For years, just about every marketing department for any software company has been going on about automation and orchestration. They are pretty much the ultimate buzzwords and I can’t thing of a single sales pitch where one of those words weren’t used. But I’m struggling to think of a pitch where either of those words have related to desktops and laptops. Well ladies and gentleman, that is about to change…

So the year is 2021, you’re a poor IT guy at a huge company and you’ve got 1000s of end user devices to look after. 2020 was a horrible year for that guy, because the demands from his end user went through the roof. Common demands would have been

User: I’m working from home and I can’t print

angry user #1

User: I can’t access any of my files

Poor IT Guy: Where are you?

User: I’m at home, stupid. Isn’t everyone?

angry user #2

User: I need help installing the bla bla app

Poor IT Guy: Sorry, if you’re working at home I can’t remote on to your machine to help

angry user #3

You get the point. Yes, we’ve all been through SCCM management at some point. Some have moved onto Intune, or whichever Microsoft hybrid set up you could adopt. Some though, like me are riding the Workspace One wave, and at the VMworld 2020, they announced Freestyle Orchestrator.

I’ve mentioned this briefly in my previous blog on VMworld 2020, but I’ve had the chance to properly play with this now, and I think this good be a real gamechanger. Ok, I admit – its name, a little cheesey, and it doesn’t really explain what it does, so I will do in my own quirky way.

What is it?!

So essentially, Freestyle Orchestrator is the orchestration engine that is now part of the Workspace One UEM console. Up to this point, WS1 has allowed you to create ‘smart groups’, which are groups of devices that have been tagged by an administrator, using pre-defined criteria, such as operating system, the OEM manufacturer, etc.

This is all very good, except that its pretty limited – its a filter in all honesty, smart it isn’t. This is where the WS1 team change the game. They have split their automation into 3 stages:

  1. Resources
  2. Workflow creation
  3. Workflow performance

Effectively, to provide automation, you need to provide it data, and that data can come from an app, profile, a script or sensor. From that, you can create a workflow, which uses that resource and adds conditions, such as:

  • registry setting
  • patch level
  • sensor value (e.g. device contains battery or TPM chip)
  • app or file exists on device

Once you have this, you can then set up a IF-THEN-ELSE style workflow. If all this sounds a little complex, then maybe this will help explain it a little better

In the above example, you can see which profile group this flow applies to, which then goes to check whether Zoom is installed and whether its running the latest version. If any part of that question is no, it runs the Zoom update and installs it, before moving on to the next step. Very simple, but very clever in the same way.

That is a very simple process, but if you sit back and think that the next stage could be a script to put a business-standard background for Zoom video calls, and then send a notification to the user – you can see how powerful this can be.

Here’s a nice video by the VMworld team to give some easy to follow visuals:

So why am I so excited about this?

If it wasn’t glaringly obvious from the above, not only is the UX outstanding from a usability perspective, but functionality wise this is superb. Imagine being able to build a flow based on any information you can bring in from a sensor, deploy profiles or apps based on the results of those sensors and even build in intelligence using conditions.

What this does, is brings true orchestration to end user devices, and looking at the WS1 roadmap, not only is this going to work on those heavily used Windows 10 and MacOS devices, but also the mobile platforms too – so look out Android & IOS. I can’t wait for this to be released into the public realm (in particular my WS1 production tenancy) so we can utelise this straight away.