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Autopilot White Glove Comes of Age

Colin Sainsbury By Colin Sainsbury Principal Consultant, Dell Support and Deployment Services November 25, 2019

Microsoft made several announcements at Ignite 2019 regarding new or enhanced modern deployment capabilities and, as is often the case, those capabilities have been discussed in isolation by many other bloggers. This post, however, seeks to put them into a business rather than technical context. I have been tracking the development of these technologies for last few years and sharing my thoughts along the way.

Provisioning and Application Delivery

In my previous posts, I have discussed the areas where the modern management approach had areas of weakness, particularly around application delivery and enabling the initial user experience often encapsulated by “like receiving my new smart phone.” These gaps were typically to do with delivering the application payload that our users need or the business requires. In Dell’s experience, the average image size our customers ask us to deliver is 17GB. Even allowing for 10GB of this to be OS related, delivering 7GB of application payload to each device from a cloud tenant is a challenge.

In order to deliver these applications to the device before the user receives it, Dell has encouraged Microsoft to develop what is now known as Autopilot White Glove. This enables Dell technicians to execute most of the Autopilot process in our Configuration Centres before we ship the device to its new owner. The user then takes it out of the shipping box and, on start-up, go through the user portion of the Autopilot process.

Delivery Optimization

This is a huge step forward for the average build room. However, if customers operate centralised build rooms, they will need to consider a new challenge. The centralisation of this application download activity will place a sizable demand on their internet access bandwidth which might have been more manageable when the activity was more widely distributed through their locations. For Dell, this problem is magnified still further, as we operate regional Configuration Centres that do this work on behalf of our customers. For example, our facility in Holland ships devices to customers in 102 countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Dell Technologies Fulfilment Centre, Tilburg, Holland. Source Techzine

From this stand point, the single most important announcement was around the maturation of the DOINC (Delivery Optimisation In Network Cache) into the Microsoft Connected Cache. The Connected Cache first appeared in technical preview as an extension to Configuration Manager in the 1903 release. At this stage, it was tied to a Distribution Point role.

To explain, Delivery Optimisation is Microsoft’s peer to peer sharing solution. First released in the 1607 build, it is used within the Windows 10 world to help reduce the impact on the network, specifically WAN and Internet links, of update traffic. The concept behind it is not new, 1E and Adaptiva have offered similar add-on capabilities to enhance Configuration Manager for a while and the BitTorrent world has seen the benefit of distributing the workload too.

Intune and Microsoft Connected Cache

Returning to the Ignite announcement, Andy Rivas and Narkis Engler, explained in session BRK 3078 that the DOINC was being renamed to the Microsoft Connected Cache as of Configuration Manager TP1911 and, furthermore, it was being enhanced in two key ways:

  1. Support had been added for Intune Win32 apps – this is the path by which Intune deploys traditional Windows applications. They must first have been processed to convert them from MSI to Intunewin format and uploaded to Intune. Originally, these applications were delivered from Intune to the client devices via SSL meaning that the content could not be cached. However, since the intunewin format is encrypted, changing the transfer mechanism to HTTP enabled delivery optimisation caching.
  2. Creation of a standalone, containerised variant of the cache – Microsoft Connected Cache managed in Microsoft Azure can be installed on either an on premises Windows Server or Linux but managed from the cloud. This is in private preview at the time of writing. It is designed to be a set and forget solution that seamlessly and transparently caches content.

Introducing Microsoft Connect Cache, Source Microsoft.

The value of these two enhancements is that they enable the use of delivery optimisation (peer to peer) for most of the content being delivered by Intune during the APWG process and Dell can now host a local cache server (seeding the peer to peer) to optimise the process still further.

Summary

With these enhancements, Dell will be able to offer Autopilot White Glove based services, integrated into our logistics chain, enabling us to deliver a new laptop to your users, fully provisioned as per your specifications, without your IT team having to physically handle it. Imagine that the device was delivered to your user’s home address, without any additional shipping or handling cost and associated environmental impact, how happy would that user be?

If this service interests you, please get in touch with your Dell Technologies Services Expert and let us help you to delight your users.

Colin Sainsbury

About Colin Sainsbury


Principal Consultant, Dell Support and Deployment Services

Colin joined Dell in 2010 as a Solution Architect and is now a Principal Consultant at Dell EMC Support and Deployment Services. He provides strategic guidance and technology expertise that organizations need to transform their end user computing environments. In his role, Colin is responsible for helping Dell’s customers adopt Windows 10 and optimize their deployment processes. A significant element of this work is to improve the end user experience by enhancing user mobility whilst maintaining data security through Dell EMC’s comprehensive portfolio of Deployment Services offering.

Colin has 20 years of experience in the IT industry. He started out as a tier 2 helpdesk analyst for the Computing Centre at Imperial College, London. Shortly after taking this role, he was asked to deploy Microsoft Exchange 4.0 into the College as it began to move from a UNIX SendMail email system. Having gained significant experience by deploying one of the earliest Exchange environments, he moved into Exchange consultancy roles.

Three years after that initial implementation he was working as an Exchange consultant for Compaq. Lady luck intervened once more and Colin was asked to perform an Exchange upgrade for a branch of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). This led Colin to specializing first in MoD engagements then branching out into the wider Central Government space dealing with a number of key Government departments.

This specialization naturally brought with it an understanding of the security concerns and drivers in these sensitive environments. However, since joining Dell he has used this experience across all industry sectors. He has acted as both Security and Solution Architect before taking up his current role as a Principal Consultant.

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2 thoughts on “Autopilot White Glove Comes of Age

  1. Nicely written.
    It could have been even better if Microsoft allow WG to install all required apps before sealing the device, that way the delta in terms of apps changes would be much smaller (from the user experience point of view)

  2. Gilad,
    Thanks for the feedback. Like all good things Autopilot White Glove is taking time to mature. I firmly believe that this is a massive step in the right direction, but, as you point out, more is yet to come.