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C3.ai, Microsoft, and leading universities launch C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute – Stories

C3.ai, Microsoft, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of California, Berkeley; Princeton University; the University of Chicago; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Carnegie Mellon University form the new C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute

First call for proposals published – AI Techniques to Mitigate Pandemic

Institute to accelerate AI innovation among scientific communities to bring greater advocacy, invention, collaboration, and academic rigor to scaling digital transformation

Redwood City, CA; Redmond, WA; Urbana-Champaign, IL; Berkeley, CA; Princeton, NJ; Chicago, IL, Cambridge, MA; and Pittsburgh, PA. —(BUSINESS WIRE)— March 26, 2020 – C3.ai, Microsoft Corp., the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC announced two major initiatives:

  • C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute (C3.ai DTI), a research consortium dedicated to accelerating the application of artificial intelligence to speed the pace of digital transformation in business, government, and society. Jointly managed by UC Berkeley and UIUC, C3.ai DTI will sponsor and fund world-leading scientists in a coordinated effort to advance the digital transformation of business, government, and society.
  • C3.ai DTI First Call for Research Proposals: C3.ai DTI invites scholars, developers, and researchers, to embrace the challenge of abating COVID-19 and advance the knowledge, science, and technologies for mitigating future pandemics using AI. This is the first in what will be a series of bi-annual calls for Digital Transformation research proposals.

“The C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute is a consortium of leading scientists, researchers, innovators, and executives from academia and industry, joining forces to accelerate the social and economic benefits of digital transformation,” said Thomas M. Siebel, CEO of C3.ai. “We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic,” Siebel continued. “I cannot imagine a more important use of AI.”

Immediate Call for Proposals: AI Techniques to Mitigate Pandemic

 Topics for Research Awards may include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Applying machine learning and other AI methods to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Genome-specific COVID-19 medical protocols, including precision medicine of host responses
  3. Biomedical informatics methods for drug design and repurposing
  4. Design and sharing of clinical trials for collecting data on medications, therapies, and interventions
  5. Modeling, simulation, and prediction for understanding COVID-19 propagation and efficacy of interventions
  6. Logistics and optimization analysis for design of public health strategies and interventions
  7. Rigorous approaches to designing sampling and testing strategies
  8. Data analytics for COVID-19 research harnessing private and sensitive data
  9. Improving societal resilience in response to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic
  10. Broader efforts in biomedicine, infectious disease modeling, response logistics and optimization, public health efforts, tools, and methodologies around the containment of rising infectious diseases and response to pandemics, so as to be better prepared for future infectious diseases

The first call for proposals is open now, with a deadline of May 1, 2020. Researchers are invited to learn more about C3.ai DTI and how to submit their proposals for consideration at C3DTI.ai. Selected proposals will be announced by June 1, 2020.

Up to $5.8 million in awards will be funded from this first call, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 each. In addition to cash awards, C3.aiDTI recipients will be provided with significant cloud computing, supercomputing, data access, and AI software resources and technical support provided by Microsoft and C3.ai. This will include unlimited use of the C3 AI Suite and access to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, and access to the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Super Computing Applications (NCSA) at UIUC and the NERSC Perlmutter supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

“We are collecting a massive amount of data about MERS, SARS, and now COVID-19,” said Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State. “We have a unique opportunity before us to apply the new sciences of AI and digital transformation to learn from these data how we can better manage these phenomena and avert the worst outcomes for humanity,” Rice continued. “I can think of no work more important and no response more cogent and timely than this important public-private partnership.”

“We’re excited about the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute and are happy to join on a shared mission to accelerate research at these eminent research institutions,” said Eric Horvitz, Chief Scientist at Microsoft and C3.ai DTI Advisory Board Member. “As we launch this exciting private-public partnership, we’re enthusiastic about aiming the broader goals of the Institute at urgent challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as on longer-term research that could help minimize future pandemics.”

“At UC Berkeley, we are thrilled to help co-lead this important endeavor to establish and advance the science of digital transformation at the nexus of machine learning, IoT, and cloud computing,” said Carol Christ, Chancellor, UC Berkeley. “We believe this Institute has the potential to make tremendous contributions by including ethics, new business models, and public policy to the technologies for transforming societal scale systems globally.”

“The C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute, with its vision of cross-institutional and multi-disciplinary collaboration, represents an exciting model to help accelerate innovation in this important new field of study,” said Robert J. Jones, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “At this time of a global health crisis, the Institute’s initial research focus will be on applying AI to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic and to learn from it how to protect the world from future pandemics. C3.ai DTI is an important addition to the world’s fight against this disease and a powerful new resource in developing solutions to all societal challenges.”

“Together with the other C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute partners, we look forward to creating a powerful ecosystem of scholars and educators committed to applying 21st century technologies to the benefit of all,” said Chris Eisgruber, President of Princeton University. “This public-private partnership with innovators like C3.ai and Microsoft, providing support to world-class researchers across a range of disciplines, promises to bring rapid innovation to an exciting new frontier.”

“By strongly supporting multidisciplinary research and multi-institution projects, the C3.ai DTI represents a new avenue to develop breakthrough scientific results with a positive impact on society at a time of great need,” said Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago: “I’m very pleased that the University of Chicago is part of this formidable collaboration between academia and industry to lead crucial innovation with great purpose and urgency.”

“The vision of C3.ai DTI is driven by the recognition of digital transformation as both a science as well as a scientific imperative for this pivotal time, applicable to every sector of our economy across the public and private sectors, including in healthcare, education, and public health,” said Farnam Jahanian, President of Carnegie Mellon University. “We are excited to participate in building out the Institute’s structure, program and further alliances. This is just the beginning of an ambitious journey that can have enormous positive impact on the world.”

“At MIT, we share the commitment of C3.ai DTI to advancing the frontiers of AI, cybersecurity and related fields while building into every inquiry a deep concern for ethics, privacy, equity and the public interest,” said Rafael Reif, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “At this moment of national emergency, we are proud to be part of this intensive effort to apply these sophisticated tools to better analyze the COVID-19 epidemic and devise effective ways to stop it. We look forward to accelerating this work both by collaborating with the companies and institutions in the initiative, and by drawing on the frontline experience and clinical data of our colleagues in Boston’s world-class hospitals.”

Building Community
At the heart of C3.ai DTI will be the constant flow of new ideas and expertise provided by ongoing research, visiting professors and research scholars, and faculty and scholars in residence, many of whom will come from beyond the member institutions. This rich ecosystem will form the foundational structure of a new Science of Digital Transformation.

