Azure News 2017 – Week 1

Azure news as heard on the latest Need to Know podcast – Episode 125

Re-Org/re-structure chances at Microsoft

Microsoft is planning a big reorganisation of partner and services groups starting Feb. 1 will affect the company’s sales, partner and services teams.

This “One Commercial Partner” announcement is a continuation of Microsoft’s “One Microsoft” campaign kicked off under CEO Steve Ballmer back in 2013. The original idea of that push was to break down divisional silos and build more synergies across teams inside the company.

Microsoft is combining its Enterprise & Partner Group (EPG) & Mid-Market Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) businesses. Chris Weber who is currently the corporate vice president of midmarket solutions and partners, will lead these combined businesses.

The “One Commercial Partner” business, will combine the various partner teams Kim Akers of the ISV team, Victor Morales of the Enterprise Partner team and Gavriella Schuster of the WPG team. This group will be led by Ron Huddleston, corporate vice president of Enterprise Partner Ecosystem for Microsoft. Huddleston joined Microsoft from Salesforce last June. Huddleston is credited with playing a major role in building Salesforce’s AppExchange marketplace and its cloud-based channel, OEM and ISV program.

According to Microsoft’s announcement,  will all be moving into One Commercial Partner

A new unit called Microsoft Digital that’s meant to focus more on getting Microsoft customers and partners to build on and use Microsoft’s various cloud products. This team will be led by Anand Eswaran, corporate vice president of Microsoft Services, who will continue to lead Microsoft Services as well. Microsoft Digital will include Microsoft evangelists, developers and “digital advisors & architects” who can be assigned to customers as needed.

Part of One Microsoft, Microsoft also opted to combine some of its internally focused events. Microsoft’s MGX sales conference, TechReady, and the Solution Specialist Sales Summit (S4) will be a single event happening in Las Vegas, the week of July 17, 2017, I’ve heard from my contacts.

Database-as-a-service – MongoDB

MongoDB is one of the most popular no-SQL stacks out there and what’s popular is the MongoDB API as there is drivers and models for virtually any language.

This means that if you are a MongoDB developer, you can talk to a DocumentDB No-SQL stack and only know MongoDB as the MongoDB API integrate with every other language e.g. PHP, Java, Python, R, Node.js.

More info.

Microsoft Reveals Azure Cloud Platform to Connect Cars

At the CES 2017 show yesterday, the Redmond giant introduced the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform. The heart of this cloud platform is the ability to offer customers connected driving experiences and will allow car makers to integrate services like Cortana and Office 365, as well as manage detailed traffic analytics and automatic repair notifications.

  1. Telematics & predictive services
  2. Customer Insights & Engagement
  3. In car productivity & Digital Life
  4. Connect ADAS support
  5. Advanced Navigation

Microsoft Azure will pull in hundreds of gigabytes of data from sensors, users, and more. This information will be fed back to car manufacturers to help them apply it.

Cars will be able to notify users of any faults and even schedule repairs or meetings through Cortana. The digital assistant will also remind drivers of their meetings during their commute and could provide notifications of traffic jams.

Microsoft are not providing an operating system, it’s making available the back-end for manufacturers to build on. Car makers will be able to have their own digital assistants, their own branding, and their own OS.

Nissan will be taking full advantage of the platform, including predictive maintenance and advanced navigation. Volvo, on the other hand, is integrating Skype for Business.

The Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform will launch in public preview later this year.

More info.

Azure Site Recovery Update

Microsoft’s Azure Site Recovery (ASR) provides businesses of all sizes with an automated protection and recovery system in the cloud. Yesterday, the Redmond giant rolled out an update that extends that system further, supporting Citrix, XenDesktop and XenApp environments.

Microsoft have been working closely with Citrix to validate and provide guidance on leveraging ASR to build a robust, enterprise-grade DR solution for the recovery to Azure of on-premises XenDesktop and XenApp environments running on VMware/Hyper-V,” said Poornima Natarajan, program manager, cloud and enterprise

ASR now protects a variety of related components in XenDesktop and XenApp including:

  • “Citrix Delivery Controller
  • StoreFront Server
  • XenApp Master Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA)
  • XenApp License Server
  • AD DNS Server
  • SQL Database Server”
  • recover an application to a specific point in time
  • letting you roll back a Citrix VDI environment to specific states

More info.

The Citrix and Microsoft Partnership

Partners and customers are counting on Citrix and Microsoft to simplify the secure delivery of apps, desktops, mobility and data, running these services directly on Azure.

