Tag Archives: complex

Microsoft’s new approach to hybrid: Azure services when and where customers need them | Innovation Stories

As business computing needs have grown more complex and sophisticated, many enterprises have discovered they need multiple systems to meet various requirements – a mix of technology environments in multiple locations, known as hybrid IT or hybrid cloud.

Technology vendors have responded with an array of services and platforms – public clouds, private clouds and the growing edge computing model – but there hasn’t necessarily been a cohesive strategy to get them to work together.

We got here in an ad hoc fashion,” said Erik Vogel, global vice president for customer experience for HPE GreenLake at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Customers didn’t have a strategic model to work from.

Instead, he said, various business owners in the same company may have bought different software as a service (SaaS) applications, or developers may have independently started leveraging Amazon Web Services, Azure or Google Cloud Platform to develop a set of applications.

At its Ignite conference this week in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft announced its solution to such cloud sprawl. The company has launched a preview of Azure Arc, which offers Azure services and management to customers on other clouds or infrastructure, including those offered by Amazon and Google.

John JG Chirapurath, general manager for Azure data, blockchain and artificial intelligence at Microsoft, said the new service is both an acknowledgement of, and a response to, the reality that many companies face today. They are running various parts of their businesses on different cloud platforms, and they also have a lot of data stored on their own new or legacy systems.

In all those cases, he said, these customers are telling Microsoft they could use the benefits of Azure cloud innovation whether or not their data is stored in the cloud, and they could benefit from having the same Azure capabilities – including security safeguards – available to them across their entire portfolio.

We are offering our customers the ability to take their services, untethered from Azure, and run them inside their own datacenter or in another cloud,” Chirapurath said.

Microsoft says Azure Arc builds on years of work the company has done to serve hybrid cloud needs. For example, Azure Resource Manager, released in 2014, was created with the vision that it would manage resources outside of Azure, including in companies’ internal servers and on other clouds.

That flexibility can help customers operate their services on a mix of clouds more efficiently, without purchasing new hardware or switching among cloud providers. Companies can use a public cloud to obtain computing power and data storage from an outside vendor, but they can also house critical applications and sensitive data on their own premises in a private cloud or server.

Then there’s edge computing, which stores data where the user is, in between the company and the public cloud for example, on their customers’ mobile devices or on sensors in smart buildings like hospitals and factories.

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That’s compelling for companies that need to run AI models on systems that aren’t reliably connected to the cloud, or to make computations more quickly than if they had to send large amounts of data to and from the cloud. But it also must work with companies’ cloud-based, internet-connected systems.

“A customer at the edge doesn’t want to use different app models for different environments,” said Mark Russinovich, Azure chief technology officer. “They need apps that span cloud and edge, leveraging the same code and same management constructs.”

Streamlining and standardizing a customer’s IT structure gives developers more time to build applications that produce value for the business instead of managing multiple operating models. And enabling Azure to integrate administrative and compliance needs across the enterprise – automating system updates and security enhancements brings additional savings in time and money.

“You begin to free up people to go work on other projects, which means faster development time, faster time to market,” said HPE’s Vogel. HPE is working with Microsoft on offerings that will complement Azure Arc.

Arpan Shah, general manager of Azure infrastructure, said Azure Arc allows companies to use Azure’s governance tools for their virtual machines, Kubernetes clusters and data across different locations, helping ensure companywide compliance on things like regulations, security, spending policies and auditing tools.

Azure Arc is underpinned in part by Microsoft’s commitment to technologies that customers are using today, including virtual machines, containers and Kubernetes, an open source system for organizing and managing containers. That makes clusters of applications easily portable across a hybrid IT environment – to the cloud, the edge or an internal server.

“It’s easy for a customer to put that container anywhere,” Chirapurath said. “Today, you can keep it here. Tomorrow, you can move it somewhere else.”

Microsoft says these latest Azure updates reflect an ongoing effort to better understand the complex needs of customers trying to manage their Linux and Windows servers, Kubernetes clusters and data across environments.

