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For Sale – Silverstone SST-GD01B-MXR Grandia HTPC Case

For sale is my now not used Silverstone SST-GD01B-MXR HTPC/computer case. I do not use it any more and have removed all the internal parts from the case. The case is black in colour, includes remote and I will throw in a wireless keyboard/mouse. It has a couple of scratches on the top as shown in the photos. The fans were upgraded when I bought it and the previous owner had removed some material from the top of the internal case where the hard drives mount.
No problems with the display and this all works as it should.
Specifications can be found on the following website for the unit.
SilverStone Technology Co., Ltd.

I am after £70 for the case, not including postage.

Photos below and in next post.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like further information.


Price and currency: £70
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: PPG, BT or Cash on collection
Location: Kings Lynn, Norfolk
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

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Visual collaboration software needs seven pillars for success

The workplace has evolved to become more distributed. As a result, the virtual workforce is becoming dominant, as organizations look to capture and capitalize on the best talent unrestricted by geography. As teams have expanded geographically, real issues have emerged around maintaining team and project cohesion.

To bridge the physical gap, several tools are available, including video conferencing, conference calls and document sharing. The result, however, is piecemeal. Assorted tools cannot deliver a natural work environment where everyone can be an active participant.

This is where immersive visual collaboration software comes into play, bringing the advantages of in-person team collaboration and project development to the virtual work environment.

Organizations need seven key pillars to ensure successful implementation of visual collaboration technology. Each pillar is necessary for optimal collaboration. Without any one of them, the work will suffer.

It’s like teleporting into meetings

Visual collaboration software needs to be designed with the human factor in mind, making it an extension of how people work.

Access. Unfettered access to content and the ability to see every step of the project is key. When content lives in a room on dry-erase boards, for example, teams don’t have ubiquitous access. Consequently, employees need to refamiliarize themselves with the content and what happened the last time they met in the room.

Access to a collaborative workspace that’s available anytime, from any location and from any device is required. In addition, the ability to maintain access across time is critical. Distributed teams need access to content across time zones — from the moment an idea is generated through development and execution.

Content. Users need to be able to visualize their content in the form and format they are accustomed to using, with the ability to manipulate the elements as desired. Seeing content in a visual way helps users recall the discussions surrounding their work every time they look at the workspace. It also helps members who may join a project late to see the starting point and how the work evolved before they became involved.

Interaction. Once content is uploaded into the workspace, all participants need to be able to interact with it in an organic manner. This is what has been missing until now. Visual collaboration software can provide an engaging experience — it’s like you’ve been teleported into the meeting. Whether drawing in the workspace, viewing content or making annotations, all forms of interactivity must be possible to fuel brainstorming. It’s the lynchpin for successful remote participation.

Sharing. Customers’ expectations are evolving. They want to be part of the creative process, not simply waiting for the end result. Visual collaboration software needs to provide a rich tapestry and preserve the work process and the final product. Sharing how the work evolved into its final state is a great advantage. It offers valuable insights for future projects and builds a relationship between teams, management and other stakeholders.

Integration. Visual collaboration software cannot be an island; it needs to be extendable. A variety of predefined integrations and robust APIs must be compatible with web-based apps, native apps and other devices. Visual collaboration doesn’t change how people create content; it changes how they share and evolve content to obtain the best final product.

Visual collaboration can break down remote barriers and deliver on the long-awaited promise of the virtual workplace.

Enterprise-ready. The software needs to be secure, easy to adopt, perform with low latency and work quickly so information can be shared instantly. In addition, the software must scale to any number of collaborators and to the amount of content uploaded.

Ease of use. Visual collaboration software needs to have a highly intuitive interface that works the same way as other popular devices and software programs. It needs to be designed with the human factor in mind, making it an effortless extension of how people work. Even as the software continues to add more complex features, it must behave in a simple way, so the user organically becomes more sophisticated through use.

When these seven pillars are combined, visual collaboration can bridge the gap between traditional and virtual workforces, enabling teams to feel connected through every step of the process. Visual collaboration software can enhance meetings, presentations and products. Perhaps most importantly, it can also break down remote barriers and deliver on the long-awaited promise of the virtual workplace.

Nick Brown is vice president of product and marketing for Bluescape, a visual collaboration software provider.

Box Skills, machine learning technology pique IT interest

SAN FRANCISCO — Box shops will be able to help users gain more intelligent insight into their content with new machine learning technology in the content management tool.

