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March, 2012

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  • Innovation as a Strategy for Growth

    The UK government generate an innovation report every year and I thought now would be a great time to share some insights from 2010 report.  Along side the insights I’ve also put together some simple steps to help kick start your innovation strategy.

    Innovation drives economic growth - it has accounted for 63 per cent of annual labour productivity growth since 2000, with investments in intangibles accounting for 23 per cent of productivity growth. Investment in intangibles in 2008 also helped reduce the negative impact on productivity of the start of the recession.

    On this basis innovation is not only key to business growth but also to the UK’s economic growth, so both ways round it quite simply makes sense to have a growth strategy which includes innovation.  But how do you go about it?

    Let’s start with the basics, why would you want to do this? Well there are all sorts of reasons such as the ability to identify new products which provide additional revenue streams and routes to market. You may find that your product requires new features, or just a refresh to keep ahead of the market.

    1. Commit your company to innovate
    2. Decide the areas that you want to innovate in.
    3. Set aside resources to work on innovation projects
    4. Select a leader to take charge of projects and drive them forward

    This should put you in good stead for getting something up and running but if you’d also like some support that helps you build and implement your strategy then read on.

    Microsoft are running something called the Microsoft Innovation Program (MIPS) and helps software companies create a planned window for innovation.  A program to draw out the creativity and inventiveness in your greatest assets, your people.  As Albert Einstein once said “Ideas and innovation are the bedrock that technology is built on”. By signing on to this program you will get to:

    • Identify potential new products / revenue streams
    • Drives new features / improvements into existing products
    • Deliver your technology roadmap
    • Gain training on the latest software tools & training on user interface creation
    • Get input from your commercial team to create revenue driving technology

    What else?

    • Most importantly the program is free
    • There will be a Prize for Best use of Technology / Certificate to winning developers for excellence in innovation.
    • Improves staff engagement with products, motivates, increases morale

    So how do you get involved in this? Well that’s simple… We have 3 steps!

    1. Let Adrian Clarke know that you are interested in the program and send him your company profile.
    2. Appoint a project manager to work with us.
    3. Set aside a few days for training and development

    That’s it! It really is as simple as that… and here’s what can come out of it at the other end!

     

    The graph below is a comparison of business expenditure on R&D as a percentage of GDP, 2000 and 2008.  As you can see the UK certainly doesn’t look as competitive as it’s foreign counterparts and with a little investment comes great return, so let’s make sure our GDP percentage is up when the next one of these reports comes out.

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    If you’d like to find out more about the program then email Adrian and pop over to MSDN to hear about this program in action!

  • Guest Post: Managing Office 365 with PowerShell

    By Thomas Lee – PowerShell MVP

    imageimageThomas is a UK IT Pro, with over 40 years’ experience in the IT field. He’s presently a PowerShell MCP and is very busy doing writing, consulting and training around some of the key Microsoft technologies including PowerShell, Lync and Windows Server/client. In his spare time, he lives in a small cottage with wife, daughter, a nice wine cellar and a large collection of Grateful Dead live recordings.

    Introduction

    Office 365 is Microsoft’s Cloud Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) offering that provides Office 2010, Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Lync 2010. There are a variety of plans offering different aspects of these packages. Licensing and costs vary depending on what plan you take – and happily for Office 365 customers, Microsoft has just announced price reductions in the pricing! For more detailed information about Office 365 itself, see http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-enterprises/default.aspx.

    One important aspect of Office 365, for IT Pros especially, is how you manage the suite. You can do the basic administration of Office 365 using a browser based GUI. The GUI is good, although doing larger scale management tasks can get tedious (and are error prone). Help is at hand in the form of a set of Windows PowerShell cmdlets you can use to perform a variety of administrative tasks with Office 365.

    Additionally, if you are using Exchange within Office 365, you can perform Exchange management using PowerShell. For this, you simply use PowerShell V2’s remoting capability to remote into your Exchange server and then use implicit remoting to access a subset of the Exchange PowerShell cmdlets, as I explain in more detail later in this article. At present, unfortunately, there are no cmdlets available, directly or indirectly, for the SharePoint and Lync components of Office 365.

