Tag Archives: Azure

Azure DevOps Projects helps ease release automation

NEW YORK — Microsoft’s new Azure DevOps Projects tool lets developers configure a DevOps pipeline and connect it to the cloud with no prior knowledge of how to do so.

Azure DevOps Projects, released to public preview at the Microsoft Connect(); conference here this week, is a scaffolding system for developers to configure a full DevOps pipeline and connect to Microsoft’s Azure cloud services in less than five minutes.

With digital transformation efforts in full swing across enterprises in nearly every industry, developers are driven harder than ever to speed up application releases. In the process, they also want to ensure quality and security and to manage these apps more efficiently. This is where DevOps becomes critical and where a simplified way to get started with DevOps could be useful.

Abel Wang, a senior cloud developer advocate for DevOps at Microsoft, demonstrated how, with a series of clicks to provide information about the type of application and programming language used, Azure DevOps Projects sets up a Git repository and wires up automated build and release pipelines. Everything is automatic, although developers can customize the configuration.

“We make it ridiculously easy to go to a full DevOps environment,” Wang said.

Azure DevOps Projects comes out of the intersection of Microsoft’s Visual Studio family of tools and services — particularly Video Studio Team Services (VSTS) — and the Azure cloud platform.

It’s hard to set up your DevOps pipeline, because developers often manually integrate a lot of different tools, said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group. However, VSTS is fully integrated with Azure.

“I think this shows that Microsoft now has a good set of tools and a strengthening set of stuff for ops,” said Thomas Murphy, an analyst with Gartner.

Microsoft has historically been weak in areas such as release automation, but a stronger Azure platform, including Azure DevOps, will help Microsoft better compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for enterprise customers. New independent software vendors still target AWS or Cloud Foundry, but in the corporate space — especially retail businesses that view AWS as a competitor — there is a growing business-driven push away from AWS and toward Azure, Murphy said.

Microsoft engineer Donovan Brown previews Azure DevOps Projects at Microsoft Connect(); 2017.
Microsoft engineer Donovan Brown previews Azure DevOps Projects at Microsoft Connect(); 2017.

Microsoft continues to advance cloud for DevOps

Another VSTS capability, release management gates, enables developers to specify conditions necessary to begin or finish a deployment to an environment, automating a process that’s often manual. DevOps pros can configure an environment to deploy and wait a day to ensure there are no blocking work items or monitoring alerts before proceeding with deployment, said Brian Harry, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Visual Studio Team Services and Team Foundation Server (TFS), in a blog post

VSTS also has free, cloud-hosted continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) on macOS, so teams can build and release Apple iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS applications without the need for Mac hardware. This also means the VSTS CI/CD system in the cloud covers the gamut of Linux, macOS and Windows in one offering.

Without security and performance, there are no apps of the future, and moving fast only gives you continuous bugs.
Theresa LanowitzCEO, Voke

Microsoft also made generally available Team Foundation Server 2018 and the TFS Database Import Service. Additionally, it released to preview the company’s open source command-line tools for VSTS and YAML support for VSTS build definitions, so developers can represent their build pipeline as code.

Finally, Microsoft launched a new partnership with GitHub to drive adoption of the Microsoft-developed Git Virtual File System (GVFS) as the industry standard to use Git at scale. Microsoft has become one of the most prolific contributors to open source largely through GitHub, and the two have worked together to bring GVFS to the code repository’s 25 million users on Windows, Mac and Linux clients, said Sam Lambert, senior director of infrastructure at GitHub.

Theresa Lanowitz, founder and CEO of Voke, a market research firm in Minden, Nev., praised Microsoft for its strong release management updates with software such as Azure DevOps Projects, but she expected to hear and see more about security and performance. “Without security and performance, there are no apps of the future, and moving fast only gives you continuous bugs,” she said.

“Our research shows low automation and low adoption of any commercial release management tool for full lifecycle traceability — of all assets,” she said in an interview from Microsoft Connect();, noting that enterprise integration issues may be partly to blame for low adoption of these tools.

Announcing General Availability of Azure Reserved VM Instances (RIs)

Azure Reserved VM Instances (RIs) are generally available for customers worldwide, effective today. Azure RIs enable you to reserve Virtual Machines on a one- or three-year term, and provide up to 72% cost savings versus pay-as-you-go prices.

