Tag Archives: explored

Mobile Sharing & Companion Experiences for Microsoft Teams Meetings – Microsoft Garage

Research into Computer-Supported Collaborative Work has explored problems of disengagement in video meetings and device conflict since the 1990s, but good solutions that could work at scale have been elusive. Microsoft Research Cambridge UK had been working on these issues when the 2015 Hackathon arose as an opportunity to highlight for the rest of the company that just a few simple and dynamic device combinations might provide users with the means to solve the issues themselves.

While we had explored some research prototypes in late 2014 and early 2015, for the Hackathon we decided to use a vision video with the goal of getting the attention of the Skype product group, because we knew that the idea would have the most impact as an infrastructural feature of an existing product rather than as a new stand-alone product. We called the video “Skype Unleashed” to connote breaking free of the traditional one person per endpoint model.

team in a conference room
Turning the hackathon video into a working proof-of-concept

When we won the Business category, our prize was meeting with the sponsor of the Business category, then-COO Kevin Turner.  We scrambled to build a proof-of-concept prototype, which at first we jokingly referred to as “Skype Skwid”, a deliberate misspelling of “squid”, because it was like a body that had lots of tentacles that could reach out to different other things. However, we realized that we needed an official project name, so we became “Project Wellington”. This was a related inside joke, because the largest squid in the world is the Colossal Squid, and the largest specimen in the world is in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa… in Wellington, New Zealand.

So as Project Wellington we went to meet Kevin Turner, who also invited Gurdeep Singh Pall, then-CVP for Skype, in November 2015. Both immediately saw the relevance of the concepts and Gurdeep connected us to Brian MacDonald’s incubation project that would become Microsoft Teams.

Brian also understood right away that Companion Experiences could be an innovative market differentiator for meetings and a mobile driver for Teams. He championed the integration of our small Cambridge group with his Modern Meetings group as a loose v-team. The Modern Meetings group was exceptionally welcoming, graciously showing us the ropes of productization and taking on the formidable challenge of helping us socialize the need for changes at all levels of the product, from media stack, middle tier, and all clients. We, in turn, learned a lot about the cadence of production, scoping, aligning with the needs of multiple roadmaps, and the multitude of issues required to turn feature ideas into releasable code.Through 2016 and 2017 we worked on design iterations, usability testing, and middle tier and client code. We were thrilled when first glimpses of roving camera and proximity joining were shown at Build 2017, and then announced as officially rolling out at Enterprise Connect 2018.

a group of people in a conference room
The combined research and product team

We are very excited to see these features released. We are also excited to close the research loop by evaluating our thesis that dynamic device combinations will improve hybrid collaboration in video meetings, and doing research ‘in the wild’ at a scale unimaginable by most research projects. Microsoft is one of only a handful of institutions that can make research possible that will improve the productivity of millions of people daily. So as well as releasing product features, we are exceptionally proud of the model of collaboration itself. And, indeed, we are continuing to collaborate with Microsoft Teams even after these features are released, as we now have a tremendous relationship with a product group that understands how we work and values our help.

To come full circle, then, it was Satya Nadella’s emphasis on the Hackathon as a valuable use of company time, and The Garage’s organization of the event itself, that allowed ideas well outside a product group to be catapulted to the attention of people who could see its value and then provide a path to making it happen.

If you would like to find out more about this project, connect with Sean Rintel on LinkedIn or follow @seanrintel on twitter.

Selecting network configuration software for automation

Ivan Pepelnjak, blogging in IP Space, explored what network configuration software is best for automation. Ansible, Chef and Puppet are commonly cited network configuration software options, with Salt becoming increasingly commonplace and CFEngine used occasionally. According to Pepelnjak, most network engineers prefer Ansible. Chef and Puppet focus mainly on configuration and state management and don’t make changes unless necessary and tend to manage dependencies — such as creating groups and then accounts within a group.

In Pepelnjak’s view, managing configuration and soft state services is a good goal but doesn’t go far enough. Among network configuration software, Ansible is unique, aiding in device provisioning, validating network topologies, upgrading software, helping with compliance and generating reports. Engineers can often get started more quickly with Ansible, learning the basics in a matter of hours. “Maybe it’s just our mentality, or maybe we have to do things a bit different because of the huge blast radius of our mistakes. In any case, Ansible (which is just a generic automation/orchestration framework) fits better to our way of doing things,” he said.

Read more of Pepelnjak’s thoughts on network configuration software.

New developments in endpoint detection and response

Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., reflected on a 2016 project where he interviewed 30 enterprises about endpoint security strategies. At the time, Oltsik came up with a concept he termed a continuum of endpoint tools, with advanced threat detection at one end and endpoint detection and response (EDR) on the other end.

Based on the interviews, Oltsik and his colleague guessed that 75% to 80% of the market would steer toward advanced protection, while the remainder would pursue EDR. He also predicted that vendors would work to bridge the gap with combined offerings.

Now, in 2018, Oltsik said that the hypothesis has mostly played out. ESG research indicates that 87% of organizations are planning to buy comprehensive endpoint security suites and 28% of cybersecurity professionals identified EDR as the most attractive feature of the offerings. He projected that EDR will now undergo additional market segmentation. Traditional EDR, anchored by on-premises infrastructure, will continue as a niche market for high-security industries. A lighter, “trigger-based” version of EDR — one that collects data when a behavioral anomaly occurs — will appeal to purchasers in the midmarket, he said.

Managed EDR may also appear, with subsegments, catering to companies that want full EDR capabilities but lack personnel to oversee it. “Rather than default to a product, security managers really need to assess their needs, resources, and skills before making an EDR decision. There will be a lot of options to choose from, so CISOs must choose wisely,” Oltsik said.

Dig deeper into Oltsik’s predictions about EDR.

Streamlining with SD-WAN and network functions virtualization

Mike Fratto, an analyst at GlobalData in Sterling, Va., said he’s heard commentary about stand-alone SD-WAN disappearing, instead becoming just another feature on routers and firewalls. Although he said many vendors will eventually consolidate features like these into a single appliance, he does not see the end of single-function SD-WAN devices.

That’s because enterprise IT teams like bespoke products and many teams like the ability to swap out older stand-alone products for newer offerings as they become available.

Second, the shift to software-defined everything will let enterprises rely more on virtualized instances of SD-WAN. This will permit companies to consolidate network functions into fewer appliances.

Third is the fact that enterprise IT teams are often loath to replace tried and true systems with new options that may not be as capable.

“What enterprises want — what they would pay for but will likely never get — is an environment of deep management integration across multiple vendor products which could ultimately reduce operational overhead, unlock more efficient workflows, and generate significant operational cost savings along with way,” Fratto said. “Here’s where managed service providers have a unique advantage, provided they dedicate the resources to creating a portal that integrates the management functions across vendor products,” he added.

Explore more of Fratto’s ideas on SD-WAN as a stand-alone product.