Tag Archives: blog

Addressing the coming IoT talent shortage – Microsoft Industry Blogs

This blog is the third in a series highlighting our newest research, IoT Signals. Each week will feature a new top-of-mind topic to provide insights into the current state of IoT adoption across industries, how business leaders can develop their own IoT strategies, and why companies should use IoT to improve service to partners and customers.

As companies survey the possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the challenges they face is a significant growing talent shortage. Recent research from Microsoft, IoT Signals, drills down into senior leaders’ concerns and plans. Microsoft surveyed 3,000 decision-makers at companies across China, France, Germany, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom who are involved in IoT.

Exploring IoT skills needs at enterprises today

Most IoT challenges today relate to staffing and skills. Our research finds that only 33 percent of companies adopting IoT say they have enough workers and resources, 32 percent lack enough workers and resources, and 35 percent reported mixed results or didn’t know their resourcing issues. Worldwide, talent shortages are most acute in the United States (37 percent) and China (35 percent).

Of the top challenges that impede the 32 percent of companies struggling with IoT skills shortages, respondents cited a lack of knowledge (40 percent), technical challenges (39 percent), lack of budget (38 percent), an inability to find the right solutions (28 percent), and security (19 percent).

a close up of a logo graph of tech assessment

a close up of a logo graph of tech assessment

Companies will need to decide which capabilities they should buy, in the form of hiring new talent; build, in the form of developing staff competencies; or outsource, in the form of developing strategic partnerships. For example, most companies evaluating the IoT space aren’t software development or con­nectivity experts and will likely turn to partners for these services.

Adequate resourcing is a game-changer for IoT companies

Our research found that having the right team and talent was critical to IoT success on a number of measures. First, those with sufficient resources were more likely to say that IoT was very critical to their company’s future success: 51 percent versus 39 percent. Hardship created more ambivalence, with only 41 percent of IoT high performers saying IoT was somewhat critical to future success, whereas 48 percent of lower-performing companies agreed.

Similarly, companies with strong IoT teams viewed IoT as a more successful investment, attributing 28 percent of current ROI to IoT (inclusive of cost savings and efficiencies) versus 20 percent at less enabled companies. That’s likely why 89 percent of those who have the right team is planning to use IoT more in the future versus 75 percent of those who lack adequate resources.

IoT talent shortage may cause higher failure rate

Getting IoT off the ground can be a challenge for any company, given its high learning curve, long-term commitment, and significant investment. It’s doubly so for companies that lack talent and resources. IoT Signals found that companies who lack adequate talent and resources have a higher failure rate in the proof of concept phase: 30 percent versus 25 percent for those with the right team. At companies with high IoT success, the initiative is led by a staffer in an IT role, such as a director of IT, a chief technology officer, or a chief information officer. With leadership support, a defined structure, and budget, these all-in IoT organizations are able to reach the production stage on an average of nine months, while those who lack skilled workers and resources take 12 months on average.

Despite initial challenges, company leaders are unlikely to call it quits. Business and technology executives realize that IoT is a strategic business imperative and will be increasingly required to compete in the marketplace. Setting up the right team, tools, and resources now can help prevent team frustration, business burnout, and leadership commitment issues.

Overcoming the skills issues with simpler platforms

Fortunately, industry trends like fully hosted SaaS platforms are reducing the complexity of building IoT programs: from connecting and managing devices to providing integrated tooling and security, to enabling analytics.

Azure IoT Central, a fully managed IoT platform, is designed to let anyone build an IoT initiative within hours, empowering business teams and other non-technical individuals to easily gain mastery and contribute. Azure includes IoT Plug and Play, which provides an open modeling language to connect IoT devices to the cloud seamlessly.

Additionally, Microsoft is working with its partner ecosystem to create industry-specific solutions to help companies overcome core IoT adoption blockers and investing in training tools like IoT School and AI Business School. Microsoft has one of the largest and fastest-growing partner ecosystems. Our more than 10,000 IoT partners provide domain expertise across industries and help address connectivity, security infrastructure, and application infrastructure requirements, allowing companies to drive to value faster. 

Learn more about how global companies are using IoT to drive value by downloading the IoT Signals report and reading our Transform Blog on IoT projects companies such as ThyssenKrupp, Bühler, Chevron, and Toyota Material Handling Group are driving.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

8 Key Questions on Cloud Migration Answered

If you follow our blog, you’ll likely know that we recently hosted an Altaro panel-style webinar, featuring Microsoft MVPs Didier Van Hoye, Thomas Maurer, and myself. The topic of the webinar was centered around the journey to the cloud, or simply put, migrating to cloud technologies. Cloud technologies including, on-prem hosted private cloud, hybrid cloud solutions like Azure Stack, and public cloud technologies such as Microsoft Azure. We chose this topic because we’ve found that while most IT Pros will agree that adopting cloud technologies is a good idea, many of them are unsure of the best way to get there. To be honest, I think that uncertainty is to be expected given the vast amount of options emerging cloud technologies provide. The aim of this webinar was to clarify the services available and how to decide which form of cloud adoption will be best for you.

It seems this topic is something quite a lot of our audience are interested in hearing more about considering the number of questions which were asked during the webinar. I’ve decided to group the most commonly asked ones here and omitted the more specific questions that relate to particular set-ups and individual requirements. Apart from the questions, the topic also raised a lot of comments and discussion which I think is well worth mentioning here so you can get a feel about how others in the IT community are dealing with the issue of cloud migration and the various concerns it brings with it (further down the page).

Remember if you didn’t have a chance to ask a question during the webinar, or if you were unable to attend and want to ask something now, I will be more than happy to answer any questions submitted through the comment box at the bottom of this page.

Revisit the Webinar

If you haven’t already watched the webinar (or if you just want to watch it again) you can do so HERE

Free Cloud Migration webinar

8 Questions on Cloud Technologies and Migration Answered

Q. When can you consider a deployment a hybrid cloud? Is it Azure Stack? Is it something as simple as a VPN linking on-prem and a public cloud?

A. I don’t know if there is an official definition, but the current industry opinion would state that a hybrid cloud is any deployment where your workloads and deployments are stretching from on-prem to a public cloud player such as Azure or AWS.

Q. With the release of Windows Admin Center, will we see the RSAT (Remote Server Administration Toolkit) tools go away?

A. No. At this time both management solutions will be developed by their respective teams. With that said, if the adoption of WAC is strong enough, we could potentially see the slow “phasing out” of RSAT possibly as soon as the next version of Windows Server (after 2019)

Q. Is there any way to connect containers to Windows Admin Center?

A. As it stands at the time of this writing no. There currently is no mechanism to manage containers from WAC. With that said, due to WACs extensibility it’s not out of the question for a 3rd party vendor (or even Microsoft) to write an extension for WAC that would allow you to do so.

