SCCM 1706 Feature Favourite – Managing Surface Drivers

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As many of you know, I am the cohost of the Universal Windows Podcast that started as the SurfaceSmiths Podcast – focussed on the Microsoft Surface.

I still use a Surface Pro 3 and many of my customers use SCCM to manage Surface devices. In fact, The Surface Pro is the tablet of choice in the Canadian federal government. So how is this related to SCCM 1706? While there are many new features in SCCM 1706 that you can read about here, there is a pre-release feature that is particularly interesting to anyone that has to manage Surface devices. The feature provides the ability to manage MS Surface driver updates with SCCM.

Prerequisites

  • All software update points must run Windows Server 2016.
  • This is a pre-release feature that you must turn on for it to be available. For more information, see Use pre-release features from updates.

To manage Surface driver updates

  1. Enable Synchronization for Microsoft Surface drivers. Use the procedure in Configure classification and products and select the Include Microsoft Surface drivers and firmware updates checkbox on the Classifications tab to enable Surface drivers.
  2. Synchronize the Microsoft Surface drivers.
  3. Deploy synchronized Microsoft Surface drivers
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Introducing WinPE Peer Cache

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WinPE Peer Cache is a new feature of SCCM CB 1610. It functions in a similar manner to BranchCache however, it is only available for content access from the Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE). WinPE Peer cache is configured and managed as part of the SCCM CB client management settings.

A task sequence configured to use Windows PE Peer Cache can get the following content objects from a local peer while running in Windows PE:

  1. Operating system image
  2. Driver package
  3. Packages and Programs (When the client continues to run the task sequence in the full operating system, the client gets this content from a peer cache source if the task sequence was originally configured for peer cache when running in Windows PE.)
  4. Additional boot images

It is important to understand that WinPE Peer Cache is targeted at OSD scenarios and does not replace Distribution Points and BranchCache as locations for other types of content. For example, the following content objects never transfer using peer cache. Instead, they transfer from a distribution point or by Windows BranchCache if you have configured Windows BranchCache in your environment:

  1. Applications
  2. Software updates

WinPE Peer Cache only supports OSD scenarios that include a WinPE boot such as PXE boot or Boot Media.

WinPE Peer Cache is very new and is evolving very rapidly. To avoid possible issues with the model, Microsoft is adding features to create higher deployment success rates. Beginning with SCCM CB 1702, a peer cache source computer will reject a request for content when the peer cache source computer meets any of the following conditions:

  1. Is in low battery mode.
  2. CPU load exceeds 80% at the time the content is requested.
  3. Disk I/O has an AvgDiskQueueLength that exceeds 10.
  4. There are no more available connections to the computer.

Microsoft Education Event – Surface Laptop and Windows Autopilot

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At the Microsoft Education Event this past week, there were many announcements that we covered in the Universal Windows Podcast Episode 66. While most of the show was dedicated to the Education sector and Windows 10s, there were two announcements that I was particularly excited intrigued about. Specifically the new Surface laptop and Windows Autopilot.

When I try the Surface Laptop later this month I will check out the lapability but from the specs, there are definitely a couple of missing features that would fit my use cases. I’d really like to see a full USB-C port and built in LTE. From a USB-C perspective, I have run into issues with USB resources with my Surface Pro 3 and I think USB-C is the future. As the Surface Laptop is a premium device, for me to justify the price tag, I’d like to feel like the device has a long useful life ahead whether I keep it myself, hand it down to a family member or sell it. USB-C gives it a longer useful life in my opinion.

As far as LTE, I firmly believe the future is BYON (Bring Your Own Network). We won’t need to be hunting for free WiFi at Starbucks or airports and other locations with unknown risks and tethering while useful can be inconvenient and drain your mobile’s battery. There rumours that an LTE version might be out in the fall.

