TechEd 2013: Microsoft Previews Windows 8.1 Business Features

At TechEd 2013, Microsoft also announces cloud-oriented technologies and reveals it has acquired InRelease, InCycle’s release management offering

Microsoft has given a preview of some of the upcoming features of Windows 8.1, codenamed “Windows Blue“, including features aimed at enterprises, as it prepares for the free update’s launch later this year.

At its TechEd 2013 conference in New Orleans, Microsoft also detailed a number of new cloud-oriented technologies, as well as announcing the acquisition of InRelease, a release management product for Microsoft .NET and Windows Server applications.

Windows 8.1

The company reiterated it is planning a preview release of Windows 8.1 for 26 June, set to coincide with the Build developer conference, and said the final software will be released sometime in 2013 with full Windows 8 backward-compatibility.

Windows 8 Logo InstallIn his presentation on Monday, Microsoft director of programme management for Windows core Iain McDonald focused on new business-oriented features such as Assigned Access, a feature that allows administrators to lock down Windows systems. The feature is aimed at business systems with fixed tasks and could also be used by school computers to provide access to test-taking software while blocking web browsing, according to McDonald.

New networking features include a wireless display support via Miracast, printing via Wi-Fi and tap-to-pair printing over near-field communications (NFC), Microsoft said – although McDonald was unable to demonstrate the feature due to the conference’s overloaded airwaves.

The release will allow users to tether other devices to the Windows PC’s broadband connection, and will include an application programming interface (API) for third-party system and device management software providers, which will allow VPN connectivity to be built directly into their applications.

System administrators will also get a feature allowing business data to be remotely wiped from devices while leaving personal data untouched, as well as support for the Open MDM mobile device management (MDM) technology.

“Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) capabilities are built into the OS and enable mobile-device management using third-party MDM solutions, such as MobileIron or AirWatch, with no additional agent required,” stated Erwin Visser, Microsoft’s general manager of Windows Commercial Marketing.

On the security front, Windows 8.1 will bolster its multi-factor authentication with support for fingerprint biometrics and improved support for Virtual Smart Cards. Windows Defender will feature improved network behaviour-monitoring capabilities, Microsoft said.

Cloud updates

Microsoft also introduced Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, Team Foundation Server 2013, a new version of Windows Intune and SQL Server 2014, all of which, except for SQL Server, will be available in preview form by the end of June and generally available by the end of 2013.

Windows Server 2012 R2 will include cloud-centric tweaks including a feature that uses de-duplication and remote direct memory access technologies to accelerate virtual machine live migration.

The Windows Server update also brings in automated storage tiering, making it easier for organisations to manage large amounts of data.

Microsoft said it will introduce a Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server, with tools designed to help organisations offer their in-house services as cloud services. The company also announced a change in the pricing model for Azure cloud services – it will now bill on a per-minute, rather than a per-hour basis, saving money for developers who run short tests on Azure.

InRelease acquisition

In a further move aimed at developers, Microsoft said it will acquire the InRelease business unit of InCycle Software, adding the InRelease release management product to Microsoft’s application lifecycle management offerings.

Microsoft said the acquisition is aimed at extending its reach in application lifecycle management generally, and more particularly in DevOps, a software development approach that emphasises communication, collaboration and integration between software development and IT operations.

“DevOps is an increasingly important part of application lifecycle management and is a growing area of interest as businesses need to develop and deploy quality applications at a faster pace,” said S. Somasegar, the corporate vice president of Microsoft’s developer division, in a blog post. “InCycle’s InRelease product is a continuous delivery solution that automates the release process through all of your environments from TFS through to production, all in one solution, and all integrated with TFS.” Team Foundation Server (TFS) is Microsoft’s version control offering.

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Originally published on eWeek.