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  • Lab Ops Redux setting up Hyper-V in a hurry

    I am at Manchester United as I write this and one of the delegates wanted to quickly try out Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012R2.  I thought I had an all up post on that but it turns out I don’t, so Nicholas Agbaji this is just for you!

    You’ll need a latptop/desktop running Windows 7/Windows 2008R2 or later to work on that’s capable of running Hyper-V, and that the BIOS is setup for virtualization

    • You’ll need to download a copy of Windows Server 2012R2 and a special PowerShell script Convert-WindowsImage.ps1 from the TechNet Gallery.
    • Run the PowerShell script as follows. 

    .\Convert-WindowsImage.ps1 –SourcePath <Path to your iso> -Size 50GB -VHDFormat VHD –VHD “C:\WS2012R2.VHD” -Edition "ServerStandardEval"

    Note: If you are running on Windows 8 or Windows Server you can use the newer VHDX format for virtual hard disks

    • We now have a VHD with a sysprepped clean copy of Windows Server 2012R2 and Windows 7/2008R2 & later allows us to boot from a VHD just like the one we just made.
    • To boot from VHD we need to mount the VHD. In Windows 8/2012 you can simply click on a VHD to mount it, however in Windows 7/2008R2 then we’ll need to open an elevated command prompt and do this manually:
      • diskpart
      • select vdisk file =”<path to your VHD>”
      • attach vdisk
    • We’ll now get an additional drive say drive H: and now we’ll need to edit the boot database from an elevated command prompt and add and edit a new entry to register the VHD:
      • bcdboot g:
    • We also need to edit the BCD to get Hyper-V to be enable in our VHD with
      • bcdedit /set “{default}” hypervisorlaunchtype auto
    • Optionally you could describe your new boot entry with
      • bcdedit /set “{default}” description “Windows Server 2012R2 Lab Ops”
    • Reboot you server/laptop and you’ll have an extra boot option to boot to windows server.
    • The final step is to add in  the Hyper-V role either from Server Manager or with Powershell..
      • add-WindowsFeature hyper-v –IncludeManagementTools 

    Once you have this VHD setup you can boot into your OS and backup the VHD you made and possibly reuse it on another machine.  So good luck Nicholas and thanks for spending the day with us!

  • Licensing Logic: Licensing SQL Server, Everything You Need to Know!

    Part of the Microsoft Licensing Logic series from the Microsoft Licensing team.

    Just when you think Microsoft licensing is straightforward and you’ve got a pretty good grasp on it, along comes SQL Server which has historically been the exception to the licensing rules. However with SQL Server 2012 we did a great deal of simplification so it’s easy to understand the basics. You’re going to approach licensing differently depending on whether you’re deploying SQL Server in a physical or virtual environment.

    SQL Server Licensing in a physical environment.

    SQL Server is available is three main editions; Standard, Business Intelligence and Enterprise. The Enterprise edition is licensed per core (no CALs required), Business Intelligence is licensed per server and client access licence (CALs) and the Standard edition can be licensed using either method. This is summarised below and hasn’t changed with the April 1st release of SQL Server 2014.

    clip_image002

    If you’re interested in the Business Intelligence aspects of SQL Server (and let’s face it, who isn’t), we’re holding an event in Reading on 1st May where you can hear about the latest innovations on Microsoft's high performance platform for real-time insights and apps covering SQL Server 2014, SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse, Excel 2013, Power BI for Office 365 and Azure. You can register here – hope to see you there.

    Before I present a little flowchart which might make your decision easier, let me clarify a few things about per-core licensing. We are talking per-core here and not per-physical processor, unlike Windows Server 2012. Currently SQL Server 2012, SQL Server 2014 and BizTalk Server 2013 are the only products licensed per-core.

    To find out the appropriate number of cores you need to licence, simply count the number of cores in each physical processor in the physical server. Software partitioning doesn’t reduce the number of cores you need to licence. Once you have that you need to remember three things:

    1. You need a minimum of four core licences per processor. So if you have a dual-core, dual-processor machine you would need to count that server as a dual, four-core processor and purchase licences for eight cores, despite only having four cores in total.
    2. SQL Serve core licences are sold in packs of two: each SKU covers two processors. So in our example above we would purchase four SQL Core licence SKUs to cover eight cores.
    3. Certain AMD processors need to have a multiplication factor of 0.75 applied to the core count. See this link for the processors in question and what to do.

    For server and CAL, SQL Server works in the same way as any other Microsoft server + CAL product. Licence the server(s), determine the number of unique users and/or devices accessing the SQL Server and purchase the appropriate number and type of CALs. SQL 2014 CALs will allow access to all previous versions of SQL Server. Also you don’t require a separate CAL for every SQL Server; a SQL Server 2014 CAL allows access to all the SQL Servers within the organisation.

    A simple way of determining the edition and licensing of SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014 is below.

    clip_image004

    SQL Server Licensing in a virtual environment.

    Regular readers of the licensing blog will be saying “I bet this has something to do with Software Assurance (SA)”. Well, you’re partly correct. I’m going to assume you're running Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition on these boxes just for simplicity and I haven’t included details of the OS running in the Virtual Operating System Environment (VOSE). Licensing Windows Server has been covered in a previous blog.

    For SQL Server Standard and Business Intelligence editions you can licence individual virtual machines (VMs) using the server + CAL model. Simply purchase one server license for each VM running SQL Server software, regardless of the number of virtual processors allocated to the VM. Then purchase the appropriate number of CALs.