    Office 365 Cmdlets

    In order to use the Office 365 cmdlets, you must first download and install Microsoft Online Services Sign-in Assistant. Then you need to download and install the Microsoft Online Services module. Both of these software components come in both a 32-bit and a 64-bit version – choose the one that matches your OS. You can get these components via the online help page at: http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/office365-enterprises/hh124998.aspx

    Once you have the cmdlets installed, using them is a breeze, assuming you know PowerShell! Like any module, you must first import it into your PowerShell runspace, using the Import-Module cmdlet. Of course, for those of you using V3, importing the module is automatically done by PowerShell. Finally, in order to use the cmdlets, you have to authenticate yourself to Office 365 using the Connect-MsolService cmdlet. You can see this here:

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    Sadly, the limitations of this blog post does not allow me the space to delve into all these cmdlets in detail. But they allow you to carry out the following administrative activities:

    · Manage users

    · Manage group and role membership

    · Manage service principals

    · Manage domains

    · Manage single sign-on

    · Manage subscriptions and licenses

    · Manage company information and service

    You can click on the links above to get more information about each of these administrative activities, or navigate to http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-enterprises/hh125002.aspx.

    Using PowerShell to Manage Exchange OnLine

    You can manage Exchange On-Line, as noted earlier, by using the Exchange cmdlets in conjunction with PowerShell remoting (a key feature of Windows PowerShell V2!). To access the Exchange cmdlets, you just connect to the Exchange server, and use the implicit remoting capability of PowerShell to import the cmdlets into your runspace then use them as proxies, like this:

    # First Get credential for site
    $cred = Get-Credential
    tfl@yourOffice365domain.onmicrosoft.com

    # Next create a new PS Session
    # Use a hash table to setup parameters to new-pssession
    $Office365 = @{ ConfigurationName = "Microsoft.Exchange"
    Connectionuri = "
    Https://ps.outlook.com/powershell"

    Credential = $cred365
    Authentication = "Basic"
    AllowRedirection = $true}

    $s = New-PsSession @Office365

    # Note: you see the session being redirected to your site
    # Next Import the remote session
    $Results = Import-PsSession $s

    After doing this, you have direct access to the Exchange cmdlets that ship with Exchange 2010. It’s important to note you do not have access to ALL the cmdlets. The Exchange OnLine service’s multi-tenant architecture enables Microsoft, the hoster for Office 365, to customize what cmdlets you are able to use (and what properties of those cmdlets you can use). As of now, you can access just 234 cmdlets of the over 600 cmdlets that ship with Exchange 2010. For some more detail on using these cmdlets, see: http://tfl09.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/getting-started-with-office-365.html

    Getting Trained on PowerShell

    As you can see, automation of Office 365 administration, both for the current version and future iterations, is increasingly reliant on PowerShell. As an IT Pro, learning PowerShell is something you really need to do sooner rather than later. But you probably know that!

    For Microsoft partners that are reselling Office 365, using these PowerShell cmdlets is becoming a fundamental skill to enable you to manage your various clients’ Office 365 subscriptions in a cost efficient way. And for both partners and Office 365 users, you are almost certainly going to want to script many aspects of your management of use of Office 365, especially if you are using a hybrid (part cloud, part on premise) Office 365 architecture.

    There are a variety of ways to learn more about PowerShell – as I blogged last month. You can go on the official Microsoft 5-Day PowerShell introduction, for example. At the risk of repeating myself, a great way to get up to speed quickly is to come on one of my PowerShell weekend PowerCamps - the next PowerCamp will be on April 21/22 and will be held at Microsoft’s Cardinal Place offices in London. For more information about this event, and to sign up, see http://tfl09.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/powershell-powercamp-weekendlondonapril.html. The event will be a lot of fun, you’ll go home knowing tons more, and with a bunch of goodies and, no doubt, a head ready to explode!

    Office 365 is a pretty awesome product for both small/medium businesses as an alternative to running servers on premise and for large business running a hybrid (part Cloud, part on-premise) environment. So no matter how you are going to be using Office 365, there’s good PowerShell support. Just a few more cmdlets to use, and the ability to master PowerShell’s remoting capability. Enjoy Office 365!

  • Free E-Book–Introducing SQL Server 2012

    If you are looking to have a book on hand whilst getting to grips with SQL Server 2012 then you’ll be interested in the free E-book currently being offered by MS Press and written by Ross Mistry (@RossMistry) and Stacia Misner (@StaciaMisner). You can download the PDF version of this title here (288 pages; 10.8 MB).

