Monday, 22 November 2010
Also applies to Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Microsoft Office Outlook, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Data Migration Manager, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Language Packs, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 E-mail Router.
Podcast and Overview:
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Following the announcement of its platform-as-a-service offering Windows Azure at PDC10, Microsoft showed further detail of its cloud strategy, which stretches across public and private cloud, with solutions to meet the needs of various businesses.
The announcement of Hyper-V Cloud uses the Windows Server platform to build out private cloud infrastructures. Hyper-V Cloud includes a set of programs and initiatives designed to accelerate the deployment and success of these clouds.
There are multiple elements to Hyper-V Cloud, including:
- Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track: Microsoft is collaborating with Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM and NEC to deliver a broad choice of pre-defined, validated configurations for private cloud deployments.
- Hyper-V Cloud Service Provider Program: A group of more than 70 service providers around the world offering infrastructure as a finished, fully-hosted service built on Microsoft’s technology that customers can use to implement a private cloud.
- Hyper-V Cloud Deployment Guides: Allows customers to build their own private clouds on top of existing infrastructure investments through new tools and guidance.
- Hyper-V Cloud Accelerate: To tie it all together, Microsoft is making significant investments to help customers and partners fund assessments, proofs-of-concept, and production deployments.
Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal 2.0
VMMSSP (also referred to as the self-service portal) is a fully supported, partner-extensible solution built on top of Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V, and System Center VMM.
You can use it to pool, allocate, and manage resources to offer infrastructure as a service and to deliver the foundation for a private cloud platform inside your datacenter.
VMMSSP includes a pre-built web-based user interface that has sections for both the datacenter managers and the business unit IT consumers, with role-based access control. VMMSSP also includes a dynamic provisioning engine.
VMMSSP reduces the time needed to provision infrastructures and their components by offering business unit “on-boarding,” infrastructure request and change management.
Now you can download the release of SSP 2.0 on this link
The aim of Lync is to unify the communications experience - single user authentication, a common interface, connected services and information from across information sources - mail, calendaring, SharePoint sites, multiple devices etc.
To make things simpler, Microsoft have renamed the family to Lync. A common name for the server product (which was Office Communications Server 2007 R2) and the clients (Office Communicator client)
If you're familiar with the old Office Communicator client then you'll notice a number of key difference. The focus is on people, you see pictures of their faces, people in your organisation and those you connect with externally. It's showing people not devices, phones or addresses.
Lync uses a single entity for each user, straight from Active Directory. BTW, those pictures in AD are used by default by Lync for each person, but you can replace that by specifying a URL for an external picture if you wanted to use something else - from LinkedIn or Facebook for example.
There's an Activity Feed in the Lync client too, when you update your status/location/OOO etc. it looks like a mini Twitter feed. Useful within a business to see what your colleagues are up to, where they are etc.
Conversation History is managed withing the client now, that's a good addition, it was held as text in Outlook with the previous clients. You now get the full conversation and participants recalled into the client interface. You can restart that conversation/call also.
The video and calling demo worked well, with scale-up to full screen HD, full fidelity sharing of presentations (it's using Silverlight to do this). Interestingly you can use policies to control the number of calls and video calls on specific network links.
(sidenote: It's well worth checking Jamie's Voice Infrastructure session on Wednesday. UNC304: Wed 0900-1030 in Paris-2 - Lync Server 2010 Voice Deployment)
Lync Developer integration
There was a simple Contoso demo using Lync Chat from a sale website into an internal contact centre. It's the same functionality of LiveChat and similar tools available today, but it was interesting to see that the Lync SDK had been used to add some context to the chat session - the Contoso agent could see which item in the sale website shop was being browsed at the time of instantiating the chat session.
The website also showed the status of the contact centre agents and the number of agents available for chat. The Lync client had been extended to show customer information and stock data from other data sources.
