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Introducing WinPE Peer Cache

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WinPE Peer Cache is a new feature of SCCM CB 1610. It functions in a similar manner to BranchCache however, it is only available for content access from the Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE). WinPE Peer cache is configured and managed as part of the SCCM CB client management settings.

A task sequence configured to use Windows PE Peer Cache can get the following content objects from a local peer while running in Windows PE:

  1. Operating system image
  2. Driver package
  3. Packages and Programs (When the client continues to run the task sequence in the full operating system, the client gets this content from a peer cache source if the task sequence was originally configured for peer cache when running in Windows PE.)
  4. Additional boot images

It is important to understand that WinPE Peer Cache is targeted at OSD scenarios and does not replace Distribution Points and BranchCache as locations for other types of content. For example, the following content objects never transfer using peer cache. Instead, they transfer from a distribution point or by Windows BranchCache if you have configured Windows BranchCache in your environment:

  1. Applications
  2. Software updates

WinPE Peer Cache only supports OSD scenarios that include a WinPE boot such as PXE boot or Boot Media.

WinPE Peer Cache is very new and is evolving very rapidly. To avoid possible issues with the model, Microsoft is adding features to create higher deployment success rates. Beginning with SCCM CB 1702, a peer cache source computer will reject a request for content when the peer cache source computer meets any of the following conditions:

  1. Is in low battery mode.
  2. CPU load exceeds 80% at the time the content is requested.
  3. Disk I/O has an AvgDiskQueueLength that exceeds 10.
  4. There are no more available connections to the computer.

Microsoft Education Event – Surface Laptop and Windows Autopilot

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At the Microsoft Education Event this past week, there were many announcements that we covered in the Universal Windows Podcast Episode 66. While most of the show was dedicated to the Education sector and Windows 10s, there were two announcements that I was particularly excited intrigued about. Specifically the new Surface laptop and Windows Autopilot.

When I try the Surface Laptop later this month I will check out the lapability but from the specs, there are definitely a couple of missing features that would fit my use cases. I’d really like to see a full USB-C port and built in LTE. From a USB-C perspective, I have run into issues with USB resources with my Surface Pro 3 and I think USB-C is the future. As the Surface Laptop is a premium device, for me to justify the price tag, I’d like to feel like the device has a long useful life ahead whether I keep it myself, hand it down to a family member or sell it. USB-C gives it a longer useful life in my opinion.

As far as LTE, I firmly believe the future is BYON (Bring Your Own Network). We won’t need to be hunting for free WiFi at Starbucks or airports and other locations with unknown risks and tethering while useful can be inconvenient and drain your mobile’s battery. There rumours that an LTE version might be out in the fall.

The most exciting reveal for me was Windows Autopilot. It appears to be a simple to use, Windows 10 mass deployment tool built for the classroom scenario. As I do a lot of work with SCCM, the de facto Enterprise class Operating System deployment tool, I am curious to see how this stacks up. I will do a side-by-side comparison once more details of Autopilot are available. Stay tuned.

When the Stars Align – Office365 and Windows Release Schedules

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This week Microsoft announced that Windows 10, Office 365 and System Center Configuration Manager would align their release schedules. They are looking at a spring and fall release most likely in March and September. This is great news for businesses that have being struggling to adapt to the new Windows-as-a-Service model align with Office-as-a-Service. There are definitely inter-dependencies between Windows and Office as well as SCCM the tool commonly used to deploy, update and manage both Windows and Office.

From an IT Management perspective, organizations have been trying to accelerate the engineering efforts previously put into Windows and Office deployments and operationalize the process but the various product release schedules with low predictability have made it difficult. This should help by providing regular milestones and predictability. Good Job Microsoft.

Here is a link to the release from Microsoft

Intune: Conditional Access for Exchange Online

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One the promises of Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) is the ability to separate the user’s personal data from corporate data. This capability enhances BYOD scenarios as a selective wipe can be performed on a device removing only the corporate data and leaving the personal data intact when a user leaves the organization or a device is retired from corporate use.

In Intune this functionality works in conjunction with MAM. Managed mobile apps are “wrapped” so that any data that they use is stored in a secure container that can be remotely wiped by the management platform.

This month a new conditional access capability has been introduced into Windows Intune that helps achieve this segregation. Conditional access policies can now be enforced preventing email client applications from connecting to Office 365’s exchange Online service unless the application is MAM managed application. This will prevent users from accessing corporate email with an unmanaged email app.

Windows Store for Business – Managing Paid Apps with Intune

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This post will walk you through simple management of Windows Store for Business (WSfB) apps that require a paid license.

You will need the following prerequisites:

  1. Configure synchronization between WSfB and Microsoft Intune
  2. Configure a payment method for license fees

Once you have met the prerequisites you can follow along below.

Instructions

  1. Login to the Windows store for Business with your management account.
  2. Navigate to Shop

  3. Use the category browser or the search tool to find the application that you wish to purchase. For this walk through I have chosen EZDictionary

  4. Click the app that you wish to purchase
  5. On the App page select Buy Now

  6. From the Buy dialogue select the quantity of licenses you wish to purchase and then click Next

  7. Verify your purchase information including payment method, price, quantity and total and then click Next

  8. You will receive a transaction completion notice. Click Close.

  9. Navigate to Manage>Inventory and verify that the app is available. Be sure to check the number of available licenses.

  10. Login to the Microsoft Intune Management Portal and navigate to Administration>Mobile Device Management>Windows>Store for Business and select Sync Now

  11. Once the Sync completes, navigate to Apps>Volume Purchased Apps and verify that the app is available to be managed. Notice that you get information about the number of licenses available and deployed.

Add Users to Windows Store for Business

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You can add additional users to the Windows Store for Business (WSfB). In addition to the first account you add which is automatically the Global Admin, there are three additional built in roles:

  1. Admin: Manage account settings, acquire aps, distribute apps, sign policies and catalogs
  2. Purchaser: acquire and distribute apps
  3. Device Guard signer: sign policies and catalogs

To add an account, follow these instructions:

  1. Login to the Windows store for Business with your management account.
  2. Navigate to Settings>Permissions

  3. On the Permissions screen click Add People

  4. On the Assign roles to people screen, add the email address of the person you wish to add, assign them a role, and then click Save

Adding a Payment Method to your Windows Store for Business Account

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Whether you are using the Windows Store for Business alone or integrated with Microsoft Intune or System Center Configuration Manager, in order to perform bulk purchases of apps that require a paid license in the Windows Store for Business (WSfB), you will need to add a payment method to your account. This will involve adding a credit card to the account. This process is fairly straight forward, and most SysAdmins should have no problem with this process. So why then, did I create this blog post?

In many larger organizations, the SysAdmin is not responsible for procurement and does not have access to the corporate credit card that will be used to make purchases. So you can pass this on to your procurement office and let them enter the credit card information for you. You can add an additional account to the WSfB for the procurement officer if required.

Instructions

  1. Login to the Windows store for Business with your management account.
  2. Navigate to Manage>Account information

  3. Select Show my payment options

  4. Select Add new payment method

  5. Add the appropriate credit card information and then click Next

  6. Verify your information and then click Save

  7. Once you see the payment method listed including the credit card’s last four digits and the expiry date, click Close

    Now you can make paid license purchases from the WSfB.