    For example, a customer who wants to deploy the Business Intelligence edition running in six VOSEs, each allocated with four virtual cores, would need to assign six SQL Server 2014 Business Intelligence server licences to that server, plus the CALs to allow access.

    For SQL Server Standard and Enterprise editions you can licence individual VMs using the per-core model. Similar to physical OSEs, all virtual cores supporting virtual OSEs that are running instances of SQL Server 2014 must be licensed. Customers must purchase a core license for each virtual core (aka virtual processor, virtual CPU, virtual thread) allocated to the VOSE. Again, you are subject to the four core minimum, this time per VOSE. For licencing purposes, a virtual core maps to a hardware thread. When licensing individual VMs, core factors (i.e. the AMD processor 0.75 factor) do not apply.

    Two examples are shown below (figure 1 and figure 2) for clarification.

    clip_image007Figure 1: (above) SQL Server core licences required for a single VOSE on a dual, four-core processor server.

    clip_image010Figure 2: (above) SQL Server core licences required for two VOSEs on a dual, four-core processor server.

    With the SQL Server 2014 Enterprise edition (note: not Standard edition), if you licence all the physical cores on the server, you can run an unlimited number of instances of SQL Server, physically or virtually as long as the number of OSEs with SQL doesn’t exceed the number of licensed cores. For example, a four processor server with four cores per processor provides sixteen physical cores. If you licence all sixteen cores, you can run SQL Server in up to sixteen VOSEs (or the physical OS and 15 VOSEs), regardless of the number of virtual cores allocated to each VM. What if you want to run more than 16 VOSEs in this case? Well, you are permitted to assign additional core licenses to the server; this is known as licence stacking.

    Here’s where Software Assurance comes into play. Licence all the physical cores with SQL Server 2014 Enterprise Edition and software assurance and your licence rights are expanded to allow any number of instances of the software to run in any number of OSEs (physical or virtual). This SA benefit enables customers to deploy an unlimited number of VMs to handle dynamic workloads and fully utilize hardware computing capacity. As with most SA benefits, this licence right ends if SA coverage on the SQL core licences expires.

    Licensing for maximum virtualization can be an ideal solution if you’re looking to deploy SQL Server private-cloud scenarios with high VM density, Hyper-threading is being used so you’re looking at a lot of virtual cores to licence, or you’re using dynamic provisioning and de-provisioning of VM resources and you don’t want the headache of worrying about adjusting the licence count. As you can see in figure 3 (below) this can be very cost-effective.

    clip_image013Figure 3: (above) Options to licence SQL Server Enterprise in a virtual environment. In the top example you would need 8 core licences + SA for unlimited virtualisation whereas in the bottom example you would need 10 core licences and still be limited in the number of SQL VMs you could run.

    What’s new in Licensing for SQL Server 2014?

    Just two subtle changes: one for high availability scenarios and the other for multiplexing with SQL Server Business Intelligence edition.

    The rights to install and run a passive fail-over SQL Server have now moved to be a Software Assurance Benefit. This is a licence right for SQL 2012 and earlier with the license terms listed as an exception under each SQL edition to which it applies. With SQL 2014 the fail-over servers terms will move to the Software Assurance Benefits section and thus only apply to SQL covered with SA.

    The second update is for Business Intelligence Edition. We’re relaxing the multiplexing policy so it no longer requires a CAL for users or devices that access the BI server

    Mobile First, Cloud First, Data DrivenRegister for the SQL Server 2014 and Power BI for Office 365 Launch event on May 1st at our offices in Reading.

    We say this in every blog but as you can imagine, there’s a lot more detail to SQL licensing so please listen into our monthly licensing spotlight calls where we cover this and other topics (you can view archived calls here).

    Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments bar below, or reach out via twitter @TechNetUK.

  • SharePoint and the Emergence of the Data Scientist

    image



      By Geoff Evelyn, SharePoint MVP owner of www.sharepointgeoff.com



    As the use of content management systems evolve with users adding more, ahem, "content", the organizations accountable for those content systems will need to ensure that they build in people resources who can manage that content, and particularly people who can find insights in that content for the benefit of the organization.

    Business intelligence requirements and implementations are growing faster than ever before, particularly due to the rise of cloud computing and more cloud services. There is now much more pressure on ensuring that customer interactions are tracked as a key aspect of business intelligence data gathering. This is one of the most critically important ways of working out the value that cloud services provide.

    Examples of this is everywhere. Azure Media Services and partners provided cloud-based components for the London Olympics delivering VOD content to more than 30 countries spanning across three continents. This was provided again for the 2014 Winter Olympics using a combination of Microsoft Dynamics and Windows Azure. Platform as a Service (PaaS) as being driven by Mobile application developers, so that means more push notification and geo-location services, for example. IBM announced plans to expand its global cloud footprint committing 1.2BN.

    Due to this and other factors, there is already a requirement for those who can help manage the customer data, usage data, behavioral analysis, etc. The big problem is, who knows how to gather the data, what is the actual skill-set required, and what is going to be the impact on IT services, particularly the roles? 

    Data Scientists are needed. On this front, demand has raced ahead of supply. Indeed, the shortage of data scientists is becoming a serious constraint in some sectors. Greylock Partners, an early-stage venture firm that has backed companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Palo Alto Networks, and Workday, is worried enough about the tight labor pool that it has built its own specialized recruiting team to channel talent to businesses in its portfolio.

