Simplifying Your Windows 10 OS Deployment with an Enterprise App Store

By Jason Snook, Practice Manager at Flexera Software

Later this summer, Microsoft will release Windows 10.  Windows 10 is a unified platform that runs on computer devices, tablets, and mobile phones, and enterprises are expected to widely adopt the new platform.  Unfortunately, some enterprises view OS migrations as a single point in time event and most of the solutions and processes they developed for the Windows 7 migration were thrown away, and must be developed again for the next migration project.  This is extremely costly and leaves no lasting solution, or value for continually updating systems and applications.  When delivering OS deployments through an enterprise app store, Flexera App Portal, provides a solution framework that is agnostic to the OS version.  The App Portal OS Deployment solution simplifies the imaging process, reduces the downtime that the end user experience, helps to eliminate post deployment support commonly experienced with individual application installation, and lessens the burden on the administrator by empowering the end user to be in control of their own operating system upgrade.

There are many complexities and challenges with OS deployment.  There are five key challenges that are common in the enterprise.

  • Administrator Driven: Most OS deployments in the enterprise today are driven by the administrator.  This means that the user has very little input or control of how and when a migration will occur.  This current standard approach means that the chance of negatively impacting the end user is relatively high, even with excellent communication and coordination by the migration team.  App Portal empowers the end user to be able to be a part of the scheduling process.  This means that the user is able to schedule the migration to occur when it would least impact them.  Administrators are still able to have a great degree of control over the deployment window, so it really presents the best combination of administrator control and end user flexibility.
  • Addressing Applications:  Probably one of the most challenging components of an OS migration is dealing with all of the applications that users depend on in the enterprise.  Most organizations address this by providing a base set of standard applications within the deployment process, and then address the additional applications as one-off installations following the imaging process.  This approach is extremely time consuming.  This means that the end user is without a computer for a longer period of time, and also that the administrator is losing precious time to ensure that the applications the user needs are a part of the newly imaged computer.  App Portal is able to intelligently map the application estate and ensure that the correct application gets placed onto the freshly imaged computer during the imaging process.  This greatly reduces the imaging time and helps to avoid human error that is introduced with the administrator, one-off installation process.
  • Task Sequence Complexity:  Many enterprises attempt to lessen the burden by adding some basic logic to include applications during the imaging process.  These applications are typically standard applications, which are common across all desktops.  Some organizations make further steps by adding applications that would apply based on the users business role.  This solution still misses many of the applications that the end user leverages, so there is still the need for the one-off application installations.  Further, developing and maintaining the logic, and application list, within the Task Sequence greatly increases the complexity of the Task Sequence.  This can make it extremely challenging for changes to be made due to increased testing times to validate each image.  By separating the application identification process from the Task Sequence, App Portal is able to simplify what the Task Sequence has to do.  This provides more flexibility for the administrator, and lessens the testing time to verify the Task Sequence prior to production release.
  • Lower Security Posture: Like me, security is a primary concern for most enterprises.  Traditional OS imaging processes mean that the deployment technicians have to be within the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) console.  This opens the risk that the deployment technician can impact other areas of the SCCCM environment, with unintended negative effects to the enterprise.  I have a personal experience with this.  Many years ago I was a part of a migration team that was moving a financial institution from Windows XP to Windows 7.  Part of the deployment team members where migrating a few of the executives PCs.  One of the installations failed to install Microsoft Office correctly.  The deployment technician attempted to resolve this through SCCM, but accidently uninstalled Microsoft Office from every computer on the executive floor, in the middle of the day.  This was immediately noticed by the end users, who were executives and executive assistants.  The entire deployment was halted immediately.  The team ensured that Microsoft Office was placed back onto each machine, and new processes were developed to reduce the risk of that situation occurring again.  If I had been using App Portal, there would be no need for the deployment technicians to be within the console, so the risk of impacting the enterprise would have been greatly reduced.
  • Desk-side Visits:  The final challenge with OS deployment has to do with desk-side visits.  Many deployment scenarios require that a deployment technician be present at the location where the deployment will occur.  This may be okay for smaller companies with one site location, but this has a greater impact on enterprises that are scattered across the globe.  Not only is it expensive to have a technician present at each computer, but it also slows down the cadence of the migration.  App Portal resolves this by enabling the end user to become the “deployment technician” for the migration.  Further, the deployment team still has the ability to request a migration on behalf of the user through the enterprise app store.  This greatly reduces the need for a desk-side visit, and enables a much quicker cadence for the OS migration.

