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June, 2013

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  • Whitepaper: A Guide to the Cloud Career Opportunity for IT Pro’s

    imageCloud computing has already started to change the way organisations think about their approach to IT.
    A new paradigm is emerging: one that is flexible, cost-effective and supports tactical and strategic objectives
    within the business. Cloud computing clears the path for innovation and agility in provision of IT services.
    But the big changes have barely started.

    Executive Summary

    Currently, organisations that have fully embraced and implemented a cloud strategy
    are still in the minority. Only 3 per cent of CIOs have the majority of IT running in
    the cloud or on SaaS technologies, but over the next four years CIOs expect this
    number to increase to 43 per cent.*

    Although the thinking behind cloud computing is in many ways revolutionary,
    the process of change within the IT organisation is likely to be evolutionary. And
    although cloud purists dream of a world where every instance of computing and
    storage will take place in the cloud, the reality is that a hybrid cloud/on-premise
    model will emerge as the new reality for many organisations.
    For IT professionals considering their own status in a rapidly changing environment,
    the implications are profound. In a recent Microsoft survey of IT professionals,
    59 per cent of respondents said that “they are just beginning to familiarise
    themselves with the cloud.”

    Put bluntly, the role of the IT professional is about to be transformed, demanding
    a new set of technical and managerial skills, blurring the lines between business
    and technical decision making and placing IT much closer to the heart of
    business strategy.

    Whether this change represents a threat or an opportunity will be largely
    determined by each individual IT professional’s readiness to acquire new skills and
    knowledge. In any event, the fact is this: maintaining the status quo is not an option.
    This paper aims to set out a broad outline of the ways in which the role of the IT
    professional will change over the next few years, the skills and training required
    to adapt to these changes, and an overview of the ways in which new Microsoft
    certification programs will help to make this transition.

    Download the Whitepaper

  • Guest Post: Adding Telemetry to the already bulging Toolbox of the IT Pro

    By Ed Baker

    Office Compatibility

    The modern IT pro has just been handed a great new productivity tool by Microsoft – Office Telemetry gives you the ability to ensure that all your carefully crafted in house add-ins, documents and solutions will work with the new Office as well as your current versions.

    The Office team have worked very hard to examine all the common areas that frustrate us the IT Pro when trying to deploy a new version of the Office suite into our environments. The fruits of their labour is the new Office compatibility approach. A four step process. Collect, Analyse, Pilot, Deploy and Monitor.

    The Office Telemetry Dashboard

    The effects of the process are displayed in the Office Telemetry Dashboard, which is an excel solution for IT Professionals showing all the metrics of your Office documents, add-ins etc. You can see how often and by whom these documents are opened and any issues that are experienced by these users. You can discover their hardware, what has been deployed to them and how their documents are performing.

    clip_image001

    The Telemetry system is present and ready to implement when you install Office 2013.

    There are a number of simple steps to enable the Telemetry Dashboard. Having opened the Telemetry Dashboard for Office 2013 Spreadsheet, the getting started worksheet outlines the steps to take. There is also a helpful Telemetry Dashboard guide in the same workbook. The dashboard is created from a complex process of data collection and analysis.

    clip_image002

    The lowest level element is the Telemetry Agent this is present in Office 2013 and is a free download and install to deploy to Office 2003, Office 2007 and Office 2010. The deployed agents collect all usage and compatibility data and sends the data to a central shared folder, this is then processed and imported into a SQL database. The Dashboard Spreadsheet then displays the data for the monitored clients in the format shown above. To get to this stage six steps are required, as shown below.

    clip_image004

    1. Prerequisites – an installation of SQL server with create database permissions or access to a current one. (SQL Server versions from 2005 upwards are suitable including Express edition)
    2. Telemetry Processor – this requires installation on either an x86 or x64 windows computer and must have access to the SQL server and the shared folder containing the agent data to be processed. Available in the dashboard spreadsheet
    3. Telemetry Agent – already present in Office 2013 but must be deployed to Office versions from 2003 upwards. Again x86 or x64 versions are available from the dashboard spreadsheet.
    4. Agent Configuration – Group policy is used to enable the agent and configure the shared folder and data tagging options. Office 2013 admin templates are available for this.
    5. Connect to database - To allow other administrators to view telemetry data, you must add them to the td_readonly role on the database.
    6. Review Privacy – Collection of the data may well cause your organisation some concerns over the data stored. Three privacy options are available. Obfuscation of certain data such as location, name and title of document. Prevent specific applications or solutions from being reported to the dashboard. Only show solutions with more than a defined number of users. 9To apply a certain degree of anonymity).