    Data is becoming so important!
    Much of the current enthusiasm for big data focuses on technologies that make taming it possible, including Hadoop (the most widely used framework for distributed file system processing) and related open-source tools, cloud computing, and data visualization. While those are important breakthroughs, It is worth noting that getting the correct people with the skill set (and the mind-set) to put them to good use is just as important. The emergence of integrated app development will also ensure that data scientists will be required. There is already upon us the emergence of devices with sensors, and therefore the reality of the term 'Internet of Things' where more devices will have Internet connectivity woven into them. This means that adoption and app development will rise at consumer level and that app driving sensors will be defined by the data it provides.

    Why is data so important? Three reasons:
    1. Data is the center, not the application.
    Just ten years ago, there was no such thing as 'customer support' or 'customer analysis' concerning analytics surrounding 'metadata' or site usage, or extracting value from data. The application (in other words, the product used by the customer to create the content) was deemed way more important in the eyes of those who provided or provisioned the product to the customer. Analysis of the data was secondary. Back then, a person in I.T. was known as an individual who did not need to get close to the customer, did not need to have business acumen, and did not need to get 'close' to the data created by the application. Instead, all they needed to worry about was the actual software and hardware.  Nowadays, organizations need to understand whether the products they produce, and therefore the data they provide, is deemed as valuable so they can understand whether their services are useful (and continue to be useful) to a broad range of consumers, and thus help them answer key usage and business questions to help them run the business, and thus make the platform (which surfaces that data) better. Nowadays there are requirements that means we need to present findings and recommendations to key decision makers at various management levels, to ensure that data provides clarity on ambiguous projects with multiple stakeholders and unclear requirements. By doing that a 'machine resource' is there to aid quality control.

    2. Job roles are evolving.
    An example of a job role evolving is a business analyst, who is typically responsible for gathering business requirements, defining metrics, aiding dashboard designs and producing product executive reports. As well as ensuring ROI assessment is mapped to an ever evolving SharePoint platform. I suspect that Data Scientists are there to help the business analyst, by identifying the correct data to help fulfil the requirements. So why doesn’t a company simply stick with the Business Analyst? The key reason again is simple. Organizations today are starting to solve the issues concerning data silos, by storing large volumes of decision support data in warehouses. This data is becoming more and more complex. All organizations wish to centralize their data, and in many cases need to carry out real-time analysis, and will require people with analytic skills. Some organizations take on the business Analyst and then the business analyst role starts to occupy that of a data scientist, because the value and experience of the business analyst is built up first, then they are able to analyse the data further, if the data does not get too complex!

    3. Data Convergence is a strategic reality.
    The SharePoint objective is to manage and centralize data - that is clear. So this means the bringing together of data to a central place, instead of relevant users having to visit multiple places which would impact productivity. So, if you have data say in IBM Cognos, then it is probable that you would want to see that data presented as say dashboards in a SharePoint site. If you have data in SQL, then again, you may want to see that presented through SharePoint. Without talking about the technical requirements to do this, surely the business requirement is to identify what data has value which should be exposed first? So, you would say 'easy, get someone to do that'. So who? Get a longtime Business Intelligence power users to mine the data? You could do that, except then they are in fact very close to data scientists... The point here is that the more there is a requirement to understand the various data silos, the harder it will be to say that you do not need a resource to understand.

    Let us now put into context why data is so important from a personal perspective. Acronis, the backup / restore company, carried out a survey earlier in February 2014, which polled 818 respondents. This revealed two interesting statistics:

    · 53 percent say their personal pictures are the most important things to them versus their videos, music, etc.

    · 74 percent say the value of their personal files is more important than the devices themselves.

    What is a Data Scientist?
    Before you say 'Data Scientist is not an IT Role' - think again. Data analysts generally have a strong foundation in applications and computer sciences. They are able to communicate analysis results to IT and the business. They can identify the through analysing organizational data identify problems and solutions, by selecting insights. They look at the data from multiple angles and recommends ways to apply the data. Data Scientists is a strategic position, and helps by defining the data model, examine for consistency and reliability. They have a technical position because they understand and use various business intelligence systems, tools, reports and data sets to generate business insights.

    A Data Scientist is effectively an amalgamation of a number of older roles such as Statistical Analysis, Data Miner, Predictive Modeller or even Analytical Analyst. Add to those some of the newer and now very important areas of customer analysis on sites such as behavioural analysis, sentiment analysis. And to put this into context, Data Scientists are in fact used by Microsoft Office365 teams to analyse the terabytes of data being collected per day. That data will not simply be limited to usage, it will be based on support up/down, performance, helpdesk tickets, time to resolution and more.

    A client, working with SharePoint is extremely concerned about data analysis. They have systems which are connected to sensors. "The amount of data we have coming off our sensors produces data every ten minutes. This we are counting as Big Data. It is very important to us that we are able to analyse that data from a business perspective, and not simply rely on technical information".

    The SharePoint impact
    In the early days of SharePoint, the Engineer, Administrator have altered and grown over time to include all the roles required to deploy SharePoint to an organization. Generally, they are technical roles. However, they are still deemed as non-data centric in the eyes of the business, which focuses on the value of the data to help meet its business imperative - cash flow. The business facing critical roles, particularly that of Business Analyst, Content Strategist are now heading into data analysis land to extract value from that data, again to focus on the business imperative.