Box Skills, introduced here at the company’s annual BoxWorks conference, makes it easier to search for visual and audio content and view information about it. Box Feed uses machine learning to curate content for specific users. Plus, new features in Box Relay aim to improve employee workflows. These capabilities caught the interest of attendees at the show.

“It was kind of nice to see Box incorporating [AI] to start relaying things to certain people at the right time in the right place,” said Ryan Foltz, business systems engineer at Barnhardt Manufacturing Company in Charlotte, N.C.

How Box Skills works

Box Skills is a framework that serves as a layer of abstraction between the content organizations upload to Box and the machine learning. It focuses on three areas: Image Intelligence, Audio Intelligence and Video Intelligence.

With the Image Intelligence component, based on Google Cloud Platform technology, Box automatically tags aspects of an image such as the subject, colors and logos, as well as uploads any text from it. Users can click the tags to access other images with similar contents.

The whole workflow looks really nice.
Will Sheppardtechnical support specialist, The Enthusiast Network

Video Intelligence uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to provide facial recognition to identify people in a video. It also can show users where repeated phrases come up, and extracts a transcript of the video that users can apply as closed captioning. Audio Intelligence functions similarly, without the visual aspect, and is based on IBM Watson technology.

Using the new Box Skills Kit for developers, organizations can also customize what information within a file the machine learning technology tracks. The tool can track tone of voice in a phone conversation, for example, or pull out specific words a company is interested in and show within the Box content when those words were said. Developers can also customize information in documents such as invoices or contracts, and have Box extract information such as dates, signatures, payment amounts and vendor names. That not only extracts the data, but allows users to fill that information in automatically moving forward.

Image Intelligence is currently in beta, and Video Intelligence and Audio Intelligence will come to beta in 2018, Box said.

Box Feed puts relevant information in front of users

Box Feed, powered by Box Graph machine learning technology, was also previewed at the conference and will be available next year. This feature can help users find the content most relevant to them. It shows users active content — files they have been working on or are mentioned in — as well as other relevant content, which appears in a feed based on who is working on the file and what the content is. If a user generally collaborates with another user who is working on a document, for example, it will likely show up in the relevant section. It also shows trending files, or ones that many users throughout the organization are accessing. 

As interesting as these new features are, some companies might need some time to apply them. Barnhardt Manufacturing Company, for instance, is an old organization, but its leaders are getting more and more interested in business data intelligence, said Pete Chantry, application systems manager at the company.

 “We’ve got to allow a little bit of time for them to get accustomed to the basic [enterprise content management] features of Box,” Chantry said.

Updates to Box Relay

Box Relay for workflow automation, announced last year and generally available next month, will get some enhancements as well.

First, the add-on will allow workflows to launch automatically, so if a user uploads a resume of a prospective employee for example, the workflow associated with that kind of document will start automatically. Box also plans to release APIs so IT can integrate Relay with existing third-party applications and automated processes. In addition, users will be able to e-sign documents directly in Box. Finally, a new dashboard will let users manage multiple workflows at the same time by showing every active workflow and what step it is on.   

“I like the way that all ties together,” said Will Sheppard, technical support specialist at The Enthusiast Network based in Los Angeles. “The whole workflow looks really nice.”

Other new features in Box Relay include the ability to invite other users to edit a document and assign them tasks with due dates within the document. There is also a new annotation tool that allows users to write a comment on a specific aspect of a document and tag other users to look at that exact area.

In addition, users no longer have to download previous versions of a document; they can preview them with a single click. Plus, when a user accesses a document, Box will highlight any changes that other users have made since the last time he was in it, and show which user made the edits. Finally, users can thread comments and mark them as resolved.   

Like Box Skills, Relay presents some enticing features for IT, but those at Barnhardt Manufacturing Company are unsure of how to apply Relay immediately.

“I don’t know how often we’d use it, but if we had it, it’d certainly be a nice feature for us,” Foltz said.

AWS and Microsoft announce Gluon, making deep learning accessible to all developers – News Center

New open source deep learning interface allows developers to more easily and quickly build machine learning models without compromising training performance. Jointly developed reference specification makes it possible for Gluon to work with any deep learning engine; support for Apache MXNet available today and support for Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit coming soon.