“This is just the latest wave of this sort of innovation,” Chirapurath said. “We’re really thinking much more expansively about customer needs and meeting them according to how they’d like to run their applications and services.”

Top image: Erik Vogel, global vice president for customer experience for HPE GreenLake at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with a prototype of memory-driven computing. HPE is working with Microsoft on offerings that will complement Azure Arc. Photo by John Brecher for Microsoft.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Helping customers shift to a modern desktop – Microsoft 365 Blog

IT is complex. And that means it can be difficult to keep up with the day-to-day demands of your organization, let alone deliver technological innovation that drives the business forward. In desktop management, this is especially true: the process of creating standard images, deploying devices, testing updates, and providing end user support hasn’t changed much in years. It can be tedious, manual, and time consuming. We’re determined to change that with our vision for a modern desktop powered by Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus. A modern desktop not only offers end users the most productive, most secure computing experience—it also saves IT time and money so you can focus on driving business results.

Today, we’re pleased to make three announcements that help you make the shift to a modern desktop:

  • Cloud-based analytics tools to make modern desktop deployment even easier.
  • A program to ensure app compatibility for upgrades and updates of Windows and Office.
  • Servicing and support changes to give you additional deployment flexibility.

Analytics to make modern desktop deployment easier

Collectively, you’ve told us that one of your biggest upgrade and update challenges is application testing. A critical part of any desktop deployment plan is analysis of existing applications—and the process of testing apps and remediating issues has historically been very manual and very time consuming. Microsoft 365 offers incredible tools today to help customers shift to a modern desktop, including System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft Intune, Windows Analytics, and Office Readiness Toolkit. But we’ve felt like there’s even more we could do.

Today, we’re announcing that Windows Analytics is being expanded to Desktop Analytics—a new cloud-based service integrated with ConfigMgr and designed to create an inventory of apps running in the organization, assess app compatibility with the latest feature updates of Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, and create pilot groups that represent the entire application and driver estate across a minimal set of devices.

The new Desktop Analytics service will provide insight and intelligence for you to make more informed decisions about the update readiness of your Windows and Office clients. You can then optimize pilot and production deployments with ConfigMgr. Combining data from your own organization with data aggregated from millions of devices connected to our cloud services, you can take the guess work out of testing and focus your attention on key blockers. We’ll share more information about Desktop Analytics and other modern desktop deployment tools at Ignite.

Standing behind our app compatibility promise

We’re also pleased to announce Desktop App Assure—a new service from Microsoft FastTrack designed to address issues with Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus app compatibility. Windows 10 is the most compatible Windows operating system ever, and using millions of data points from customer diagnostic data and the Windows Insider validation process, we’ve found that 99 percent of apps are compatible with new Windows updates. So you should generally expect that apps that work on Windows 7 will continue to work on Windows 10 and subsequent feature updates. But if you find any app compatibility issues after a Windows 10 or Office 365 ProPlus update, Desktop App Assure is designed to help you get a fix. Simply let us know by filing a ticket through FastTrack, and a Microsoft engineer will follow up to work with you until the issue is resolved. In short, Desktop App Assure operationalizes our Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus compatibility promise: We’ve got your back on app compatibility and are committed to removing it entirely as a blocker.

Desktop App Assure will be offered at no additional cost to Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education customers. We’ll share more details on this new service at Ignite and will begin to preview this service in North America on October 1, 2018, with worldwide availability by February 1, 2019.

Servicing and support flexibility

Longer Windows 10 servicing for enterprises and educational institutions
In April 2017, we aligned the Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus update cadence to a predictable semi-annual schedule, targeting September and March. While many customers—including Mars and Accenture—have shifted to a modern desktop and are using the semi-annual channel to take updates regularly with great success, we’ve also heard feedback from some of you that you need more time and flexibility in the Windows 10 update cycle.

