for Microsoft, since the company wants more and more companies to adopt Windows 10 in the coming year.

In addition to deploying Windows 10, administrators using SCCM can also manage updates for devices on the new operating system using Microsoft's new Windows Update for Business service. The software lets them set up deployment rings that determine when different devices receive the mandatory cumulative updates for Windows 10 that Microsoft rolls out on a somewhat frequent basis.

Microsoft is also taking a different approach with this release than it has with other versions of SCCM: The company will now begin releasing monthly preview updates to the configuration manager software that will allow users to test new features as soon as possible. If companies need a particular feature in order to take advantage of some new capability, they'll be able to try it out as soon as Microsoft makes it available. 

On top of that, Microsoft will then designate a few monthly releases as part of the "Current Branch" of System Center, and encourage administrators to update to it. Those releases are supposed to be stable and good enough for general use, in addition to bringing a passel of new features to users. 

According to a blog post by Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson, 500 companies have tested the early preview builds of this release, which was managing more than 500,000 production machines before Microsoft made it generally available. Administrators interested in downloading the public release version of the software can do so through MSDN, the Microsoft Evaluation Center and the Volume Licensing Center.

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