Tag Archives: released

Hyper-V Powering Windows Features

December 2019

Hyper-V is Microsoft’s hardware virtualization technology that initially released with Windows Server 2008 to support server virtualization and has since become a core component of many Microsoft products and features. These features range from enhancing security to empowering developers to enabling the most compatible gaming console. Recent additions to this list include Windows Sandbox, Windows Defender Application Guard, System Guard and Advanced Threat Detection, Hyper-V Isolated-Containers, Windows Hypervisor Platform and Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. Additionally, applications using Hyper-V, such as Kubernetes for Windows and Docker Desktop, are also being introduced and improved.

As the scope of Windows virtualization has expanded to become an integral part of the operating system, many new OS capabilities have taken a dependency on Hyper-V. Consequently, this created compatibility issues with many popular third-party products that provide their own virtualization solutions, forcing users to choose between applications or losing OS functionality. Therefore, Microsoft has partnered extensively with key software vendors such as VMware, VirtualBox, and BlueStacks to provide updated solutions that directly leverage Microsoft virtualization technologies, eliminating the need for customers to make this trade-off.

Windows Sandbox is an isolated, temporary, desktop environment where you can run untrusted software without the fear of lasting impact to your PC.  Any software installed in Windows Sandbox stays only in the sandbox and cannot affect your host. Once Windows Sandbox is closed, the entire state, including files, registry changes and the installed software, are permanently deleted. Windows Sandbox is built using the same technology we developed to securely operate multi-tenant Azure services like Azure Functions and provides integration with Windows 10 and support for UI based applications.

Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) is a Windows 10 security feature introduced in the Fall Creators Update (Version 1709 aka RS3) that protects against targeted threats using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization technology. WDAG augments Windows virtualization based security capabilities to prevent zero-day kernel vulnerabilities from compromising the host operating system. WDAG also enables enterprise users of Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer (IE) protection from zero-day kernel vulnerabilities by isolating a user’s untrusted browser sessions from the host operating system. Security conscious enterprises use WDAG to lock down their enterprise host while allowing their users to browse non-enterprise content.

Application Guard isolates untrusted sites using a new instance of Windows at the hardware layer.

In order to protect critical resources such as the Windows authentication stack, single sign-on tokens, the Windows Hello biometric stack, and the Virtual Trusted Platform Module, a system’s firmware and hardware must be trustworthy. Windows Defender System Guard reorganizes the existing Windows 10 system integrity features under one roof and sets up the next set of investments in Windows security. It’s designed to make these security guarantees:

  • To protect and maintain the integrity of the system as it starts up
  • To validate that system integrity has truly been maintained through local and remote attestation

Detecting and stopping attacks that tamper with kernel-mode agents at the hypervisor level is a critical component of the unified endpoint protection platform in Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (Microsoft Defender ATP). It’s not without challenges, but the deep integration of Windows Defender Antivirus with hardware-based isolation capabilities allows the detection of artifacts of such attacks.

Hyper-V plays an important role in the container development experience on Windows 10. Since Windows containers require a tight coupling between its OS version and the host that it runs on, Hyper-V is used to encapsulate containers on Windows 10 in a transparent, lightweight virtual machine. Colloquially, we call these “Hyper-V Isolated Containers”. These containers are run in VMs that have been specifically optimized for speed and efficiency when it comes to host resource usage. Hyper-V Isolated Containers most notably allow developers to develop for multiple Linux distros and Windows at the same time and are managed just like any container developer would expect as they integrate with all the same tooling (e.g. Docker).

The Windows Hypervisor Platform (WHP) adds an extended user-mode API for third-party virtualization stacks and applications to create and manage partitions at the hypervisor level, configure memory mappings for the partition, and create and control execution of virtual processors. The primary value here is that third-party virtualization software (such as VMware) can co-exist with Hyper-V and other Hyper-V based features. Virtualization-Based Security (VBS) is a recent technology that has enabled this co-existence.

WHP provides an API similar to that of Linux’s KVM and macOS’s Hypervisor Framework, and is currently leveraged on projects by QEMU and VMware.

This diagram provides a high-level overview of a third-party architecture.

WSL 2 is the newest version of the architecture that powers the Windows Subsystem for Linux to run ELF64 Linux binaries on Windows. Its feature updates include increased file system performance as well as added full system call compatibility. This new architecture changes how these Linux binaries interact with Windows and your computer’s hardware, but still provides the same user experience as in WSL 1 (the current widely available version). The main difference being that WSL 2 uses a new architecture, which is primarily running a true Linux kernel inside a virtual machine. Individual Linux distros can be run either as a WSL 1 distro, or as a WSL 2 distro, can be upgraded or downgraded at any time, and can run WSL 1 and WSL 2 distros side by side.

