Tag Archives: organization

Cybersecurity and physical security: Key for ‘smart’ venues

When Boston Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy joined the organization in 2001, the team’s management was facing questions about the then-89-yearold Fenway Park.

There was a campaign to tear down Fenway and build a new baseball stadium elsewhere in the city — a plan that was quickly nixed by Red Sox management in favor of one to preserve, protect and enhance the Boston landmark. One big obstacle they had to consider was how to handle potential threats more dangerous than the New York Yankees.

“Our job is to anticipate threats — probably the biggest threat to the sports industry, in general, would be some type of massive security breach or failure,” Kennedy said. “It’s certainly something that keeps us up at night.”

Kennedy made his remarks during the Johnson Controls Smart Ready Panel last week at Fenway Park, where panelists discussed how venues, buildings and cities are striving to become smarter and more sustainable.

To upgrade the park for the 21st century, the Red Sox organization began a project called Fenway 2.0 that would improve the fan experience via technology upgrades, additional seating and renovations to the area surrounding the park.

Another big part of the Fenway 2.0 project was working closely with city officials to protect fans’ cybersecurity and physical security.

“We have incredible partners at the city of Boston,” Kennedy said. “We work very closely with those guys and the regional intelligence center to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can … to make sure that Fenway is safe.”

Cybersecurity a ‘smart’ priority

During the panel, Johnson Controls’ vice president of global sustainability and industry initiatives, Clay Nesler, pointed to a company-issued survey that showed cybersecurity capabilities were among the top technologies that respondents predicted would have the most influence on smart building and smart city development over the next five years.

Cities and large venues like Fenway Park certainly deliver many benefits to patrons through advanced technology, but these amenities also create potential risk, Nesler added. Several questions have to be answered, he said, before making upgrades to tech such as Wi-Fi capabilities: “Can systems be easily updated with the latest virus protection? Do you really limit user access in a very controllable way? Is the data encrypted?”

Our job is to anticipate threats — probably the biggest threat to the sports industry, in general, would be some type of massive security breach or failure.
Sam Kennedypresident and CEO, Boston Red Sox

Questions such as these are exactly why thinking ahead is essential to smart facility development, said panelist Elinor Klavens, senior analyst at Sports Innovation Lab, based in Boston.

“This is an open space that possibly could have Amazon drones flying over soon. What does that mean for the security of the people inside of it?” Klavens said. “We see venues really struggling to figure out how to secure themselves on that cyber level.”

Technology is certainly an enabler to get smarter about cybersecurity and physical security capabilities, Nesler said, but it’s still up to humans to interpret data. For example, new tech allows venues to create a 3D heat map of exactly how many people are in a 10-square-foot area to determine how fast they’re moving and find ways to avoid large groups slowing down during normal ingress and egress times. This information can also prove very valuable to prepare for emergency evacuations, Nesler said.

“We need to be clever about what’s really valuable to both the operations side and the fans and really be smart-ready in putting [in] place the systems and infrastructure to support things we haven’t even thought of yet,” Nesler said. 

The data access conundrum

The new technology offered by smart venues poses other concerns, as well, Kennedy said. For example, fans distracted by looking at their smartphones or digital screens could be putting themselves in danger of being hit by a foul ball at a baseball game, and ones watching events through smart glasses bring up potential legal questions regarding the event’s distribution rights. 

This goes back to the importance of communication for a smart venue to be successful, Kennedy said, with building management working together to ensure all of Fenway’s cybersecurity and physical security bases are covered.

“We need to be very, very careful in terms of providing fan safety,” Kennedy said.

And, of course, taking advantage of these technological advances often requires smart venues and cities to analyze a plethora of consumer-generated data. As a result, they must balance tapping into readily available data to improve amenities, cybersecurity and services with privacy concerns, Klavens said.

“Figuring out how to balance what is good for your fans and what is also your public’s appetite for giving up privacy in a public space is another way which we see venues really helping cities improve their understanding about how these new technologies will be deployed,” Klavens said.

National FFA Organization and Microsoft announce initiative to bring transformational innovation to over 650,000 students nationwide – Stories

FARGO, N.D., and REDMOND, Wash. — July 26, 2018 — The National FFA Organization and Microsoft Corp., on Thursday announced their collaboration to bring innovative technology, science, research and entrepreneurship to the classrooms of the more than 650,000 FFA student members nationwide through an initiative known as Blue 365.