If you need advanced management of containers today, take a look at an orchestration tool like Kubernetes.

Q. How does Azure Stack compete with current open source private clouds in the industry such as OpenStack? Pricing is quite different and some can even be seen as “free” by higher management while disregarding the needed effort to support such a deployment.

A. While it’s true that OpenStack and other open source cloud platforms like it can potentially be free, it’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison when comparing them to Azure stack. Azure stack is the power and capabilities of Azure inside of your datacenter. Microsoft has taken everything they’ve learned with public Azure and packaged it up for you to use at your location. You manage it and get billed, much the same way as with Azure. You manage it via the web and get billed per usage.

OpenStack certainly has it’s uses, and I’m a huge supporter of Open Source, but if you’re a Microsoft Centric shop looking to host a cloud for your organization, it’s tough to go wrong with Azure Stack due to the similarities in management and integration with public Azure. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself, do you want to use/consume cloud services? Or do you want to build a cloud? Remember that building a cloud is difficult, costly and time intensive. It’s possible but ongoing management can be difficult. With Azure Stack much of that work and testing is taken care of for you.

Q. Do you have any suggestions for using Azure as a DR site?

A. It certainly is possible to use Azure for DR, and it’s often seen as one of the 1st services to move into the public cloud. You can certainly use Azure to host offsite backups and/or recovery to a nested hypervisor inside of Azure using a product such as Altaro VM Backup. If you need a more “hot” DR approach, you could look at something like Azure Site Recovery as well.

Q. What are your thoughts on using Cloud services to host file services for a small number of remote users

A. While you could certainly use something like OneDrive for Business, or Azure Files to do something like this, you need to first consider latencies and access times. Are your users consuming file types that work ok with longer than “local” latencies? If so these services may work for you. If not local on-network file storage may still be a requirement. Whatever route you chose to go, remember that file performance is often one of the most ticket generating user issue. Make sure you test before settling on an option.

Q. What are the rough costs for storage in Azure?

A. See the Azure Pricing Calculator for the latest pricing information

Q. Is there are “Cost Meter” in the Azure Interface? Someway of allowing you to keep an eye on mounting costs?

A. This is an area that Microsoft has continued to improve. The Azure Portal has many of its own cost monitoring and estimation tools, but if you need more than the basics, then take a look at Azure Cost Management.

Thoughts and Opinions from Webinar Attendees

On companies utilizing cloud technologies

“I Agree. It’s almost never going to be 100% cloud, except with brand new companies, and even then, a small number. 99.99% Will be Hybrid”

-Mark

“I Think we are ready for the cloud, but a lot of delay is being caused by software vendors. They are not ready for the cloud since their software was developed in the late 90s and the recent updates only contain updated branding and minor code changes. The cloud is entirely new for them and it scares them”

-Jos

On moving existing workloads to the cloud and dealing with old Operating Systems

“There is way too much very old stuff that will be difficult to move to the cloud. It will have to wait until there are resources (read: money) to re-architect the application/platform”

-Mark

“There are a LOT of 2003 boxes running in production still”

-Mark

“There are even still Windows NT Boxes running!”

-Jos

“We have some old NT and 2003 servers due to old technology interfaces, plus the original designers have left and there is no documentation”

-Steve

On the Need for On-Premises Equipment

“On-Premises data will always be required due to local/country laws. Think Switzerland, and think of the new GDPR laws in the EU. Almost every country will have their own local data center, Azure, AWS, Google…etc. It is the way it will go.”

-Mark

On the DevOps Movement in the Industry

“Don’t forget the OPS in DevOPS…. We are also interested in it and it is no longer strictly a Dev thing.”

-Nuno

On Container Technologies

“Still, A container is the App “package”. It still needs to run on something and while it can accelerate the delivery process, there’s still a huge dependency on the infrastructure landscape and IMO it’s really where Ops can shine and their current knowledge can translate into the container world”

-Nuno

On Getting Started with the Cloud

“Very good point about doing your personal systems in the cloud. I agree and am doing it also.”

-Mark

Wrap-Up

As you can see there are plenty of questions when it comes to moving to the cloud, but none of them are insurmountable. Moving to the cloud can be predictable, and doable, you just need to do your homework before you make the move.

What are your thoughts? Is the cloud something you’re considering in the 2018 calendar year? Why? Why not? Also, if you have additional questions, or you attended our webinar and don’t see your question above, be sure to let us know in the comments form below!

Thanks for reading!

New to Microsoft 365 in May—empowering and securing users – Microsoft 365 Blog

Each month on the Microsoft 365 Blog, we highlight key updates to Microsoft 365 that build on our vision for the modern workplace. This month, we introduced a number of new capabilities to help individuals produce accessible content, work together in real-time, and create a secure and compliant workplace.

Here’s a look at what we brought to Microsoft 365 in May.

Empowering creative teamwork

Create accessible content in Office 365—We enhanced the Accessibility Checker to streamline the process of creating quality content that is accessible to people with disabilities. Now, the Accessibility Checker identifies an expanded range of issues within a document, including low-contrast text that is difficult to read because the font color is too similar to the background color. The checker also includes a recommended action menu and utilizes AI to make intelligent suggestions for improvements—like suggesting a description for an image—making it easier to fix flagged issues from within your workflow.

GIF showing the Accessibility Checker being run from the Review tab in a Word document with black text on a grey background and an image of a forest. Accessibility Checker inspection results show that the image is missing alternative text and the user clicks the recommended action: Add a description to fix this. This opens the Alt Text pane and the user types the image description in it. The user then clicks the Low contrast text warning in the Accessibility Checker inspection results and clicks the recommended action and changes the page color to white. The inspection results now show no more accessibility issues.

Accessibility Checker alerts you in real-time of issues that make your content difficult for people with disabilities to access.

Work in mixed reality with SharePoint—This month, we unveiled SharePoint spaces—immersive, mixed reality experiences built on SharePoint—which enable you to interact with and explore content in new ways. Now, Microsoft 365 subscribers can work with 3D models, 360-degree videos, panoramic images, organizational charts, visualizations, and any information on your intranet to create immersive mixed reality experiences. SharePoint spaces make it easy to create virtual environments with point-and-click simplicity to help viewers digest information that might be too numerous or too complex to experience in the real world or in a two-dimensional environment.

Create immersive virtual environments in seconds with SharePoint spaces.