“This is about global innovation based on multinational collaboration to accelerate the positive impact of AI by providing researchers access to real world data and to massive resources,” said Jim Snabe, Chairman, Siemens. “This is exactly the kind of multinational public-private partnership that is required to address this critical issue.”

“I could not be more proud of our association with C3.ai and Microsoft,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, CEO of Baker Hughes. “This is exactly the kind of leadership that is required to bring together the best of us to address this critical need.”

“We are at war and we must win it! Using all means,” said Jacques Attali, French statesman. “This great project will organize global scientific collaboration for accelerating the social impact of AI, and help to win this war, using new weapons, for the best of mankind.”

“In these difficult times, we need – now more than ever – to join our forces with scholars, innovators, and industry experts to propose solutions to complex problems. I am convinced that digital, data science and AI are a key answer,” said Gwenaëlle Avice-Huet, Executive Vice President of ENGIE. “The C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute is a perfect example of what we can do together to make the world better.”

Establishing the New Science of Digital Transformation
C3.ai DTI will focus its research on AI, Machine Learning, IoT, Big Data Analytics, human factors, organizational behavior, ethics, and public policy. The Institute will support the development of ML algorithms, data security, and cybersecurity techniques. C3.ai DTI research will analyze new business operation models, develop methods of implementing organizational change management and protecting privacy, and amplify the dialogue around the ethics and public policy of AI.

C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute is a Research Initiative that Includes:

  • Research Awards: Up to 26 cash awards annually, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 each
  • Computing Resources: Access to free Azure Cloud and C3 AI Suite resources
  • Visiting Professors & Research Scientists: $750,000 per year to support C3.ai DTI Visiting Scholars
  • Curriculum Development: Annual awards to faculty at member institutions to develop curricula that teach the emerging field of Digital Transformation Science
  • Data Analytics Platform: ai DTI will host an elastic cloud, big data, development, and operating platform, including the C3 AI Suite hosted on Microsoft Azure for the purpose of supporting C3.ai DTI research, curriculum development, and teaching
  • Educational Program: $750,000 a year to support an annual conference, annual report, newsletters, published research, and website
  • Industry Alignment: C3DTI Industry Partners will be established to assure the institute’s operations are aligned to the needs of the private sector.
  • Open Source: ai DTI will strongly favor proposals that promise to publish their research in the public domain.

To support the Institute, C3.ai will provide C3.ai DTI $57,250,000 in cash contributions over the first five years of operation. C3.ai and Microsoft will contribute an additional $310 million in-kind, including use of the C3 AI Suite and Microsoft Azure computing, storage, and technical resources to support C3.ai DTI research.

To learn more about C3.ai DTI’s program, award opportunities, and call for proposals, please visit C3DTI.ai.

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About C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute
C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute represents an innovative vision to take AI, ML, IoT, and big data research in a consortium model to a level that cannot be achieved at any one institution alone. Jointly managed and hosted by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, C3.ai DTI will attract the world’s leading scientists to join in a coordinated and innovative effort to advance the digital transformation of business, government, and society, and establish the new Science of the Digital Transformation of Societal Systems.

About C3.ai
C3.ai is a leading AI software provider for accelerating digital transformation. C3.ai delivers the C3 AI Suite for developing, deploying, and operating large-scale AI, predictive analytics, and IoT applications in addition to an increasingly broad portfolio of turn-key AI applications. The core of the C3.ai offering is a revolutionary, model-driven AI architecture that dramatically enhances data science and application development. Learn more at: www.c3.ai.

C3.ai Contact:
April Marks
Director of Public Relations
917-574-5512
[email protected]

About Microsoft
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Microsoft Contact
Microsoft Media Relations:
WE Communications for Microsoft
425-638-7777
[email protected]

About University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a public land-grant research university founded in 1867 and dedicated to building upon a tradition of excellence in education, research, public engagement and economic development. The university pioneers innovative research that tackles global problems and expands the human experience. Illinois faculty, staff and alumni have been leading the way in digital transformation from the invention of the transistor to the birth of the graphical internet browser to high performance computing to the new revolution in data sciences and analytics.

UIUC Contact:
Robin Kale
Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs
[email protected]
217-333-5050

About University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university. Founded in 1868, UC Berkeley is a place where the brightest minds from across the globe come together to explore, ask questions and improve the world.

University of California, Berkeley Contact:
Sarah Yang
Assistant Dean, Marketing & Communications
Berkeley Engineering
[email protected]

About Princeton University
Princeton University is a vibrant community of teaching and research that stands in the nation’s service and the service of humanity. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton is an independent, coeducational, nondenominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.

Princeton University Contact:
Ben Chang, Deputy Vice President, Communications
[email protected]

About University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a leading academic and research institution that has driven new ways of thinking since its founding in 1890. As an intellectual destination, the University draws scholars and students from around the world to its campuses and centers around the globe. The University provides a distinctive educational experience and research environment, empowering individuals to challenge conventional thinking and pursue field-defining research that produces new understanding and breakthroughs with global impact.

University of Chicago Contact:
Rob Mitchum
Associate Director of Communications for Data Science and Computing
University of Chicago
[email protected]
773-484-9890

About Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT is devoted to the advancement of knowledge and education of students in areas that contribute to or prosper in an environment of science and technology.

MIT Contact:
Anne Stuart
Communications Officer in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
[email protected]

About Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon (cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 14,000 students in the university’s seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.

Carnegie Mellon University Contact:
Jason Maderer
Sr. Director, Media Relations
412.268.1151
[email protected]

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Microsoft is expanding the Azure Stack Edge with NVIDIA GPU preview

We’re expanding the Microsoft Azure Stack Edge with NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPU preview during the GPU Technology Conference (GTC Digital). Azure Stack Edge is a cloud-managed appliance that brings Azure’s compute, storage, and machine learning capabilities to the edge for fast local analysis and insights. With the included NVIDIA GPU, you can bring hardware acceleration to a diverse set of machine learning (ML) workloads.

What’s new with Azure Stack Edge

At Mobile World Congress in November 2019, we announced a preview of the NVIDIA GPU version of Azure Stack Edge and we’ve seen incredible interest in the months that followed. Customers in industries including retail, manufacturing, and public safety are using Azure Stack Edge to bring Azure capabilities into the physical world and unlock scenarios such as the real-time processing of video powered by Azure Machine Learning.