FFA logoFFA members are the future of the food industry, which is relying on this generation to meet unparalleled challenges to feed a growing world population. In a modern world where the food and agriculture industries are reliant on precision agriculture, big data, cloud technology, robotic systems, advanced communications and other sophisticated technologies, Blue 365 will serve as a catalyst for evolving sustainability, innovative efficiency and preparing the future leaders who will solve the world’s critical agricultural challenges. At an event in Fargo today, National FFA CEO Mark Poeschl and Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Mary Snapp were joined by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, USDA State Director Clare Carlson, and North Dakota State FFA President Brianna Maddock.

“Today’s FFA members are our future industry leaders,” Poeschl said. “The future relies on connecting diversity of innovational approach, solutions-orientation and cutting-edge technology. We are excited that Microsoft shares our vision of Blue 365. Through agricultural education and FFA, our members are evolving their skill sets for the 21st century demands; they will be the change in our industry. Blue 365 can be the spark needed to create the next big idea in agriculture.”

Blue 365 will be unveiled in Indianapolis, Indiana, this October at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo, the nation’s largest student convention. With the vision and commitment of title sponsors Microsoft and AgriNovus Indiana, The Blue Room, a 17,000-square-foot interactive space, will showcase the cutting-edge technology, research and innovation happening across the spectrum. Through experiential learning and specific focus on the most critical challenges facing our communities — from respecting the planet to the urgent matter of feeding the world — The Blue Room experience serves to inspire and equip students to activate their potential.

“While digital technology is transforming every part of the American economy, not everyone is acquiring the skills to thrive,” said Brad Smith, president, Microsoft. “As a company, we’re focused on ensuring everyone, regardless of their geography or circumstance, has access to the digital skills they need to compete and prosper. And our partnership with the National FFA will expand this work, helping students across the country prepare for digital jobs and the farms of the future.”

Microsoft’s participation in Blue 365 is part of its commitment to helping people who may be impacted by technological advances and builds on its TechSpark initiative launched last year. TechSpark is a civic program fostering greater opportunity and job creation in smaller metropolitan areas. The initiative is in six regions, including in North Dakota, and focuses on five program areas: digital transformation, digital skills and computer science education, career pathways, rural broadband connectivity, and support for nonprofits.

“Technology is changing every job, every industry and every organization, and agriculture is no exception,” Burgum said. “Today’s announcement from Microsoft and FFA will provide a valuable tool for our educators as they work to equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in a 21st century economy. Given FFA’s long and storied history in North Dakota and Microsoft’s commitment to investing in the future of our young people, Blue 365’s potential to support student learning is undeniable.”

“FFA students across America will lead the food and agriculture industry into the future. They must have opportunities to integrate digital skills into both their classroom studies and project-based learning,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and lead for Microsoft Philanthropies. “Our partnership will help ensure that curriculum is up to date so that these young leaders can use technology to drive innovation in farms of the future, sustain and renew our planet, and enrich their communities.

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

About National FFA Organization

The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 653,359 student members as part of 8,568 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at FFA.org and on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

About National FFA Foundation

The National FFA Foundation builds partnerships with industry, education, government, other foundations and individuals to secure financial resources that recognize FFA member achievements, develop student leaders and support the future of agricultural education. Governed by a 19-member board of trustees composed of educators, business leaders, individual donors and FFA Alumni, the foundation is a separately registered nonprofit organization. About 82 percent of every dollar received by the foundation supports FFA members and agricultural education opportunities. For more, visit FFA.org/Give.

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.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,

rrt@we-worldwide.com

Kristy Meyer, National FFA Organization, (800) 293-2387, KMeyer@FFA.org

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Evaluating CMS platforms, LA County stays on Documentum

TORONTO — It turns out that when you have an organization so big it would be a Fortune 500 company if it were in the private sector, comparables are hard to find when evaluating CMS platforms and a possible rip and replace.

That’s a challenge the tech team including Murtaza Masood, the assistant director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Human Resources, faced when deciding whether to stay with Documentum and its myriad content service tentacles that reached throughout the county’s systems, which serve 110,000 employees. The evaluation came last year after OpenText acquired Documentum from EMC.

In this Pipeline podcast, Masood describes how it took three years to get an HR digital transformation started so they could then move forward and streamline processes.

We embarked on a strategic roadmap to transform all things HR into digital platforms.
Murtaza MasoodLos Angeles County

“We embarked on a strategic roadmap to transform all things HR into digital platforms — self-service HR [or] on-demand HR, if you will,” Masood says in the podcast, which was recorded in July at the OpenText Enterprise World user conference.

Masood added that he then was tapped to rethink the department’s workflows to slash the time it takes to complete common processes such as responding to HR complaints, civil service exams, workforce employee development and executive services.”