Find relevant content faster in SharePoint—The new Find tab in the SharePoint mobile app makes it easier to access the information you need when looking for expertise, content, apps, or resources on the go. The Find tab uses AI to automatically surface sites, files, news, and people relevant to you without having to search—including documents and sites that you were recently working on from across your devices. The Find tab also refines search results as you type, and leverages AI to provide instant answers to questions you ask based on information from across your intranet.

A screenshot of the SharePoint Find tab.

By learning from your existing content and organizational knowledge, AI provides instant answers, transforming search into action.

Run efficient meetings with Microsoft Teams—This month at Build, we demonstrated a range of future capabilities in Microsoft Teams that utilize AI to make meetings smarter and more intuitive over time—including real-time transcription, Cortana voice interactions for Teams-enabled devices, and automatic notetaking. Today, we’re announcing new capabilities for mobile users that make it easier to participate in meetings on the go. Now, you can quickly share your screen with others in the meeting directly from your mobile device, or upload images and video from your library. These improvements make everyone a first-class meeting participant—regardless of location or device.

Source video.

Extend meeting capabilities with Surface Hub 2—Earlier this month, we introduced Surface Hub 2, a device built from the ground up to be used by teams in any organization. Surface Hub 2 integrates Teams, Microsoft Whiteboard, Office 365, Windows 10, and the intelligent cloud into a seamless collaboration experience, which extends the capabilities of any meeting space and allows users to create—whether in the same room or separated by thousands of miles.

Creating a secure and compliant workplace

Achieve GDPR compliance with the Microsoft Cloud—This month marked a major milestone for individual privacy rights with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that took effect on May 25, 2018. Over the last few months, we introduced new capabilities across the Microsoft Cloud to help you effectively demonstrate that your organization has taken appropriate steps to protect the privacy rights of individuals. To learn more about these capabilities, read our summary of Microsoft’s investment to support GDPR and the privacy rights of individuals.

Microsoft 365 customer INAIL leverages Azure Information Protection to classify, label, and protect their most sensitive data.

Work securely with external partners in Microsoft 365—We introduced several new capabilities in Azure Active Directory Business-to-Business (B2B) collaboration that make it easier to work safely and securely with people outside of your Microsoft 365 tenant. B2B collaboration allows administrators to share access to internal resources and applications with external partners while maintaining complete control over their own corporate data. Starting this month, first-time external users are welcomed to your tenant with a modernized experience and improved consent flow, making it easier for users to accept the terms of use agreements set by your organization.

We also improved Business-to-Consumer (B2C) collaboration, making it easier to invite external partners who use consumer email accounts like Outlook and Gmail while protecting your organization’s data and improving the process of setting access policies.

A screenshot from Azure Active Directory's Review permissions tab.

Track terms of use agreements in Azure Active Directory B2B by tracking when users consent.

Other updates

As companies seek to empower people to do their best work, a cultural transformation isn’t just inevitable—it’s essential. This month, we released a white paper outlining how Microsoft is partnering with customers to foster a modern workplace that is productive, responsive, creative, and secure. To learn more, read the New Culture of Work white paper.

Check out these other updates from across Microsoft 365:

Next Generation Washington 2018 – Microsoft on the Issues

Last January, we published for the first time a blog that outlined the positions Microsoft would be advocating as we walked the halls of our state capitol in Olympia. As we pointed out, public interest groups had called for greater transparency by companies, and we had concluded that they made a good point. People seemed to appreciate last year’s publication, so we’re taking the same step this year.

We appreciate the hard work and personal sacrifices our state legislators make each year. As we move forward in this year’s session, I’ve sketched Microsoft’s priorities in Washington state below. You’ll find our thoughts on several issues, including education and workforce development, climate change, rural economic development, the Cascadia Corridor, the Special Olympics and a few others. No doubt you may agree with some of our positions more than others. But regardless of the substance of the issue, we hope you’ll find this helpful.

Strengthening education and workforce development

The short 2018 legislative session provides an opportunity to build on the accomplishments that our legislators achieved last year in Olympia during the six-month session. Last year they passed a landmark bipartisan budget designed to inject an additional $7.3 billion into schools over the next four years. As we noted last July, this continued a trend that began with the McCleary decision in 2012. That year, the state spent $13.4 billion per biennium (two years) on K-12 education. By the 2019-2021 biennium, the state will spend $26.6 billion on K-12 education. Much of the new funding is based on student need, which helps to close stubborn opportunity gaps for many students in high-poverty schools.

While the state’s Supreme Court has acknowledged the importance of this progress, it has also called on the legislature to accelerate this spending increase. As a result, this is an important priority for this legislative session, and we hope it can be addressed effectively.

At the same time, it’s critical that our legislators take additional steps to address other education and workforce development needs. Technology is changing jobs and people will need to develop new skills to succeed in the future. For the people of our state to be successful, we need to continue to increase high school graduation rates and then provide a path towards a post-secondary credential, whether that’s an industry certification, a college degree or some other credential. The state has set the important goal of helping 70 percent of Washingtonians between the ages of 25 to 44 to achieve a post-secondary degree or credential by 2023. Today, that figure is only 51 percent, with larger deficits among important racial, geographic and economic segments. In short, we have a lot of work to do.

One of our best opportunities is to invest in a strong career-connected learning strategy that will provide young people with learning and training programs that will provide them with the skills and credentials they need to pursue our state’s jobs. Microsoft has been a strong supporter of Gov. Jay Inslee’s goal of connecting 100,000 young people with career-connected learning opportunities. I’ve co-chaired – along with MacDonald-Miller’s Perry England – the governor’s task force to address this issue. We’ve learned from the business, labor, education and policy leaders involved what an important opportunity our state has to lead the nation in better preparing our young people for the full range of jobs across the state. I’m excited about the recommendations we’re finalizing and will present to the governor and public next month. I hope our legislators will support the governor as he continues to lead the state on this issue, and I hope that companies across the business community and organized labor groups will work closely with our educators to make these opportunities real for our young people.

While we undertake this new career-connected learning initiative, it’s also important for the 2018 session to address two areas of narrower but vital unfinished business left over from last year. The first is to provide $3 million in supplemental funding to complete the doubling – to over 600 – of computer science degree capacity at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. We’re exceedingly fortunate as a state to have in the Allen School one of the world’s premier computer science departments located in the middle of a region that is creating so many computer science jobs.

I chaired the effort that completed the fundraising in 2017 to build a second computer science building at the University of Washington. Microsoft was a major contributor, as was the state itself, Amazon, Zillow, Google and so many generous individuals. Now that we’ve raised over $70 million of private money to build this building, we’re hoping the legislature will allocate $3 million so the university can fill it with Washington students.

Finally, we have a key opportunity to continue to help remove financial barriers for lower-income students to pursue college degrees in high demand STEM and healthcare fields by advancing and funding the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS).