These past few months, we’ve taken our customers’ feedback to make key improvements and are excited to make our preview available to even more customers today.

If you’re not already familiar with Azure Stack Edge, here are a few of the benefits:Azure Stack Edge Hi-Res

  • Azure Machine Learning: Build and train your model in the cloud, then deploy it to the edge for FPGA or GPU-accelerated inferencing.
  • Edge Compute: Run IoT, AI, and business applications in containers at your location. Use these to interact with your local systems, or to pre-process your data before it transfers to Azure.
  • Cloud Storage Gateway: Automatically transfer data between the local appliance and your Azure Storage account.  Azure Stack Edge caches the hottest data locally and speaks file and object protocols to your on-prem applications.
  • Azure-managed appliance: Easily order and manage Azure Stack Edge from the Azure Portal.  No initial capex fees; pay as you go, just like any other Azure service.

Enabling our partners to bring you world-class business applications

Equally important to bringing you a great device is enabling our partners to bring you innovative applications to meet your business needs.  We’d love to share some of the continued investment we’re making with partners to bring their exciting developments to you.malong_logo_e_l_h

As self-checkouts grow in prevalence, Malong Technologies is innovating in AI applications for loss prevention.

“For our customers in the retail industry, artificial intelligence innovation is happening at the edge,” said Matt Scott, co-founder and chief executive officer, Malong Technologies. “Along with our state-of-the-art solutions, our customers need hardware that is powerful, reliable, and custom-tailored for the cloud. Microsoft’s Azure Stack Edge fits the bill perfectly. We’re proud to be a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, working with Microsoft to help our retail customers succeed.”

Increasing your manufacturing organization’s quality inspection accuracy is key to Mariner’s Spyglass Visual Inspection application.

Mariner“Mariner has standardized on Microsoft’s Azure Stack Edge for our Spyglass Visual Inspection and Spyglass Connected Factory products. These solutions are mission critical to our manufacturing customers. Azure Stack Edge provides the performance, stability and availability they require.” – Phil Morris, CEO, Mariner

Building computer vision solutions to improve performance and safety in manufacturing and other industries is a key area of innovation for XXII.

“XXII is thrilled to be a Microsoft partner and we are working together to provide our clients with real time video analysis software on edge with the Azure Stack Edge box. With this solution, LOGO XXII _ NOIR _ SMALLAzure allow us to harvest the full potential of NVIDIA GPUs directly on edge and be able to provide our clients in retail, industry and smart city with smart video analysis that are easily deployable, scalable and easily manageable with Azure stack Edge.” – Souheil Hanoune, Chief Scientific Officer, XXII

More to come with Azure Stack Edge

NVIDIA4There are even more exciting developments with Azure Stack Edge coming. We’re putting the final touches on much-awaited new compute and AI capabilities including virtual machines, Kubernetes clusters, and multi-node support. Along with these new features announced at Ignite 2019, Data Box Edge was renamed Azure Stack Edge to align with the Azure Stack portfolio.

Our Rugged series for sites with harsh or remote environments is also coming this year, including the battery-powered form-factor that can be carried in a backpack. The versatility of these Azure Stack Edge form-factors and cloud-managed capabilities brings cloud intelligence and compute to retail stores, factory floors, hospitals, field operations, disaster zones, and rescue operations.

Get started with the Azure Stack Edge with NVIDIA GPU preview

Thank you for continuing to partner with us as we bring new capabilities to Azure Stack Edge. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

  • To get started with the preview, please email us and we’ll follow up to learn more about your scenarios.
  • Learn more about Azure Stack Edge.

Learn more about Azure’s Hybrid Strategy

Read about more updates from Azure during NVIDIA’s GTC.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Three Years of Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams at 3: Everything you need to connect with your teammates and be more productive

This week marks the third anniversary of Microsoft Teams. It’s been an incredible three years, and we’re inspired to see the way organizations across the globe are using Teams to transform the way they work. Today, we’re sharing some new Teams capabilities across a few different aspects of the Teams experience, many with a tie to meetings.

Read more

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Mammoth March Patch Tuesday lands on Windows admins

For the second month in a row, Microsoft doled out a hefty batch of fixes for its products on March Patch Tuesday, resolving 115 unique vulnerabilities that center mostly around the Windows OS and its various web browser applications.

This month’s slate of fixes eclipsed the 99 vulnerabilities Microsoft addressed last month. All told, March Patch Tuesday corrected 26 critical vulnerabilities and 88 bugs rated important. Affected products include Windows, both the HTML-based and Chromium-based Edge browsers, the ChakraCore JavaScript engine, Internet Explorer, Exchange Server, Microsoft Office, Azure DevOps and Azure, Windows Defender, Visual Studio, Microsoft Dynamics and open source projects.

Despite the sheer number of flaws to address, administrators do not have to worry about any zero-day exploits or public disclosures this month. The other good news is most of the bugs are clustered in the Windows and browser products. Of the 115 vulnerabilities, 18 are in the browser and 79 are in the Windows OS.

Now that Microsoft packages its patches in a single monthly rollup rather than individual updates, administrators now have a simpler “all or nothing” choice with patch deployment. In the previous servicing model, which Microsoft ended in late 2016, administrators had the flexibility to choose which patches to apply to different systems. 

“The cumulative model plugs those gaps effectively, so that’s the positive. There are fewer holes in the average environment because one thing people overlook is most of the exploits that are happening are in software that’s months, if not years old,” said Chris Goettl, director of product management and security at Ivanti, a security and IT management vendor based in South Jordan, Utah. 

Chris Goettl, director of product management and security, IvantiChris Goettl

The monthly rollup contains fixes for security flaws, corrections for web browsers and quality updates. Each monthly rollup supersedes the previous month. The downside to the cumulative model is a faulty patch can disable a system, which makes administrators more likely to hold off on deployment until they can do a thorough test.

“Microsoft’s cumulative model makes it more of an all-or-nothing, especially for the OS. It does force people to update it. The challenge comes into play in those cases where companies have more sensitive environments to patching where they let time be more of an element,” Goettl said. 

Microsoft Outlook preview pane could be a threat launchpad

Aside from the browser and OS vulnerabilities, administrators will want to focus on a critical remote code execution vulnerability (CVE-2020-0852) in Microsoft Word which uses the Microsoft Outlook preview pane as the attack vector, Goettl said. In one scenario, an attacker could send a specially crafted document in an email to a user who, if they view the file in the Outlook preview pane, would run code at the security level of that user. 

