Visit to UTC for SCCM Overview

One of the major projects on my plate right now is the design and implementation of System Center Configuration Manager. We’ll be piloting it on campus first, with the goal of eventually extending its use to manage computers and devices at all of our locations across Tennessee. Given that we have offices in all 95 counties, 3 regional offices, 10 research centers, and a large presence on the Knoxville campus of the University of Tennessee, this system will be critically important to improving how we manage our IT infrastructure across the state.

I met with some colleagues from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga at TechEd this year, and had a brief discussion over dinner and cider of their SCCM implementation. So I knew I wanted my team to meet with them before we start scoping and planning this project. We rented a van from the UT motor pool and headed to Chattanooga Wednesday morning. In addition to myself, along for the ride were our security analyst, 2 IT professionals from our College of Veterinary Medicine, and a colleague from the College of Education who is planning on standing up his own SCCM system for his department.

Project Plans, Personnel, and Timetables – Oh My!

We met with the two systems folks running UTC’s SCCM system, including the guy who pushed for the project and got the support for it from their CIO. It was impressive to see that they went from conceiving the project in January of 2014 to its initial deployment in their computer labs in March and April, and that included bringing Microsoft in via a Premier engagement to both scope the system and come onsite for a 3 day jumpstart. The UTC folks brought Microsoft onsite twice, in fact – for 3 days to help build the system and do a tiny bit of focused training, and after 6 months had passed, for 3 days to help review the progress the UTC folks had made and verify that they had built the system out according to established best practices.

It was also interesting to find out that while UTC built their SCCM system within the existing statewide Tennessee Active Directory, where each campus has its own child domain, they have decided to stand up their own separate AD forest and migrate the system and computers over to it. We don’t even have our own child domain at this point, but have considered setting one up. Seeing the benefits and flexibility having their own forest will provide to UTC, it’s something we have to keep in mind moving forward.

Another valuable data point we gathered was the number of folks working on the SCCM system at UTC. They have two admins of the system, although one noted that his duties, primarily application packaging at this point, accounted for about 50% of this time. The other admin noted SCCM took significantly more than 50% of his time, but as the system is beginning to mature, and as he is able to delegate permissions within the system to departmental IT professionals, he anticipates that percentage to decrease.  That was both good to hear and a little scary, because I’m the only dedicated infrastructure person on my team, so I’ll be bearing most of the high level duties for the system myself, and delegating administration of unit-specific functionality to others.

So Much Left to Learn

We had a great meeting with our UTC colleagues, wrapped up with lunch at a great Chattanooga restaurant called Universal Joint that I reviewed on Geek Food Critic. I’m still digesting much of what we discussed, and am more excited than ever to setup a proof-of-concept system. I’m also beginning to work through SCCM self-paced training at Microsoft Virtual Academy, as well as Pluralsight. I’m also on the lookout for good blogs and even in-person training, so if you can suggest any, please reach out to me over twitter at @mikestanley.

This is post 21 in the #NaBloWriMo #vDM30in30 30 Day Blog Challenge

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