Eastern Cloud Blog

This blog is aimed at our East Region State & Local Government customers. Opinions are our own - be gentle with us.

Azure Updates

There have been a ton of Azure updates in the last week or so.  I thought it would be better to group them all together for you.  There’s something in here for everyone.

Azure Active Directory Connect generally available
Azure Active Directory Connect is a simple, fast, and lightweight tool for connecting Active Directory and Azure Active Directory in a few clicks. It helps you sync only the data you really need from single- or multi-forest environments, plus it enables single sign-on (SSO) to Office 365 and thousands of other SaaS applications via password sync or federation with Active Directory Federation Services. Organizations already using Azure Active Directory Sync or DirSync can take advantage of the benefits of Azure Active Directory Connect with a migration or in-place upgrade from supported configurations.

Azure Site Recovery: Protect VMware and Physical Servers generally available
With Azure Site Recovery, you can help protect your VMware VMs and physical servers using Azure as your disaster recovery site. Site Recovery provides near-zero recovery point objective (RPO) with continuous data-protection technology. Customizable Site Recovery plans can help ensure that multi-tier applications are recovered to a consistent point in time, minimizing lost transactions and application errors. When your primary data center recovers, you can failback to your on-premises virtual infrastructure with nearly seamless results.

Azure Key Vault generally available
Generally available across all regions (except in Australia), Azure Key Vault offers cloud developers an easy, cost-effective way to help safeguard keys and other secrets using hardware security modules (HSMs). With Key Vault, you centrally manage your keys and secrets by taking them out of vulnerable locations like source code and plain text files. You can then grant applications audited access to those keys and secrets on your terms. Key Vault lets you manage the full lifecycle of your keys and secrets, helping you achieve and maintain regulatory compliance.

Azure Application Gateway generally available
Azure Application Gateway helps you build highly scalable and highly available applications by providing application-level (HTTP/HTTPS) load balancing and delivery control. It also offers SSL offload capabilities and enables the design of custom experiences based on cookie affinity.

Azure Batch generally available
Azure Batch helps make it easy to run large-scale parallel and high-performance computing workloads in Azure. As part of this release, Batch scheduling capabilities will be available as a free tier. Users pay only for the underlying virtual machine (VM) usage, with no additional charge for using Batch. Developers can use Batch to scale out parallel workloads, manage execution of tasks in a queue, and enable applications to offload compute jobs in the cloud. With Batch, users can run these applications on demand at scale without setting up and managing a cluster, VMs, or a job scheduler. Batch manages VM deployment, auto-scaling, and failure recovery. It can also be used as part of a workflow or to deliver self-service applications as a service.

Premium Encoding for Azure Media Services generally available
With Premium Encoding for Azure Media Services, customers can leverage automated decision-making logic that adapts to a variety of inputs. Premium Encoding also supports contribution output file formats such as MXF; additional input and output codecs, including Avid DNxHD; higher output resolutions (up to 4K in AVC); as well as closed captioning and much more. For more information about additional capabilities, please read the Introducing Premium Encoding in Azure Media Services blog post.

Azure SQL Data Warehouse in limited public preview
Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a fully managed, elastic and petabyte-scale columnar data-warehouse service that’s fully compatible and integrated with the Microsoft SQL Server ecosystem. Unique to the industry, this is the first cloud data-warehouse service to enable customers to scale compute capacity up or down in seconds. SQL Data Warehouse can independently scale storage and compute power, so customers can pay only for the query performance they need. Built on top of SQL Server, SQL Data Warehouse offers access to a large data-warehouse ecosystem of tools that support data loading, transformation, visualization, and analytical scenarios—including Microsoft Power BI, Azure HDInsight, Azure Machine Learning, and Azure Data Factory.

Cortana Analytics Suite available later this year
Cortana Analytics Suite delivers big data and advanced analytics capabilities to help enterprises transform their data into intelligent action. It enables core analytics scenarios such as real-time recommendations, customer churn forecasting, fraud detection, predictive maintenance, and many more. While Cortana Analytics Suite won’t be available until later this year, you can try many of its individual services that are already available including Azure Machine Learning, Azure HDInsight, and Azure Stream Analytics, among others. Find out more on the Azure Blog.