“That [vulnerability is] a piece of low-hanging fruit for a threat actor if they can exploit the preview pane. That makes their job a lot easier,” Goettl said. 

Administrators will also want to look at a moderate information disclosure vulnerability (CVE-2020-0765) in the Remote Desktop Connection Manager. There are no fixes for this bug because Microsoft no longer develops this application. Microsoft recommends users switch to a supported Microsoft Remote Desktop client version. 

In addition to the March Patch Tuesday updates, administrators should be aware that most of the supported Windows OSes on the client and server side have a servicing stack update. Microsoft does not include these with the monthly rollups and recommends installing servicing stack updates before applying the latest cumulative update.  

Vulnerability from February rears its head

Administrators of organizations that use on-premises Exchange Server for email and have a lengthy test and deploy for patching might want to pick up the pace if they haven’t installed February’s security updates for the messaging product. Microsoft fixed a remote-code execution bug (CVE-2020-0688) in Exchange Server in its February Patch Tuesday releases, but companies that lag in their patching efforts could find themselves in trouble if a persistent hacker finds a way to get inside their systems to launch an exploit.  

On Feb. 25, Simon Zuckerbraun, a security researcher at Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative, posted a blog that offered deeper insights into how the vulnerability worked with an accompanying video that demonstrated how to trigger the exploit. 

“Microsoft rated this as Important in severity, likely because an attacker must first authenticate. It should be noted, however, that within an enterprise, most any user would be allowed to authenticate to the Exchange server,” wrote Zuckerbraun. “Similarly, any outside attacker who compromised the device or credentials of any enterprise user would be able to proceed to take over the Exchange server. Having accomplished this, an attacker would be positioned to divulge or falsify corporate email communications at will.”

The same day, another security researcher, Kevin Beaumont — who recently joined Microsoft to work on its Microsoft Threat Protection product — tweeted about Zuckerbraun’s blog and posted updates showing an uptick in threat actors scanning for susceptible internet-facing Exchange servers. 

This caught has caught the attention of the U.S. government. Not only did the National Security Agency issue a warning from its Twitter account on March 6 but the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) reinforced the importance of patching in a bulletin released on March Patch Tuesday.

“Although Microsoft disclosed the vulnerability and provided software patches for the various affected products in February 2020, advanced persistent threat actors are targeting unpatched servers, according to recent open source reports,” wrote the CISA. 

This type of vulnerability and the groundswell of attention it picked up online shows administrators not only need to be technical experts but also social media savants to pick up what’s trending online to steer their patching priorities.

“Knowing things like what’s actively being exploited and keeping more continuous cycle around evaluating and resolving vulnerabilities is definitely more important nowadays,” Goettl said.

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New action to disrupt world’s largest online criminal network – Microsoft on the Issues

Today, Microsoft and partners across 35 countries took coordinated legal and technical steps to disrupt one of the world’s most prolific botnets, called Necurs, which has infected more than nine million computers globally. This disruption is the result of eight years of tracking and planning and will help ensure the criminals behind this network are no longer able to use key elements of its infrastructure to execute cyberattacks.

A botnet is a network of computers that a cybercriminal has infected with malicious software, or malware. Once infected, criminals can control those computers remotely and use them to commit crimes. Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, BitSight and others in the security community first observed the Necurs botnet in 2012 and have seen it distribute several forms of malware, including the GameOver Zeus banking trojan.

The Necurs botnet is one of the largest networks in the spam email threat ecosystem, with victims in nearly every country in the world. During a 58-day period in our investigation, for example, we observed that one Necurs-infected computer sent a total of 3.8 million spam emails to over 40.6 million potential victims.

Necurs is believed to be operated by criminals based in Russia and has also been used for a wide range of crimes including pump-and-dump stock scams, fake pharmaceutical spam email and “Russian dating” scams. It has also been used to attack other computers on the internet, steal credentials for online accounts, and steal people’s personal information and confidential data. Interestingly, it seems the criminals behind Necurs sell or rent access to the infected computer devices to other cybercriminals as part of a botnet-for-hire service. Necurs is also known for distributing financially targeted malware and ransomware, cryptomining, and even has a DDoS (distributed denial of service) capability that has not yet been activated but could be at any moment.

On Thursday, March 5, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued an order enabling Microsoft to take control of U.S.-based infrastructure Necurs uses to distribute malware and infect victim computers. With this legal action and through a collaborative effort involving public-private partnerships around the globe, Microsoft is leading activities that will prevent the criminals behind Necurs from registering new domains to execute attacks in the future.

This was accomplished by analyzing a technique used by Necurs to systematically generate new domains through an algorithm. We were then able to accurately predict over six million unique domains that would be created in the next 25 months. Microsoft reported these domains to their respective registries in countries around the world so the websites can be blocked and thus prevented from becoming part of the Necurs infrastructure. By taking control of existing websites and inhibiting the ability to register new ones, we have significantly disrupted the botnet.

Microsoft is also taking the additional step of partnering with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and others around the world to rid their customers’ computers of malware associated with the Necurs botnet. This remediation effort is global in scale and involves collaboration with partners in industry, government and law enforcement via the Microsoft Cyber Threat Intelligence Program (CTIP). Through CTIP, Microsoft provides law enforcement, government Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), ISPs and government agencies responsible for the enforcement of cyber laws and the protection of critical infrastructure with better insights into criminal cyber infrastructure located within their jurisdiction, as well as a view of compromised computers and victims impacted by such criminal infrastructure.

For this disruption, we are working with ISPs, domain registries, government CERTs and law enforcement in Mexico, Colombia, Taiwan, India, Japan, France, Spain, Poland and Romania, among others. Each of us has a critical role to play in protecting customers and keeping the internet safe.

To make sure your computer is free of malware, visit support.microsoft.com/botnets.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Compare capabilities of Office 365 MDM vs. Intune

Microsoft offers two ways to handle mobile device management: MDM for Office 365 and Microsoft Intune.

The enterprise mobility industry has changed significantly in the past few years. Mobile device management (MDM) platforms such as MDM for Office 365 was once enough for most organizations. As devices such as iPads, wearables and IoT devices became prevalent in the enterprise, however, many organizations needed advanced management capabilities and a unified console. Unified endpoint management (UEM) products such as Intune entered the market, which provided a way for IT admins to manage a range of different devices under a single console.

