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Microsoft's Desktop Analytics Service Now Commercially Available

Desktop Analytics, Microsoft's service for viewing Windows device information, is now deemed ready for use by organizations.

The service is now at the "general availability" commercial-release stage, according to Microsoft's Wednesday announcement. Desktop Analytics gives organizations dashboard views of their managed Windows "endpoints, applications and drivers." It checks for compatibility issues, and offers "mitigation recommendations for known issues." Desktop Analytics also can be used to automate Windows desktop deployments, including setting up pilot devices for testing Windows upgrades.

Requirements
Desktop Analytics requires using System Center Configuration Manager version 1902, with Update Rollup 4500571 installed, at minimum. Desktop Analytics can't be used as a "standalone" service, although that's a top request.

The use of Desktop Analytics with the Microsoft Intune device management service is part of Microsoft's future plans, although no details were described.

There are other requirements to use Desktop Analytics, as described in Microsoft's "Overview" document. Notable details include:

  • Global administrator rights and an Azure subscription.
  • Enrolled devices need to be covered under licensing for Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 plans (or Education equivalents), or Windows Virtual Desktop Access E3 or E5 plans, although Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 operating systems are supported.
  • The setting for diagnostic data collection (previously called "telemetry") needs to be at the "Basic" level at minimum, but only the "Enhanced (Limited)" setting will deliver use data and health data.

This last point about needing the Enhanced (Limited) telemetry setting is mentioned in this Microsoft document. Information about this setting, though, appeared to be missing from Microsoft's documentation (for instance, it's not shown in this document). Microsoft had unveiled the Enhanced (Limited) telemetry option about two years ago, according to this Computerworld article, but that article's Microsoft-associated links don't appear to include the term.

Update 10/22: A Microsoft document now includes a description about how to "limit Enhanced diagnostic data to the minimum required by Desktop Analytics." By making some changes, IT pros can limit Enhanced telemetry to just "operating system events" and "some crash dump types."

Desktop Analytics depends on using two services hosted in the United States, and an organization's diagnostic data also gets processed in the United States, according to Microsoft's FAQ document. Possibly, those details represent blocks for the use of the Desktop Analytics service in European Union countries because of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) location requirements. Update 10/22: A Microsoft spokesperson commented that "GDPR doesn't block data transfers out of the EU outright and that Privacy Shield permits data to be transferred to the US for processing."

Desktop Analytics also isn't for users of the long-term servicing channel of Windows 10, according to Microsoft's "Overview" document.

Coming End of Windows Analytics
Desktop Analytics is the designated replacement for the Windows Analytics service, which will reach its end on Jan. 31, 2020. The three components of Windows Analytics -- Device Health, Update Compliance and Upgrade Readiness -- are all combined in the Desktop Analytics service.

Microsoft also previously explained that the Update Compliance component of Windows Analytics will still be available in the Azure Portal beyond the January end date. Update Compliance and Upgrade Readiness both could be used for free by organizations.

There's apparently no free substitute service for the Upgrade Readiness solution. It'll end with Windows Analytics in January.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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