For desktops: Citrix are introducing XenDesktop Essentials – coming soon to the Azure Marketplace, it provides a straightforward XenDesktop service for delivering Windows 10 desktops on Azure that partners and customers can manage through Citrix Cloud.

For apps: Citrix XenApp Essentials will become available in the Azure Marketplace, making it simple and easy for Microsoft Azure customers to securely deliver apps running on Azure to any device.

Available later this calendar quarter.

They are including enhancements to the value of EMS for customers – adding Citrix capabilities for delivering enterprise-grade productivity combined with device and data security managed over the network. It is a micro-VPN capability for secure, identity-based access to on-premises applications on EMS managed devices, providing the most comprehensive mobility solution available in the market.

Other things announced:

  • Driving Windows Server 2016 Adoption
  • Accelerating Migrations to Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016
  • Streamlining Secure Business Communications with the Best Skype for Business Experience Available in Virtualised Environments

More info.

SoftNAS Cloud on Azure – Cloud NAS Storage made easy

A new Virtual Storage Appliance called SoftNAS Cloud is available in the Azure marketplace which allows you to spin up your SoftNAS Cloud IaaS VM appliance.

SoftNAS Cloud sits in front of native Azure storage and overcomes capacity limits and adds all file protocols – CIFS/SMB, NFS, AFP, iSCSI storage.

  • Free Azure Test Drive, get started in under 10 minutes, no Credit card or Azure Subscription required, the environment is available for 1 hour from the time you enter the test drive
  • SoftNAS 30 day Free-Trial on your Azure subscription
  • You can purchase SoftNAS Cloud in the Azure Marketplace.
    • Express Edition for 1TB of capacity
    • Standard Edition for 20TB of capacity.
  • Discounted larger deployments up to many petabytes, are available via a BYOL (Bring Your Own License) obtained by contacting the SoftNAS Sales team or an authorized reselling partner

More info.

Architecture refresher on Azure IaaS design methodology

Microsoft have released on their blog site a good video along with a full slide deck running you through Azure IaaS with a mix of best practices, architecture guidance, examples and more. It all incorporates Azure Patterns and Practices recommendations.

More info.

Benefits of Azure Backup in Stopping Ransomware

At the start of 2017, Microsoft is reminding customers that Azure Backup is the perfect cloud platform to protect against Ransomware. Data from the latest CRN Quarterly Ransomware Report says that Malicious infrastructure attacks were up 3500% over 2016. Which will likely be higher in 2017. Improving organisation-wide cyber security is crucial.

Microsoft is reminding people that backing up critical information is important. More importantly, making sure these backups are secured can protect data from attack.

Hackers are becoming really good at neutralising backup solutions. For the start of this New Year Microsoft is reminding people the benefits of Azure Backup to protect from ransomware attacks.

What is ransomware? Attackers infect a computer with malware, it silently encrypts a data, then in order to gain access to files again, organizations have to pay a considerable fee.

An LA hospital lost all access to its data, putting the lives of hundreds of patients at risk. They paid $17,000 to the bad guys to get it back and there’s no guarantee the attackers will give you what you want.

The FBI recommends the following:

  • “Focus on awareness and training. Because end users are often targeted, employees should be made aware of the threat of ransomware, how it is delivered, and trained on information security principles and techniques.
  • Regularly back up data and verify the integrity of those backups. Backups are critical in ransomware incidents; if you are infected, backups may be the best way to recover your critical data.
  • Secure your backups. Ensure backups are not connected to the computers and networks they are backing up. Examples might include securing backups in the cloud or physically storing them offline. It should be noted, some instances of ransomware have the capability to lock cloud-based backups when systems continuously back up in real-time, also known as persistent synchronisation.”

Azure Backup now provides security capabilities to protect cloud backups built on three principles – Prevention, Alerting and Recovery.Azure Backup Security Principles

  1. Prevention: New authentication layer added for critical operations like Delete Backup Data, Change Passphrase. These operations now require Security PIN available only to users with valid Azure credentials.
  2. Alerting: Email notifications are sent for any critical operations that impact availability of backup data. These notifications enable users to detect attacks as soon as they occur.
  3. Recovery: Azure backup retains deleted backup data for 14 days ensuring recovery using any old or recent recovery points. Also, minimum number of recovery points are always maintained such that there are always sufficient number of points to recover from.

More info.

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