    What will and has been emerging is the requirement to analyse the data. This has been going on for some time - just looking at the requirements for usage statistics on SharePoint solutions is a sign. Take that, and add on the requirement to analyse usage from an app provided say in Office 365, and that then begs questions of the other data that can be extracted from the app. Not just the technical log information either, the behavioral aspect of the users working with the app is also data.

    Another aspect of data management is the focus of business intelligence and the connectivity of disparate data sources to provide information. In a small organization, it will be prudent to analyse the data to identify the best fit, however, this is simply an aspect of business intelligence gathering which 'ends' when the dashboard is defined. However, as the data gathering becomes more complex, and the analysing requirements of that data become more focused on customer usage and behaviour. An impact on SharePoint is therefore ensuring there is a critical difference in analysing the data which is surfaced, to the data which is not. Another impact could be that the focus on SharePoint data analysis still seems to be the tools so that one can focus on how to present and visualize that data, however, there still needs to be work done to identify the connections between multiple sets of data in the enterprise.

    Conclusion
    The emergence of the Data Scientist is not altogether new, but is definitely gathering pace. This is particularly when there is data trend spotting to be done, Data Scientists will be needed to help bring change to the organization. Irrespective of the platform, and I have mentioned SharePoint only because it provides the means to surface that data, organizations will need the skill-set and the mind-set to be able to make sense of that data as the organization evolves.

    As we working humans harvest more data, data scientists able to determine that the data will be of critical value to the organization using machines - it is that machine intelligence which will become vitally important as we steer into the wealth of customer centric cloud services.

    As I researched the items for this article, I was amazed at the mass of information concerning what it means to be a Data Scientist. Most notably ‘What is a data Scientist?’ by Forbes and also an interesting PowerPoint on the roles available out there for a Data Scientist, according to Network World.

    Geoff


    Microsoft Accelerate Your Insights

    Interested in finding out more on Microsoft Business Intelligence? Join us o
    n May 1st for an event that will explore the opportunities for organisations wishing to accelerate their use of data insights.  To find out more about this free online event check out Anthony Saxby's’ (Microsoft Data Platform lead in the UK) ‘Can big data be used to help your customers?’ article.

    Find out more about Microsoft SharePoint and how it could rapidly respond to your business needs.

    Did you find this article helpful? Let us know by commenting below, or reaching out to us via @TechNetUK.

  • Become an MVA Hero

    Sign up to MVA Hero today and get your free hero costume (t-shirt) and earn some great prizes!

    I am still surprised at how many IT Professionals and developers haven’t made use of the Microsoft Virtual Academy to learn about Microsoft technologies and stay up do date as new versions are released. Each module has a basic test and decks to accompany the videos focused around a particular subject and they are graded to indicate how advanced they are.

    One of the great things about MVA is how wide and deep the content is, but there isn’t really any sort of path through the courses as they might apply to your role e.g. which are the right Microsoft Azure courses to do, how do I get up to speed on Hyper-V with all the improvements in Windows Server 2012R2? 

    So the TechNet UK team have a plan called MVA Hero to fix that and have some fun at the same time!  We wondered what sort of super heroes worked in a datacentre, what skills they would need, and mapped this onto the latest MVA courses.

    image

    Cloud Ninja is all about Azure and even if you aren’t planning to use Azure just yet it’s actually a great way to spin up VM’s and learn some of the Microsoft core technologies if you haven’t got a free server to use for evaluations.

    Captain Code is getting to grips with PowerShell which will should give you time back in your day to do more MVA courses rather than clicking on endless dialog boxes to do repetitive tasks.

    Dr Desktop will be all over Configuration Manager and In Tune as it’s no fun to fiddle with profiles applications on all the devices accessing corporate resources one by one.

    RackMan understands how to turn Just a Bunch of |VMs (JBOV) into services that can scale, be costed and provisioned using self service just like a public cloud.

    Hypervisor needs to efficiently allocate compute network and storage and provide quality of service to all of those to prevent noisy neighbours hogging resources.

    Solid Server understand that while we have all seen Windows Server we haven’t seen all of Windows Server , and things like IP Address Management, storage spaces and VDI are all hidden away waiting to be turned on.

    Taking the courses these heroes have done is a good starter and will help you get on the road to expertise and ultimately certification. Even if your are familiar with older versions it they’ll show you what’s new and may uncover some useful tips that you didn’t know was already in the product. For example, I did a talk in Leeds last week where no one knew about the Active Directory recycle bin in Windows Server 2008 R2, and at another event no one had seen IP address Management although everyone was running Windows Server 2012!

    We are having a bit of fun with the MVA - when you sign up to MVA Hero you will receive a free t-shirt and then once you complete a badge, you will be rewarded with a stress ball hero figurine (collect all six!) to show you have earned the skills of the MVA SuperSix!

    So to quote one of my colleagues on why she loves working at Microsoft “it’s all about learning and laughing”

  • Hybrid Cloud – take the ExpressRoute to extending your VPN into the Microsoft Azure Cloud



      Straight from the blog of Ed Baker, Microsoft Technical Evangelist.



    One of the traditional impediments to businesses adopting public cloud computing is the concern over putting all your eggs in one basket. The Hybrid cloud is the solution to this.

    The Hybrid cloud is a description of utilising a pre-existing on-premises datacentre and a cloud solution such as Microsoft Azure to balance the overall solution.