The second demo showed the development and integration capabilities for extending and using Lync to automate business process. We saw a workflow which used the presence status of people to determine the best recepient to instantly sign-off a document, i.e. is chose someone that was available, not someone that was busy or away. The link to the document was presented in the Lync client, it was checked out of the SharePoint site, approved etc. When the document status changed to approved, Lync was used to notify the persons involved in this workflow - 3 people in a conversation sharing the Word document. It was a simple example, but showed the powerful possibilities - it would be simple to connect Lync with SharePoint and Dynamics CRM to improve day to day productivity within a business.
Monday, 8 November 2010
The keynote focus was on the "Long-term journey" - the long-term change towards platform as a service, via SAAS (software) and IAAS (infrastructure) and the sweeping change - marrying rich devices and the cloud. Ok, so it's a promo for Windows Phone… available in Europe already, in the US today, through 9 devices and 60 carriers in 30 countries.
Microsoft are clearly pushing the application channel here - there have been 30 million downloads for the SDK to date, 50% of these are from Europe - leading the way in app development.
So, the key announcements - Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 - now with RemoteFX and Dynamic Memory, and news on how these apply to VDI.
RemoteFX virtualises the graphics CPU (server-side GPU) and enables VDI solutions to be presented & displayed in the same way as a local desktop - full fidelity HD, Aero Glass etc. Citrix have integrated these features into ZenDesktop too btw.
Dynamic memory - 40% improvement in density for VDI. Brad made the claim, "we will have the highest density of VDI sessions in the market"
SP1 is due to release in Q1-2011… that's a move on from November as previously thought.
Office 365 demo - a tidy Control Panel demo by Dave Anderson, and it's clean looking Control Panel btw, to create an extranet SharePoint online site. It's nothing that hosting companies haven't been doing for many years and no cool features were shown really, but it may have been the first time that many IT pros in the audience had seen a web-based control panel for managing online services.
#TEE10 announcement: ForeFront Endpoint Protection 2010 - RC available today. Fully integrated into System Center for centralised management - one interface, one toolset, one set of management servers.
Infrastructure as a Service was up next and Brad made perhaps the biggest announcement of the keynote with news of a new solution to enable the rapid deployment of private cloud solutions with Hyper-V Cloud
This is a set of reference architectures and fast-track deployment programmes with 6 key vendors - HP, Dell etc. There were a couple of key vendors missing from the list, but that's no surprise really given another cloud alliance that's going on at the moment!
HP and Microsoft are partnering: Cloud Foundation - HP Blades, System Centre and Hyper-V Cloud.
See www.microsoft.com/privatecloud for lots more on the Hyper-V Cloud solutions
The final announcement really was left for System Center and we saw (VMM) Virtual Machine Manager 2012 CTP. A super-cool demo (described as "insane!" by some) of the Virtual Machine Planner showed a 3-tier production cloud deployment using drag and drop service templates - backend DB, mid-tier, web application layer (load-balanced etc.) capacity and capability profiles were used to show resource sharing and management using System Center. Self-service management was shown to deploy apps into the Hyper-V Cloud that was just created. Very cool and due for release in H1-2011.
All in all there are a number of good solutions and key technology releases being shown at TechEd Europe this week, but private cloud, virtualisation and systems management seem to be the key themes.
Monday, 23 August 2010
I've landed on Nine Lives Media Inc.’s third-annual MSPmentor 250, a global report that identifies the world’s leading managed services executives, entrepreneurs, experts, coaches and community leaders.
The complete report is available now at:
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
After the launch of the Wave 14 products earlier this year, many of the dedicated BPOS deployments are running Exchange & SharePoint 2010; now it's the turn of the shared platforms to benefit. A quick note on timescales - these features will be unveiled in more depth later this year with rollout expected through 2011.
There are some excellent articles covering the roadmap and new features in detail, but here's a summary;
First up is Exchange. From an Enterprise view point, the addition of unified messaging and voicemail, plus integrated archiving and retention policies will be the most welcome features.
New Exchange 2010 features will require Outlook 2010 to gain full benefit - Conversation View, MailTips and multi-mailbox searching
There are also some administration features being exposed, namely Transport rules, Role-based Access Control (RBAC), Remote PowerShell
SharePoint gains a whole host of the SharePoint 2010 features which have been very well received by the SharePoint community, including Portal sites, extranets, support for anonymous access, multi-language support, Excel Services and Sandboxed solutions support for the isolation of in-development/un-trusted custom-code, sites or webparts.
