Windows 10 updated – Threshold 2 enterprise features explained

As far as Microsoft is concerned, Windows 10 marked the point where its famous operating system became a service delivered by the company’s ‘Intelligent Cloud’. This means that unlike previous ‘static’ Windows releases, the OS will from here onwards be a constantly evolving entity to which new features are added, changed and tweaked every few months. As with the mobile operating systems this model has been pinched from, it could prove a lot for users to keep up with.

Here we summarise the new features that arrived this week with the promised November 2015 update, the first of the ongoing refresh cycles that the platform’s users will need to get used to.

We offered an expanded backgrounder to some of these features at the time of Windows 10's launch.

Windows 10 Threshold 2 – Linuxlike versioning

Interestingly, Microsoft seems to realise the potential for confusion and has changed the way it labels Windows 10 updates. Previously, an update would have been described by the version number (Windows 10) and build number (e.g. 10240 for July’s RTM) while from now on the version number will describe the year and month, ‘1511’, and a version number, in this case 10586.3. It’s almost Ubuntu-like.

Windows 10 Threshold 2 - Windows Update for Business

This is an area that can be confusing because Windows 10 already has some of these features, specifically the ability to defer updates for a while under what is called the Current Branch (CB) for business ring.

The first refresh offers the real deal, however, starting with the ability for admins to specify distribution rings (marking some PCs to be updated first, others later), maintenance windows (so that updates don’t clog up the network at the wrong time), and integration with tools such as System Center.

Microsoft is also including controversial P2P Windows Update Delivery Optimisation that allowed PCs to receive and then serve updates to other PVCs on the same subnet, thereby more efficiently using bandwidth. This is already used by consumer installations.

Windows 10 Threshold 2 - Windows Store for Business

Arguably the most important innovation of all although on the outside it’s just a portal where Microsoft will host the native Windows 10 apps it hopes developers are busy making. As well as allowing businesses to ‘curate’ their own stores, organisations will be able to manage licenses using the service and set up assign the distribution and updating of apps on a bulk or even individual employee basis.

Available in a range of countries around the world but not all – the US, UK, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain and Sweden.

Windows 10 Threshold 2 - Mobile Device Management

The second big innovation, this is designed to allow businesses to integrate the management of other types of Windows device such as tablets, smartphones and even IoT into their operations, including being able to cope with BYOD scenarios.

Windows 10 Threshold 2 - Azure Active Directory

How Windows 10 enterprises can experience the Active Directory model hosted in Microsoft’s cloud. Offers a range of services including Single Sign-on (SSO) for SaaS applications including Microsoft’s own Office365, but also Salesforce and DropBox and even Google Apps (an expanded list can be found here). Critically, Microsoft claims its cloud can integrate existing Windows Server Active Directory infrastructure

Windows 10 Threshold 2 – Enterprise Data Protection (EDP)

After launching Device Guard, Credential Guard, Passport, and Windows Defender (which pre-dates Windows 10 but is now built in to the OS), Microsoft confirmed that Enterprise Data Protection should emerge from final testing soon. Essentially, Windows 10’s Data Loss Prevention system (DLP), the gist of this is that admins specify that data from one of a number of data resources that must always be encrypted by default, regardless of device. Only authorised applications can access this data and functions such as copy and paste are restricted.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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