The cloud comes through in crises, drones detect diseases and Cortana Intelligence elevates IoT — Weekend Reading, Feb. 3

 We may be in the chilly depths of February, but there’s no winter hibernation going on at Microsoft. Join us for an overview of some of the big happenings over the past week.

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Microsoft breaks through in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms

Today I’m thrilled to share that for the second year in a row, Microsoft has been positioned furthest to the right for completeness of vision within the Leaders quadrant of Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms – the 10th consecutive year Microsoft has been positioned as a leader.

We’re humbled by this recognition for the innovation we’ve delivered with Microsoft Power BI in the past year, including significant growth in both the vision axis and execution axis since the 2016 report. But, more importantly, we’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made as a community in executing against the ambitious goal set when Power BI was made generally available only a short time ago in July 2015: Provide BI to more people than ever before, across all roles and disciplines within organizations.

Power BI is the modern business intelligence solution you can bet on. We will continue to deliver innovation and value with precision and speed. The mantra that drives us is “five minutes to wow” – our relentless focus to enable a user to sign up for Power BI within five seconds and get business value from the service within five minutes. Customers around the world are realizing this vision and capitalizing on the promise of self-service BI by making it a reality at massive scale.

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Azure IP Advantage

Best-in-industry intellectual property protection

Across the globe, the shift to cloud computing is accelerating, impacting every industry and every person. As our customers move to the cloud, business risks are changing. One issue is the increased IP infringement risk associated with delivering software-based products and services in the cloud. To support our customers and to foster a community and business environment that values and protects innovation in the cloud, we created the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage program.

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New in Azure Stream Analytics: Geospatial functions, Custom code and lots more!

Today, we are pleased to announce the roll-out of several compelling capabilities in Azure Stream Analytics. These include native support for geospatial functions, custom code with JavaScript, low latency dashboarding with Power BI and preview of Visual Studio integration and Job diagnostic logs. Additionally, effective today there will be no more ingress data throttling.

Starting today, customers can easily build solutions for scenarios such as connected cars, fleet management, and mobile asset tracking with tremendous ease using Azure Stream Analytics. Developers can now leverage powerful built-in geospatial functions in their stream-processing logic to define geographical areas, and evaluate incoming geospatial data for containment, proximity, overlap, and generate alerts or easily kick-off necessary workflows etc. These geospatial capabilities are in alignment with the GeoJSON specification.

We had more than 100 customers using these Geospatial capabilities in preview, including NASCAR. Established in 1947, NASCAR has grown to become the premier motorsports organization. Currently, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. NASCAR has been a pioneer in using geospatial capabilities in Azure Stream Analytics.

“We use real-time geospatial analytics with Azure Stream Analytics for analyzing race telemetry during and after the race,” said NASCAR’s Managing Director of Technology Development, Betsy Grider

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FastTrack expands to support Windows 10, Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams

Originally offered as a one-time onboarding benefit for Office 365 customers, Microsoft FastTrack has rapidly evolved over the past 18 months to become the customer success service that helps businesses onboard and drive adoption of Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS).

Today, we are announcing several enhancements to FastTrack for Office 365, as well as previews of FastTrack for Windows 10 and FastTrack for Dynamics 365. Just like FastTrack for Office 365 and EMS, FastTrack for Windows 10 and Dynamics 365 provides customers with resources and tools to support onboarding and user adoption. During the preview, eligible customers can request onboarding assistance through their certified Microsoft partner or their Microsoft account team at fasttrack.microsoft.com.

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New survey shows hybrid is leading approach, security waning as blocker to cloud adoption


Earlier this fall we once again invited our community of IT professionals, developers, and technology decision makers to participate in the 2016 Future of Cloud Survey led by North Bridge Growth Equity Venture Partners and research analyst firm Wikibon, which analyzes trends in cloud computing adoption, use, and challenges every year.

The results are in, and while many of the findings reiterate trends we’ve been seeing, there are also a few new trends emerging. As we turn the corner into 2017, I want to share some of my thoughts on the key findings.

As we’ve noted before, the use of cloud technology by organizations of all sizes has hit mainstream levels of adoption. This research shows that 42 percent of organizations have a cloud-first or cloud-only strategy, and another 49 percent are using cloud in key aspects of their technology systems. This means over 90 percent of companies surveyed report they are using cloud in a meaningful way. It’s no longer a matter of “if we move to cloud,” but when and how. From this robust set of survey information, here’s what I found most interesting:

Hybrid is the logical path forward.

