Simon May

Client and cloud

Simon May

  • I’m now an MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate)

    Find the MTA certification path that meets your needs 

    A few minutes ago I rocked over to the ultra high tech Microsoft Learning centre and took a few exams, just for some Friday fun…I might need help!  I’ve always been a big fan of certification (when it’s done right).  I started on the road to MCSE in NT4 back in the day, completed that, upgraded to 2000 and have kept things going since then.  There have been lots of changes to the programme though over the past decade (GULP!) and we now have a set of exams designed for the new crop of IT Professional entering the business out of the academic world.  The MTA.

    Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification helps schools teach and validate fundamental technology knowledge [and] provides students with a foundation for their careers

    That’s a pretty darn important thing in the ultra competitive market and I thought it was a great idea when I was at Uni to do my MCSE to get me real world experience – I then rocked into a better job for more money than most of my peers.  Nice.

    What I can say having just taken the exams is that they’re pitched at about the right level, they aren’t super deep dive exams that require the depth of experience of a seasoned IT Professional but they are exams that let you demonstrate to an employer that you’ve got more of a grasp of Networking fundamentals and Security fundamentals than you might just get by attending some lectures.  The Windows Server 2008 exam was actually quite tricky, offering up some more complicated Active Directory Directory Services questions that you wouldn’t be able to answer without some real world experience.  To my mind that would make it a perfect exam to round out an industrial placement or internship year.

    If you’re an employer looking at a candidate with these exams you can rest assured that your not just getting someone who’s sat through some lessons.

    I took:

    • Networking Fundamentals: Exam 98-366
    • Security Fundamentals: Exam 98-367
    • Windows Server Administration Fundamentals: Exam 98-36

    But there are developer and C# focused exams too to prove your skills.

    As a result I can now add this logo to my business cards and blog and I’ve got a greater chance of standing out.

    If you want more info on the MTA program and how it builds into the MCTS exams then check out the Microsoft Learning website

  • Manually configure Outlook 2010 for Exchange Online (BPOS)

    I live in Outlook, I think most people probably do too, so having recently moved the email for my domain over to something a little more reliable – BPOS – I thought it’d be nice to have access to that inbox through my Outlook, in addition to my Microsoft email.  To help with the setup of email the Sign In application can do it all for you the client’s available from the Administration Center or the download site.

    This however results in you having a separate profile within Outlook so it’s not quite what I wanted.

    This is what you need to do to add an Exchange Online mailbox to an existing Outlook profile in Outlook 2010 (the basic steps are universal):

    1. Close Outlook
    2. Open Mail32 (32-bit") from Control Panel
    3. Click E-mail Accounts… and then New… account settings
    4. Select E-mail Account and click Next on the wizard mail32
    5. Select Manually configure server settings or additional server types and Next again
    6. Select Microsoft Exchange or compatible service and Next again add new account
    7. Now fire up your browser of choice, IE nach, and log into your Outlook Web Apps.
    8. Look in the top right and you’ll see Options, then select About and copy the name next to Mailbox server name
    9. Go back to the mail settings dialogue and paste the name of your Exchange Online server in Server and your full Exchange Online email address in User Name
    10. Click the More Settings… button in the lower right and select the Connection tab, tick Connect to Microsoft Exchange using HTTP and click Exchange Proxy Settings… exchange proxy settings
    11. Next you’ll need the address of the mobile device URL for your region which you’ll enter in the first field, then click OK a couple of times to get back to the wizard

    Done, if you start Outlook you’ll find your new account is available for you

    multi accounts



  • How will my career evolve with the cloud

    When you read all the wonderful marketing hyperbole around the cost savings that cloud can help your CIO make, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were one of those cost savings. With a little thought, however, you’ll see that this technology change isn’t going to make you a pointless cost, but it will make you a valuable driver of efficiency and savings, and you’ll probably find that work becomes more fun .

