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By Tom Carter - Senior Developer at Shaping Cloud
With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft took a huge step into the Cloud unifying the user with their cloud profiles such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In and bringing a new level of integration into the apps themselves. Whilst this is a big and significant move it is only the first of many innovations around the Operating System and the cloud. This article aims to look at what the current Microsoft Cloud OS looks like as well as taking a look into the near future to see what may be around the corner.
“Operating systems are like underwear — nobody really wants to look at them.” – Bill Joy.
At the recent TechEd North America [http://northamerica.msteched.com/] there was a big drive towards Cloud OS and People-Centric IT – essentially, the idea of simplifying how users access their applications and data on many platforms and devices. If you haven’t already, you should really check out Andrew Conway’s talk [http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2013/FDN03#fbid=Z7TlpeBa6kB] from the conference which covers the current reality of all this – binding together products like Windows Server 2012 [http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/] and Intune [http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windowsintune/pc-management.aspx]. The Brad Anderson keynote from the same conference is also a great overview on the direction of the MS ecosystem. The subject may seem IT-focused but it’s actually the opposite – it’s how users can safely work on information the way they want, whenever and wherever they want to.
Let’s think about what an operating system does at a really high level – it provides an abstraction layer between hardware and applications we want to run, for ease of development and for safety. From a user’s perspective, the OS is a container that holds all of their programs and data – apart from a file manager, they hardly ever interact with the system and mainly focus on the programs that are installed. A ‘good’ OS gets out of the way and lets the user get straight to what they want. A limitation of systems that reside on a single machine is that when I head out of my home or office, I lose all my programs and data – there’s no way for me to use the services I’ve paid for unless I invest in more infrastructure – RDP and VPN tools, perhaps.
The idea of a cloud OS takes what we’re used to with a traditional OS (running programs and interfacing with hardware) and abstracts it – instead of software running on individual machines, we have applications that run on many, transparent to the person running or consuming the service. From the perspective of the user, they’re no longer using a program on a machine but consuming a service that lives in an arbitrary place. Because the service runs on an API common to all machines, it becomes easier to scale and failover. This is concept the drives Platform as a Service (Azure’s tour de force) [http://blogs.technet.com/b/haroldwong/archive/2013/02/18/migration-and-deployment-windows-azure-as-a-paas.aspx]. There’s a great whitepaper describing some of the concepts behind the Microsoft cloud OS here [http://download.microsoft.com/download/1/0/7/107D3951-9732-421D-8B57-AC19530F24D1/Private%20Cloud%20Making%20It%20Real.pdf] which is made more interesting because it’s focused towards on-premise solutions.
The recently announced Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server [http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-azure-pack.aspx] is a major piece to this puzzle – allowing administrators to manage their on-premise data centre the same way they would on Azure – allowing you to form a ‘holy-trinity’ of clouds – private, Azure and 3rd party.
These tools can make technology departments more effective at responding to business needs, perhaps even utilising external compute resources on Azure when there’s a need to scale quickly, and let them focus more on the needs of employees and customers. It allows the technology and the technical personnel to become more people-centric.
When you look at new Server 2012 R2 (and earlier) features alongside Windows 8, Office (2013 and 365) and Windows Azure, a strategy and vision starts to emerge – where a user’s profile becomes the centre of everything. A great example of this is Windows Azure Active Directory [http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/services/identity/] – the name is a bit misleading as it’s a different beast to Active Directory Domain Services (ADDS). It can manage a user’s identity and federate with other identity providers, providing single sign-on to any application –it’s already used for Azure, Office 365, Dynamics CRM and Intune. Now a user can have one username and password for a LOB application, Office 365 and a third party system, synchronised with ADDS for user management - becoming a great way to manage a user’s access rights. This leads to a really nice user experience – if you’re using Office 2013 combined with Office 365 no matter what machine you sit down at, as long as it’s got Office, you get all your recently used files, library links and social features – all you have to do is sign in.
Windows 8 itself allows sign in using LiveID – this is great for simplifying the way a user accesses the Windows Store and reducing the number of logins a user has to remember. This sign in experience might also offer a glimpse of the future – making it technically feasible to immediately install apps that are associated with a user’s identity and display them on the Start screen –mimicking the setup of your home or office PC on any machine. These apps can then access LOB apps or SharePoint Online to form KPIs or alerts in live tiles. With Windows 8, the development experience for Windows got closer to phone and tablet devices with WinRT [http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windowsphone/develop/jj681690%28v=vs.105%29.aspx] a perfect future would mean that this software is totally portable between desktop and mobile devices. This could be great for ‘Bring Your Own Device’ scenarios where services can be consumed no matter what device is in use.
The industry is quickly moving away from users that are tied to applications on their office or home machine and towards liberating them so they can work with the same powerful capabilities anywhere – they can finally stop worrying about the system underneath and get on with what interests them. In many ways, it’s a case of “Back to the Future” sharing many of the concepts behind the original mainframes, the key difference now is the availability and speed of the internet connections that are delivering this vision across a multitude of platforms and devices. There is a lot more still to come but it is clear that the direction has been set.
Tom Carter - Senior Developer at Shaping Cloud
Tom has led and developed many of the bespoke systems delivered by Shaping Cloud. He has an insatiable passion for new technology and will often be experimenting with new languages and frameworks during his free time that he then brings into our projects. He has organised and spoken at the UK Windows Azure User group and is part of Microsoft’s exclusive Windows Azure Insiders program that gives him exclusive access to the latest developments in the Cloud platform.
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
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.
Microsoft UK, TheRegister.co.uk and QA Training
By Ed Baker
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 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.
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.
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.
Once installed, enabled and running, the telemetry dashboard has eight worksheets.
All of these worksheets are described in detail in the TechNet worksheet reference
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.
Once enabled, the Events worksheet shows all office related events for that PC.
Logged information includes
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.
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.
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.
Cloud 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.
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
TechEd Europe kicked off in style this morning with DJ Joey Snow getting everyone warmed up before Brad Anderson stepped on the stage to present the keynote with special guests Mark Russinovich, Brian, Kelly, Eron Kelly and Geoff Woolsey. With some great demo’s also on display.
The main announements for the day were the product releases which are detailed below:
For the full announcement pop over to Brad Anderson’s blog article on Big bets and big opportunities.
And here are a few pictures from the keynote session (Click the image below to view).
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.