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 http://www.keithbucknall.co.uk/realising-digital-transformation-microsoft-technology-event/ 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.

Acknowledgement

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…

Interest

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.

Realising Digital Transformation with Microsoft Technology Event

So it has been a while since I have presented at an event but next Tuesday (13th), I have the pleasure to be be attending an event arranged by a group of companies called the Cloud Consortium entitled Realising Digital Transformation with Microsoft Technology which focuses around a number of different tracks during the day.

These tracks are themed around the Microsoft cloud stack focusing on Skype for Business, SharePoint Online, Project Online and Azure.  My slot is part of the Azure track and embedded in a session where we will discuss the real world challenges and thoughts on a cloud strategy and moving from the high level vision to a low level technical reality.

Having had experience in two use cases for the cloud I will be discussing moving a 1,000 user company from pilot to production in Office 365, some test and development workloads in Azure with the vision of moving DR and the second use case which is what I am currently working on the cross roads of a cloud strategy and which Infrastructure-As-A-Service Provider should we go with.

It has been a pleasure to be asked and as you all know presenting is something I am trying to improve on session by session, I will follow this up with a post review and any slides that come out of this.

The Cloud Consortium is made up of these superb Microsoft Partners:

To register for the event please following this link – https://consortium.cloud/consortium-event/realising-digital-transformation-with-microsoft-technology/

New Microsoft Cloud Trust Center for Office 365

Microsoft’s TecEd conference in North America today released a number of new features for the Office 365 platform including a revamp of their Trust Center site.  For those who do not know about the Trust Center this is a complete site that details the security, efforts and certifications Microsoft have achieved in order to make Office 365 secure and compliant.

The new Office 365 Trust Center – http://trust.office365.com/

 Details of their blog post can be found here but below is a small summary of the key points:

  1. Encrypted Storage – Starting from July an upgrade from single encryption keys per disk to a unique encryption key per file.  This means for SharePoint online or OneDrive for business users each file has a separate encryption key, increasing the encryption.
  2. MDM for Office Apps on mobiles – this would appear to allow IT departments to give the ability of creating, viewing and sharing policies between managed applications.  I think this is in conjunction with Windows Intune and the Enterprise Mobility suite – further details can be found here.
  3. Extending DLP – bringing similar technology from the DLP (Data Loss / Leak Prevention) in email scanning into SharePoint and OneDrive for business documentation.  This will be rolled out in June to Office 365 E3 customers allowing them to prevent sharing based on document classifications and queried through the E-Discovery Suite.

 

Highlights of the Office365 Trust Center:

An interesting stat I have found which shows the current global uptime of Office365 is Quarterly worldwide uptime: 99.96%  and the last 4 quarters have been 99.98%, 99.97%, 99.94% and 99.97% – can you as an IT function offer this?? Check the availability here.

  • Privacy – Consumer and Business infrastructure is separate, it is your data,
  • Encryption – Data is encrypted at rest and in transit over the network.
  • Microsoft is a data process of your data.
  • Who in Microsoft has access to your data see here.
  • Regionalised data centres keeps data with the region but they can move this to a different region so beware.
  • Law enforcement requests – see here for details.  See below for the UK:

ukrequests

Additional resources:

 

From cloud to consumer – Office 365 home premium

Image from http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/buy/

Image from http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/buy/

 

And so Microsoft has done it, not only updating its Office 365 platform to the latest backend (Exchange 2012,  Office 2013 etc..) and have now released a home premium .  A subscription based service, monthly or yearly and includes a whopping great deal (below) and licensed up to 5 devices:

  • A subscription based service for up to 5 devices to use Office 2013 (PC or Mac).
  • The suite includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access – to me that is the same as Office 2013 Professional – yes I said professional.
  • 20GB of SkyDrive storage which as you know is fully integrated with the Office 2013 suites.
  • Office On-demand – lets see this as Office Web Apps rebadged.
  • Now get this – 60mins of Skype talk each month to 40+ countries – so no more Lync as we can see where Microsoft is going with this merging the 2 products or either focusing Lync for the Enterprises and Skype for the home / SMB.

To give you an idea of the pricing and compare to the other versions of Office 2013, although home premium is a yearly cost I would asume the benefits of this would be free upgrades when Office 2015 / 2016 comes out.  To be this makes are great proposition and gives you an idea of where Microsoft is going.  All I would say is be careful you know where your Skydrive data, but check this:

Office 2013 Comparison Pricing

Office 2013 Comparison Pricing

To get a comparison of the full feature set then please see the new Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium here.

Office 365 Home Premium

CloudShare who? Blog Series Part 2 – Configure your environments

I have had this post in my drafts for some time and I have been trying to get round publishing this for some time.  I cannot go on about how good Cloudshare is and what a fantastic service and model they offer.  In a nutshell they provide a cloud based service that individuals (Pro plus account) or enterprises can subscribe to provide a pooled hardware resource count, from here you can then add prebuilt and configured services or environments ranging from Linux, to Windows, to SharePoint 2010 and Exchange 2010 – this includes full licenses.

For a complete listing of all the machines they offer see here – http://www.cloudshare.com/products/proplus/availablemachines All these machines can be intergrated into your own network through the use of VPN’s etc and are spun up within a matter of minutes (sometimes sec’s).