SEATTLE and REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 12, 2017 — On Thursday, Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), an Amazon.com company (NASDAQ: AMZN), and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced a new deep learning library, called Gluon, that allows developers of all skill levels to prototype, build, train and deploy sophisticated machine learning models for the cloud, devices at the edge and mobile apps. The Gluon interface currently works with Apache MXNet and will support Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK) in an upcoming release. With the Gluon interface, developers can build machine learning models using a simple Python API and a range of prebuilt, optimized neural network components. This makes it easier for developers of all skill levels to build neural networks using simple, concise code, without sacrificing performance. AWS and Microsoft published Gluon’s reference specification so other deep learning engines can be integrated with the interface. To get started with the Gluon interface, visit https://github.com/gluon-api/gluon-api/.

Developers build neural networks using three components: training data, a model and an algorithm. The algorithm trains the model to understand patterns in the data. Because the volume of data is large and the models and algorithms are complex, training a model often takes days or even weeks. Deep learning engines like Apache MXNet, Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit and TensorFlow have emerged to help optimize and speed the training process. However, these engines require developers to define the models and algorithms up front using lengthy, complex code that is difficult to change. Other deep learning tools make model-building easier, but this simplicity can come at the cost of slower training performance.

The Gluon interface gives developers the best of both worlds — a concise, easy-to-understand programming interface that enables developers to quickly prototype and experiment with neural network models, and a training method that has minimal impact on the speed of the underlying engine. Developers can use the Gluon interface to create neural networks on the fly, and to change their size and shape dynamically. In addition, because the Gluon interface brings together the training algorithm and the neural network model, developers can perform model training one step at a time. This means it is much easier to debug, update and reuse neural networks.

“The potential of machine learning can only be realized if it is accessible to all developers. Today’s reality is that building and training machine learning models require a great deal of heavy lifting and specialized expertise,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, VP of Amazon AI. “We created the Gluon interface so building neural networks and training models can be as easy as building an app. We look forward to our collaboration with Microsoft on continuing to evolve the Gluon interface for developers interested in making machine learning easier to use.”

“We believe it is important for the industry to work together and pool resources to build technology that benefits the broader community,” said Eric Boyd, corporate vice president of Microsoft AI and Research. “This is why Microsoft has collaborated with AWS to create the Gluon interface and enable an open AI ecosystem where developers have freedom of choice. Machine learning has the ability to transform the way we work, interact and communicate. To make this happen we need to put the right tools in the right hands, and the Gluon interface is a step in this direction.”

“FINRA is using deep learning tools to process the vast amount of data we collect in our data lake,” said Saman Michael Far, senior vice president and CTO, FINRA. “We are excited about the new Gluon interface, which makes it easier to leverage the capabilities of Apache MXNet, an open source framework that aligns with FINRA’s strategy of embracing open source and cloud for machine learning on big data.”

“I rarely see software engineering abstraction principles and numerical machine learning playing well together — and something that may look good in a tutorial could be hundreds of lines of code,” said Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. “I really appreciate how the Gluon interface is able to keep the code complexity at the same level as the concept; it’s a welcome addition to the machine learning community.”

“The Gluon interface solves the age old problem of having to choose between ease of use and performance, and I know it will resonate with my students,” said Nikolaos Vasiloglou, adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology. “The Gluon interface dramatically accelerates the pace at which students can pick up, apply and innovate on new applications of machine learning. The documentation is great, and I’m looking forward to teaching it as part of my computer science course and in seminars that focus on teaching cutting-edge machine learning concepts across different cities in the U.S.”

“We think the Gluon interface will be an important addition to our machine learning toolkit because it makes it easy to prototype machine learning models,” said Takero Ibuki, senior research engineer at DOCOMO Innovations. “The efficiency and flexibility this interface provides will enable our teams to be more agile and experiment in ways that would have required a prohibitive time investment in the past.”

The Gluon interface is open source and available today in Apache MXNet 0.11, with support for CNTK in an upcoming release. Developers can learn how to get started using Gluon with MXNet by viewing tutorials for both beginners and experts available by visiting https://mxnet.incubator.apache.org/gluon/.

About Amazon Web Services

For 11 years, Amazon Web Services has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. AWS offers over 90 fully featured services for compute, storage, networking, database, analytics, application services, deployment, management, developer, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), security, hybrid and enterprise applications, from 44 Availability Zones (AZs) across 16 geographic regions in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and the UK. AWS services are trusted by millions of active customers around the world — including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies — to power their infrastructure, make them more agile, and lower costs. To learn more about AWS, visit https://aws.amazon.com.