    Most of us get into IT or Technology because we love technology. A big, big part of that for me has always been that it’s constantly changing. Unlike being, say, an accountant we get the rules thrown up in the air every few years. We have to learn a whole lot of new skills in order to make those adaptations and that’s always been the way that technology has worked. We are, however, just coming to the end of one of the longest periods of IT stagnancy we’ve arguably ever seen where a global economic crisis combined with “good enough” technology to deliver a period of stability few of us in technology have had before. A stable period like that leads to many things, one of which is the dulling of our learning skills. Time for a change.

    What are the top skills required as we move into the cloud era, how do you gain them and how will your job change?

    The number one skill you’ll need in the future is going to be business knowledge,  Just like everyone else in your business,you will need to know how it works. Many IT Professionals already do and please don’t take what I’m saying wrongly -  it’s not that I believe that IT Pros are out of touch with the business – that obviously depends on your individual circumstances. Broadly speaking, though, experience tells me that not many IT people know their business. I left financial services IT not so long ago (I think it’s 8 months) and I can handon- heart say that most of my colleagues didn’t know an option from a guilt or what shorting is (I’m not sure I do), but perhaps more applicable, lots of IT Pros don’t understand the pressures that marketers or sales people are under and how they can help. The best do understand this, and aligning with the business in this way is the best way to do more with the cloud.

    In terms of technical skills, though, here are my top 4.

    • Understand the technologies that power cloud. There are some fundamentals that you really need to grasp before you get the cloud in its entirety. Until you do “Do not pass go, do not collect £200”. As luck would have it, those technologies are ones that you are probably already familiar with, the cornerstone being virtualisation. Why do you need to understand that technology? Well, the answer is because everything in the cloud is virtual. Virtual storage, virtual computers, virtual networks – nothing is real, unless you work for a hoster. You don’t need to understand the specific technology, just what it means to divorce software from hardware – which really is that you can’t manage hardware, only software, so, for example, no network card hijinks to make something work.

    Second, you need to understand the idea of cost. You need to understand that doing anything in the cloud costs money, just as it does, in a hidden way, in your own data centre. I’ll give you an example. You have data stored in the cloud but it’s not been accessed for six months. You need to pay for that storage. The same on-premises you’ve already shelled out for the hard disk. That understanding of cost will soon make you realise that you need to store some stuff in the cloud and some stuff not. For example, event logs from a web role for today – yes, store them in the cloud. Event logs for last month – no, archive locally or delete all together. Gaining this level of understanding will revolutionise what you do and clear clutter.

    • Connection technologies for traditional models to the cloud. Moving to the cloud takes some time. You need to build up confidence in your own mind (and in the mind of the business) that it’s possible, safe and sometimes better to move to the cloud than keep something on premises but also that  it might not always be the right thing to do. There’s a much bigger hurdle in moving to the cloud versus putting in something new because there’s already a reliance on that infrastructure (insert good word) doing something, be it generating revenue or handling some business critical function. You need to understand how to link the two together.

    So which technology is that for the Microsoft cloud technologies? For Windows Azure you need to know about Active Directory Federation Services and Windows Azure Connect, with a little of Windows Azure Service Bus. If you’re thinking Windows Azure is just for devs then ask yourself this question: “Do the devs understand networking, Identity and all the rest of our infrastructure?” You also need to know PowerShell and System Center to be able to manage the cloud, but we’ll come to that in point 3 in more depth. You’ll find an understanding of SQL Azure DataSync will be seriously helpful if you want to use SQL Azure, too. If you’re making the move to Office 365 you’ll again need to understand ADFS, and you’ll also need to understand DirSync.

    • Know what your business needs to measure and monitor it. Knowing what’s important to your business and how the technology marries up to that is critically important. You need to be fully aware of what’s required and what’s important so that you can ensure it happens. You need to make sure that services are available to the business when they need them and not when they aren’t (or at least dialled down). There’s a misconception that the cloud has this automatic elasticity that scales things up and down as it sees fit. It doesn’t really work that way.

