A Microsoft view on the consumerisation of IT (#ukitcamp)

I never realised that my blog posts were feared. At least not until Microsoft’s Andrew Fryer (@deepfat) said he was less concerned about my event feedback on yesterday’s IT Pro Camp event than on my blog post! Well, all I can promise is to try and be objective, fair and balanced – which is what readers have come to expect around here – even if there is less Microsoft-focused content these days.

I went along to yesterday’s IT Pro Camp on Consumerisation as a result of a Twitter conversation that suggested I come and see what Microsoft is doing to embrace and support consumerisation.  To be fair, I should have known better. For the last 20 years, Microsoft has provided desktop (and back-office) systems to enterprises and the consumerisation megatrend threatens this hegemony. Sure, they also operate in the consumer space, but consumerisation is increasingly mobile and cross-platform which means that Microsoft’s dominance is weakening*.

What the UK TechNet team has done is to put together a workshop that looks at how Microsoft tools can be used to support consumerisation in the enterprise – and, at that level, it worked well (although I’m pretty sure the event synopsis changed at some point between me booking my place and it actually taking place).  Even so, I was naive to expect anything more than marketing. Indeed, I nearly went home at lunchtime as it was starting to feel like a big System Center Configuration Manager pitch and there was very little discussion of what is really meant by the consumerisation of IT.

There is little doubt in my mind that the event provided a great demo to show off a host of functionality in Microsoft’s products (and, to be fair, there is an increasing amount of cross-platform support too) but, time and time again, I was the awkward so-and-so who asked how I would implement a feature (for example Direct Access) in a cross-platform estate (e.g. for BYOD) and the answer was that it needs Windows.

So, earlier in the week I was slating Oracle for an event that basically said “buy more of our stuff” and this week… well, it’s just “stuff” from Redmond instead of (different) “stuff” from Redwood Shores, I guess.

Even so, there were some snippets within the product demos that I would like to call out – for example, Simon May (@simonster)’s assertion that:

“We need to be more permissive of what’s allowed on the network – it’s easier to give access to 80% most of time and concentrate on securing the 20%.”

In a nutshell, Simon is re-enforcing the point I made earlier this month when I suggested that network access control was outdated and de-perimiterisation is the way forward (although Microsoft’s implementation of NAC – called Network Access Protection – did feature in a demonstration).  There was also a practical demonstration of how to segregate traffic so that the crown jewels are safe in a world of open access (using IPsec) and, although the Windows implementation is simpler through the use of Group Policy, this will at least work on other devices (Macs and Linux PCs at least – I’m not so sure about mobile clients).

Of course, hosted shared desktops (Remote Desktop Services) and virtual desktop infrastructure reared their ugly heads but it’s important to realise these are just tactical solutions – sticking plaster if you like – until we finally break free from a desktop-centric approach and truly embrace the App Internet, with data-centric policies to providing access.

There was no discussion of how to make the App Internet real (aside from App-V demos and SharePoint/System Centre Configuration Manager application portals) but, then again, this was an IT Pro event and not for developers – so maybe a discussion on application architecture was asking a little too much…

Other topics included protection of mobile devices, digital rights management, and federation, featuring a great analogy from Simon as he described claims-based authentication as being a bit like attempting to buy a drink in a bar, and being asked to prove your age, with a driving licence, that’s trusted because the issuer (e.g. DVLA in mainland Britain) has gone through rigourous checks.

Hopefully this post isn’t too critical – my feedback basically said that there is undoubtedly a lot of work that’s gone into creating the TechDays IT Pro Camps and for many people they will be valuable. Indeed, even for me (I haven’t been involved in Microsoft products, except as a user, for a couple of years now) it’s been a great refresher/update on some of the new technologies. But maybe IT architects have a different view? Or maybe it’s time for me to get more intimately involved in technology again?

 

* I don’t see Microsoft being pushed out any time soon – Windows still runs on a billion PCs worldwide and analysts haven’t given up hope on Windows Phone either – at least not based on an IDC event I attended recently.

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