In the middle of that, the county’s long-used document management platform was acquired by a competitor, which precipitated the process of evaluating CMS vendors — and considering possible replacements — on top of the other updates to the documentation processes that were going on.

In the end, the massive enterprise decided to stay on Documentum and migrate slowly into the cloud instead of going the big-bang route. Why?

“Based on our size and the scale of the process, the business continuity aspect of it,” Masood said.

Five lessons on reaching 1 billion people living with disabilities

Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Whether or not we succeed depends on our ability to create an inclusive company culture, deliver inclusive products for our customers and show up to the world in an inclusive way.

Recently I spoke at Microsoft’s Ability Summit about five lessons we’ve learned (so far) in our journey to inclusive and accessible marketing. I’m sharing here in hopes they will inspire your own thinking. To learn more about a couple employee-driven accessibility projects coming out of Microsoft’s One Week Hackathon, I encourage you to check out The Ability Hacks, which we published today.

1. Recognize the values case and the business case

People typically think about the values case for accessibility, which makes sense — empowering people with disabilities makes the world work better for everyone. But the business case for accessibility is equally important. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people worldwide experience some form of disability. In the US alone, that’s nearly 1 in 5 people in 1 in 3 households. If our products don’t work for a billion people, we’re not only failing in our mission, we’re also missing an enormous business opportunity.

2. Proximity powers empathy

We’ve learned the incredible value of investing in programs that bring us closer to customers of different backgrounds. We learn so much and do our best work when we commit to seeing the world from their perspectives. For instance, back at our 2015 Hackathon, a team of Microsoft engineers pitched a project with the lofty ambition of making gaming more accessible to gamers with limited mobility, and so began the journey of the Xbox Adaptive Controller. From the earliest moments, the development team reached out to nonprofits like Warfighter Engaged and AbleGamers to partner and learn how the product of their dreams could address the broadest set of needs in the real world. The team increased community engagement at every milestone, from product design and engineering, to prototype testing with gamers living with disabilities, to designing final retail packaging. The empathy we gained forged the path to a product we’re very proud of, that we hope gamers everywhere love when it arrives this September.

3. Accessibility for few becomes usability for many

We see time and again that our accessibility work starts out focused on enabling a specific set of customers but ends up benefiting everyone. For instance, Microsoft events are a major marketing investment each year, so it’s important our events meet the needs of every attendee, including people living with disabilities. A few years ago, we began live-transcribing event keynotes with the goal of helping attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing more easily follow along with keynotes. To our surprise, we ended up getting far more feedback from attendees who speak English as a second language – live transcription helped them navigate highly technical discussions and fast-paced product demos. Now we provide live transcription services in keynotes at all large Microsoft events and open captioning (and in many cases audio description) in company videos. The positive responses we’ve received speak to the broader, unexpected benefits of embracing accessibility.

If you find a Microsoft video missing captions, please contact us via our
Disability Answer Desk.

4. All marketing should be inclusive marketing

There’s value in audience-specific marketing programs, but we’ve learned we get the best results when mainstream marketing programs feature people from a range of audiences, backgrounds and life experiences. For instance, in our most recent AI ad we tell three different customer stories – one on preserving ancient architecture, one on sustainable farming and one on audio visualization AI – all woven together seamlessly as cool examples of how AI is improving lives for people today.

Pro tip: Make your presentations more accessible by adding live subtitles with the
Presentation Translator add-in for PowerPoint.

5. Real people, real stories

A few years back, we shifted our marketing approach to show technology empowering real people to do real things. As a result, we’ve seen far stronger return on investment than we would hiring actors to depict the stories of others. The video below is a powerful example – it features real students from Holly Springs Elementary in Georgia talking about how Microsoft Learning Tools help them overcome obstacles to reading.

Not only is the story more credible coming from real students, it makes the core empowerment message relatable to more people. This shift in philosophy now guides decisions on who represents Microsoft in our ads, on our website and at our events. In each case, real people sharing real stories is the most effective way to bring the impact of technology to life.

Real people sharing real stories is the most effective way to bring the impact of technology to life.

These are just five of many lessons we’ve learned, and our work is only beginning. We’re energized to keep learning and sharing our biggest lessons, because there’s tremendous value in embracing inclusion and accessibility – for your people, your bottom line, your customers and the world.