About Amazon

Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit www.amazon.com/about and follow @AmazonNews.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

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Java SE 9, OpenJDK energize Java community at JavaOne 2017

The energy at JavaOne 2017 is more positive and enthusiastic than any year in recent memory, and it’s certainly got a more positive vibe than any JavaOne conference since Oracle took over the stewardship of the language back in 2009.

In years past, Oracle often alienated the Java community with a variety of poorly received business decisions that ranged from suing Google over the Android operating system to the firing of a number of Java evangelists just weeks before the Oracle OpenWorld conference. These moves tended to raise the collective eyebrow of the Java community and always cast varying degrees of shadows over the JavaOne conference.

But this year, Oracle has ramped up its preconference public relations game with a handful of well-received announcements that have hyped up the Java community. “The big news, of course, is that we’ve released Java SE 9, and it’s got all the cool new stuff,” said an enthusiastic Michael Lehmann, Oracle’s vice president of product management. “Jigsaw is finally available, so people can finally build modular, lightweight applications with it. The JShell REPL tool came out with it, too. I think there’s upward of 150 odd new features with the platform.”

Bragging rights and new releases

So, instead of backtracking on release dates and having to explain why a widely anticipated feature might be delayed, Oracle brass has earned bragging rights with these new, full version releases. More importantly, those bragging rights extend beyond the Java Development Kit (JDK) and right through to the enterprise edition of the software with the release of Java EE 8.

And there’s more for the Java community to feel good about at JavaOne 2017 than just the latest versions of these flagship products. “What’s most interesting is that we’ve changed the development and release model. The plan is to go to a six-month release cadence,” Lehmann said. “And Oracle will be providing OpenJDK builds under the GPL [General Public License] licensing model, and that’s a big change for Oracle.”

Oracle has some very talented and very good people in the JDK team who care a lot about the community.
Simon Mapledirector of developer relations at ZeroTurnaround

Of course, to characterize all of this as simply a bunch of smart public relations moves is a disservice to the language architects and software visionaries who have always been doing their best to move the Java platform forward. Even when the business side of Oracle was making decisions that riled the Java community, there was always the knowledge that people like language architect Brian Goetz or chief architect Mark Reinhold were going to fight for what was right for the Java language, even if that meant going up against what was best for Oracle.

“Deep down, Oracle has some very talented and very good people in the JDK team who care a lot about the community,” said Simon Maple, director of developer relations at ZeroTurnaround. “When we see good coming out of Oracle, it’s that team that’s prevailing. When we don’t see good, it’s largely the business team.”

Throw in the proposed alignment between the Oracle JDK and the OpenJDK projects, along with the move to hand over control of Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation, and there are plenty of things for attendees of JavaOne 2017 to be excited about. There’s definitely a positive energy permeating throughout the Java community at this year’s conference.

Coding school bets on scholarships to put more women in tech jobs

To draw more women to its immersive software engineering and web development programs, the Flatiron School is granting them scholarships. The coding boot camp awards 25 women a month 50% off tuition for its online program and a $1,000 discount for every woman who attends in person at its New York campus.

The Women Take Tech scholarship program is designed to put more women in tech jobs, said Flatiron School COO Kristi Riordan. According to the school’s 2017 report on student employment, 97% of graduates get jobs; 35% of grads were women.

The program’s goal is three-pronged: to raise awareness among women about opportunities in technology, give them the confidence they’ll need to thrive in a male-dominated market and give them access to the training needed for high-paying tech careers. Tuition at the Flatiron School is $15,000 for the 15-week on-campus program and $1,500 a month for its online course. Considering many of the school’s female students are in their mid-30s and some have children, that’s not cheap.

“We believe it’s really crucial that women believe they can financially take the risk to pursue a program like this,” Riordan said.

Since launching the scholarship program in January, the school has seen the percentage of women in its online program jump from 30% to 50%.

The Flatiron School scholarships are part of a nationwide push to get more women in tech jobs. For example, Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, Calif., retooled its curriculum to make it more accessible to students with limited computer experience. The percentage of the computer science majors went from 10% women to 40% in five years, and today stands at 55%, the Los Angeles Times reported in January.

Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, has also enacted reforms, which helped increase the percentage of female comp-sci majors to nearly 50% in 2016. And President Donald Trump, who has drawn more ire than praise for his efforts at inclusivity, this week mandated that $200 million go toward technology education grants for women and minorities.

Needed: More women in IT

But technology hasn’t proven to be a friendly place for women of late. The nation’s tech mecca, Silicon Valley, is still smarting from high-profile reports of sexual harassment and bias, and some male technologists are calling women-in-tech recruitment unjust to men, The New York Times reported Saturday. Their complaints are getting louder, too, as some feel emboldened by James Damore, the Google engineer who was fired after arguing in a company post that biology could be behind why there are fewer women than men in the technology field.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make up 26% of people in computer and mathematics jobs.

We need to make sure that we have broad sections of society who are participating in the future of work. If we don’t help women be a participant in those future opportunities, I think we’re going to have societal instability.
Kristi RiordanCOO, the Flatiron School

Getting more women in tech jobs is a good and necessary thing, Riordan said. For one, more women in the labor pool means more talent to tap. If just a fraction of the women who make up about half of society are suited for technology jobs, “think about how much you are limiting the ability to hire talent,” she said.

There’s a long-term benefit, too. Technology is edging into practically every precinct of daily life and will play a colossal role in the future of work in general, Riordan said. So tech jobs can’t be meted out mainly to one gender or the other.

“We need to make sure that we have broad sections of society who are participating in the future of work,” she said. “If we don’t help women be a participant in those future opportunities, I think we’re going to have societal instability.”

Gender diversity is also good business. Investment bank Morgan Stanley reported in a May study that companies with high diversity — a workforce consisting of close to 50% women, 50% men — delivered an average 5.4% more in revenue returns than their peers with gender imbalances.

Enter PCs, exit girls

The reason for the low percentage of women in tech jobs was explored in a 2014 National Public Radio broadcast. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, the percentage of women in tech jobs was inching toward 40% — until 1984, when it started to fall. That’s the same time personal computers became commercially popular — but they were marketed for boys, not girls. Eventually, computers became a guy thing. In 2014, the last year accounted for by the National Science Foundation, the percentage of women in computer science was under 20%.

“Now we’ve started to see an awareness of this,” Riordan said. “We cannot talk about technology as a gender-driven thing. It needs to be something that is accessible, and there’s an aptitude for it across those genders.”

Geared toward males for more than 30 years, technology can seem like an undiscovered country to many women, Riordan said, even those naturally inclined to it. She relayed the story of a former student who, as a freshman in college, decided to major in computer science.

“She looks around the classroom. She’s the only woman,” Riordan said. “She’s talked to in a way that made her feel like she didn’t belong.”

Eventually, she dropped out of the computer science program. After graduating college, she became a librarian with the tedious work of cataloging book metadata. Thinking there had to be a better way, the woman drew on her computer science background.

“She found a way to write a script and more efficiently catalog all of the book data,” Riordan said. The woman applied to the Flatiron School, graduated and went back to library science, this time as software engineer at the New York Public Library.

Students take classes in computer programming at the Flatiron School, a coding boot camp in New York.
Students take classes in computer programming at the Flatiron School, a coding boot camp in New York.

A comfortable space

Riordan said the school tries to make women feel like they’re where they should be. For instance, female students get training on how to dispel impostor syndrome — the strong feeling that they don’t deserve the job, education or opportunity they have.

“It’s crucial to help women to understand that if they have self-doubts that [technology] isn’t a field they can do, that we help them understand why they can,” Riordan said.

The school also invites female technologists in New York to speak to students about their work and careers. Flatiron School alumni and members of its engineering or teaching staff are also tapped to talk about their experiences.

The response from female students, Riordan said, has been overwhelmingly positive: “‘Yes, there are women out there,’ and ‘Yes, they can share what their experiences are like,’ and ‘Yes, it’s not necessarily as scary as any of the things that are being reported on in the press,'” she said. “There are many organizations, especially here in New York City, where women are thriving in tech and thriving in leadership roles.”

Microsoft Azure Stack has finally arrived — or has it?

ORLANDO, Fla. — After a year or more of previews, promises and a six-month delay, Microsoft finally has rolled out its much-anticipated Azure Stack hybrid cloud offering.

Well, sort of.

Microsoft officials declared the product ready to ship to corporate customers here at the company’s annual Ignite conference, but most of the five authorized hardware OEMs in attendance said they haven’t finished their tests to certify strict compatibility with their respective servers.

