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Linux, Unix and Mac Management Tools Come to System Center 2012 SP1

Last week's update to System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 added support for the management of Linux, Mac and Unix operating systems.

This update, version 5.00.7804.1202, was published on June 10. It adds support for CentOS, Debian, Oracle Linux and Ubuntu Linux OSes, along with AIX, HP-UX and Solaris 11 Unix OSes. Microsoft's download page description also indicates that the update adds support for "Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)." However, the Mac support has been available since April, according to Microsoft's release history.

Microsoft first announced System Center 2012 SP1 support for Linux, Unix and Mac clients when it released Service Pack 1 in January. However, it apparently took six months longer for the Linux and Unix management capability to arrive for the Configuration Manager component of System Center 2012 SP1. Adding to this confusion, Microsoft's blogs describe this update as "Cumulative Update 1 for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1." However, Microsoft released CU1 for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 back in March with a bunch of improvements that didn't include the Linux and Unix management capabilities.

Another peculiarity is that the management capabilities enabled by this update vary for Linux and Unix clients compared with Mac clients. The supported scenarios for Linux and Unix machines include conducting hardware and software inventories, distributing software and patches, and reporting. On the Mac side, the update supports hardware and software inventories, distributing software and patches, the management of settings to comply with policy, and network discovery. Reporting isn't listed on the Mac side.

It's a bit confusing that Microsoft describes Configuration Manager as having these management capabilities because it typically depends on having a Windows Intune subscription as well. IT pros can use Configuration Manager for the client management tasks, but it requires adding a "Windows Intune connector" to do so. Even still, a Microsoft TechNet article indicates that there are some management limitations for IT pros on the Android side. For instance, lifecycle management, compliance settings management and hardware inventory aren't possible tasks for IT pros looking to support Android devices, as shown in the following Microsoft table:

Management Tasks Windows RT Windows Phone 8 iOS Android
Device life cycle management such as the ability to retire, wipe, remote wipe, remove, and block devices. Yes Yes Yes No
Compliance settings that include settings for password settings, email management, security, roaming, encryption, and wireless communication. Yes Yes Yes No
Line-of-business app management. Yes Yes Yes Yes
App installation from the store that the device connects to (Windows Store, Windows Phone Store, App Store, Google Play). Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hardware inventory. Yes Yes Yes No

Microsoft's overall scheme for mobile device management was recently described in a TechEd presentation focusing on System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2, scheduled for release by year's end. The scheme depends on a device enrollment process, which in turn depends on using the Windows Intune connector. Some things seem to be changing with those upcoming products, such as a suggestion that System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager will enable IT pros to manage Android settings.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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