Kubernetes started officially supporting Windows Server in production with the release of Kubernetes version 1.14 (in March 2019). Windows-based applications constitute a large portion of the workloads in many organizations. Windows containers provide a modern way for these Windows applications to use DevOps processes and cloud native patterns. Kubernetes has become the de facto standard for container orchestration; hence this support enables a vast ecosystem of Windows applications to not only leverage the power of Kubernetes, but also to leverage the robust and growing ecosystem surrounding it. Organizations with investments in both Windows-based applications and Linux-based applications no longer need to look for separate orchestrators to manage their workloads, leading to increased operational efficiencies across their deployments. The engineering that supported this release relied upon open source and community led approaches that originally brought Windows Server containers to Windows Server 2016.

These components and tools have allowed Microsoft’s Hyper-V technology to introduce new ways of enabling customer experiences. Windows Sandbox, Windows Defender Application Guard, System Guard and Advanced Threat Detection, Hyper-V Isolated-Containers, Windows Hypervisor Platform and Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 are all new Hyper-V components that ensure the security and flexibility customers should expect from Windows. The coordination of applications using Hyper-V, such as Kubernetes for Windows and Docker Desktop also represent Microsoft’s dedication to customer needs, which will continue to stand for our main sentiment going forward.

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Author: nickeaton

Customer data platform tools top priority list for big vendors

Adobe, Microsoft and Oracle released their own customer data platforms in 2019 to compete with roughly 20 CDP vendors that had been serving their users for several years. Salesforce and SAP plan to follow with their own CDPs in 2020.

Those large customer experience (CX) platforms face challenges in the marketplace. Customer data platforms, which unify data across marketing automation, customer service, sales and e-commerce applications, solve a problem the big vendors created: A lack of data flow between CX applications, according to David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute.

“Nothing else has solved it; nothing comes close to solving it,” Raab said.

That data is siloed, typically, because the vendors built their CX technologies via acquisition and continue to have difficulty integrating the marketing, sales and service clouds comprising their platforms. But users demand it, as they see value in real-time access to customer data from all channels at once. They want machine learning and analytics running with those systems, pulling data from across the platform in order to create one-to-one customer offers, in real time, to drive sales and marketing campaigns.

Tech buyers must choose big vs. small CDPs

The question is, as many B2B companies are just starting to digitally transform their commerce, will they purchase new tools from the big vendors like Oracle and Microsoft, or go with more established and technically advanced CDPs from the smaller companies, such as Lytics, Lotame, Arm Treasure Data and RedPoint Global?

“Buyers are within their rights to be skeptical [of the big-box vendors],” said Gartner analyst Benjamin Bloom. “That vendor who might not have delivered the thing that you were looking for — or [caused] unintended challenges or consequences — now they are exactly the ones who are telling you how to clean up the mess [with their new CDP].”

Smaller CDP vendors tend to be nimble and more responsive to customer needs for features and integrations with analytics tools and outside applications, Bloom said. He sees them keeping their users for some time to come, as the larger platform vendors play catch-up, which Raab agrees with.

Graphic showing value of customer data platform technologies
Customer data platforms unify data from applications tracking customer web behavior, sales, e-commerce and other sources to create personalized marketing profiles and drive revenue.

Yet another option has become available for technology buyers tasked with building customer experiences: the digital experience platform. These typically arise from cloud content management vendors that are moving into customer experience. Acquia acquired CDP vendor AgilOne earlier this month to assemble a marketing automation and e-commerce platform with more sophisticated web content management than all the large CX platform vendors, with the exception of Adobe.

One of Acquia’s main competitors that also offers a CDP, Episerver, is moving more deeply into digital experience. It expanded its B2B e-commerce offering by acquiring InSite Software this month, and hired former SAP CX platform lead Alex Atzberger as CEO to oversee its digital experience technologies.

So many companies are building B2B e-commerce operations from scratch, said Gartner analyst Jason Daigler, that it doesn’t surprise him to see content management vendors challenge companies like Oracle and SAP for customers. He sees the appeal of combining strong content management with e-commerce.