Azure RIs give you price predictability and help improve your budgeting and forecasting. Azure RIs also provide unprecedented flexibility should your business needs change. We’ve made it easy to exchange your RIs and make changes such as region or VM family, and unlike other cloud providers, you can cancel Azure RIs at any time and get a refund.

RI_1

Azure is the most cost-effective cloud for Windows Server workloads

If you are a Windows Server customer with Software Assurance, you can combine Azure RIs with Azure Hybrid Benefits and save up to 82% compared to pay-as-you-go prices, and up to 67%* compared to AWS RIs for Windows VMs. In addition, with Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server, customers with Software Assurance will be able to save even more.

With Azure RIs and Azure Hybrid Benefit, Azure is the most cost-effective public cloud to run your Windows Server workloads!

Azure offers better than per-second billing and free cost management tools

Azure bills you per-second rounded down to the last minute, saving you money and simplifying your bill. For example, a VM that runs for 345 seconds is billed at 300 seconds. And, Azure offers you built-in, easy-to-use controls to schedule VM auto-shutdown. This means that you can save money by shutting down VMs when you don’t need them. Examples include Dev/Test environments, Big Data analysis, and other batch operations.

Additionally, with free Azure Cost Management, you can further optimize your cloud resources, manage departmental budgets, and allocate costs.  Today, you can already right-size virtual machines based on real-time usage reports. You’ll soon be able to visualize the cost benefits of purchasing RIs compared to pay-as-you-go and understand the utilization of your existing RIs and other instances over time, as shown in the screenshot below:

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The combination of these capabilities, our price-match commitment, and product innovations like Burstable VMs and Archival Storage, means that Azure offers the best deal for moving to and innovating in the cloud.

Learn more at azure.microsoft.com/pricing.

*Based on comparing 3-year Azure D8_v3 RI prices with Azure Hybrid Benefit in US West 2 to AWS m4.2xlarge 3-year Standard RIs in US West (Oregon). Actual savings may vary based on region, instance type, usage or software license costs.

Microsoft using AI to empower people living with disabilities | ZDNet

microsoft-summit-ai.jpg

Panel discussion with Microsoft’s James Kavanagh, Azure engineering lead; Dave Heiner, strategic policy advisor; Steve Clayton, chief storyteller; and Jenny Lay-Flurrie, chief accessibility officer.


Image: Mark Nolan/Getty Images for Microsoft

“Accessibility by design” is an important concept for Microsoft, and one that underpins many of its artificial intelligence-powered products, including Seeing AI.

Announced on Wednesday among a series of other AI tools, Seeing AI is a free mobile application designed to support people with visual impairments by narrating the world around them. The app — which is an ongoing research project bringing together deep learning and Microsoft Cognitive Services — can read documents, making sense of structural elements such as headings, paragraphs, and lists, as well as identify a product using its barcode.

It can additionally recognise and describe images in other apps, and even pinpoint people’s faces and provide a description of their appearance, though camera quality and lighting might influence its description.

At the Microsoft Future of Artificial Intelligence event in Sydney, Kenny Johar Singh, a Melbourne-based cloud solutions architect at Microsoft, demonstrated Seeing AI, which he uses to help navigate the physical world.

Although he lost 75 percent of his vision due to a degenerative retinal condition, technology has been an “empowering force” that compelled him to pursue a career in the industry, Singh said.

Where before Singh was reliant on his wife to bridge the information gap between him and the physical world, by using Seeing AI he is able to be more independent.

In front of guests, Singh used the app to scan a product, which the app correctly identified as Bounce’s coconut lemon-flavoured natural energy ball.

“What it’s actually done for me is that, now that it has detected the ball, I have the calorie calibration — proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and so forth. So I know what I’m picking and using which basically means that I can be totally independent now and my wife absolutely loves it because she doesn’t need to be dragged into stuff like this,” he told guests at the Microsoft Summit.

Singh also pointed his phone’s camera at Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s chief accessibility officer, and the Seeing AI app described Lay-Flurrie as a “54-year-old woman with brown hair wearing glasses looking happy”. The last three descriptive pieces of information were accurate, though it was off-the-mark about her age.

“People who are blind are not the best at taking pictures, and we often get a lot of edge cases coming through with those pictures. Pictures that aren’t in the middle bracket of the high quality pictures that you can use to … adapt your algorithms and get some machine learning. They are in a lot of ways sometimes dirty pictures, but the overall quality of cognitive services will increase exponentially because you’re including this data sample,” Lay-Flurrie told guests at the Microsoft Summit.

