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In December 2015, we made some major changes to System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) when we introduced our current branch model. This new model transformed the way we deliver ConfigMgr, moving from longer release cycles to regular updates designed to support the faster pace of updates for Windows 10 and Microsoft Intune.

We’re flattered by the overwhelmingly positive response from our community of users and proud to share that today more than 25 million devices are being managed in our current branch model.

With all this change and momentum, we’ve received a number of questions from across our customer base about the current branch model and how we work with the new Windows 10 servicing model. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about ConfigMgr.

 

Product Roadmap

How does the ConfigMgr release cadence align with current Microsoft Intune and Windows 10 Current Branch release cadences?

ConfigMgr is designed to support the faster pace of updates for Windows 10 and Microsoft Intune. It allows quick and easy delivery of updates, so you can always have the latest Windows management features available. All Windows branches are supported on the ConfigMgr Current Branch, including CB, CBB and LTSB. See the “Application Compatibility” section of this FAQ for support provided on the various Windows builds in each branch.

I’m not managing Windows 10 Current Branch or Current Branch for Business. Do I still need to stay current with Configuration Manager?

Yes, the updates for ConfigMgr Current Branch contain critical non-security and security fixes plus new or improved management features. Many of these fixes and features are unrelated to Windows 10 management. Also, the latest ConfigMgr update version is required to receive critical non-security fixes.

Is there a ConfigMgr Current Branch and Current Branch for Business?

No, there is no “Current Branch for Business” for ConfigMgr, which . is by nature all “for business.” Updates to its current branch are released after having been stabilized through internal validation, escrow builds, technical previews, and Technology Adoption Program.

What’s the story with technical previews?

Technical previews are distinct from the current release of ConfigMgr. They are intended for early validation in a lab environment, and allow you to validate new features before they are available on current branch. Technical previews are also a way for us to get early feedback before we release a feature to the current branch. You can think of technical previews as parallel branches to the ConfigMgr current branch. There is no way to switch between the two; i.e., you cannot “upgrade” a technical preview to a current branch, or “downgrade” a current branch deployment to the technical preview branch.

To use technical previews, first install a baseline version of the technical preview build. You can then use in-console updates to bring your installation up to date with the most recent preview version. Typically, new versions of the technical preview are available each month. In the admin console, new versions appear as “Configuration Manager Technical Preview YYMM.”

ConfigMgrFAQ1

Learn more about technical previews in this article.

Will Microsoft release a ConfigMgr product update in alignment with System Center 2016?

Yes, there will be a release of ConfigMgr that aligns with the release of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016. We’ll share more details on this release in the near future.

 

Incremental Update Versions

How often will updates be released for ConfigMgr?

We plan to release updates for the current branch about three times a year. The first release of the current branch was 1511 in December 2015, followed by 1602 in March 2016. There may be cases when we need to release a critical update urgently, like the 1602 update rollup. Some updates on the current branch will be available as full media, allowing a clean installation so that new deployments won’t always have to start from 1511 and then be updated.

How long is each update version supported?

Each update version is supported for 12 months from its general availability release date. Technical support and security updates are provided for the entire 12 months. However, the latest update version is required to receive critical non-security fixes.

Is extended interop or mixed version hierarchies recommended or supported?

Running in interop mode or a mixed version hierarchy for a prolonged period is not recommended. The results can be unpredictable. Please see Interoperability between different versions of System Center Configuration Manager and Planning for operating system deployment interoperability in System Center Configuration Manager for general information on interop.

What’s the difference between current branch’s incremental update versions and cumulative updates released with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager?

The only difference is that incremental update versions can include new features. Otherwise, they are very similar, where the current branch’s incremental updates can be more easily distributed and deployed through the “Updates and Servicing” channel, leveraging in-console updating.

 

Application Compatibility (AppCompat)

Will previous update versions support newer builds of Windows 10?

The current update version (N) of ConfigMgr will provide AppCompat support for a newly released Windows 10 Current Branch build. This means that existing client management features (hardware inventory, software inventory, software updates, etc.) should work with the new Windows 10 Current Branch build. Any known issues or caveats will be documented.

The next update version (N+1) of ConfigMgr will provide full support (including management support of new Windows 10 features) of the new Windows 10 Current Branch for Business build and LTSB, if released. This approach gives you the ability to deploy and manage new Windows 10 CB builds on day 1 with AppCompat support and without requiring a new ConfigMgr update version. You can benefit from full support of the declared business ready build (CBB) once your ConfigMgr infrastructure is updated to the next update version. Older update versions (N-1 and older) may not receive any AppCompat support for newer Windows 10 builds. For example:

ConfigMgrFAQ2new

*Future update versions are shown for illustration purposes only. The exact release dates are TBD.

NOTE: There may be rare occurrences when the engineering required to support a new Windows 10 feature takes more than one update version to implement.

Each update version is supported for 12 months. I would expect (appcompat) support for any new Win10 builds released during the 12 months to be included. Why isn’t this the case?

The 12 month lifecycle support only governs technical phone and servicing support. The lifecycle policy has no requirement for forward compatibility. In other words, the policy does not require that older update versions of ConfigMgr (current branch) support (full or appcompat) our newer platforms or releases. While ideal, it is close to impossible to engineer forward compatibility into our update versions such that they just work with new Win10 builds without any changes. Those required changes are engineered and made available in the latest update version. Staying current with the latest ConfigMgr (current branch) version is the best way to guarantee continued support for newer platforms or releases.

What can I expect in regard to support for Windows Server 2016? Which update version will add support?

This will depend on release timing. We’ll provide exact support details in the near future.

Which update versions will add support for updates or upgrades to product dependencies (like SQL or .Net)?

Typically, the ConfigMgr update version released after the product dependency update or upgrade will add support. For example, if SQL 2014 Service Pack 2 is released after update version 1602 but before update version 1606, 1606 would add the necessary support.

 

Michael Cureton, Principal Group Engineering Manager, Enterprise Client and Mobility
Maayan Bar-Niv, Principal Program Manager, Enterprise Client and Mobility

 

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