Posted by: kurtsh | November 23, 2007

COMING SOON: “Group Policy Preferences” & “Remote Server Administration Tools”

The purpose of this post is to announce publicly two upcoming releases of management tools for Windows, Group Policy Preferences and the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) for Windows Vista. 

Group Policy Preferences (Q&A)
As you may know Microsoft acquired DesktopStandard last year and, along with some fantastic people, we obtained GPOVault and the PolicyMaker family.  GPOVault has been updated and released as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance (MDOP) as Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM).  Today we can announce that Group Policy Preferences, formerly known as  PolicyMaker Standard Edition and Policy Share Manager, will be available to Microsoft customers in two ways:

  1. Integrated into the Group Policy management tools in Windows Server 2008
  2. Integrated into the forthcoming Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) for Windows Vista, which will be available as a separate download in the Windows Server 2008 timeframe and will work in a Windows Server 2003 environment.  More information on RSAT is below.

The Client-Side Extensions for GP Preferences are included in Windows Server 2008, and downlevel versions will be available as a separate download for:

  1. Windows XP Service Pack 2 and above
  2. Windows Vista RTM and above
  3. Windows Server 2003 SP1 and above

Group Policy Preferences provides three major benefits in increasing the manageability of Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008:

1. Further reduces the TCO of your Windows PCs by extending the reach of Group Policy manageability

Windows Settings

  • Applications: Extensible for ISVs to create simple Group Policy settings for their applications.  (Extensions for Microsoft Office, originally part of Policymaker, are being updated and will be made available via a separate download to be announced later.)
  • Drive Maps: Create, modify, or delete mapped drives, and configure the visibility of all drives.
  • Environment: Create, modify, or delete environment variables.
  • Files: Copy, modify the attributes of, replace, or delete files.
  • Folders: Create, modify, or delete folders.
  • Ini Files: Add, replace, or delete sections or properties in configuration settings (.ini) or setup information (.inf) files.
  • Network Shares: Create, modify, or delete ("un-share") shares.
  • Registry: Copy registry settings and apply them to other computers. Create, replace, or delete registry settings.
  • Shortcuts: Create, modify, or delete shortcuts.

Control Panel Settings

  • Data Sources: Create, modify, or delete Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) data source names.
  • Devices: Enable or disable hardware devices or classes of devices.
  • Folder Options: Configure folder options; create, modify, or delete Open With associations for file name extensions; create, modify, or delete file name extensions associated with a type of files.
  • Internet Settings: Modify user-configurable Internet settings.
  • Local Users and Groups: Create, modify, or delete local users and groups.
  • Network Options: Create, modify, or delete virtual private networking (VPN) or dial-up networking (DUN) connections.
  • Power Options: Modify power options and create, modify, or delete power schemes.
  • Printers: Create, modify, or delete TCP/IP, shared, and local printer connections.
  • Regional Options: Modify regional options.
  • Scheduled Tasks: Create, modify, or delete scheduled or immediate tasks.
  • Services: Modify services.
  • Start Menu: Modify Start menu options.

Flexibility with how preferences get applied – administrator can initially set the preference and allow the end user to change the setting

Reduce images by providing richer configuration within an image

2. Provides simpler configuration via common user interfaces and reduce the need to create complex configuration scripts

3. Item-level targeting gives the IT Pro more precise control over the application of preferences

Together with the additional Group Policy management features available in Windows Server 2008, Starter GPOs and search/comment capabilities within the Group Policy Management Console, customers will have a greatly enhanced platform to manage their desktops and servers.  This is a very exciting time for Group Policy!

Customers can continue to purchase PolicyMaker Standard Edition and Policy Share Manager from the Desktop Standard subsidiary through January 31, 2008.  We will not be proactively selling these tools but are continuing to make them available within this timeframe to address customers’ needs of extending the manageability of Windows 2000 and Windows XP below Service Pack 2.  These products will not be available after January 31, 2008. 

——————————–

Remote Server Administration Tools (Q&A)
The Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) is the collection of Windows Server management tools which will be available as a separate download to enable IT Professionals to manage their Windows Server infrastructure from their PCs running Windows Vista with Service Pack 1.  RSAT will be released in the Windows Server 2008 timeframe, and will have a public beta within the next month.  Your customers will be able to register for the beta at http://connect.microsoft.com at that time as well.   

All tools within RSAT will support the management of Windows Server 2008 servers; some of these tools will also support Windows Server 2003 servers, and thus can be considered a replacement for ADMINPAK.MSI. More information on the specific toolset will be made available later in the beta.

RSAT will be available to all customers as part of a supplemental EULA to Windows Vista licenses. 

GP Preferences Questions and Answers
Q.     What are Group Policy Preferences?
A.      Group Policy preferences provide more than 20 Group Policy extensions that expand the range of configurable settings within a Group Policy Object.  These extensions, formerly known as the DesktopStandard PolicyMaker Family, provides greater manageability of the Windows platform by bringing even greater granularity and control to the IT Pro.

Q.     How do I configure Group Policy Preferences?
A.      Group Policy Preferences appear along with typical Group Policy settings in the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) in the Preferences folder of the Group Policy editor.

