Technology, Infrastructure and Cloud Focused.

Father of 3 lovely children, geek, infrastructure expert, technical architect and all round technologist.

Microsoft cloud Consortium – Digital Transformation Wrap Up

As some of you remember I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at a recent Microsoft event around their cloud stack, you can view the post here I wanted to share with you some key points I took away from the delegates and the Cloud Consortium companies that were present:

Cloud Adoption

My slot was the down to earth realisation of moving work loads to the cloud, the pitfalls and challenges compared to the marketing view point of just right click and move.  I have always had a preconceived view that topics such as governance, application architecture and analysis and cost control is common sense when thinking of cloud migrations, however this was not the case and was surprised to get a warm reception that the slot was very interesting.  In summary the audience were split into the people that had some work loads in the cloud (test/dev or proof of concept) but only for the want of understanding, seeing how the IT governance or architecture would look, network security and then see how they need to adapt their IT organisation and culture to the cloud mindset.

The other side of the audience wanted to look into cloud transformation but either didn’t know were to start, what type of workloads to put in a cloud and then how the operational, cost and security model would look.

Another question I always ask is that the cloud is not the answer to everyone, it is not the silver bullet people think about, in fact most people just focus on that “lift and shift” of IaaS models rather than the true power and scale of PaaS.


When speaking with people on their cloud views the general consensus is trending towards my thoughts on Infrastructure that Infrastructure Ops is a thing of the past having big Infrastructure teams to manage the hardware, updates etc…


So many people appear to be interested in different cloud models, the issue for them is trying to work out a strategy and identifying the quick wins or the non-cloud ready applications (generally legacy applications).

Will it last

Of course the issue with a number of clouds is the perception that the SLA’s will be 100% and never have any outage, I guess my concern here is no one can really provide that SLA and outages will always occur it boils down to your HA design and continuity plans.

The presentations can be downloaded from clicking on this link with a summary of the different tracks and topics covered in the picture below.  I urge you to take advantage of these excellent set of companies all ranked very high and very competent within their own areas:

Cloud Consortium presentation tracks

What is the Cloud Consortium?

Microsoft decided to form a group of top ranked Microsoft partners that specialise in Office 365, SharePoint, Azure, Skype for Business, M/S Project, BI and Unified Communications to enable its customers to seamlessly migrate to the cloud.  This gives customers the benefit of managing a single point of contact and single supply chain.

Let me know your thoughts, experiences and views on the different types of cloud.

Why you cannot backup Azure VMs created in the V2 Portal with Azure backup

Microsoft Azure

Hi, just a brief post for those of you that are wondering why Azure backup (at time of publishing this post, Feb 2016!) cannot discovery your IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) virtual machines you may have created within the same region but on the V2 portal –

Over the last few months I have been spending a bit of time setting up some labs in Azure both in the “classic” portal and the “v2” portal as Microsoft calls it.  The difference being the classic portal is the old fashion (and in my opinion easy to use) portal, while the v2 portal is where all the new development and features are.  Microsoft’s best practise is to try and ensure you are using the new v2 portal for all you IaaS build outs but the issue here is backwards compatibility.

So the use case – I have created a new IaaS environment within the v2 portal using Resource Manager and would like to use Azure’s VM Backup service, i.e. adding a new Recovery service and backup fault (which of course has to be in the same region) and discovery the virtual machines to carry out the backup – NOTE: this is different to the file level backup where you download the Azure Backup agent and carry our file level backups and restores.


It turns out that you will be presented with the below error, the reason for this (and confirmed with Microsoft support) is this functionality is not currently supported!!!

Azure Backup Service Error

Yes I know, no notifications or advisory notes when you create these virtual machines nothing it simply does not work.  THE ONLY way to backup virtual machines in Azure with the Azure backup / recovery services is to carry on building your IaaS environment in the classic portal, end of – check this for more details – 

Limitations of Synology DSM 5.2 Backups to Microsoft Azure

Now I am a big fan of both Qnap and Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, but recently I have moved a number of people over that own Synology devices from a local USB disk backup to a cloud backup, be it OneDrive or Azure.  For the small businesses these devices make a great all in one device but the Azure cloud backup has a number of limitations that Synology should address.

