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How to Deliver a Unified Mobile Device Management Solution with Windows Intune

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This appendix from System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager Unleashed: Supplement to System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (SCCM) Unleashed explains the genesis of Windows Intune, its history, licensing, and architecture for integrating with System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager to deliver a unified mobile device management solution.
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By now, you may have heard the terms consumerization of Information Technology (IT) and bring your own device (BYOD, which is where devices are purchased by users and used at work) and understand that there are productivity benefits to supporting this new style of work. The IT department has to manage those devices, almost all of which are mobile devices, in a way that still meets IT security and compliance requirements. This appendix explains the genesis of Windows Intune, its history, licensing, and architecture for integrating with System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager to deliver a unified mobile device management solution.

Introduction to Windows Intune

Consumerization of IT makes it necessary to incorporate user and mobile device management as part of the IT experience, something with which Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) and Systems Management Server (SMS) have historically struggled. Users have an unprecedented amount of consumer devices at home, which leads to higher expectations of technology usage at work. This increased pressure on IT to allow these devices to access corporate apps and data, and forced them to purchase multiple products to manage and secure them as ConfigMgr 2007/2012 lacked the functionality. However, it wasn’t enough to add mobile device support in Configuration Manager (remember ConfigMgr already supported legacy devices such as Windows Mobile and Exchange ActiveSync devices with the Exchange connector). Microsoft also needed new agility to react quickly to industry trends and new mobile device features that enter the market. This is where Windows Intune comes in.

Intune Comes Into Focus

What exactly is Intune? Windows Intune, billed as Microsoft’s first cloud-based PC management solution, released to market in April 2011. In seeing that Configuration Manager was not penetrating the SMB (small medium business) market as well as it would have liked, Microsoft was interested in offering an alternative lightweight solution for customers. Data from that market segment showed customers were concerned with the amount of infrastructure needed to support ConfigMgr and the steep learning curve associated with the product. Their preference was PC management functionality delivered via the cloud. Through Intune and the licensing for Windows Client Software Assurance (SA), Microsoft offered SMB customers a current desktop experience (Windows 7) and the ability to manage their PCs from the cloud. This became the basis for the initial vision of Intune for customers:

  • Stay current: Upgrade rights to Windows 7
  • Easy to use: Cloud-based infrastructure and fast deployment
  • Smart parity: Deliver core management features not duplicating ConfigMgr
  • Rapid release: Deliver new features and updates every 6 months

After the product’s second release in October 2011, Microsoft saw opportunities emerging for adoption by larger customer installations. While the SMB market adopted Intune well, other customer segments representing larger customers were just starting their evaluations. Intune had technical limitations that posed challenges for larger enterprise customers, as it leveraged Windows Live IDs for administrative accounts, which most customers viewed as a consumer-rated service rather than a corporate one. Intune also had scalability limitations governing the number of PCs that could be managed in a single Intune cloud instance. To expand the appeal and reach of the product, Microsoft decided in the third release to align Intune with Microsoft Online Services, the commercial offering including products such as Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics. This changed the back-end account directory from Windows Live ID to Windows Azure Active Directory (formerly called Microsoft Online Directory Service). Azure Active Directory (AD) specifications and requirements for use with ConfigMgr and Intune are explored in depth in Chapter 7, “Using the Intune Connector.”

In addition to the change to Azure AD, the third release of Windows Intune (June 2012) included the following features:

  • Antimalware: Windows Intune Endpoint Protection based on Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 and leveraging the same scan engine as System Center Endpoint Protection
  • Software updates: Capable of delivering both operating system (OS) and third-party updates
  • Software distribution: .MSI/.EXE based packages with content residing in Azure blog storage encrypted and compressed
  • Proactive monitoring: Operating system and application monitoring leveraging System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2
  • Inventory: Hardware and software inventory
  • Monitor and track licenses: Upload or search for Microsoft Volume Licensing details and the ability to add third-party license information
  • Reporting: Software updates, inventory, and license reports
  • Policy management: Security policies to control configuration of the Intune agent and security configurations
  • End user self-service portal: New user accounts available for self-service application provisioning and PC enrollment
  • Mobile device management and application delivery: Supported applications delivery to Android and iOS devices and management of Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync policies

The final bullet, “Mobile device management and application delivery,” contained a very significant feature that at the time flew generally under the radar. Intune was the first Microsoft product that could now perform application deployment to modern smart-phone platforms. This was the beginning of an important shift of focus for the product.

Microsoft Strategic Direction Announcement

Following Intune’s third release, customers noticed its ability to deliver applications to Android and iOS devices, something not included within System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. This prompted customers to question the direction of both products and what Microsoft’s roadmap would be to support the next generation of “smart” devices: mobile phones and tablets. According to a recent IDC study, worldwide total unit shipments for smart connected devices, projected at 1.2B in 2012, would grow 16% to over 2B units in 2016. 1After Intune’s third release, it was unclear to customers which solution to use for their overall management needs. Smaller customers would continue to expect a cloud-delivered solution, while larger enterprise customers wanted to leverage ConfigMgr.

Released to Microsoft’s Server and Cloud blog ( blogs.technet.com/b/server-cloud)in September 2012, the company clarified its management vision by detailing some of the features in the fourth release of Intune (December 2012) and Service Pack (SP) 1 of System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, thus setting the direction for integration between the two products.

Unifying the management, security, and compliance of devices, a single infrastructure improves administrative efficiency and reduces the costs of tools and processes to support the organization. By delivering applications using a single application definition with multiple deployment types within ConfigMgr, it becomes easier to manage application lifecycles, and users become more productive as they have greater flexibility to use their choice of device. Microsoft has coined the phrase “Empowering People-centric IT.” Simply put, that meant enabling IT to focus on managing at the user level and delivering applications to users’ devices in a way that is optimized for each device and maximizes user productivity. IT can manage both corporate and personally owned devices with a unified infrastructure, now that all the devices can be seen and managed inside of ConfigMgr.

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