Having the right data in the right time is really important to delivering a good customer experience. Does that require a single database? I don’t think it does, but it does require good understanding of data, where it is, and how to put it together.
Nicole FranceAnalyst, Constellation Research

“Most commerce platforms were not built with the best content management systems out there; they’re not known for their digital experience capabilities,” Daigler said.

Salesforce takes a different approach

Other experts wonder whether or not CDPs are the answer to collecting real-time data from disparate sources such as social media, sales and marketing channels. Because this data is always imperfect and the customer golden record is a mythical concept, said self-described CDP skeptic Constellation Research analyst Nicole France, the CDP may be a “fool’s errand.”

Salesforce is coming out with “a CDP that’s not a CDP,” as the company described it in analyst previews, France said. Salesforce may be solving problems that require customer data platforms to fix with upcoming features in Those could amount to integrations and APIs connecting data and unifying customer profiles with Mulesoft tools, instead of a whole new database itself.

“I do think that having the right data in the right time is really important to delivering a good customer experience. Does that require a single database? I don’t think it does, but it does require good understanding of data, where it is, and how to put it together.”

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Microsoft Teams for Linux launches in public preview

Microsoft has released in public preview a Microsoft Teams desktop client for Linux.

The move is aimed at boosting Teams adoption among software developers, who often prefer working in Linux. The lack of support for the open source operating system has made it harder for Microsoft to compete with Slack, which has supported Linux for years. 

“A lot of the companies that we’ve researched who are running both Slack and Teams are doing so because their application developers use Slack,” said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research. The new Microsoft Teams for Linux client could convince more organizations to go all-in on Teams. 

The Linux client supports Teams’ core capabilities, including calling and video meetings. But it comes with certain limitations. For example, it doesn’t offer users as many in-meeting controls as the Windows and Mac clients for Teams do.

Nevertheless, releasing Microsoft Teams for Linux represents a significant milestone for the company. Microsoft said Teams was “the first Microsoft 365 app that is coming to Linux desktops.” The company declined to say whether it would launch additional apps on Linux.

Microsoft has long been criticized for not playing nice with competing operating systems. The U.S. government sued the company in the late 1990s over its bundling of Internet Explorer and Windows, ending in a settlement. More recently, Microsoft has moved toward becoming more of an open ecosystem.

Users have been pushing Microsoft to release Teams on Linux since the app’s launch. A 2016 post requesting the Linux client has received more than 10,000 likes and 1,800 comments on the vendor’s user feedback website. Microsoft had put the issue on the back burner before reviving it earlier this year.

Many users commented on the website to say that they would stick with Slack until Microsoft launched a Linux client. Those kinds of declarations likely helped convince Microsoft that supporting Linux would be worthwhile. The company has made competing with Slack a priority.

Microsoft seemingly waited to reveal user numbers for Teams until it had more users than Slack. The company even went so far as to produce a bar graph comparing the growth of Teams and Slack in its announcement. Teams now has 20 million daily active users to Slack’s 13 million.

Slack has responded by repeatedly highlighting that 70% of its 50 largest customers subscribe to Office 365, which includes Teams. Slack has also argued that users are more engaged with its app, although a lack of apples-to-apples statistics makes it impossible to compare the two. 

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New Salesforce Customer 360 aims to unify data sources

SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce’s new customer data and identity platform released this week connects data across sales, service, marketing and other departments within an organization to provide users with a single ID for each customer.

The platform, Salesforce Customer 360 Truth (also called Single Source of Truth and SSOT by Salesforce executives) is considered by many to be a customer data platform (CDP) — though that is only one component of the new platform.

Whatever one calls it, Salesforce Customer 360 Truth resembles competing CDPs from Oracle, Adobe and Microsoft in functionality. Customers, analysts and partners said the new feature bundle solves a problem endemic to many CX platforms: reconciling customer IDs and data across sales, marketing, e-commerce and customer service platforms to a golden record.

Features in Customer 360 Truth — which come at no extra charge to Salesforce subscribers — include customer data management, identity management and privacy tools that are available now. Salesforce plans to release a unified customer profile, the most significant feature, in 2020.

The capabilities, taken together, will not only aggregate updated customer data from one base like a CDP, but will be able go further than CDPs, typically used by marketing and advertising teams. Customer 360 Truth features can route it and push actions and personalizations to sales, service and support teams dealing with an individual customer, the company said.

Customer data will be structured on the Cloud Information Model open standard modeled by MuleSoft and developed jointly by AWS, Genesys and Salesforce for The Linux Foundation.

It’s all long overdue, IDC analyst Neil Ward-Dutton said.

