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Editor's Note: What the Arrival of Windows 8 Means for IT

This is not your typical desktop refresh. Beyond the new user experience, Windows 8 offers opportunities to prepare your client infrastructure for larger changes around virtualization and cloud computing.

By Mitch Irsfeld

Since its earliest preview release, people have tried to pigeon-hole Windows 8, but they quickly find that the operating system is much more than a new interface and application platform.  For IT and business users, especially, Windows 8 goes well beyond gestures and the new app model.

This TechNet feature package addresses Windows 8 from an IT perspective, how the game-changing operating system fits in a world of policies, standards and control.

As IT departments have quickly learned, when great features converge with improvements in productivity, security, reliability and performance on innovative new devices, they will end up dealing with those bring-your-own (BYO) devices, whether they want to or not. And when a new technology gains traction in the user community, the key question for IT is its ability to securely manage the new devices in the existing infrastructure and deliver line-of-business applications to those devices. Check out the Building Windows 8 blog for a very useful posting titled Managing “BYO” PCs in the enterprise (including WOA).

One of those great features for IT in Windows 8 is its support for virtualization on the Windows client. In fact, Network World, in its recent revue Microsoft targets virtualization with Windows 8/Windows Server combo, noted that “for enterprises, the real story is the way Microsoft has integrated Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and the Hyper-V hypervisor to create an unmatched system for running virtualized environments.”

For a deep dive into key scenarios around management, deployment, security, desktop virtualization, and more with Windows 8 in the enterprise, consider participating in one of the free Windows 8 IT Camps held throughout the world and in dozens of cities across the U.S.  If you can’t make the IT Camp in your area, take a free Windows 8 Jump Start training course designed specifically for experienced IT professionals.

Going hands-on with Windows 8 is just a click away. Download the free 90-day evaluation of Windows 8 Enterprise to explore the newest features firsthand and start testing your apps, hardware, and deployment strategies. There a number of resources to help with your evaluation, starting with the Windows 8 Technical Demonstrations on everything from BitLocker in Windows 8 to the virtual desktop infrastructure.

Once you’re ready to start planning for Windows 8, we have several resources to assist. Get started with Springboard Series for Windows 8, where you will find step-by-step guidance for planning, piloting, managing and troubleshooting common issues. You can also take advantage of the free Windows 8 Assessment and Deployment Tools, to assess the readiness of your hardware, test for application compatibility, migrate user data and settings, and implement security settings.

And when you’re ready for deployment, get the 30-minute Windows 8 Deployment Demo to explore migration from earlier versions of the Windows OS (including Windows XP), lite touch installation with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT), and simplified deployment with tools like Windows PE and the User State Migration Tool (USMT).

I can’t close on a discussion of Windows 8 in the enterprise without covering the new application delivery paradigm that has IT administrators a bit squeamish, based largely on their experience with other app stores. Controlling the availability and often the functionality of applications, based on business policies has been a mainstay of IT. And I’m happy to say that IT is still able to manage client access to the Windows Store, using trusted tools like Group Policy on domain-joined devices, and “sideload” apps directly to a device without going through the Windows Store. We’ve adressed many of these questions in the FAQ: Managing the Windows Store.

As you explore Windows 8, you’ll quickly realize that this is not your typical desktop refresh. Beyond the new user experience, it offers opportunities to quickly prepare your client infrastructure for larger changes around virtualization, cloud computing, and big data. More on that in coming TechNet feature addressing the advances of Windows’ server side.

Thanks for reading,

Mitch

Nina Ruchirat
Mitch Irsfeld, Editor of TechNet, is a veteran computer industry journalist and content developer who managed editorial staffs at several leading publications, includingInformationWeek, InternetWeek and CommunicationsWeek. He is also an editor for TechNet Magazine and managing editor of the TechNet Flash newsletter.