Lately I have been busy a lot with Windows Intune as some of you might have noticed. I’ve presented on the topic, did some livemeetings and blogged about it.
But I’ve spent also a lot of time in discussing the Windows Intune story to other people. And these discussions go around the technical side of the story, the current features and (possible) upcoming features of the product, the business and opportunities, the future of the product and whether this will still exist in 10 years…
I will describe a few of my thoughts and discussions here, but it remains (of course) my opinion. If you don’t agree, feel free to comment
IT Professional side of the story
These discussions are mostly held with IT Professionals. Oneliners such as: “We have no more control” “There is no more security” “I will lose my job” and “I will be back at the helpdesk” are thrown at me a lot of times. Considering that I am not a Microsoft employee, I sometimes wonder how much of these oneliners are thrown to Microsoft employees [:)]
Let me try to clarify a few of these oneliners.
We have no more control
No, this is not true… If you have ever looked at Windows Intune, you will see that the configuration of the service remain in your hands. By using the Microsoft Policy Platform you will stay as an administrator in control on what will happen on your users desktops or laptops. Can you control everything? No, not at this moment, but what ain’t will probably come. I don’t see this also as a reason to say that you don’t have control over the software. Or can you call one application that delivers management that is fully controlable, every detail, every parameter? It is true that some of these applications (such as SCCM or SCOM) deliver you a bit more control over the behaviour of the clients and the workflows / policies that you can enter, but again, this is version 1, and what isn’t now, will probably come.
At this moment, most IT pro’s change the discussion to: “What I mean is that we don’t have control over the server side of the service”
Answer to that: True, with Windows Intune, you don’t need to purchase hardware, buy OS licenses (or allocate them), buy the software, install the server(s) (whether virtual or physical). You also don’t need to secure it with accounts, security groups, GPO’s. Nor do you need to assess that security every now and then. You don’t have to care about it being 24/7 up with an SLA of 99.9999% or create a disaster recovery plan for it. You also don’t need to place a server in a DMZ so that your clients that are abroad, in a hotel or just at home are also managed. And last but not least, you don’t need to calculate how many servers you will need to manage your entire environment, and when you need additional ones when the company grows.
Wait a minute? Isn’t that the fun part of the job? Isn’t that exactly what we are paid for? Well, I hope not… I hope that your assignment is to manage your users workplaces (desktop / laptop) and that designing, architecting, maintaining and fixing the servers that support that specific assignment is just a waste of your time so that there is less time for helping your users
Whenever I say something like this, I always feel that I just showed a red flag to a bull… And yet, that is exactly what the business expect from us and we should try to spend as much time as possible in doing exactly that. So let’s make a shift in our mind here, and start doing exactly what we are supposed to do, without the additional work that normally comes with it.
There is no more security
This one is actually funny… Yes your data is in the cloud, but Intune is specifically built so that it is impossible that your data will be seen by somebody else. Nor will the data monitored by Microsoft or any other company. And for the security adepts among us, here is a listing of the security measurements: (taken from the Windows Intune FAQ)
- Secure Internet protocols such as Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) to secure access to the service and clients.
- Redundant servers and geographically dispersed facilities to help ensure that your online services are available when you need them.
- A backup data center on the other side of the country that we can switch to in the event of a disaster.
- High-availability architecture that provides uninterrupted service even in the event of hardware failure on one of our servers.
- Management by a rigorously screened and highly trained staff.
- Encrypted data channels that protect all communications between the client and the data center.
- Administrator access to the administrative console that requires authentication of authorized administrators you have assigned to your account. Authentication is done through the Windows Live ID service.
- The Microsoft Online Services guarantee: a service level agreement of 99.9 percent uptime.
- Current status on the service health is available at http://status.manage.microsoft.com/Statuspage/servicedashboard.aspx
Most of the companies don’t even have that kind of security for their most critical business services.