The App Portal enterprise app store provides six key features that help to address the core challenges of traditional OS deployment.

  1. User Readiness: The User Readiness feature of App Portal enables administrators to create a deployment window and identify the users who will be a part of that deployment window.  Users are notified by email of the deployment window and are able to schedule the deployment to occur, within the deployment window, when it will least impact them.
  2. Constraints:  Scheduling Constraints can be created to limit times of the day when deployments can occur.  Constraints also supports blackout days, and restrictions on the number of requests, or size of requests, that can occur within a day.  This provides an additional level of control not found within most OS deployment solutions.
  3. App Survey:  App Survey leverages installation evidence and usage data to identify the applications that exist on a source computer, and allow for those applications to be selected to be included as part of the imaging process.  The selected applications are then installed during the imaging process.  This eliminates the one-off application installs for any piece of managed software that is discovered as part of the survey process.
  4. Roles:  The administrator is able to create Roles within App Portal that can be applied conditionally during the imaging process.  Roles can contain applications, task sequence variables, and even configurations for different user state migration profiles.  Roles grant additional flexibility to apply applications and configurations that would be specific by role.  For example, a role could be created for the Marketing team which includes applications that are unique to the Marketing group.
  5. Upgrade / Replacement: The Upgrade / Replacement feature of App Portal provides a way to map a discovered application to either a newer version of the application, or to a replacement application.  For example, if Microsoft Office 2010 is discovered, use Microsoft Office 2013 instead.  Additionally, you could configure it so that if Primo PDF is discovered, use Cute PDF instead.
  6. Clone / Migration: The Clone / Migration feature of App Portal provides a break-fix tool.  The Clone / Migration feature evaluates the installation evidence on a source computer, and then installs the selected applications onto a target computer.  Clone / Migration is especially useful when a computer breaks, and no data is recovered.  App Portal will use historic inventory data to identify the application estate on the broken computer and schedule the installation of those discovered applications onto the freshly imaged replacement computer.

By utilizing the enterprise app store in the OS deployment process Flexera App Portal enhances the entire OS deployment experience and greatly extends the native capability of OS deployments through SCCM.  Simplifying the application installation process, empowers end users, and lessens the burden on IT and desktop administrators.  The App Portal solution provides an OS imaging framework that can be leveraged for future migration events, desktop transformations, and will improve the everyday experience of your end users.

Will Windows 10 be the straw that breaks IT’s back?

By Tom Canning, Vice-President, APAC, Flexera Software

Windows 10 and its as-a-service approach signal a challenging new paradigm for IT departments.

The release of the Windows 10 operating system later this year will spell havoc for enterprise IT. It’s likely that already overstretched IT departments will reach breaking point as Windows 10 introduces the idea of Windows as a service – marking a shift away from three- to four-year operating systems updates to continuous, incremental delivery of new functionality.

Given that software drives business today, typically about 30% of an organization's applications require upgrades and migrations every year – even without the Windows as a service-style approach to software upgrades.

This means that enterprise IT departments are already stretched as they try to cope with ever-shortening operating system (OS) lifecycle migrations (considered among the most time-intensive, costly and manpower heavy projects).

Continuous OS-related upgrades as proposed in Windows 10 therefore have the potential to truly break the backs of IT departments. Each time a new upgrade/patch/functionality is introduced, IT will need to test for compatibility with the environment (hardware, software on premise, cloud and in virtualised settings), fix and package and then deliver to end users.