    665156.indd

    PART I DATABASE ADMINISTRATION

    1. SQL Server 2012 Editions and Engine Enhancements

    2. High-Availability and Disaster-Recovery Enhancements

    3. Performance and Scalability

    4. Security Enhancements

    5. Programmability and Beyond-Relational Enhancements

    PART II BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPMENT (by Stacia Misner)

    6. Integration Services

    7. Data Quality Services

    8. Master Data Services

    9. Analysis Services and PowerPivot

    10. Reporting Services

    We are releasing this title to help you learn about the new features and capabilities in SQL Server 2012, which Microsoft released to manufacturing (RTM) on March 6, 2012. You can expect general availability of the product to begin on April 1, 2012.

    If you prefer a hard copy of the book, you can order it here for $14.99.

  • TechEd Europe: Keynote Speakers Announced! #TEE12

    With just a few days left to go with the early bird offer (which expires at the end of this week…) we’ve just had word about who the keynote speakers will be for TechEd Europe 2012… they are key strategic decision makers in the business.

    Jason ZanderJason Zander, Corporate Vice President, Visual Studio.

    Jason Zander is the corporate vice president of the Visual Studio Team in the Developer Division at Microsoft. Zander's responsibilities include the Visual Studio family of products, which covers a range of technologies: programming languages; JavaScript runtime and tools; integrated development environment and ecosystem; Microsoft Office, SharePoint and cloud tooling integration; source control and work item tracking; and advanced architecture, developer, and testing tools.

    As one of the original developers of the Common Language Runtime (CLR), Zander's primary technical areas of contribution include file formats, metadata, compilers, debugging and profiling, and integration of the system into key platforms such as operating systems and databases. Before joining the Visual Studio Team, Zander was the general manager for the .NET Framework Team. He has worked on numerous products at Microsoft, including the first several releases of the CLR and .NET Framework, Silverlight, SourceSafe, and ODBC. Before joining Microsoft in 1992, Zander worked at IBM Corp. on distributed SQL and SQL/400 at the Rochester lab.

    Brad AndersonBrad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Management & Security Division

    Brad Anderson is the corporate vice president of the Management and Security Division (MSD) at Microsoft. In that capacity, he leads a global team committed to helping organizations reduce their costs and drive their businesses forward with the MSD suite of products and services. These technologies include the System Center family of products, Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, Windows Update/Microsoft Update, management infrastructure components in Windows Client and Windows Server, and delivering Software + Services as Windows Intune.

    Across all of the keynotes and sessions you can expect to hear the latest about Microsoft technology with tracks covering Windows Client, Windows Azure, Windows Phone, Windows Server, Architecture & Practices, Database & Business Intelligence, Office, Security & Identity, Developer Tools and more.

    In addition, TechEd presents a unique opportunity to meet face-to-face with Microsoft experts, technology partners, and industry peers. We hope you’ll join us for this year’s festivities. Stay tuned for more session and content information in the coming weeks!

    Get involved with our TechEd Europe competition to be in with a chance to win a ticket to attend!

  • Offer: Last Chance for TechEd Europe Discount Tickets! #TEE12

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    The early bird discount offer for TechEd Europe tickets is close to an end.  In fact we stop the early bird offer this Saturday (31st March 2012) so if you are still trying to convince your boss or haven’t yet decided if you are going to come along then now is a good time to make that decision.

    If you are managing a team of developers or IT professionals and want to know why you should send one or more of your team to TechEd Europe just take a look at the different reasons that some of our community have come up with in our recent competition. (suggestions are in the comments section)

    You can find the agenda and all the details on pricing and speakers on the TechEd Europe website here and find out what others are saying about TechEd Europe on the Facebook page and on Twitter.

    For added value, alongside the event there will be a series of opportunities to catch up on a one to one basis with Microsoft experts through the following additional events:

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    SPECIAL FILM SCREENING
    Monday: Sit back and relax with some movie snacks and beverages as we roll CTRL+ALT+COMPETE, a look at the competitive startup and emerging business scene through five founders and their teams.

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    WELCOME RECEPTION
    Tuesday: Check out solutions and services from Microsoft partners and meet with the Microsoft product groups in the TechExpo Hall.

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    DELEGATE PARTY
    Wednesday: Mingle with your fellow attendees and countrymen and take in the Amsterdam experience along with some fun activities.

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    ASK THE EXPERTS
    Thursday: Meet one-on-one with Microsoft technology experts and peers to exchange feedback on technology trends and how to leverage these effectively in your business.