Microsoft’s accessibility features are being used by the Australian National University’s law lecturer Cameron Roles, who said in a statement, “Now is definitely, in my view, the most exciting time in history to be blind.”

One of triplets, Roles, who is also a director with Vision Australia, was born three months early and the oxygen that saved his life left him blind. Of particular use to him are the latest accessibility features in platforms such as Office 365 and Windows 10.

For example, Microsoft has recently integrated its alternative text engine into the core of Windows 10, which Lay-Flurrie said was a “serious step”. This means visually impaired users that use third-party screen readers or Microsoft’s own Narrator, which reads text aloud and describes events, will be able to get a description of the contents in an image, rather than simply knowing there’s an image on screen.

The company also recently introduced Eye Control, a built-in eye-tracking feature for Windows 10, enabling people living with motor neurone disease (MND) and other mobility impairments to navigate their computers. The feature currently only works with Swedish eye-tracking vendor Tobii’s Eye Tracker 4C, though Microsoft is working to add support for other similar devices.

Within Eye Control is a capability called “shape writing”, aimed at speeding up typing by allowing the user to look at the first and last letters of a word and “simply glancing at letters in between”. Microsoft said in August that a “hint of the word predicted will appear on the last key of the word”, and if the prediction is incorrect, the user can select other predicted alternatives.

The company has additionally introduced colour-blindness filters in Windows 10, a condition that Lay-Flurrie said is more common than people think, affecting one in nine people.

Lay-Flurrie, who has a hearing impairment, said that while we need to consider the potential implications of AI in areas such as privacy and security, we should also look at the positives. She said there are 1 billion people living with disabilities globally, and AI can empower these people both in their day-to-day lives and in workplace environments.

“I also look at my daughter, who has autism, she’s 10. With autism, you don’t always understand social cues and social language, and facial expressions are not obvious to her what they mean. She often misinterprets what we’re saying … So I love the potential and the power and beginning to see a wave of innovation in the area of cognitive and mental health where you’re understanding those social cues, you’re using that visual stimulus to give examples, you’re helping to prompt what would be the next step to your learning through real life as opposed to sitting there … some of the therapeutic applications [require you] to sit there and watch YouTube videos,” she said.

“I think there’s real-time applications that can change the lives and include in the same way you do in the workplace with PowerPoint Designer and position people as the geniuses that they are … And you need to be able to perform at the same level as anyone else. Cognitive services and some of these beautiful engines could give us that capability.”

Lay-Flurrie also said people with disabilities can lead or contribute significantly to innovation.

“People with disabilities have a unique lens on the world that could really give a massive input of innovation here and accelerate our path with AI,” she said at the Microsoft Summit.

Microsoft’s chief storyteller Steve Clayton communicated a similar sentiment at the event, saying innovations designed by and for people living with disabilities can prove to be useful more broadly.

“When I started to learn about inclusivity in design, the dropped kerb was originally invented for people who are in wheelchairs. It turns out that the dropped kerb on a sidewalk is also incredibly useful if you’re carrying groceries or if you’re on a skateboard. There are these serendipitous moments I think we’ve found where we said, ‘Hey, we’re going to create a piece of technology that is for people with visual impairment or other disabilities’ that actually turned out to be incredibly useful for the rest of the world,” he said.

Microsoft has been able to integrate AI into its products, while offering new AI-powered products, because of advances in computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language understanding.

The company has developed technologies that can recognise speech with an error rate of 5.1 percent and identify images with an error rate of 3.5 percent.

Microsoft is also currently leading a competition run by Stanford University that uses information from Wikipedia to test how well AI systems can answer questions about text passages. The competition is expected to generate results that can be applied in areas such as Bing search and chatbot responses.

“This means that using AI’s deep learning, computers can recognise words in a conversation on par with a person, deliver relevant answers to very specific questions, and provide real-time translation,” the company said in an announcement on Thursday.

“It also means that computers on a factory floor can distinguish between a fabricated part and a human arm, or that an autonomous vehicle can tell the difference between a bouncing ball and a toddler skipping across a street.”

In Australia, the University of Canberra has developed the Lucy and Bruce chatbots to streamline support services for students and employees using Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services Language Understanding Intelligent Service.