Executives among the authorized hardware OEMs said they expect their respective systems won’t be ready to ship until late October, or even as late as December. Some said their Azure testing has taken longer than initially expected because Microsoft continues to make minor changes to Azure Stack’s code, and the OEMs don’t feel comfortable shipping their systems until the final code is ready.

“We won’t complete the proper testing of all our servers for another 30 days and possibly longer,” said a senior executive at one of the hardware OEMs.

At this point, OEMs’ changes or additions to Azure Stack are minor, but they don’t want to ship until Microsoft tells them it’s ready. “I think the code will be locked down for everyone’s platform and ready to go in early October,” another OEM executive said.

In a session to discuss the technical aspects of Azure Stack, Microsoft presenters said they expected Huawei, which is not represented at the show, to ship Azure Stack sometime in next year’s first quarter. They also said Wortmann AG has signed up to sell the product; however, they offered no details on when that company might ship systems containing Azure Stack.

Microsoft last year authorized only three OEMs to bundle Azure Stack: Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo. Microsoft later added Cisco, followed a few months later by Avanade and Huawei.

Microsoft Azure Stack, an extension of the Azure public cloud environment, is one of the company’s most strategically important cloud offerings, and it will go head-to-head against the major public cloud platforms — particularly from competitors such as Amazon Web Services and Google. Azure Stack allows larger corporations to build and deploy applications using the same programming tools and APIs they would use to create cloud-based applications for Azure.

Microsoft has also delivered several updates to Azure, including a preview of Azure Machine Learning, a set of tools aimed at developers interested in creating artificial-intelligence-based applications that will work both in the cloud and on premises.

The company also unveiled the integration of its Azure CosmosDB with its Azure Functions serverless offering. This marriage allows corporate and third-party developers to produce any applications with only a few lines of code, so developers can react more quickly to a range of events — from critical changes in databases to data updates from internet-of-things sensors.

Microsoft also has updated its Azure Security Center with new features to reduce vulnerabilities and improve threat protection, as well as tighten security for workloads in a hybrid cloud environment.

Microsoft Azure Stack’s arrival, along with the new development tools and the integration of some existing tools for Azure, should open up new opportunities for both corporate and third-party developers, according to Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group, in a keynote at this week’s conference.

“I think it will be easier for developers to build one application and have it run in Azure or locally on Azure Stack,” he said. “This should create new use cases, such as edge and disconnected solutions, that can meet regulatory requirements. Often, the most difficult thing to deal with in any applications is the data, and dealing with data in a hybrid application especially can be very expensive.”

Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at escannell@techtarget.com.

Microsoft Teams deployment to reshuffle UC strategies

ORLANDO, Fla. — The cloud is coming — whether you want it or not. What’s more, Microsoft Teams is coming to replace cloud-based Skype for Business — whether you want it or not. So, what’s your migration strategy to successfully corral a Microsoft Teams deployment?

Even as organizations made the shift from Microsoft Lync to Skype for Business over the last year or so, they now face another migration to Microsoft Teams, which aims to become the “hub” for teamwork, communications and collaboration. IT pros and end users could encounter significant hurdles as they migrate to Microsoft Teams.

For example, Microsoft Teams is built on an entirely different platform, with different protocols for call setup and management, according to Irwin Lazar, an industry analyst with Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.  

A Microsoft Teams deployment “is going to require enterprises to go back to the drawing board and look at everything again,” Lazar said. Enterprises may need to revisit their strategies around phones, gateways, session border control and voice performance management.

“You name it,” Lazar said. “The entire infrastructure may need to change as a result of people migrating to Teams.”

Additionally, companies may need to consider how to transition video services and dedicated third-party phones to the new platform as part of a Microsoft Teams deployment. Plus, they’ll have to determine if their video interoperability service is supported. And for those firms that are a Skype-for-Business-certified third-party vendor today, what’s the certification path to become Teams-certified?

Getting end users up to speed

Questions loom not only for IT pros, but for end users, as well. The successful end-user adoption of Microsoft Teams represents a change in behavior, since it’s fundamentally a different way of working, said Karuana Gatimu, principal program manager at Microsoft. Gatimu led a session on Microsoft Teams deployment strategies at Microsoft Ignite, the vendor’s customer conference taking place here this week.

For end users, they’ll notice Microsoft Teams has a different user interface than Skype for Business. Predominately, Teams is also chat-based, which would replace Skype for Business instant messaging.