Office Web Apps will feature too which has been available in Windows Live since June in some countries (see the Office Web Apps team blog for more on this).
Office Communications Server (OCS) will be updated to be based on OCS 14, which is due later this year according to reports, and will add those features which currently do not work and are sorely missed in a hosted/multi-tenant environment; AV and file-transfer across the firewall. IM federation with Windows Live will be added too.
Single sign-on will be available across the platform for all applications, with identity federation appearing too. This is perhaps one of the more complex changes to understand and we can expect more details to appear over the coming months regarding these. These are two different technologies which are often confused and mixed up!
Finally, updates to the web-based administration portals are coming, free/busy data will be published between cloud and on-premise solutions which should make hybrid deployments and large enterprise migration scenarios easier to support, and some management tools will work cross-premise too.
Reference: Microsoft Online Services Team Blog
VMware GO was introduced early in 2010 to provide small/medium businesses with an easy way into virtualisation. VMware GO, or to give it it's full name – VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) is a simplified solution for the installation and configuration of the leading ESXi hypervisor.
VMware Go has a simple 3-stage approach to simplifying virtualization–
- Initial ESXi setup through a web-based setup wizard
- VM (virtual machine) creation which guides you through the installation and setup process, including checking hardware compatibility
- Management of ESXi & VMs. VMware Go gives users a simplified management console for the virtual environment including centralised monitoring for performance & resource utilisation, and patch scan for monitoring and updating both ESXi and VMs
Now, VMware have announced new features for VMware Go;
- VMware Go now supports the seamless migration (move) of VMware Server Virtual Machines (VMs) to their flagship ESXi product for improved scalability and high-availability.
- A new Collective Intelligence Guide collects real-world usage data from thousands of VMware Go deployments and makes recommendations for virtualisation best practices and configuration insights.
- Reporting is improved with dashboards. Combined with Collective Intelligence data, these show data from the VMware community such as average number of VMs per ESXi server, common hardware types for running ESXi, commonly deployed virtual appliances etc.
Best of all – it's free!
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
System Integrator MTI Closes First European Deal for the VMware, Cisco & EMC Cloud Coalition (VCE), the sale of Vblock 1 with European Hosting Company Cobweb
MTI (www.mti.com) a leading international provider of consulting services and comprehensive information infrastructure solutions for mid- to large-size organisations, has sold the first Vblock 1 solution in Europe.
The customer, Cobweb (www.cobweb.com), is a leading managed services provider in the UK and Europe. Vblock infrastructure packages are integrated and tested IT solutions stemming from the Virtual Computing Environment coalition, that combine virtualisation, networking, storage, security, and management technologies by Cisco, EMC and VMware.
Monday, 7 June 2010
- Win7 SP1 beta and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 beta coming in July
- Including two new key features in Server R2; A new graphics acceleration platform, known as RemoteFX for desktop-remoting; and a new addition to Hyper-V that will dynamically adjust memory of a guest virtual machine on demand (aka Hot Add)
- Today – Microsoft launches a public beta of Exchange Server 2010 SP1. The SP1 beta is available to the public and can be downloaded here.
Monday, 24 May 2010
Here's a VMware blog, one of a series, which provides a reference if you're looking to run Exchange 2010 Server on VMware http://blogs.vmware.com/performance/2010/05/exchange-2010-disk-io-on-vsphere.html
While the article make a valid point about increased RAM and improved response times (Exchange 2010 can use RAM as a cache for disk I/O), which seems to be the point of the article, I struggle to see how this is valid from a Disk I/O viewpoint. Testing has not been completed to validate this using a typical storage design for an Enterprise. A heavily revised storage architecture in Exchange 2010 gives a huge reduction in IOPS http://blogs.technet.com/ucedsg/archive/2009/05/11/what-is-new-with-exchange-2010-storage.aspx
To genuinely validate running Exchange 2010 on vSphere for an Enterprise, further testing would be required. Here's why;
a) FC disk is very expensive compared to DAS/JBOD/SATA which is supported by Exchange 2010 now. Unless you have a large fibre-channel storage available, with lots of disk available, then there are arguably more appropriate storage solutions available for Exchange 2010 now.
b) Repeat the testing using 2GB and 5GB mailboxes profile on SATA/SAS storage. (To be honest, 5GB isn't that capacious these days, 25GB isn't unusual now).
