TechEd North America 2013 kicked off today and Microsoft introduced a portfolio of new solutions to help businesses embrace the era of cloud computing and connected devices.
In today's keynote address, Server & Tools Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson and fellow executives showcased how new offerings across client, datacenter infrastructure, public cloud and application development help deliver a connected enterprise platform.
Microsoft introduced upcoming releases of its key enterprise IT solutions for hybrid cloud: Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014. Available in preview later this month, the products break down boundaries between customer datacenters, service provider datacenters and Windows Azure. Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 are slated to release by the end of calendar year 2013, with SQL Server 2014 slated for release shortly thereafter.
Today the company also announced the public preview of Windows Azure BizTalk Services for enterprise integration solutions, both on-premises and in the cloud. In addition, Windows Azure now offers per-minute billing for virtual machines, Web roles and worker roles that improves cloud economics.
During the keynote address, Iain McDonald, partner director of program management for Windows, detailed key business features in the recently announced Windows 8.1 update - including advances in security, management, mobility and networking.
New networking features in Windows 8.1 aim to improve mobile productivity with system-on-a-chip (SoC)-integrated mobile broadband, native Miracast wireless display and near field communication (NFC)-based pairing with enterprise printers. Security is also enhanced in the new update to address device proliferation and to protect corporate data and applications with fingerprint-based biometrics, multifactor authentication on tablets and remote business data removal. And improved management capabilities in Windows 8.1 give more flexibility with supported options such as System Center Configuration Manager 2012 R2 and new mobile device management (MDM) solutions with Microsoft's third-party MDM partners, in addition to updated Windows Intune support.
On June 26, at the Build 2013 developer conference in San Francisco, Microsoft will release a public preview of the Windows 8.1 update for Windows 8 and Windows RT.
Below is a list of some of the new and updated features that will be available in Windows 8.1 Preview:
B.Y.O.D (Bring Your Own Device) Enhancements
- Workplace Join - A Windows 8 PC was either domain joined or not. If it was a member of the domain, the user could access corporate resources (if permissioned) and IT could control the PC through group policy and other mechanisms. This feature allows a middle ground between all or nothing access, allowing a user to work on the device of their choice and still have access to corporate resources. With Workplace Join, IT administrators now have the ability to offer finer-grained control to corporate resources. If a user registers their device, IT can grant some access while still enforcing some governance parameters on the device to ensure the security of corporate assets.
- Work Folders - Work Folders allows a user to sync data to their device from their user folder located in the corporation's data center. Files created locally will sync back to the file server in the corporate environment. This syncing is natively integrated into the file system.
- Open MDM- With Windows 8.1, you can use an OMA-DM API agent to allow management of Windows 8.1 devices with mobile device management products, like Mobile Iron or Air Watch.
- NFC tap-to-pair printing - Tap your Windows 8.1 device against an NFC-enabled printer and you're all set to print without hunting on your network for the correct printer. You can simply put an NFC tag on your existing printers to enable this functionality.
- Wi-Fi Direct printing - Connect to Wi-Fi Direct printers without adding additional drivers or software on your Windows 8.1 device, forming a peer-to-peer network between your device and any Wi-Fi enabled printer.
- Native Miracast wireless display - Present your work wirelessly with no connection cords or dongles needed; just pair with project to a Miracast-enabled projector through Bluetooth or NFC and Miracast will use Wi-Fi to let you project wire-free.
- Mobile Device Management - When a user enrolls their device, they are joining the device to the Windows Intune management service. They get access to the Company Portal. This allows a deeper management experience with existing tools like Windows Intune. IT administrators now have more comprehensive policy management for Windows RT devices, and can manage Windows 8.1 PCs as mobile devices without having to deploy a full management client.
- Web Application Proxy - The Web Application Proxy is a new role service in the Windows Server Remote Access role. It provides the ability to publish access to corporate resources, and enforce multi-factor authentication as well as apply conditional access policies to verify both the user's identity and the device they are using resources, and enforce multi-factor authentication as well as verify the device being used before access is granted.