“Salesforce should have done this five years ago. If anything’s surprising, it’s that they have managed to not have it until now, because many customers have more than one cloud and there’s been no easy way to get a view of individual, unique IDs,” Ward-Dutton said. “It’s instructive that it’s free. I think that’s the only thing they could do. If they would have charged for this, it would have been a really bad mistake.”

Salesforce Customer 360 Truth includes a Data Manager component.
Customer 360 Truth connects customer data across Salesforce clouds and non-Salesforce systems and matches that data to individual customers to create a common profile and issue a single Salesforce ID.

Customers, partners take stock

Customers generally reacted positively to the news of Salesforce Customer 360 Truth at Dreamforce here this week, with some wondering what data and process housecleaning outside of Salesforce will be required to use the tools.

If anything’s surprising, it’s that they have managed to not have it until now, because many customers have more than one cloud and there’s been no easy way to get a view of individual, unique IDs.
Neil Ward-DuttonAnalyst, IDC

That’s the case for e.l.f. Cosmetics, CIO and CTO Ekta Chopra said. Her company runs Salesforce marketing, sales, service and e-commerce clouds, and also is an early adopter of Salesforce’s order management system, processing about a million transactions a year. While Customer 360 Truth features look promising, her company will have to evaluate how to manage different types of profiles such as customers versus wholesalers.

“We have to make sure we’re gathering all that data in the best possible way,” Chopra said. “We’re not just a direct-to-consumer business.”

Hyland Software is both a Salesforce customer and a partner, with its OnBase enterprise content management system integration available on Salesforce’s AppExchange. Salesforce Customer 360 Truth is a move in the right direction to reconcile conflicting customer data, but the process will always require a mix of different vendors’ tools to nail it all down, said Ed McQuiston, Hyland executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

“There is no one, ubiquitous platform that gives you 360,” McQuiston said. “Salesforce plays a critical part for us in terms of understanding the customer, our interactions, et cetera. But we use our own product with it, because I want to see the contracts we have, the support information. I want that complete view.”

Patrick Morrissey, general manager of Salesforce partner Upland Software, said he thinks Customer 360 features will help Salesforce customers use Upland’s Altify revenue management tools more effectively.

“Customer revenue optimization intersects quite nicely with Customer 360,” Morrissey said. “The problem is that the data and processes don’t connect. The vision that Salesforce has around Customer 360 is fantastic, because it brings the data together for the customer and reduces friction.”

CDPs can only go so far

Salesforce might not call Customer 360 Truth a CDP because its capabilities extend beyond what competing CDPs do, said Joe Stanhope, analyst at Forrester Research, who watches the technology closely.

“Salesforce was talking quite a bit about CDPs in the early iterations of Customer 360,” Stanhope said. “But I think, over time, the scope evolved and expanded. Ultimately, Customer 360 is about more than a CDP, and even more than just marketing. Customer 360 is the key to enabling the Salesforce ecosystem with data.”

Arizona State University’s CTO of EdPlus online learning, Donna Kidwell, sees the Salesforce tools as a good start to wrangle sprawling data. Her team is building a blockchain ledger to track accomplishments of the university’s learners, which comprises students pursuing degrees, professionals earning certifications, high schoolers attending camps and others who interact in some way with the university.

The ambitious project involves Salesforce CRM data and Salesforce Blockchain as a spoke of a much larger wheel that ultimately will enable data sharing across educational institutions and employers.

CDPs in general — and Salesforce Customer 360 Truth in particular — may help consolidate data that can be fed into the ledger at some point in the future. But ultimately, managing customer data across learning systems, HR applications, Salesforce and other contributing systems is a much larger problem than a CDP can solve.

“I’m definitely tracking the CDPs,” Kidwell said. “I’m hopeful that Salesforce will ease some of those concerns, but I can’t imagine they’ll be the single source. There’s not going to be a single source of truth. We’re actually going to need data strategies, and our technologies will help implement those strategies.”

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New research reveals a surprising link between the workplace and business success

To help businesses stay a step ahead in the digital age, Microsoft has released new research in partnership with Dr. Michael Parke of the London Business School. Surveying 9,000 workers and business leaders across 15 European markets, the research delved into company growth, employee engagement, leadership styles and technology.

According to the findings, change is the new normal as businesses race to adapt and better compete: 92% of European leaders say their organization has recently undergone a major transformation.

And, the number-one transformation challenge in leaders’ minds is company culture.