Wild Me joins AI for Earth | Stories

A new investment from Microsoft’s AI for Earth program will accelerate Wild Me, an organization that identifies and tracks individual animals using machine learning and computer vision

REDMOND, Wash. — June 14, 2018 — On Thursday, Microsoft Corp. announced that Wild Me, a Portland-based nonprofit organization that focuses on combatting extinction with citizen science and artificial intelligence, will become a new featured project in its AI for Earth program. This deeper level of investment and engagement will enable Wild Me, and its wide range of users and supporters, to more effectively and efficiently use software and AI to combat extinction.

“The world is facing a major biodiversity crisis, and Wild Me’s work in harnessing computer vision and machine learning to monitor and track individual animals is truly groundbreaking,” said Bonnie Lei, AI for Earth project manager at Microsoft. “Microsoft hopes to accelerate Wild Me’s conservation impact by enabling wider usage of its open source algorithms through making them available on Microsoft Azure as APIs, and boosting the speed and accuracy of its entire Wildbook platform by migrating it over to Azure.”

Wildbook is an open source, cloud-based software platform — created by Wild Me in collaboration with faculty and students at Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Illinois-Chicago — that brings together AI, computer vision, scientific research and citizen science to help protect endangered species. Using images uploaded from conservationists, researchers and citizen scientists, the software helps identify and track animal populations, monitor their migrations and interactions, and evaluate threats to inform and improve conservation efforts.

“Wildbook democratizes science and conservation,” said Tanya Berger-Wolf, director at Wild Me and professor at University of Illinois-Chicago. “The partnership with Microsoft will allow us to enable science and conservation at planetary scale and high resolution over time, space and individual animals.”

Wild Me will be the fifth AI for Earth featured project, joining land cover mapping, Project Premonition, FarmBeats and iNaturalist. With 111 grantees in 27 countries, AI for Earth puts Microsoft’s cloud and AI tools in the hands of those working to solve global environmental challenges. Through grants that provide access to cloud and AI tools, opportunities for education and training on AI, and investments in innovative, scalable solutions, AI for Earth works to advance sustainability across the globe.

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.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,

rrt@we-worldwide.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Breaking down the Exchange Online vs. on-premises choice

We all know the cloud is there, but how does an organization determine if a move from an on-premises platform is the right one?

Many companies currently using Exchange Server cannot escape from the siren call of the cloud. Untold numbers of organizations will weigh the pros and cons of Exchange Online vs. on-premises Exchange Server. There are many reasons to move to the cloud, just as there are ones to stay put.

Whether the cloud is better requires some deeper analysis. I’ve spent most of the last eight years migrating organizations of every size to Office 365. Over that time, I’ve grown familiar with the motivations to move to the cloud, as well as the ones to maintain the status quo.

This article will dig into the Exchange Online vs. on-premises Exchange Server debate and examine the differences between the two offerings, as well as which has the advantage in certain areas.

Is Exchange Online less expensive?

In many cases, the first selling point of Exchange Online is the cost. Since Exchange Online and Exchange on premises are very different, it’s difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison. To get started, you must look at several factors.

The first factor to weigh is how long you plan to keep your on-premises servers. If you upgrade your on-premises servers every three years, then it’s likely those costs will exceed the payments for Exchange Online. If you plan to keep your on-premises Exchange servers for 10 years, then you’ll likely pay considerably less than Exchange Online.

There are a number of costs associated with on-premises Exchange, such as hardware, electricity, data center space and repair costs. Due to all of these factors, the real answer is a lot more complicated than the de facto response from Microsoft that the cloud is always cheaper. Of course, it’s to the vendor’s benefit to get as many companies signed up for an Office 365 subscription as possible.

Is Exchange Online more reliable?

Just as there are several ways to look at the question of cost, it’s also difficult to determine reliability in the Exchange Online vs. on-premises equation.

Microsoft touts its 99.9% uptime guarantee for Office 365. Upon closer inspection, does that assurance hold up?

Open any Office 365 tenant at any time and look at the service health dashboard. Every tenant I check has items marked in red almost every day, but those customers still pay for the full subscription. I’m not saying Office 365 has a lot of downtime, but that 99.9% uptime guarantee is more gray than it is black and white.

[embedded content]

What are the perks and drawbacks
of a switch to hosted email?

As for on-premises Exchange, there is no way to evaluate the overall reliability of Exchange Server. I’ve seen organizations that almost never have problems, while others experience numerous major outages. I don’t think Office 365 is more reliable than on-premises Exchange, but my expectation is data loss is less likely with Exchange Online.

Exchange Server is a very complicated and difficult product to manage. Unless you have some very talented Exchange admins, Exchange Online is the more stable choice.

Do you get newer features with Exchange Online?

