Microsoft's Windows Intune Launch Bittersweet For Some MSPs

cloud-based desktop management service

While the service is technically very solid, Windows Intune is being delivered under a business model that's in direct conflict with managed service providers, according to Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based solution provider.

"When your business model is designed around being a 'trusted advisor' offloading IT responsibility from a small business and delivering vendor management, a model in which Microsoft only allows direct billing is incompatible," Sobel said.

This is by no means a new sentiment: It's the same model as Microsoft's Office 365 suite, formerly known as BPOS, in which Microsoft handles the billing relationship directly with the customer. Microsoft's position is that partners continue to own and manage their customer relationships, designating themselves as the partner of record in deals and maintaining their trust bond with customers.

Managed service providers are interested in Windows Intune's ability to manage customer networks, and Microsoft has put a lot of work into making the service more applicable to multi-tenancy. However, being unable to deliver Windows Intune as part of a larger service offering is a big problem for partners, Sobel said.

Sponsored post

"This could be solved via SPLA or the standard reseller channel," said Sobel. "It's unfortunate that Windows Intune, which from a technical perspective is perfect for MSPs, won’t match from a business delivery model."

Microsoft is targeting Windows Intune toward small, midsize and large companies and it's charging $11 per PC, per month for the service, which includes management and anti-malware tools and upgrade rights to Windows 7 Enterprise. Microsoft also offers volume discounts on purchases of 250 or more licenses.

For SMBs that want to outsource maintenance of Windows PCs, Intune eliminates problems with multiple Windows versions, application licensing, patch and malware administration, data backup and recovery and inventory and maintenance of systems in multiple locations, such as branch and home offices.

Much of Windows Intune's functionality is already available as Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). "Conceptually, the product is a slam dunk, and because it's delivered as a service it allows for rapid rollout of new features," Sobel said. "The cloud is the perfect delivery model for a managed desktop offering."

Windows Intune borrows elements from several Microsoft products: It uses the same update engine as Windows Update, and it scans PCs for malware using the same antimalware engine as Microsoft's Forefront Endpoint and Security Essentials products. Inventorying and analysis of software and licenses on remote PCs is handled by Microsoft's Asset Inventory Service, part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).

"Windows Intune is good for Microsoft because customers have traditionally always complained about the overhead of PC maintenance. Ultimately, it's Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) all gussied up," said Joseph Giegerich, managing partner with Gig Werks, a Yonkers, N.Y.-based solution provider.