I am not going to cover off how to configure the backups as one of the excellent selling points of these NAS devices is the beautiful intuitive GUI, but Baris Eris has a great blog post on how to configure a backup job to an Azure storage account here – 

If you own any of these devices you will understand the concept of “Shared Folders” which are top level folders that can be shared over the network for people or companies to consume over their local (or cloud / internet with the cloud station apps) network.  Generally speaking people would use create sub-folders and files under the shared folder and this is where Synology need to change the functionality, you can backup all the files and folders under a shared folder (including multiple shared folders) but you cannot restore files or sub-folders if you have backed up your data to your Azure Storage Account.

When you go into the restore section it does not give you the option to browse any further down to select individual files or folders and on another point does not allow you to restore to an alternative location – I find this very frustrating for such a good piece of hardware – come on Synology.




Having received confirmation from Synology support this is by design (ummm!) I am now left to revert back to the USB method.  Synology please provide granular restore options for this service it would seem that your restore functions are lacking compared to Qnap.

If you or anyone need assistance then please leave a comment and I will come back to you.

Webcast: Enterprise storage in flash – all flash array

Join myself, HP (well HPE), Freeform Dynamics and The Register for a live webcast (yes internationally and live!!) to discuss the real world benefits of moving to all flash storage array’s in the Enterprise.

At first people look at the financial impact of flash based arrays without analyising the benefits, saving on spinning disk or event the CAPEX VS the OPEX financial models.  This webcast will take you on a journey of a real implementation, the up front business case produced and then the realisation of additional benefits that could not have been foreseen.

We detail not only HPE’s storage on-demand cost optimisation but also the intangible business benefits we saw post the implementation.

You can register for the webcast here –

2016 Update:

Please find a recorded version of this webcast on Youtube –

The future of Insurance, Technology and the Workplace in 2020


Thanks to

Thanks to

A few weeks I have had the pleasure of not only meeting some fellow industry (Insurance and Financial Services) colleagues but attended two round table discussions on “Future proofing: Building a 21st Century Insurer” and “Workplace 2020: What Colleagues Need“.  The formal was conducted by The Post Magazine with the latter conducted by The Financial Services Technology Magazine – FSTech.

I found both discussions very interesting and thought provoking with the stark reality that 2020 is only 5, yes FIVE years away (in fact four and half years away!!).  When C-Levels plan business strategy, this is generally over a 3 or 5 year period, which means forward thinking and innovative organisations need to start planning now!  WOW…..  So I thought I would share a summary of these events and key points to start you all thinking about this, please feel free to leave any comments below.

Future Proofing: Building a 21st Century Insurer:

Before we get into the detail I have spent this year thinking and conceptualising that in the era of the cloud (I am not going to debate what this means to you, businesses or the differences in cloud services) if a financial services start up was formed (in this context an Insurer) how would it be architected?  What technology would be used?  What would the business processes and automation look like?  If you are a solution provider or in the insurance space then get in touch as I believe this has some real benefits.

This round table was hosted by Post and had a number of insurers from ERS, Aviva, LV= and Insure The Box, the main themes that resinated from this discussion are summarised below.  What surprised me the most was all the insurers agreed that the industry is heading down these themes but none of them had looked at strategies, implementations, data processing and more importantly go to market products.

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) – A number of years ago the global insurance market thought Telematics would not take off and some could not see a revenue stream from this.  Looking at the US, UK or Asia with millions of cars, if insurers offered these devices for £5 a month (and a reduced premium), well you can do the maths and here is the market.  Next we know these devices are evolving into embedded devices just look at the Ford Sync or the BMW i800.  With the evolution of the connected XXXX (be it connected car, home, appliances etc) just think of the possibilities – your alarm system could monitor your house, your habits, your windows / entry points and provide lower costs house and contents insurance; maybe your TV could be connected to the insurers call centre or you could pay for insurance on a pay as you drive model.
  • Data – How can insurers analyse all this data in real time to provide insights into claims, fraud, driving habits, hire car and tracking.  With more devices being connected from apps, telematics and devices this data needs to be transmitted, stored, analysed in a secure and encrypted format – maybe cloud based services will help!
  • Security – Of course if insurers are holding more and more personal information do you think they will be targeted from a Cyber / Data Security threats?
  • Customer Interaction – Will voice be the main channel for customer services, will the use of video (or even wearable tech!) be more main stream.  For example with your touch screen TV just swipe and perform a video conference.  Will it be more avatar based like the Playstation network or just touch a button on your car dashboard for a pop video chat!