In this area, there is no doubt which platform has the advantage. Due to its nature as a cloud service, Exchange Online gets new features well before on-premises Exchange. Not only that, but there are many features that are exclusive to Exchange Online. For a company that wants all the latest and greatest features, the clear choice is Exchange Online.

Every organization has specific needs it must consider, and quite often the traditional on-premises mail system does the job.

However, there is a downside to the constant stream of new features. It can take time for both users and administrators to recover from the culture shock that sets in after the migration to Exchange Online when they realize the feature set changes constantly. There is always something new to learn. Many workers prefer to come into work without spending time to learn about new features in the email system.

What’s the final verdict?

Now that you’ve gone through the Exchange Online vs. on-premises deliberation, which is better? With the sheer number of factors to consider, there is no definitive answer.

Every organization has specific needs it must consider, and quite often the traditional on-premises mail system does the job. For example, a company that relies on public folders might see some difficulties migrating that feature to Exchange Online and decide to stay with the on-premises Exchange.

It’s no secret Microsoft wants its customers to move to the company’s cloud services, but they continue to develop on-premises versions of their software.

Microsoft plans to release Exchange 2019 later this year. When that offering arrives, take the time to evaluate all the features in that release and determine whether it’s worth moving to the cloud. For some organizations, on-premises email might continue to be a better fit.

Snag a better software service contract with these tactics

are ways to knock the price down.

If your organization purchases all its software licenses through the vendor that made the software, then the support options are somewhat limited. Software vendors might have one or two — possibly even three — support options, but there isn’t usually a way to negotiate a custom support plan when you buy direct.

This isn’t to say the business should not try to get better terms, but software vendors do not typically negotiate on the types of support. Hence, the only avenue for compromise is on price.

Understand where you have leverage

Negotiating the price of a support and software service contract is a common practice. Few enterprise software vendors list license or support prices because the cost is typically based on the number of licenses to be purchased. Support costs are usually figured into the sales quote.

When purchasing software directly from the software vendor — and the vendor does not publicly disclose pricing — then there is room to haggle. Never take the vendor’s first quote. Much like dealing with a car salesperson, it’s almost always possible to get a better price if you push for it.

The software vendor’s goal is to make money. The more it stands to get, the better your position is to work a less costly deal. Suppose you get a quote for three licenses, plus one year of service. It might be possible to talk the price down a little bit, but the vendor has no motivation to give a price break on such a small order. But, on an order for 3,000 licenses, the vendor stands to make a lot of money and will most likely make accommodations to get your business.

Some wiggle room with small orders

What can you do to negotiate the cost of a software service contract on a relatively minor order?

Try asking the vendor to throw in the service contract for free; explain that the small number of licenses means you won’t tie up their phone lines. You might also add that you will probably never use the support, but your boss insists that you have an agreement as a safety net.

You could say that the service cost pushes the software beyond your budget, and that, without a more favorable agreement, you will have no choice but to find a less expensive — possibly open source — product.

You still aren’t likely to get a free support agreement, but if the vendor understands the deal hinges on the support contract, then they will probably give a discount at the very least.

Get a break with an advance purchase

Another way to negotiate on the service contract is to purchase multiple years of support. If the company plans to use the software for an extended period of time, then it would probably pay for a support contract each year anyway. Why not pay for three to five years of support up front in exchange for a deeply discounted price?

If you purchase software from a value-added reseller rather than the software vendor, then these techniques might still be viable. You may be able to negotiate the scope of the service contract.

For example, one company I worked for had an agreement with a reseller that the company would purchase all software through the reseller — that included OS licenses, application licenses and everything else — but expected 24/7, on-site technical support for that software. This service contract was expensive, but the company lowered the price by agreeing to handle Tier I support events internally. The company’s IT staff — many who had various IT certifications — would handle whatever support incidents they could. For issues that proved more troublesome, the company would call the reseller for support.

Even with primary support handled by the organization’s IT staff, the support agreement was still expensive. The most important thing this organization did was keep careful records of all support incidents. When it was time to renegotiate the support contract at the end of the first year, the company used those reports to show it had only asked for support on a certain number of occasions. Those records gave the company leverage to get a better price than it had paid for the previous year’s support contract.

Transforming your VMware environment with Microsoft Azure

Just as each organization is unique, each organization will take a unique path to the cloud. Whether you are transferring data, migrating infrastructure, modernizing applications, or building a new app, Azure allows you to move to the cloud in a way that makes the most sense for your needs.

As part of this journey, one request I hear frequently is the desire to move existing on-premises VMware workloads to Azure. This includes migrating VMware-based applications to Azure, integrating with Azure, and deploying VMware virtualization on Azure hardware. 