MDM still has use cases today, however. MDM for Office 365 provides a limited feature set, but it is included in the price of many Office 365 subscriptions. This built-in tool offers organizations an integrated, inexpensive way to manage mobile devices. Microsoft Intune, on the other hand, provides a rich feature set and comes with additional costs.

MDM for Office 365 capabilities

MDM for Office 365 provides a lightweight version of MDM that does not include mobile application management (MAM). It provides organizations with MDM policies and settings that will help to control access to Office 365 data for supported mobile devices and apps. For stolen or lost devices, it offers the ability to remotely wipe the device to remove corporate data.

Supported platforms

MDM for Office 365 provides support for the following platforms:

  • iOS 10.0 or later
  • Android 4.4 or later
  • Windows 8.1 (limited to Exchange ActiveSync functionality)
  • Windows 10 (requires the device to be Azure Active Directory joined)

Supported access control scenarios

MDM for Office 365 provides a few scenarios that will prompt the user to enroll their device. When the user’s device doesn’t comply with the policy, the user might be blocked from accessing Office 365 data, depending on the policy configuration.

These are the following scenarios:

  • Access to Exchange by using the built-in mail app on iOS 10 or later
  • Access to Exchange by using the built-in mail app on Android 4.4 or later
  • Access to Office and OneDrive for Business by using the Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel or PowerPoint app on iOS 10 or later
  • Access to Office and OneDrive for Business by using the Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint or the Office Mobile (phones only) app on Android 4.4 or later

People who are using mobile browsers to access Office 365 data will not be prompted to enroll their devices and will not be blocked.

Supported policy settings

With MDM for Office 365, IT can enable certain settings as requirements to access Office 365 data. IT can use these settings in the supported access control scenarios to block users from accessing Office 365 data. These settings are divided into the following categories:

  • Security – Require password settings
  • Encryption – Require encryption settings
  • Jailbroken – Require non-jailbroken devices
  • Managed email profile – Require managed email profile

MDM for Office 365 also provides a limited set of policies that IT can use to configure settings on the user’s device, such as policies to prevent data loss on devices, access public clouds, make screen captures and access the store.

Microsoft Intune capabilities

Microsoft Intune is a UEM platform that provides MDM and MAM functionality and comes with additional costs, as it’s not part of the different Office 365 subscriptions. It requires an organization to have licenses that include the rights for using Microsoft Intune. These licenses include Microsoft Intune standalone, the Enterprise Mobility + Security and the Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

Microsoft Intune helps organizations to provide MDM and MAM policies and settings that will help with controlling access to corporate data. This includes not just data in Office 365, but nearly all corporate data that is available from apps that are exposed via Azure Active Directory (AAD). For stolen or lost devices, Intune provides the ability to remotely wipe the device or app to remove corporate data. It provides organizations with a strong method to secure and manage mobile devices, apps and corporate data.

Supported platforms

Microsoft Intune provides support for the following platforms:

  • iOS and iPadOS 11.0 and later
  • Mac OS X 10.0.12 and later
  • Android 5.0 and later, including Android Enterprise
  • Windows 8.1, including Windows 8.1 RT
  • Windows 10, including Windows 10 Teams, Windows 10 IoT and Windows Holographic for Business

Supported access scenarios

Microsoft Intune supports many scenarios. The main difference of MDM for Office 365 vs Intune is that Intune is not limited to Office 365-related scenarios. For most organizations, the management boundaries must expand to include all apps and data that can be exposed via AAD and all apps on the devices that can use modern authentication. Intune integrates well within a Microsoft ecosystem, including Office 365.

Microsoft Intune can do more than just control access to corporate apps and data. IT can use Intune to verify compliance of devices, deploy applications, assign advanced configurations including Wi-Fi configuration, push certificates and VPN configurations, provide inventory information and more. And that’s only mentioning MDM scenarios. Besides that, it also provides MAM scenarios, including the ability to limit access to corporate apps and data and the ability to perform a selective wipe of only the app.

Supported policy settings

Microsoft Intune provides many policy settings and it’s nearly impossible to list all the possibilities. It provides the policy settings that are available with MDM for Office 365 and many more. These policy settings are categorized to provide functionality to address the supported access scenarios – for example, policies to verify access requirements, policies to verify compliance, policies to configure settings, policies to configure updates and the ability to deploy, configure and manage apps.

MDM for Office 365 vs. Microsoft Intune

The following table provides an overview of the main capabilities of MDM for Office 365 vs Microsoft Intune.


It should be clear that Microsoft Intune is the most logical choice from a security and management perspective. That doesn’t that mean there is no use case for MDM for Office 365. For smaller organizations, or organizations that only use Office 365, this could be enough. That does require strong agreements with the employees, however, as MDM for Office 365 only provides basic security for accessing Office 365 data.

MDM for Office 365 is a good starting point for any organization beginning to deploy MDM. To provide real security and management capabilities, however, any organization should eventually look at using Microsoft Intune when using more than just Office 365.

To support a migration path from MDM for Office 365 and Microsoft Intune, organizations can run both products alongside each other. When a user gets a Microsoft Intune license, the enrollment process will automatically prefer the Microsoft Intune enrollment above the MDM for Office 365 enrollment.

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Women of Microsoft Quantum (Part 2)

In honor of International Women’s Day, Microsoft is proud to recognize some of the amazing women of Microsoft Quantum. These engineers, scientists, program managers and business leaders are working toward realizing Microsoft’s mission of building a scalable quantum computer and global quantum community to help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.

Last year, we introduced you to some of the women working on quantum software; this year we’re profiling more women delivering impact in the Microsoft Quantum program, across quantum hardware, software, partnerships, and business development.

This is the second of a two-part series. In case you missed it, meet The Women of Microsoft Quantum in Part 1.

Sydney Schreppler – Quantum Hardware Engineer

Sydney Schreppler bio picture

Sydney Schreppler bio pictureQ: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

I am a Quantum Engineer working as part of a global hardware team that characterizes quantum materials for the development of our topological qubit technology. Our team measures electrical transport properties in cryogenic environments, probing the quantum nature of the materials. Right now I’m excited to be working in Redmond, where, together with the Quantum Systems team, we span Microsoft’s full quantum stack, from our topological qubit layer at the very bottom all the way up to the algorithms offered in Azure Quantum.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

Long before I knew I wanted to study physics, people around me seemed to know it. I think it was because I was always asking for simple explanations for how the world worked and because I liked to understand those answers through a mathematical lens. Once I started studying physics, the more I learned, the simpler and more elegant the explanations got.

