It's striking to watch as the folks at Redmond seemingly re-architect their corporate DNA and act like, well, you'd expect them to act in an era when your customers really are your partners. That was the vibe I caught last week, when Microsoft invited me to a briefing in New York City. A group of extremely knowledgeable -- and likable -- product managers provided a deep-dive in the enterprise features of Windows 7.
[Following the sessions, I prepared a Vlog, which mashes up what I learned with a couple of Microsoft-provided videos. Go to the end of this article to see the video.]
I know what you're thinking: I say "enterprise features" and you're ready to either click away or insert toothpicks to prop open your eyelids. (As in, "I better read this stuff for work.") You'd be wrong, though. That's because Windows 7 isn't a dichotomized construct where you have a glitzy, easy to use operating system on the client side, and a separate administrator-centric monolith on the back end.
Rather, Microsoft has put together a well thought-through ecosystem, which eases enterprise deployment and administration and yet also gives end-users a desktop OS they can love. Taken together, Windows 7 (on the client), Windows Server 2008 R2, and a bunch of associated toolkits -- notably Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), and System Center Configuration Manager -- comprise a systems-software tag-team which facilitates deployment, management, and day to day operations.
OK, now I'm starting to get into buzzword territory and your eyes are starting to glaze over. So let's summarize the salient enterprise-oriented features of Windows 7:
This connectivity-on-steroids feature will be a big worry remover, at least as far as nervous CIOs and admins are concerned. The deal here is that, with DirectAccess, you need no longer use a VPN to log onto your corporate network.
Instead, anytime you have an Internet connection, you're in. You might not know it, but you are. How? Well, Windows 7 authenticates you in the background (without your having to overtly click on a VPN icon and type in your user name and password).
DirectAccess performs user authentication using IPsec and IPv6. What, you don't support the IPsec or IPv6? Well, here's the best part: If your shop doesn't have these things in place, you can roll out DirectAccess in tandem with your current VPN. This mix-and-match strategy should alleviate any worries about your corporate network going down during changeover.