Once launched, Lucy will connect to the university’s Dynamics 365 platform, allowing students to raise tickets when Lucy can’t find the answer. The university is also exploring possibilities to use Bruce to allow IT service tickets to be logged by staff.

Australian Securities Exchange-listed packaging manufacturer Pact Group has also worked with Microsoft using its Cognitive Services Computer Vision for facial and objection recognition to boost workplace safety.

Pact’s Workroom Kiosk Demo can recognise individual employees in a workshop environment, detecting if they are wearing appropriate safety gear and monitoring their behaviour based on an understanding of the tasks individual employees are authorised to perform. Team leaders are automatically alerted if there are potential issues, and an on-site trial of the system will be launched soon.

Microsoft has also announced advancements to Translator, with expanded use of neural networks to improve both text and speech translations in all of Translator’s supported products.

For people learning Chinese, the company will “soon” release a new mobile application from Microsoft Research Asia that can act as an always available, AI-based language learning assistant.

The company has additionally announced Visual Studio Tools for AI for AI developers and data scientists, which it said combines Visual Studio’s capabilities such as debugging and rich editing, with the support of deep learning frameworks such as Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit, Google Tensorflow, and Caffe. Visual Studio Tools for AI leverages existing code support for Python, C/C++/C#, and supplies additional support for Cognitive Toolkit BrainScript, Microsoft said.

AI capabilities for Azure IoT Edge — which enable developers to build and test container-based modules using C, Java, .NET, Node.js and Python, and simplify the deployment and management of workloads and machine learning models at the edge — are also now generally available, the company said.

“AI is about amplifying human ingenuity through intelligent technology that will reason with, understand, and interact with people and, together with people, help us solve some of society’s most fundamental challenges,” Clayton said in a statement.

Recent Coverage

Microsoft to integrate Visual Studio with AI services

Another piece of Microsoft’s ‘Open Mind Studio’ falls into place: A new extension enabling developers to use AI services from inside Visual Studio.

Microsoft’s Visual Studio Live Share to improve developer collaboration

Microsoft plans to debut a new developer collaboration service in early 2018 that could make it easier for developers to work in tandem even when located remotely.

Microsoft gets data-fabulous at NYC event

Microsoft announces Azure Databricks service, new Cosmos DB features, enterprise AI capabilities and more at its annual Connect(); event in New York

Microsoft streamlines big data analytics with new Azure services (TechRepublic)

New database offerings and services in Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform were unveiled today at Microsoft’s Connect(); 2017 conference, alongside GitHub’s adoption of GVFS.

Microsoft reveals Azure IoT Edge: Putting AI at the furthest reaches of your network (TechRepublic)

Redmond revealed a variety of new services to help firms take advantage of AI, ranging from new analytics tools to easier ways to incorporate machine learning into software.

Managed Applications are now Generally Available in the Azure Marketplace

I am excited to announce the general availability of Managed Applications in the Azure Marketplace. Managed Applications, an Azure unique offering, enables you to deploy entire applications and empower your partner to fully manage and maintain the application in your environment. This means, a partner like Xcalar, can deliver more than just deployment on a set of VMs. Xcalar can now deliver both the application and a fully operated solution, offering “Ap/Ops.” Partners like Xcalar will also maintain and service the application solution directly in your Azure environment.

This new distribution channel for our partners will change customer expectations in the public cloud. Unlike our competitors, in Azure, a marketplace application can now be much more than just deployment and set-up. Now it can be a fully supported and managed solution. This is a first in the public cloud!

You and your partners have been the inspiration for Azure Managed Applications. We hear from many of our customers looking to transform IT operations, that they need the simplicity of fully managed applications without all the infrastructure hubbub. Furthermore, our partners are seeking opportunities to offer their customers more value by adding service operations to their portfolio. With Managed Applications, you and your partners can achieve these goals. Here are a few of the details of the offering:

  • Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and System Integrators (SIs) can build turnkey cloud solutions using Azure Resource Manager templates. Both the application IP and the underlying pre-configured Azure infrastructure can easily be packaged into a sealed and serviceable solution. This enables “Ap/Ops,” offering both the application and operations together in one package.
  • Customers can deploy these turnkey solutions in their own Azure subscription as a sealed service, which is fully operated and maintained by the partner across the solution lifecycle. In addition, only the minimal level of access is granted, specifically for the sealed solution and its lifecycle operations.
  • The result is a higher quality of service for our customers, fully managed by our partners. Thanks to the sealed and immutable nature of Managed Applications, nothing changes in the application or the infrastructure configuration, unless it is an explicit lifecycle operation by the trusted partner.