Our customers and partners across Europe tell us that keeping up with the pace of digital transformation and innovation is among their chief concerns. But based on our own internal cultural transformation at Microsoft over the past few years, I always encourage business leaders to give as much consideration to company culture as they do to deploying new technology. After all, it’s not just about having the best technology; it’s about how you and your teams react to, and adapt to, change. – Vahé Torossian, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft, and President, Microsoft Western Europe.

The study revealed that getting the workplace culture component right can benefit businesses in a significant way.

Companies that were assessed as having ‘innovative cultures’ – generally defined as cultures where new ideas are embraced and supported – were twice as likely to expect double-digit growth. These businesses also seem positioned to win the war for talent: the majority of workers within these organizations (86%) plan to stay in their jobs, as opposed to 57% of those employees working in less innovative cultures.

There are three key attributes that set these innovative companies apart:

I. Tearing down silos and building bridges

Companies with the most innovative cultures have leaders who are not only tearing down silos, they’re replacing them with partnerships and transparency. These leaders are more likely to see effective collaboration as vital for business growth – whether it’s within teams, across teams, or with customers and partners.

Among leaders of highly innovative cultures:

  • 86 percent said collaboration within their teams is very important for future business growth, compared to 70 percent in less innovative cultures.
  • 86 percent said internal collaboration across teams is very important to growth, compared to 72 percent of leaders in less innovative businesses.
  • 79 percent said collaborating externally with their partners is vital for growing their business, compared to just 54 percent of their counterparts in lower-innovation companies.

II. Empowering teams and creating a learning culture

The research shows that in the most innovative companies, leaders are focused on mobilizing their teams and empowering them.

In the most innovative companies, 73 percent of workers say their teams can choose how they approach the work – with only 45 percent of workers in low-innovation workplaces feeling that way. Further, approximately twice as many people in high-innovation workplaces feel empowered to make decisions without a manger’s approval, compared to employees in low-innovation companies.

Finally, nearly three in four employees say their leaders create a culture where it’s OK to make mistakes, compared to just half of the employees in lower-innovation companies.

Profound growth requires innovation and to foster innovation, you need people to feel trusted and supported to experiment and learn. There can be real returns for leaders who learn to let go and coach teams to constantly improve. – Dr. Parke.

III. Protect attention and promote flow

Workers report feeling like they waste 52% of their time each week due to things like unproductive meetings and emails, unnecessary interruptions, and time taken to track down information.

The study suggests that a combination of having the right physical environment, tech tools and a manager who supports diverse ways of working can cut this sub-optimal time in half.

However, the data from the study highlights there’s a greater opportunity than just the possibility of employers helping people be more productive. In fact, there’s also a significant opportunity to bolster employee engagement. When people are able to devote all of their attention and energy to a particular task, they are able to work in a flow state – sometimes known as ‘in the zone.’ Employees who can work in this way – at least some of the time – were three times more likely to say they were happy in their jobs

A working culture that values empowerment and autonomy appear to have an advantage in terms of people being able to work in a flow state: 72 percent of employees who report that they are able to work in flow state say their teams can choose how they approach work. In workplaces with low states of flow, only half of workers feel similarly.

In quick summary: the business leaders that will succeed tomorrow are not thinking about how they can make their workforce more productive – they are focused on helping their people be more innovative.

Any business leader knows that innovation is the key to growth or survival. The challenge, however, is how to establish a culture that consistently innovates, again and again, to avoid getting left behind.– Dr. Parke.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

The importance of AI for fraud prevention

Jumio, the identity verification technology vendor, released Jumio Go, a real-time, automated platform for identity verification. Coming at a time when cybercriminals are becoming ever more technologically advanced, Jumio Go uses a combination of AI, optical character recognition and biometrics to automatically verify a user’s identity in real time.

Jumio, founded in 2010, has long sold an AI for fraud prevention platform used by organizations in financial services, travel, gaming and retail industries. The Palo Alto, Calif., vendor’s new Jumio Go platform builds on its existing technologies, which include facial recognition and verification tools, while also simplifying them.

Jumio Go, launched Oct. 28, provides real-time identity verification, giving users results much faster than Jumio’s flagship product, which takes 30 to 60 seconds to verify a user, according to Jumio. It also eliminates the need to add a component, meaning the process of matching a real-time photo of a user’s face to a saved photo is entirely automated. That speeds up the process, and enables employees to take on other tasks, but also potentially could make it a little less secure.

