Over the last few years, the concept of “modern management” of PCs has grown. In a nutshell, modern management is using cloud-based services to provide various PC management functionalities such as inventory, policy enforcement, update scanning and deployment, and application deployment. Modern management is essentially using mobile device management (MDM) software to perform functions that have traditionally been done via the traditional PC management technologies that have been around for years, such as Group Policy, System Center Configuration Manager, Altiris or LANDesk.

As MDM functionality has grown, I continue to revisit the question of whether using an MDM solution for full-on PC management is a viable option. I first blogged about this on my personal blog in 2014 when I described “A Hypothetical Future of SCCM.” There have been significant roadblocks in this process that are slowly but surely being moved out of the way.

One significant technical roadblock has been the question of how to deliver applications that have large file sizes to a large number of systems on the same network. Traditional PC management products deploy applications from a local repository on the same network as the managed systems. Since a modern management system is cloud-based, the managed systems would need to download this content from the internet. Given the size of many applications multiplied by the number of managed systems needing the application, this scenario creates an immediate internet bandwidth problem.

Earlier this year, VMware announced that they would utilize Adaptiva’s OneSite peer-to-peer technology to extend the functionality of AirWatch, which is part of the Workspace ONE solution. Adaptiva OneSite has been around for a while, specifically as an add-on for Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), to provide peer-to-peer content distribution between SCCM clients.

VMware using OneSite technology in AirWatch will enable Windows 10 systems running AirWatch MDM to share application content with other Windows 10 systems on the local network. In a nutshell, this would enable a site with 1,000 Windows 10 clients to only download the application content from the cloud once, with the other 999 clients getting the content in a peer-to-peer fashion instead of across the internet. From the standpoint of application distribution with an MDM provider, this is a game changer. The technical roadblock is no longer there.

Looking Ahead

What will this mean long term? There are some environments that will likely never move to an MDM-centric approach to PC management. Others may be gung ho to try to get rid of their investment in on-premises management infrastructure. I think most will take a wait-and-see approach. Is it viable? Does it work? What will we miss by doing so?

I think this moves us closer to seeing pure MDM management of Windows 10 devices as a viable alternative. In some cases, this may already be a viable solution, but that would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

At this point in time, many improvements have been made in this area, but you will still need to look at all of the issues and scenarios in order to determine whether this is the right fit for your company.

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2 thoughts on “One Step Closer to the Viability of Modern PC Management

  • Varun Murthy says:

    The caveat mentioned above has already been addressed by Windows Update Delivery Optimization which is a native Windows feature.

    Updates are downloaded by a few clients and then distributed peer-to-peer so that it has a minimal impact on bandwidth. It is feature rich and allows admins granular control over cache and network utilization on each of the peers.

    These settings are supported in AirWatch already and can be configured and managed as described here in the Delivery Optimization section – https://my.air-watch.com/help/9.2/en/Content/Platform_Guides/WinDesktop/T/Profile_WAU.htm

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