Is Windows 10 Ready for the Enterprise?

With this week's release of Windows 10 comes the question about whether the new OS is ready for enterprise deployment, an issue often in doubt for years after a product is launched.

One place not to look for an answer is the Internet. Searching on what's new in Windows 10 renders an almost unending series of articles about the new Cortana digital assistant feature, Control Panel, clever Continuum UI, tighter Xbox integration and vague whispers of integrations with HoloLens.

These and many other features of Windows 10 are absolutely nice to have, but aren't necessarily showstoppers for business interests outside the sphere of personal usage. Even the new (old) Start Menu offers little more than a throwback to an earlier era before the much-maligned Windows 8 tiles became the Start Menu no one liked.

But in and among the graphical improvements and UI enhancements are a bevy of enterprise- and business-minded features that are worth your attention.

Windows 10 updates are made far more granular than ever before, giving enterprises the flexibility to patch higher-­risk devices like laptops and desktops at a different frequency than sensitive business applications and servers. Windows Server Update Services has long been the preeminent tool for distributing updates to machines; however, its historically rigid management structure made it challenging to manage and deliver patches at different cadences and on different hardware classes.

IT further gains Windows 10 control over desktops and laptops formerly reserved mostly for devices. Windows 10 ships with Mobile Device Management as an alternative for controlling the UX alongside Windows Group Policy and Group Policy Preferences.

Windows 10 also offers an improved app store-like experience for line-of-business applications, which isn't necessarily new. You've seen similar functionality in products ranging from Windows 8, to the iPad and Android-based devices, to even older Windows versions with the help of System Center technologies. But Windows 10 continues and improves this application self-service approach with its customizable Windows Store for Business, offering IT and its users a private app store for delivery of applications the business needs.

Yet while much of the attention will remain on Windows 10 itself, answering the question about the readiness of this OS for business also requires a look at Microsoft's other surrounding management solutions. System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and its ever-increasing integration with Microsoft Intune is perhaps the one most to watch.

Out of the entire wave of updated System Center products, SCCM will be the first to release. Microsoft anticipates releasing the next major version in the final quarter of 2015. This SCCM version will add support for managed, in-place Windows 10 upgrades, as well as mobile application and mobile device management.

Of even greater importance is the enhanced integration of SCCM with the Intune cloud service. More so than ever before, Intune offers an SCCM-like management experience for devices indifferent of location, while enabling the management of Intune itself from the comfort of one's on-premises SCCM administrative console (or not, if you so choose).

In a world where business devices are being operated outside the traditional brick-and-mortar more often than not, the SCCM-plus-Intune integration facilitates Windows 10 and down-level OS management no matter where your users go.

In the end, it'll be application and driver compatibility alongside available time and effort that'll dictate your company's time frame for the upgrade. Microsoft's literature for Windows 10 suggests a seamless upgrade, although every seasoned IT pro should know the drill.

I'm sure Microsoft doesn't want a re-enactment of the ridiculous challenge in getting applications and drivers off Windows XP. In fact, the company has already released tools to test your application and driver compatibility. A recent update -- KB3035583 -- will install the "Get Windows 10" app on machines. This tool provides a way to check a PC for hardware and software compatibility.

In the end, is Windows 10 ready for business? Most likely yes. A much more salient question is, "Is business ready for Windows 10?"

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.