Based on that feedback, we’re announcing four changes:

  • All currently supported feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions (versions 1607, 1703, 1709, and 1803) will be supported for 30 months from their original release date. This will give customers on those versions more time for change management as they move to a faster update cycle.
  • All future feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions with a targeted release month of September (starting with 1809) will be supported for 30 months from their release date. This will give customers with longer deployment cycles the time they need to plan, test, and deploy.
  • All future feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions with a targeted release month of March (starting with 1903) will continue to be supported for 18 months from their release date. This maintains the semi-annual update cadence as our north star and retains the option for customers that want to update twice a year.
  • All feature releases of Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, and Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported for 18 months (this applies to feature updates targeting both March and September).

In summary, our new modern desktop support policies—starting in September 2018—are:

Windows 7 Extended Security Updates
As previously announced, Windows 7 extended support is ending January 14, 2020. While many of you are already well on your way in deploying Windows 10, we understand that everyone is at a different point in the upgrade process.

With that in mind, today we are announcing that we will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year. Windows 7 ESUs will be available to all Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise customers in Volume Licensing, with a discount to customers with Windows software assurance, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education subscriptions. In addition, Office 365 ProPlus will be supported on devices with active Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. This means that customers who purchase the Windows 7 ESU will be able to continue to run Office 365 ProPlus.

Please reach out to your partner or Microsoft account team for further details.

Support for Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2016
Office 365 ProPlus delivers cloud-connected and always up-to-date versions of the Office desktop apps. To support customers already on Office 365 ProPlus through their operating system transitions, we are updating the Windows system requirements for Office 365 ProPlus and revising some announcements that were made in February. We are pleased to announce the following updates to our Office 365 ProPlus system requirements:

  • Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported on Windows 8.1 through January 2023, which is the end of support date for Windows 8.1.
  • Office 365 ProPlus will also continue to be supported on Windows Server 2016 until October 2025.

Office 2016 connectivity support for Office 365 services
In addition, we are modifying the Office 365 services system requirements related to service connectivity. In February, we announced that starting October 13, 2020, customers will need Office 365 ProPlus or Office 2019 clients in mainstream support to connect to Office 365 services. To give you more time to transition fully to the cloud, we are now modifying that policy and will continue to support Office 2016 connections with the Office 365 services through October 2023.

Shift to a modern desktop

You’ve been talking, and we’ve been listening. Specifically, we’ve heard your feedback on desktop deployment, and we’re working hard to introduce new capabilities, services, and policies to help you on your way. The combination of Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus delivers the most productive, most secure end user computing experience available. But we recognize that it takes time to both upgrade devices and operationalize new update processes. Today’s announcements are designed to respond to your feedback and make it easier, faster, and cheaper to deploy a modern desktop. We know that there is still a lot of work to do. But we’re committed to working with you and systematically resolving any issues. We’d love to hear your thoughts and look forward to seeing you and discussing in more detail in the keynotes and sessions at Ignite in a few weeks!

How API-based integration dissolves SaaS connectivity limits

As businesses introduce an ever-growing, complex IT ecosystem of on-premises and SaaS applications, APIs, blockchain and other technologies, how can they possibly tie them together?

For many DevOps teams, the answer is API-based integration to enable communication between applications and platforms. Integration projects, however, pose challenges in security, runtime and management.

In this Q&A, Oracle’s Vikas Anand explores industry trends that drive rapid adoption of API-based integrations. He also lays out the hybrid cloud connectivity integration challenges for DevOps teams and ways to bypass those issues.

Anand is vice president of product management for integration, process and API management cloud services at Oracle.

Which technologies and use cases drive use of API-based integration?

Vikas Anand: SaaS connectivity limitations are the No. 1 reason enterprises adopt and then expand API integration programs. When SaaS is not integrated, it quickly changes to silo as a service. Customers can only derive limited value if their SaaS system is not working well in a very heterogeneous enterprise IT environment.

Vikas Anand, vice president of integration, OracleVikas Anand

APIs power new technologies that create better experiences for customers, such as chatbots and many mobile user experiences. APIs provide information from on-premises and cloud back-end systems, such as CRM [customer relationship management] or ERP.

Those new technologies have to be integrated into the existing IT environments and then extended to customers. For example, adoption is growing in API-driven B2B technologies, which provide a nimbler transaction option than traditional EDI [enterprise data integration] [Standard] X12-based transactions. Another example is growing use of smart contracts with blockchain to do transactions in a trusted way. API integration provides the pathways for these transactions.