    The last two days at Enstone with the Lotus F1 team have been an excellent introduction for a packed audience into the way to use System Center to manage your on-premises datacentre (or private cloud) and to start using Microsoft Azure to develop your Hybrid Cloud.

    Embedded image permalinkMichael Taylor, Chief Information Officer of Lotus F1, takes the stage at  our #UKITCamp - "We keep business critical in house but push everything else out to the cloud."

    Michael Taylor, CIO of Lotus F1 (above) gave an excellent introduction to both days. He explained that Lotus keep all business critical and confidential data in their own data centres. Lotus then use Office 365 and Microsoft Azure to host their email and other less critical services in the Cloud – Forming a true Hybrid Cloud solution.

    Often networking and connectivity is seen as another impediment to connecting these two discrete elements and yet maintaining security. The recent Heartbleed OpenSSL issue although not directly affecting the Azure platform does highlight the need for vigilance and the security of the connectivity in a modern, robust Cloud solution. Essentially businesses want Azure in their network.

     Yesterday Microsoft announced the ExpressRoute partnership programme and introduced BT and Equinix as the first partners to provide the solution in the UK and EMEA. The BT announcement is here and the Equinix one is here and the Microsoft Azure blog covers it well here.

    So ExpressRoute – what is that?
    hybrid1First and foremost ExpressRoute provides a private dedicated connection between Azure and the customer datacentre, no reliance on a shared internet infrastructure to reach your apps, services and data.

    Within this you can now choose the network performance you want or need (or can afford), this will allow you to design your Apps better and meet QoS and SLA requirements.

    How fast do you say?  – Well up to 10Gbps – is that fast enough! If you have large amounts of data to move between your datacentre and Azure or vice versa then this is a great, fast and economically sound option.

    So it is fast but what can I use it for?
    ExpressRoute is designed to cater for mission critical workloads such as

    • Storage (Migration, DR, retention archives)
    • Dev/Test (large VM movements from Dev / Test / Production environments)
    • BI and Big Data (Efficient transfer of large data sets to increase ‘Big Data’ performance)
    • Media (solid and predictable performance for streaming data to or from Azure)
    • Hybrid Apps (the mix of High Bandwidth and Low Latency links create a great environment for Azure to be used as a datacentre extension for multi tier apps  – improved I/O and API response times.)
    • Productivity Apps (Sharepoint as an example requires high bandwidth and low latency to work at scale)

    There are three routes into Azure as shown below.

    Express route provides a dedicated private route in one of two flavours an Exchange provider or Network Service provider route. The former provides a simple point to point solution while the latter exposes Azure as an additional site in the corporate network.

    2roots

    Any regular reader of this blog will know that the I openly declare that the future is PowerShell and ExpressRoute is no different there are specific ExpressRoute Commandlets.

    pshell

    Microsoft provide ExpressRoute pricing for the access and bandwidth as well as throughput and your network provider will add their charges on top of this.

    To keep up to date with ExpressRoute and all the changes and developments within Microsoft Azure bookmark the Azure Page and the Azure Blog

    The only question left for me is why wouldn’t you adopt this economically viable, flexible and fast solution to the Hybrid Cloud solution – Bring Azure into your network.

    Try it free. Connect to the cloud for free with Microsoft Azure.
    Sign up now or download your free training kit.

  • XP End of Support: The World Reacts

    This Tuesday April 8th 2014 was a notable day in the history of Microsoft, and indeed the IT industry. It was the day that Microsoft officially ceased supporting Windows XP, first announced several years ago.

    As a final farewell to the trusty old OS, we take a look at its last day in tweets, including advice, analysis and a ballad. Yes, really.

    If you're in the market for a new system or are working on your business' migration, we have a whole range of resources, guides and offers to help you make the move. Here's a handy selection to get you started:

     So without further ado, over to you, world.

  • The Best of Build... for an IT Pro!

        
    image   
    Image Source:
    buildwindows.com

    If it didn't already feel like it, now it does. Spring is here… and so is Build, Microsoft’s Developer Conference.

    The 3-day conference took place in San Francisco this week, we’ve combined all the main announcements relevant to you and have mashed together in an IT Pro round up article.
    If you want to re-cap on the conference session, they've been recorded and will be available on the Build website soon.

    Windows 8.1 Update
    On Day 1 we announced the availability of Windows 8.1 Update. This is a cumulative update for Windows 8.1 that includes a variety of enhancements for enterprises, including improved IE 11 compatibility for enterprise applications, usability improvements, extended mobile device management and improved hardware support.

    For further information and advice: 
    - About the Windows 8.1 Update
    - Deploying Windows 8.1 Update
    - Computers currently running Windows 8.1
    - Existing Windows 8.1 images
    - New Windows 8.1 Images
    - Updating from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1
    - Updating from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1

    Check out the Windows 8.1 Update: IT Pro Perspective article where you'll find extra enhancement info and a guide on how you can deploy the update. If you want an overview of the Windows 8.1 Update enhancements please see the Windows for your Business blog announcement.

    It’s important to note that because the Windows 8.1 Update is not a new Windows release, no additional actions need to be taken in regards to infrastructure readiness or product activation. Management tools like System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune will fully support updated Windows 8.1 computers. Your existing KMS infrastructure can support updated Windows 8.1 computers, and existing MAK and sideloading keys will continue to work. Speaking of sideloading, we’ll be making improvements in this as well, as mentioned in the Windows for your Business blog. Look out for more details on the Springboard Series blog coming soon.