Why a user profile of just 100MB mailboxes in this test scenario? Exchange supports mailboxes of many GB now, mostly due to Enterprise data/retention demands.
I agree with the conclusion stated in the article
Assigning more RAM to an Exchange 2010 Mailbox Server VM can result in decreased IOPS and faster response time. This makes disk requirements for Exchange something that can be changed based on each environment. The strategy could be to support more users with the same number of disks or use fewer disks to support the same number of users.
I'm just not sure it helps you with disk I/O.
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
Awesome news! Cobweb have met the revenue, competency and certification requirements to be promoted to the Enterprise level of the VMware Service Provider Program.
I'm pretty happy about that, bodes well for Cobweb Enterprise Services. Well done to all the VCPs at Cobweb!
Thursday, 13 May 2010
- Join Microsoft's BizSpark programme http://www.microsoftstartupzone.com/
I looked at this when it launched in Nov 2008 and it didn't fit with Cobweb at the time. I hadn't realised the programme was still open to new hosting partners… for some reason I thought it was closed. I heard some good success stories with BizSpark at the Hosting Summit from real-world people on the ground, as opposed to the case study/keynote success stories.
- Join the Microsoft WebsiteSpark programme. http://www.microsoft.com/uk/websitespark/ Ditto, as above, but to attract ISV and webdev partners
- Run Wordpress on Windows Server. I think there's a need for this in our customer/partner space.
- Partner with a traditional IT support provider to move them from on-premise IT desktop support and into the cloud… Windows InTune: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsintune/windowsintune-overview.aspx for Cloud-based PC management
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Cobweb Solutions is pleased to announce the launch of a new division of the business; Cobweb Enterprise Services. Building upon over 10 years of application hosting experience, Cobweb Enterprise Services will leverage the considerable technical expertise held within Cobweb, coupled with cloud computing platforms from the world's leading technology vendors, to address the needs of Enterprise customers.
Paul Hannam, Cobweb CEO, has led this transformation of the business in direct response to market demand. During the last 6 months the hosting market has seen a tremendous amount of change. There has been a convergence of a number of disparate factors contributing to a "tipping point" in the decision making process affecting whether Enterprises stay with On-Premise solutions or whether they embrace the Cloud. These factors include technology advances, economic shifts and also market awareness led by the major players such as Microsoft and Google. Paul stated "My vision for Cobweb is to build upon our leading position in the hosting space and to do this we need to adapt and respond to the opportunities that are now being presented".
Interestingly, Cobweb is seeing early signs of the market broadly changing in line with Gartner predictions. Gartner predicted that Enterprise businesses would want to use a mixture of architectural solutions that included cloud-enabled services and virtualisation. Whilst Cobweb believe Gartner's prediction, that by 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets is a little ambitious, they acknowledge that the market is moving rapidly in this direction.
Cobweb Enterprise Services has been created to meet this demand and bring the flexibility of Cloud computing to the real-world with a combination of shared and dedicated Cloud Services. A series of "Enterprise Ready" services have been developed based on Cobweb's long-standing partnerships with Microsoft, EMC & VMware.
Dan Germain, Cobweb CTO, who is heading up Cobweb Enterprise Services, explains the background; "Cloud Computing claims to offer access to quick, easy, flexible computing power. Through one-to-one research with our enterprise customers we found the reality to be very different however. The reality is that complex requirements and data-security needs turn cloud-computing endeavours into long, drawn out projects with unwelcome cost and barriers along the way. The majority of Enterprise organisations want to adopt Cloud Computing solutions but do not know the best way to start." He continues, "We found a need to build solutions that delivered real-world benefits to help Enterprise CIOs achieve their IT strategies. We call these Cloud-based services 'Enterprise Ready'."