Whether these solutions are complex applications that are custom-built and maintained by MSPs or packaged applications delivered and serviced by ISVs, you can focus on what you need to do to accelerate your business transformation without having to worry so much about running someone else’s software. Managed Applications accelerate innovation, even in the most advanced application scenarios, bringing the best of software-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service together.

At Ignite we enabled our partners to deploy and service Managed Applications inside customer owned enterprise service catalogs. With today’s addition of Azure Marketplace as a distribution channel, partners can add value to their marketplace offering by adding lifecycle and support services with an incremental flat monthly fee. Our launch partners are excited and ready to go…

“Azure Managed Applications enables OpsLogix customers to easily deploy and use our solutions without having to undertake on-going maintenance and servicing complexities.”
Vincent de Vries, CEO, OpsLogix

“Azure Managed Applications allows Xcalar Data Platform to provide a higher quality of service and help forge stronger partnerships with our customers. Enterprise applications, Azure cloud infrastructure, and production operations can now be packaged into a single solution.”
Vikram Joshi Co-founder and CEO, Xcalar

“We’re delighted to be bringing the power and simplicity of Cisco Meraki cloud networking to customers using Microsoft Azure. Our two companies both share a passion for better IT, and by leveraging our powerful Auto VPN and SD-WAN features we can seamlessly connect users to the resources they depend on every day.”
Raviv Levi, Senior Product Line Manager, Cisco Meraki

Go ahead, give it a try. We would love to hear from you about your experience with Azure Managed Applications and our partner solutions. Leave us feedback at the user voice channel or the comments section below.

More innovation for our partners is on the horizon, so stay tuned! And, do not forget to check Gaurav’s blog for a closer look under the hood on how this works.

See ya around,

Corey Sanders

Microsoft Azure set to triple its capacity in China in next six months

We’re excited to share that the capacity of Microsoft Azure operated by 21Vianet in China will be tripled in the next six months. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, announced the planned capacity expansion at the Microsoft Tech Summit 2017 in Beijing today. As Nadella reinforced at the event, new Azure capacity in China offers a great opportunity for customers in region, including both multinational corporations who are extending their business to China, and also Chinese corporations interested in expanding to cover Asia more broadly.

Announced in 2013, and officially launched in March 2014, Azure operated by 21Vianet is the first international public cloud service to become generally available in the China market. In accordance with Chinese regulatory requirements, Azure in China is provided through a partnership between Microsoft and Chinese datacenter operator 21Vianet. The cooperative model established between Microsoft and 21Vianet has set a benchmark for global cloud services entering China and remains the strongest example of how such collaboration can help bring cloud innovation into the Chinese market.

Since its launch in China three years ago, Azure has gained rapid momentum, gathering over 1,000 cloud partners and 80,000 enterprise customers. Customers and partners range from established Chinese brands such as Haier, Lenovo, and Huawei, to emerging companies such as mobile phone manufacturer Xiaomi and bike-share company Mobike. Today’s announcement will further benefit these companies by providing increased flexibility and expanding access to cutting-edge Azure cloud services. Increased capacity will also make it easier for multinational companies to meet the needs of customers in China using the scale, power, and secure infrastructure of the Azure cloud.

For more information about Azure service in China, please visit the official site of Microsoft Azure operated by 21Vianet: www.Azure.cn.

One-click replication for Azure Virtual Machines with Azure Site Recovery

We are happy to announce that Azure Site Recovery (ASR) is now built into the virtual machine experience so that you can setup replication in one click for your Azure virtual machines. Combined with ASR’s one-click failover capabilities, its simpler than ever before to setup replication and test a disaster recovery scenario.

Using the one-click replication feature, now in public preview, is very simple. Just browse to your VM, select Disaster recovery, select the target region of your choice, review the settings and click Enable replication. That’s it – disaster recovery for your VM is configured. The target resource group, availability set, virtual network and storage accounts are auto-created based on your source VM configuration. You also have the flexibility to pick custom target settings. You can refer to the animation below for the flow.