Microsoft has supported WSOS and I’ve chaired the program’s board since it was founded in 2011. Thanks to the terrific leadership of Naria Santa Lucia, our executive director, and some remarkable partners across the state, the WSOS program is already leading the nation with its innovative work to match private sector contributions with state funding and services for our scholars. More than 3,800 students who grew up in Washington state are attending colleges in the state on these scholarships this year. Because the program continues to grow, just over 1,750 of this total are new scholars added this year. And consider this: 60 percent of this new group are female, 72 percent are among the first generation in their families to attend college and 73 percent are students of color. It helps put our state at the forefront of national efforts to create better opportunities for young people of all backgrounds.

The legislature can take two additional steps this session to help the WSOS achieve even more. The first is to include an additional appropriation in its supplemental budget to match the increasing level of private donations to the program. And the second is to authorize WSOS to provide new support to students looking to pursue industry certification and associate degree programs in STEM-related fields at our state’s 34 community and technical colleges.

Addressing climate change

A second important issue on the state legislature’s agenda this year is one of the broadest issues for the planet: climate change. As a company, Microsoft is focusing on new ways we can use artificial intelligence and other technology to help address this problem, including through our AI for Earth program. This builds on ongoing work to ensure our local campus and our datacenters worldwide use more green energy. This includes setting an internal price on carbon we charge our business units, purchasing renewable energy and establishing extensive commuting and carpooling programs.  As companies across the tech sector help address climate issues, we believe that Washington state has a key role to play as well.

We applaud Gov. Inslee for his longstanding commitment to this issue, as well as the work of several legislators who have emerged as leaders in addressing it. Washington is already one of the lowest carbon emitters per capita, in part because of the important clean energy investments made by Washington businesses and families. But we all need to do more.

We hope the legislature will work with stakeholders across the state to drive reductions in total carbon emissions, while minimizing economic disruptions, creating new job opportunities and addressing the water infrastructure needs that are so vital for the eastern part of our state. In 2017, we saw the value of diverse interests coming together to craft a balanced solution that makes Washington a leader on paid family leave. A similar collaborative approach can help us forge progress in addressing climate change.

Supporting rural Washington

One of the issues we learned a lot more about in 2017 was the importance of expanding opportunities for people in rural communities in the United States. The more we’ve learned, the more passionate we’ve become. We’re now working with state governments across the country, and we hope that our own legislature will take the steps needed to ensure we can do work in our home state that matches the work we’re doing and witnessing elsewhere.

One of the issues that deserves more attention is the broadband gap in the state and across the country. As we see firsthand every day, cloud computing and artificial intelligence are reshaping the economy and creating new opportunities for people who can put this technology to use. But it’s impossible to take advantage of these opportunities without access to broadband. Today there are 23.4 million Americans in rural counties who lack broadband access. Many rural communities, especially east of the Cascades, lack adequate broadband. Whether they are parents helping their children with homework, veterans seeking telemedicine services, farmers looking to explore precision agriculture or small business owners wanting to create jobs, people in these communities are at a disadvantage to those living in cities with high-speed connectivity.

The goal of Microsoft’s Airband initiative is to help close this rural connectivity gap by bringing broadband connectivity to 2 million people in rural America by 2022. Through our direct work with partners, we will launch at least 13 projects in 13 states this year, including Washington. We believe the public sector also has a vital role to play, including the investment of matching funds to support capital equipment projects. Today, 11 states have earmarked funds to extend broadband service to their rural communities. But Washington is not one of them.

We hope the legislature will act this year to join the ranks of other states that are acting to advance rural broadband connectivity. Encouragingly, the legislature this year has taken a first step in this direction by recently adopting a capital budget with $5 million in grants for the Community Economic Revitalization Board to support the expansion of rural broadband. However, the bill failed to reach projects addressing the homework gap or providing telemedicine capacity. Legislative leaders have stated they will make supplemental adjustments to the biennial budget in the upcoming weeks. We hope the legislature will continue to pursue a more expansive use of rural broadband funds and will reestablish the Rural Broadband Office in the Department of Commerce. This office would then lead state planning to prioritize and sequence the delivery of high-quality broadband access to unserved and underserved communities.

Advancing the Cascadia Corridor

The legislature can also act in 2018 to build on the growing momentum to advance the Cascadia Corridor. The past year saw several important advances in this area by leaders in Washington, British Columbia and Oregon. This included new education and research partnerships, businesses working more closely together and transportation initiatives, all supported by government leaders across Washington state. Gov. Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine and University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce have all played key leadership roles, which we greatly appreciate.

At the same time, urban congestion is making even more compelling the need to spread economic growth more broadly to more areas around the Puget Sound. One way to do that is to strengthen transportation ties from Vancouver to Seattle to Portland. The ability to move more quickly would help spur growth in places from Bellingham and Anacortes to Tacoma and Olympia, among others.

While we believe there is an important role for future investments in autonomous vehicles and highway improvements to accommodate them, we also believe there are vital steps the legislature can take in another area – high-speed rail. The construction of a high-speed rail connection between Portland and Vancouver, B.C. would be a game changer. An initial high-level report already supports the concept and Gov. Inslee has proposed a more detailed study of potential ridership, routes and financing. We support funding for this additional feasibility analysis, and in light of the recent Amtrak tragedy, urge lawmakers to examine both economic opportunities and public safety requirements.

Other issues

There are three additional issues that deserve continuing attention in Olympia and across the state this year. These are:

  • Immigration. Over the past year, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has emerged as a national leader in addressing the urgent needs of people who have come to our state from other countries. We greatly appreciate the role he and his staff have played in helping to protect our employees, who work for us lawfully and in full compliance with federal laws. As we look ahead, we remain concerned not only about steps taken over the past year but by new steps that could come in the year ahead. These could impact our employees and families, as well as many others across the state. We’re grateful that we live in a state that has an attorney general who is committed to continuing efforts, if needed, to bring these types of issues properly before the courts.
  • Criminal justice system improvements. We hope that officials across the state will continue to build on the steps taken last year in this area. In 2017 the legislature provided $1.2 million in additional funding for the state’s Criminal Justice Training Center (CJTC) to improve situational de-escalation capabilities and build stronger trust between law enforcement and communities. Microsoft is supporting this with a $400,000 investment through 2019 to pilot the Center’s 21st Century Police Leadership program. We’re grateful that CJTC Executive Director Sue Rahr – a nationally recognized expert in policing and a long-time law enforcement leader in our state – is leading this work. We are also working with leaders in our state’s court system to build technology solutions that will help judges improve fairness and just outcomes in legal financial obligations. We look forward to continuing to pursue additional advances in 2018 with a wide range of partners.
  • Net neutrality. Like most tech companies and many consumers, we’re also concerned about the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to rescind net neutrality rules. We’ve long supported net neutrality rules at the federal level, and we endorsed the FCC’s adoption of strong net neutrality protection in 2015. Given the federal government’s withdrawal of net neutrality protections, we believe it’s appropriate and helpful for the legislature to adopt at the state level the rules that the FCC rescinded. We hope the legislature will include a provision that will sunset these rules automatically if the FCC re-adopts rules that are the same or substantially similar in the future. This would create a long-term incentive for all stakeholders to move net neutrality in the United States back to the place where it can be governed effectively at the national level.