Apache Spark for Azure HDInsight in public preview
Apache Spark for Azure HDInsight provides a fast and easy way to run interactive data analysis on large datasets. An open source project in the Apache ecosystem, Spark can run large-scale data analytics applications in memory. That means it can deliver queries up to 100 times faster than traditional big data solutions, along with a common execution model for various tasks like extract-transform-load (ETL) processes, batch queries, interactive queries, real-time streaming, machine learning, and graph processing on data stored in Azure Storage. The Azure cloud helps make Spark deployment easy and cost effective, with no hardware to buy and no software to configure. Plus, Spark is integrated with popular third-party business intelligence (BI) tools like Microsoft Power BI, as well as open source notebooks.

Azure Data Catalog in public preview
Azure Data Catalog is a fully managed service in Azure and an enterprise-wide metadata catalog for self-service datasource discovery. Data Catalog describes, indexes, stores, and helps you access any registered datasource, helping to make datasource discovery simple. It’s designed to close the gap between those who seek information and those who create it. To find out more, please visit the Azure Data Catalog documentation webpage

HPC Pack support for Linux
HPC Pack 2012 R2 Update 2 (high performance computing) is now available. With this update, HPC Pack now supports Linux VMs running on Azure. Customers running high-performance computing clusters on Linux can now use HPC Pack's management, deployment, and scheduling capabilities. For more information about this update, please visit the Microsoft HPC Pack 2012 R2 and HPC Pack 2012 webpage.

Azure Marketplace adds additional features and functionality
Earlier this month at the 2015 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Azure Marketplace launched Developer Services, Container Apps from Docker Hub, and enhanced deployment capabilities for multi-VM offers. Developer Services and Container Apps are two new categories in Marketplace that provide additional tools and functionality beyond the Azure platform to streamline application development and help developers be more productive on Azure. We’ve also added enhanced deployment capabilities for clustered VMs in Marketplace. Now it’s easier than ever for customers to deploy high availability offerings with just a few clicks. To learn more, please read this blog post.

Office Mechanics: Early look at Power BI updates and new customization options

On this show, the Office Mechanics team provides an update on Power BI.  There are new capabilities around connecting to cloud and on premises resources as well.  There’s a great discussion about the availability of partner content packs that extend Power BI’s functionality by connecting it to partner solutions like Salesforce, Google Analytics, Zendesk, GitHub and more.  There’s many more content packs on the roadmap, including one to connect to Office 365 and see tenant usage information.

The demos include dashboards, natural language query, connecting to the Salesforce content pack, using Power BI on mobile devices, the new push API’s and more. 

You can also find more information at https://powerbi.microsoft.com/

Microsoft positioned as a Leader in Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant for Secure Email Gateways

Gartner recently published the 2015 Magic Quadrant for Secure Email Gateways, positioning Microsoft in the Leaders Quadrant. The Magic Quadrant represents Gartner’s evaluation of our completeness of vision and ability to execute in the market. We believe this positioning is a reflection of the value we’re delivering to our customers and the strength of our product vision. Microsoft has a number of services that are evaluated in this report including: Exchange Online Protection (EOP), Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Office 365 Message Encryption, which are part of the Office 365 suite and include other security and compliance services as well.

Read the entire post on the Office Blog.


Skype for Business Previews

Skype for Business is the new name for Lync Server. Aside from the name change, there are a ton of new capabilities coming.  Some of the more exciting ones are PSTN calling from the cloud and the Skype Broadcast service which will let you host Skype meetings for thousands of participants.  You can sign up for the public previews of these features so you can start testing them out.  See the https://www.skypepreview.com/ page for details.


Here is the original blog post from July 1 about the upcoming changes to Skype for Business, which also includes a video from Office Mechanics showing things off. 


Expanding our Hybrid Cloud and Furthering Cloud Hyper-Scale

Last week we introduced several new features and enhancements to Azure. 