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If you have applications running on Azure IaaS virtual machines, your applications still have to meet compliance requirements. While the Azure platform already has built-in protection for localized hardware failures, you still need to safeguard your applications from major incidents. This includes catastrophic events such as hurricanes and earthquakes, or software glitches causing application downtime. Using Azure Site Recovery, you can have peace of mind knowing your business-critical applications running on Azure VMs are covered and without the expense of secondary infrastructure. Disaster recovery between Azure regions is available in all Azure regions where ASR is available. Get started with Azure Site Recovery today.

Related links and additional content

Changing the world through data science

By Kenji Takeda, Director, Azure for Research

Alan Turing asked the question “can machines think?” in 1950 and it still intrigues us today. At The Alan Turing Institute, the United Kingdom’s national institute for data science in London, more than 150 researchers are pursuing this question by bringing their thinking to fundamental and real-world problems to push the boundaries of data science.

One year ago, The Turing first opened its doors to 37 PhD students, 117 Turing Fellows and visiting researchers, 6 research software engineers and more than 5,000 researchers for its workshops and events. I have been privileged to be one of these visiting fellows, helping the researchers take a cloud-first approach through our contribution of $5 million of Microsoft Azure cloud computing credits to The Turing. To be part of this world-leading center of data science research is exhilarating. Cloud computing is unlocking an impressive level of ambition at The Turing, allowing researchers to think bigger and unleash their creativity.


“We have had an exceptional first year of research at The Turing. Working with Microsoft, our growing community of researchers have been tooled up with skills and access to Azure for cloud computing and as a result they’ve been able to undertake complex data science tasks at speed and with maximum efficiency, as illustrated by some of the stories of Turing research showcased today. We look forward to growing our engagement with the Azure platform to help us to undertake even bigger and more ambitious research over the coming academic year.”
~ Andrew Blake, Research Director, The Alan Turing Institute

Human society is one of the most complex systems on the planet and measuring aspects of it has been extremely difficult until now. Merve Alanyali and Chanuki Seresinhe are graduate students from the University of Warwick who are spending a year at The Turing applying novel computational social science techniques to understand human happiness and frustration. They are using AI and deep neural networks to analyze millions of online photos with Microsoft Azure and their findings are providing deeper insights into the human condition.

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Kenneth Heafield, Turing Fellow from the University of Edinburgh, has been using thousands of Azure GPUs (graphical processing units) to explore and optimize neural machine translation systems for multiple languages in the Conference on Machine Translation. Azure GPUs enabled the group to participate in more languages, producing substantially better results than last year and winning first place in some language pairs. The team is working closely with Intel on using new architectures, including FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) like Microsoft’s Project Catapult, to make even bigger gains in machine translation.

Microsoft is delighted to see The Alan Turing Institute setting up a deep research program around ethics, a crucial topic in data science, AI and machine learning. Our own human-centered design principles are that AI technology should be transparent, secure, inclusive and respectful, and also maintain the highest degree of privacy protection. We are pleased that Luciano Floridi is leading the Data Ethics research group at The Turing as his perspectives on areas such as healthcare are helping us to think about how we can ensure that technology is used in the most constructive ways.

The first-year at The Turing has been impressive. We look forward to another exciting year as we work together on projects in data-centric engineering, blockchain, healthcare and secure cloud computing. Along with Microsoft’s data science collaborations at University of California, Berkeley, and through the National Science Foundation Big Data Innovation Hubs, we are perhaps getting closer to answering Alan Turing’s profound question from 67 years ago.

Learn more:

Meet the Azure Analysis Services team at PASS Summit 2017

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Members from the Azure Analysis Services team will be presenting two sessions at this years PASS Summit 2017 in Seattle, WA. Members will also be available in the SQL Clinic to directly answer your Analysis Services questions in a one-on-one setting. Sessions include the following:

Creating Enterprise Grade BI Models with Azure Analysis Services or SQL Server Analysis Services

Speakers: Bret Grinslade and Christian Wade

Level: 400

Microsoft Azure Analysis Services and SQL Server Analysis Services enable you to build comprehensive, enterprise-scale analytic solutions that deliver actionable insights through familiar data visualization tools such as Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Excel. Analysis Services enables consistent data across reports and users of Power BI. This session will reveal new features for large, enterprise models in the areas of performance, scalability, model management, and monitoring. Learn how to use these new features to deliver tabular models of unprecedented scale with easy data loading and simplified user consumption.

