The Coming PC Management Crisis: A Hypothesis

David Johnson
When it comes to management, less is more
I was at an industry conference recently, standing in the booth of a large PC maker while being indoctrinated with the latest word: "You can manage it with existing tools!" - a marketing director beamed, as he waved a new Windows 8 tablet under my nose. He seemed so happy I thought for a second he might grab my hand and drag me skipping through the tradeshow floor followed by a troupe of merry singing penguins, like a sort of demented convention center edition of Mary Poppins.
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Back of the Napkin: Why Microsoft Windows Intune Should Be On Your Radar

David Johnson

It's a little-known fact that both Southwest Airlines and the (soon-to-be) famous Yee-Haw Pickle Company began life on a cocktail napkin. What better medium to illustrate why Windows Intune should be on your radar as an I&O leader or professional?

In the late 1990s, no one could have imagined what PC management would eventually entail in an always-on, always-connected world. Those of you who know me, know that I've either managed or marketed 3 different client management product lines in my career. All of the vendors in the space, including Microsoft, have spent the last 15 years trying to make it easier to manage Windows PCs on an enterprise scale, for utility, security, business continuity and performance.
 
A mess? I'd say! I spoke with a mid-sized oil company a few weeks ago about their client management tools, processes and maturity. They use only a fraction of System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007's capabilities. The weekly patch cycle and packaging alone are a full time job for one person, and endpoint protection and remediation are still wishlist items. Half of their assets sit at the end of satellite links 50 miles from the nearest towns and they have a fleet of trucks manned by a small army of techs dedicated to just fixing PC problems over 5 big western US States. Expensive? You bet. Ineffective? Absolutely.
 
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Microsoft Announces Windows Server 2012

Richard Fichera

The Event

On Tuesday, September 4, Microsoft made the official announcement of Windows Server 2012, ending what has seemed like an interminable sequence of rumors, Beta releases, and endless speculation about this successor to Windows Server 2008.

So, is it worth the wait and does it live up to its hype? All omens point to a resounding “YES.”

Make no mistake, this is a really major restructuring of the OS, and a major step-function in capabilities aligned with several major strategic trends for both Microsoft and the rest of the industry. While Microsoft’s high level message is centered on the cloud, and on the Windows Server 2012 features that make it a productive platform upon which both enterprises and service providers can build a cost-effective cloud, its features will be immensely valuable to a wide range of businesses.

What It Does

The reviewers guide for Windows Server 2012 is over 220 pages long, and the OS has at least 100 features that are worth noting, so a real exploration of the features of this OS is way beyond what I can do here. Nonetheless, we can look at several buckets of technology to get an understanding of the general capabilities. Also important to note is that while Microsoft has positioned this as a very cloud-friendly OS, almost all of these cloud-related features are also very useful to an enterprise IT environment.

  • New file system — Included in WS2012 is ReFS, a new file system designed to survive failures that would bring down or corrupt the previous NTFS file system (which is still available). Combined with improvements in cluster management and failover, this is a capability that will play across the entire user spectrum.
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Imbibing Macs In The Enterprise: Apple Mac Shops Share Their Secrets For Success

David Johnson

Chances are that you have employees using Apple Macs at your firm today, and they’re doing this without the support and guidance of the infrastructure and operations (I&O) organization. IT consumerization has put an end to the days of one operating system (OS) to support. For I&O pros, this change carries new concerns about security, potential information loss, and unexpected support needs, to name a few. Forrester has found that IT organizations struggle in building a support and management strategy for Macs that works.

Fortunately, there are many firms who have blazed the trails and figured out how to support both employee-owned and company-owned Macs for their employees, and we've assembled our findings in the latest document on managing Macs. Hint: Leave the Windows PC management tools and techniques in the toolbox. It’s easy to understand why I&O professionals sometimes apply the same techniques and tools they are familiar with in the Windows world for managing Macs, but the reality is that they are different animals, and what is a best practice for one is irrelevant for the other — and can even cripple worker productivity.

