I’m sure you’re familiar with the MMS and Tech-Ed conferences, but are you in the know about the RSA Conference? It has been described as “The most prestigious information security event of the year. It is the must-attend event for organizations that deploy, develop or investigate data security or cryptography products”. It attracts over 17,000 IT professionals, developers, policy makers, industry leaders and academics. That’s a lot of people!!
Microsoft is a Diamond Sponsor for this event that and participates in event keynotes and sessions, exhibition area and press activities – and last week it was showcasing Network Access Protection (NAP) in the Exposition Hall, in San Francisco. That’s how I got to be involved!
I teamed up with folks from the Windows NAP team on the expo booths to demonstrate how Configuration Manager fitted into the Network Access Protection infrastructure to help keep noncompliant computers off the protected network until they were remediated. The demos showed a noncompliant computer being restricted and remediated for a software update, Windows security settings, and the Forefront services – but most of the time I showed just the software update remediation with Configuration Manager, and the configuration required to make it happen.
You can watch this demo yourself, because it’s hosted by Technet Edge – check it out! It’s less than 5 mins, with callouts to explain what’s going on. The scenario is Tom takes his work laptop home, disables the Windows firewall, misses an important software update deployment, and on top of all that, his son infects it with spyware. Tom isn’t in a good situation here, but NAP protects the network from the noncompliant laptop, and automatically fixes it: NAP clickthrough.
Another video that might interest you (10 mins) is the one that Jeff Sigman took actually during the RSA conference, and posted to the Windows NAP blog (See Video: NAP World Tour @ RSA 2008 San Francisco). Jeff is the Senior PM for Windows NAP, and put together the NAP 802.1x Interoperability Showcase – as well as presenting the popular “Zero to NAP in 10 minutes” at the Solutions Theater. When this video finishes, you’ll see a link to other videos including “NAPtheWorld”, which is of Jeff talking through a similar demo (9 mins) to the one that we were showing.
While I had peoples’ attention at the booth, I could also outline the other security-related features of Configuration Manager, such as desired configuration management, Internet-based client management, and the soon-to-be-released SP1 feature, out of band management. And if their brains weren’t too addled with all these impressive features, I then went through some of the other Configuration Manager features and recent improvement that might help to make their lives easier in managing their enterprise environment: such as maintenance windows and selective downloads for software updates; Vista deployments from bare metal or upgrades using operating system deployment; software usage and license information with Asset Intelligence; and mobile device management.
Many of the people that I spoke to were unfamiliar with the System Center management family of products, and Configuration Manager. Some people were familiar with SMS, even if they weren’t currently running it, so it was easy to describe Configuration Manager as “the grown-up version of SMS, and on steroids”. By the time I had finished outlining the new features, this phrase definitely resonated with them! However, for the people that didn’t even know SMS, I found it quite challenging to provide a simple overview that did the product justice. It does so much, where do you start?!
This was a good opportunity for me to resurface from the technical layer I’m used to working in, and acquaint myself with what higher level information we provided. After all, there’s very little point in talking about discovery providers when somebody is still trying to grasp what Configuration Manager is …And I discovered that we’ve got some great stuff out there! For example:
· For the people who asked what System Center was, and what other management products were available (to be honest, I had lost count!), there’s System Center Overview.
· Why upgrade to Configuration Manager? There’s an excellent white paper, and overview datasheet (“Top Reasons to Upgrade”).
· Many people were concerned about scalability because they managed large and complex environments, and I liked giving them this URL because it was so easy to remember: www.designedforbig.com. It’s got case studies and videos from large-sized company implementations.
· Other case studies for Configuration Manager: http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/configmgr/casestudies/default.mspx.
· And did you know that you can download a vhd of Configuration Manager, so that it’s all installed and setup ready for you to click through? Microsoft has a Web page called "Run IT on a Virtual Hard Disk" (with a friendly URL of www.microsoft.com/vhd) and if you scroll down to the section VHDs by Product, you'll find Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=469AF3B8-849D-4400-BDED-9024C3DB759F&displaylang=en).
I had a great time at the RSA Conference, made lots of NAP friends, thoroughly enjoyed Fisherman’s Wharf (this was my first visit to San Francisco), and I’m already looking forward to doing it all over again next year - or even for the London show in October if they let me!
You can watch the RSA Keynote Webcasts (free of charge but needs registration), including one from Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer for Microsoft, talking about end-to-end trust in an “anywhere access” environment that requires interoperability and collaboration: https://ec.rsaconference.com/attendee/event/rsa365.ww
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