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Secure Shell Support Coming To Windows

By Sami Pippuri on June, 25 2015
Sami Pippuri

Sami was the Product Marketing Director until September 2015.

In early June, Microsoft announced something that surprised many; namely that they will be supporting Secure Shell (SSH) in their PowerShell tool used by many system administrators, developers and power users. The move would make not only the SSH client native on Windows, but would also make the SSH server native as well. Microsoft would also contribute code to the OpenSSH project – huge news to anyone who has followed the history of Microsoft and open source.


It also underlines the change the company is going through in the hands of Satya Nadella, who took the helm little more than a year ago as only the third CEO in the company that turned 40 earlier this year. And interestingly, with this news, things came full circle for me personally – my current role at SSH heading Global Product Marketing came in touch with my past at Microsoft heading its Developer Product Marketing team. 


Microsoft is a large corporation: 128,000 employees and annual revenues of $86.8 billion make it a mega-corporation, and is the third most valuable company by market cap. Its software powers most home computers as well as industrial and financial systems. So when they announce that they will be supporting an open source tool in that ecosystem, it’s truly a Big Thing.


The announcement instantly validates what we at SSH Communications Security have been saying: that ever since Secure Shell was invented by our founder Tatu Ylönen, 20 years ago, its been the tool of choice for system administrators to secure remote access to servers. Today it has become truly universal and ubiquitous.


But really what prompted Microsoft to port SSH into PowerShell? I don’t have any inside information on this so I can only speculate.  The blog post  with the announcement highlights the shift in the corporate culture at Microsoft, after two earlier failed attempts of pushing this through. But now under Satya Nadella’s leadership, the company has realized that it cannot control everything in computing, despite its size. Rather, it want to focus on adding value that helps make people more productive, and stop reinventing tools that already work for people. And that is precisely what Microsoft's customers had been asking regarding SSH: to support SSH so they can be more productive out of the box.


Obviously it wasn’t an easy sell to include this open source tool into a Microsoft deliverable, something I also learned while working there. But this is a new Microsoft, one that is shipping open source development tools, supporting OSX, iOS and Android, and supporting Linux virtual machines in its own Azure cloud, so I’m sure the team got the full support from their CEO to make this happen.


Of course there are lots of remaining questions regarding general availability of the tools, backwards compatibility to older Windows builds and so on. It seems like early days in the development cycle: the team got an internal OK to ship the tools so the post was also to serve an internal purpose as a heads-up to the rest of the company: ‘hey, we’re doing this!’. We’ll hear more once the team is getting ready to release the tools. Fortunately, PowerShell as a release vehicle isn’t tied to the operating system releases so chances are it will also support older Windows systems and as a result its release timing can be more flexible.


All in all, this is great news for the SSH ecosystem, increasing the size of the addressable market, raising awareness in the Windows sysadmin space and providing an official Microsoft-supported solution with native updates for organizations. It also means that there will potentially be more keys to manage securely and lessons to apply for managing privileged user access transparently, proven strengths of SSH’s Universal Key Manager™ and CryptoAuditor™ products. At SSH Communications Security, we’re excited about the potential these new capabilities bring to Windows customers and being able to work together with Microsoft on the greater SSH ecosystem. We also welcome Microsoft to test for interoperability with our extensive set of clients and servers including mainframe z/OS.



Download IDC Whitepaper: "Smartly Manage Secure Shell Keys"




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