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By | Gavin Clarke 19th April 2010 21:03

Microsoft cracks open Windows cloud management service

It's not a Windows 7 upgrade sweetener. Really

Microsoft has betaed a cloud-based PC management service for businesses with a heavy emphasis on Windows 7 Enterprise Edition.

On Monday, the company Monday unveiled a limited beta of Intune, for monitoring and managing security policies and tracking licenses and compliance on PCs running Windows. The service targets organizations with more than 500 PCs while Fix It Center also released to beta Monday is for small businesses and consumers.

The Intune beta is available to just 1,000 customers -based on a first-come, first-served basis - in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Microsoft promised Intune would be launched within a year of the beta, with the service only sold through its Microsoft Online Services.

Sign-up ends on May 16, 2010 or when those 1,000 opening are filled.

Microsoft said Intune can be used with 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Enterprise, Ultimate, and Professional, plus Windows Vista Enterprise, Ultimate, and Business and Windows XP Professional with Service Pack Service Pack 2 and SP3.

While Intune is open to current and some past versions of Windows, the actual Intune site makes heavy reference to using the fledgling service with Windows 7 Enterprise. This Windows 7 SKU is only available to big customers, offering such features as BitLocker and BitLocker to Go, for device encryption; BranchCache, to ease downloads for users on remote branch networks; and federated search of repositories like SharePoint.

For anybody doubting Microsoft's experience as a cloud services provider, the company went on to claim it has spent 15 years in the cloud, thanks to Hotmail, Windows Update, and Exchange Online. This is a clear example of terminology bandwagon jumping that helps further muddy the definition of what is a cloud, as these services all predate "cloud" by many years.

Security is based on the malware protection engine and technologies found in Microsoft's Forefront Endpoint Protection and Security Essentials. The company said Intune "takes advantage" of Microsoft Update and Windows Update to push out updates to PCs.

Separately, Microsoft announced it has RTMed System Center Essentials (SCE) 2010 (a means of securing, updating, monitoring, and troubleshooting PCs and laptops) and System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010 (for back up and recovery). ®

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