In the coming months, Microsoft plans to begin adding additional calling features into Teams — including inbound and outbound calls to PSTN numbers, hold, call transfer and voicemail. Microsoft said Teams will replace Skype for Business “over time.” 

End users will need some training to get acquainted with new features, Lazar said, such as scheduling meetings and launching voice and video calls. Interoperability challenges could also emerge if one part of an organization is on Teams, while another part of the organization may still be on Skype for Business.

Another Microsoft Teams deployment hurdle could be executive buy-in, Lazar said. Typically, with teams-based workflows, enterprise IT pros need executives to buy into the new tools. If the boss says, “No, I’m not using this. I’m going to continue to email you,” then no one on that team will use Teams. 

“I think convincing the executives is going to be one of the biggest challenges,” Lazar said.    

Skype brand was an enterprise obstacle

So, why is Microsoft moving Skype for Business into Teams? Microsoft has been facing competition from the wildly popular messaging platform Slack. Cisco, too, rolled out its cloud-based, messaging-centric app, Spark, two years ago. These sort of team-based collaboration apps have challenged traditional UC clients.

Additionally, the Skype branding was a considerable hurdle for some enterprise IT pros, as they thought they might be running some of their confidential, internal communications on the consumer version of Skype.

By folding Skype for Business into Teams, Lazar said Microsoft “took a pretty big step toward clarifying its team-centric collaboration strategy.”

New advancements in Azure for IT digital transformation

I’m at Ignite this week, where more than 20,000 of us are talking about how we can drive our businesses forward in a climate of constant technology change. We are in a time where technology is one of the core ways companies can better serve customers and differentiate versus competitors. It is an awesome responsibility. The pace of change is fast, and constant – but with that comes great opportunity for innovation, and true business transformation.

Here at Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. I believe that mission has a special meaning for the IT audience, particularly in the era of cloud computing. Collectively we are working with each of you to take advantage of new possibilities in this exciting time. That’s the reason we are building Azure – for all of you. The trusted scale and resiliency of our Azure infrastructure, the productivity of our Azure services for building and delivering modern applications, and our unmatched hybrid capabilities, are the foundation that can help propel your business forward. With 42 regions announced around the world and an expansive network spanning more than 4,500 points of presence– we’re the backbone for your business.

Core Infrastructure

Cloud usage goes far beyond the development and test workloads people originally started with. Enterprises are driving a second wave of cloud adoption, including putting their most mission-critical, demanding systems in the cloud. We are the preferred cloud for the enterprise, with more than 90% of the Fortune 500 choosing the Microsoft cloud. Today at Ignite, we’re making several announcements about advancements in Azure infrastructure:

  • New VM sizes. We continue to expand our compute options at a rapid rate. In my general session, I will demonstrate SAP HANA running on both M-series and purpose-built infrastructure, the largest of their kind in the cloud. I will discuss the preview of the B-series VM for burstable workloads, and announce the upcoming Fv2-, NCv2-, ND-series which offer the innovation of new processor types like Intel’s Scalable Xeon and NVIDIA’s Tesla P100 and P40 GPUs.
  • The preview of Azure File Sync, offering secure, centralized file share management in the cloud. This new service provides more redundancy and removes complexity when it comes to sharing files, eliminating the need for special configuration or code changes.
  • A new enterprise NFS service, powered by NetApp. Building on the partnership with NetApp announced in June, Microsoft will deliver a first-party, native NFS v3/v4 service based on NetApp’s proven ONTAP® and other hybrid cloud data services, with preview available in early 2018. This service will deliver enterprise-grade data storage, management, security, and protection for customers moving to Microsoft Azure. We will also enable this service to advance hybrid cloud scenarios, providing visibility and control across Azure, on-premises and hosted NFS workloads. 
  • The preview of a new Azure networking service called Azure DDoS Protection, which helps protect publicly accessible endpoints from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Azure DDoS Protection learns an application’s normal traffic patterns and automatically applies traffic scrubbing when attacks are detected to ensure only legitimate traffic reaches the service.
  • The introduction of two new cloud governance services – Azure Cost Management and Azure Policy – to help you monitor and optimize cloud spend and cloud compliance. We are making Azure Cost Management free for Azure customers, and you can sign up now for a preview of Azure Policy. 
  • Integration of the native security and management experience. New updates in the Azure portal simplify the process of backing up, monitoring, and configuring diaster recovery for virtual machines. We are also announcing update management will now be free for Azure customers.
  • A preview of the new Azure Migrate service, which helps discover and migrate virtual machines and servers. The new service captures all on-premises applications, workloads, and data, and helps map migration dependencies over to Azure, making IT’s jobs immensely easier. Azure Migrate also integrates with the Database Migration Services we released today.
  • A preview of the new Azure Data Box, which provides a secure way to transfer very large datasets to Azure. This integrates seamlessly with Azure services like Backup and Site Recovery as well as partner solutions from CommVault, Netapp, Veritas, Veeam, and others.