What attracted me to quantum measurements first, and later to quantum computing, was the idea that something that seemed so non-intuitive and mysterious was nonetheless observable, and even useful! I wanted to see quantum effects for myself, so as a college student, I sought out opportunities in labs measuring quantum things. And once I had “seen” quantum, I was hooked. I measured the quantum mechanical motion of tiny membranes, the interaction of ultracold atoms with laser light (obtaining my Ph.D. in physics along the way), and the quantum entanglement of superconducting circuits. Now at Microsoft, I get to harness these same kinds of measurements to develop our quantum hardware.

Amrita Singh – Quantum Hardware Engineer

Amrita Singh bio picture

Amrita Singh bio picture

Q: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

I am a hardware engineer and coordinate the substrate fabrication activities with a small team of nanofabrication engineers at Microsoft Quantum Labs – Delft. We engineer the substrates and create a platform for selective area growth of a high-quality III-V semiconductor/ superconductor hybrid network, which is a building block of the topological quantum qubit.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

I was born and raised in a remote rural village in northern India where a girl’s education wasn’t important and the only expectation from a girl was to get married at an early age, raise children, and at the most, become a primary school teacher in the village. Mathematics and Science were considered to be boys’ subjects and weren’t even available as an option until the senior year at my all-girls school when I started. I was fortunate though, in that they were introduced a year before I reached my final year.

I studied science in my school to prove my worthiness as much as the boys in the neighborhood, but didn’t fully believe in it because it conflicted with my belief in God and other superstitions. But I always loved mathematics because of its precision, as no belief could justify 2+2≠4.

My exposure to technology was very limited and I had my first encounter with computers during my Masters (Physics) degree at IIT Delhi. During my Ph.D. in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics, I started appreciating the power of scientific attitude when I would verify a hypothesis with experimental data. Being an experimental physicist, I would feel restless for my blind faith and that is when I started to question my deep-rooted superstitions and religious beliefs, getting rid of them over the course of about four to five years. This was only possible due to my career choice in Science and Technology and it has shaped me into who I am today.

I did my Ph.D. on quantum devices for spintronic application and I extended my knowledge to superconducting spintronics during my postdoc work at Leiden University, where I gained expertise in interface engineering for hybrid quantum devices. I believed that, with my diverse background in quantum physics and device engineering, I would be able to contribute toward the realization of an ambitious topological quantum computer at Microsoft, as well as be able to learn and grow without limit by working with great minds.

Science for me is not just a profession but a way of living. I strongly believe that we could change the lives of millions of unprivileged deserving children in the world by giving quality education and bring them into the mainstream by using technologies.

Aarthi Meenakshi Sundaram – Researcher

Aarthi Meenakshi Sundaram bio picture

Aarthi Meenakshi Sundaram bio picture

Q: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Research and Applications team at Microsoft Quantum, where my overarching goal is to understand both the power and limitations of using quantum computers to solve some of our most challenging problems. Sometimes, this means defining efficient quantum algorithms for various problems. Other times, this means defining a mathematically rigorous computational model and analyzing which problems are “easy” or “difficult” in this model à la complexity theory.

Currently, I am looking forward to tackling both aspects in the context of quantum machine learning. It’s a nascent but rapidly evolving area with new algorithms being discovered and comes with its own set of challenges for us to understand precisely what kinds of learning problems can be sped up with quantum resources and to what extent. In classical computational learning theory, there are many well-established models of learning. Inevitably, we find that there may be various ways to “quantize” these models (i.e., add some “quantum magic” to these models, and each way could be useful in vastly different scenarios – some abstract/mathematical, some very real and even implementable in the near-term on quantum computers! Investigating these in all their variations is what excites me right now.

On a slightly different track, I also care about building tools that could help to efficiently verify quantum programs – through type checking or other methods. One of the main challenges is that any quantum program debugger that observes or measures how a quantum state is manipulated in the program could destroy the quantum nature of the state itself. Another challenge is that certain techniques that work well on small quantum programs will scale badly with the size of our program and could take too long to verify realistically. So, along with my collaborators here, we are investigating ways to build efficient type checkers that could provide us with the ability to verify some, if not all of the properties of interest in a quantum program.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

I have been reliably informed by my mother that, as a 4- or 5-year old, I took great joy in sitting on her lap and helping her with her programming work by entering the programs into our computer at home and marveling at this new object that knew how to follow my orders (or throw error messages!) So, while I don’t remember ever having to make a conscious choice to work in the world of computing, it has always seemed like a foregone conclusion in my mind, leading to my Math and Computer Science majors during undergrad.

For the first time at my university, one of my professors offered a course in quantum information and computing. I had just started getting interested in cryptography then and being introduced to this new computing model that could break state-of-the-art cryptosystems was a revelation! I was intrigued by this field that almost sounded like something out of science fiction and seemed so counterintuitive, at first.

Encouraged by my professor to pursue it beyond that one course, it was a natural progression for me to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in quantum complexity theory. It allowed me to blend the skills I had learned from both of my undergrad majors seamlessly. Being interested in the more abstract and theoretical aspects of computer science, I spent my Ph.D. analyzing the power of quantum analogs of various computational models. A continuous inspiration since I’ve delved more into quantum computing is that by living at the intersection and cutting edge of many different fields, one gets to work and learn from people whose expertise is vastly different than your own. With Microsoft Quantum’s aim of delivering a full stack of quantum services, that means, I am thrilled for the opportunity to interact with everyone from material scientists to mathematicians within the team.

Judith Suter – Senior Researcher

Judith Suter bio picture

Judith Suter bio picture

Q: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

In my work as a Senior Researcher in the Microsoft Quantum Hardware Program, I focus mainly on electrical characterization of different device types, materials, and fabrication processes. My days revolve around planning and designing experiments, running and optimizing low-temperature measurements, and exploring the resulting aggregated data. As part of a global team, another element of my job is cross-site collaboration where we leverage the diverse expertise of the whole team to collectively tackle challenging projects.