Whatever 2020 will hold it will be interesting to see the visionary players, how they will use technology to deliver and meet the next generation of insurers products.

Workplace 2020:What Colleagues Need:

This event was sponsored by Fujitsu and hosted by The Financial Services Technology magazine to discuss how the workplace of 2020 will look like, have businesses included these themes within their strategy and if not when.  This article will be published in the June edition of FSTech.

Looking forward to 2016 businesses need to start considering and contemplating how their workplace will look, how they will attract the right calibre of people:

  • Millennials – Most businesses provider succession planning strategies but is this just a paper exercise or are they thinking seriously about attracting the younger generation.  What drives them?  What type of work environment / working pattens are they looking for?  Of course with our tech hat on we can see this as BYOD, flexible working, dress, access to social media, less meeting etc…
  • Applications – In order to be competitive, provide solutions and implement in days or weeks rather than months, businesses need to remove their legacy applications – these stop the businesses from being innovative and flexibility.
  • Workplace – Is the workplace dying?  Does it need to change?  Do virtual offices play a bigger role?  Of course businesses always need a head office, a central location but when you look at start-ups and how they operate is this becoming more of a common theme.  The cost of property is only go one way – up and therefore operational costs are increasing.
  • Technology – Is technology helping or hindering this?  Will technology give a helping hand!

To wrap up 2020 is only 4.5yrs away and being a technologist I am always interested in what is emerging, what trends are coming up and what the future holds…

Of course with a technology perspective….

Microsoft’s top priorities for 2014

Recently I have been researching some of Microsoft’s trends and some of Satya Nadella’s strategy and came over this article a few months old from cnet (for the full article click here) which explains where the company’s focus is and the reason for the great Cloud first, Mobile first vision.  Below is a small graphics that illustrates this – where do you think your strategy and your company’s vision fits into this?  Are you looking at any of this technologies:

Microsoft Trends and Priorities for 2014

Microsoft Trends and Priorities for 2014

For me my interested, skills and focus are around the following:

  • Windows 8 Tablets – for me here the focus is around how the hardware market are going to utilise Windows 8 (bring on 8.2 BTW as a menu is back) to remove the laptop & tablet (or fablet!) 2015 will be the focus on looking at Windows 10 and seeing if the Windows 7 Enterprises will make a 7 – 10 jump or Windows 7 ate (“8) 9 to give 10!!  get it..!!
  • Office 365 – The SaSS offering from Microsoft that originated many years ago it BPOS and now O365.  This is a very strong platform for all businesses, large or small (and individuals) and a platform I have very keen this.  I can see this sitting and running on Microsoft Azure at some point in 2015.
  • Enterprise Social – I am starting to run a small pilot at an enterprise to see how the users will adopt this and what the take would be from senior executive members.  For me this is about SharePoint, Yammer and Lync working in harmony together and using it from team collaboration (both business and social) but also about making static intranets more interactive and dynamic.
  • Consumer IT – Well I see BYOD turning into Desktop-As-A-Service and then really it does not matter what technology end users bring in as you have centrally secured your desktop estate, close to your applications.
  • Hyper-V – Hypver V is catching VMware quickly and when you carry out a cost benefit analysis you may be surprised on the VMware support costs alone, let alone the up front license costs.



Where is storage 3.0 going and some thoughts

I wanted to share a number of thoughts with you all of which came out of an interesting evening session I attended looking at Storage 3.0 and how today’s startups see their technology and infrastructure, which got me thinking….

I have had the please of meeting Ash Ashutosh a number of times now and have to say my hat goes off to him, I would love to spend more time getting some coaching tips.  Ash is the CEO and founder of Actifio (and AppIQ to name a few), a Copy Data Protection company – why is this important you may say?  Really this goes down to his vision many years ago of what would happen to storage = what vmware did to server hardware – aka virtualise it, is where Ash not only saw and predicted Storage 2.0 but also 3.0.

