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System Center and Anytime, Anywhere, Any-Device Management

Microsoft envisions a future in which users decide where and how they work

Forster: Why is the 2008 Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) explicitly dividing its focus by having two keynotes, one covering the data center aspect of systems management and the other examining the desktop aspect?


Anderson: Historically, MMS day one has been the high-level vision, the strategy. Day two has been the things that align with the vision. This year, our day one focus is on the data center set of announcements, strategies, visions. Then on day two, we’re looking at user-centric, user-focused computing. What it really comes down to is that the usage patterns and usage desires of anytime, anywhere access are going to be driving the client investment over the next several years. So that’s how we’re thinking of breaking the two keynotes apart.


Forster: What do you see as these usage patterns?


Anderson: There are some amazing projections coming out about how a lot of users are going to stop carrying laptops and start using their handheld devices. The form factors of those are going to change. Users want access to their applications, their data, anywhere, anytime. So the manageability that’s got to be built to enable that is substantial.


If you think about being able to have a consistent experience independent of device, independent of location, that’s a lot of work. If you think about how management works today, a lot of it is focused towards the device, not the user. There’s our paradigm change of saying everything needs to be user focused, and then understand what that does to the device. It’s looking at the problem from a different approach.


Forster: What are the implications of this new approach?


Anderson: Think about what the user experience is today as an end user. I’m in the office. I have great bandwidth. I’m on a corporate device behind the firewall. I can log in and get access to all my apps and all my data.


So now I go home. I’m on my laptop, but my user experience dramatically changes because now I’m outside the firewall. I may have good bandwidth, or I may not have good bandwidth. I have to be trained on how to react and adjust my work according to my location and my device. I have to bring up the VPN. Maybe I launch it from a thin client because I don’t have the bandwidth.


Then you go to another usage pattern. I’m traveling. I don’t have my laptop with me. I’m on vacation. I go into a cyber café. Because I’m not on a corporate device, I now have to understand how to get access to the things I need. Then there’s the growing evolution of handheld devices. I have to learn a whole new device—in most cases a different OS. Users want anywhere access. We think that is a huge opportunity for the System Center line of products. Those products are what enterprise accounts use today to enable the users, so they’ll look to System Center products to enable this new world of new usage.


Forster: So what’s different now from the past?


Anderson: Let’s talk about the dynamic desktop. There are some fascinating trends in different ways in which customers want to consume the desktop. There’s a big, significant change if you think back several years to when laptops first started coming out. Managing a laptop was much different than managing a desktop—much more expensive. I remember reading research reports 10 years ago that managing a laptop was twice as expensive as managing a desktop.


There are more and more changes coming in the way users want to consume applications and the desktop. Users are saying, “Listen, I don’t want to be encumbered by having to use a specific device or a specific method of getting access to what I need to do my job. I literally want to have access anywhere, anytime, from any device to what I need to do my work.”


Orecklin: On the flip side, some companies are also dealing with that problem by saying that the hassle of actually procuring and getting a particular laptop or device for an individual is becoming cumbersome and expensive. So they’re getting to the point where they’re saying, "I’m just going to give you a stipend. I’m going to give you X dollars. You get whatever hardware you want. You’ve got personal choice." A global provider provides the service.


Forster: Doesn’t that approach wreak havoc with the concept of having standard images?


Anderson: That’s a leap you took because that’s today’s way of thinking about it. Take these concepts of virtualization, the ability to separate the OS from the device, the application from the OS, and then the ability to separate your settings from that. This approach gives you the ability to now deliver down what the user needs, independent of the device because you have these levels of separation amongst the different components of the stack.

      It all comes down to a management challenge; where we think our investments will be moving forward: They'll be in how to manage this world where we have this isolation and this light layer of separation between the OS, the application, and the settings and then enable users to access what they need to do their job anywhere, any time, on any device.


Forster: Can’t you do most of those things now?

Orecklin: A lot of that is available today. If you look at a combination of Windows Vista, the Optimization Pack with SoftGrid and System Center, you can do many of those scenarios that Brad talked about. They might not be easy and seamless today, but you can accomplish them. Think about the vision continuing to mature where that becomes automated, policy based—based on how I connect to the network or what access I have, or what rights an IT professional has given particular users or domains. That set of options is available.

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