A frictionless path to Azure for your VMware environment

Today we are announcing new services to help you at every step of your VMware migration to Azure.

  • Migrate applications with Azure Migrate. On November 27th, Azure Migrate, a free service, will be broadly available to all Azure customers. While most cloud vendors offer single server migration capabilities, Azure Migrate helps you through the journey of migrating an entire multi-server application across the following phases: 

Discovery and assessment. Azure Migrate can discover your on-premises VMware-based applications without requiring any changes to your VMware environment. Azure Migrate offers the unique capability to visualize group level dependencies in multi-VM applications, allowing you to logically group and prioritize the entire application for migration. Through utilization discovery of the CPU, memory, disks, and network, Azure Migrate also has built-in rightsizing to offer size and cost guidance so when you migrate, you can save money.

VMWare

Uniquely visualize entire application dependencies with Azure Migrate

Migration. Once discovery has completed, with just a few easy clicks, you can migrate your on-premises applications to Azure. Azure Site Recovery (ASR) enables customers to migrate VMware-virtualized Windows Server and Linux workloads with minimal downtime. ASR offers application-centric migration, allowing you to sequence your application servers as they migrate. No other cloud provider offers this built-in multi-tier sequencing. Additionally, Azure Database Migration Service enables customers to migrate their SQL Server and Oracle databases directly into the fully managed Azure SQL Database. For customers who need large volume storage migration, we recently announced Azure Data Box, an appliance designed to simplify data movement to Azure.

Resource & Cost Optimization. Once deployed in Azure, with the free Azure Cost Management service (formerly called Cloudyn), you can easily forecast, track, and optimize your spending. Our calculations show up to 84% TCO savings for certain on-premises VMware to Azure migration scenarios. You can reference this VMware to Azure TCO guide to learn more and even run TCO calculations, yourself. As an example, Capstone Mining has gone through this journey and already saved $6M in capital and operating costs.

  • Integrate VMware workloads with Azure services. There are many Azure services that you can use together with VMware workloads without any migration or deployment, enabling you to keep your entire environment secure and well-managed across cloud and on-premises. This includes Azure Backup, Azure Site Recovery (for Disaster Recovery), update/configuration management, Azure Security Center and operational intelligence using Azure Log Analytics. You can even manage your Azure resources in the public cloud using the VMware vRealize Automation console. Somerset County Council and Russell Reynolds Associates are example customers who have integrated Azure services with their VMware VMs. 
  • Host VMware infrastructure with VMware virtualization on Azure. Most workloads can be migrated to Azure easily using the above services; however, there may be specific VMware workloads that are initially more challenging to migrate to the cloud. For these workloads, you may need the option to run the VMware stack on Azure as an intermediate step. Today, we’re excited to announce the preview of VMware virtualization on Azure, a bare-metal solution that runs the full VMware stack on Azure hardware, co-located with other Azure services. We are delivering this offering in partnership with premier VMware-certified partners. General availability is expected in the coming year. Please contact your Microsoft sales representative if you’d like to participate in this preview.  Hosting the VMware stack in public cloud doesn’t offer the same cost savings and agility of using cloud-native services, but this option provides you additional flexibility on your path to Azure.

Here are some resources to help with migration to Azure:

Beyond Migration

Many of you are looking to move to the cloud to help your business move faster. Azure provides security, reliability, and global scale to help you deliver and scale your applications. At the same time, we understand that it may not be possible to run your entire business in the cloud. You may have low-latency, regulatory, or compliance requirements that require you to run some of your applications on-premises, in a hybrid way. The reality is, running your VMware virtualization stack in the cloud does not address your hybrid requirements.  For this, you need a broad set of hybrid services and solutions that provide not just connectivity and virtualization, but true consistency across your cloud and on-premises environments.  

Azure is the only true hybrid cloud that enables consistency across application development, management, security, data, and identity. This is made possible with a rich set of offerings like Azure Stack, Azure Backup, Azure Site Recovery, Azure Security Center, SQL Server Stretch DB, Azure Active Directory, and hybrid management with patching, configuration, and monitoring of both cloud and on-premises servers. No other cloud offers this level of comprehensive hybrid capabilities.

We are committed to investing in tools, solutions and services that make Azure simple for you no matter what your needs and where you are in your cloud journey. I can’t wait to hear more about your cloud story.

Thanks,

Corey Sanders

How IT orgs make container management platform choices

One IT organization runs 50 data centers, while another started natively on the cloud and never looked down. Unsurprisingly, they have different expectations of container management software.