    Once installed, enabled and running, the telemetry dashboard has eight worksheets.

    • Telemetry Dashboard guide
    • Getting started
    • Overview
    • Documents
    • Solutions
    • Telemetry Processor
    • Deployments
    • Custom Report

    All of these worksheets are described in detail in the TechNet worksheet reference

    Office Telemetry Logging

    Any business or network with a large number of Office users, whether on Office 2013 or any other version (2003 upwards) will benefit from the raw data collected and the potential time saving created by identifying the creaky or broken applications and solutions in circulation.

    But, even if you are working in a very small environment, there are elements of this system that will be invaluable. The integral Telemetry Agent also allows for an individual to enable Telemetry Logging on their own PC. Once again the required files and services are installed with Office 2013 and once enabled provide a host of useful data. The telemetry log is a separate Office 2013 spreadsheet and from the guide worksheet the system is easy to enable.

    clip_image006

    Once enabled, the Events worksheet shows all office related events for that PC.

    clip_image008

    clip_image010

    Logged information includes

    • File names and add-in names
    • Office events 9errors and compatibility information)
    • System information (user name and computer name)

    No file content is recorded and no data is sent to Microsoft.

    It is unlikely that any standard user will learn of the usefulness of this tool, but as an IT Pro once enabled it will allow you to track down even the most awkward of Office based problems.

    The Bottom Line

    Office Telemetry is a huge subject and one that deserves its own dedicated hot-to guide (that’s for another time, maybe) for now, take a look at the Modern App – Server Posterpedia on Windows 8 in the Windows store, there you will find a number of Office 2013 tiles, one dedicated to Office Telemetry. If you want to dive even deeper, then the TechNet Office 2013 Telemetry Overview is a must and can be found here.

    About the Author

    edpic1 (1 of 1)Ed Baker holds many Microsoft certifications including MCSE, MCT, and Office Master 2007 and 2010 as well as the new Excel 2013 and Word 2013 MOS certifications. Ed is a 20 year veteran of the IT industry currently contracting as an Enterprise Consultant and Trainer to Microsoft Certified Learning Partners including Firebrand Training, HP and Cloud Academy Live. Why not connect with Ed on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

  • Microsoft Partner Shaping Cloud Wins Place On Government Framework

    shaping_cloud_logo_cropped                 G-Cloud_logo5

    National cloud consultancy and Microsoft Network Partner Shaping Cloud has secured a place on the UK Government’s G-Cloud Framework, paving the way for them to provide specialist cloud services to over 30,000 public sector organisations.

    The decision follows the news that the government has adopted a “Cloud First” policy for public sector IT, with the launch of an expanded G-Cloud supplier framework supporting growth in cloud computing.

    Managing Director, Carlos Oliveira, said:

    “We’re delighted to announce that we have been selected for a place on the Government’s Cloud Framework.

    We decided now was the right time to put ourselves forward after being encouraged by the cabinet statements on increasing procurement directly from SME’s for public sector cloud projects.

    Being based in Manchester, we are hopeful that more government projects will be spread throughout the UK and really boost the SME services market outside of the south east. We believe that the pace of cloud adoption within the public sector will continue to increase, giving companies that specialise in the provision and migration of these services the opportunity to thrive.

    Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, recently announced:

    “G-Cloud brings a step change in the way government buys IT. It’s quicker, cheaper and more competitive, open to a wider range of companies, including a majority of SMEs, and offers more choice and innovation.

    Many government departments already use G-Cloud, but IT costs are still too high. One way we can reduce them is to accelerate the adoption of Cloud across the public sector to maximise its benefits. The Cloud First policy will embed the skills a modern civil service needs to meet the demands of 21st-century digital government and help us get ahead in the global race”.

    Shaping Cloud are experts in the planning, migration and delivery of Microsoft’s public cloud-based productivity suite, Office 365, which was awarded Impact Level 2 (IL2) accreditation earlier this year and is now available on the G-Cloud Store.

    Useful Links

  • Whitepaper: Unravelling the Network with SCVMM 2012

    With the launch of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, Microsoft introduced to the world its solution for Software Defined Networks, enabling System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 as the management platform of choice.

    In this whitepaper, commissioned by Savision, Microsoft MVP Damian Flynn outlines the concepts, benefits and steps you need to take to embrace your own “Virtual Network”. In addition to the whitepaper Damian will host two exclusive webinars on the same topic.

