Microsoft Windows Intune Setup: One Hour Or Less?

Microsoft is demonstrating a one-hour Windows Intune setup to today, showing partners how to use the cloud-based service for PC management and mobile device management (MDM) for iOS and Android. The demo, taking place now at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012 (WPC12), involved linking Windows Intune's cloud service to on-premises Active Directory, Apple iPad and more. Here's a recap and reality check.

Windows Intune Product Manager Aileen Hannah and a peer (Rick?) are managing the demo. (I will check names/titles later, since the info was displayed for only a few sections on-screen.)

Windows Intune Market Positioning

Windows Intune, in some ways, competes with RMM (remote monitoring and management) software platforms that are widely deployed by MSPs (examples: Continuum, GFI Max, Kaseya, LabTech Software, Level Platforms, N-able Technologies, PackatTrap MSP...).

Windows Intune has received mixed feedback from partners, MSPmentor believes.
  • On the upside, Windows Intune has been a reliable cloud service that helps MSPs to remotely managed Windows-based PCs. And more recently, Windows Intune expanded to support Apple iOS (iPad and iPhone) and Google Android smartphone and tablet MDM support. It also includes an upgrade license to Windows 7 enterprise, with a similar Windows 8 offer coming in October 2012.
  • On the downside, Windows Intune doesn't support Mac OS, Linux, servers, etc. It's still heavily Windows-centric in the desktop world. Plus, partners essentially need to commit to a full-year of Windows Intune use rather than a month-to-month engagement during the first year. And some partners don't know how to price and profit from Windows Intune, which costs about $11 per desktop per month.

What Is Windows Intune?

Hannah told attendees that Windows Intune helps partners to:
  • Promptly secure and manage PCs anywhere
  • Offer controlled flexibility of mobile devices
  • Drive efficiency and reduce complexity
Or more specifically:
  • Endpoint protection from malware (i.e., PC software security)
  • Manage patch management updates
  • Electronic software distribution
  • Proactive monitoring and alerts
  • Remote assistance
  • Inventory of hardware and software
  • Monitor and track software licenses
  • Set security policies
About 23 minutes into the demo Microsoft confirmed:
  • Windows Intune synchronized with Active Directory.
  • An Adobe Reader upload, with a managed deployment to follow.
  • Configured a default mobile device policy -- including password, encryption, download attachment and device camera policies. Users have to agree to your policy before they are permitted to connect an Exchange environment.
At the half-hour point, Microsoft described how Windows Intune can download information from the cloud and deploy it on a single PC, and then have agents that repeat the process locally from the updated PC to sister PCs -- thereby reducing bandwidth needs out to the cloud.

Windows Intune and MSPs

Chris Hertz from New Signature, an MSP, said Windows Intune allowed the company to increase managed services margins by 25 percent, and increase end-user satisfaction by 15 percent. The shift to Windows Intune also allowed New Signature to shift customer licenses from XP, Vista and other Windows variants to standard Windows 7 environments.

For Hertz, Windows Intune is all about driving margins higher and adding net new customers. To win deals, New Signature drops a Windows Intune deployment into a customer environment, discovers the PC environment, and then makes recommendations based on the discovered information.

Up now is Rory McCaw from Infront Consulting Group, a global systems integrator in Toronto. The company has historically used Microsoft System Center for large enterprise IT management products. But a European customer faced bureaucratic challenges with its IT management efforts. Hence, Infront recommended Windows Intune. The solution addressed update management, endpoint protection, policy and software distribution.

Missing from the presentations so far:
  • Are the channel partners and customers using additional remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools?
  • How do partners and customers manage Mac OS X and Linux desktop environments?
  • Any plans for additional MDM platforms like BlackBerry? (Level Platforms, in particular, is known to be focused aggressively on all four of the major mobile environments -- BlackBerry, Windows, iOS and Android).
  • (UPDATE ON ITEMS ABOVE: I spoke with Chris Hertz from New Signature post-presentation. His company is not using any other RMM tools and considers Macs more consumer-oriented outside of his MSP monthly fees. He doesn't see any Linux desktops in his customer environments.)
At the 54 minute mark, Microsoft is now showing a Windows Intune admin console and setting up groups from the on-premise Active Directory to Windows Intune itself.

At the end of the presentation, Microsoft showed some revenue and MDM statistics to demonstrate the partner opportunity ahead. I took some photos of the math and will be back with a separate blog later.
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