Coalface Tech: Episode 2 (interview with Microsoft’s Michael Kleef and Jason Leznek)

Coalface Tech podcast graphic
After some late-night editing, Episode 2 of the Coalface Tech podcast that James Bannan and I produce is online at the APC Magazine Pro website.

As a result of my timezone blindness, combined with Skype problems, James and I didn’t manage to record our usual conversation for this episode but, a couple of weeks back, James hooked up with Microsoft’s Michael Kleef and Jason Leznek to chat about some of the management features in the Windows client and server operating systems as well as how we can start to prepare ourselves for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

If you like what you hear, then you might like to consider subscribing – there are two podcast feeds available (MP3 and AAC) – if you use iTunes then I recommend the AAC version as that’s the enhanced podcast with chapter markings and context sensitive links but MP3 should work for just about everyone. The AAC feed is also included in the Podcasts directory on iTunes:

Coalface Tech (MP3 podcast) Coalface Tech (MP3 podcast).
Coalface Tech (AAC enhanced podcast) Coalface Tech (AAC enhanced podcast) (or subscribe via iTunes).

If you don’t like it, please tell us why. We’re still learning how to do this podcasting stuff and there’s a lot to take on board but we really would like feedback – including suggested topics for discussion.

Going forward, James and I hope to get an episode out every month. They are time-consuming to produce though, so please bear with us if the schedule is not as regular as we’d like.

Finally, here are the show notes for episode 2:

  • Mark introduces the podcast.
  • James interviews Michael Kleef and Jason Leznek:
    • We start off with the guys introducing themselves.
    • Michael explains that group policy management is core to both the server and client versions of Windows 7, and how Windows PowerShell provides command line access to group policy objects.
    • Starter GPOs in Windows Server 2008 R2 are enhanced – providing templates of ADMX settings to kickstart creation of a new template.
    • Group Policy preferences are not known by many customers but are new in the Windows Server 2008 and Vista SP1 RSAT tools to do more than policy allows. Whereas policy enforces fixed settings, preferences are more like suggestions and can be targetted to provide a variety of settings, which can also persist across logons and in many cases remove or reduce the requirement for logon scripts.
    • James asks why GPO administration would need to be scripted – Michael explains that automation can be applied to backups, reporting and any other repetitive operations.
    • Jason suggests another scenario where different business units have similar but different settings and how scripting the policy creation can reduce the effort in creating the new objects.
    • Michael explained that these features will work downlevel where the client operating system supports the settings – not all settings will be applicable to downlevel operating systems and so policies may need to be written accordingly.
    • When asked what IT Pros can do to get ready for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, Michael suggests getting familiar with group policy preferences (and you only need a Vista SP1 machine – no domain changes needed – you could still be using Windows Server 2003). Jason added that it’s the RSAT tools that are required (including an updated version of GPMC). [of course there’s far more to do in order to prepare for a new operating system release but this needs to be taken in the context that Michael and Jason are subject matter experts for specific areas of Windows.]
    • Michael talked about how to work in a mixed environment – you might need separate policies for XP and Vista [and 7] in certain circumstances but many settings will work cross-platform.
    • When asked how the upgrade path will work as Windows Server 2008 R2 comes in – Michael stressed that fresh 64-bit installs will be required (R2 is 64-bit only and there is no direct upgrade path from 32-bit) but that services will co-exist between versions of Windows Server.
    • When asked about the implications for organisations moving to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 in terms of business value, Jason explained that there is a better together concept with many new features benefitting from the latest client and server releases – for example: Direct Access enabled an end user to access network resources seamlessly without the need for a VPN; or branch cache, which allows files to be cached locally for efficient use of network bandwidth.
    • Like a dog after a bone, James keeps on digging to find business value in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 for those organisations that have already deployed Windows Vista. Jason talked about features like Bitlocker to go, which not supports the encryption of data on removable devices in Windows 7 as well as the productivity improvements that the technologies Jason had already highlighted could potentially provide.
    • Michael then explained how group policy applies to remote connections.
    • Just as the interview draws to a close, the conversation turns to application compatibility [probably the biggest sticking point when it came to Vista deployments and just as critical for a Windows 7 deployment…] and Michael referred to one of James’ articles in which he recommends that customers start testing applications on Windows Vista SP1 in preparation for Windows 7.
  • Please give us your feedback!

(Next time, we should be back to the normal format and we have a new team member as Alistair Weddell joins us to perform the post-production work that is the bulk of the effort in producing this podcast.)

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