    Click here to download this complimentary whitepaper.

    Webinars

    We will also be hosting two webinars in which Damian will personally discuss the content of the whitepaper and will provide further information, don't miss them! The webinars will be hosted on the 11th of June at 10 AM EST and on the 13th of June at 11 AM CET.

    Click here to register for the webinars.

  • Free Hyper-V training, back by popular demand

    You are exclusively invited to our free professional online training on Windows Server 2012 Hyper V, delivered in partnership with TheRegister.co.uk and QA Training. It’s the second training session of the series – back by popular demand.

    In our first event, we covered Virtual Machine Movement in Windows Server 2012 Hyper V, and with over 1,830 IT Professionals joining, it’s the biggest interactive Regcast to date. In fact, it was so popular that participants demanded more, voting in a user poll for an additional Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V 3.0 session, with the topic to focus on the availability of virtual machines.

    We heard you loud and clear, and we’re pleased to announce our second session.

    When: 18th June

    Time: 10-11am GMT

    With professional QA trainer: Paul Gregory

    Topics covered:

    • Changes in failover clustering
    • The improvements in scalability
    • Failover cluster engine's ability to perform in-guest monitoring
    • Anti-affinity rules
    • Live demos of Hyper-V Replica, inlcuding setup
    • Exploring the three failure models (test failover, planned failover and unplanned failover)
    • How Hyper-V Replica and network virtualisation can be combined so that VMs maintain the same identity across data centres, or even between a company and a service provider/hoster.

    It's going to be very informative – so sign up now. There’s even a chance to win a TechNet subscription at the end of the session.

    In preparation, download a free trial of Windows Server 2012 <Hyperlink: URL> and have your questions ready. Plus, for a limited time, we’ve also have some special offers  in place with QA training on Windows Server 2012, in case you want to take your learning all the way to full certification.

    We hope you can join us.

    Sign Up

    Microsoft UK, TheRegister.co.uk and QA Training

  • Announcement: Microsoft UK partners endorse ‘Cloud first’ approach outlined at TechEd North America

    Yesterday at TechEd North America, Microsoft detailed how its new portfolio of solutions will help businesses thrive in the era of cloud computing and connected devices. But what do some of our UK partners have to say regarding our Cloud OS strategy? We thought we’d ask them:

    Gordon McKenna, CEO of Inframon Ltd comments: “Inframon is working with Microsoft because its Cloud OS story corresponds exactly with the journey that our customers are advising us they are embarking on within their businesses. Most customers are developing their infrastructure based on a three cloud strategy – Private Cloud, Service Provider Cloud and Public Cloud and this is exactly how Microsoft has aligned its technologies moving forward with Cloud OS. No other vendor I can see understands this customer journey nor has the tools and methodologies to help them achieve it.”

    Craig Hartwell, Account Director at Risual adds: “With the buzz around Cloud services making a big impact in the industry, our clients need help in understanding what services they should embrace, when they should take action and what the benefits will be to their business. Microsoft’s Cloud OS strategy gives clients a framework to build out their infrastructure to embrace cloud services and roll this into existing deployments. This takes full advantage of technology they are familiar with today, and the economic benefits of scale from cloud services.

    Risual’s optimised service vision helps customers move their IT service provision to a highly optimised and dynamic model. The only vendor that gives us all of the components we need to deliver this vision to our customers is Microsoft. We see our clients delivering new services faster by leveraging business and technology automation, delivering an optimised service to build a connected business, but at a cost that is often 30-70 per cent less than with competing offerings.

    Microsoft has taken all the great things about its enterprise products and made them simple to deploy, manage and maintain. This is what makes their Cloud OS strategy one that will be embraced.”

    Stay tuned for more customer stories and announcements over the next few days from TechEd North America and don’t forget there’s still time to register for TechEd Europe in Madrid, 25th to 28th June.

  • Tech Ed Challenge - The results

    WOW and when I say WOW I mean WOW!

    The TechNet team have been overwhelmed by the response to the TechEdChallenge!  We received nearly 500 entries to the competition and had to judge more than 40 Blog article submissions. 

    On behalf of the team I wanted to thank each and ever person that took the time to download, try and write a blog article.  It is a time consuming exercise and we Thank You for your submissions.

    With more than 40 articles to review we pulled together an expert panel of judges to review:

    • Dan Pilling - IT Pro Audience Lead
    • Elizabeth Berresford -  Marketing Communications Specialist
    • Simon May - IT Pro Evangelist
    • Andrew Fryer - IT Pro Evangelist
    • Justin Pearce - Assistant Director of Bite Global, former Editor of New Media Age
    • Steve Plank - Azure Evangelist

    After more than 4 hours of review we came to the following results. 