What problems do DevOps teams encounter in API-based integration implementation and management?

Anand: The No. 1 challenge is how to secure their APIs. APIs are exposed on the edge, and they are available for everyone to use. A thought-through security model is important. My advice is to focus on using security standards, such as OAuth. Then, you’ll be on the same security level as partners and customers.

Another challenge is documentation of how you define, build and share APIs. Look at standards such as OpenAPI [that] support moving APIs across teams and across API developers.

A third challenge is optimizing API runtime, which relates to monitoring, testing and management. This calls for preproduction work in API interface testing and validating API functionality. In operations, ensure that APIs are not only secured and protected from anomalies, but also can be scaled up as more APIs are consumed by the partners in an ever-growing hybrid environment.

Consider that APIs run not just behind the customer firewall in a data center, but also across multiple clouds and devices. At runtime, you need your APIs to be close to the back-end applications to deliver the timely response, scale and experiences customers want.

Why isn’t integration built into SaaS offerings?

Anand: SaaS only allows you to configure and customize. If you need to extend the applications, API-based integration is a lightweight alternative to legacy, on-premises ESB [enterprise service bus] integration suites.

For example, say you have a CRM application with a coding system, and you might need to have an extension of the business logic to support new discounting rules. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to configure or change the SaaS environment. The vendor will not allow you to do it, because the SaaS product would then be upgrade-unfriendly. So, in such cases, DevOps can use business process automation in alignment with API-based application integration to deliver those extensions.

In hybrid compute environments, how does the business value of APIs and API-based integration play out?

SaaS connectivity limitations are the No. 1 reason enterprises adopt and then expand API integration programs. When SaaS is not integrated, it quickly changes to silo as a service.
Vikas Anandvice president of integration, Oracle

Anand: API integration supports multichannel experiences that improve customer engagement. An example is how integration helps businesses partner with other service providers to offer new capabilities. An example is an API model that makes Uber services available on a United Airlines application.

APIs also spur revenue growth. For instance, a business’s IP [intellectual property] that lies behind firewalls can be exposed as an API to create new revenue channels. Many new-age companies, such as Airbnb and Lyft, leverage the API model to deliver revenue. Traditional companies [in] manufacturing and other [industries] are really applying this to their domain.

API-first design provides modernized back-end interfaces that speed integrations. Doing back-end integrations? You can run the APIs within the data center to integrate SaaS and on-premises applications. A good API, a well-designed API can actually reduce the cost of integration by 50%.

Which best practices do you suggest for API-based integration project success?

Anand: Developers need to transform and route data and apply process automation capabilities. To do integration efficiently, enterprises have to automate data flow, business processes and whatever repeatable, error-prone tasks IT does. This calls for support from automation models, such as robotic process automation, to create single pane of glass for analytics.

Enterprise-level application integration projects used to take a year or two. Now that SaaS applications can be deployed in a matter of months, that won’t do. Fortunately, APIs themselves are now designed so that the integrations can be done more effectively, more efficiently and with better time to market than ever before. For API integration, there are automated, prebuilt connections that can be applied. Also, automated API integrated features are available in some iPaaS offerings now and coming to others soon.

Users want hybrid cloud networking to be simple

As American jazz great Duke Ellington once said, “Simplicity is a most complex form.” And IT doesn’t get much more complex than hybrid cloud networking.

I take pictures — lots of pictures. To make them frame-worthy, I edit them in Lightroom and Photoshop, two Adobe Systems programs. In the old days, if I wanted to use them, I’d have to cough up more than a thousand dollars to buy and install the software on my desktop. Now the applications live in Adobe Creative Cloud, and my inexpensive monthly subscription makes editing simple and affordable.

All the networking Adobe has done to make my interactions with Lightroom and Photoshop seamless is invisible to me, but what goes on behind the scenes is anything but simple. Hybrid cloud networking — or in Adobe’s case, multicloud networking, as described in our cover story — is complex. When it simply works, it’s a beautiful thing.

