CeBIT kicked off in Hannover, Germany this week and Microsoft COO Kevin Turner keynoted — addressing how the Metro UI and other features, such as Windows To Go, will aid IT in dealing with prosumers who insist on bringing their own hardware and software to work.
The phenomenon he says Microsoft is keen on addressing is the consumerization of IT, better known as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).
Yet Turner was oddly silent on specifics of Windows 8 Server, Windows 8 Consumer Preview for Business or other terms found in its documents online or even inside the registry of its beta. It was strange and here’s why.
Microsoft on Feb. 29 launched Windows 8 Consumer Preview at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. It was pretty much a rehash of every demo Microsoft has done of it before. Yet we knew there was more to the story. As we reported hours before Windows chief Steve Sinofsky hit the Barcelona stage, we discovered and analyzed for you as yet unrevealed enterprise features of what appeared to be a server-side version of the product.
At the announcement at MWC 2012, the Windows chief waited until the final five minutes before mentioning enterprise, saying MS would reveal more details at CeBIT.
Not that much more was revealed, verbally anyway. Microsoft’s documents, easily accessible online via the PDF we discovered, goes into real detail about how managers can secure and manage remote systems and personal hardware and software services.
At CeBIT, Turner never even referred to an enterprise, business or server version of the product, even though the PDF Product Guide for this is online — and some documents it links to specifically mention a product called Windows 8 Server. Even weirder, as Mashable has reported, and we have confirmed, there are at least four other enterprise products mentioned in the registry of the current Windows 8 Consumer Preview beta. Those include Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise Eval, Windows Professional Plus and other names it is probably testing.
Or perhaps it will be like Windows 7, which it sells in no fewer than six separate packages. Apple execs have poked fun at Microsoft for this, because it belies the “one OS on all devices” mantra the Redmond giant has been chanting of late.
As for listing features that will help IT deal with employees bringing personal devices and services to work, this is a big development in this OS version — but Microsoft said it wouldn’t talk about it till CEBIT 2012, which runs March 6-9.
Microsoft COO, Kevin Turner is a former Walmart CIO, according to his bio — and he directly emphasized the issues all enterprises now face as tech-crazy power users force personal devices and services under IT’s nose. To IT, the security problems with this are myriad. That’s why the specs in the documents Microsoft has quietly released — but isn’t talking to much if at all — are so important. These are management and security specs such as HyperV integration, the Powershell integrating scripting environment, support for CSS3 and SVG, support in Internet Explore 10 for legacy Active X controls and so on.
“Think of the next release of our operating system,” Turner said on stage to the CeBIT audience. “I want you to think about an operating system with no compromise … CIOs are always asked about trade-offs and compromises. Should I have security or should I allow people to bring in what device they want to at work?”
At the demo he showed IE 10 would support legacy Active X controls, a photo-based password feature, and the new Windows to Go.
So in case you’re under the impression not much is going on with the enterprise side of Windows 8, here’s a refresher of what Microsoft promises in its docs online:
This allows field users of enterprise Windows 8 to connect with their corporate network shares without having to use a third party VPN package. DirectAccess basically searches for the user’s device over the web, unlike a VPN that requires the user to initiate a connection to the corporate network.
Seamless Integration With Windows 7
With Windows 8, enterprise can easily integrate with their current Windows 7 infrastructure. This allows for distributing security measures and group policies inside Active Directory services. All client computers on the network can have all the network’s security measures pushed to them easily.
Windows To Go
This lets IT easily install and configure Windows 8 onto a bootable USB thumb drive, so remote and field-user bases have a seamless Windows 8 experience on any computing device. It also allows for all corporate security measures and shares to be readily available. This is easily used with any Windows 7 computer. With BitLocker the USB is secured against data theft. So if the drive is stolen, the data isn’t easily be compromised.
HyperV is the Windows 8 built-in virtual machine software. IT can use this package to create and manage virtual servers. This cuts costs by limiting the amount of hardware purchased for new servers. Potentially taking some of the market share from competitor, VMware.
Windows 8 will thrill IT professionals with their security features if delivered as described in the documents we saw and shared with you on Feb. 29 and today. This includes the previously mentioned BitLocker and also AppLocker. BitLocker runs at boot-level, scanning the applicable drives for rootkits and malware. Some malware hides in boot-level and will bypass anti-malware software. BitLocker screens and combat such attacks.
AppLocker works with Active Directory to help prevent less-privileged users from running applications within the network that may contain sensitive data sets. In short, IT professionals will be able to give permissions to what application a user can or cannot run.
With that said, the only notable or deep mention to any of the above in the keynote, excepting passing references like “virtualization,” was the continual mentions of the new OS’ seamless integration with current Windows 7 infrastructure. The features above, clearly documented online by Microsoft, will be tremendous help to IT professionals in enterprise, yet Turner only hints at them at the keynote. What is going on here?
Who are we, Columbo? Not everyone combs the net for bits and pieces of what Microsoft didn’t say.
The focus of the keynote today was a rundown of how smooth and fluid the Metro UI is and how the future of enterprise hangs on users being more mobile and supporting personal devices over the network via a single UI. The trade winds are blowing in this new movement of consumerization.
And Microsoft — on paper, anyway — offers a solution to easily integrate security measures on all connected devices. That’s true whether it’s a corporate-issued computer with the OS installed by the IT department or a personal computer running the secure Windows to Go USB drive.
Turner, while he didn’t give the farm away, gave a great deal of perspective on why Microsoft is doing this. But he didn’t say what “this” is.
It’s fair to say that Apple and other companies will have to pry enterprise out of its hands. So maybe that’s why he’s keeping his cards so close to the vest. Or maybe he doesn’t read aNewDomain.net, Tech Republic and other publications that have reported the story about Microsoft 8 Consumer Preview for Business.
IT as “the gatekeeper of devices is .. shifting,” he said. “The CIO has never had a greater opportunity to embrace these trends, to get in from front of the trend.” He’s right that more and more people work at home — and as they become ever more facile consumers of technology, there is no turning back. He is preaching to the choir.