Hybrid cloud, meaning using a combination of public cloud and on-premises systems, remains the most common approach for organizations. The Future of Cloud survey found that a hybrid model is still the predominant strategy at 47 percent, followed by purely public cloud use at 30 percent. In our own survey of 2,500 IT professionals, we found that hybrid isn’t just a short term strategy – 9 in 10 (91 percent) of IT workers believe hybrid cloud will remain the approach for their organizations five years from now. Every organization has a unique set of existing systems and business policies, so taking the approach of using a mix of public cloud and on-premises technology simply makes sense. This means organizations must ensure hybrid cloud is efficient. Hybrid systems cannot be two separate infrastructures connected, but running in parallel; there must be consistency in management, security, and development experience to make this feasible.

Blockers to cloud adoption are changing – vendor lock-in and privacy rising in concern, while companies are becoming more comfortable with cloud security.

While security continues as the top concern with using cloud, we’re pleased to see overall concern has dropped significantly since 2015. Interestingly, in this survey 50 percent of respondents cite security as a benefit of using cloud, while 50 percent say security is a barrier. We should expect this to continue to tip in favor of cloud as a benefit moving forward. While security concerns are diminishing, privacy concerns are rising. In 2011, privacy didn’t even make the top list and has now risen to the number 3 spot of cloud concerns. With new regulations such as GDPR it makes sense that privacy concerns are on the rise, and this will likely continue to increase. This also means that the privacy policies and privacy track record of the global cloud providers should expect to come under greater scrutiny – appropriately so.

For the first time, concerns over vendor lock-in rose to the second highest spot. In this way, the cloud is no different than on-premises technology, and customers need to know they can change course if and when needed. In a recent post on top cloud myths, I talked about why enterprises need multiple public cloud vendors, as well as the rise of multi-cloud management solutions for enterprises to manage these systems. Belief that one cloud vendor can meet all needs is simply out of touch with reality and smacks of vendor hubris. The balance for organizations is which mixture of cloud technology to tap into for their different needs. SaaS-based business systems are the most efficient, but are equally non-portable as their on-premises equivalents. Platform services provide greater development efficiency than infrastructure as a service (IaaS), but can be less portable. Fundamentally, the cloud doesn’t change vendor lock-in concerns or dynamics, but the reality in technology choices continues.

SaaS starts the cloud journey, then IaaS and PaaS.

Often, getting started with SaaS business applications is the first step into using cloud for a company’s digital transformation. We see many of our enterprise customers start with Office 365 and then adopt Azure to run other existing business apps on IaaS, and then tap into the development efficiencies to create new solutions using Azure PaaS offerings. With this, it’s not too surprising that 7 in 10 companies said they are using SaaS in their organization, followed by Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) with 58 percent of respondents deploying IaaS for compute. Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is deployed by 45 percent of respondents, but is expected to show the highest increase over the next two years growing by 19 percent. Despite plenty of market focus on IaaS technology, I consistently hear from customers the efficiencies of using SaaS and PaaS technologies. This has been a fundamental reason why, across the Microsoft cloud, we’ve got significant focus on these areas – across Office 365, Dynamics 365, PowerApps, Flow, Azure IoT, and Cortana Intelligence services, among others.

New innovations continue to drive cloud adoption, DevOps model rises.

New technology innovations – from IoT and advanced analytics to containers and virtual reality – are creating new possibilities for companys’ digital transformations. Many of these technologies are only feasible using a cloud model – taking advantage of the scale, agility, and cost models the cloud provides. To this end, organizations report that their cloud investments are in these areas with analytics as a top priority (58 percent), over half (52 percent) say containers are a priority, and 48 percent are investing in IoT. Virtual reality is an emerging area of innovation with 16 percent listing it is a priority. Reinforcing the focus on rapid innovation both mobile and open source are now twice as likely as last year to be cited as a driver for cloud computing.

With this focus on innovation, we’re also seeing a rise in DevOps. Over half (51 percent) have begun DevOps in small teams – up 37 percent YoY – and 30 percent of companies have begun DevOps in large teams company wide, up 2x YoY. We’re also seeing this trend in our customer base, with many traditional IT organizations classifying themselves as DevOps in surveys and event registrations.

These are just a few of the top trends that popped for me in this research. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what 2017 will bring in cloud adoption and trends. Join us in the conversation on #futureofcloud.

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Use the Cloud to help people in need

In this holiday time, peoples’ thoughts turn to helping those less fortunate. If you’re a charity, helping people is your business all year round, and every dollar spent on computing infrastructure is a dollar taken away from those you’re trying to help. That’s why, increasingly, charities and nonprofits are turning away from expensive on-premises solutions and moving to the cloud.

Take Minnesota-based RREAL, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, which helps low-income households receive the advantages of solar power.

As their business grew, RREAL needed ways to track new customers, to manage their manufacturing, and to collaborate without incurring the costs and overhead of expensive infrastructure. Azure-based Dynamics GP and Dynamics CRM along with Office 365 met these needs. And with Dynamics’ Business Analyzer they track KPI’s, and with PowerBI they have a have real-time dashboard.

The result: they have cut installation time by over 50 percent: more people get cheap, renewable power faster.

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