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Windows 10 patch management comes to EMM in VMware AirWatch 9.1

Ideally, businesses can take a unified endpoint management approach to managing their mobile devices and PCs with one platform. AirWatch 9.1 moves closer to that goal.

IT professionals who want to take a unified approach to managing endpoint devices just got one more reason to do so in VMware AirWatch 9.1.

The new version of VMware's enterprise mobility management (EMM) software adds Windows 10 patch management capabilities, allowing IT admins to see which PCs are up to date on their operating system patches and which aren't. AirWatch is the first EMM product to offer this kind of feature; previously, organizations that used EMM to manage PCs -- an approach known as unified endpoint management (UEM) -- would have to use a separate tool for Windows 10 patch management.

"It reduces the administrative burden," said Willem Bagchus, messaging and collaboration specialist at United Bank Inc., an AirWatch shop in Parkersburg, W.Va. "The less consoles you have to look at, the better."

Many Windows shops today use Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) for Windows patch management, whether they use AirWatch, Microsoft Intune or another EMM tool. 

"Even with Microsoft, you have to use two different platforms," said Robby Hill, founder and CEO of HillSouth, a Microsoft and VMware partner in Florence, S.C. "[AirWatch 9.1 Windows 10 patch management] would be cutting-edge. We don't see that in the market right now."

HillSouth uses AirWatch to implement security policies, such as geofencing, on its Windows 10 2-in-1 devices containing sensitive data. 

Replacing System Center?

United Bank uses AirWatch to manage its corporate-owned mobile devices and is considering UEM adoption. Eliminating the need to have a second platform for Windows 10 patch management makes UEM with AirWatch more appealing, Bagchus said.

EMM vendors need to get to a place where you can replace SCCM.
Jack Goldfounder of J. Gold Associates

EMM tools that add more PC management capabilities must make it easy for organizations to pivot from their existing management software, said Jack Gold, founder of J. Gold Associates LLC, a mobile analyst firm in Northborough, Mass.

"EMM vendors need to get to a place where you can replace SCCM," Gold said. "If you want me to throw away what I've already got for what you're giving me, it has to at least do everything I use the other one for."

For VMware, the idea behind adding Windows 10 patch management is to entice more businesses to adopt AirWatch for their PCs, in addition to their mobile devices. AirWatch 9.1 also offers improved Android device enrollment capabilities and new security features.

Android enrollment gets easier

With the new Android enrollment feature, users will be able to scan an IT-provided QR code to have AirWatch automatically configure their devices with the correct policies and apps they need. Prior to this update, users had to click on a link emailed from IT and self-enroll by filling in a web form that registered the device.

Google has added support for more EMM capabilities to Android in the past year, and this new enrollment process is one of them, Gold said.

"Anything you can do to make it easier is a good thing," he said. "If you can take time off the registration, it helps."

App-level multifactor authentication

Additionally, in AirWatch 9.1, IT will be able to pick and choose apps they'd like to add a second layer of authentication to. If users try to access a business app that IT put these restrictions on, they will have to enter a second authentication factor, in addition to their password.

"We work closely in healthcare, and we see tremendous value in containerization of private data," Hill said. "We are huge fans of any effort to protect sensitive corporate data on employee devices."

AirWatch 9.1 will be available this spring, VMware said.

Next Steps

AirWatch pokes holes in Android security

Policy and configuration tips for AirWatch

Roll with AirWatch enrollment and security

Dig Deeper on Windows 10