Using Windows Intune with Office 365 for Mobile Device Management

The July 2012 release of Windows Intune included a great many new features – a large one of these was Mobile Device Management (MDM).

In my last post I discussed the functionality of MDM and the fact that Windows Intune extends it to all ActiveSync-compatible mobile devices (not just Windows Phone). A little known fact however is that the MDM component requires an on-premises implementation of Exchange Server 2010 to work. This is a problem for those customers who use Office 365 and don’t have an Exchange Server 2010 environment.

Shouldn’t a cloud product work seamlessly with another cloud product? You would think so – however remember that this is Windows Intune and Office 365 we’re talking about. These are two completely separate product groups within Microsoft. Just because they come from the same company doesn’t mean they integrate tightly the first time such functionality exists. The limitation here is the functionality of Exchange Online within Office 365, as opposed to Windows Intune.

So a question arose amongst those of us who push the boundaries of Microsoft technologies – could we have an on-premises Exchange Server 2010 in hybrid mode talking to Windows Intune, pushing out MDM functionality/apps/policies to devices belonging to uses in Exchange Online?

In short – no. We built a dedicated test hybrid environment (powered by the VM role in Windows Azure), connected it to a dedicated Office 365 test tenant and created users on both ends, then connected those users to mobile devices.

The users on the Exchange Server 2010 environment were able to communicate with the Windows Intune Exchange Connector and ultimate with Windows Intune itself, however users running off Exchange Online did not show up in Windows Intune at all.

Ultimately this was slightly frustrating, however the scenario described would not apply to many SMBs who use only Exchange Online.

At launch the Windows Intune product team was well aware the peculiarity of a Microsoft cloud product not working with another Microsoft cloud product – so my hope is that we’ll see it in the next release of Windows Intune which should be only a matter of months away.

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