fbpx

Expedite Windows Autopilot Provisioning with Cloudpager

At the beginning of the pandemic, I worked in an organization where field technicians were imaging laptops using SCCM. After imaging, desktops were handed to employees via a makeshift drive through in the office’s parking lot. The team did what they had to do with the tools at their disposal, but it was far from ideal and once the laptops went home it was a painful process for support to assist users onboarding new devices. Getting them up and running required connecting to a VPN so their device could be managed and/or they required guidance on how to connect to a Citrix desktop. With many end users, it took more than three months to get all our users to the point of being fully productive. In the end, it worked but it was not a smooth process and due to network resource constraints, it took about 15 months to stabilize. Now that remote work is permanent for many people in the world, a more long-term sustainable approach is required for handling hardware refreshes and onboarding employees with their new devices. After all, hardware refreshes are essential and desktop re-imaging is a reality in day-to-day IT operations.

This is why Windows Autopilot feature has become critically important for enterprises. It allows you to tailor the desktop imaging process to work well on remote endpoints that are connected to users’ home networks. The out-of-box experience for users is similar to when an individual buys a new laptop off the shelf and boots it up for the first time. Rather than booting to a brand new clean off-the-shelf (OTS) edition of Windows, Intune provisions a Windows desktop enrolled in Intune with corporate applications and policies applied. The end-result is an Entra ID-joined physical endpoint enrolled in the company’s Intune tenant that is ready to be managed by your Administrators.

New Imaging Solution, Same Application Problems

If you work in End User Computing, this next scenario should be familiar.

You start to re-image your laptop. It takes 30+ minutes to get to the point where the desktop is ready for you to log in. While login is successful, you start to see command windows popping up and disappearing, you experience slowness on the desktop, resources are being drained by setup processes that are still running, you see frequent installation dialog boxes, and continuous notifications of installs completing. When using Windows Autopilot v1, you may instead be greeted by the enrollment status page for several minutes.

As an Admin, you may simply walk away and come back in another 30 minutes rather than try to work on a slow machine due to the high resource utilization. Users on the other hand may see all the pop ups and accidentally close installs in progress. More likely, they may just freak out and throw their hands in the air to avoid messing anything else up. The fact is, when the desktop is ready for you to login after imaging, it is usually NOT ready for use because the policies, settings, and applications are still in flight. For some organizations, the process of imaging a desktop can take over an hour. To users, it gives a bad first impression of their new desktop and they may come away with the idea their desktop is just slow and perceive it as slow from then on.

Speed Up Application Deployments on Newly Provisioned Desktops

As stated with the initial release of Windows Autopilot, most of a user’s applications and policies are applied whilst the user is presented with a provisioning splash screen. As the desktop must be enrolled and have all applicable applications, scripts, policies etc. applied during provisioning this can be a time-consuming process and the user may not be presented with the desktop for some time.

With Autopilot v2 (as it is being called in the community), Microsoft moved to streamline the provisioning process. There are now fewer splash screens and inputs required from users as part of the Out of Box Experience and they even changed the default wait period from 60 minutes to 30 minutes in the configuration. Microsoft has now also limited Administrators to only assign a maximum of 10 applications and scripts when using Autopilot. This could potentially be disruptive to organizations who currently assign many applications as part of the process, but the result should be less time to getting a logged in desktop and potentially more applications being delivered after the user is logged in. There are pros and cons to this approach. Users are on their desktops quicker but there is the potential for some applications to be delivered after the user has logged in – pretty similar to the desktop imaging and re-imaging experience users have dealt with in the past.

Windows Autopilot v2 requires at least Windows 11 23H2, so it is likely not applicable to most organizations yet. However, it is certainly something Intune Administrators should research as it will remove the requirement to gather and import devices by their hardware hash which is a tremendous improvement!

There is some more good news, you can improve the overall performance of your provisioning by dynamically delivering your applications using Cloudpager. Cloudpager supports Entra ID integration which aligns perfectly with Autopilot as the application entitlements can be set on what we call Cloudpager Workpods using Entra ID groups, with these Workpods Administrators can assign groups of applications to users for dynamic delivery. These groups can align with roles, user personas, application suites etc. They are a wonderful way to modernize how you assign and deliver applications to your users and move away from the dated practice of restrictive machine targeting.

Using Cloudpager can expedite the imaging process from 60+ minutes for your desktops with all applications available and ready for use to just 20-30 minutes. This is possible because once your desktop image and the Cloudpager clients are available, applications will be immediately published to end user desktops upon log-in, virtualizing on-demand when users launch their applications. Cloudpager’s dynamic, per-user provisioning brings consistency to the application publishing process. You won’t have situations where some applications are delivered quickly but others take hours to appear.

In the above video you can see an example of us running through the Autopilot v1 provisioning process on a desktop and the experience with the application delivery once we login with our Entra ID account for the first time.

Deliver Applications Faster and More Reliably to Windows Desktops

Cloudpager goes beyond expediting the imaging process with Autopilot, instantly modernizing application management across all your physical and virtual Windows desktops. If you use Intune for managing your applications today, there is a good chance most of your applications are MSI or EXE packages which are fraught with problems such as application conflicts, install related reboots, active setup that can slow down logins, corrupted uninstalls and more. These dated package formats can also slow down the desktop provisioning process by the sequence in which they must be installed.

If you move to Cloudpager and our Cloudpaging application containers, you truly modernize your applications by delivering them with our best-in-class container format that works for virtually every Windows application and extends DevOps capabilities to the management of your Windows desktop applications. You eliminate install related reboots, the need for active setup, application conflicts and corruption. You also deliver the applications dynamically with the applications being virtualized on-demand as users launch them. You can expand your DevOps approach by automating the packaging, delivery, and updating of applications, delivering the resources your end users need faster than ever before. The ability to instantly roll back application containers to prior versions also minimizes patching risk.

Containerizing your applications and delivering them with user-based targeting also provides an extra layer of security for your Windows desktops by only providing visibility of the applications to entitled users. Cloudpaging application containers can also restrict copying to or from the container space ensuring the integrity of the application and the underlying Operating System and features a unique per machine encryption too.

Learn more about how application containers enhance enterprise security here >>

Conclusion

With Cloudpager, you get a cloud-native solution for modernizing application management across physical and virtual Windows desktops, as well as a product that can integrate into your Autopilot provisioning process. In doing so, you can speed up the turnaround time for your newly provisioned desktops and improve the digital employee experience. The benefits of adopting Cloudpager go beyond the initial desktop provisioning experience, instantly transforming how you manage your Windows applications on an on-going basis with the ability to consistently make real-time application changes. You improve the speed and security of your application update process, with greater visibility and control than ever before.

Schedule a Demo

See the power of extending DevOps capabilities to the management of your Windows desktop applications across your enterprise for yourself by requesting a live demonstration with our Solutions Architects below:

About numecent

Numecent is an award-winning cloud technology provider headquartered in Irvine, California. The company’s technology portfolio, built upon 64 patents (and counting), simplifies the mobilization and management of Windows applications across modern desktop and multi-cloud environments. Enterprises around the world – including the largest Fortune 500 companies, cloud service providers, and MSPs – leverage these technologies to package and deploy thousands of applications to millions of end-users in a friction-free manner every day.

See Numecent in Action!

Schedule a demonstration with our Solutions Architects to see how we can simplify the mobilization and management of your entire Windows application estate across modern desktop and multi-cloud environments.