By Ron Grattopp ….We are rapidly approaching the public launch (GA) of Windows 8, when it becomes available to all customers, including retail and OEM. At which time we will also see a spate of new devices running Windows 8 on form factors from small tablets all the way up to large-screen All-in-ones. The message for you to take to your customers about Windows 8 is that it offers a “no compromise” experience, which is to say you can work with ALL of your apps, in a highly integrated way, across any/all of these devices; but even more importantly that you can have this no compromise experience on a single device and not be forced to use your desktop/laptop for some things and your tablet for others. And, soon, when Windows Phone 8 launches, both platforms will have a shared core so for the first time you’ll have the potential of running the same app on your phone, tablet, desktop, or even server. By now, I hope you know that Windows 8 will come in essentially 4 “editions”, 3 of these (Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT) were outlined in a Windows Team Blog on Windows 8 Editions back in April (which I highly encourage you to read). The 4th, Windows 8 Enterprise, is available only to Volume License customers with Software Assurance, and as that’s what I want to review in this post. My teammates Steve Deming and Josh Condie have written previous blogs on Enterprise version upgrade benefits and how you can get them with either a Windows Intune subscription or with SA. As always, you could do your own due diligence and search all the resources for compare information on the various editions but I wanted to use this post to let know about a few of the key features of Enterprise Edition for Windows 8, in other words, the what/why,
The Enterprise Edition of Windows builds on the business-oriented edition, Windows 8 Pro, so let me start off with what I think are the top business features of Windows 8 Pro (these are features that are not in the basic Windows 8 edition, and these are just the ones I think have the most compelling business value, not a comprehensive list). Of course there’s everyone’s favorites Domain Join, Group Policy, and Encrypting File System which are features that have been in the Professional editions of Windows for several generations. But I want highlight several Pro features that are either new or significantly improved. First, and probably the one that will have the most potential is BitLocker and BitLocker-to-go (BTG). This is significant because BitLocker and BTG were previously only available in Ultimate/Enterprise editions. BitLocker is a huge security value add for any business that either has laptops/devices or has folks who are allowed to use USB sticks (BTG) to carry business data. Next on my list is Boot from VHD, which, like BitLocker, is not a new functionality in Windows 8 but is new to the Professional level edition. Again, remember these are just a few highlights of business functionality that comes with Windows 8 Pro. Now, let’s move on to the Enterprise Edition value adds.
I want to give credit to another great blog post our Windows team put out on this back in the April time frame, Windows Team Blog on Windows 8 Enterprise and Enhanced Software Assurance for Today's Modern Workforce, but I think it’s time to refresh the Enterprise value proposition for you as we near general availability. As I alluded to above, Enterprise adds premium features on top of the functionality in Pro edition. These premium features are designed to enhance or provide additional mobile productivity and security, as well as manageability and virtualization options. Here is a review of some of what I consider the most compelling Enterprise version functionality in Windows 8:
- Windows To Go: Imagine, having a fully manageable corporate Windows 8 desktop literally in your shirt (or pants) pocket (hint: it’ll be on a bootable external USB stick). Windows-to-go will allow organizations to support the “Bring Your Own Device/PC” trend. Moreover, businesses will now be able to give part-time or contract workers access to the corporate environment without compromising security. IMHO this one feature alone could justify SA/Enterprise for many SMB customers. Oh, and it’s VERY secure – it doesn’t interact at all with the local hard drive and it has built-in shutdown timeouts among other things.
- VDI enhancements: I’m seeing a LOT of interest in VDI even in SMB these days, so these new enhancements in Windows 8 should really open up lots of opportunity in that space. In fact, I’ve heard that you can deploy an SMB-level VDI solution in 7 clicks (on the server) in Windows 8 – this should finally allow SMBs to take advantage of this heretofore “Big IT” functionality. So, in Windows 8, VDI enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012 provide users with a rich desktop experience with the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals, and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios. WOW.
- Side-Loading of internal (Windows 8 style) apps: Not sure if this will be as great a boon to the smaller SMB shops without dev staff, but it could certainly be a boon to Partners who have dev capabilities, In Windows 8, domain joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8 Enterprise will be able to download and install corporate, or custom, Windows 8 style apps in addition to apps available from the Windows Store, this is called “side-loading” and, of course, is secure and controlled by policy.
So the above were new functionalities in Windows 8 Enterprise, the following features were also available in Windows 7 Enterprise Edition as well, but are still key functionalities that your customer should be aware of that require Enterprise client licensing:
- DirectAccess (DA): Like VDI above, DA has been around, but previously required Enterprise Edition servers, which as you know you’ll no longer need. Moreover, DA needed certificates and other infrastructure requirements (e.g. IPv6) which also served to put it beyond the reach of many SMB IT shops. So for those of you not already familiar with it, DA allows remote users to seamlessly access resources inside a corporate network without having to launch a separate VPN (yes, you read that right, no more need to purchase, deploy, and maintain and otherwise update or manage that VPN infrastructure (server or client) – this is HUGE and can have a direct ROI impact, not to mention the increase in productivity). AND it helps IT administrators keep remote users’ PCs in compliance by applying the latest policies, software updates, essentially allowing management of that PC anytime it’s online, just as if it was inside your corpnet. IMHO this could be the second “silver bullet” for selling Enterprise Edition. And I kind of skipped over it but, like VDI, DA is now much easier to deploy – it only needs Windows Server 2012 Standard, no need for certificates (can leverage AD) and can be implemented on an existing IPv4 infrastructure. YOU should really check into this for customers who have any clients who work outside the corporate network, it’s a spoiler – we have been using it inside Microsoft for some time now.
- BranchCache: For customers who have remote locations (like branch offices), BranchCache allows local servers, or even users’ PCs to cache files, websites, and other content from central servers, so content is not repeatedly downloaded across the wide area network (WAN). When used with Windows Server 2012, Windows 8 brings several improvements to BranchCache to streamline the deployment process, optimize bandwidth over WAN connections and ensure better security and scalabilty.
- AppLocker: Again, is not new but it can help mitigate issues by restricting the files and apps that users or groups are allowed to run by leveraging “policy”.
OK, so those are my “big 6” -- there is more to Enterprise but hopefully some of these will be great conversation starters for you with your customers. And remember, the top 3 only come with Windows 8, and also remember that Windows Server 2012 may also be required to enable some of those solutions (e.g. DA, VDI, and others).
Cheers, as always,