As more and more software vendors adopt an agile and continuous software development mentality, IT departments need the bandwidth to manage multiple, simultaneous upgrades across the range of business-critical software and other applications deployed by their organisations.

But the reality is that due to tight budgets and shrinking teams, the challenge and complexity of keeping an organisation’s IT environment up to date is growing exponentially, making the job of IT professionals almost impossible.

On top of this, the old patchwork of tactical tools and processes that used to suffice to prepare applications for deployment no longer works so well, and the entire organization suffers because the IT backlog dictates when strategic apps make it to the end users – rather than when the business actually needs it.

In addition, manual processes for software asset management can be highly error prone, resulting in application misuse, over- or under-procurement and failure to comply with auditory requirements. These oversights can have significant impacts on user productivity as well as an organization's bottom line.

To deliver software to users in a timely manner – akin to the concept of continuous upgrades being adopted by software vendors – it is imperative that IT departments keep pace and embrace the idea of ‘Application Readiness’ to ensure compatibility and service quality.

Adopting Application Readiness best practices and technology that automates application deployment processes for fast, efficient and effective migration planning, testing, remediation and repackaging is the only way for IT to ensure that the application estate is futureproof and that the risks and costs associated with ineffective software asset management are minimized.

For those wanting to streamline processes further, an enterprise app store can also take some of the headache away from IT as employees upgrade their devices to Windows 10 on their own, when they’re ready.

As Windows 10 approaches, organizations should equip themselves to manage this new approach to upgrades by vendors, or pay the price of inefficiency and unavailability of critical business tools.

This article first appeared in Technology Decisions

Application Compatibility in Windows 10: Can one app really run everywhere?

Windows 10 is coming with Microsoft's big vision of universal apps, but in the unique world of enterprise environments compatibility issues will still be an issue for some time to come. 

Here is one of the sessions on Internet Explorer compatibility testing presented last week at Microsoft Ignite "Web App Compat and Modernization for Nerds", that can help you prepare for the future.

IE 11 screen

Are web apps holding you back from upgrading to the latest version of Internet Explorer? In this session, we go deep on the tools you can use to identify and remediate compatibility issues to unlock browser updates. Learn troubleshooting tips and tricks, and tried and tested approaches to troubleshooting failing web apps. We interactively troubleshoot real-world web apps, giving you tools and techniques for resolving issues quickly so you can upgrade faster and become agile again.
 
Learn more about AdminStudio Application Compatibility.

AdminStudio Customer Advisory Board @MSIgnite

This week at the Microsoft Ignite conference we held an exclusive event for AdminStudio customers to provide input into the future direction of the product and understand first hand the challenges that our customers are looking to solve.  Ken Hilker, Senior Product Manager, presented on the road map for AdminStudio and facilitated a good discussion of the Application Readiness process as it relates to Windows 10, mobile application management, and keeping up with the faster release cycles of software vendors.

IMG_0051

 

If you were unable to make it to Ignite, we have another event coming up on June 3rd in Boston, our Regional SoftSummit were you have a chance to discuss your challenges with Flexera and hear from industry analysts and leaders about the future trends in Application Readiness and Software License Optimization.  Register for the Boston SoftSummit here.

 

Windows 10 Comes with a Faster Update and Upgrade Pace – Will You Be Ready?

Post Build Conference and on the eve of the Microsoft Ignite show in Chicago next week, there has  been an increase in news reports, articles, blog posts, and opinions about the star of the show Windows 10.  One message that has been pretty consistent is the agile update cadence that will follow the release of the OS.  Here are a few that caught our attention.Cwmay2015_klossner_windows10-cartoon

Windows 10 updates force enterprises to shift eval tactics

"Enterprises will have to rethink the way they evaluate Microsoft operating systems, since Windows 10 may never really be done."

