System Center Online Desktop Manager will include malware protection, asset inventory, software inventory, and patching services as well as error reporting and configuration management. Admins will be able to get notifications when errors occur, and they'll be able to use a technology called Microsoft Easy Assist to remotely log on to and control specific PCs. They'll also have control over which patches they want to apply and how often they want desktop configuration information to be updated.
The service will use the Windows Update infrastructure as its base to manage corporate desktops, and all system information will travel over an encrypted connection. When a customer signs up for System Center Online, they'll get an enrollment package that includes a certificate tied to that specific account. They push a 1-MB package to computers they want to manage, redirecting those computers' Windows Update client to System Center Online, which then gives those machines unique certificates to allow admins to manage their corporate machines individually or as a group.
A number of managed services companies offer desktop management as a service, including IBM, Wipro, and Tata Consultancy Services. Several startups, including Everdream (now a part of Dell) have also toyed with remote desktop management.
Joseph Dadzie, Microsoft's principal group program manager for System Center Online, expects early demand for System Center Online Desktop Manager to come from organizations looking for easier ways to manage their laptops, since mobile users often aren't on the corporate network.
In the future, Microsoft says it will expand System Center Online to include server management and potentially some sort of backup service, though it's unclear when those services might be coming. New identity management software called Geneva is also forthcoming. Microsoft also demonstrated at last year's Professional Developers Conference an Azure-based service called System Center Atlanta that would give companies additional guidance on their data center implementations.
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