Ending on a very bright note – the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games are coming to Seattle!

Finally, as we contemplate the challenges of our time, there’s one thing we should all get excited about. The Special Olympics USA Games will take place in Seattle. On July 1, 4,000 athletes and coaches from across the country will arrive to compete in 14 sports. They include many remarkable athletes and their families, and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

It will be one of the largest sporting events ever held in Seattle, with more than 50,000 spectators expected. Microsoft is honored to be the presenting sponsor of the games, I’m thrilled to serve as the honorary chair, and we thank (and even salute!) lawmakers for the $3 million in state support, further demonstrating our state commitment to showcasing the power of diversity.

While many of the issues I’ve noted above call for leadership by our legislators and other officials, the Special Olympics provide an opportunity for individual leadership by every one of us. Literally.

The Special Olympics have played a transformative role in the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities and has become a global movement of acceptance and inclusion. Through sports, health, school and youth engagement, the organization brings people around the world together, with and without intellectual disabilities, to foster tolerance, unity and respect.

I hope you’ll join in to make the USA Games a special moment not only for the athletes and their families, but for all of us who live in Washington state. Please join us at the opening ceremonies on July 1. It will be an event to remember. Or, attend one of the 14 sports events that will take place around Puget Sound. Consider volunteering to help, showing our local hospitality to our visitors while learning more about how we can all learn from each other in new ways.

We also believe the USA Games can provide another opportunity as well. As we prepare for the event, one of the themes we’ve adopted is “Seattle as a city of inclusion.” We’re hoping that local employers will join together not only to encourage employee volunteerism, but to learn more about programs like the one that we’ve benefited from at Microsoft that has helped us recruit, hire and develop some sensational employees who also happen to deal with autism every day. As we’ve learned, talent flourishes all around us, but sometimes we need to look around a bit more broadly to appreciate how we can benefit from it – and how we can help other people along the way.

*        *        *

As we look to the months ahead, there’s no doubt that 2018 will bring its share of twists, turns, and even challenges. But when we look at what our legislators can accomplish and what the rest of us can contribute, there is no shortage of opportunities. Let’s make the most of them together!

As always, we welcome your thoughts on our ideas.

Tags: Brad Smith, Cascadia Corridor, education, employment, Environment, legislation, Next Generation Washington

Moving to a new home…

This is the last blog post that I am going to write as Virtual PC Guy. But do not fear, I am starting a new blog over at american-boffin.com, and all the Virtual PC Guy posts are going to remain intact.

You may wonder why I am making this change?

Well, there are several reasons.

  • It’s been a long time. I have written 1399 blog posts over 14 years – averaging one new post every other working day. When I started this blog, I had more hair and fewer children.
  • The world has changed. When I started writing as Virtual PC Guy, virtualization was a new and unknown technology. Cloud computing was not even invented yet. It is amazing to think about how far we have come!
  • The scope and impact of my work has drastically increased. When I started blogging, there were a very select group of people who cared about virtualization. Now, between cloud computing, the rise of virtualization and containerization as standard development tools – and the progress we have been making on delivering virtualization based security for all environments – more and more people are affected by my work.
  • I am a manager now. When I started on this blog I was a frontline program manager – and most of my time was spent thinking about and designing technology. I have been a program manager lead for almost a decade now – and while I do still spend a lot of time working with technology – I spend more time working with people.
  • Maintaining multiple blogs is hard. I have tried, from time to time, to start up separate blogs for different parts of my life. But maintaining a blog is a lot of work. Maintaining multiple blogs is just too much work for me.
  • Virtual PC Guy has a very distinctive style. Over the years I have toyed with the idea of switching up the style of Virtual PC Guy – but I have never been able to bring myself to do it.

For all these reasons – I have decided that the best thing to do would be to archive Virtual PC Guy (I have posts that are 10 years old and are still helping people out!) and to start a new blog.

On my new blog – I will still talk about technology – but I will also spend time talking about working with customers, working with people in a corporate environment, and about whatever hobbies I happen to be spending my time on.

I hope you come and join me on my new blog!

Cheers,
Ben

Top 10 blog posts of 2017 illuminate top CIO goals

SearchCIO’s most popular blog posts of 2017 point to a set of lofty — and mandatory — CIO goals: artificial intelligence, digital transformation, multicloud management. IT leaders are learning all they can about these tech trends. The aim? To help their companies gain business advantage — before their competitors do.

Readers perused posts about avoiding getting locked into relationships with public cloud vendors, the absence of a universal platform for digitally connected smart cities and the coming proliferation of AI in the workplace.

The blogs IT leaders showed interest in 2017 were about how to install robotic process automation technology, what copy data management software is good for and what to look for in cloud management platforms. Moreover, they revealed some of the top CIO goals of 2017. Here are the year’s 10 most-read blog posts.

10. Managing the unmanageable

IT departments today are overseeing an ever-expanding assortment of cloud services — and it’s not easy. Each service requires a different management tool, and juggling all that “is just painful,” said IBM cloud development expert Mike Edwards. In “Out of many, one hybrid cloud management platform,” Edwards gives a rundown of the functions to look for in cloud management platforms, commercial tools meant to rein in cloud chaos. Among them are integration, so they can pull together disparate computing systems; general services, including a central portal to manage all a company’s cloud services; and financial management, to track the resources consumed and how much money is spent on them.

Cloud management platform functions
This slide, from a Cloud Standards Customer Council presentation in July, outlines the capabilities of a cloud management platform.

9. Cloud, consolidated

The public cloud firmament is ruled not by a pantheon of platform providers but by a tiny clique of cloud gods. According to an August report by Forrester Research, organizations hosting IT and business operations in the cloud shouldn’t let the small number of big players — Amazon, Microsoft and Google are the top three — lull them into a one-provider strategy. Those that do may see business come to a halt should the provider experience an outage. Or they may complain bitterly if a provider raises its prices — and then grudgingly pay up. In “Forrester: Go multicloud, ditch public cloud platform lock-in,” analyst Andrew Bartels advises CIOs on ways to reap cloud benefits — and lower risk. 

