Microsoft Desktop Analytics: What’s next?

Microsoft’s Desktop Analytics was one of the core pillars of Microsoft migration “facilitation” effort where tools and tool-kits where employed to reduce the cost, complexity and risk of moving to a new Microsoft platform (desktop or server).  Microsoft described Desktop Analytics as;
“a cloud-based service that integrates with Configuration Manager and provides insight and intelligence for you to make more informed decisions about the update readiness of your Windows clients.”
Most importantly, and one of the issues raised in a previous Readiness blog posting, was that it combines data from your organization with data aggregated from millions of devices connected to Microsoft cloud services.

Key features of Microsoft’s migration and analytics tool included:

  • Create an inventory of apps running in your organization
  • Assess app compatibility with the latest Windows 10 feature updates
  • Identify compatibility issues, and receive mitigation suggestions based on cloud-enabled data insights
  • Create pilot groups that represent the entire application and driver estate across a minimal set of devices
  • Deploy Windows 10 to pilot and production-managed devices
Though you will not find mention of this product on Microsoft lifecycle data-sheet for 2022, Microsoft Desktop Analytics will be retired this November 2022. Microsoft indicated that it is killing off Desktop Analytics because it had a “steep learning curve” and entailed managing another workload. It’s also being done to simplify the use of Configuration Manager. Microsoft has indicated that, “The capabilities of Desktop Analytics aren’t going away but instead will be added to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager Admin Center portal.”

From our previous work on Desktop Analytics, we found there was a few “gotchas” that limited the appeal of the tool-kit including:

  • Desktop Analytics is explicitly designed to handle in-place updates. It won’t help if you are replacing the entire OS, and has limited use if going from 32-bit to 64-bit (for example when migrating an ancient desktop).
  • Desktop Analytics doesn’t work with either Microsoft or third-party virtualization platforms.
  • Desktop Analytics will only work on machines that have all of their updates in place.
  • You need to have proper licenses (E3 or E5) for all your systems.
And…. you will be sharing all of your data with Microsoft. Not necessarily a problem.

Microsoft indicated that it is killing off Desktop Analytics because it had a “steep learning curve” and entailed managing another workload. It’s also being done to simplify the use of Configuration Manager.

Though some organizations have a significant investment in Microsoft SCCM servers, many are now investigating Microsoft Intune, the natural success to both Desktop Analytics and Windows Analytics (now retired) are two new features (In Preview) from Microsoft:
With Intune, you can deploy updates to Windows 10/11 devices by using policies for Update rings for Windows 10 and later and Feature updates for Windows 10 and later. To help prepare for update deployments, Intune offers integrated reports to help you understand compatibility risks that might impact your devices during or after an update:

  • Windows feature update device readiness report (Preview) – This report provides per-device information about compatibility risks that are associated with an upgrade or update to a chosen version of Windows.
  • Windows feature update compatibility risks report (Preview) – This report provides a summary view of the top compatibility risks across your organization for a chosen version of Windows. You can use this report to understand which compatibility risks impact the greatest number of devices in your organization.
Here is a snap-shot of the kinds of detail you can get from the these Intune based features:

To be eligible for the Windows feature update device readiness and Windows feature update compatibility risks reports, devices must:

The data that powers Intune’s Windows feature updates reports isn’t collected by the typical device sync with Intune, but through the Windows health monitoring device configuration policy, which uses the Windows 10/11 and Windows Server Connected User Experiences and Telemetry component (DiagTrack) to collect the data from Intune-managed devices. To enable use of this data in the reports, you must configure devices to send Windows Updates data and so the following end-points must be reachable:

We are now getting a clear sense of the direction that Microsoft is taking. With a consolidated data-set from Window Health, shared telemetry and integration with Intune deployment information, this latest offering is clearly far more capable than previous Microsoft compatibility assessment efforts. I am keen to find out more, and will provide an update on these Microsoft Preview features.

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