Q: What's Windows InTune?

A: Microsoft is attempting to make many services available in the cloud, removing the need for organizations to have local infrastructure. Products aimed at this goal include Office 365 for hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and Office web applications and Windows Azure as a platform for custom applications. Windows InTune is the solution for managing computers—a System Center Configuration Manager in the cloud.

The only local footprint is a small Windows InTune client that contains an organizationally unique identifier so the Windows InTune service knows which organization a computer belongs to. This client is installed on each desktop computer. As part of that installation, the Windows InTune antivirus solution is installed (replacing Forefront, Microsoft Security Essentials, and other malware protections if you configure it to replace existing ones, as described on this Microsoft page) and software updates are configured to point to the Windows InTune service instead of the normal Microsoft Update.

From a feature perspective, the first version of Windows InTune offers the following:

  • A system overview, giving an overall health status of the computers managed by Windows InTune and a place to see alerts related to the computers.
  • Configurable notifications, so emails are sent for certain types of alerts and events.
  • Configurable computer groups, based on your organizations preferred management methodology—these could be geographical, departmental, or any other combination or criteria.
  • Malware protection, with centralized policy configuration for ease and customizability.
  • License tracking and integration with Microsoft Volume License Services, to see licenses used and license rights with full reporting.
  • Policy capabilities around firewalls, malware, updates, and InTune management.
  • Software inventory, including searches for specific software and reporting.
  • Software Update management, including the ability to approve updates for your organization's machines and then deploy them automatically.
  • Overall reporting capabilities.
  • Pure web-based management interface, hosted at Microsoft.
  • Access to the Enterprise edition of Windows for computers covered by InTune, and the ability to subscribe to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (which is normally only available as part of Software Assurance).

As you look at the features, you can see that the first version hits several of System Center Configuration Manager's (SCCM's) features, but it doesn't have SCCM's full capability. Over time, new features will be added. Microsoft has prepared a guide that goes into more detail.

Windows InTune could be used in conjunction with on-premise solutions like SCCM, with main locations using SCCM and remote offices with poor connectivity and no server infrastructure using Windows InTune, and you could also InTune for non-corporate machines that you still want to help manage, such as a CEO's home computer.
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