Paul Hannam, Cobweb CEO, commented "We wanted to simplify the challenges of applying the latest technology and software advances to an Enterprise IT environment. By developing our Enterprise Ready services, we've done this and have made it easier for organisations to benefit from Cloud Computing." He continues "The technology market is an exciting place to be at the moment and I am pleased that Cobweb is able to support the new demand in this area for both new and existing customers."
The range of services available from Cobweb Enterprise Services, on a subscription basis, includes;
- Resource Cloud - Dedicated VPS servers, VM Resource Pools, Storage as a Service
- Application Cloud – SharePoint 2010, Hosted Dynamics CRM, Email Encryption solutions
- Connected Cloud – with Active Directory integration to on-premise systems, including Dedicated solutions for Microsoft Exchange 2010, Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Dynamics
- Native Cloud – Critical Application and Web Hosting, ISV platform hosting
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
The were 330 attendees at the summit, the largest so far, and it was said that the summit room contained the "World think-tank for hosting and cloud services." Maybe, let's remember there's life outside of the Microsoft world too. There was a very strong representation from the UK as ever - did you know that the UK is the #2 hosting market for Microsoft? It's second only to the US.
There were two things of interest in relation to Virtualisation;
In the Austen Mulinder & Bob Muglia opening keynotes, a picture of the future was painted;
- There are approximately 30 million servers running in the world today
- In 10 years time this is estimated to be 50 million servers
- Potentially 50% of these servers will run in the cloud in 10 years time
- That's 25 million servers in the cloud - that's changing the world of IT
Following on from this, in John Zanni's keynote - The State of the Hosting Industry, he talked about the need for hosting companies to leverage existing investments, scale up AND down as a business changes, and be agile to survive. Agile platforms? - flexible, modular, repeatable process, quick time to market etc.
John conducted a quick straw-poll of the audience (most of the 300 hosting attendees were there)
- The majority of the room have less than 25% of their server estate virtualised
- A tiny handful (John counted no more than 6) had more than 50% of their estate running as virtual servers
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
London, 30th April 2010
MTI, a leading international provider of consulting services and comprehensive information infrastructure solutions for mid- to large-size organisations, has become one of the first integrator to install and sell Vblock Infrastructure Packages in Europe.
Vblocks are integrated and tested IT solutions stemming from the Virtual Computing Environment coalition, that combine virtualisation, networking, storage, security, and management technologies by Cisco, EMC and VMware. Vblock 1, the package MTI installed in its UK Solution Centre is based on Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), EMC's CLARiiON storage system and VMware's vSphere 4 platform and it helps organisations accelerate their adoption of private cloud environments while eliminating the risks traditionally associated with the deployment of this IT model.
MTI's first client is currently performing a live trial of the Vblock 1 at its award-winning solution centre in Surrey UK.
Monday, 12 April 2010
If you want to know the difference between Hybrid clouds and Private clouds, or tell PAAS from IaaS then there's a great reference post on CloudTweeks.com here: http://www.cloudtweaks.com/2010/03/mini-glossary-cloud-computing-terms-you-should-know/
…although it's missing a definition for Vblock and VCE
(thanks to Brian Gracely for the link. )
Thursday, 1 April 2010
If you're licensed for Microsoft Office 2010 through a Volume License, you can install and run Office Web Apps yourself on an on-premise server running SharePoint 2010.
Office Web Apps are a browser-based set of common Office 2010 tools for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, enabling people to access/edit/share Office document from anywhere.
Available for download here: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=27d81b1c-18ae-4983-8e1c-224bb747eb99&displaylang=en
While this is only available for VLK on-premise deployments at the moment, I expect we'll see consumer and business oriented versions of this which enable Microsoft Live and Microsoft Online to compete with Google Apps.
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
I'll keep adding to this as I find more that's public;
Vblock Reference Architecture:
from Cisco Expo 2010 - UCS and Nexus in some more detail
Thursday, 25 March 2010
Having just read this post by EMC's Chuck Hollis about Private Clouds, where he says "I'm sort of describing the "golden age of mainframes" -- roughly the 1970s and 1980s. I was there" I'm wondering which world I'm from?
