An audience with... Gavin Tan, Windows 10 guru and all round Microsoft guy

13 Oct 2015

Welcome to the first in an occasional series of conversations with some of the thought leaders in DDLS. This time, Gary Duffield, who heads up our partner relationships, chats to DDLS MCT Gavin Tan. Let’s meet Gavin. 

 

Gavin, thanks for speaking to me today, can you tell me a little about yourself and your experience working with Microsoft?

Gavin Tan Windows 10I always get curious looks when I start a course with an introduction. I’ve worked as a technical instructor for twelve years and have been an MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) for eleven of those. I’m only 38 as well and have been fortunate enough to see things develop and our usage of technology change from being at the periphery to central to what we do.

I’ve had the chance to work with Microsoft at TechEd Australia (now MSIgnite) as a Technical Learning Guide and as a speaker for Exam Cram sessions, beginning in 2010 over the years. Having delivered courses from the Windows Server 2000 days, it’s exciting seeing the courses and material come up for Windows 10, SCCM, Windows Server 2016, Azure, PowerShell and the like because it gets people started on what’s possible.

As for me, my working life funds my travels, misadventures and other interests. I have been known to moonlight behind a bar on occasion as per my previous working life, feel the granite crunch underfoot at Mt Everest Base Camp and I am working on bypassing the forty-year waiting list for Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) Members by representing them at A-grade competition for one of their sporting clubs. Currently C-grade so I have a while to go either way!

 

What are you hearing in the classroom about organisations and their plans for Windows 10?

It’s a curious observation that the majority of my clients are all-in when it comes to running Windows Server 2012 R2 but when it comes to the Windows client, it’s a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. Yes, it’s good that the business drives what its IT solutions environment should be, but if the only justification is that we-spent-x-amount-of-dollars-on-it-already-years-ago, the next question is “is it fit for purpose?”. I think Windows 8 muddied the waters. That said many clients still have aging XP clients to consider. 

Windows 10 is definitely a solution to consider for a more mobile and securely connected workforce. A lot of testing is going on, even for those who’ve just gone to Windows 7 (or 8.1) from XP when it was mentioned that Windows 10 will be the last OS to be released as it goes under feature upgrades in the future. It’s far less jarring for users going from 7 to 10, that’s for sure.

Another thing to note is that IT departments are putting forth a business case to their organisations so that migration to Windows 10 is on their terms and not on the finite date listed in the End of Extended Support information.

 

Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows, what do they mean by that?

My take on it is it will just be “Windows 10” with features fine-tuned and added due to changing demands. We’ve seen it already in previous Windows operating systems. Windows XP Service Pack 3 had more functionality and hardware support than its original release. Apple’s OS X has seen many updates and features added as well but it’s just OS X in the end. Does anyone remember what Facebook was like back in 2004 compared to what it is now in regards to features?

So it’s interesting to see people wait for the-next-Windows when it’s already here. They have until the end of July 2016 for that free upgrade from 7, 8 or 8.1 for home users as well. Office 365 is sometimes described as “always green” as it continually evolves, I don’t think I’d yet use that to describe Windows 10. 

 

Cortana. Fad or fabulous?

When most people think about how they interact with Microsoft Windows, I would not be surprised if they thought “keyboard and mouse”. I’ve got a gaming attachment to Cortana already, as a shimmering translucent avatar from wading through hordes of The Covenant playing Halo.

To have it as a voice assistant in the Microsoft space may seem like a gimmick (as Siri and “hey Google”) but for those who’ve used it, voice commands can be faster at times. There was a time when I was cooking and had raw chicken in my hands, I’ve yelled at my Surface Pro 3 (well Cortana actually) over the dull roar of exhaust fans in my kitchen to convert fahrenheit into celsius for oven temperatures, fluid ounces into millilitres for sauces and gravies, all without cross-contaminating what I’m handling or saving time by not having to wash my hands, dry them, bash out a search; as I have things on-the-go, it works for me. I’m not sure I could build a business case on the back of that, but the chicken was nice.

For those who drive manual cars in peak hour, I’ve asked Cortana to send a message to my wife seeing who was closer to pick up the little guy from daycare first. On public transport, it’s nice to get a reminder to pick up some bits-and-pieces on the way home not based on time but location when I had my SP3 tethered to my phone.

It’s up to business, if they are concerned about Cortana listening-in, to decide if they want to enable this feature.

Of course, with my broad Australian accent, I have to pretend I sound like Rick from “The Walking Dead” for Cortana to pick my words up because we’re still regarded as an Alpha release! (“I’m Australian” gets picked up as “I’m straying” unless I pronounce it as “Oss-stray-lee-uhn”)

 

The Edge is now the default browser, do you think that creates challenges for organisations?

The challenges will be what you’re trying to access. I’ve had a client whose business they supported needed IE 6.0 running through Citrix on Windows 7 because all critical functions ran on SharePoint 2000. IE11 is still there for that backwards compatibility but Edge is definitely an improvement by freeing itself from being compatible with legacy platforms.

Like Windows 10, features will be added as time goes on as we’ve also seen from other browsers.

 

As a techy, I’d guess you are a fan of, say, the new virtual desktops capability; what else is under the hood that will excite those readers who  are more technically savvy?

