Part I Upgrade or Migrate – Which Route Should You Take When Moving to the New Version of ConfigMgr?

Microsoft Windows 10 has generated excitement in the marketplace. 

In a recent survey conducted by Adaptiva Software on the impact of the release of Microsoft Windows 10 and the new version of System Center Configuration Manager, sometime refered to as "SCCM" or “ConfigMgr”, more than 50% of companies plan to upgrade to the current branch of ConfigMgr within the next 12 months.  The survey also concluded that Windows 10 migration was the primary driver for the upgrade to ConfigMgr for over 65% of the companies surveyed.

Adaptiva primary driver for configmgr


Traditionally enterprises have been cautious to adopt new releases of systems management software.  However, as a result of the excitement of Windows 10, companies are planning to adopt the current branch of ConfigMgr much faster than they have historically. Even with more than half of surveyed companies planning to upgrade, there are still barriers which are holding some companies back from moving to the latest release of the platform.  The biggest barriers for these companies include: time, product maturity, and infrastructure readiness. 

Microsoft has provided a solution to combat the time and infrastructure readiness barriers by introducing a new in-place upgrade path.  The ConfigMgr in-place upgrade allows companies to upgrade their existing ConfigMgr 2012 instance to the current branch release of ConfigMgr.  This is the first release from Microsoft which supports this upgrade path.  The new upgrade path provides companies with a choice: upgrade the current instance or create a new instance for the current branch of ConfigMgr. 

Which route should a company take when planning to move to the current branch of ConfigMgr?  Upgrade or migrate? 

Before a company can decide on which path to take, upgrade or migrate, the company should identify if they are able to move to the current branch of ConfigMgr. 

Many companies use third party software products to complement their ConfigMgr environment.  This may be a self-service enterprise app store like App Portal, an IT asset management solution like FlexNet Manager Suite, a Windows 10 compatibility solution like AdminStudio Suite, or even a infrastructure replacement framework like Adaptiva’s OneSite.  Each system which connects to ConfigMgr, or that ConfigMgr connects to, needs to be evaluated to ensure that it supports the current branch of ConfigMgr. 

Before deciding which path to take, there are a number of considerations which a company should review in order to ensure that they are making the correct choice for the company.  One of the first questions most administrators ask when evaluating whether or not they are ready to upgrade to the current branch of ConfigMgr is to identify which versions of ConfigMgr are eligible for the upgrade process.  Microsoft supports the following upgrade paths for ConfigMgr:

  • System Center 2012 Configuration Manager with Service Pack 1
  • System Center 2012 Configuration Manager with Service Pack 2
  • System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager
  • System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager with Service Pack 1
  • Evaluation copy of System Center Configuration Manager (Current Branch)
  • Release candidate of System Center Configuration Manager (Current Branch)

Note: Upgrading from a technical preview of System Center Configuration Manager (Current Branch) is not supported.

Another important item to review when choosing whether to upgrade or to migrate is to evaluate the operating systems for each site server in the ConfigMgr 2012 environment.  This is important because the current branch of ConfigMgr cannot be installed on a Windows Server 2008 system.  Windows Server 2008 is a supported operating system for ConfigMgr 2012, but is not a supported operating system for the current branch of ConfigMgr.

When evaluating which path to take, be sure to answer the following questions:

Does the current ConfigMgr environment meet the version standards for the upgrade?

If your current ConfigMgr environment does not meet the version standards then you have two choices: update the current ConfigMgr environment to a supported version or perform a migration instead of an upgrade. If a company is able to upgrade to a supported version, upgrading would be the easiest choice.  Standing up additional hardware is time consuming, and there is often additional cost associated with it.  If the only roadblock to upgrade to the current branch of ConfigMgr is to upgrade the existing environment to a supportable version, then the choice is clear.  However, if there are other factors impacting the decision to upgrade or migrate to the current branch of ConfigMgr, then the choice may be to migrate rather than upgrade.

Are the operating systems of each site server compatible with the current branch of ConfigMgr?

The current branch of ConfigMgr no longer supports Microsoft Windows Server 2008.  Companies that find a large portion, or critical portion, of their current ConfigMgr environment running on Windows Server 2008 are more suited to take the migration path rather than attempt an upgrade.  While it may be possible to decommission site servers and replace them with site servers which have a supported operating system version, which would likely require additional hardware, it is a shell game that can be avoided completely by migrating.

Will the current hardware support the new ConfigMgr for at least three, preferably five, years?

Capacity planning is an important consideration when deciding whether to upgrade or migrate.  After reviewing Microsoft’s planning guidelines, the administrator should evaluate the current ConfigMgr environment and determine whether or not that environment will be able to support the current branch of ConfigMgr for at least three years, though five years is preferable.

Do You Want to eliminate the Central Administration Site (“CAS”) from Your ConfigMgr 2012 environment?

ConfigMgr 2012 introduced the Central Administration Site (“CAS”).  Many companies chose to upgrade to ConfigMgr 2012 with a CAS as part of the environment.  Some of these companies came to realize that the CAS was not needed for their implementation, and now are supporting an additional site server.  Moving to the current branch of ConfigMgr gives companies the chance to eliminate the CAS, and implement a smaller ConfigMgr environment.  The migration process allows for companies to eliminate the CAS from their ConfigMgr 2012 environment, which allows them to reduce the number of site servers which the company is supporting.

Is there a requirement for increased risk mitigation associated with system upgrades?

Companies from certain business sectors, such as the financial, medical, and defense sectors, tend to be more risk adverse than other business sectors.  A company may have guidelines and practices which reinforce a migration as a lower risk option than performing an in-place upgrade.  Certainly if the company is risk adverse, then the ConfigMgr migration option is a more fitting choice for the company.

Making the right choice

After reviewing the considerations above, your path to the current branch of ConfigMgr should be clearer.  In the next blog post we will look at the additional considerations for your selected a path, whether upgrading or migrating to the current branch of ConfigMgr. 

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