- RDS Enhancements - Enhanced VDI in Server 2012 R2 which delivers improvements in Management, Value, and User Experience. Session Shadowing allows Admins to view and remotely control active user sessions in an RDSH server. Disk dedupe and storage tiering allow for lower cost storage options. User experience for RemoteApps, network connectivity and multiple display support has been improved. Administrators can now support users with session desktops to provide helpdesk style support. Administrators now have even more flexible storage options to support a VDI environment without expensive SAN investments. End users will find RemoteApp behavior is more like local apps, and the experience in low-bandwidth is better, with faster reconnects and improved compression, and support for multiple monitors.
- VPN - Microsoft's engineers have added support for a wider range of VPN clients in both Windows and Windows RT devices. They also added the ability to have an app automatically trigger VPN connections.
- Mobile Broadband - At Windows 8 launch, the devices had embedded radios that were separate components within the devices. Windows 8.1 supports embedded wireless radio, which gives you increased power savings, longer battery life, also enables thinner form factors and lower cost devices.
- Broadband tethering - Turn your Windows 8.1 mobile broadband-enabled PC or tablet into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing other devices to connect and access the internet.
- Auto-triggered VPN - When you select an app or resource that needs access through the inbox VPN - like a company's intranet site - Windows 8.1 will automatically prompt you to sign in with one click. This feature will be available with Microsoft and third-party inbox VPN clients.
- Remote Business Data Removal - Corporations now have more control over corporate content which can be marked as corporate, encrypted, and then be wiped when the relationship between the corporation and user has ended. Corporate data can now be identified as corporate vs. user, encrypted, and wiped on command using EAS or EAS + OMA-DM protocol. This capability is requires implementation in the client application and in the server application (Mail + Exchange Server). The client application determines if the wipe simply makes the data inaccessible or actually deletes it.
- Improved Biometrics - All SKU's will include end to end biometric capabilities that enable authenticating with your biometric identity anywhere in Windows (Windows sign-in, remote access, UAC, etc.). Windows 8.1 will be optimized for fingerprint based biometrics and will include a common fingerprint enrollment experience that will work with a variety of readers (touch, swipe). Access to Windows Store Apps, functions within them, and certificate release can be gated based on verification of a user's biometric identity.
- Pervasive Device Encryption - Device encryption previously found on Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 is now available in all editions of Windows. It is enabled out of the box and can be configured with additional BitLocker protection and management capability on Pro and Enterprise SKU. Consumer devices are automatically encrypted and protected when using a Microsoft account. Data on any Windows connected standby device is automatically protected (encrypted) with device encryption. Organizations that need to manage encryption can easily take add additional BitLocker protection options and manageability to these devices.
- Improved Internet Explorer - Internet Explorer 11 improvements include faster page load times, side-by-side browsing of your sites, 3D graphics, enhanced pinned site notifications, reading view and app settings like favorites, tabs and settings sync across all your Windows 8.1 PCs. Internet Explorer 11 also now includes capability that enables an antimalware solution to scan the input for a binary extension before it?s passed onto the extension for execution.
- Malware Resistance - Windows Defender, Microsoft?s free antivirus solution in Windows 8, will include network behavior monitoring to help detect and stop the execution of known and unknown malware.
- Assigned Access- With Assigned Access, a new feature offered in Windows 8.1 RT, Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 8.1 Enterprise, you can enable a single Windows Store application experience on the device. This can be things like a learning application for kids in an educational setting. In the Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry product, Microsoft delivers additional lockdown capabilities to meet the needs of Industry devices like Point of Sale Systems, ATMs, and Digital Signs.
Microsoft today also introduced Visual Studio 2013 and demonstrated new capabilities for improving the application lifecycle, both on-premises and in the cloud. A preview of Visual Studio 2013, with its new enhancements for agile portfolio planning, developer productivity, team collaboration, quality enablement and DevOps, is slated for release in the coming weeks, timed with the Build conference.
Furthermore, Microsoft announced an agreement to acquire InCycle Software's InRelease Business Unit. InRelease is a release management solution for Microsoft .NET and Windows Server applications. This acquisition will extend Microsoft?s offerings in the application lifecycle management and DevOps market.
In addition, the company today announced new benefits that enable Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers to more easily develop and test more applications with Windows Azure. New enhancements include up to $150 worth of Windows Azure platform services per month at no additional cost for Visual Studio Professional, Premium or Ultimate MSDN subscribers and new use rights to run select MSDN software in the cloud.