Tucked in the company's Windows 8 editions branding strategy announcement was Windows 8 Enterprise. While initially characterized as a business-oriented offshoot of Windows 8 Pro, today there are more details surrounding the OS variant, including a bootable desktop that resides on a USB thumbdrive.
In a Windows Blog post, Erwin Visser describes the "premium features" that are exclusive to the Enterprise build. These include capabilities that address "the mobile productivity, security, manageability and virtualization needs of today's businesses." Increasingly, that means coming to terms with the "bring your own device" (BYOD) trend that's presenting IT management challenges for organization, particularly around data security.
Today, BYOD pertains mainly to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Microsoft is hopping on the bandwagon to include PCs with Windows To Go.
With Windows To Go, the software maker envisions "bring your own PC" scenarios that allow users to load up a secure, corporate Windows 8 desktop using a USB stick and their own hardware. In terms of software licenses, Microsoft is touting new flexible Windows Software Assurance (SA) licensing that allows for the use of Windows To Go on any corporate PC with Windows SA, a home PC and on their personal devices at work with the addition of a new companion device license.
In a related development, Microsoft used the opportunity to reveal more of its strategy for getting Windows tablets in the hands of corporate customers. A Windows SA use right called Windows RT Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Rights, grants Windows RT devices -- the Windows 8 build for ARM tablets -- access to "a full VDI image running in the datacenter" when used as a Windows SA licensed PC's companion.
BranchCache, a feature that debuted with Windows 7, is being upgraded to work with Windows Server 2012. BranchCache creates a local store of frequently accessed files and data to take the strain off corporate wide-area networks (WANs). The combo of Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows Server 2012 will result in improved bandwidth optimization, security and scalability, according to the company. AppLocker, which places restrictions on the types of files and apps users can run, also survives the journey from Windows 7.
DirectAccess – another Windows 7 carry-over -- allows administrators to forgo virtual private network (VPN) software to grant network access to remote workers. The VPN-bypassing technology works over standard IPv4 infrastructures and helps streamline and centralize policy enforcement and software updates for PCs that are operating beyond the corporate firewall.
Tackling virtual desktop environments, Visser says that the OS, along with RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012, will "provide users with a rich desktop experience with the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios." Rounding out the features is the ability to side-load internal Windows 8 Metro apps on domain joined PCs and tablets.