8. Making data talk

Bob Rogers, chief data scientist, Intel Corp.Bob Rogers

What makes a great data scientist? At a talk at Harvard University, Bob Rogers, chief data scientist at Intel Corp., started with what doesn’t: creating a report the business just asked for. A great data scientist needs to understand algorithms and statistics to produce analytics, of course, but “can also communicate with the stakeholders who are going to use those results.” In “What Intel’s Bob Rogers looks for when hiring data scientists,” Rogers describes the detailed “conversation” these practitioners need to have with users of data in order to dig up the insights that matter to the business.

7. Urban renewal

City CIOs examining initiatives aimed at making their cities “smart” — using data to improve municipal services — are at a frontier. There are no technical standards for how data is collected and measured. There’s no analytical data platform. There’s not even one understanding of what a smart city is. “If you go to any smart city conference, you’re going to find as many definitions of a smart city as there are attendees,” said Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for Kansas City, Mo. The post “Smart city platform: A work in progress” reports on a conference convened to address big questions swirling around smart city projects today. The verdict? It’s too early for answers.

6. What’s my job?

Know of a chief digital officer hired to drive employee productivity and operational efficiency? Then the job description is in need of a redo, said Jim Fowler. “That’s the role of the CIO,” the vice president and CIO at General Electric said at MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in May. Fowler delineates the two roles in “CIO doesn’t play chief digital officer role at GE.” The CDO should be focused on using data to develop commercial products, Fowler said. At GE, an old company going through huge digital changes, the roles are separate and distinct. As CIO, Fowler is working toward a billion-dollar productivity target. The CDO, who happens to be his boss, William Ruh, “is focused on turning us into a $10 billion software business.”

From left to right, Peter Weill, of MIT; Jim Fowler, of GE (on screen); David Gledhill, of DBS Bank; Ross Meyercord, of Salesforce; and Lucille Mayer, of BNY Mellon, chat on stage at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass., on May 24.

5. The business of AI

CIOs who want to inject AI into their companies’ lifeblood have some work to do. Today, 80% of organizations are considering use of AI or examining it, while just a small percentage are using it in their core business, according to McKinsey & Co. research. In “McKinsey: You can’t do enterprise AI without digital transformation,” McKinsey partner Michael Chui said the entire organization needs to be on board “to move the needle from a corporate standpoint.” CIOs need to build the foundation for AI in business first by determining where the potential is — and then by pushing ahead on digital efforts, digitizing infrastructure, amassing data and making it easy to access.

4. Double take

Rosetta Stone’s Mark Moseley is thankful for having been to one boring meeting. The vice president of IT at the language-learning company agreed to meet sales reps from Actifio, which sells copy data management software. “I didn’t care,” he told SearchCIO in “Waking up to benefits of copy data management software.” “I was mostly zoned out of the meeting.” Until he realized that the vendor’s product could clone an entire database in minutes — and help his development team work more efficiently. After installing the software, Moseley found he could do other useful tasks, such as virtualize his data, which allows him to have to store less, and spin up disaster recovery sites in the cloud.

3. ‘What I want when I want it’

Nestlé’s 100-year-old water delivery business is going through an immense transition. The prime objective used to be making sure that customers didn’t run out of bottled water before a truck delivered more. “Now it’s, ‘Make sure you deliver what I want when I want it,'” said Aymeric Le Page, vice president of business strategy and transformation at Nestlé Waters North America. The post “Nestlé builds ‘digital ecosystems’ to transform its massive bottled water biz” describes the technological and cultural changes the company is ushering in to personalize its service for convenience-obsessed customers — and it draws a critical parallel to how IT leaders should be thinking about serving the business.

2. My software, my co-worker

AI will supplant the UI, Accenture says; count on it. “Accenture: AI is the new UI” examines the consulting outfit’s prediction — the rise of software tailored to individuals rather than programming for the masses. “The standard way people built applications 20 years ago was you had one interface to serve everybody,” said Michael Biltz, managing director of Accenture Technology Vision. CIOs should start overhauling customer-facing applications, Biltz said, equipping them with technology such as voice recognition to make interacting with them “more human or natural” — and then move to internal apps, to help make employees more effective and efficient.

1. Show me the value

David Brain, RPA consultant David Brain

Companies looking to robotic process automation should ditch POC for POV — that’s alphabet soup for proof of concept and proof of value — according to RPA consultant David Brain in “Proof of value — not proof of concept — key to RPA technology.” A proof of concept may show customers that the technology works — that it can automate a certain business process. What it doesn’t show is “whether there is a business case for automation and will it deliver the scale of improvements the company wants to achieve.” A proof of value for RPA, Brain said, shows whether the technology can automate systems in the precise way they’re used in a specific company.

Extending Microsoft Azure IP Advantage to China

This blog post was authored by Erich Andersen, Corporate Vice President and Chief IP Counsel, Microsoft Intellectual Property. 

Cloud-fueled digital transformation enables companies around the world to create new products and services, and engage with their customers at an unprecedented pace and scale. As they become digital businesses, companies need to address legal challenges which come with participating in the digital economy. Microsoft has developed strategies and assets to manage the intellectual property infringement risks that come with digital transformation. As our customers and partners become digital businesses, we are using our IP expertise and patent portfolio to help our customers protect their innovations in the cloud and focus on developing their business to succeed in their transformation.

Today, we are announcing that Microsoft Azure IP Advantage will be available in China beginning October 1, 2017, ensuring that Azure customers in China can enjoy the same great IP protection benefits as customers in the rest of the world. 

We have had a tremendous response to the program since we launched it last February. Customers recognize that uncapped indemnification coverage, including for open source software that powers Azure experiences, access to 10,000 Microsoft patents, and the springing license right are valuable benefits that help them manage IP risk.

Many customers tell us that the patent pick benefit alone serves as a significant deterrent against patent assertions and that the breadth of our indemnification pledge is unmatched by competitors. ISVs building on Azure are excited by the ability to access 10,000 Microsoft patents to complement their own patent portfolio. TechInsights confirms that, “Microsoft Azure IP Advantage outranks competitors Oracle, Google, Amazon and VMware’s portfolios.” None of Microsoft’s Azure competitors offer a similar package of offerings. The fact that these tools are available for free to eligible Azure customers makes it all the more compelling.

Extending these benefits to China aligns well with Microsoft’s approach to delivering cloud services on a truly global scale. Azure has 42 regions around the world and that number is growing. In China, Microsoft has partnered with 21Vianet to deliver Microsoft Azure services to our customers since March 2014. No other cloud service provider can match the Azure global data center footprint, and many of them are just getting started in China while Microsoft has already been in market for several years. Beyond the public cloud, customers can leverage Azure Stack to use Azure services in their private data centers or in markets where Azure public cloud is not available yet, all through a consistent set of services and APIs.