    The Winners are:

     

    TechED Challenge: Best System Center Blog:  Ryan Boud:

    http://hmmconfused.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/system-center-2012/

    Judges Comments:

    "Liked the intro and summary, he sets the scene and then brings it to conclusion" Elizabeth

    "Puts himself in the heads of the readers" Justin

    "Really easy to read, liked the format" Andrew

    TechED Challenge: Runner Up: System Center Blog:  Robin Cook:

    http://visualplanet.org/blog/?p176

    "Felt it was focused and as a result it would grab the readers attention" Justin

    "Liked the format and style of the article" Simon

     

    TechED Challenge: Best Windows Server Blog:  James Murray:

    http://kingmuzza.blogspot.com/2013/05/why-upgrade-to-windows2012-server.html?spref=tw

    "Tells a story and storytelling always grabs your attention" Justin

    "Different style but still really engaging" Dan

    "Had succinct and substantiated points" Simon

    TechED Challenge: Runner Up: Windows Server Blog:  Paul Iddon:

    http://pauliddonit.com/server-2012-review/

    "Made it personally and is obviously passionate about the subject, that comes through" Dan

    "Some really good talking points" Simon

     

    TechED Challenge: Best Azure Blog: 'Richard Arpino:

    http://thecodechimp.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/teched-azure-recommendation.html

    "For me, this approaches gold standard blogging across any sort of industry" Justin

    "It was the marmite of the submissions but I like Marmite" Dan

    "Attention grabbing style of content" Elizabeth

    TechED Challenge: Runner Up Azure Blog: Andy Cox:

    Written submission

    "Comprehensive and simple to follow" Andrew

    "Liked the way the detail was laid out." Planky

     

    Congratulations to everyone who took part in the competition and a special well done to those who have won!

    Dan @danpi

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Case Study: Hosting Provider Increases IT Efficiency and Agility with Software Upgrade

    image

    Fasthosts is a fast-growing UK hosting provider that has expanded due to its focus on offering better and more economical services than its competition. To continue to stay in front, Fasthosts is upgrading to Windows Server 2012. It will take advantage of new features, such as storage migration, Hyper-V Replica, and “shared nothing” live migration, that will simplify data center administration and increase availability. With these improvements, and efficiencies delivered by Microsoft System Center 2012, Fasthosts can boost IT efficiency and business agility. It can reduce operating costs and help customers reduce their costs by offering more feature-rich services. Fasthosts will be able to offer several new services based on Windows Server 2012 capabilities that will generate new revenues. It can also improve availability by managing customer workloads with more flexibility.

     

    Situation
    Established in 1998, Fasthosts has grown rapidly to be a leading hosting provider in the United Kingdom. Fasthosts focuses on the mainstream hosting market, selling directly to end customers and also through an extensive partner channel network. Fasthosts delivers market-leading online services to the home, home office, and small business markets. The company has more than 6,500 dedicated servers and 200 employees. It serves more than 400,000 customers and a network of more than 5,000 reseller partners.

    In July 2010, Fasthosts launched a virtual private server offering (dedicated servers running as virtual machines) using the Hyper-V technology in the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. Within two years, the company was serving thousands of customers on an infrastructure of 4,000 virtual machines running on 12 16-node clusters.

    Fasthosts also used Microsoft System Center data center solutions to automate much of the management of the environment. However, Fasthosts still had to manually manage and monitor host server workloads, as it felt that System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 was too cautious in virtual machine placement. Also, migrating customers from one cluster to another—to update operating systems and applications or to perform routine maintenance—was laborious and time-consuming, because virtual machines had to be migrated one at a time and migrating associated storage was difficult.

    “We had to live-migrate all customer data before we could take down one host server, update it, and bring it back up,” explains Jonathon Royle, Chief Technology Officer for Fasthosts. “As the business grew, this became a major headache for us. Because of the time required, we also couldn’t roll out security updates as quickly as we wanted, so we ended up accumulating and applying them in batches, which was not ideal for security. We needed to speed up routine administrative tasks so that we could respond faster to customers and new business needs.”

    Fasthosts also wanted to continuously reduce costs and pass those savings on to customers. To provide secure communications between clusters running workloads for multiple customers, or tenants, Fasthosts had to create virtual local area networks, which were expensive and had scalability limits. Also, many smaller customers wanted but could not afford a disaster recovery capability.

