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Why Microsoft Windows Intune should be on your radar

Back of the napkin calculation is convincing

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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.

A large US banking firm I spoke with for recent research has 300,000 PCs under management, and a team of 100 people dedicated to various daily tasks, not including the administration and maintenance of their SCCM environment. Our data shows that the average lifecycle cost of managing and supporting a PC user is a whopping $1763 and holding steady YoY in the data.

Even if they can cut that figure in half, that's an all-in cost of $265M over a typical 3-4 year lifecycle, plus the PCs themselves. The data also show that firms spend a full 24.8% of their hardware and IT infrastructure budgets on PCs and PC operating systems, and it's still going up. In a world where the Windows operating system now runs on just 30% of the connected devices employees use every day, this level of cost and complexity is clearly no longer sustainable.

Microsoft probably understands this and they're making fast strides with Windows Intune to help firms get their PC and mobile management costs under control. As you likely know, Intune a cloud-hosted service that provides a solid set of management features, without all of the on-premise infrastructure and complexity. It doesn't do everything yet, but for at least small firms and departments within larger organizations, it does just enough. I've been watching it grow over the past 2 years and I love it.

It has the potential to change the management game, and it's also the only management tool for Windows RT. The only thing better would be an OS overhaul to eliminate the need for so much management in the first place, but that's a discussion for another day.

Just for fun, I did some "back of the napkin" analysis on what's involved in planning, deploying, operating and maintaining an on-premise SCCM infrastructure vs. Intune and came up with some rough but still useful results. I based my analysis on the book System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Unleashed, by Kerrie Meyler, Byran Holt, and Greg Ramsey, and also from best practice planning and deployment guidance on the Microsoft website, for both SCCM and Windows Intune.

The results are below. It's not a comprehensive list, but it does help illustrate the level of work required to deploy and maintain an on-premise tool like SCCM vs. Windows Intune. Of course I realize that Configuration Manager 2012 makes further improvements, but most of the things I list here would still apply.

On the left are the lifecycle activities for System Center Configuration Manager and on the right, Windows Intune. As you can see, Intune is a *MUCH* simpler proposition, and it will soon manage iOS and Android devices at the API level. It's brilliant. Best of all, if you're an SCCM shop today, Intune is an inexpensive add-on that allows you to begin transitioning clients away from SCCM to Intune.

sccm_intune_0.jpg

What It Means: It's time to start getting I&O out of managing the PC management infrastructure, or at least start taking drastic steps to get cost and complexity under control. After all, if your business is all about getting people from on place to another, or making the tastiest pickles this side of Utah, managing PCs is pure overhead.


If you're actively evaluating or already using Windows Intune for production, I'd love to hear from you. What have you learned and what's missing?


Posted by David Johnson


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