Users prefer that complexity remain invisible. We like clicking an icon and having our work pop up. Have a look at The Subnet Q&A for more about how Adobe strives for simplicity in its hybrid cloud networking among all its services.

The world continues to move toward ensuring the user experience with the network is simple and engaging. In “IT pros seek better methods to manage application performance” we look beyond the need to integrate the cloud, to the onslaught of mobile devices accessing servers, which has IT managers struggling for the best way to add application performance management to overall network management.

Those mobile devices also present their own level of complexity. More and more employees rely on their smartphones to communicate — whether that’s calling, messaging or video conferencing. This puts pressure on unified communications vendors to make their UC applications as simple to use as a smartphone’s native applications but with added security, features and reporting capabilities for the enterprise. In “Mobile unified communications market has growing pains” we look at what vendors are doing and who might win the market. 

HR metrics and analytics make workforces more valuable

Even the most complex enterprise needs metrics and analytics to stay on course and compete in the global marketplace. Of all the parts of a company that can be optimized with analytics, the most valuable asset is the workforce itself.

Gathering good data to describe and define employee performance with HR metrics and analytics isn’t as simple as deriving metrics from warehousing or marketing campaign performance data. Descriptive analytics can expose subtle traits in employees and define their patterns of success or failure, and predictive analytics can help managers choose the right employees for upcoming team projects.

But it’s all for naught if the data is bad.

Objective vs. subjective measures

When it comes to human performance, having a handle on not only what is being measured but how can make a huge difference in the ultimate value of the metric. Management appraisal of employee performance, for example, is necessarily subjective, and that’s a good thing — it’s where thoughtful opinion should prevail. But too often, the performance data gathered via management evaluation is both static and linear; it only captures what’s happening at the moment. Giving an employee a score of seven out of 10 for performance says almost nothing about the employee and is of little value to an organization.

Adding another dimension to these subjective evaluations greatly enhances their usefulness for HR metrics and analytics. If a manager adds a rating for employee potential to the score for employee performance that forms a unified two-axis metric, then the value of the metric in analytics is greatly multiplied. An employee with low performance but high potential is remediated differently than an employee with high performance but low potential: The former needs mentoring, while the latter needs training. And the application of analytics to these metrics can result in more focused, effective mentoring and training programs for the entire workforce. Moreover, HR can potentially identify an employee who is not doing well in a current job but may flourish in a different position.

Traditionally, quantitative measures have held sway over the evaluation of employee effectiveness. Salespeople live and die by their numbers, as do assembly line workers and delivery people. But traditional metrics offer no analytical insight into why raw productivity data might be rising or falling, and that’s the information the enterprise truly needs.

Descriptive analytics can make a difference by enhancing an otherwise static metric. Imagine a sales team exceeding quotas for most of the year, then experiencing a collective drop-off in numbers. Upper management may speak to the sales manager and get a top-down view of the team’s performance lapse, but HR metrics and analytics can open windows into how an individual’s performance is affecting group performance.

Retaining top employees

[W]hen an employee decides to move on, money is seldom the most important factor.

In an increasingly migratory business ecosphere, people move from one company to another far more frequently than in past decades. Keeping employees happy is more important than ever. And when an employee decides to move on, money is seldom the most important factor. Deciding factors can include upward mobility, benefits, education and training support, a family-friendly environment and a positive corporate culture.

It’s often combinations of these factors that keep employees stable and satisfied. Upward mobility and training programs are likely to be shared values for some employees, while a good health plan and a family-friendly atmosphere may appeal to others. Digging into the data and using HR metrics and analytics to detect and resolve these patterns of employee values leads to more comprehensive HR initiatives to retain employees.

Additionally, isolating these factors can help HR create more reliable hiring practices. While there’s certainly merit in following industry recommendations on selecting new employees, it’s even more effective to analyze in-house employee data to establish what work-related experiences and personal traits make for a good fit. Relying on dynamics that have proved to be successful in the workplace is usually a better bet than spinning the roulette wheel on a prospect sporting a well-written résumé.