Updated: Windows 10: release date, price, news and features

"Before Windows 10 has even launched, Microsoft’s upgrade plans for the OS have leaked. Operating under the codename “Redstone”, the Windows maker will issue updates in two waves…the first will come June 2016 and the other October of next year."

Some of Flexera's biggest customers have already started planning and they are being motivated by the need to move more of their devices from 32 to 64-bit apps, and the ability to run Windows 10 across all their devices. They feel like Win10 will be the last “big release” and want to automate their Application Readiness process to be ready for the feature update releases that will start to come more quickly.

The Enterprise Application Lifecycle: Self-Service Deployment and Lowering TCO

Don't miss this webinar with Redmond Magazine, register now

The Enterprise Application Lifecycle: It’s Costing You More Than You Know

Managing applications used to be a simple “one every few years” exercise of deploying Windows and Office to desktops. Today’s complex daily mix of physical, virtual and mobile application management, is anything but simple. More frequent releases and regular end of life announcements for Windows, Windows Server, and Internet Explorer complicate matters even more.

With user demand for more applications, more devices, and expectations of faster response times on the rise, it is nearly impossible to keep up. Shadow IT, where employees do it themselves, may provide a faster response than IT, but only increases the cost of ownership and organizational risk.

In this informative webcast, join industry expert and founder of Techvangelism, Nick Cavalancia, and Tim Davis from Flexera Software, as they discuss how to gain control over applications, improve IT efficiency, lower cost, and reduce the dependence on Shadow IT. Topics will include:

  • Keeping up with vendors increasingly frequent software releases
  • Transforming application request and management into IT as a service
  • Lowering application TCO with governance, automation, and self-service deployment

Register today.

Redmond webinar

Get Ready for Windows 10: Join Flexera Software at Microsoft Ignite

Could Windows 10 really be set to arrive in July? That is the headline for an article in BetaNews this week. They report that the new OS will arrive much earlier than anyone has predicted.

With Microsoft Ignite just a few days away, now is the time to start planning for the impending release.  Join Flexera Software at Ignite to learn how to do more with AdminStudio and App Portal, and make the Windows 10 roll out at your organization faster and with a better user experience than previous Windows migrations.

Flexera Software is hosting 2 limited seating luncheons during this year’s Microsoft Ignite Conference, register early to reserve your seat!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 from 12:00PM – 1:30PM

AdminStudio Customer Advisory Board at Microsoft Ignite

This session is exclusively for current AdminStudio customers and is limited seating. Engage with the Product Management team and help shape future product strategies to meet your needs.  Connect with other AdminStudio customers in this interactive networking forum, learn about current software deployment trends and business processes affecting enterprise service delivery, and innovate together to positively impact the direction of our Application Readiness solutions.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 12:00PM – 1:30PM

Improve Service Delivery and Governance Using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager

This session will demonstrate how Enterprise App Stores can solve many IT challenges from maintaining proactive license compliance to improving service delivery. Learn how a universal app store and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager will automate self-service, reduce manual tasks, verify software licensing, and deploy Windows 10 and applications to users when and where they need them, with no IT involvement. Limited seating.

Microsoft SCCM – new version will be released to support Windows 10

Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of program management for Microsoft's Windows Server and System Center Group, recently gave a keynote address at the 2015 System Center Universe in Dallas.  He assured the audience that Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is the on-premise PC management solution of choice for Miscrosoft, although mobile device management (MDM) will be handled using Intune via the cloud.

"more than 75% of the world's PCs are managed by Configuration Manager"

 

The new System Center suite is likely to be released in 2016, but Microsoft is making an exception for the System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) component.  The next SCCM product will ship sooner to coincide with the availability of Windows 10, according to Microsoft. That means the next version of Microsoft SCCM could be available this year.