[embedded content]

The benefit of Azure IP Advantage is obvious. A recent study by IPlytics has shown that patent assertion entities have increased their stockpile of cloud computing patents by 130% since 2011. Worse, cloud-related patent litigation in the US has grown by 700% since 2012. We can see these trends taking hold in China as well where patent litigation has increased 158% between 2011 and 2016. Patent filings in China have surpassed the US since 2015.

We’re pleased to be supported in our Azure IP Advantage launch in China by valued customers. MoBike, the world largest bicycle sharing company headquartered in Beijing, is using the Azure platform to rapidly and expand its business outside of China into to Manchester in the UK and other cities worldwide. Azure IP Advantage protections follow MoBike in its international expansion.

Azure IP Advantage is already available outside of China. With this announcement, customers can rely on Azure IP Advantage protections anywhere they deploy their SaaS applications.

Sneak peek #3: Windows Server, version 1709 for developers

This blog post was authored by Patrick Lang, Senior Program Manager, Windows Server.

Windows 10 and Windows Server are built on customer feedback. We use the tools built right into Windows to maintain a continuous cycle of feedback from our customers used to drive refinements and new features. After the launch of Windows Server 2016, we continued to listen to our customer feedback channels and the repeated message we heard is that you want access to new Windows Server builds more frequently to test new features and fixes. First, we announced that Windows Server would be joining the Windows Insider program so you can download and test the latest builds. However, previews alone aren’t enough so we launched the Windows Server Semi-annual Channel to ship supported releases twice per year, and this fall will be the first release on that cadence.

Since the launch of Windows Server 2016, container adoption has skyrocketed, with many customers using a “lift and shift” approach to migrate existing applications and start the journey to modernize their deployments. Hyper-V can also provide unprecedented isolation between containers, and you can leverage your existing Active Directory infrastructure for apps in containers with Group Managed Service Account support.

We heard loud and clear that developers need a platform that provides great density and performance as well as flexibility to run containerized applications. Here’s a glimpse on what’s coming in Windows Server, version 1709 for developers:

Faster downloads, builds, and deployments with Nano Server container image

In the Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel, we’ve optimized Nano Server as a container base OS image and decreased it from 390 MB to 80 MB. That’s a nearly 80% savings! This gives developers a much smaller image ideal for building new applications or adding new services to existing applications.

We launched Windows Server containers with a getting started guide and open-source documentation on GitHub. The community response has been excellent, and we’ve had over 150 people share their expertise and contribute back. Check out our documentation page to learn more. For those of you who joined the Windows Insiders program, you can also check out the documentation on how to use containers with Insider images.

Linux containers

We knew developers were eager to run any container, Windows or Linux, on the same machine. The crowd went wild when we announced this at Dockercon earlier this year and it showed how much demand there was for this work. This feature uses Hyper-V isolation to run a Linux kernel with just enough OS to support containers. Since then, we’ve been hard at work building this technology with new functionality in Hyper-V,  joint work with the Linux community, and contributions to the open source Moby project on which Docker technology is built. Now it’s time to share a sneak peek of how to run Linux containers and start getting feedback on how it’s working for Windows Insiders.

You can get started with these features right away as a Windows Insider. To try this out, you’ll need:

  • Windows 10 or Windows Server Insider Preview build 16267 or later
  • A build of the Docker daemon based off the Moby master branch
  • Your choice of compatible Linux image

Our joint partners have published guides with steps on how to get started:

More to come!

Of course, this is just a glimpse on the news for developers in this release. We have a bunch more we’ll talk about in the blogs to come. Keep an eye out for other blogs in this series and join the Windows Insiders program to have access to the preview releases. Feedback is always welcome! Please use the Windows Feedback tool Hub if you’re a Windows 10 Insider, or join us at the Windows Server Insiders Tech Community.

Check out other blogs in this series:

Hortonworks extends IaaS offering on Azure with Cloudbreak

This blog post is co-authored by Peter Darvasi, Engineer, Hortonworks.

We are excited to announce the availability of Cloudbreak for Hortonworks Data Platform on Azure Marketplace. Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) is an enterprise-ready, open source Apache Hadoop distribution. With Cloudbreak, you can easily provision, configure, and scale HDP clusters in Azure. Cloudbreak is designed for the following use cases:

  • Create clusters which you can fully control and customize to best fit your workload
  • Create on-demand clusters to run specific workloads, with data persisted in Azure Blob Storage or Azure Data Lake Store
  • Create, manage, and scale your clusters intuitively using Cloudbreak UI, or automate with Cloudbreak Shell or API
  • Automatically configure Kerberos and Apache Knox to secure your cluster

When you deploy Cloudbreak, it installs a “controller” VM which runs the Cloudbreak application. You can use the controller to launch and manage clusters. The following diagram illustrates the high-level architecture of Cloudbreak and HDP on Azure:

image

Cloudbreak lets you manage all your HDP clusters from a central location. You can configure your clusters with all the controls that Azure and HDP have to offer, and you can automate and repeat your deployments with:

  • Infrastructure templates for specifying compute, storage, and network resources in the cloud
  • Ambari blueprints for configuring Hadoop workload
  • Custom scripts that you can run before or after cluster creation

In addition, Cloudbreak on Azure features the following unique capabilities:

  • Easily install Cloudbreak by following a UI wizard on Azure Marketplace
  • Choose among Azure Blob Storage, Azure Data Lake Store, as well as Managed Disks attached to the cluster nodes to persist your data
  • Follow a simple Cloudbreak wizard to automate the creation of an Azure Active Directory Service Principal for Cloudbreak to manage your Azure resources
  • Enable high availability with Azure Availability Set
  • Deploy clusters in new or existing Azure VNet

Getting started

  • Go to Azure Marketplace and follow the wizard to install Cloudbreak. 
  • Once deployment is succeeded, retrieve the public DNS name for the Cloudbreak VM. 

image

  • Open https with the DNS name, and you will see a browser warning. This is because by default there is no certificate set for this https site. You can still continue to your Cloudbreak web UI and follow the wizard to provision clusters. We recommend that you set up a valid certificate and disable public IP in a production environment. 

Additional resources

Sneak Peek #1: Windows Server, version 1709

This blog post was authored by Jeff Woolsey, Principal Program Manager, Windows Server.

Greetings!