Once you have signed up for a 14 day trial account then create an environment, edit that environment and select the machines that you want to be provisioned within that environment:

This will take some time for the machines to be built, from here you will be able to view the username and passwords for the machines within that domain, connect through an RDP client to the “public address” – BTW this will change every time you suspend and spin up your environment.  Also note to get these details you need to view your environment and then select more details on the server / machine in question for example please look at the below screenshot:

Cloudshare external address

Now to be frank that is it, hence the beauty of this service, my only concern for me (being a hardware monkey) is the RAM, CPU and Storage I require.

 

Thanks and go ans sign up for 14 days – what do you have to loose…!

 

Cloudshare – Showcase Environments – Did you know?

So after a few weeks away from my Cloudshare I decided to clean up my environment and look at building the whole environment into a single domain.  Going through the lovely simple and slick interface I notice this:

More cloudshare servers

Check this - was I going blind

So having a quick browse through this I noticed this fantastic environment that I needed to share with you.  Now remember in Cloudshares terminology an environment is a segregated set of virtual machines.  If like me you are on a single Pro account then you would need to purchase additional environments but it would appear that Cloudshare built this environment for you to test – it expires after 1 day so I assume this is more of demo lab.  But considering we are keen to start looking at CRM I thought I would take a look:

So if you don’t have a Cloudshare account – then why not?  Instant development environment for a small yearly subscription.  If you have an account then get over and check out the Showcase environments.

CloudShare who? Blog Series Part 1

Welcome back everyone, as promised I am starting to populate this blog more and more and therefore onto the next installments.  CloudShare is one of those fantastic companies that comes along every once in a while, you take a look sign up for a trial and then cannot put it down.

If you are looking for a virtual environment that is cloud based and do not want the hassle of building virtual machines, mounting software etc then these guys are perfect for you.  Hopefully when I get their permission I will blog on how to setup your environments, give access to additional team members of guests and so the easy of the interface – even working on the iPad..!

The purpose of us using these environments are two fold; first to start building our SharePoint Development platform instead of using Office365 then next to build an Exchange 2010, Lync, Win 7, Linux and AD environment – this way we can remove the hardware in our lab and consolidate onto using the CloudShare.

Now you may think there is a catch for such a great product – there is but only small, your servers are not powered on all the time (there is an upgrade option for this), after so many mins / hours (I can not remember off the top of my head)  your VM’s will spin down, but is this such a problem – no way just look at the benefits:-

  • Pre-built servers, built and powered on within minutes.
  • Share environments with team members, clients and demo’s.
  • Web based and RDP based access.
  • Integration with your internal platform.
  • Ability to create snap shots.

No here is the perfect offer – all this for only $499 a year for 24GB RAM allocation (at present), see the below for details:

CloudShare ProPlus is now available with up to 24 GB of RAM.  And You Can Save $390!

Click here for details

Blog Series – My experience with the first Mimecast implementation part 1

I wanted to build up a series of blog posts around my first experience with implementing the Mimecast solution.  These posts will be part of an on-going series, as we progress throughout the project so please check back our look at our twitter feed for more details.  Before diving into the detail I want to give an overview (in my opinion) of what the Mimecast Solution has to offer and then the reason(s) for selecting this product for the company I am working for at present.

Mimecast offer a complete cloud based unified messaging platform that offers the following services.  It is worth noting that Mimecast are currently the best of breed within the industry and look at the Bloor report for Best Practice Email Archiving comes top:-

1. Email Security, Anti Virus and Anti Spam filtering.

2. Email continuity – if you Exchange (internal or cloud hosted, such as Office 365 / BPOS) server goes offline then the Mimecast client (additional module) will redirect the traffic to the Mimecast cloud.

3. Email archiving – the default is 10 years but you have the option of unlimited storage, yes that’s right UNLIMITED..!  Microsoft Office plug-in to search the archive – just like a PST file.

4. eDiscovery and Litigation – the ability to securely search for mails or mailboxes under investigation.  You can define a very tight sign off and auditing procedure for this.

5. Email Migration – One of the biggest selling points of the continuity elements are the benefits to aiding Exchange migration to 2007 / 2010 or even off premise.

6. Blackberry continuity – those Blackberry outages last year are a thing of the past with Mimecast’s solution.  The ability to invoke Blackberry DR and route all your RIM email traffic through the Mimecast cloud.

7. Email Branding – the ability to multi-brand emails based on users, Active Directory groups, email addresses etc and have some limited reporting on how many recipients click back.

8. Secure attachment portal – remove the attachment and email the recipient a link to retrieve the document from a secure portal.

9. Convert attachments – convert attachments based on a rule-set to PDF.

10. Online based portal – Web based admin portal and Blackberry / iPhone based application to search the archive.

11.  100% Uptime and SLA – yes I said it Mimecast claim to offer 100% – I will report back on this.

12.  Data Sovereignty – yes, this is a massive benefit for me and one that I think will make cloud providers stand out – UK based data, securely encrypted within the UK (the data is written to a number of data centres at once).

 

As you can see with all the above features there is no wonder why this has become a truly “best of breed” technology.  Now the reasons for purchasing in this example is to replace an on-site email archiving, consolidate the current email security devices, dramatically reduce the onsite email storage, improve email continuity and provide a lower TCO.

So where am I now?

The process of implementing and on-boarding the Mimecast service is one of the best I have ever seen so far.  Very positive, organised and informational at each of the 3 phases:

1. Configure Outbound Routing.

2. Configure Inbound Routing.

3. Data Ingestion – Configure Exchange servers, export the data and roll out the Outlook client / plug-in.

Mimecast have a very good knowledge base system and provide free online training.  You get assigned dedicated engineers to assist at each phase with information provided via email, PDF and direct contact with the engineer.

The next post will going into the phase 1 Outbound configuration testing.