The new product accepts fewer ID documents than Jumio’s flagship platform, but the tradeoff is the boost in real-time speed. Using natural language processing, Jumio’s platforms can read through and extract relevant information from documents. The system scans that information for irregularities, such as odd wordings or misspellings, which could indicate a fraud.

AI for fraud prevention in finance

For financial institutions, whose customers conduct much more business online, this type of fraud detection and identity verification technology is vital.

For combating fraud, “leveraging AI is critical,” said Amyn Dhala, global product lead at AI Express, Mastercard’s methodology for the deployment of AI that grew out of the credit card company’s 2017 acquisition of Brighterion.

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AI for fraud prevention, fraud
To help stop fraudsters, financial institutions are using AI-powered security tools.

Through AI Express, Mastercard sells AI for fraud prevention tools, as well as AI-powered technologies, to help predict credit risk, manage network security and catch money-laundering.

AI, Dhala said in an interview at AI World 2019 in Boston, is “important to provide a better customer experience and drive profitability,” as well as to ensure customer safety.

The 9 to 5 fraudster

For financial institutions, blocking fraudsters is no simple task. Criminals intent on fraud are taking a professional approach to their work, working for certain hours during the week and taking weekends off, according to an October 2019 report from Onfido, a London-based vendor of AI-driven identity software.

Also, today’s fraudsters are highly technologically skilled, said Dan Drapeau, head of technology at Blue Fountain Media, a digital marketing agency owned by Pactera, a technology consulting and implementation firm based in China.

Cybercriminals are always that one step ahead.
Dan DrapeauHead of technology, Blue Fountain Media

“You can always throw new technology at the problem, but cybercriminals are always going to do something new and innovative, and AI algorithms have to catch up to that,” Drapeau said. “Cybercriminals are always that one step ahead.”

“As good as AI and machine learning get, it still will always take time to catch up to the newest innovation from criminals,” he added.

Still, by using AI for fraud prevention, financial organizations can stop good deal of fraud automatically, Drapeau said. Now, combining AI with manual work, such as checking or double-checking data and verification documents, works best, he said.

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Quest Software updates NetVault Backup capabilities

Quest Software has updated NetVault Backup and released version 12.4, which includes extended Office 365 capabilities.

NetVault Backup is a data protection platform for hybrid data centers. It supports backup and recovery for a range of systems and, in addition to the increased capabilities for Office 365 Exchange Online and OneDrive, has added support for SAP HANA and Nutanix AHV.

The extended capabilities for Office 365 include the ability to backup and restore user mailboxes to any cloud, disk or tape-based storage. NetVault can also restore individual emails and files, including reinstating emails to specific folders in Outlook.

New OneDrive support enables users to back up and restore data from OneDrive user and group files and folders. NetVault Backup support for Office 365 Active Directory and SharePoint Online is expected later this year, according to Quest Software.

With the added support for SAP HANA and Nutanix AHV, NetVault Backup enables a unified administration experience within the same user interface used to control, operate and manage all data protection.

This version of NetVault also adds agentless protection of Nutanix AHV virtual machines through the new NetVault plug-in for Nutanix AHV. There is also now a NetVault plugin for SAP HANA, which Quest claims enables secure and consistent backups of SAP HANA databases. The plugin enables an SAP administrator to control the operations while using the NetVault Backup recovery and backup infrastructure.

This update is part of the push into enterprise by Quest. In 2010, the company acquired the NetVault platform from BakBone, and in 2018 it released the first NetVault Backup 12 version. The original 12.0 version made the application more scalable, and added the capability to run VMware plug-ins on any available proxy. Later that year, Quest Software added a plug-in to enable backup and recovery of Office 365 Exchange Online mailboxes.

Quest Software and its NetVault Backup product competes with the likes of vendors such as Veeam. The Veeam Backup and Replication platform similarly provides backup for virtual, physical and cloud workloads. Veeam’s product also has a new plug-in for SAP HANA and recovery programs for Microsoft Active Delivery, Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server.

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Zoho adds new Zoho One features, management application

Zoho has released its latest version of Zoho One, an operating system designed to run all aspects of a business within one platform. This generation has three new services, one new application and updates to several existing features.

Updates to Zoho One features include adding Zoho’s telephony platform to Zoho One as well as single sign-on services, extending app management and provisioning capabilities. Businesses workflow management application Orchestly is another addition, as are improved Zoho Sign features and more support for users.