The updates cover:

  • The new ability to protect VMware workloads with Azure Site Recovery
  • AWS to Azure migration capabilities
  • Support for Linux Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) technology to improve Linux VM performance
  • The release of Azure Batch, which provides the ability to execute large-scale, high-performance computing (HPC) scenarios in Azure
  • The release of HPC Pack 2012R2 Update 2 to enable support for Linux in HPC clusters

Visit this Azure Blog post for more details and links to the solutions.


Announcing new activity logging and reporting capabilities for Office 365

Microsoft is pleased to announce the rollout of new activity logging and reporting capabilities for Office 365, including the Office 365 activity report, comprehensive logging capability, PowerShell command or cmdlet and a preview of the Office 365 Management Activity API.

This new, comprehensive logging capability is exposed in the Compliance Center as well as with PowerShell and API’s.  It’s being rolled out this month, so keep your eyes on your tenant.

Read more about it and find guidance in this Office Blog entry.

Azure Site Recovery for VMware and physical servers generally available

Azure Site Recovery for VMware and physical servers is now generally available, and we’ve made it easier to try Azure Site Recovery to enable Availability on Demand, and to extend and help protect your datacenter. With Site Recovery, you can quickly help protect applications running on your physical and virtual infrastructure, migrate applications into Azure, create copies of your applications in Azure for dev/test, or run analytics or reporting on replicated applications with a copy of production data.

Site Recovery helps you avoid the expense and complexity of building and managing your own secondary datacenter, and leverage the power of Azure with a just a few clicks. Now, you can use the powerful replication capabilities of Site Recovery for 31 days at no charge for every new application or VM that you replicate.

Announcing compliance toolset for public folders

oday, we are pleased to announce that the Office 365 archiving and eDiscovery toolset is being extended to include public folders. Customers can now place public folder content on hold to preserve it for legal or regulatory requirements. They can perform eDiscovery functions on public folder data, including search, preview and export. Entire public folders or specific content (based on keywords) can be preserved immutably. They can delete aged items out of public folders. And all administrative activities on public folders are fully audited. Throughout all these operations, users can continue to interact with public folder data without any change in their experience.

To perform an eDiscovery search on public folders, you simply specify “public folders” as the source. Read more here...

Announcing compliance for public folders 1

Specifying public folders as a source for an eDiscovery search.

Updates to Azure Active Directory

Lots of updates to Azure Active Directory lately.  It’s hard to keep up, but here are a few:

Privileged Identity Management – Public Preview

Azure AD Privileged Identity Management allows you to manage, control and monitor your privileged identities and their access to resources in Azure AD and in other Microsoft online services such as Office 365 or Microsoft Intune. You can read about PIM from the blog Azure AD Privileged Identity Management and view a two minute video on Channel 9 for more information.


New Azure Report: Leaked Credentials

As part of running consumer and enterprise identity systems, Microsoft discovers account credentials posted publically and we are making this information available to the customer so they can protect their enterprise when their users' account credentials are at risk. On June 15, 2015 Microsoft released Users with Leaked Credentials report to public preview for Azure AD Premium subscription customers. The report surfaces any matches between leaked credentials list and their tenant. See the blog Azure Active Directory Premium reporting now detects leaked credentials for more information.


Azure AD Join for Windows 10

Windows 10 is integrating with Azure AD. Users logon to Azure AD Join Windows 10 computers using their Azure AD credentials and enjoy single-sign-on access to company resources in the cloud. For a walk through experience of setting up your Azure AD joined Windows 10 PC/laptop/tablet view the blog Azure Active Directory and Windows 10: Bringing the cloud to enterprise desktops!



Microsoft delivers new hybrid cloud management innovation

Introduced at Ignite, the Microsoft Operations Management Suite, is a new hybrid management solution that extends the value of System Center and helps you manage your corporate workloads no matter where they run - Azure, AWS, Windows Server, Linux, VMware, or OpenStack. We also introduced new back-up and migration functionality in Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery.  Now, we are enhancing our hybrid management portfolio further with a new OMS add-on for System Center, support for physical and VMware virtual machines in Azure Site Recovery, new capabilities in Azure Backup, and enhanced support for System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager.

Read the Server & Cloud Team Blog post for more information on how to get this and what it does.