The Stratodesk community is extremely excited today with our announcement of our new integrated service offering named NoTouch Flex.
NoTouch Flex is the industry’s first all-in-one SaaS offering that delivers cloud-hosted management of corporate endpoints with no upfront capital investment and flexible monthly or annual licensing. For the last 10 years, Stratodesk has been focused on leveraging technology with the sole purpose of solving difficult customer challenges in their end user computing journey. At this very special point in the evolution of cloud and hybrid work practices, we believe NoTouch Flex has the potential to further simplify customers’ EUC journey with clear benefits for all constituents:
- Increase end user productivity
Easy enrollment of devices and automatic environment configuration allows for the end user to get online and productive faster. In addition, Stratodesk Flex includes a first start wizard allowing for end-users to customize their local device and desktop. Don’t miss the full details further down this blog.
- Remove technical barriers for EUC Administrators
NoTouch Flex enables EUC admins to dramatically simplify their work in keeping endpoints secured and managed online.
- Meet the goals of the Finance department
NoTouch Flex introduces a first-of-its-kind, all-inclusive consumption service for corporate endpoints inclusive of the operating system, cloud-hosted endpoint management, and comprehensive technical support services.
NoTouch Flex has been around for quite some time now as a concept, albeit it’s not had a shiny name associated with it. So let’s break down the details of some of the components that make up Stratodesk NoTouch Flex and make all this clear:
Enterprise-Grade Operating System
NoTouch Flex leverages NoTouch OS Enterprise including support for all market-leading corporate workspaces in the cloud, on-prem or both. In case you were not familiar with NoTouch OS, let’s review some of the most advanced, time-saving features that are now part of our NoTouch Flex Service:
Flexible OS Provisioning
Stratodesk NoTouch OS is a hardware-agnostic proprietary Linux operating system that can be deployed to endpoints in several different ways that include the following:
- Live Boot from USB
- Install from USB
- Install from ISO
- Install from MSI (Automated)
- Live Boot PXE (Automated)
- Install from PXE (Automated)
- SCCM (Automated)
When testing most customers will use a live boot or install using a USB, but when it comes to deploying in larger numbers you really should be automating this as much as possible. I created a detailed video on how to automatically deploy Stratodesk NoTouch OS over PXE by simply powering on the device and letting Stratodesk NoTouch Center do the rest until the device is fully configured.
Flexible NoTouch Center Discovery
Once NoTouch OS has been installed onto an endpoint, it needs to discover NoTouch Center to get its configuration. If the devices are on-prem, then most customers will create a local DNS record that resolves the hostname ‘TCMGR’ to the IP address of the management server. However, this is only part of the picture so when used with automatic assignment rules becomes a powerful tool to automate the grouping and configuration of Stratodesk NoTouch OS endpoints. Additional details about this powerful feature are available in the following blog post: What is TCMGR and How to Configure It
Email-based enrollment of devices into the right management server
The next feature is one of my favorites, and whilst it’s been around for a very long time it’s one I like to show live when I’m speaking at events or on customer demos. In today’s hybrid world with a significant number of workers working remotely and/or leveraging cloud-based workspaces like Microsoft AVD or Citrix DaaS, email-based management server discovery is a must.
Most end users these days are comfortable linking mobile phones & tablet devices to their home network and providing their email address/password to configure the devices. Well, Stratodesk NoTouch OS is just the same, which means that a device can be shipped from a supplier directly to the end user at home and with our ‘out of the box’ experience a user can power on a device, connect it to their home network via ethernet or wi-fi and then enter their email address which in turn finds their management server and the automatic assignment rules take over to configure the device. The video below highlights this fantastic feature in more detail.
Once the user has been authenticated by their email address and using the built-in automatic assignment rules the NoTouch OS endpoint will automatically configure itself, and once rebooted can be used immediately.
Cloud hosted Management
When it comes to how and where you deploy Stratodesk’s endpoint management product NoTouch Center has provided the most comprehensive number of options available for ANY endpoint management solution available on the market. Now with NoTouch Flex, customers get our powerful endpoint management software already deployed in the cloud and ready to start provisioning and managing endpoints.
As a fully SaaS service, Stratodesk Flex is currently hosted in an AWS data center of the customers’ choice. More cloud provider options will be available in months to come. As this is a SaaS-based model, Stratodesk takes care of the software updates and the infrastructure whilst EUC administrators can focus on managing endpoints and keeping end users productive knowing their endpoint management is safe, available, and scalable.
Flexible Third-Party Application Deployment
Traditionally an enterprise-ready Linux OS has been read-only, with a small footprint so it can easily be installed onto a thin client. In many ways, this is still the case, but Stratodesk NoTouch OS is not limited to installation on a thin client, and many of our customers also install NoTouch onto desktop PCs & Laptops but still want to retain that locked-down OS with a small footprint.
As an example, the last two years have seen a significant increase in the use of unified communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Cisco Webex Teams for example. Some of these tools require the installation of a plugin that can optimize the user experience whilst offloading the processing to the endpoint. We could include plugins into our base image, but this increases the size of the image, and the plugins themselves need to version match what’s installed on the VDA.
In a kind of an App Store or a Marketplace, Stratodesk makes this work is what we call Extension Module Deployment, and whilst the example above relates to unified communication plugins, it also includes some of the following:
- Zoom, Cisco Webex Teams & Meetings (plus plugins)
- Google Chrome & Edge Browsers
- Checkpoint & Cisco Any Connect VPN
- EPOS Audio agent
- Crowdstrike & Sentry Bay, DeviceTrust, ZScaler Security Solutions
The list above is just a small example of the type of third-party applications that can be deployed without the need to create complicated custom partitions for each application. So how does this work? Well, it will be no surprise to say that we make this really easy and the following guide provides further information.
The list of third-party applications that can be deployed using this method grows with each new release. Like on the well-known mobile application stores, the overall benefit of using Extension Module Deployment is we ensure that the application prerequisites are met, but you very much control what is then being installed onto the endpoint.
Flexible Automation & Scaling with the Rest API
NoTouch Center version 4.5 ‘Emerald Bay’ in June 2021 saw the introduction of the Rest API that allows IT teams to programmatically interact with all aspects of their environment including endpoints, security, configuration, client applications & networking. Personally, I prefer a GUI but I know that we have lots of customers that are using the Rest API that’s built into the Stratodesk SDK. Since then, the APIs have been extended and are now available in NoTouch Flex.
The Rest API allows administrators to interact with a computer or system to retrieve information or perform a function and helps you communicate what you want to that system so it can understand and fulfill the request using Python, Java, Bash, or PowerShell with the use of commands or scripts. This can be extremely useful and time-saving in cases of large-scale operations and repetitive tasks.
We created a short blog when the feature was released on how to enable the Rest API from NoTouch Center.
The combination of industry-first advanced features for management of endpoints, simplicity for end users together with the flexibility of a fully SaaS consumption with annual and monthly billing Stratodesk NoTouch Flex definitely constitutes another important step in making our customers’ EUC journey an easy one and absolutely a better one than the alternatives.