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Those of you who have been around the TechNet world for some time might remember this old-school Microsoft video, created by the IT Pro team many years ago. It resurfaced internally a couple of weeks back and we thought it would be fun to share for old times sake and a bit of Friday afternoon light relief!
Whilst purely tongue in cheek, how many of you are secretly disappointed that this project was never made a reality?!
Steve Plank, one of our team’s cloud gurus, recently posted this video with Retail Manager Solutions CEO Jim Chapman on his blog. In it Jim talks about how adopting Windows Azure, Microsoft’s Public Cloud platform, has transformed Retail Manager Solutions’ ability to provide industry leading services to some of the world’s biggest retailers.
It doesn’t go into the technical nuts and bolts of why you might want to explore Azure, but Jim does discuss a whole host of business considerations that were big driving factors in his company’s adoption and could well convince the decision makers in your business to do the same. It’s a great video and definitely worth sparing a quick 5 minutes, take a look below!
If you have looked at any of the new components of System Center 2012 you may have noticed that everyone seems to have a bunch of reports, some of them have data marts or data warehouses and some of them have analytics in the form of analysis services cubes. Apart from the confusion over when to use what, why has so much effort been put into this?
In order to answer that let’s consider what information we need from System Center. I use the term information here deliberately as you may be aware that System Center chucks out tons of data, e.g. virtual machine X is running SQL Server, this update failed, that server has restarted, etc.etc. A good example of this how a badly setup Operations Manager will swamp the IT team with all the messages it throws out.
Rather than all this noise what we need is answers such as:
This isn’t an exhaustive list rather these questions characterise the way you might interact with the information coming out of System Center, and help frame an understanding of how business intelligence fits into the picture.
What task are assigned to me ?
This is operational reporting also referred to as consumption reporting because in the process of acting on the report the data in it becomes obsolete. In this case If I action a task assigned to me from a report. it’s then closed and won’t appear on the report if I run it again. This is the simplest type of report and is usually directly sourced form the operational database (hence the other name). In System Center 2012 these reports are usually built in to things like management packs in Operations Manager and Service Manager.
Is everything that needs to be running actually working OK?
This often expressed as a dashboard and is often found running on a large screen in a large helpdesk or operations room. In order to answer this type of question you might need data from more than one source and a deeper understanding of the source data is needed, for example to understand what systems need to be monitored and what the components of those systems are. In the BI world we might use a dashboard for this kind of analysis which might be interactive rather than static, enabling the end user to drill into a problem area to see more detail. Dashboards typically get their data from a data warehouse which is nothing more than a specialised database where the design (schema) is optimised for reporting rather than input. System Center does include some dashboarding capability but this a set of components and tools rather than a finished solution as dashboards are very individual to an organisation so there’s no right answer than can be implemented in a product. For example your System Center dashboard would probably compare actual performance against service levels, across time across business units. However the SLAs in your business will vary considerably e.g. “server uptime bust be greater than 99.999% between 8am- 6pm on working days” or “client login time on our corporate internet site must be less than 500ms “ so you’ll have to do some work to get those to show up.
How can I be more proactive?
In order to answer this kind of question a data warehouse is also needed because the answer might depend on what’s happened before where operational systems e.g. Operations Manager are routinely purged of older data to maintain performance. However writing endless reports and running them to get an answer as vague as this would take too long what is need is an interactive way to navigate through the data to understand the trends and discover patterns that might not immediately be apparent. This is the realm of OLAP and data mining both of which are built into SQL Server standard edition, (which you get with System Center 2012), and there’s an option to use this as part of Virtual Machine Manager 2012 for this kind of reason.
Hopefully that’s got you thinking, but if not let me leave you with a though and a question
Jonathan Noble works in the Infrastructure Systems Group at Newcastle University. He is a co-founder of the NEBytes user group (nebytes.net), blogs at jonoble.com and is @jonoble on Twitter.
My first TechEd was in Amsterdam in 2004. It was the first event I'd attended that was anything like that size and I loved it!
There was warm-up entertainment at the keynote provided by Drum Cafe (www.drumcafe.com) and there was a drum waiting on each seat of the auditorium. Having thousands of people drumming more or less in time is quite an experience. We were shown a video of drums being made in Africa and it said how much the people were benefiting from the purchase of all these instruments, which gave a feeling that people were benefiting from us enjoying ourselves. The drums smelled like the animals from whom their skin had come - kind of obvious, but you don't expect to come out of a tech conference keynote with your hands smelling like you've been to a petting zoo.
At registration, everyone had received a large vinyl bright orange messenger bag. It was quite a fun bag, and the colour was certainly appropriate for the Netherlands, but I've never seen anyone using one any time since that week (if you attend enough tech events, you see a few bags that you recognise from previous conferences). We were staying near the station and used Amsterdam's decent tram system to get around (line 4 to the RAI) every morning and evening the trams were packed by people with bright-orange bags. We stood out like sore thumbs - the locals who were on their regular commute must have loved us; especially at the end of the first day, when we all had smelly, bulky drums clipped to the bags too!