Q.     What is the difference between Group Policy settings and preferences?
A.      The main difference between Group Policy settings and preferences is that preferences are not enforced. This means that the end user can change any preference that is applied through Group Policy while Group Policy settings are locked down so the end user cannot change them.

Q.     Why aren’t all settings manageable as preferences?
A.      Group Policy preferences are intended to supplement Group Policy settings, Items that cannot be configured through or have limitations when they were configured through Group Policy settings are configured though preferences.

Q.     Do Group Policy Preferences apply to Local Group Policy Objects (LGPOs)?
A.      No.  Group Policy Preferences only apply to domain-based Group Policy Objects.

Q.     What versions of Windows can be managed via Group Policy Preferences?
A.     Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Windows Vista RTM and Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1, and Windows Server 2008 can all be managed via Group Policy Preferences. 

Q.     How can I get these new Group Policy Preferences?
A.      Group Policy Preferences will ship as part of the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) in Windows Server 2008.  An updated GPMC will be provided as a separate download to run on Windows Vista with Service Pack 1. 

Q.     Do I need to upgrade my domain to Windows Server 2008 to have this functionality?
A.      No.  Group Policy Preferences will work in a Windows Server 2003 environment, by being managed via either Windows Server 2008 or the GPMC update for Windows Vista with Service Pack 1.

Q.     There seems to be a few areas of overlap with existing Group Policy settings, like Power Management, Internet Explorer, and Printers.  How is this overlap handled?
A.      In some cases, the same setting can be configured through a Group Policy setting as well as a preference. If both settings are configured and applied to the same object the Group Policy setting value will always apply. This is because Group Policy settings have a higher priority than  preferences.

Q.     Will I need to install something on the client to enable Group Policy Preferences?
A.      Yes, there are a set of client-side extensions (CSEs) which will be released as a separate download for Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2003.

Q.     Do I need to obtain an additional license to use Group Policy Preferences?
A.      Group Policy Preferences ships as a feature of Windows Server 2008 and as a separate download for Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows Vista .  No additional licenses beyond the normal Windows Server license and Windows Client Access Licenses are required.

Q.    Will Microsoft continue to sell all of DesktopStandard products?
A.    The answer to this question depends on the product and is as follows:

  • The former GPOVault Enterprise offering from DesktopStandard has been replaced by the new, Windows Vista compatible, Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management.  AGPM, released July 1, 2007, is included as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance. For more information on GPOVault and Microsoft’s Advanced Group Policy Management offering in the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack please go here.
  • PolicyMaker™ Standard Edition, PolicyMaker™ Share Manager and Registry Extension continue to be available directly from DesktopStandard through January 31, 2008. (These offerings are NOT part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack.)  These DesktopStandard offerings continue to deliver great value to new and existing customers who need the added functionality immediately, or for Windows 2000 PCs.  Customers should be advised that they will not receive a credit for any PolicyMaker licenses purchased between now and Windows Server 2008.
  • ProfileMaker is no longer available for sale to new customers.
  • PolicyMaker™ Software Update is no longer be available for purchase. Customers who need the functionality provided by this product should explore Windows Server Update Services as an alternative. For existing PolicyMaker™ Software Update customers, Microsoft will continue to provide patch information until April 1, 2007 and support customers according to the terms and conditions of existing DesktopStandard call support agreements.
  • Microsoft did not acquire the PolicyMaker™ Application Security business. PolicyMaker™ Application Security will be exclusively available from BeyondTrust Corporation, formerly a wholly-owned subsidiary of DesktopStandard. BeyondTrust is focused on enterprise security products that eliminate the need for security administrators to place trust in computers or users. BeyondTrust will continue to develop, sell and support PolicyMaker Application Security under the product name, BeyondTrust™ Privilege Manager.

 

RSAT Questions and Answers
Q.     What RSAT?
A.      Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) is the collection of Windows Server management tools made available as a separate download so IT Professionals can manage their Windows servers from their desktop PC running Windows Vista with Service Pack 1.

Q.     When will RSAT be available?
A.     RSAT will enter public beta in November, 2007.  Target Release to Web (RTW) is in the Windows Server 2008 timeframe.

Q.    Why is Microsoft making these tools available?
A.    Many IT Professionals manage their servers from their own desktops.  RSAT enables IT Professionals to use the updated Windows Server 2008 management tools to manage their servers remotely from their own PCs.

Q.    Which operating systems will RSAT manage?
A.    All RSAT tools will manage Windows Server 2008 servers.  Many RSAT tools will also manage servers running Windows Server 2003.  More information on which tools support Windows Server 2003 will be made available at beta time.

Q.   How can my customer obtain the beta of RSAT?
A.    The RSAT beta will be an open, public beta.  Customers wishing to test RSAT will be able to register at http://connect.microsoft.com once the beta announcement is made.

Q.   Is RSAT the next version of ADMINPAK.MSI?
A.   Yes.  As ADMINPAK.MSI provides IT Professionals the ability to remotely manage their Windows Server 2003 servers, RSAT provides updated functionality for Windows Server management from PCs running Windows Vista with Service Pack 1.

Q.   Will RSAT run on the gold (RTM) version of Windows Vista?
A.   No.  RSAT will require Windows Vista with Service Pack 1.


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