But, I’m not a security expert. I specialize in Management (backup, monitoring, deployment…) but not in Security. But I do know that if a bank would say that this is all the security measures they are taking for their online banking, that we are happy with it… But for managing our desktops and laptops… [;)]
I will lose my job
No, no and again no, or wait, maybe yes… At this moment, many of the people that say this are saying it because at this moment, they are implementing server solutions with customers or they are responsible for installing servers within their company. Will they lose their job? No! Will they lose that specific jobfunction? Probably yes. But that doesn’t mean that they will be out of a job, or that we will need less IT people the next I don’t know how many years… But we will need to refocus our job content. People that now implement servers and software will transfer to implementing solutions, based on the customers need and wishes (internal and/or external customers). Cloud services, such as Intune will assist us in implementing a service, a solution for the customer without all the installation work. So there will be much more time and money for actually implementing it as the customer wants. Or for educating the customer. Or for thinking about their management strategy. Or for… (fill in further [:D])
I will be back at the helpdesk
First… Why is that bad? Second, a helpdesk is not a call-center alone (as some of us seem to think…) And third, helpdesks, service desks will also evolve in this model, and will turn into real NoC’s with pro-active monitoring, baselining and so on… So for me personally, this is not an argument. (Even if helpdesks won’t change it is not an argument. Nothing wrong with a job on a helpdesk. If you are good, your users will be very thankfull)
My conclusion on the IT Professional side…
I think that many of these arguments are just some reasons to hide the one big thing that many of us are scared of… change. And change can be scary, but I see this change as a big opportunity to go with IT to the next level, and that is really becoming an asset for the business.
Windows Intune is the death of the Microsoft Partner…
We can’t sell SCCM or SCOM implementations anymore to our customers. It is all in the cloud and the setup is so easy that the customer doesn’t need us anymore. We won’t be profitable anymore.
Yes, maybe true… But, let us be honest here for a second… Not every customer will go to the cloud at once, and offering the cloud to your customers will give you potential new customers / leads and potential other projects.
Don’t forget that windows Intune comes with a free upgrade subscription to the latest OS (at this time, windows 7). That means that there are possible services to sell such as upgrade tracks, bitlocker, MDOP projects (which can be bought as an extension to an intune subscription for a pretty cheap price) and so on. Or what about I wrote in my previous blog (http://scug.be/blogs/intune/archive/2011/05/05/intune-for-service-providers.aspx). There is also business to be found.
Business Opportunities conclusion
I can think off a dozen of new opportunities with Windows Intune alone (and then I don’t talk about the other cloud offerings…) but it will need a change of working for the partners. A change of mind aswel. Not only IT Pro’s will need to change the way they work, the business will need to adapt its model aswel.
Current and Upcoming features
Ah, here is my Achilles. The other solutions have much more features and possibilities then Windows Intune. True, can’t deny that, can’t argue that. For now. Because if you think of it, with a cloud-model such as Windows Intune, they can add new features and enhancements every 6 months. The next version will probably be out around September 2011. Will it have software distribution (the number 1 missing feature that they throw at me). Probably yes (according to the rumours)
I strongly believe that it will have as much features as the on-premises solutions very soon, and that newer features will be in the cloud first, before they come to the on-premise side. Oh yeah, and which company has the new version or the new features of a management solution the week after release?
Is this another hype, and will it be dead in a few years… or is something that will stay for a long time. I think it will. I strongly believe that common infrastructure services such as management will move to the cloud. The focus for managing your desktops and laptops (and with that I mean the entire management lifecycle) is seen as an overhead by many companies and therefore the cloud will be a good solution to make sure that no time is lost and that the people that need to do the management can actually do that management, without the need to worry about server infrastructure and stuff.
Will everything go to the cloud? Probably not, at least not yet soon. Many management aspects will remain on-premise for a while. For how long, I can’t say.
Is Intune a threat for your environment? No, if you are willing to change, it will give you opportunities and gain you business (as a partner), time (as a user) and a better service (as a partner AND as a user)
Is it ready for every business at this moment? No, some companies will need features or possibilities that Windows Intune can’t deliver at this moment. It will come, so keep an eye on it.
Is everybody wrong and am I right? No, certainly not. I just wanted to give my opinion and my thoughts that I use during such a discussions. But that doesn’t mean that my opinion / believes / thoughts fits your business. You will have to figure that one out for yourself [;)]
Will the IT world be changed because of solutions such as Windows Intune? Yes it will, and therefore a mind change for many will be necessary.
I hope these arguments can help you in thinking about this model. After all, it has started, and there is no way back [:D]
Feel free to comment