Back in November 2011, I announced that our team had reached a critical milestone of releasing the System Center Configuration Manager Package Conversion Manager (PCM) RC1 feature pack. The engineering team that I oversee spent a great deal of time working closely with the Configuration Manager engineering team to ensure that this tool was a logical extension of Configuration Manager 2012 and that administrators had a seamless experience for moving packages/programs to the powerful application model.
Today, I’m very happy to announce that our team released RC2 and this is a feature complete release. We still have some additional engineering work to complete prior to releasing publicly to the Microsoft Download Center but we feel like the team has done an amazing job in bringing to market a free, simple-to-use tool to accelerate moving to the AppModel.
I’m super happy to make this announcement. I’m proud of our team, their effort, and I can’t be remiss without thanking many of you who have spent time using PCM and providing us feedback. Before moving on, I want to thank Cameron King, Micah Smith, Howie Aikins, Jesus Rodriguez Murguia, Robert Vogt, Sam Abukarroum, and last but not least Shuyi Hsieh. This is the great engineering team that has done some amazing work the past 14 months as we’ve built this. Beyond this, I’d like to thank Bill Anderson & Craig Morris from the Configuration Manager engineering team who partnered very closely with us to build PCM.
Getting Started with Package Conversion Manager RC2
The first question that everyone asks is what is “new” in RC2. In today’s post, I wanted to outline high-level some details of what was added to RC2 and provide you some references to learn more in-depth about the new features.
Introducing the Extensibility Plug-in for PCM – Convert Wrapped Packages/Programs
We feel really excited about all the features of PCM, but rarely do we have the opportunity to announce that we added the #1 DCR between RC1 & RC2. We determined that many Configuration Manager administrators, in some form or another, “wrap” their software packages/programs to impact the experience that the end-user has with the software. In RC1, we outlined that if any wrappers were used, all the wrapped packages\programs upon analysis would show up as Manual.
As an engineering team, we racked our brains trying to better understand what we could do to help customers. It is very clear that there are far too many wrappers to build a complete, comprehensive, wrapper solution within PCM that doesn’t require assistance from you. However, we can aid you by offering you a robust solution that allows you to build scripts, whether they are VBS or PowerShell, to easily provide our analysis all the information necessary to allow the package/program to become automatic.
In RC2, we added this extensibility story to allow you to accelerate the movement of your wrapped packages/programs. Micah Smith, a lead developer on the PCM engineering team, provided some extensive details on using the extensibility option with PCM and I’d recommend you read it to learn how you can take advantage of this feature.
Using Scheduled Package Analyzer (SPA) to automate Analysis
The last feature that we put into PCM was the ability to schedule your package/program analysis. As you know, you can select a single, or multiple items within the console and choose Analyze in the ribbon (or via right-click) and you will kick-off the analysis engine for each package/program you have rights to view.
The analysis engine has minimal impact on your Configuration Manager infrastructure when utilizing it. The one time that we do a lot of interaction with the provider, and subsequently the database, is during analysis. This is especially the case if you select many items to analyze. Because of this, we recognized that having a scheduling function that allowed you to schedule the analysis would provide you the opportunity to reduce the impact if you have hundreds, or even thousands, of packages to analyze.
In the console, we now have added to the Package Conversion Manager dashboard a section called Scheduled Analyze Status (as seen below) that allows you to do several functions. The first is to execute, or Run Now, while the second allows you to schedule the analysis, and lastly you can also run a readiness report. The last option, the readiness report, allows you to quickly produce a document (MHT) that shares the current state of all your package/program so that you can plan.
With the help of a developer on my team, I’ve written a blog post dedicated to SPA for you to learn more about how to utilize it and take advantage of it.
Additional Supported Languages for PCM RC2
In our RC1 release, we supported the following languages:
- US English
- Simplified Chinese
We are very proud to add to this lineup and now support the following languages, though they are not to be released until Jan. 24th. In RC2, we now support the following 5 languages:
- US English
- Simplified Chinese
- Japanese (NEW!)
- French (NEW!)
PCM RC2 now has full documentation support on Microsoft TechNet
We had limited documentation for RC1 of PCM but this wasn’t due to our discounting how important the documentation is to assist and help all of you getting started. I’m proud that we now have full online support for PCM RC2 that will aid you in learning and using PCM.
Let’s get it on…Where’s the Bits?
I apologize for making you read, or scan. to the bottom of the post. I realize many of you are just interested in getting your hands on the bits for PCM RC2. So, without further ado, let me provide you the links to download the RC2 bits for PCM -
The bits for each language are directly accessible, assuming you are logged-in and a member of the Configuration Manager 2012 Open Beta:
- Download the Package Conversion Manager Release Candidate
- Download the Package Conversion Manager Release Candidate Simplified Chinese
- Download the Package Conversion Manager Release Candidate German
I often here from customers the question, “How do we provide feedback for PCM?”. The beauty of Microsoft Connect is the ability to provide us (the engineering team) direct feedback. This direct feedback doesn’t sit out on a website and get ignored, in fact, it results in a bug/DCR work item created directly in our engineering platform (Team Foundation Server 2010). I can’t recommend any stronger that we would love to hear more direct feedback from all of you and that your feedback helps us understand what you have to have. I can’t promise that we can execute on taking your requests and turning them into solutions but in RC2 we proved that if you provide us feedback, we do take it serious.
To provide the PCM engineering team feedback, please use the following link. (Must be a part of the Open Beta)
I hope that all of you get PCM RC2 and that you start using it for moving your packages/programs to Configuration Manager 2012. It is ready for you, are you ready for it?