Every company and team has different goals and requirements to deploy containers. Technological differentiation is not the only — or even the biggest — factor when they select a container management platform.

Expertise on staff, tool cost, implementation decisions and the existing ecosystem and underlying infrastructure play a large role in the vendor, tools and technology that’s the right fit to scale containers.

“Some like to stick with the Docker product vertical due to lifecycle UX and a focus on simplicity and security,” said Bret Fisher, an independent DevOps and Docker consultant, trainer and speaker involved in open source communities, at the O’Reilly Velocity Conference 2017 in New York. “Some choose Kubernetes because it seems the current winner of orchestrators, and others choose Mesos and [Mesosphere] DC/OS due to flexibility and maturity.”

The management tool marketplace reflects the maturing nature of containers. “We’re just now standardizing what it means to be a container runtime and a container image,” Fisher said. The difference between container management platforms such as Kubernetes and Docker Enterprise Edition (EE) represents an ecosystem war reminiscent of the iPhone vs. Droid phone wars, he said. Orchestrators and schedulers have 75% the same features, so it often comes down to which one people know and feel comfortable on.

Dealer Tire, a Cleveland, Ohio-based automotive industry distributor, modernized from physical machines to virtual ones a few years ago, and now its web platform operations team is six months into container adoption on private servers in two data centers with VMware virtualization as the host layer. The container management tool evaluation covered Docker, Kubernetes, Mesos and Rancher.

Mesos and Kubernetes seemed complicated, and the team didn’t want to manage native Docker via the command-line interface, said Andrew Maurer, IT manager of web platform ops.

“Rancher seemed to make sense. It was low level of barrier to entry; to get it up and running was extremely simple,” he said.

Dealer Tire also wanted guidance through not just container adoption but also a shift to treat servers not as pets but as cattle, Maurer said.

Other companies’ IT teams have started to branch out from native Docker tooling.

Cox Automotive’s inventory solutions group is evaluating Kubernetes and Mesos technologies for container management as its Docker deployment grows, said Jason Riggins, the group’s director of production engineering, who discussed his company’s DevOps and cloud adoption at Delivery of Things World USA in San Diego.

The primary requirement of a container management platform — and any other tool they select — is production stability. “We know how to move stuff really fast,” Riggins said, “[but that’s not a good thing if] even bad stuff moves fast.” And his group also wants a more dynamic tool than the native Docker options, with a particular focus on the container registry. The tiebreaker for container management platform selection will be how much effort goes into maintenance and upkeep.

Container management platform choices often fall along data center vs. cloud lines. “People going with Google Cloud [Platform] tend to prefer Kubernetes. People with complex private data centers tend to consider Mesos, though that’s changing as data center venders have started to support Kubernetes and Docker EE,” Fisher said. Cox Automotive is consolidating data centers and adopting public cloud, so a container management product must work with on-premises infrastructure and public cloud deployments.

Part of Cox’s evaluation of Kubernetes and Mesos is to examine the “scar tissue” from difficult previous container deployment attempts, Riggins said. Peers who have already implemented each technology are also valuable information sources, he said.

Container platform
Containers are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to delivering highly available, scalable containerized applications.

When to orchestrate a change

Most companies stick with their container management platform from pilot to large-scale production, and only change course when they hit a limitation. One popular goal for container orchestration is more flexible integration between components, but the market isn’t that mature yet, Fisher said.

Social Tables, a cloud-native 100% Amazon Web Services customer, bucked the comfort zone trend when it chucked its initial choice of AWS Elastic Compute Cloud Container Service (ECS).

One popular goal for container orchestration is more flexible integration between components, but the market isn’t that mature yet.
Bret Fisherindependent DevOps and Docker consultant

“We switched from ECS to Rancher because we wanted to move away from ELB [Elastic Load Balancing] and run our own global load balancing service for better control over our traffic,” said Michael Dumont, lead systems engineer in DevOps at the Washington, D.C., firm which provides social event planning and management SaaS. The company also required persistent storage for a Cassandra cluster, an Elasticsearch cluster, Redis, and Prometheus, and with Rancher it also gets DNS-based service discovery, Docker-Compose support, and GitHub OAuth integration for authentication and authorization.

While companies are unlikely to switch container orchestrators, sometimes they don’t have a choice. In this emergent space, container orchestrators, schedulers and related tools for storage and network management change constantly. For example, Rancher Labs brought in Kubernetes for Rancher 2.0. Both Maurer and Dumont hope Rancher will keep Kubernetes under the hood to preserve the familiar interface while enriching its management capabilities.

