Microsoft Releases Windows Intune, Outlines MDOP Plans

Microsoft announced the release of Windows Intune on Wednesday during its Microsoft Management Summit, taking place this week in Las Vegas.

This final release-to-Web (RTW) version of the PC management and security service, which was previously available in test versions, is available for purchase in 35 countries. Companies can buy Windows Intune through a monthly subscription at $11 per user per month. A free 30-day trial is also available. More information on subscription purchasing or the service trial is here.

Windows Intune was tested by businesses of all sizes, according to an announcement by Gavriella Schuster, in a Microsoft blog. The solution had initially been targeted toward small to medium organizations. However, Schuster said in the blog post that enterprises have used the service to provide support for their sporadically connected users.

Windows Intune users get access to Windows 7 Enterprise edition, plus dashboard-like management tools accessible through a browser. Windows Intune also includes security based on Microsoft Forefront endpoint protection technology.

As described earlier, Microsoft is offering volume discounts for implementations of 250 seats or more, as well as discounts to Software Assurance customers. Windows Intune allows upgrade rights to future Windows releases throughout the subscription period. In addition to supporting Windows 7, the service is capable of providing management capabilities for organizations running the Enterprise, Ultimate and Business editions of Windows Vista, plus Windows XP Professional.

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) capabilities are available for $1 per seat per month on top of the Windows Intune subscription price. It's a perk usually reserved for organizations that have secured enterprise agreements with Microsoft.

Microsoft announced MDOP 2011 earlier this month, which is a suite of six software tools for IT pros. MDOP 2011 contains an updated application virtualization tool (App-V 4.6 Service Pack 1), along with an updated desktop virtualization solution (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization 2.0).

Microsoft's other news from the event includes plans for two new updates to the next version of MDOP. The new MDOP release is expected to be available in the third quarter of this year.

A beta of one of those new MDOP tools was released on Wednesday. Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring, or "MBAM," is a new Windows 7 client tool designed to help IT pros more easily provision and deploy BitLocker security on portable device drives. The BitLocker data recovery process is streamlined with the use of this tool, according to Microsoft. The beta can be accessed at the Microsoft Connect portal here (requires Windows Live ID).

The other addition to MDOP, expected in early April, will be an update to the existing Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). This update will enable DaRT to be used in a remote session to fix a problem with a device user. DaRT will also be bootable via a USB memory stick. A sign-up for the beta can be accessed at Microsoft Connect here.

Windows Intune Benefits
Microsoft is claiming cost savings for organizations that use the Windows Intune service. The savings are based on productivity improvements for workers and reduced IT labor costs. Those arguments can be found in a 13-page Microsoft-sponsored whitepaper, "A First Look at How Windows Intune Can Lower Costs and Raise Productivity" (PDF download), produced by research firm IDC.

IDC also produced a whitepaper for Microsoft on the reasons why Microsoft's partners might want to use Windows Intune for their customers. The 17-page whitepaper, "The Windows Intune Partner Opportunity: A Blueprint for Success," reflects the views of partners that had "a positive attitude toward Windows Intune," according to the executive summary of the paper.

Don Retallack, an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft consultancy, said that he has heard "very positive" reviews of Windows Intune so far. He noted Windows Intune is based on Windows Update, not Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud platform. Still, it launches users into the cloud space.

"They [Microsoft] said they had some very large customers using it in large-scale deployments, but they see it really as a way to use cloud features," he said in a phone interview. "They see that as a way to move to cloud-based management and security and complement that with on-premises management, and then security centered on the Forefront products."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.