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Consider an IT admin's headaches as they think about the month ahead. How are they going to manage bandwidth at multiple sites, where thousands of endpoints will pull this month's Microsoft content simultaneously? Some sites have limited bandwidth, maybe even a T1 connection, and managing these deployments can be difficult.
Existing solution: Delivery Optimization
Microsoft's existing Delivery Optimization capabilities in Windows 10 and Windows 11 are used by admins around the globe to offset some of the bandwidth burden caused by downloads of Microsoft content from the cloud. Though it's peer-to-peer capabilities, Windows updates, Microsoft Store apps, and Microsoft 365 Apps updates take up less bandwidth. Delivery Optimization enables organizations to leverage their devices as local distribution points, thus increasing local capacity via fast local area networks (LANs). Delivery Optimization pulls from multiple sources in parallel (HTTP and peer-to-peer), meaning each of your devices contributes a small portion of content. This means that there's no impact to the device owner – they can still use the device for their day-to-day work as normal.
Microsoft Connected Cache adds more bandwidth efficiencies
Despite the benefits of Delivery Optimization, organizations tell us there are still some scenarios where using a peer-to-peer based approach by itself isn't sufficient:
- Sites with low bandwidth need a better overall bandwidth reduction guarantee.
- Sites (especially in academia) may have too few devices for efficient peer-to-peer distribution.
- Sites using an all-VPN Wi-Fi network cannot use a peer-to-peer approach at all.
We built Microsoft Connected Cache to address these challenges. We have been refining the solution in preview since Configuration Manager, version 1906, and are proud to announce today that Microsoft Connected Cache is generally available, starting with Configuration Manager, version 2111.
Microsoft Connected Cache is a dedicated caching solution that complements Delivery Optimization's capabilities, providing organizations with a comprehensive approach to minimize internet bandwidth consumption for diverse networks. Nearly 1,000 organizations around the world have already installed Microsoft Connected Cache, with over a million devices downloading content from a cache server installed on their distribution points. Using Delivery Optimization and Microsoft Connected Cache together, some organizations are seeing 98% of content downloads coming from either Connected Cache or peering.
With Microsoft Connected Cache, cloud content that would have been repeatedly downloaded by each client is downloaded the first time a client requests it. All subsequent requests for that content come from the cache. This content includes anything downloaded using Delivery Optimization: Windows Updates, Microsoft Store apps, Microsoft 365 Apps, Intune applications, and more. When you enable Microsoft Connected Cache and enable clients to download from it, Configuration Manager “stamps” the Delivery Optimization client Cache Server Hostname setting with one or more hostnames of the distribution point(s) for the device. As a device roams from site to site, it pulls content from an available Microsoft Connected Cache.
Start using Microsoft Connected Cache in Configuration Manager today
It's quite simple to add Microsoft Connected Cache to your distribution points. With just a few clicks, devices managed by Configuration Manager will automatically begin downloading cloud content from Microsoft Connected Cache on a distribution point, along with any other content. The steps are:
- In the properties dialog, enable the distribution point to be used as a Microsoft Connected Cache server.
- In Delivery Optimization Settings, enable devices managed by Configuration Manager to use Microsoft Connected Cache for cloud content downloads.
Frequently asked questions
With all the interest in Microsoft Connected Cache, we've pulled together answers to some of the most common questions:
Are there any prerequisites for using Microsoft Connected Cache in Configuration Manager?
You need one of the following license subscriptions for each device that gets content from a Connected Cache-enabled distribution point:
- Windows Enterprise E3 or E5, included in Microsoft 365 F3, E3, or E5
- Windows Education A3 or A5, included in Microsoft 365 A3 or A5
- Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) E3 or E5
Will Microsoft Connected Cache support my cloud-managed devices?
Absolutely! If the device can communicate with the server, the cache is available to deliver content to cloud-managed devices. To configure the device to use the Microsoft Connected Cache, configure the DOCacheHost policy. Set it to the FQDN or IP address of the Configuration Manager distribution point. More information can be found in the Configuration Manager documentation.
Can Microsoft Connected Cache work with Autopilot?
Yes. Devices will need to be configured to pull content from Microsoft Connected Cache before devices are configured by an MDM. During the preview, organizations have used the Delivery Optimization Cache Server Hostname Source feature. Organizations configured Delivery Optimization as part of WinPE to automatically pull content from Connected Cache before the Autopilot process begins.
Does Microsoft Connected Cache support proxies?
Microsoft Connected Cache supports unauthenticated proxies. For more information, see Configure the proxy for a site system server.
What's the difference between Microsoft Connected Cache and Branch Cache for Configuration Manager?
Microsoft Connected Cache caches content on-demand based on what clients need to download at the byte range level. Branch Cache is a peer-to-peer distribution solution that can be used for Configuration Manager-managed content. It can be used in parallel to Microsoft Connected Cache and Delivery Optimization.
Let us know what you think!
The generally available version of Microsoft Connected Cache is included with Configuration Manager, version 2111. To learn how to start using Microsoft Connected Cache, see our Microsoft Connected Cache in Configuration Manager documentation.
You can let us know about your experiences using Microsoft Connected Cache for Microsoft Endpoint Manager Configuration Manager through comments on this blog post. You can also tweet your feedback using the hashtag #MEMpowered. Keep up with ongoing developments on Endpoint Manager by following the Microsoft Endpoint Manager Blog and @MSIntune on Twitter.