Building on the news from last week about the preview of Azure Availability Zones, later today I will also talk about the unique measures we are taking in Azure to help customers ensure business continuity. As the only cloud provider with single VM SLAs, 21 announced region pairs for disaster recovery, Azure offers differentiated rich high availability and disaster recovery capabilities. This means you have the best support, resiliency, and availability for your mission-critical workloads.

Modern Applications

Applications are central to every digital transformation strategy. One of the compelling and more recent technologies that is helping in the modernization of applications is containers. Having received more attention from developers to date, containers are now accelerating application deployment and streamlining the way IT operations and development teams collaborate to deliver applications. Today we are announcing even more exciting advancements in this space:

  • Windows Server containers were introduced with Windows Server 2016. The first Semi-Annual Channel release of Windows Server, version 1709, introduces further advances in container technology, including an optimized Nano Server Container image (80% smaller!), new support for Linux containers on Hyper-V, and the ability to run native Linux tools with the Windows Subsystem for Linux (aka Bash for Windows).
  • Azure supports containers broadly, offering many options to deploy, from simple infrastructure to richly managed. Azure Container Instances (ACI) provide the simplest way to create and deploy new containers in the cloud with just a few simple clicks, and today I’m announcing Azure Container Instances now support Windows Server in addition to Linux.
  • Azure Service Fabric offers a generalized hosting and container orchestration platform designed for highly scalable applications, and today we are announcing the general availability of Linux support.

Hybrid Cloud

Nearly 85 percent of organizations tell us they have a cloud strategy that is hybrid, and even more – 91 percent – say they believe that hybrid cloud will be a long-term approach. Hybrid cloud capabilities help you adopt the cloud faster. What is unique about Microsoft’s hybrid cloud approach is that we build consistency between on-premises and the cloud. Consistency helps take the complexity of hybrid cloud out because it means you don’t need two different systems for everything. We build that consistency across identity, data, development, and security and management. Today we’re advancing our hybrid cloud leadership even further via the following developments:

  • Azure Stack is now shipping from our partners Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo. You can see all of these integrated systems on the show floor at Ignite. As an extension of Azure, Azure Stack brings the agility and fast-paced innovation of cloud computing to on-premises environments. Only Azure Stack lets you deliver Azure services from your organization’s datacenter, while balancing the right amount of flexibility and control – for truly-consistent hybrid cloud deployments.
  • Our fully managed Azure SQL Database service now has 100 percent SQL Server compatibility for no code changes via Managed Instance. And today, we are introducing a new Azure Database Migration Service that enables a near-zero downtime migration. Now customers can migrate all of their data to Azure without hassle or high cost.
  • Azure Security Center can now be used to secure workloads running on-premises and in other clouds. We’re also releasing today new capabilities to better defend against threats and respond quickly, including Just in Time (JIT) access, dynamic app whitelisting, and being able to drill down into an attack end to end with interactive investigation paths and mapping.

Beyond all of the product innovation above, one of the areas I’m proud of is the work we’re doing to save customers money. For example, the Azure Hybrid Benefit for Windows Server and the newly announced Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server allow customers to use their existing licenses to get discounts in Azure, making Azure the most economical choice and path to the cloud for these customers. Together with the new Azure Reserved VM Instances we just announced, customers will be able to save up to 82 percent on Windows Server VMs. The free Azure Cost Management capabilities I mentioned above help customers save money by optimizing how they run things in Azure. And we are now offering the new Azure free account which introduces the free use of many popular services for 12 months, in addition to the $200 free credit we provide.

It’s an exciting time for IT, and we’re equally excited that you are our trusted partners in this era of digital transformation. I look forward to hearing your questions or feedback so that we can further your trust in us and empower each of you to achieve more.