Deliver Enterprise BI on Big Data

Speakers: Bret Grinslade and Josh Caplan

Level: 300

Learn how to deliver analytics at the speed of thought with Azure Analysis Services on top of a petabyte-scale SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Data Lake, or HDInsight implementation. This session will cover best practices for managing, processing, and query accelerating at scale, implementing change management for data governance, and designing for performance and security. These advanced techniques will be demonstrated thorough an actual implementation including architecture, code, data flows, along with tips and tricks.

Learn more about PASS Summit 2017. We hope to see you there.

Blackbaud and Microsoft to strengthen strategic partnership to digitally transform the nonprofit sector – News Center

Social good software leader Blackbaud bets big on Microsoft Azure as the two companies plan to go deeper on integrations, innovation and sector leadership to scale global good

BALTIMORE — Oct. 18, 2017 As part of bbcon 2017, Blackbaud (Nasdaq: BLKB), the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good, and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), plan to expand their partnership in support of their mutual goals to digitally transform the nonprofit sector.

The nonprofit sector represents the third largest workforce behind retail and manufacturing in the United States with approximately 3 million organizations globally. Blackbaud, the largest vertical cloud software provider in the space, announced its intention to fully power its social good-optimized cloud, Blackbaud SKY™, with Microsoft Azure. The two companies highlighted a three-point commitment to collaboration for the good of the global nonprofit community. This announcement comes just days after Microsoft launched its new Tech for Social Impact Group, which is dedicated to accelerating technology adoption and digital transformation with the nonprofit industry to deliver greater impact on the world’s most critical social issues.

“This newly expanded partnership between Microsoft and Blackbaud will allow both companies to better meet the unique technology challenges nonprofits face,” said Justin Spelhaug, general manager of Microsoft Tech for Social Impact. “By combining Microsoft’s cloud platforms and expertise with Blackbaud’s leading industry solutions, we will create new opportunities for digital transformation to empower nonprofits to make an even bigger impact on the world.”

“The nonprofit community plays a vital role in the health of the entire social economy, and we’ve been working for more than three decades to help these inspiring organizations achieve big, bold mission outcomes,” said Mike Gianoni, president and CEO of Blackbaud. “For nearly that long we’ve also been a Microsoft partner, and we’re incredibly enthusiastic about forging new ground together as we tackle some of the most pressing issues nonprofits face. Both companies couldn’t be more committed to this space, so the nonprofit community should expect great things from this expanded partnership.”

The newly expanded partnership between Microsoft and Blackbaud will focus on three key areas:

Deeper integration between Microsoft and Blackbaud solutions, with Blackbaud’s cloud platform for social good, Blackbaud SKY, powered by Microsoft Azure

Blackbaud has been developing on the Microsoft stack for over three decades. As a leading Global ISV Partner, Blackbaud is already one of Microsoft’s top Azure-based providers. Today, Blackbaud announced its intention to fully power Blackbaud SKY™, its high-performance cloud exclusively designed for the social good community, in Microsoft’s Azure environment.

“Blackbaud’s expanded Azure commitment will be one of the most significant partner bets on Microsoft’s hyperscale cloud, and the most significant to transform the social good space,” Spelhaug said. “We often highlight the engineering work behind Blackbaud SKY™, because it demonstrates the power of Microsoft Azure and the kind of forward-looking innovation and leadership that the nonprofit sector greatly needs.”

Details of the investment are not publicly available but the companies plan to share more about the partnership in coming months. Blackbaud also announced its plans to become a CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) partner for the Microsoft platform, simplifying the purchase, provisioning and management of Blackbaud and Microsoft cloud offerings. For nonprofits that want the security, power and flexibility of the cloud plus the services and support of a trusted solution provider that deeply understands their unique needs, Blackbaud will be able to deliver both Microsoft and Blackbaud solutions through a unified purchase experience.

A commitment to pursuing best-in-class nonprofit cloud solutions that bring together the best of both companies’ innovation for a performance-enhanced experience for nonprofits — from funding, to mission operations, to program delivery

Blackbaud and Microsoft plan to pursue innovative ways to fully harness the power, security and reliability of Microsoft’s Azure-Powered solutions (e.g., Office 365, Dynamics) and Blackbaud’s industry-leading, outcome-focused solutions that cater specifically to the unique workflow and operating model needs of nonprofits — all with the goal of improving nonprofit performance across the entire mission lifecycle.

This includes exploring how both companies’ respective cloud artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics innovations can be leveraged in new ways to drive even greater sector impact.

