With the release of Configuration Manager this month - ConfigMgr 1602, was the introduction of some new features within the console in regards to how an administrator can interact with a client. This blog will look to explain these new features, how they work and where they’ve been developed from.
Firstly, some background. Way back when, ConfigMgr 2012 SP1 introduced a feature called "Client Notification". This added an option on the right click context menu for a client or a collection that granted the administrator the ability to trigger a machine or user policy retrieval and evaluation cycle. Admins may be forgiven for thinking that this is a “push” action to the client, as it’s actually a client initiated “pull” after the admin triggers it. This is ConfigMgr after all – the client requests everything. Quite simply, the client is notified to start an action normally controlled by a schedule.
This feature was designed in order for vital deployments to be sent to clients a lot quicker and to save them waiting for their computer policy retrieval cycle, set to every 60 minutes by default. Scenarios this would help with would be a zero-day patch, an urgent anti-malware definition or some other kind of scripted fix that needed to go out to all clients very quickly.
I won’t go into details about the ins and outs of Client Notification, although you can read the Product Group’s original blog about the feature release here. In a nutshell, clients communicate over TCP or HTTP every 15 minutes to confirm they’re still online. Once an action is triggered using Client Notification, only clients that have reported back as “online” will be notified to begin an action. This means that your infrastructure won’t be wasting resources trying to open up individual WMI connections to clients in order to trigger these actions. Other tools that seem to perform these actions can be quite costly in terms of wasted resources, especially when targeting a large collection. That’s why we would suggest using the out of the box tools whenever possible.
“But Ricky, sometimes I need to do more than just a policy retrieval on a group of computers and using other tools to perform this seems like the only way!”
That’s a very good point, and the very reason that the list of actions that can be performed in the Client Notification has now been extended in the 1602 release. Check it out…
You can see along with computer and user policy retrieval; we now have the ability to collect discovery data, start a hardware or software inventory cycle, evaluate any deployed applications, or start a software update deployment evaluation too. As stated above, triggering any of these actions will see that only clients that have reported back in the last 15 minutes will be given the notification to begin the chosen action.
One more feature that was introduced that takes advantage of the “keep-alive” message sent by clients every 15 minutes is being able to see if a client is online or not when viewing it in a collection. Have a look…
The grey icon represents that the client is offline, and the green icon shows that the client’s keep-alive message has been received in the last 15 minutes.
I hope this helps explain this small feature introduction, which seems to have slipped under most admins’ radars. Remember, if you have any suggestions about ConfigMgr, please log them at the UserVoice site and get those votes assigned to any other features you like the look of.
As always, please leave any comments or questions below.