Oddly, one of the things that struck me was the logistics of lunch. Getting so many people in and out of a huge hall to sit down for a hot meal in a relatively short period was very impressive and reminiscent of a military operation.
On the subject of impressive scale, the IT infrastructure for a TechEd conference is epic, if you consider that a few days earlier there was nothing. On a couple of occasions I've attended a session about how the CommNet was put together - I'm not sure if they still run those sessions, but if you get a chance to attend one, I recommend it.
To be honest, I can't remember much of the technical content from that first TechEd (although the party was epic!). I would say that it's as much about meeting and interacting with peers as it is the sessions. The content could change your life though. I distinctly remember a session at ITforum05 in Barcelona called "Monad: Next Generation Command Shell", delivered by a cordial American chap in a funky tie. At the time I didn't fully get it, but I did realise that it would have a huge impact on my future. "Monad" became PowerShell; its creator, Jeffrey Snover became a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer and Lead Architect of Windows Server 2012 (still wearing funky ties); and I became a PowerShell MVP!
I'm so glad that TechEd EMEA is returning to Amsterdam. It is a great city to visit - if you've never been and you're making the trip this summer, try to add a day or two on to your conference schedule and see the sights; yes, including the Red Light District - just remember not to put your wallet in an easily accessible pocket, and don't try to take photos of those particular sights!
For more historical TechEd content from Jonathan, check out the posts from his blog pre-TechEd 2008 - some of the first-timer tips are still relevant, while others may leave you pining for the halcyon days before the credit-crunch!
If you would like to find out more about TechEd Europe 2012 then pop over to the website and check out the blog.
It’s Monday, and that means we have a summary of what we’ve been discussing in the past week ready to start this one. Worth noting if you look at the Microsoft Virtual Academy competition below that today is the final day you can enter to win a weekend with a Ferrari, so no time to lose!
Time is also running out to register to find out how Camwood and Browsium could save you money on solving App Compat issues and migrating from legacy Internet Explorer, we’ll be in London with them on Thursday and hope to see you there. The clock’s also ticking if you fancy our book of the fortnight, but if it’s not your thing don’t worry, plenty more where that came from in next week’s TechNet Flash!
Have a great week everyone.
This week has been a week of innovation, techniques, tools and training resources. We’ve brought you a free book, lots of event information and loads of useful stuff to keep you ahead of the game.
Remember to put in your entry to win a ticket to TechEd Europe and join in the conversations on Twitter and Facebook!
Cooks would rather not wash up, and the best chefs have someone else do the shopping prepare the vegetables etc. and often end up planning and managing the menus and kitchens. In our IT professional world I would rather not worry about patching, I hate doing all the repetitive boring stuff and would rather work on projects. Essentially that’s the promise of the cloud, so I am continually surprised that so many of you don’t get it, possibly you don’t think this stuff applies to you.
I have been trying to explain this at the various IT Camps we have been running up and down the country, but I also got a cameo role on cloud at SQL Bits with my good friend Buck Woody. We were filmed so that should be out on the SQL Bits portal in the next month, but we also shot a 2 minute intro while he was making pizza at my house..
Which I hope you enjoy as much as we enjoyed his proper American pizza!
Bruce Kyle has been really busy recently and has written a 7 part series on how you can secure applications on Windows Azure. Whilst many of you are not developers it is always good to keep up to date on what best practices are floating around especially when it comes to IT security so I thought it would be useful to share the series with you.
The series not only goes into what you should do but also how best to respond to security threats on Windows Azure.
Windows Azure Security Best Practices – 7 Part Series
Pass these tips and tricks onto your development team and ensure that they are looking after your systems.
Remember to share your tips and tricks with us! I’m sure we can all learn from one another’s experiences.
On 26th May 2012 all UK websites must offer users opt-in consent tools to allow cookies that pass information about your browsing activities to 3rd parties. The law was passed almost a year ago but many websites haven’t yet updated to take this into account. The big question is are you compliant?
If you’ve not yet reviewed your websites then take a moment to watch this video of John Mannix from Governor Technology who talks about cookielaw.org, a service that used crowd-sourcing to farm cookies from volunteers who installed an agent on their machines and provide later analysis and gave advice on whether a particular site's cookies existed within the limitation of the EU directive that came in to force on the 27th May 2011 (and that will be enforced in May 2012).
This video features an interesting discussion on how they architected to use Azure features so they could easily scale up/down depending on the number of cookies that were harvested as well as potentially being a way to identify what your company needs to do to comply.
The most recent TechNet flash had a whole raft of fresh information around were to download SQL Server 2012, how to get up to date with Windows Server “8” training via Microsoft Virtual Academy as well as the latest information on TechEd Europe.
In fact there was so much juicy information packed into this edition of the TechNet Flash that we’d recommend that you take a look here and find out what else we included, you won’t be disappointed!
We even found you details of a free e-book introducing you to SQL Server 2012.
ps Whilst you’re on the Microsoft Virtual Academy Site why not join in with our competition! Details Here!