Here’s another great video from Steve ‘Planky’ Plank about how a company is benefiting massively from the implementation of Windows Azure. It’s quite a different story to the one from Retail Manager Solutions we brought you earlier in the week, focusing on a public-facing system.
At The Races were running a high-volume website in the UK that was characterized by very peaky predictable bursts. They knew when the peaks would occur (specific horse-races in the calendar) and they had a good idea of the numbers of additional users they’d have to handle. What an excellent candidate system for Windows Azure’s PaaS architecture.
In this video, the whole technical team are brought together and talk about how they moved the application, what went well, what didn’t go so well. It’s a great warts-and-all story of a fairly early Windows Azure implementation.
It still runs on Windows Azure today; in fact more Windows Azure facilities are added and planned to be added as time progresses.
Chris Testa-O'Neill is a Senior Consultant for Coeo Ltd, a leading provider of SQL Server Managed Support and Consulting in the UK and Europe. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for SQL Server, sole author of the MCTS SQL Server 2008 Microsoft E-Learning courses and technical reviewer for SQL Server 2012 BI Official Microsoft courses for Microsoft Learning. He is heavily involved with the SQL Server community as a speaker and an organiser of SQLBits, a Regional Mentor for SQLPASS and he runs his own user group in Manchester, UK. As well as being certified as a SQL Server MCDBA, MCTS and MCITP in all tracks. Chris is also a Microsoft Certified Trainer, and a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer in Windows 2000 and Windows 2003. In his spare time Chris loves playing in a band as a guitarist/lead vocalist. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter as @ctesta_oneill.
Over the last 5 years I have observed Microsoft persevere with the notion of Self Service BI over a series of conferences as far back as SQLBits V in Newport. The release of SQL Server 2012, improvements in Excel and the integration with SharePoint 2010 is making this a reality.
Business users are now empowered to create their own BI reports through a number of different technologies such as PowerPivot, PowerView and Report Builder. This opens up a whole new way of working; improving staff productivity, promoting efficient decision making and delivering timely business reports.
There is, however; a serious question to answer.
What happens should any of these applications become unavailable? More to the point, how would the business react should key business users be unable to fulfil reporting requests for key management meetings when they require it? While the introduction of self-service BI will provide instant access to the creation of management information reports, it will also cause instant support calls should the access to the data become unavailable.
These are questions that are often overlooked when a business evaluates the need for self-service BI. But as I have written in other blog posts, the thirst for information is unquenchable once the business users have access to the data. When they are unable to access the information, you will be the first to know about it and will be expected to have a resolution to the downtime as soon as possible.
The world of self-service BI is pushing reporting and analytical databases to the tier 1 application level for some of Coeo’s customers. A level that is traditionally associated with mission critical OLTP environments. There is recognition that by making BI readily available to the business user, provisions also need to be made to ensure that the solution is highly available so that there is minimal disruption to the business.
This is where High Availability BI infrastructures provide a solution.
As there is a convergence of technologies to support a self-service BI culture, there is also a convergence of technologies that need to be understood in order to provide the high availability architecture required to support the self-service BI infrastructure. While you may not be the individual that implements these components, understanding the concepts behind these components will empower you to have meaningful discussions with the right people should you put this infrastructure in place.
There are 7 worlds that you will have to understand to successfully implement a highly available BI infrastructure
1. Server/Virtualised server hardware/software 2. DNS 3. Network Load Balancing 4. Active Directory 5. Kerberos 6. SharePoint 7. SQL Server
I have found myself over the last 6 months reaching out to knowledge that I learnt years ago when I studied for the Windows 2000 and 2003 (MCSE) Microsoft Certified System Engineer. (To the point that I am resuming my studies for the Windows Server 2008 equivalent to be up to date with newer technologies). This knowledge has proved very useful in the numerous engagements I have undertaken since being at Coeo, particularly when dealing with High Availability Infrastructures.
As a result of running my session at SQLBits X and SQL Saturday in Dublin, the feedback I have received has been that many individuals desire to understand more of the concepts behind the first 6 “worlds” in the list above.
Over the coming weeks, a series of blog posts will be put on this site to help understand the key concepts of each area as it pertains to a High Availability BI Infrastructure. Each post will not provide exhaustive coverage of the topic. For example DNS can be a book in its own right when you consider that there are so many different configuration options with Forward Lookup, Reverse Lookups, AD Integrated Zones and DNA forwarders to name some examples. What I want to do is share the pertinent points as it pertains to the BI infrastructure that you build so that you are equipped with the knowledge to have the right discussion when planning this infrastructure.
Next, we will focus on the server infrastructure that will be required to support the High Availability BI Infrastructure, from both a physical box and virtualised perspective.
After much deliberation and over 20 entries, the judges have reached their decision in our ‘Convince your boss to send you to TechEd’ competition. You offered countless brilliant suggestions that would undoubtedly have resulted in a ticket to Amsterdam, as well as some beer-focused ones that we’re not sure would quite wash! But in the end there can only be one winner of our ticket to TechEd Europe in June, and that winner is…
Many congratulations to Patrick who will soon be joining us at TechEd in Amsterdam for a packed week of sessions and hopefully taking lots back to his business as a result. The judges particularly liked that his entry was very current, taking into account the financial pressure that we’re all seeing at the moment. Not only that, we loved his plan to use the trip away as a proof of concept for implementing DirectAccess, here’s hoping it works like a dream! Check out Patrick’s full entry below.
“My boss always wants us to do more for less, including less training budget >:/
Well I say to him that, same as in previous years, attending TechEd means I can do lots more for much less as a week spent at TechEd is worth at least two weeks spent in more traditional classroom environments. The event format enables me to pick & choose the content relevant to my/our business needs and interests, as well as providing access to a unique combination of Microsoft & industry experts, interactive sessions and hands-on labs.