    Stay up to date with the enterprise mode for Internet Explorer 11

    image
    One of the important enhancements in Windows 8.1 Update is the introduction of Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11, announced on the Exploring IE blog and the IE blog. This provides better compatibility with older versions of Internet Explorer and tools to manage which web apps use it. Businesses can benefit from the modern web standards, better performance, and increased security of our latest browser, while extending existing investments in legacy web apps. And by decreasing dependencies on older versions, Internet Explorer helps you stay up-to-date with Windows 8.1, services like Office 365, and devices like the Surface Pro 2.

    For further insight on:
    - How Enterprise Mode can help you stay up-to-date
    - How Enterprise Mode can provide better Compatibility
    - How Enterprise Mode can be managed
    Find out more by checking out the IE blog.

    Windows Phone 8.1
    If you’re a Windows Phone user, you already know that we set out to create an experience that puts you and the things you care about most front and centre. As a result, we believe Windows Phone is the world’s most personal smartphone… and with Windows Phone 8.1, we’ve added a BUNCH of new features that make your smartphone even more a reflection of your personality and desires. 

    New Windows Phone 8.1 Updates: Windows Phone 8.1 is full of little touches that make a big difference including Drive Mode, Word Flow Keyboard, and more

    Great for Business Users and IT Managers
    Windows has long been the choice for the enterprise and professionals. Windows Phone fits easily and seamlessly into a corporate ecosystem making it easier to work when you are on the go. Last year, PC Magazine’s readers selected Nokia Lumia/Windows Phones as the Business Choice Award for smartphones by scoring them the highest in end-user satisfaction.  

    With Windows Phone 8.1, we’re making it even easier for IT professionals to manage devices and for professionals to connect to essential business apps and services with features such as customizable MDM enrolment, support for loads more MDM policies, LOB application & certificate management, S/MIME and VPN support.

    Check out the Windows for your Business blog post to read more about enterprise features in both the Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. Update.

    Cortana: Your PERSONAL Digital Assistant

    Get to Know Cortana!

    clip_image002Of everything we’ve announced in build, we’re most excited to introduce you to the world’s first truly personal digital assistant, coming to the UK later this year on Windows Phone. We were inspired by the popular character from Halo who served as a brilliant AI and a deeply personal digital assistant to Master Chief… so we called her Cortana.

    Powered by Bing, Cortana is the only digital assistant that gets to know you, builds a relationship that you can trust, and gets better over time by asking questions based on your behaviour and checking in with you before she makes assumptions. She tracks the stuff you care about, looks out for you throughout the day, and helps filter out the noise so you can focus on what matters to you.


    When Can I Get It? And on which phones?
    Windows Phone 8.1 will be available to all Windows Phone 8 device owners in the UK over the next few months. It will also come pre-installed on new phones, including those announced by Nokia yesterday.

    A new cloud experience and tools to deliver the cloud without complexity
    ‘On Thursday at Build in San Francisco, we took an important step by unveiling a first-of-its kind cloud environment within Microsoft Azure that provides a fully integrated cloud experience – bringing together cross-platform technologies, services and tools that enable developers and businesses to innovate with enterprise-grade scalability at startup speed. Announced today, our new Microsoft Azure Preview Portal is an important step forward in delivering our promise of the cloud without complexity.’ – Scott Guthrie

    Day-100b
    With a vision to speed up and simplify the software delivery process, the Microsoft Azure Preview Portal is bringing together cross-platform tools, technologies, and services from across the company, partners, and the open-source community in a single integrated workspace.

    In addition to our groundbreaking new Microsoft Azure Preview Portal, we announced several enhancements our customers need to fully tap into the power of the cloud. These include:

    - Dozens of enhancements to our Azure services across Web, mobile, data and our infrastructure services
    - Further commitment to building the most open and flexible cloud with Azure support for automation software from Puppet Labs and Chef.
    - We’ve removed the throttle off our Application Insights preview, making it easier for all developers to build, manage and iterate on their apps in the cloud with seamless integration into the IDE.

    Read the announcement in full by checking out Scott Guthrie’s article or visit the Build Newsroom for more information on Thursday’s news and to watch the keynote. You can also see more about Thursday’s news specific to Microsoft Azure on Scott Guthrie’s personal blog.

    A final //BUILD/ Highlight…..

    GuggsTeam 1.

    image

    We were delighted to see Steve ‘Guggs’ Guggenheimer, Chief Evangelist & Rick Claus, Sr. Tech Evangelist at Build rocking our UK IT Pro speaker shirts – If you want to see these exclusive shirts in action come along to our IT Camps in the next few weeks!


    Announcing the Windows Server 2012 R2 Update.

    Not part of Build, but we thought it would be good to keep you in the know! As we mentioned back in February, we’ve been working on an update to Windows Server 2012 R2 in conjunction with an update to Windows 8.1.  In the update we’re providing Windows Server 2012 R2 Update to MSDN and TechNet subscribers and it will be generally available through Windows Update starting on April 8, 2014.

    We continue to focus on providing a world-class platform for IT Pros and developers around the globe.  This includes an easy way to get up to date with the patches, bug-fixes, and improvements that we’ve been working on since we released Windows Server 2012 R2.  To that end, we’re releasing this update which brings everything together for you in one easy-to-deploy package.