In my opinion (BTW I am not a storage guru so some of this may be factual incorrect!) Storage 2.0 was layering software feature and bolting on modules, even 3rd party hardware that vendors had acquired and integrated.  Where Storage 3.0 is now about virtualising the storage, in some cases on consumer grade disks – wow think of that my £25k additional disk shelf / magazine / stack is now only £3k full of consumer grade (normally high capacity) drives!  Now granted the longevity of these disks is a lot lower but then again weigh that up against the costs, to quote – “cheap and deep storage”.

I have been saying for some time that everything will turn into software at some point, software defined networking, orchestration and now storage.  Can you ever imagine within an IT department where are the costs – Infrastructure, why?  Because it is complex, no one (wants to) understands it!  They think it is easy! For the last 2 years I had thought (and wish I started my own business in it) if companies could make infrastructure simple and I do not mean IaaS or PaaS, provide it in a box pre-packed on a consumed basis – what would this do – firstly you have known reference architecture templates built into the orchestration layer, you deploy the CRM system in 2hrs (rather than 9 months!), ypu have the servers virtualised, you have the instant backup and recovery and then you have (wait for it) any storage you like – be it fast (Flash, FC, in memory), slow (NL-SAS), expensive (no) or cheap.  Then all this is packaged into a OpEx based service – wow.

Chatting to people I was interested in a story from some ex-MIT people that have built start-ups and their views on internal infrastructure and systems  is none (excluding product development etc) because you can just consume cloud based services.  One person commented on all I have is wifi, a firewall and a switch!  Why, to reduce the CapEx – why buy a £5k server and depreciate this over 3-5yrs when you can subscribe to a service.  Just look at how facebook use their own consumer grade servers built on open source and standards – this saved them a staging $1b, Backblaze in the US did the same for their cloud back system.

This is why us as IT departments need to change into the ITaaS model, be a service provider within the company and as I always say the role of IT is changing…


The role of IT

Microsoft Surface Pro VS Microsoft Surface Pro 2

Surface 1 VS 2 ProOk, so over the last 4 months or so I have had the pleasure of comparing my original Microsoft Surface Pro (128GB edition) to the Surface Pro 2 (256GB edition) and wanted to share my thoughts on vision on these hybrids.

Firstly I have always said that the desktop era is going, laptops being replaced with ultrabooks last year and this year their will be replaced with transformers, hybrids and the concept of tablet / laptop combined.  With the release of Windows 8 and now 8.1 (soon 8.2 hopefully with the start menu screen!!!) this is set to turn the true desktop experience into a different level.

docking-station-frontIn my opinion Microsoft missed a trick when they released the Surface 2 in the UK – the lack of the docking station, to truly hit the business and enterprise community they should have geared up to release this at the same time – the main function business laptop users need is connectivity and external monitors.  Of course most people now will look towards the rather sophisticated USB docking stations, similar to these.dockingstation-2

Generally speaking both versions are very good and can be used as a replace for any desktop or laptop, for long periods of time the screens will become a strain so the recommendation of an external monitor is a must.  I prefer the type keyboards on both and have no time for the touch as I feel these are unresponive and being old school prefer keys that you can depress.  However the mouse on the type keyboard for the Surface 1 is a lot more usable than the type keyboard for the Surface 2 – so a word to Microsoft keyboard on type 2 with the mouse on the type 1 please (although both are compatible with each other).

I have had a few issues where I have to undock and dock the keyboard a couple of times but generally very good, battery life is good although the option for an extended battery would be good.  The Wacom pen is good and responsive in both versions and is a lot better than using an iPad and pen due to the fact you can rest your hand on the screen without causing any issues – my only concern is waiting for Evernote to bring out a direct hand written app.

From a storage point of view this will depend on the amount of free capacity Windows takes up about 50GB and with the Pro version you get 200GB of OneDrive (formally SkyDrive) to give additional capacity – just bear in mind that this does impact on the local storage as a copy of the data is saved (or cached) locally.surface_2

In summary if you are looking for a highly portable solution, feed up of carrying a laptop and tablet around then these devices are very good, the specification I would go for is detailed below my only negative point is the lack of the official docking station (but use a USB model) and the cost as these are slightly over priced in my opinion.  If you are worried about the lack off application support within the Microsoft Store then I would not worry at a conference some time ago Microsoft mentioned thousands of applications being submitted and approved monthly so I expect this space to grow and may even look at a recommended list of apps soon.

Recommendation list: