Windows In Tune

Tuning up Windows Update
By Mark Lyndersay

Originally published in the Business Guardian, March 31, 2011
The web based administration screen for Windows In Tune. Image courtesy Microsoft.

Microsoft already had a good software update mechanism built into the newest version of Windows, but it announced something better, at least for corporate customers on March 23.
The day before that, Luis Diego Esquivel, Product Specialist, Multi-Country Americas, sat for an exclusive teleconference with the Business Guardian to discuss what the new product, Windows In Tune, would deliver to SME and large enterprise PC installations.

The problem, as Microsoft saw it, was one of scale. Windows Update works well for individual users, but IT departments have traditionally had to use either software or human agents to roll out large scale updates to their hardware while maintaining basic standards for the software installed on those systems.

Central to the concept of Windows In Tune is the notion of a Core IO, an installation of Windows and related software that IT administrators can define for an entire enterprise’s worth of computers and which the new update system can manage automatically while reporting differences from IT policy.

The other leveraging technology behind Windows In Tune is Microsoft’s enthusiastic embrace of the possibilities of cloud based computing, which the company has quietly rolled out under the brand Cloud Power, with its own techy blue vaguely gear shaped logo.
While Windows Update is also, technically cloud based, it requires the intervention of the user to authorise updates and changes. Windows In Tune can automate the process and schedule it for office downtime, essentially working on each PC according to the rules set down by corporate technology managers.

The IT department rolls out a software agent that controls the evaluation, reporting and updating process on each PC, something that can be done by the computer’s user or managed by the IT department.
Once that software is installed, it connects the Microsoft's cloud servers at scheduled times to access updates to both Windows and Microsoft’s business products. Larger updates can be hosted on local servers. Compliance with corporate rules regarding permitted installations can also be monitored using the service.

The service will begin with updates to Microsoft’s products, but Esquivel expects that third party software vendors working in the enterprise space will also become part of the cloud based tune up process. The software includes Forefront Endpoint Protection, an enhanced, corporate scale threat detection system designed to minimise exposure to digital threats.
Intriguingly, according to Esquivel, Windows In Tune can run a full update of Windows itself in addition to incremental service pack updates. That means that office installations running software as far back as Windows XP Service Pack 3 can schedule an update using the service to Windows 7.

Microsoft supports any PC running Windows Service Pack 3 through Windows 7 and the hardware compatible with those versions of its operating system software under its service agreements for Windows In Tune. A free 30 day trial of the software is
downloadable from Microsoft’s website for the product.
The service is being introduced at a straightforward rate for business use, at a per user, per month rate of US$11 for business and US$2.55 for academic users.

As a product billed directly by Microsoft, it’s still unclear how the company plans to enable its partners to bundle it into their services for customers.
“We are encouraging a move from capital expenditure to operating expenditure, which Microsoft anticipates will be good for companies,” Esquivel said.
“The product closes the gap between small and medium enterprises and large corporations and both sectors can take advantage of the same level of support in their businesses.”
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