This year marks the second time I've attended the Microsoft Management Summit, and I have to say that I took a lot more away from the show this year than I did last year. Last year, I was on the prowl looking for Microsoft-specific directions on desktop virtualization. This year, I dropped the "virtualization" part and decided to follow what's happening with the entire desktop (this is, after all, the Microsoft Management Summit). Part of that was out of necessity since there wasn't much in the way of desktop virtualization announcements, but another reason is that we're officially now dealing with the "concept" of the desktop, and not the physical device of the same name.
Today's keynote was about the consumerization of IT, and while there was a bit of that laced in throughout the presentation, it was mostly about how changes in SCCM are separating the apps from the desktop and the desktop from the endpoint while keeping the management all in one place. That doesn't necessarily mean "virtualization," but it does show that Microsoft is positioning themselves for a world where "desktop" doesn't always mean "the device under my desk." Instead, "desktop" is a concept that runs on an endpoint. How that desktop is placed on that endpoint is up to you, as is how applications are placed on that desktop/endpoint combination.
One of the demonstrations shown today showed that SCCM 2012 now has the ability to tell whether or not a machine is physical or virtual. Using that information, policies, applications, settings, and so on can be differently configured but all managed from the same interface. It's not a new concept, but it is something that, up to this point, was a daunting task that required an advanced skill set.
Another announcement was that SCCM 2012 will have the ability to policy and control Android, iOS, Symbian, and Windows 7 Mobile devices. This plays into the separation of endpoint and desktop, and using SCCM (combined with other things like XenApp or vWorkspace, plus Microsoft tools like App-V), you'll be able to deliver settings, applications, and desktops to just about any device you can think of. It's worth noting that Blackberry is not on that list. I'm curious of the technical reason for that, so if any one knows, pass the info along :)
Regarding applications, we saw some more enhancements to SCCM in the way of self-service applications. I also spoke with a few vendors (SCCM Experts and Matrix42) that spend time integrating their solutions into SCCM to enable self-service applications, license remediation (and even reclamation), administrative workflow, platform migrations, and reporting.
There was also a few of application compatibility vendors who focus on testing your applications to see if they work with whatever desktop delivery model you want to move to. AppDNA and ChangeBase AOK both seek to help migrations from one platform to another by examining your applications and providing compatibility reports, remediation paths, and automated packaging solutions.
The last standout thing that I noted was that there were three User Environment Management companies with booths. AppSense, RES Software, and Immidio were all there, which only reinforces the trend that we see around the industry of UEM as a red-hot topic. We've got some video from RES and AppSense that we'll post soon, as well as an update from AppDNA.
I think that overall, SCCM is my biggest takeaway, mainly because it's been years since I've put any real focus on it. System Center as a whole is receiving a huge overhaul, with a lot of focus on cloud (read Jo Maitland's wrap-up of the Day 1 Cloud Keynote), but also a refreshingly equal focus on what's happening in the datacenter and in cubicle-land. Turning each layer of the user experience into it's own abstract concept is a smart move (certainly not a new idea), and I think it positions Microsoft and some partners well as cloud models evolve in the enterprise. In the meantime, it results in a more flexible method of managing desktops no matter how they are put together.