Recently I also became part of the Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure Diversity and Inclusion Council, where I represent the Quantum Hardware Program. I am excited to help drive the efforts towards the ambitious goals of Microsoft to fuel systemic change, widen our pipelines to reach and engage a diverse group of people, and transform our culture to ensure that everyone feels welcome and valued.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

My path to working on quantum computing was not without detours. As a high school student, I was fascinated by surrealist painters and the strange but self-consistent worlds they portrayed, so I commenced my studies at an arts and graphic design academy. Eventually, I left, longing to do something completely different, something I knew nothing about. I signed up for an undergraduate degree in Nanoscience, where I felt I could get a taste of different scientific fields. There, quantum physics intrigued me from the start: counterintuitive concepts born out of creative boldness – surprisingly, some lectures ended up reminding me of my art classes studying surrealism. I was hooked. I bought a one-way ticket to the epicenter of quantum physics, the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, joined Prof. Charles Marcus’ lab there at the Center for Quantum Devices and started my training to become a quantum physicist.

Vicky Svidenko – Partner Quantum Data Sciences

a woman smiling for the camera

a woman smiling for the camera

Q: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

I am leading the Quantum Systems Integration team – helping to accelerate quantum research and development. The Microsoft Quantum group is exploring ways to build a full-stack quantum computer and has become the world’s center of expertise on topological quantum computing. I am incredibly humbled by the opportunity to support this development effort and contribute to the new breakthroughs, together with an amazing team of talented researchers and engineers.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

I came to Quantum because I enjoy the loosely orchestrated chaos of early product development and the frenzy of excitement for every new learning and every new benchmark. I like that incredible sensation of being part of something futuristically amazing, now evolving and materializing.

Another reason: This was my first opportunity to work for an amazing female manager – Krysta Svore – and I wasn’t going to miss it.

Meet more of The Women of Microsoft Quantum in Part 1 of this series.

This is just a small sample of the amazing people on the Microsoft Quantum team. If you want to join us as we build the quantum future, we’re hiring!

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Microsoft for Healthcare: Empowering our customers and partners to provide better experiences, insights and care – The Official Microsoft Blog

At Microsoft, our goal within healthcare is to empower people and organizations to address the complex challenges facing the healthcare industry today. We help do this by co-innovating and collaborating with our customers and partners as a trusted technology provider. Today, we’re excited to share progress on the latest innovations from Microsoft aimed at helping address the most prevalent and persistent health and business challenges:

  • Empower care teams with Microsoft 365: Available in the coming weeks, the new Bookings app in Microsoft Teams will empower care teams to schedule, manage and conduct virtual visits with remote patients via video conference. Also coming soon, clinicians will be able to target Teams messages to recipients based on the shift they are working. Finally, healthcare customers can support their security and compliance requirements with the HIPAA/HITECH assessment in Microsoft Compliance Score.
  • Protect health information with Azure Sphere: Microsoft’s integrated security solution for IoT (Internet of Things) devices and equipment – is now widely available for the development and deployment of secure, connected devices. Azure Sphere helps securely personalize patient experiences with connected devices and solutions. And, to make it easier for healthcare leaders to develop their own IoT strategies, today we’re launching a new IoT Signals report focused on the healthcare industry that provides an industry pulse on the state of IoT adoption and helpful insights for IoT strategies. Learn more about Microsoft’s IoT offerings for healthcare here.
  • Enable personalized virtual care with Microsoft Healthcare Bot: Today, we’re pleased to announce that Microsoft Healthcare Bot, our HITRUST-certified platform for creating virtual health assistants, is enriching its healthcare intelligence with new built-in templates for healthcare-specific use cases, and expanding its integrated medical content options. With the addition of Infermedica, a cutting-edge triage engine based on advanced artificial intelligence (AI) that enables symptom checking in 17 languages Healthcare Bot is empowering providers to offer global access to care.
  • Reimagine healthcare using new data platform innovations: With the 2019 release of Azure API for FHIR, Microsoft became the first cloud provider with a fully managed, enterprise-grade service for health data in the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) format. We’re excited to expand those offerings with several new innovations around connecting, converting and transforming data. The first is Power BI FHIR Connector, which makes it simple and easy to bring FHIR data into Power BI for analytics and insights. The second, IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) FHIR Connector, is now available as open source software (OSS) and allows for seamless ingestion, normalization and transformation of Protected Health Information data from health devices into FHIR. Another new open source project, FHIR Converter, provides an easy way to convert healthcare data from legacy formats (i.e., HL7v2) into FHIR. And lastly, FHIR Tools for Anonymization, is now offered via OSS and enables anonymization and pseudonymization of data in the FHIR format. Including capabilities for redaction and date shifting in accordance with the HIPAA privacy rule.

Frictionless exchange of health information in FHIR makes it easier for researchers and clinicians to collaborate, innovate and improve patient care. As we move forward working with our customers and partners and others across the health ecosystem, Microsoft is committed to enabling and improving interoperability and required standards to make it easier for patients to manage their healthcare and control their information. At the same time, trust, privacy and compliance are a top priority – making sure Protected Health Information (PHI) remains under control and custodianship of healthcare providers and their patients.

We’ve seen a growing number of healthcare organizations not only deploy new technologies, but also begin to develop their own digital capabilities and solutions that use data and AI to transform and innovate healthcare and life sciences in profoundly positive ways. Over the past year, together with our customers and partners, we’ve announced new strategic partnerships aimed at empowering this transformation.

For example, to enable caregivers to focus more on patients by dramatically reducing the burden of documenting doctor-patient visits, Nuance has released Nuance Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX). This ambient clinical intelligence technologies (ACI) is enriched by AI and cloud capabilities from Microsoft, including the ambient intelligence technology, EmpowerMD, which is coming to market as part of Nuance’s DAX solution. The solution aims to transform the exam room by deploying ACI to capture, with patient consent, interactions between clinicians and patients so that clinical documentation writes itself.

Among health systems, Providence St. Joseph Health is using Microsoft’s cloud, AI, productivity and collaboration technologies to deploy next-generation healthcare solutions while empowering their employees. NHS Calderdale is enabling patients and their providers to hold appointments virtually via Microsoft Teams for routine and follow-up visits, which helps lower costs while maintaining the quality of care. The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department is embracing mixed reality by working with technology providers Medivis, Microsoft and Verizon to roll out its first 5G-enabled hospital. And specifically for health consumers, Walgreens Boots Alliance will harness the power of our cloud, AI and productivity technologies to empower care teams and deliver new retail solutions to make healthcare delivery more personal, affordable and accessible.