New application

Orchestly is the newest application added to Zoho One. It has a drag-and-drop interface in an effort to enable managers with no coding skills to define processes. Orchestly lets managers and admins automate and run their regular workflow, including cross-departmental tasks such as purchase approvals, content publishing, asset managing and onboarding.

According to Zoho One, the idea behind Orchestly is to create workflows and automation when processes involve more than one department.

New services

PhoneBridge: Zoho has added its telephony platform PhoneBridge to the operating system, which integrates more than 50 telephony vendors on one side, and several Zoho applications on the other side. PhoneBridge enables telephony in Zoho apps like CRM and Recruit. It also provides contextual information for all incoming calls and lets customers make calls from Zoho apps.

Single sign-on: Single sign-on was also added to Zoho One, which enables customers to integrate any third-party applications onto their Zoho account. It also supports about 50 third-party applications and is scalable for midsize to large businesses. Additionally, Zoho One admins can enforce YubiKey authentication as an added factor for security.

App management and provisioning: Zoho has extended provisioning to custom apps created through Zoho Creator, as well as to external apps available through Zoho Marketplace. They can be provisioned individually to users or as groups with custom criteria. There is also a new Admin Panel with dashboards and reports to enable admins to monitor user activity and app usage. Admins also get reports on user management, sign-in activity, app usage and account security.

The analytics dashboard shows eight full charts of statistics for topics such as sales and receivables, customer analytics, closed revenue and sales overview.
The analytics dashboard shows a variety of data for users.

Service updates

Other improved Zoho One features include an additional level of verification in Zoho Sign by adopting blockchain-based timestamping through Ethereum. When documents are signed using Zoho Sign, an Ethereum transaction will happen in the background, and the hash of the signed document will be added to the transaction note, providing an additional digital signature.

Additional updates includes free concierge service, in which potential customers can speak with the Zoho team to see how the service could potentially benefit their business.

Zoho also added Jumpstart for Zoho One to help customers through their initial implementation. All customers are given support, but now enterprise customers can request premium support.

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How Windows Admin Center stacks up to other management tools

Microsoft took a lot of administrators by surprise when it released Windows Admin Center, a new GUI-based management tool, last year. But is it mature enough to replace third-party offerings that handle some of the same tasks?

Windows Admin Center is a web-based management environment for Windows Server 2012 and up that exposes roughly 50% of the capabilities of the traditional Microsoft Management Console-based GUI environment. Most common services — DNS, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, Event Viewer, file sharing and even Hyper-V — are available within the Windows Admin Center, which can be installed on a workstation with a self-hosted web server built in, or on a traditional Windows Server machine using IIS.

It also covers several Azure management scenarios, as well, including managing Azure virtual machines when you link your cloud subscription to the Windows Admin Center instance you use.

Windows Admin Center dashboard
Among its many features, the Windows Admin Center dashboard provides an overview of the selected Windows machine, including the current state of the CPU and memory.

There are a number of draws for Windows Admin Center. It’s free and designed to be developed out of band, or shipped as a web download, rather than included in the Windows Server product. So, Microsoft can update it more frequently than the core OS.

Microsoft said, over time, most of the Windows administrative GUI tools will move to Windows Admin Center. It makes sense to spin up an instance of it on a management workstation, an old server or even a lightweight VM on your virtualization infrastructure. Windows Admin Center is a tool you will need to get familiar with even if you have a larger, third-party OS management tool.

How does Windows Admin Center compare with similar products on the market? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each.

Goverlan Reach

Goverlan Reach is a remote systems management and administration suite for remote administration of virtually any aspect of a Windows system that is configurable via Windows Management Instrumentation. Goverlan is a fat client, normal Windows application, not a web app, so it runs on a regular workstation. Goverlan provides one-stop shopping for Windows administration in a reasonably well-laid-out interface. There is no Azure support.

For the extra money, you get a decent engine that allows you to automate certain IT processes and create a runbook of typical actions you would take on a system. You also get built-in session capturing and control without needing to connect to each desktop separately, as well as more visibility into software updates and patch management for not only Windows, but also major third-party software such as Chrome, Firefox and Adobe Reader.

Goverlan Reach has three editions. The Standard version is $29 per month and offers remote control functions. The Professional version costs $69 per month and includes Active Directory management and software deployment. The Enterprise version with all the advanced features costs $129 per month and includes compliance and more advanced automation abilities.

Editor’s note: Goverlan paid the writer to develop content marketing materials for its product in 2012 and 2013, but there is no ongoing relationship.