    You can find out more about these opportunities on the social pages. (These are at no additional cost so if you’re coming to TechEd Europe make sure you come along!)

    What are you waiting for? Register now to save €300.

  • Event: A New Era in Enterprise Data Management: Discover why the Co-operative Group chooses SQL Server for Business-Critical Applications

    On the 17th April in London you have the opportunity to hear why customers such as the Co-operative Group have chosen SQL Server as their enterprise data and business intelligence platform.  They use this platform to manage the loyalty data for their seven million members and you can find out more about this along with more information about the exciting new developments in SQL Server 2012 for enterprise data management.

    Register today using invite code: 756AF2.

  • Event: Free Windows Server 2008 R2 & Hyper-V Bootcamp

    This is a complimentary Windows Server 2008 R2 & Hyper-V - Virtual Exam Cram (70-659) designed to help experienced Microsoft Server Virtualisation professionals prepare for exam 70-659 TS: Windows Server 2008 R2 Virtualisation. Delivered in two days via 4 x 2.5 hour training sessions from 17th – 20th April 2012.

    To support your careers, Microsoft will be giving a free certification voucher for Exam 70-659: Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualisation to the first 100 delegates to register and complete the questions at the end of each of the 4 sessions.

  • Registration Reopened: IT Pro Licensing Update Event in Reading

    We’ve had such a  great initial response to our IT Pro Licensing Update Event that we’re holding this Wednesday in Reading. So much so, that we’ve had to move to a bigger venue! The good news is, this means we can reopen registrations and give you all one final chance to come along and get your licensing questions answered.

    We’ll be covering a range of different areas, including:

    - Application server licensing (Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, SQL) in both physical and virtual environments;
    - Licensing a virtualised desktop (RDS, VDI, App-V);
    - Online Services licensing (Office 365);
    - System Center.

    This will all be followed by an open surgery where we’ll be able to drill down into your specific queries and concerns.

    The event will now be held at Holiday Inn Reading, RG41 5TS. To find out more and sign up to the event go here and use the code: 67BA7A

  • Private Cloud IT Camps

    I have covered some of what we do at IT camps in a couple of previous posts, but what we did in Birmingham and London this week was to launch a new kind of camp, on Private Cloud.  This builds on knowledge gained at a Hyper-V IT camp and on Microsoft Virtual Academy and explain the how and why of managing virtualisation at scale in your data centre..

    Virtualisation at scale obviously means that you are working in a larger organisation, and the concepts of a private cloud such as charge back, scalability and self service are really only appropriate to those business with lots of physical servers, a departmental structure and a group of dedicated IT professionals (although these might be outsourced). 

    System Center 2012 is designed to make the private cloud work and that’s what we show in this camp.  However the individual components in the suite can also be used to proactively manage servers and applications in organisations that only have tens of virtual machines rather than hundreds.  So some of what we talk about at a private camp is relevant to the IT Professional in a smaller business but the main thrust of the camp is Private Cloud. Please bear this in mind when registering to come along.

    I also realise that the the term private cloud is not popular with IT Professionals because it is either seen as marketing spin or its all about reducing costs and IT jobs.  I disagree this stuff is important because

    1. a.  The standardisation and automation that the private cloud brings to a data centre frees you up from fire fighting and lets you concentrate on the projects the business want to implement as the business changes.
    2. Tools like System Center track what is being done to your data centre be that in response to fixes or requests for change, so you don’t have to.  For example if a new virtual machine is deployed it will show up as an asset you will know what operating system and applications are on it who owns it and how long it is needed for

    3. Both of which go to make  the IT department look more like a service and less like and overhead.  On an individual level you will have more respect from the business and that can be more important than a pay rise in my opinion.

    Back to the camps we are running just one more thing; if you are coming to our camps on Hyper-V and you are already running Hyper-V in production then we may well be covering the basics you are already aware of. However because Hyper-V has its place in the smallest of businesses, then this camp is a great introduction for an IT Professional in any organisation, and we know this because we have had some really good feedback from running these camps.  

  • The Week that Was 12th - 19th March 2012

    Last week we had quite a bit of SharePoint content including a Whitepaper on business value and strategy for Sharepoint and a guest article that featured in our recent TechNet Flash newsletter.  We also featured a case study, popped up a few events and launched a new competition for you to win a place to TechEd.