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LANDesk Acquires Veteran Industrial MDM Provider Wavelink

David Johnson

Watching the Mobile Device Management market is a bit like watching a sneeze. My colleagues Christian Kane and Benjamin Gray are tracking nearly 75 vendors in the space, many of them just a few years old. We've also seen a fresh round of acquisitions as established endpoint management vendors look to shore up their flanks and freshen their portfolios.

Differentiation amongst vendors is hard to come by, as is long-term enterprise MDM experience. And that's what makes LANDesk's acquisition of Wavelink interesting. Mobile Device Management in an industrial or field setting is more than just enforcing passcode restrictions, enabling remote wipe in case of loss, or rolling out software. Companies like Wal-Mart and FedEx have significant portions of their businesses that depend on handheld devices for package delivery, inventory and point of sale. MDM in these settings involves a range of capabilities from diagnosing connectivity and printing issues over the air, to interfacing modern mobile apps to mainframe-based warehouse inventory systems.
 
Perhaps the best way to describe what Wavelink does is "Industrial MDM". They boast 15,000 customers in 85 countries, and have been in the business for several years. The flagship product is called Avalanche and its historical strengths have been in Windows Mobile environments. They added iOS and Android a couple of years ago and are about to release their 2nd generation release of the same.
 
Why it makes sense for LANDesk:
  1. Competitive: It gives LANDesk the opportunity to own the IP for MDM technology and positions them differently than other MDM solutions on the market given Wavelink's industrial focus.
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The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse For Client Management Vendors

David Johnson

Those of you paying attention in Sunday School may remember this thing called the apocalypse. Earl Robert Maze II was my Sunday School teacher, and he may be the most fearsome schoolmaster ever to scratch a chalkboard. One spitwad and there was sure to be a rapture. Mr. Maze would get pretty wrapped up in the lesson of the day and we'd all have to keep at least one eye on him as he paced back and forth. Not because we were worried about being asked a question, but because as he paced and talked, he'd build up globs of white something or other in the corners of his mouth, and every so often one of them would take flight and land on some unsuspecting front row pupil's hand, to their horror.

As luck would have it, I was late to class on the day Mr. Maze deemed that we were, at last, ready for the book of Revelation; I took the last seat -- In the front row -- Right in the line of fire. Sure enough, he was so worked up by the time he got to the part about the divine apocalypse, that one of those white gobs of goop chose that moment to set itself free and was headed for me like a heat-seeking missile. There was nothing I could do! And so to this day, the term apocalypse conjures up a frightening memory for me.

Which brings me to the current situation in the client management vendor landscape. The apocalypse was to be foretold by four horsemen representing conquest, war, famine and death (if you've ever worked for a company whose business has been disrupted, as I have, you've probably met with all four!). The four horsemen before us now in the client management market in the second quarter of 2012, are:

  1. The explosion of tablets and smart phones.
  2. The elusive management of client virtualization.
  3. SaaS-based client management vendors (see Windows inTune).
  4. New application delivery models (app stores, virtualized apps, etc).
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Are Macs Vulnerable? Wrong Question.

David Johnson

The misinformation and rhetoric surrounding the recent discovery of the Flashback trojan for Macs is vehement, and says more about the historically stable state of Mac security, and the irrational way many think about it than it reveals about its weaknesses. Even long-time industry observers, who should know better, are jumping into the fray to say: See! I told you so! The Mac is vulnerable! Well…duh…that's not exactly news, folks.