The most exciting reveal for me was Windows Autopilot. It appears to be a simple to use, Windows 10 mass deployment tool built for the classroom scenario. As I do a lot of work with SCCM, the de facto Enterprise class Operating System deployment tool, I am curious to see how this stacks up. I will do a side-by-side comparison once more details of Autopilot are available. Stay tuned.

When the Stars Align – Office365 and Windows Release Schedules

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This week Microsoft announced that Windows 10, Office 365 and System Center Configuration Manager would align their release schedules. They are looking at a spring and fall release most likely in March and September. This is great news for businesses that have being struggling to adapt to the new Windows-as-a-Service model align with Office-as-a-Service. There are definitely inter-dependencies between Windows and Office as well as SCCM the tool commonly used to deploy, update and manage both Windows and Office.

From an IT Management perspective, organizations have been trying to accelerate the engineering efforts previously put into Windows and Office deployments and operationalize the process but the various product release schedules with low predictability have made it difficult. This should help by providing regular milestones and predictability. Good Job Microsoft.

Here is a link to the release from Microsoft

Windows 10 – Converting from Bios to UEFI

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As organizations upgrade to Windows 10 there are many opportunities for security and performance improvements. Many of these enhancements rely of functionality that is only available with UEFI firmware as it is required for secure boot which is often a prerequisite for enhanced security features such as Device Guard and Credential Guard. Since Windows 7 did/does not support UEFI, most organizations will need to convert device firmware to UEFI as part of the Windows 10 upgrade. As upgrading to Windows 10 can be a long process, organizations have looked to tools like SCCM and MDT to automate and accelerate the process. Often time performing zero touch installations of hours or through self-service. Converting Bios to UEFI as part of the process ahs been problematic as each device may have different methods for converting and it typically requires visiting the device since the change happens in the before the operating system loads.


Microsoft has just made this problem a little easier to manage. SCCM 1702 introduces the ability to include UEFI conversion as part of a Task Sequence if the device supports it. I’m looking forward to accelerating many Windows 10 migrations with this functionality.

Intune: Conditional Access for Exchange Online

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One the promises of Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) is the ability to separate the user’s personal data from corporate data. This capability enhances BYOD scenarios as a selective wipe can be performed on a device removing only the corporate data and leaving the personal data intact when a user leaves the organization or a device is retired from corporate use.

In Intune this functionality works in conjunction with MAM. Managed mobile apps are “wrapped” so that any data that they use is stored in a secure container that can be remotely wiped by the management platform.

This month a new conditional access capability has been introduced into Windows Intune that helps achieve this segregation. Conditional access policies can now be enforced preventing email client applications from connecting to Office 365’s exchange Online service unless the application is MAM managed application. This will prevent users from accessing corporate email with an unmanaged email app.

Windows Store for Business – Managing Paid Apps with Intune

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This post will walk you through simple management of Windows Store for Business (WSfB) apps that require a paid license.

You will need the following prerequisites:

  1. Configure synchronization between WSfB and Microsoft Intune
  2. Configure a payment method for license fees

Once you have met the prerequisites you can follow along below.

Instructions

  1. Login to the Windows store for Business with your management account.
  2. Navigate to Shop

  3. Use the category browser or the search tool to find the application that you wish to purchase. For this walk through I have chosen EZDictionary

  4. Click the app that you wish to purchase
  5. On the App page select Buy Now

  6. From the Buy dialogue select the quantity of licenses you wish to purchase and then click Next

  7. Verify your purchase information including payment method, price, quantity and total and then click Next

  8. You will receive a transaction completion notice. Click Close.

  9. Navigate to Manage>Inventory and verify that the app is available. Be sure to check the number of available licenses.

  10. Login to the Microsoft Intune Management Portal and navigate to Administration>Mobile Device Management>Windows>Store for Business and select Sync Now

  11. Once the Sync completes, navigate to Apps>Volume Purchased Apps and verify that the app is available to be managed. Notice that you get information about the number of licenses available and deployed.