PRTG Network Monitor

Paessler’s PRTG Network Monitor tracks the uptime, health, disk space, and performance of servers and devices on your network, so you proactively respond to issues and prevent downtime.

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Managing Windows Server 2019 with Windows Admin Center.

PRTG monitors mail servers, web servers, database servers, file servers and others. It has sensors built in for the attendant protocols of each kind of server. You can build your own sensors to monitor key aspects of homegrown applications. PRTG logs all this monitoring information for analysis to build a baseline performance profile to develop ways to improve stability and performance on your network.

When looking at how PRTG stacks up against Windows Admin Center, it’s only really comparable from a monitoring perspective. The Network Monitor product offers little from a configuration standpoint. While you could install the alerting software and associated agents on Azure virtual machines in the cloud, there’s no real native cloud support; it treats the cloud virtual machines simply as another endpoint. 

It’s also a paid-for product, starting at $1,600 for 500 sensors and going all the way up to $60,000 for unlimited sensors. It does offer value and is perhaps the best monitoring suite out there from an ease-of-use standpoint, but most shops would most likely choose it in addition to Windows Admin Center, not in lieu of it.

SolarWinds

Windows Admin Center is a tool you will need to get familiar with even if you have a larger, third-party OS management tool.

SolarWinds has quite a few products under its systems management umbrella, including server and application monitoring; virtualization administration; storage resource monitoring; configuration and performance monitoring; log analysis; access right auditing; and up/down monitoring for networks, servers and applications. While there is some ability to administer various portions of Windows, with the Access Rights Manager or Virtualization Manager, these SolarWinds products are very heavily tilted toward monitoring, not administration.

The SolarWinds modules all start with list prices anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500, so you quickly start incurring a substantial expense to purchase the modules needed to administer all the different detailed areas of your Windows infrastructure. While these products are surely more full-featured than Windows Admin Center, the delta might not be worth $3,000 to your organization. For my money, PRTG becomes a better value for the money if monitoring is your goal.

Nagios

Nagios has a suite of tools to monitor infrastructure, from individual systems to protocols and applications, along with database monitoring, log monitoring and, perhaps important in today’s cloud world, bandwidth monitoring.

Nagios has long been available as an open source tool that’s very powerful, and the free version, Nagios Core, certainly has a place in any moderately complex infrastructure. The commercial versions of Nagios XI — $1,995 for standard and $3,495 for enterprise — have lots of shine and polish, but lack any sort of interface to administer systems.

The price is right, but its features still lag behind

There is clearly a place for Windows Admin Center in every Windows installation, given it is free, very functional although there are some bugs that will get worked out over time — and gives you a vendor-supported way of both monitoring and administering Windows.

However, Windows Admin Center lacks quite a bit of monitoring prowess and also doesn’t address all potential areas of Windows administration. There is no clear-cut winner out of all the profiled tools in this article. If anything, Windows Admin Center should be thought of as an additional tool to use in conjunction with some of these other products.

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Exten Technologies releases 3.0 version of NVMe platform

Exten Technologies has released the third generation of its HyperDynamic storage software, which was designed with the aim of bringing more resiliency, performance and management to data center customers.

New features in generation three include node-level resiliency with synchronous replicas, shared volumes with replicas for supporting parallel file systems, dual parity resiliency, and integrated drive management and hot swap.

Exten software is deployed on the storage target and does not require proprietary software on compute clients.

According to Exten, HyperDynamic 3.0 aims to improve TCP performance with Solarflare TCP acceleration that provides TCP performance near remote direct memory access.

It also has new features designed to simplify NVMe-oF storage management and deployment, Exten claims. These features include declustered RAID, which enables the configuration of resilient volumes that use Linux multi-path IO software to provide redundancy in both networking and storage. Exten’s interface provides node- and cluster-level telemetry. Users can also set quality-of-service limits in order to manage performance during drive or node rebuilds.

Exten Technologies is part of a batch of newer vendors making their way in the NVMe market.

Apeiron Data Systems offers a handful of NVMe storage products, including enterprise NVMe. It is NVMe over Ethernet, as opposed to over fabric, and was designed with the goal of delivering the performance and cost of server-based scale-out but with the manageability of enterprise storage.

Vendor Vexata also touts its RAID-protected NVMe and claims it has ultralow latency at scale. According to its website, the company was founded in an attempt to provide better performance and efficiency, while at a lower cost than other flash storage solutions.

Exten Technologies’ HyperDynamic 3.0 is available now.

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