MMS 2007 Day 1 (26 March)

While there were not really any sessions today, it was by no means slow.  I had lunch with Russ and Todd (from the community), attended a few Hands-On Labs (HOL) this afternoon, and then the Welcome Reception this evening in the Expo hall.

Both of the HOLs I attended were presented by Wally Mead, SMS Program Manager.  The first was Implementing Maintenance Windows for Software Distribution in System Center Configuration Manager 2007.  A great new feature that allows you to set on a per-collection basis time frames in which advertisements can run.  In other words, if you define a maintenance window on a collection any advertisement that is assigned to a member of that collection will only run inside of that time period.  This just simplifies the common IT practice by defining the business policy so that your SMS-initiated changes are only applied during required times.

A few tidbits on maintenance windows:

  • Maintenance windows only apply to assigned advertisements.

  • You must set a fixed maximum runtime on the program properties that is less than the maintenance window.  E.g., if the maintenance window is three hours you need to configure your package programs with a runtime that is less than three hours.  By default, programs are configured with "Unknown" time, which SMS translates to 720 minutes.

  • Maintenance windows can be overridden per advertisement.  Aside from the possible usefulness of this, also keep in mind that while you might secure the right to modify collection settings so that only certain administrators can modify maintenance windows, anyone who can create/modify advertisements can override these settings.

  • Maintenance windows are calculated as a union.  One example from the lab: two systems, one XP and one 2003.  The All Windows Server 2003 Systems collection has a maintenance window set for 1:00 AM - 3:00 AM.  An advertisement is assigned to the All Systems collection at 12:30 PM - the XP system runs the advert, the 2003 system does not until 1:00 AM, even though the advertisement is to a collection that doesn't have a maintenance window.  Additionally, if the All Systems collection has a maintenance window set for 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM, an advertisement sent to servers at that time will run.

  • Along with the typical status message 10002 "advertisement received" is a new status message 10073 "no service window is currently available."

Other random bits:

  • Binary Differential Updates (aka Delta Replication) - not just what files have changed, but what parts of the files have changed.  Best practice for things like OSD that have a small number of large files.  Does not work well with a large number of small files (e.g., Office) because the overhead to hash all of the files will offset the desired advantage of the delta replication.

  • SMS 2003 SP3 release candidate dropped Friday 23 March.  RTM is anticipated for 2007 Q2.

  • SMS v4 RC is anticipated 2007 H1; RTM 2007 H2.

The next HOL was Implementing Branch Distribution Points in Configuration Manager 2007.  Brand Distribution Points (BDP) were intended to allow a remote XP workstation (for example) to be made into a basic DP so that a managed server does not have to be deployed at a remote branch office.  Since no code is installed on a BDP (unlike a standard DP) the site server does not need administrative rights on the target system.  BITS must be enabled on the standard DP as the BDP downloads content from it using BITS.  A site setting on the new Computer Client Agent allows you to tweak BITS throttling, which by default is enabled between 9AM and 5PM.

SCCM clients locate a DP via the following methods:

  1. local subnet first (e.g., BDP)

  2. AD site

  3. SMS site

  4. Remote DP

Methods #1 and #2 are flipped from how SMS 2003 clients function.

The following status messages appear for the Peer DP Agent component:
- 11350 "content download started"
- 11351 "content download succeeded"
- 11369 "Package provisioned on share C:\SMSPKGC$\[pkgname]"

Typically "Run from distribution point" uses SMB and "Download and run" uses BITS, except with a BDP, which only does SMB because it does not use IIS.

BDP on XP does not extend the OS restriction on network connections; only 10 clients can connect simultaneously.  Clients 11+ will show the package content as unavailable, go into a wait state, and retry per the normal process.

Random bits:

  • The default cache size is now 5GB, primarily for OS images.  In CM07 RC, upgraded 2003 clients will switch the cache from the previous 250MB default to the new 5GB default.

  • Under collection settings (different from collection properties), aside from maintence windows there are also options for Collection Variables (no idea what these are for) and Advanced settings:

    • Collection-specific restart: set minutes to countdown and final notification

    • Collection-specific policy polling interval

  • Right-click client options like policy refresh, inventory cycle, etc. (as available on Actions tab on client) has been a change request for a while and is on the list for SMS v5

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