Most of the bleeding edge technologies eventually trickles down into the everyday consumer world. Things that were only available in Windows 7 Enterprise can now be had in Windows 10 Professional and even the “home” edition (referred to as just “Windows 10”) so it can extend what BYOD can do. All my devices that are capable are running Bitlocker for example. There are the times when I’ve had to return a device under warranty and the data was not recoverable nor removable (think tablets with storage directly on motherboards and not removable like a disk drive or mSATA card). That’s now available in Professional editions and it gave me peace of mind that if the components and data had to be junked, it’s unrecoverable by whoever gets the device next.

Although the BIG one is Powershell 5.0. The ability to automate and script across everything now will help with manageability across enterprise-sized environments. Even if you’re a small (less than 500) IT workspace, having these skills and tools in place will allow you to scale out quite rapidly if need be.

Windows 10, from my own experience, also has better battery life than Windows 7 era hardware onwards, also DirectX 12 for the PC gamers; and having my personal and work data in separate silos on the same device that I choose to use so that if my workplace needs to wipe their data off my devices (I still like where I work! Hint hint). I get to keep my stuff without using third party tools like MobileIron, Silverback, etc. Native support for newer connection and peripherals (installing a HDD over 2TB needing GPT support on SATA 3.0 on a UEFI-chipped motherboard with Windows 7 is a chore from scratch… and yes I’m an SSD person!).

Have you seen the Surface Book from the New York October 6th launch?  Detaching yourself from the gaming GPU (nVidia) in the keyboard base and using the “screen” as a standalone Surface-like-tablet without restarting the machine! Yep, a few choice positive Australian expletives were uttered at 2:30am that morning. Windows 7 would have kittens trying to do that.

Essentially, getting the best out of the latest gear with an OS that suits it.

 

Microsoft are talking about Windows 10 being part of one product family, with one platform, and one store. As a domestic user, flipping a movie from Windows 10 on to my Xbox, to my tablet and television sounds cool. Are there enterprise benefits of their “one platform” approach?

When Windows 8 was released, admittedly it was a mess when it came to apps (different to applications). You had to get THREE separate ones working, one for the classic 32/64 bit environment (x86/x64), the other for the short-lived ARM Windows RT and the other for Windows Phone 8.

Now with a single Universal app across Windows 10, one bought licence across your accounts would ensure it will work rather than different platforms trying to access the same data and manipulate somehow to get it running.

If you’re online, the one platform approach also stretches to OS X, iOS and Android as well as multiple browsers too. I’ve had the chance to work on a collaborative project using Office 365 and it didn’t matter what platform people used; we had domain/business accounts and selected contractors looking at a shared workspace. And once again *whispers* Powershell 5.0

 

What is the story with training and certification on Windows 10

There are a couple of Windows 10 courses I’d put out there now.

Microsoft 20697-1 Installing and Configuring Windows 10 is for those folks who need the knowledge and skills required to install and configure Windows 10 desktops and devices in a Windows Server domain corporate environment. This is not an extension of Windows XP, it’s a whole new ball game.

Microsoft 20697-2 Deploying and Managing Windows 10 Using Enterprise Services goes a level deeper, for example, helping the student provide secure identity and data access using technologies related to Group Policy, Remote Access, and Device Registration.

There is no MCSA (currently) for Windows 10. Instead, you can achieve a specialist Windows 10 certification.  DDLS will be providing the exam as part of the course as soon as the training officially launches.

 

So my penultimate question is, if my organisation still has fleets of Windows XP, or maybe even Windows 7, should I be deploying 10? And why?

Workplaces change. We had desks with in-out trays, mail rooms, filing cabinets full of documents, people on phone exchanges and in typing pools, and heck we even smoked in them. Then desktop PCs and later laptops, but we couldn’t get to what we needed “because it was back in the office”. Remember RAS,  VPNs and virtual desktops evolved but dependencies appeared and had to be managed carefully when one part was upgraded for fear of something breaking.

With what Windows 10 (as well as Azure and Windows Server 2016) brings, what we can do will not be limited with the tools that we have. So yes, now is the time to move from XP in many cases, and Windows 7 surely cannot be far behind.

 

And finally, I hear you are known as Lucky Gav as you keep winning devices, do you a) have a favourite and,  b) have a wish list for a device you have not yet won.

You’re right. I have won quite a few devices/components, from games of skill or luck. Let’s put it this way, on my bedside table is a wooden dishrack with each slot filled with a device or gadget of some sort. It’s getting out of hand! I’ve got a collection covering Kindles, iOS phones and tablets, multiple Google Nexus devices, Lumias and Surfaces. Seeing how they work and how they integrate is my excuse. Some say I’m a hoarder but I’d prefer to have a lightweight device full of eBooks land on me as opposed to being buried under physical ones instead!

My favourite is the recent acquisition of a “sorry we didn’t have a Surface 3 as promised as a prize, so here’s a Surface Pro 3 with an i7 CPU and 256GB of storage instead. We hope you don’t mind?” Thank youuuuuuuuuuu very much!

My wish list for a device I have not yet won would be one sweet piece of electronic craftsmanship…a Tesla P85D car with insane-mode installed. (So a Lumia 950XL now doesn’t sound so unreasonable now, does it?)

 

Thanks Gavin, the Tesla is in the post.