    OK, it can work that way if the designers and developers built-in intelligence that really delivers that. With Azure they have use of an API to control scale based on the needs of the application. They need to have enabled that functionality and it’s not always the right thing to do. The classic example is pizza demand in the super bowl ad break - more orders = more capacity instantly added. That’s the reality but it doesn’t cover every eventuality. Imagine for a moment said pizza experts also know that the super bowl is happening, if they prepare for those additional instances then they have a better chance of hitting the demand at the right time, especially if the devs did something complicated too that meant that each additional role took 10 minutes to become live. Yes, it’s possible to code around that, but easier to work with an IT Pro to smooth those obvious peaks and use code to work for the unexpected.

    Measurement and monitoring tied to business knowledge will allow you to deliver higher levels of value and be more of a hero. The reality is that you don’t need that deep an insight into the business to deliver exceptional value, and you can do this better with cloud because you’re no longer spending time keeping it running. Instead, you’re now helping them generate more money by matching demand curves.

    • Understand how to govern the cloud. You’re going to get into serious trouble if you don’t look after customer data and the like. You need to know when employing cloud technology is the right thing to do and when it’s the wrong thing to do. You also need to understand what it takes to trust a cloud provider. Here are some questions that you might like to pose or research:
      • Can I get an assurance of where my data is held?
      • Can I get an assurance around uptime?
      • Can I get an assurance about the practices that the provider uses in their data centre?
      • Can I find out about who’s auditing a provider?
      • Can I found out what testing and certification a provider has provided and what it supports?
      • Can I find out how the provider is trying to move the industry and regulation forward for its customers?
      • Can I found out how I exit the contract?
      • Do they give me time to read the contract?
      • Wait - there was a contract?!
      • Have we built applications that adhere to our own practices?
      • Have we deployed the application in a compliant way?
      • What's the update process, where are the patches, what’s the security like?

    You need to have an understanding of all this stuff to protect your customers and your company, and I can assure you that you can find all the above information for all Microsoft products. You’ll find most of it on the web or by asking your Microsoft team – I’m not going to point you to it because you won’t believe it if a company man tells you. OK, that’s not entirely fair - take a look at my blog and you’ll find the start of the breadcrumb trail.

    So now you’re reading that list and thinking that’s not technical. You’re right, it’s a ruse.

    Actually it’s all technical because all technical knowledge is knowledge about how things work. Most of this knowledge requires a technical expert to relate it clearly back to the business. It leverages your understanding of how things work and builds your intuition and intelligence to trust or distrust. Go forth and change the world of IT.

    This article was originally posted on the Cloud Power Blog at


  • is an IE9 Web Application and so is Facebook (#IE9)

    facebook IE9 icontwitter as a web app in IE9

    It seems the good folks @twitter have jumped out of the starting blocks and enhanced to take advantage of the pinning technology in IE9.  As a twitter addict (@simonster on there) I love this, genius.

    They aren’t the only ones Facebook have done something similar.  Be interesting to see if anyone else takes advantage of this functionality and more.

    This is what it looks like when you take advantage of the technology. In a few lines of simple code they just turned into an app.

    Go to for more or watch my series of one minute videos on Internet Explorer 9 Beta

  • WSUS Service fails to start with error 193, WSUS Service is not a valid Win32 application

    As I continue to build my System Center Configuration Manager 2012 (CM12) lab I continue to shoot myself in the foot in a number of ways.  Over the weekend I discovered that my WSUS service was unable to start and was logging “WSUS Service is not a valid Win32 application” in the event log.

    After some digging around I found this great post by David Obrien (and great Config Manager blog by the way) that points to the issue:

    Essentially a file had been created called c:\program and it was stopping the service from starting and renaming it worked a charm.  I’ll have to dig around a little more to work out what really happened here down the line. But thanks David!