Support matters in emerging technologies

In the rapid modernization climate for an IT organization, any new tool has to do more than provide necessary technology — it has to be supported.

Cox Automotive will select a supported version of Kubernetes or Mesos, not pure upstream open source, because it encountered difficulties getting container deployments up and running at enterprise scale, Riggins said, adding that they’re familiar with taking the unsupported open source route, but not right in this case.

During Dealer Tire’s container management platform evaluation period, Rancher’s support engineers worked through a problem. “This was before we spent a dime with them,” Maurer said. Today, his group relies on enterprise support, and he believes commercial versions of open source technologies are the best option for IT organizations that want to safely move into new areas, and avoid the time and money to get a platform running only to find out support falls flat.

“My biggest challenge with purchased software is it’s really hard to [simulate real use] when you’re limited to a two-week trial,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to deploy something, configure something significant and then decide, ‘I’ve invested quite a bit of my business into the software — I need to buy support to make sure my business continues to succeed.'”

Work with what you have

Social Tables’ cloud-native, startup pedigree is the tailor-made case for containerization, but enterprise IT pros can suit up their traditional apps with containers, too.

At Dealer Tire, Maurer’s team started with a simple app that was not customer-facing as the lowest-risk entry point to containers. The team communicates with application owners about which apps are a good fit on containers, and which are not. A 100% move to containers is not going to happen at Dealer Tire, but Maurer expects to convert all the web apps. At the same time, the company puts new software development in containers — a natural fit, in his estimation.

Dealer Tire also decided to stay on premises during its ramp up of containers. It was too much change at once, and changing responsibilities, to go to a cloud model, and some of the company’s diverse supported apps are not conducive to cloud ops, Maurer said. However, a future phase of cloud migration would be easier with these workloads encapsulated in Docker containers, he said.

“There’s a learning curve, and because the system’s new you have to set new expectations on every facet,” he said. “What directory are you using? How do you log things? … How do you communicate your errors and metrics?” Whereas before everything lived on the server, now systems are volatile and ephemeral. “It’s not just moving to containers — you’re changing everything about your environment,” he said.

MakeCode for Minecraft makes learning to code super fun

A few years ago, my group in Microsoft’s research organization began to experiment with tools that make it possible for kids to learn how to code in the context of Minecraft, the wildly popular game where players build fantastical virtual worlds out of digital blocks, create and play mini-games within the game, and learn to survive monster-filled nights.

Confused? That’s okay. Many grownups don’t understand Minecraft. Even if they think they do, they don’t. That no rules, open-world environment is all part of its appeal. Our goal is to leverage this enthusiasm to teach kids how to code while playing Minecraft. After all, game playing is the most natural way for humans to learn.

The research is an outgrowth of our TouchDevelop program, which we started in 2011 to teach people how to program and build apps using the touchscreen on their phones. These devices are much more powerful, graphic and sensor rich computers than those we learned to code on as kids. Our TouchDevelop group wanted anyone to be able to program their phones as easily as we did 8-bit computers.

Then Minecraft emerged as the game people everywhere were playing and we found ourselves wanting to code inside Minecraft, too. The rest, as they say, is history.

Students in my after-school computer science classes lucky enough to tinker with coding in Minecraft went nutso crazy, in a good way. The ability to write code and immediately see the results in Minecraft, such as avatars that can jump 100 blocks high, dig through mountains and make it rain chickens, sent my students running around the classroom from screen to screen to see what their classmates did and shouting the IP addresses of their servers across the room.

Today, our Microsoft Research and Microsoft MakeCode teams are excited to make this learning experience widely available through Microsoft MakeCode for Minecraft on Windows 10.

The MakeCode for Minecraft editor has the pixelated look and feel of Minecraft. MakeCode allows coding with visual blocks, based on a drag and drop interface for beginners, as well as in text with a JavaScript interface for the more experienced learners.

Coding with blocks or text, MakeCode teaches the 101 of programming languages, including variables, control flow, if statements, loops and functions. More advanced users smoothly ramp up to more complex concepts such as recursion, fractals and object oriented or distributed programming.

The Microsoft MakeCode team also works on other editors that allow the programming of physical things such as micro-controllers including the micro:bit and Adafruit Circuit Playground Express. In all these scenarios, the coding is directly linked to building something real, which is the primary reason most computer programmers learn to code in the first place.

Instead of thinking they are coding, students are playing a game, they are building their next superpower. Minecraft is a game. MakeCode for Minecraft fits the coding experience into the game itself. Check it out.

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