    Migrating workloads also resulted in planned downtime. “Overall availability was not where we wanted it to be, as we advertise 99.99 percent availability,” Royle says.

    Below you can trial the products that Fasthosts used to meet their requirements:

    System Center 2012

    Windows Server 2012

    Read the rest of the case study here to see how Fasthosts found their solution.

  • Licensing Windows Azure

    By Vicky Lea

    The time has come again to put pen to paper, or should I say fingers to keyboard, and write my next blog entry, this time on Windows Azure and how it is licensed.

    Firstly let us take a quick look at what Windows Azure is. When we talk about Windows Azure we are talking about Cloud. Windows Azure is a Microsoft hosted cloud platform which allows you to build, deploy and manage applications across Microsoft-managed datacentres. And with Windows Azure you can use the cloud alongside your existing infrastructure and apps meaning you can utilise common tools, technologies and skills.

    There are a large range of services available within Windows Azure ranging from Compute services to Data Services, App Services and Networks. And these services can be combined to provide various solutions, such as Infrastructure, Mobile, Web, Media, Identity and Access Management, Big Data, Dev and Test and Storage, Backup and Recovery. For more detail on the different Windows Azure services and solutions I would recommend looking at www.windowsazure.com.

    The Windows Azure services are charged based on the amount of service that has been consumed and these charges vary per service. For instance, Virtual Machines is one of the Compute Services and there are a number of sizes of offering available which control the number of Virtual Cores, RAM and ultimately the Price per Hour:

    image

    This table has been taken from http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/details/virtual-machines/ and this site contains all the pricing details per service with some extremely useful FAQs about each service.

    When it comes to purchasing the services that are a number of different payment options available:

    First is Pay As You Go. This is a flexible offering with no upfront costs and no long term commitment. You simply pay for the service you use on a monthly basis.

    Next are the Monetary Commitment offerings. The monetary commitment offerings are available either through MOSP (Microsoft Online Subscription Program) or an EA (Enterprise Agreement). The MOSP offering allows you to commit to either 6 or 12 months of service usage, at a discounted price compared to the Pay As You Go offering, with a minimum commitment of $500 per month. As well as choosing the commitment length you can also select whether you wish to pay monthly or pre-pay for the commitment period. The 12 month commitment length and pre-pay options, if elected, will increase the % discount received for the services.

    Alternatively if you are an EA customer you can subscribe to the Windows Azure services either as an Additional Product in your existing EA, or via the Enrolment for Windows Azure which is a separate EA Enrolment dedicated to purchasing the Windows Azure services. If you are interested in either of these options I would recommend talking to your Large Account Reseller.

    Now, these purchase options that I have outlined are for customers who want to subscribe to the Windows Azure services, however, it is also important to remember that if you have an MSDN Subscription you will also receive an allocation of Windows Azure services.

    With Visual Studio Professional, Premium or Ultimate with MSDN you receive a monthly allocation of Windows Azure credits which will allow you to develop and test on Windows Azure. Each MSDN subscription will receive a specific amount of credit per month but this can then be used on any combination of the Windows Azure services. It is also important to remember that this benefit does need to be activated before it can be used.

    If you are reading this and thinking that this is not how Windows Azure under MSDN works, then please be aware that this benefit has been updated as of June 2013 in order to simplify the offering with a fixed amount of credit that can be used up with any of the Windows Azure services.

    To see more detail around the levels of credit, the Windows Azure services available through MSDN and FAQs on the recent update to the Windows Azure MSDN benefit take look at this site: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/member-offers/msdn-benefits/

    Another resource which may be useful when looking at Windows Azure is the Pricing Calculator. This can be found on http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/ and allows you to model the services you require and then see the cost of those services when purchased through the Pay As You Go or the 6 or 12 month commitment offerings.

    You may have noticed whilst reading this blog that I have pointed you to various pages on www.windowsazure.com, and I would like to highlight that I do think this is a really useful site for finding out more information around the Windows Azure services and the purchase options available for all those services, so would highly recommend taking a good look at this site if you are interested in Windows Azure!

  • VIDEO: Crypto Primer, Understanding Cryptography, Certificates, Public/Private Key and Digital Signatures

    I wrote a cryptography post quite some time ago which has proven quite popular. I thought I’d make a cartoon video of it so you could just sit back and enjoy it without having to take an active part in “reading” it…

    You can always just go through the previous post in your own time absorbing each of the little details if anything in the video attracts your attention.