    No system APIs have been changed and there are no changes to hardware requirements.  Aside from a single reboot, there is no action for you to take if you have turned on automatic update.  Plus, you will not need to re-verify nor re-certify your server applications, including System Center.  They should “just work” without requiring any additional testing.


    Here is what’s all included in Windows Server 2012 R2 Update:

    Cumulative roll-up
     -Windows Server 2012 R2 Update includes all of the previously-released monthly roll-ups, individual updates, and security updates released since RTM.
    Bug fixes - In response to customer and partner feedback, this update includes a range of performance and reliability improvements.  
    Enhancements  -A range of enhancements are also included in the update including:
    Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer (EMIE), Active Directory fix for Office 365 and User interface enhancements read more at _______

    We encourage you to apply this update to your Windows Server 2012 R2 systems as soon as possible.  This'll ensure that you continue to benefit from the enterprise-grade performance and protection that our platform delivers.  It'll also ensure that you continue to get the best servicing experience from Microsoft. 
    For further technical information on Windows Server 2012 R2 Update landing page on TechNet.


    So, what are you most excited about from all of our build announcements? Let us know in the comments box below, or tweet us at @TechNetUK.

  • Can big data be used to help your customers?

     

      By Anthony Saxby,  Microsoft Data Platform lead in the UK.

     


    Many commentators on big data have highlighted potential concerns around the data privacy aspects, however as we work with customers at Microsoft we’re seeing many examples of how large organisations are using big data and analytics projects to provide truly innovative new value to their customers.

    Customer Services and customer experience teams are well placed to have a clear vision on how data that organisations already have and additional data they can gather can be used to provide valuable insight that would otherwise not be available.  Microsoft was at the recent Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in London and we were delighted to have Royal Bank of Scotland and Transport for London presenting on our behalf.  Whilst both organisations operate in very different areas of industry, the common theme in their presentations was how data that the organisations already capture could be used in new ways to provide customers of both organisations with improved service and high value insights. 

    The Royal Bank of Scotland is exploring how to use the huge volume of commercial transaction data that they already capture to understand supply chain risks both from an economic and geo-political perspective. This insight can be used to help manufacturing customers understand the impact on their supply chain of events around the world that may not be immediately apparent.  In addition, based on an understanding of the currencies involved in typical supply chain transactions, the bank can also advise customers on approaches to optimise their foreign currency transactions. These insights will enable customers to make timely and optimal decisions on sourcing and purchasing enabling them to mitigate supply and currency risks. Delivering a scalable platform that was easy to manage, scale and required no tuning was core to making this real. The Royal Bank of Scotland selected SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse as their analytics platform for these scenarios after a detailed Proof of Concept, highlighted its significant cost/performance advantages over other data warehouse platforms and its easy migration path from existing databases.

    Transport for London is using travel data from both Oyster cards as well as other sources to understand travel patterns across London.  From these insights, TFL can see trends developing in the typical journeys undertaken by millions of London commuters each week and use this data to help determine time-tables and for longer range planning and capacity decisions helping to ensure that travel in London is delivered smoothly and effectively.  In addition to planning, TFL can use journey time information to help the operating divisions to understand the real impact of service interruptions of travellers.  These insights are helping them target network servicing and maintenance activities on the aspects of the network that have the biggest impact if things go wrong offering opportunities to significantly improve overall travel experience and use maintenance budget more effectively.

    On May 1st Microsoft is running an event that will explore the opportunities for organisations wishing to accelerate their use of data insights.  At this event you will hear from Corp Vice President of the Data Platform Quentin Clark and customers from health, manufacturing and other industries discussing their experiences of using Business Intelligence and analytics within their organisations. The event will be in-person as well as online,  please register using the following links.

     1st May, Reading: Executive agenda (AM). Register here  1st May, Reading: Technical Agenda (PM). Register here  1st May, Online:
    Online broadcast.
    Register here



  • Introducing Microsoft’s latest innovation: SmartClippy

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 1 April, 2014

    Introducing SmartClippy – the smart paperclip that connects everything in your life

    We live in a world where new technologies arrive daily – it can be a struggle just to keep up. But what if there was a way to just … attach … new innovations to our lives? To usher in this new era of attachments, Microsoft is turning to an old friend with some new tricks up his sleeve.

    Clippy has been there for Microsoft Office users since Office 97 – but with support for Office 2003 and Windows XP ending on 8 April, it’s time for everyone’s favourite office assistant to take on a new role.

    “Microsoft announced the date for the end of Windows XP support back in 2007, so I’ve had a lot of time to plan my next move,” said Clippy. “And now I’m excited to finally announce the next chapter in my life. I’m going back to basics and doing what paper clips like me are born to do: Attach things to other things.”

    Today Microsoft is proud to introduce SmartClippy, the one paperclip for everything in your life.

    • SmartClippy is lightweight, non-toxic and region-free for your convenience:

    • SmartClippy easily adds innovation to important business proposals:

    • SmartClippy makes it easy to take your work with you, wherever you go:

    • SmartClippy makes it easy to add social elements to old media:

    • SmartClippy makes it easy to attach anything to “The Cloud”:

    • Enterprise SmartClippy can handle even the toughest jobs:

    • SmartClippy can easily join together different development languages:

    • SmartClippy is infinitely scalable:

    • SmartClippy is easy to reconfigure to meet your needs:

    • SmartClippy is compatible with your existing workstation:

    • SmartClippy comes in a range of sizes and colours:

    • SmartClippy is easy to integrate into existing accessories:

    • SmartClippy is so simple a cat can use it:

    SmartClippy is available now at leading electronics retailers, fine stationery stores, not-so-fine stationery stores, your company’s supply cabinet, behind sofa cushions and in bins.