Of course the Mac is vulnerable. EVERY internet connected device is vulnerable. What matters is probability, frequency and potential impact. So the correct question then, is whether or not your prevention, detection and recovery mechanisms are effective. For example, I'm not convinced that traditional anti-virus approaches are right for the Mac. The track record of these tools in the Windows world is abysmal in my view. They're among the most intrusive technologies  to the user - hogging system resources and making even basic tasks impossible as they inspect every file, every day, often several times a day. And…they're reactive. Think: death by a thousand papercuts over a period of years, only to be interrupted by a rare strain of encephalitis, followed by a partial lobotomy and organ transplant to get the patient breathing again, and you're in the ballpark. Application whitelisting will hopefully come to be seen as a better approach.

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End Users: Should We Put Them In Padded Cells?

David Johnson

If you're an I&O professional, what comes to mind when you say "end user"? If you're like most of us, your mind has a conjured-up impression of a cosmically clueless person who actually gave you a hard time once, and the picture is now your mind's own avatar for everyone you support. It's not usually a positive image, is it? I used to picture a middle-aged, BMW-driving executive with his hair parted on one side wearing an LL Bean sweater, probably an Ivy-league grad, who couldn't be bothered to actually take responsibility for his own personal computing destiny…he always had servants to take care of trivialities…and hence he was ruining my day with his incompetence. Let's call him Ascot Rothschild III.

An image like that is a powerful thing, and the painful memory of this individual's willful, arrogant ignorance then pervades our future thinking about what we're up against when we set IT policy like BYOC. Ascot becomes the poster child - in our minds anyway - for every garden-variety corporate doofus that we'll have to deal with if we give people any more rope than we already do. They also give us plenty of reasons to take more rope away. In my case, I used to sit on a helpdesk for Remedy customers, and my team had a collection of "special" customers we wondered how they managed to get dressed and find their car keys in the morning. As I later designed Remedy and Peregrine applications, I did so with these "edge cases" in mind.

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Windows 8: Think You Can Skip It? Think Again.

David Johnson

My colleague Benjamin Gray and I have been looking closely at Windows 8 for the past several months to make sure we have a clear understanding of what it means for I&O organizations, leaders, and professionals. We have been briefed in depth by Microsoft executives, program managers, and engineers. We have downloaded, installed, and used the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and we have had hundreds of conversations with I&O professionals in the past year on Windows 7 (and now Windows 8) adoption — from those looking for guidance, as well as those with strong opinions already formed. As you might expect, we have formed some opinions of our own.

For those who haven't talked with Ben Gray, he is a fantastic authority on Windows adoption trends with complete mastery of the data. He has closely watched Windows Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8 go through the cycles of preparation, migration, adoption, and operation. Ben was the first at Forrester to point out that Windows 8 is an "off-cycle release," coming too soon on the heels of Windows 7 for companies to be ready to adopt it. He and I authored a document on Windows adoption trends for 2012, which will be published shortly and provides additional data and context. Ben has also dissected the Forrsights Workforce Employee survey data in dozens of ways, and he delivers a fantastic presentation for Forrester customers on what he's learned.

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BMC Acquires Numara Software In A Mid-Market Makeover: What It Means For Customers

David Johnson

BMC has a golden opportunity to take a different track with Numara than it has for past mid-market acquisitions (see Magic Solutions), and it must do so if it hopes to build on this one and drive new revenue for the long haul. Numara enjoys a massive installed base of customers with its Track-It and Footprints product lines in the small and mid-market. They have been hard at work rounding out their portfolio to include Client Management (software management, systems management, and OS management), and other areas. Numara has been on a journey to re-invent itself and has been succeeding. Further, we believe that the culture of the Numara organization and BMC's will align well, as long as Numara is given the autonomy and investment they need to grow their portfolio and momentum in the field.

BMC Will Need Time To Work
Numara customers should expect relatively little change in daily operations for the first few months, as BMC aligns the organizations. If history is a reliable guide, BMC will typically give a larger acquisition such as this the opportunity to remain mostly intact, and inject key people and processes to help align the acquired organization with the BMC culture and ways of doing business. If this holds true for Numara, customers should see it as a positive step.

Get Clear Direction From BMC In Areas Of Overlap

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