“There is massive opportunity to empower the nonprofit community through creative tech innovation,” said Kevin McDearis, chief products officer at Blackbaud. “Every 1 percent improvement in fundraising effectiveness makes $2.8 billion available for frontline program work. This is just one example of the type of impact Blackbaud focuses on with our workflows and embedded intelligence, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to team up with Microsoft to push into new areas of innovation that move the sector forward, faster.”

Joint sector leadership initiatives that make innovation, research and best practices more accessible to nonprofits around the world

Nonprofits are addressing some of the world’s most complicated issues. As shared value companies, Microsoft and Blackbaud share a commitment to helping nonprofits meet those needs. Microsoft is globally known for its unmatched philanthropic reach and impact. And Blackbaud, which exclusively builds software for social good, invests more in R&D and best-practice-driven research for global good than any technology provider. Both companies were among just 56 companies named to the Fortune 2017 Change the World list.

Together, Microsoft and Blackbaud intend to partner on initiatives that make innovation more accessible for nonprofits large and small, while also exploring ways the companies’ data assets, community outreach and sector leadership can be synergistically and responsibly applied to improve the effectiveness and impact of the entire nonprofit community.

Microsoft and Blackbaud will share further details in the coming months. Learn more about Microsoft’s Technology for Social Impact Group here. Visit www.Blackbaud.com for more on Blackbaud.

About Blackbaud

Blackbaud (NASDAQ: BLKB) is the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good. Serving the entire social good community—nonprofits, foundations, corporations, education institutions, healthcare institutions and individual change agents—Blackbaud connects and empowers organizations to increase their impact through software, services, expertise, and data intelligence. The Blackbaud portfolio is tailored to the unique needs of vertical markets, with solutions for fundraising and CRM, marketing, advocacy, peer-to-peer fundraising, corporate social responsibility, school management, ticketing, grantmaking, financial management, payment processing, and analytics. Serving the industry for more than three decades, Blackbaud is headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina and has operations in the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit www.blackbaud.com.

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.

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

Nicole McGougan, Public Relations Manager for Blackbaud, (843) 654-3307, media@blackbaud.com

Scality Connect ports S3 apps to Azure Blob storage

Object storage vendor Scality is moving to connect Amazon S3 apps to Microsoft Azure Blob storage in multicloud setups.

Scality Connect software, which launched last week, can help customers overcome the hurdle of porting an application based on the Simple Storage Service (S3) API to Azure Blob storage.

Scality plans to announce in December advanced Amazon S3 API support, along with versioning and a bucket website, said Wally MacDermid, vice president of business development for cloud at Scality, based in San Francisco.

John Webster, a senior partner at Evaluator Group in Boulder, Colo., said the multicloud play will be of particular interest to the DevOps groups within organizations. Many developers spend a great deal of time doing API modifications to applications.

“Anytime you can relieve the user of that burden is good. [Lack of interoperability] is a big issue. This is the last thing customers want,” Webster said of the need to modify APIs. “They just hate it. They have to modify APIs to work with other APIs.”

MacDermid said there is no hardware requirement for Scality Connect.  It is included as a stateless container inside an Azure subscription. Connect stores data in the Microsoft Azure Blob storage native format, and the container runs in a virtual machine within the customer’s subscription.

“We don’t hold any data. We just pass it to the Azure cloud,” MacDermid said. “An application that works on S3 can run in Azure without requiring any modification in the code.

“Once the data is up in Azure, you can use the Azure management services on top of it.”

Scality Connect makes it easier for developers to deploy applications within Microsoft Azure and use its advanced services. The software is available through the Azure Marketplace.

The Microsoft Azure and Google clouds do not support the Amazon S3 API, which has become the de facto cloud standard in the industry. That means the Azure Blob storage does not talk to the Amazon S3 API, which limits a customer’s ability to use multiple clouds.

“One side talks S3, and the other side talks the Azure API, and neither talks to each other,” MacDermid said. “This is a problem not only for customers, but for Azure, as well. [Microsoft] would admit that. The Scality Connect runs in the Azure Cloud. It gets your data up to the Azure Cloud and allows you to use the Azure services. We are the translation layer.”

Scality Connect is not the vendor’s first multicloud initiative. Scality in July unveiled its Zenko open source software controller for multicloud management to store data and applications under a single user interface no matter where they reside, including Scality Ring. It helps customers match specific workloads to the best cloud service. Zenko is based on the Scality S3 Server.