Windows 8: A Container for Applications
The lackluster reception for Microsoft's newest Windows offering may have more to do with how we view modern OSes than it does with actual Windows 8 reaction.Once you start viewing Windows 8 as a portal for app deployment, there's much to like.
Repeat after me: The desktop is a container for applications. Now, repeat it again. In fact, post this little mantra somewhere visible in your office. Pin it to the walls wherever your IT staff congregates. Add it to the logon banner Group Policy forces onto your admins every morning.
Why? More and more, the world is beginning to realize this statement defines modern Windows. Windows 8 hasn't debuted with lackluster fanfare because it's a horrible OS, or a failure of epic proportions. Far from it. Windows 8 hasn't been exciting because people aren't excited about OSes anymore.
And that's a good thing.
Ignore its controversial Start menu. Overlook the not-entirely-mouse-friendly touch-centric UI. Disregard its Windows RT-and-yet-not- Windows RT split personality.
Then ponder for a minute what Windows 8 actually delivers: An intelligently designed container for the applications we really care about.
The Windows 8 story isn't so much about Windows 8. It's about the entire infrastructure surrounding that container -- the multifaceted application delivery-and-management je ne sais quoi that's the real brilliance behind this wave of Microsoft releases.
Or, put in different terms, Windows 8 is about what goes in Windows 8.
Infrastructure's Time to Shine
Where can Windows 8 generate ROI return? The answer lies in your infrastructure. Consider the following as your short list.
The System Center Configuration Manager 2012 user-centric delivery model removes IT as the gatekeeper to application delivery. Users now install packaged apps from a catalog any time their job requires new software. With Configuration Manager 2012 SP1, that catalog encompasses traditional apps as well as those for Windows RT devices.
Lengthy desktop troubleshooting becomes irrelevant with the aid of that same Configuration Manager 2012 catalog. With a little up-front effort, even a complete desktop refresh becomes a self-servable activity. The desktop-as-container approach enables System Center automations to reliably reconstruct the user's workspace at will.
Microsoft's investments in Remote Desktop Services (RDS) further enhance the experience for applications that work best inside the datacenter. Most apps work flawlessly atop traditional server-based computing; those that don't are simply re-homed onto virtual desktops within the RDS infrastructure. Accessing remote applications happens seamlessly with the assistance of RemoteApp and Desktop Connections.
Location becomes irrelevant when Windows 8 integrates with the now-simplified Microsoft DirectAccess infrastructure. Once enabled inside the datacenter, devices anywhere never truly leave the LAN. Users need no extra steps and apps operate anywhere just as if they were LAN-connected.
Devices, desktops and laptops on any network remain under IT management with the support of Windows Intune. The Microsoft cloud management service keeps on-the-move company assets permanently under control, while at the same time delivering packaged apps to user-owned devices in support of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives.
Finally, even strongly controlled environments can extend past their traditional brick-and-mortar by utilizing the new Windows 8 Windows To Go. With a tightly controlled Windows 8 instance on a USB key, users anywhere can "borrow" available hardware to extend the corporate network.
Changing the Mindset
We've long disagreed with our users about whether OSes or applications were more important. It turns out the users were right all along. Without OSes there can be no applications, but without applications there can be no business. This can be seen in the current wave of Microsoft technologies.
It's likely Windows 8 might never see the rabid excitement its predecessors basked in. But that's a good thing. What Windows 8 does deliver is a worthy container for all the applications -- in all the use cases -- that your business demands.
Greg Shields is a senior partner and principal technologist with Concentrated Technology. He also serves as a contributing editor and columnist for TechNet Magazine and Redmond magazine, and is a highly sought-after and top-ranked speaker for live and recorded events. Greg can be found at numerous IT conferences such as TechEd, MMS and VMworld, among others, and has served as conference chair for 1105 Media’s TechMentor Conference since 2005. Greg has been a multiple recipient of both the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and VMware vExpert award.