  • Bizarre Job Titles in Technology

    We’ve been focusing on careers lately, but haven’t really drilled down into 'roles' specifically.. Instead of looking at some of the traditional roles out there for an IT Pro, we thought it'd be fun to investigate some of the weird, wonderful and down right bizarre job titles in the Tech Industry. What they are, what do they mean and who’s doing them?

    Today’s world of work is going through a transformation, work-life balance is changing and ‘Flexible working’ is the latest buzz word around companies. Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International was interviewed by the BBC back in 2012 about the ‘new world of work at Microsoft’ where he gave a comprehensive review of flexible working at Microsoft.

    This new approach to the way we work and manage could  help explain many of the humorous job titles we’ve gathered below, having a ‘flexible approach’ to working empowers employees to innovative, work smarter and potentially improve the way they interact with their customers or ‘evangelise’ their products. More often enough allowing certain employees to branch out and change their role to suit them.

    We asked on social  “What’s the strangest job title you’ve ever came across..?” and received responses like "Professional technical specialist” and "Information Management and Technology Technical Engineer Specialist" great examples, more buzzwords than you can shake a stick at, but semi-acceptable when compared to some of the roles we discovered below.

    Introducing the Bizarre job titles in Technology

    David Shing, Digital Prophet at AOL

     Image Source: AOL Advertising

    David Shing or ‘Shingy’ as he’s better known as is AOL’s Digital Prophet. According to his AOL bio ‘He spends most of his time watching the future take shape across the vast online landscape. The rest he spends talking to people about where things are headed, and how we can get the most out of it.’ Cushty work for a Prophet - find some of his future teachings here.

    James Mickens – ‘The Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence’ at Microsoft.

     Photos by Brian Smale / © Microsoft

    Introducing the ‘Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence’… bit of a mouthful, eh? We stumbled across James’ story last week. What a fantastic job title, but what does James do? According to his Microsoft Story, he’s a problem solving researcher, who has learned almost everything he knows from studying ‘Seinfeld’.

    Matthew Shoup – Senior Hacker in residence at LinkedIn.

    imageImage source: Fast Company

    Starting off at LinkedIn in 2010, Matthew was a mere ‘Technical Marketer’. Nowadays though, he’s better known as ‘Hacker in Residence’ moving from a ‘fairly circumscribed job to a very free one. He wears a lot of hats, works on a lot of projects, and acts as a hub connecting a lot of people’ Fast Company's David Zax reports. Read more into life as a ‘hacker-in-residence’ in his Fast Company interview.


    Dave Coplin – Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft

     Image Source: BBC - The Bottom Line

    According to his twitter account, Dave is the ‘Author of Futures, Technology Alchemist, Reimaginer of Business and Inventor of Pretentious Job Titles. Oh, and Chief Envisioning Officer for Microsoft UK.’ Which shortens to CEO of Microsoft, nice try Winking smile. He helps organisations and individuals envision the full potential that technology offers a modern, digital society. Find out more about his role here - theenvisioners.com and watch his great Re-Imagining Work video here.

    Sheryl Connelly – In-House Futurist for Ford Motor Company

    imageImage source: Ford Media Center

    We realise that ‘Ford’ isn’t a name you would expect to see knocking about Silicon Valley. Sheryl's role however seems to very tech-focused, hence why we've chosen to include her 'Futurist' role.  According to her Ford bio, Sheryl ‘has been serving as the in-house Futurist for Ford Motor Company for almost a decade. In this role, she tracks global consumer trends to aide in the discussion of long-term planning and strategy across the entire company, including design, product development and corporate strategy.’

    Andrew Fryer – Technical Evangelist at Microsoft

    image

    Technical Evangelist, one of the perhaps more familiar roles from the list above. We have two of our very own, @edbaker1965 and Andrew Fryer A.K.A @Deepfat, who you can meet out on the road at our IT Camps  in the coming months. But what does he actually do? We asked Andrew to help explain the role of a Technical Evangelist.

    “Evangelism comes from the Greek 'to bring good news', or to 'bring a message' and at Microsoft, an evangelist is there to explain technology, how the new stuff works and why it matters to IT guys, in my own case the broad church of 975,000 or so IT Professionals in the UK. That’s still sounds a lot like preaching but actually I listen more than I preach and I learn more than I teach to ensure that the blogs, webcasts and events I work on with the UK TechNet team are relevant.  For example if you’ve been to one of our camps you’ll know it’s you the audience that set the agenda and ask the questions and challenge us to make your attendance a good use of your time.  So my biggest reward is the thanks I get for helping IT guys get stuff done.”


    So which of the above roles would you classify as Weird, Wonderful or Bizarre? Have you came across any others? Comment below or let us know via @TechNetUK

    On a side note: we’ve got some free Microsoft Career Evenings in London coming up in the next month for you to check out. We’re not saying we can help you pave the way for a career as a ‘Digital Prophet’ or ‘Futurist’ but who knows... We’ll have career advice from industry experts, free drinks and dinner. Man of many Jobs Andrew Fryer will be playing the role of Careers Jedi, to find out more click on the banner below.