Major payor, pharmaceutical and health technology platform companies are also transforming healthcare in collaboration with us. Humana will develop predictive solutions for personalized and secure patient support, and by using Azure, Azure AI and Microsoft 365, they’ll also equip home healthcare workers with real-time access to information and voice technology to better understand key factors that influence patient health. In pharmaceuticals, Novartis will bring Microsoft AI capabilities together with its deep expertise in life sciences to address specific challenges that make the process of discovering, developing and delivering new medicines so costly and time-consuming.

We’re pleased to showcase how together with our customers and partners, we’re working to bring healthcare solutions to life and positively impact the health ecosystem.

To keep up to date with the latest announcements visit the Microsoft Health News Room.

About the authors:
As Corporate Vice President of Health Technology and Alliances, Dr. Greg Moore leads the dedicated research and development collaborations with our strategic partners, to deliver next-generation technologies and experiences for healthcare.

Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Rhew recently joined Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business Healthcare leadership team and provides executive-level support, engaging in business opportunities with our customers and partners.

As Corporate Vice President of Healthcare, Peter Lee leads the Microsoft organization that works on technologies for better and more efficient healthcare, with a special focus on AI and cloud computing.

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Ended support for Windows Server 2008 leaves clients circumspect

It’s understandable that organizations haven’t immediately parted with Microsoft Windows Server 2008.

Microsoft ended support for Windows Server 2008 in January, forcing organizations to consider making wholesale changes to how they manage and control their technology stacks. But as with any trusted technology, the server operating system has been a reliable backbone since its release more than a decade ago, a timeframe that coincided with enterprises increasingly depending on applications and networks to drive business.

Change is always hard, and a change of this magnitude won’t happen overnight, especially when the alternative could mean shifting a large chunk of operations to the cloud, which is what Microsoft hopes for as it promotes its Azure cloud platform as an option. A big embrace of the cloud is a big step for companies that still depend on on-premises mainframes.

“Even though it’s the end of life for 2008, many still think it’s not necessary to move yet,” said Craig McQueen, vice president of innovation for the Toronto-based MSP Softchoice. “Some customers don’t want to move too quickly because it’s difficult to see the business benefits.” And even if a company recognizes they’re more susceptible to security risks with Microsoft no longer providing patches and updates to Windows Server 2008, “the life of an IT person is so busy that migration drags on,” he said.

Customers weigh Window Server 2008 transitions

Craig McQueenCraig McQueen

McQueen and representatives of three other Microsoft partners didn’t offer a number on how many customers have shifted or will soon shift away from Windows Server 2008. But they all said the majority of their customers will, for a little while longer, operate on the side of familiarity.

Many of those customers indicated they will eventually start migrating to Azure or another cloud computing platform, perhaps later this year or next year, but many others still need to make a decision. Microsoft ended support for Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 on Jan. 14, coming off the heels of a July 2019 end-of-life date for SQL Server 2008.

Rob LeachRob Leach

Companies that haven’t yet committed to halting use of Windows Server 2008 aren’t ignorant of security risks, according to Microsoft partners. For every day that passes, they know threat actors increase their efforts to exploit vulnerabilities in the old operating system. “[Windows Server 2008 users] know all about security breaches, and they should do everything necessary to protect themselves. They don’t want to be on the front page of The Wall Street Journal,” said Rob Leach, the North American Azure lead for the Seattle IT consulting company Avanade.

But the desire to break free of Windows Server 2008 and other mainframe servers is often tempered by contractual and budgetary considerations, Leach said. Many Avanade customers haven’t yet entirely shifted to cloud because they are contractually obligated to on-premises servers until those leases expired. But Leach said he expects to see an increase in cloud migrations over the next few years and Azure to be an attractive option because it would be a lift and shift within the Microsoft family.

Even when companies can immediately take advantage of cloud, they nonetheless proceed cautiously, Leach said. Customers want to see specific proof points for how cloud can boost the bottom line over the long haul. “It’s not just about technology,” he said. “It also has to make good business sense.”

David RodriguezDavid Rodriguez

David Rodriguez, the national director of cloud platforms for the consulting firm Core BTS Inc. in Garden City, N.Y., said the effective end of Windows Server 2008 support won’t be the sole driving force behind his customers’ shift to cloud, but having the end-of-service date “hanging over their heads” will be a factor.

How Microsoft partners can support Azure migrations

Core BTS helps customers overcome any hesitations about cloud, Rodriguez said. “We provide detailed reports with not only a line-by-line breakdown of what each [cloud] service will cost, but also what it will take to reinvest in a new VM host,” he said. “We compare side by side the estimated spend if you just upgrade hardware on-premises to what cloud costs.” Some are already making the move to a Microsoft cloud, migrating to either Azure VM or Hyper-V, he added.

With an opportunity to sell the benefits of cloud technology, Microsoft partners say they also have a legitimate opening to upsell other services that are related to cloud, including microservices, containers and AI-supported applications.

“The journey to the cloud is crawl, walk and run,” Rodriguez said. “With the ‘walk’ phase … you start to take applications they have in a VM, in the cloud, and look for more platform offerings.” For instance, some proprietary applications might work well with containerization. The “run” phase could mean making better use of the data in the cloud by integrating it through a suite of AI applications. “The journey to the cloud can be a complete transformation,” he said.

Rory McCawRory McCaw

Rory McCaw, president of enterprise advisory services at Green House Data, a Cheyenne, Wyo., enterprise advisory service, likes to point to client success stories to assuage doubts about cloud migration. One such story centers on an agricultural company in Omaha, Neb., that had relied on mainframe servers, including some usage of Windows Server 2008. The company recently shifted to Azure, on which it built a mobile application that lets its trucking fleet better manage its transport of soybeans, he said.

Still, even though the end of support for Windows Server 2008 is a bridge to cloud, companies will always keep some applications running on premises, McCaw noted. Some applications are so critical and embedded in processes that it sometimes makes sense to leave them alone, at least for now.

McCaw knows some companies that still run Windows 2000 to accommodate those unique apps. “It is firewalled but still going due to the type of application running on it or an inability for it to be modernized,” he said. In some instances, he added, the critical application was built internally, but its creators have since left the company and took their knowledge of the program with them.

Determining what migrates and what stays is part of Microsoft partners’ migration plans for their customers. Executives don’t anticipate problems migrating from Windows Server 2008 as long as the planning process is thorough and the client’s goals are considered. “It’s really just about trying to understand what they want to accomplish,” McCaw said. “It’s collecting as much information as possible, and not [really] selling anyone … anything, but instead presenting them with ideas they haven’t considered … [so] they can then decide with their knowledge of their own business.”

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