We’re watching the calendar and counting down to Microsoft Ignite September 25-29 in Orlando, Florida. Ignite is a great way to see the latest and greatest products and technologies with hundreds of hours of content, meet with your peers and partners, and get firsthand experience with hands-on labs. If you’re already registered for Ignite, be sure to check the event catalog and start selecting your sessions. If you haven’t grabbed a ticket yet, there are limited passes remaining, so get one while you still can!

As we countdown to Ignite, we want to begin a blog series that provides a sneak peek of the next release of Windows Server: Windows Server, version 1709. We’ll be launching Windows Server, version 1709 at Ignite, which builds on the innovation in Windows Server 2016, so let’s begin with a brief recap of some of the areas we focused on in Windows Server 2016.

Application innovation

One area of great interest to customers around the world is application modernization. While a large percentage of applications have moved from physical machines to virtual machines, you’ve told us that you want more. You’ve told us:

  1. You have existing business critical applications that you would like to modernize by moving to a modern platform with better security and better resource usage with minimal/no development effort. Think of this as “lift and shift.”
  2. You are building new applications and you want to build these apps with the cloud as a design point and with the flexibility to run on-premises, in the cloud, or as a hybrid service that takes advantage of the best of both worlds.

In Windows Server 2016, we delivered on both these areas in a major way and we’re just getting started with our investments in Cloud App Platform to:

  1. Provide a way for IT Pros to lift and shift traditional apps to Docker containers with Server Core.
  2. Enable cloud developers to write new cloud apps with Nano Server, .NET Core and Docker.

From a platform standpoint, Windows Server 2016 is the first version of Windows Server to include container technology. Windows Server containers provide application isolation through process and namespace isolation. You can realize the benefits of using containers for applications—with little or no code changes with Windows Server Core. We then added Hyper-V isolation to Windows Server Containers to expand on the isolation by running each container in a highly-optimized virtual machine making it ideal for running in a hostile multitenant environment. Containers, Nano Server, Azure Container Service, and Windows Server provide a rich set of cloud enabling building blocks for true business agility in building always-on, scalable, and distributed applications to run in Azure, on-premises, or hybrid.

Security

Windows Server 2016 is designed with security in mind throughout development as part of our SDL, and reduces risk with multiple layers of security deeply integrated in the operating system for on-premises and cloud protection such as Secure Boot, Code Integrity, Virtualization Based Security, Control Flow Guard, Windows Defender, Just in Time Administration, Just Enough Administration, and much more…

One of the most innovative solutions delivered in Windows Server 2016 was the coupling of security and our hypervisor, Hyper-V, to create Shielded VMs. Shielded VMs are a groundbreaking new technology that makes a virtual machine running Windows a “black box” to protect against a rogue administrator or a virtual machine getting into the wild. Nothing in the industry compares to Shielded VMs.

Software Defined Datacenter that’s ready for the cloud

Windows Server provides the same Hyper-V hypervisor that we run in Azure, so you get the benefits of Azure’s requirements too. A great example of an Azure requirement being delivered to you is industry-leading scale. Windows Server 2016 supports the largest physical servers (24 TB RAM, 512 logical processors) and the largest virtual machines (12 TB RAM, 240 virtual processors). Those massive scalability requirements were driven by Azure, and we are happy to share the same technology with you in Windows Server.

In terms of Software-defined Networking, we took our learnings from Azure and brought them to Windows Server with technologies such as the Azure Data plane, software load balancer, distributed firewall and more. With Windows Server 2016 we delivered Azure inspired, Software-defined Networking to be used on-premises, and these same technologies are also used by Microsoft Azure Stack.

In terms of storage, we took the best performing Software-defined Storage stack and enabled new flexible hyper-converged deployment capabilities to build highly available, scalable software-defined storage solutions at a fraction of the cost of a storage area network (SAN) or network-attached storage (NAS). The Storage Spaces Direct feature lets you use industry-standard servers with local storage. We then added Storage Replica which provides both synchronous and asynchronous options to meet your business requirements.

Long-Term Servicing Channel and Semi-Annual Channel Releases

As we prepare for the Windows Server, version 1709 release, we also want to make sure that folks clearly understand the new release models, including the Long-Term Servicing Channel and the Semi-annual Channel.

Before we discuss these two release models, let’s provide some context. Going all the way back to Windows Server 2003, Microsoft regularly delivered Windows Server releases every two to three years. Over the years, we heard feedback that Microsoft was “too slow.” Customers wanted us to go faster. Customers told us that they felt that being on the leading edge of a technology gave them a competitive advantage. So, we changed. Following the release of Windows Server 2012, we released Windows Server 2012 R2 less than a year later. The feedback we then received, and from some quite loudly, was “Microsoft you’re going too fast. Slow down.”

The pushback on a faster release was an interesting data point. It indicated we had two tracks of customers. One who wanted slow consistency and another who wanted continuous innovation. So, we tried another approach to better test this hypothesis.

In Windows Server 2016 development, we began by releasing frequent Technology Previews (TP). We released a total of five technology previews throughout development. Each TP included additional features, and we partnered with users to help us make changes through development. There were many organizations who were so pleased with a particular TP release that they asked us if we would support them in production.

The Windows Server 2016 development cycle only reinforced the notion that we needed two tracks, which is what we are now delivering with the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) and the Semi-Annual Channel. So moving forward, Windows Server is evolving to deliver innovation through two channels: The Long-Term Servicing Channel and the Semi-Annual Channel.

  • Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) – this is business as usual with 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support. You’ll have the option to upgrade to the next LTSC release every 2-3 years the same way folks have for the last 20 years.
  • For those of you who want to innovate faster and take advantage of new features sooner, we are adding the Semi-annual Channel. The Semi-Annual Channel is a Software Assurance benefit and is fully supported in production. The difference is that it is supported for 18 months and there will be a new version every six months.

Keep in mind that both the Long-Term Servicing Channel and the Semi-Annual Channel are both fully supported in production, and that you can mix and match. For example:

  • If you have a legacy application that you rarely touch running in a VM, then maybe the LTSC release makes sense.
  • If you have a new, cloud application that your dev team is building using containers and they want the latest and greatest container features in Nano Server/Server Core, then likely the Semi-Annual Channel is the right choice.

The point is, we’re providing both options, and you get to choose which makes the most sense for you. Finally, whether you choose LTSC or Semi-annual Channel, you are in full control of patching your servers. To make the Windows Server versions easy to identify, we are taking a cue from the Windows team and refer to this release by the year and the month. In this case, 1709 refers to the year 2017, and the ninth month, September. Very straightforward. The way that we are delivering Windows Server moving forward offers more opportunity than ever to influence product direction, so please sign up to the Windows Server Insider Program if you haven’t already!

In the next few blogs, we’re going to introduce areas of investments for the Windows Server, version 1709 for developers, security, Software-defined datacenter and management.