On top of this, the location means it makes economic sense as well (MMS being in Vegas does stretch credibility a bit ;)
Besides, I can still be productive while I'm there as it'll be a perfect opportunity to prove our upcoming DirectAccess implementation!”
Of course Patrick wasn’t the only person that impressed us, oh no. In fact we were so impressed that we picked out an additional runner up because it was just too close to call! Second place goes to Samuel Roach, who will be receiving a shiny new Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone. The judges were impressed with his enthusiasm for cloud computing and that he was actively promoting Office 365 to customers, as well as the fact that he was already taking part in our IT Camp events.
“As we're a small IT solution provider whose customers are mostly on the various versions of SBS, it's easy to become complacent and think we don't need to take a serious look at Hyper-V & the cloud in general. Unfortunately, sometimes it's easy to think cloud solutions like Office 365 aren't relevant for our small clients. However, my boss' interest in persuing cloud solutions began to change not only when one of our clients (though one we didn't mind losing) switched providers in favour of a cloud solution but also when he received an unexpected cheque in the mail for being the Partner on record for an Office 365 client I set up! Surprise!
Today, I'm at a Microsoft IT Pro Camp showcasing Hyper-V, SCVMM and other virtualisation solutions and realising just how many tools Microsoft has out there to make creating and managing VMs so much easier, efficient and flexible. Tools such as the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target and other remote management tools either built into Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7, or readily available and free from Microsoft online.
When I get back to the office tomorrow and show the boss some of the things we can do with Microsoft tools to make our jobs easier and cut down on time spent on the phone with client issues, he'll have to send me to Microsoft Tech Ed. Maybe this would be a good time to get another client up and running on Office 365 so he gets another [surprise] cheque in the mail! :-)”
Third place and the lucky recipient of a bag of Microsoft Swag is Martin Milne! We were thrilled to see that he’s pushing full adoption of Microsoft technologies in his business and actively updating their legacy applications. His willingness to use underhand tactics also made us laugh, and would definitely convince his boss to send him to TechEd!
“My employer has just moved from Lotus Notes to the Microsoft Platform. I would use the sense of unease with the technology and simply advise them of the benefits of TechEd. Complete immersion in MS technologies that would provide the starting point for building fantastic solutions with the product suite.
Failing that the Christmas office party photo's may be used as leverage. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.…”
Our runner up was Randy Perkins, who will be receiving a mini swag bag for his entry. He highlights what a great networking opportunity TechEd is and how there is so much you can learn not only in the sessions but also through talking to others who may have been in the same position as yourself.
“Being a contractor means I am my own boss. When justifying training I have to not only think of the cost of the course but the lost income if I attend one. So I would convince myself by saying it is one of the best IT related networking and training events in the world. One that will enable me not only to learn about a wide range of products but understand the vendor space that helps fill the gaps. Also I will able to discuss challenges with likeminded people who may have been in my position.”
Thanks a lot to everyone who entered, we really enjoyed reading through all of your very persuasive arguments, if we had our way we’d send you all to TechEd! Unfortunately we can’t do that, but at least you can now pinch our winners’ ideas for the next time you pitch a trip to your boss. Good luck!
If you work in one of the many marvellous charities spread throughout the UK, you might be looking into ways of communicating effectively. Great communication with the public is something so essential for charities but how is your communication within your organisation? Is there room for improvement?
It's surprising how many people would probably say 'yes' in answer to that question. Sometimes it's a case of the bigger the organisation, the bigger the internal communication problem.
Without trying to sound too much like a door-to-door salesman, Office 365 could be that essential (and inexpensive) ingredient that you might be looking for!
Microsoft and CTT are joining forces to host a helpful online 'live meeting' and demo to inform charitable organisations about Office 365's benefits.
Best of all, you don't have to wait weeks for this to come around - it's this Thursday, 3rd May, at 2pm. To register and to find out more, see here: http://office365livemeeting.eventbrite.co.uk/
This fortnight’s TechNet Flash is all about the challenges we face using and managing tablet and mobile devices in corporate environments. We also have some great events, downloads, and news of what you’ll be able to get your hands on as part of Windows 8 Enterprise Edition!
This fortnight’s feature article comes courtesy of Jeremy Chapman, a Senior Product Manager in the Office IT Pro team at Microsoft. It’s the first in a series of 6 that he’s published about Managing and Using Your Office Assets in a Tablet World.
To get your copy of TechNet Flash direct to your inbox just pop over here.
You can also hear about the latest news via Twitter or Facebook along with all sorts of interesting tips, articles and competitions.
If you’re thinking about how you can make your environment more suitable for a world where people want to bring their own devices into the office then you could do well to attend an IT Camp where we talk about just that. Of course those events are now full, so I won’t bother to link them but now you can build the lab at home.
We’ve just released the Test Lab Guide that is part of the basis for the stuff we show at a camp, download, evaluate and have fun.
Robert Chapman is CEO and co-founder of Firebrand Training. The fastest way to learn since 2001.
Microsoft has announced a fundamental change to its certification program, heralding a ‘return’ for the MCSE, MCSA and MCSD certifications.
Microsoft has introduced a set of ‘new’ certifications, to meet the growing skills gap in the technology industry. There will be no more MCITP, MCTS and MCPD certs released in the future – but they remain current and relevant in the meantime. These will be replaced with MCSE, MCSA and MCSD certifications. These familiar acronyms are back, but now have a slightly different meaning:
What it meant before
What it means now
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert
Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator
Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate
Microsoft Certified Solution Developer
Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
All future Microsoft exams will be technology- and version-specific, and will lead to the new certifications. The new certs are version-neutral, but they will expire - at least every three years.