As experts in content distribution for Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (known as ConfigMgr or SCCM), we at 1E occasionally get questions about whether including Microsoft’s BranchCache technology will provide the benefits to enable a reduction in the server infrastructure required for an enterprise design. We’re passionate about everything related to content distribution and so one of my colleagues, Paul Thomsen, recently updated our in-depth analysis of BranchCache and its use with ConfigMgr. I’m pleased to share the results of that analysis with you in our latest whitepaper.
BranchCache may seem similar to the Nomad product that I am responsible for but when you look more closely you will find that the two technologies vary significantly. To get the best value from your SCCM infrastructure, Nomad is the clear choice. While BranchCache was designed to make end-user web browsing more efficient, computer management has a very different set of requirements. This specific set of requirements is exactly how Nomad was designed from the start and is its focus.
The key reasons that BranchCache is not suitable for ConfigMgr content distribution are that it:
- Uses Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), which has poor WAN bandwidth throttling, which is one of the key problems that most ConfigMgr using organizations struggle with. BITS throttles based on worst-case pre-configurations that you set and bases its throttling on what it sees at the client NIC and first router. Activity at higher hops is not accounted for, leading to network congestion at those higher levels of the network
- Has very limited operating system deployment (OSD) support. BranchCache cannot be used in WinPE, and it offers no solution to the need for supporting PXE boot methods or state migration servers
- Has no centralized status reporting. You cannot readily verify or demonstrate that it is working as intended, nor can you find problems in order to correct them
- Caches content only for 28 days, though much of your ConfigMgr content will be needed for long after that, such as for OSD, patching new computers, or providing software to users as they change roles
- Is not enabled by default to run on computers running on battery power. The significant number of your computers are probably laptops, and most of the time when they’re available on your corporate network they may be in meetings or other scenarios where they’re running on batteries
- Has no options to control the selection of the best (and never inappropriate) computers to serve content to peers.
The whitepaper goes into detail on these points followed by an examination of why the expectation that BranchCache could be appropriate for ConfigMgr content distribution should be questioned and needs to be compared to alternatives before deploying in your organization. The final sections of this document review how BranchCache works, how it has changed over the years, and where to learn more.
We are excited to share our new whitepaper and welcome your feedback. You can get it at our resource center by clicking here. If you would like to discuss BranchCache or other content distribution topics in even more detail, please contact us at 1E.
Lee Gallington | Product Manager