I'm from the "Windows world of New Technology" – that being Window NT and Active Directory. A world of blue screens of death, GUIs and Windows 95, COM, WINS, MSMQ and plenty of Service Packs.
For sure, there's a "We're all Online" we're there now – Web 2.0 and always online, mobile, Facebook and social media. What's the new world that's forming now for the next generation of IT Pros? What's next as virtualisation comes to the fore, centralisation of services come of age and applications become less dependent on physical infrastructure?
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
A Service Provider must;
- Have credibility as a technology partner
- Directly satisfy information security concerns and provide evidence through accreditations
- Clearly demonstrate a lower total cost of ownership than traditional IT models
- Take ownership and accountability for delivery and risk through irrefutable SLAs and contracts
- Develop customer relationships, seek to understand their needs and never forget that
the solution must fit the customer requirement no matter how it is delivered!
I believe this gives organisations a reason to change.
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
We're deploying a Vblock, that's exciting but the real challenge is - what are we going to do with it? As a service provider, how will we turn this into services and revenue?
I have a view that we need to develop and provide services that are easy to deploy and easy to consume. I'm calling these Enterprise Ready services for the moment. These are applications and services which organisations can use to improve business efficiency, create collaboration between teams and improve access to information. Our background and skills lie in Microsoft technologies - Exchange, SharePoint, Windows Server, Active Directory, SQL Server and the like. So it makes sense to start there.
I also believe that there's a need to provide a level of services that sit below the application at the server/resource layer - servers/VMs on demand for projects, development needs, testing environments etc. but something more than utility services, i.e. the provision of raw CPU & storage on an hour basis.
At the moment, v1 of the services stack looks like this:
Application Cloud (Shared)
Optimised Applications - Shared & Automated
Managed Applications – vApp
e.g. Hosted Communications/Collaboration, Database services, Dynamics CRM, WSS3.0 etc.
Connected Cloud (Private, not shared)
Dedicated Services, (Partner Hosted)
Integration to on-Premise systems
Active Directory trust/replication
e.g. Dedicated Exchange, SharePoint Server, OCS/UM
Critical Application Hosting - Web & Media services
Stand-alone platforms – ISV hosting
Cloud (Resource) Platform
Resource-pool VMs, Infrastructure as a Service
Managed Windows servers
Storage as a Service
*These are just my names for these services, they will change and evolve for sure… and I know there are many different views and definitions for cloud.
Over the next few weeks we'll complete the build, testing and a real-world proof of concept deployment on the Vblock. While we're doing this I'll go into more detail around these services and explain exactly why they are going to be "Enterprise Ready" and how their deployment will differ from raw cloud services such as Azure and AWS
Monday, 22 March 2010
Sunday, 21 March 2010
A Vblock is a whopping lump of computing power from EMC, Cisco and Vmware. These guys have created the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Coalition. The Vblock is a pre-engineered, integrated stack of storage, servers and switches with a virtualisation layer and a complete set of management tools. There are a few Vblock models available based on different EMC storage platforms that support thousands of VMs.
The idea is that service providers and systems integrators will be able to create on-demand private and public clouds using Vblock solutions - it's cloud computing in a box. Resources from a server up to a full virtual data-centre can be provisioned, operated, managed and torn-down inside the Vblock environment. Sounds easy. BTW, it's understood that Vblocks will be able to connect and interoperate with each other, sharing computing capacity and resources across data centre environments. That sounds pretty exciting, if a little challenging in practice.
If the analyst predictions come true, then enterprises will buy less hardware in the next few years and move computing to providers of cloud-based services. That's got the big vendors a bit worried - CIO's, and CFO's especially, are looking to buy services on-demand, pay for what they use and move to a consumption-based model that shifts from a capital purchasing model to an operational cost. I bet the EMC sales guys are a bit worried too!
My team are just starting a proof of concept deployment on a Vblock-1. I'll let you know how we get on.