The next System Center beta release will be out in the spring of 2015, and industry insiders predict that is when we could see the next SCCM preview.  May 4, 2015 is the start of Microsoft's Ignite show in Chicago, combining multiple Microsoft IT pro events into one, and a preview of SCCM will most likely be available at that time.

Be prepared for Windows 10 – start planning your Application Readiness strategy today.

Windows 10 Will Ship With Two Browsers: Internet Explorer 11 and Spartan

Enterprises have many web browsers to support and now Microsoft is introducing another one.  The popular belief is that Microsoft will ship Windows 10 with IE11 (or maybe IE 12) to support legacy websites and a new slimmer faster more modern browser code named Spartan. 

This will add to the complexity of the enterprise environment and organizations are already on notice to be prepared for the end of life of older versions of IE which are still running in many enterprises.  With the impending end of support for all versions except the current one coming in January 2016, IT departments have a lot of work to do.  A recent market share analysis by Net Application, shows a continued fragmentation of browsers in use.  Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 still have upwards of 40% market share and companies only have 10 months to get ahead of the EOL.IE Market Share

source: Winbeta.org Internet Explorer 11 gains market share, as Microsoft's desktop browser continues its domination

We help customers quickly test and remediate application compatibility issues for IE 8, 9, 10, and 11, and more. We work with Microsoft and other vendors to ensure compatibility and supportability for a wide range of applications and platforms, including virtual and mobile.   With the right solutions and automation in place customers can keep up with new releases and should never have to worry about being forced into transition by  products that have reached their end of support.

If you're looking to maintain compatibility of Internet Explorer and Windows OS in your increasingly complex enterprise environment, try AdminStudio today.

– See more at: http://blogs.flexerasoftware.com/application-readiness/2014/09/application-compatibility-of-internet-explorer-8-9-10-11-and-beyond.html#sthash.OZHlakxs.dpuf

AdminStudio Suite helps customers quickly test and remediate application compatibility issues for IE 8, 9, 10, and 11, and more. We work with Microsoft and other vendors to ensure compatibility and supportability for a wide range of applications and platforms, including virtual and mobile.   With the right solutions and automation in place, customers can maintain a process for continual Application Readiness, keep up with new releases, and never have to worry about being forced into transition by products that have reached their end of support.

If you're looking to maintain compatibility of Internet Explorer and Windows OS in your increasingly complex enterprise environment, try AdminStudio today.

We help customers quickly test and remediate application compatibility issues for IE 8, 9, 10, and 11, and more. We work with Microsoft and other vendors to ensure compatibility and supportability for a wide range of applications and platforms, including virtual and mobile.   With the right solutions and automation in place customers can keep up with new releases and should never have to worry about being forced into transition by  products that have reached their end of support.

If you're looking to maintain compatibility of Internet Explorer and Windows OS in your increasingly complex enterprise environment, try AdminStudio today.

– See more at: http://blogs.flexerasoftware.com/application-readiness/2014/09/application-compatibility-of-internet-explorer-8-9-10-11-and-beyond.html#sthash.OZHlakxs.dpuf

Service Delivery: Streamlining Application Readiness in Complex Environments

 
Try AdminStudio Suite for repackaging and editing MSIs, and more.  Convert applications to leading virtualization formats, test applications for compatibility, and  asses mobile apps for risk and OS compatibility.  Download the free trial. – See more at: http://blogs.flexerasoftware.com/Application-Readiness/page/5/#sthash.8KSMxive.dpuf
Try AdminStudio Suite for repackaging and editing MSIs, and more.  Convert applications to leading virtualization formats, test applications for compatibility, and  asses mobile apps for risk and OS compatibility.  Download the free trial. – See more at: http://blogs.flexerasoftware.com/Application-Readiness/page/5/#sthash.8KSMxive.dpuf
Try AdminStudio Suite for repackaging and editing MSIs, and more.  Convert applications to leading virtualization formats, test applications for compatibility, and  assess mobile apps for risk and OS compatibility.  Download the free trial.