Microsoft Canada

Azure on My Mind

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It has been a while since I’ve written anything about Azure.  Not that there isn’t anything noteworthy happening.  There are constant updates to Azure so man in fact that it’s tough to keep track of them all.  Today I want to let you know about three items that are of special interest to me:

  1. The “New” Azure Portal
  2. The Azure Marketplace
  3. Project Nami

The New Azure Portal

Microsoft has had the new portal available in preview for about a year.  Depending on the azure services you needed to manage it could be confusing to know which portal to use.  Especially for new services that were only supported in the new portal.  Portal switching confusion is finally over (I hope) as the new portal is GA (generally available) as of December 3rd 2015.  It supports 26 services as opposed to the “classic” portal which supports 23.  Going forward you should be able to accomplish all of your Azure management tasks from the new portal.

The Azure Marketplace

There are many benefits to cloud computing but one of the features that really helps Azure stand apart for me is the Gallery.  The gallery allows you to quickly provision a virtual machine or other workload based on industry standard stacks.  There are thousands of certified applications pre-configured for Microsoft Azure in the Azure Marketplace.

I’ve used a several of them and they really accelerate my testing and investigation of new products and use cases.  I’ve traditionally focused on the Microsoft workloads like SQL Server and SharePoint but there are hundreds of third party offerings including Linux VMs and stacks from companies like Oracle, Barracuda, Citrix, Hortonworks, Commvault and many others.  That leads me to my last update …

Project Nami

Project Nami has been making my life a lot easier (and cheaper) for a few months now.  As you may well know, one of the most popular blogging and website platforms currently is WordPress.  WordPress requires a database and is designed to use MySQL.  Microsoft supports WordPress as a preconfigured application as part of the Azure Marketplace but you get a 20GB MySQL database provided by a third-party known as ClearDB.  If you exceed your database size allocation you can cripple your site and if you need more than 20GB you would need to pay ClearDB for additional services.

Project Nami to the rescue!  Being a Microsoft focused IT Pro I’m more comfortable with MS SQL server than MySQL.  Project Nami allows you to run your WordPress site on a MS SQL database instead of MySQL.  Even more interesting is that you can deploy directly to Azure in under 5 minutes.  I’m currently using Project Nami in Azure for hosting the website of the Surface Smiths podcast that I do with David Smith and it hasn’t let me down yet.

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GTEC 2014 – Windows 10 is Coming but what about Windows 8.1?

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I normally can’t blog about Microsoft futures because I am under multiple NDAs with Microsoft. This week is a little different. I attended GTEC in Ottawa this week. GTEC is Canada’s largest public sector technology show. I did something I don’t normally do – I attended Microsoft sessions. I normally avoid them because I know the presenters and I am familiar with the content through my MVP and Partner connections.

So why did I attend the sessions? So I could blog about topics that were discussed. You see, if it is in the public domain I am not breaching NDA, I am simply extending the presenters reach. I don’t always know what’s in the public domain so I am overly cautious about what I blog. I typically don’t blog about features until they are GA.

I am writing this post on my Surface Pro 3 i7 while watching Jeff Chin and David Boudreau present a session called Mobile Solutions for Government. One of the key takeaways was the device convergence coming in Windows 10. Many enterprises and the Government of Canada (GoC) in particular have just finished up their migrations to Windows 7 and moving to a new platform is not a high priority.

There is one initiative in the Canadian Federal Government that is rapidly adopting Windows 8.1 and that’s mobile workers using tablets.  The GoC has standardized on Windows devices for the tablet form factor.

So while we wait for Windows 10 and live with Windows 7 as our standard corporate desktop, what new functionality is available to enterprise clients (and the GoC in particular) by adopting Windows 8.1?

Here are some highlights from the presentation:

  1. Work Anywhere on Any Windows device – This is a combination of UE-V and the various remote solutions available through RDS and RemoteApp.
  2. Enterprise mode for IE – This is a compatibility mode that makes it easier to use websites designed for previous versions of IE. It is also available for Windows 8.1 and 7
  3. Native Miracast Wireless display – Microsoft has announced their own Miracast adapter will be available before Christmas. I currently use a device from ActiveTec.
  4. Wi-Fi direct Printing
  5. NFC tap to pair with enterprise printers
  6. PC as personal hotspot

In case any Microsoft lawyers are reading this, all of these features were publicly discussed in a session that was open to all attendees of GTEC. No NDA was required to attend.

Also this week at TechEd Europe in Barcelona, Microsoft announced that Office365 customers will be getting some basic MDM functionality at no additional cost. More on that later.

Be Heard: Tell Microsoft How They’re Doing!

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Every fall and spring, a survey goes out to a few hundred thousand IT folk in Canada asking what they think of Microsoft as a company. The information they get from this survey helps them understand what problems and issues you’re facing and how they can do better. The team at Microsoft Canada takes the input they get from this survey very seriously.

Now I don’t know who of you will get the survey and who won’t but if you do find an email in your inbox from “Microsoft Feedback” with an email address of “ feedback@e-mail.microsoft.com ” and a subject line “Help Microsoft Focus on Customers and Partners” from now until April 13th — it’s not a hoax or phishing email. Please open it and take a few minutes to tell them what you think.

This is your chance to get your voice heard: If they’re doing well, feel free to pile on the kudos (they love positive feedback!) and if you see areas they can improve, please point them out so they can make adjustments (they also love constructive criticism!).

The Microsoft team would like to thank you for all your feedback in the past — to those of you who have filled out the survey and sent them emails. Thank you to all who engage with them in so many different ways through events, the blogs, online and in person. You are why they do what they do and they feel lucky to work with such a great community!

One last thing – even if you don’t get the survey you can always give the team feedback by emailing us directly through the Microsoft Canada IT Pro Feedback email address .

They want to make sure they are serving you in the best possible way. Tell them what you want more of. What should they do less of or stop altogether? How can they help? Do you want more cowbell ? Let them know through the survey or the email alias. They love hearing from you!