Tag Archives: Services

An Introduction to the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Concept and Azure Stack

In the last years, so-called “cloud services” have become more and more interesting and some customers are already thinking of going 100% cloud. There are a lot of competing cloud products out there, but is there a universal description of a cloud service? This is what I will address here.

Let’s start with the basics. Since time began (by that I mean “IT history”) we have all been running our own servers in our own datacenters with our own IT employees. A result of this was that you had different servers for your company, all configured individually, and your IT guys had to deal with that high number of servers. This led to a heavy and increasing load on the IT administrators, no time for new services, often they even had no time to update the existing ones to mitigate the risk to be hacked. In parallel, the development teams and management expect IT to behave in an agile fashion which was impossible for them.

Defining Cloud Services

This is not a sustainable model and is where the cloud comes in. A cloud is a highly optimized standard service (out of the box) without any small changes in the configuration. Cloud Services provide a way to just use a service (compared to power from the power plug) with a predefined and guaranteed SLA (service level agreement). If the SLA breaks, you as the customer would even get money back. The issue with these services is that these servers need to run in a highly standardized setup, in highly standardized datacenters, which are geo-redundant around the world. When it comes to Azure, these datacenters are being run in so-called “regions” with a minimum of three datacenters per region.

In addition to this, Microsoft runs their own backbone (not the internet) to provide a high quality of services. Let’s say available bandwidth meets Quality of Services (QoS).

To say it in one sentence, a cloud service is a highly standardized IT service with guaranteed SLAs running in public datacenters available from everywhere around the world at high quality. In general, from the financial point of view, you pay it per user, services or other flexible unit and you could increase or decrease it, based on your current needs.

Cloud Services – your options

If you want to invest in cloud services, you will have to choose between:

  • A private Cloud
  • A public Cloud
  • A hybrid Cloud

A private cloud contains IT services provided by your internal IT team, but in a manner, you could even get as external service. It is being provided by your datacenter and only hosts services for your company or company group. This means you will have to provide the required SLA.

A public cloud describes IT services provided by a hosting service provider with a guaranteed SLA. The services are being provided by public datacenters and they are not being spun up individually just for you.

A hybrid cloud is a mixture between a public and a private cloud, or in other words “a hybrid cloud is an internet-connected private cloud with services that are being consumed as public cloud services”. Hybrid Cloud deployments can be especially useful if there is a reason not to move a service to a public cloud such as:

  • Intellectual property needs to be saved on company-owned dedicated services
  • Highly sensitive data (e.g. health care) is not allowed to be saved on public services
  • Lack of connectivity could break the public cloud if you are in a region with poor connectivity

Responsibility for Cloud Services

If you decide to go with public cloud services, the question is always how many of your network services are you willing to move to the public cloud?

The general answer should be the more services you can transfer to the cloud, the better your result. However, even the best-laid plans sometimes can be at the mercy of your internet connectivity as well, which can cut you off from these services if not planned for. Additionally, industry regulations have made a 100% cloud footprint difficult for some organizations. The hybrid solution is then the most practical option for the majority of business applications.

Hybrid Cloud Scenarios

These reasons drove the decision by Microsoft to provide Azure to you for your own datacenter in a packaged solution based on the same technology as within Azure. Azure itself has the main concept of working with REST-Endpoints and ARM templates (JSON files with declarative definitions for services). Additionally, Microsoft deemed that this on-premises Azure solution should not provide only IaaS, it should be able to run PaaS, too. Just like the public Azure cloud.

This basically means, that for a service to become available in this new on-prem “Azure Stack”, it must already be generally available (GA) in public Azure.

This solution is called “Azure Stack” and comes on certified hardware only. This makes sure, that you as the customer will get performance, reliability and scalability. That ones you expect from Azure will be with Azure Stack, too.

As of today, the following Hardware OEMs part of this initiative:

  • DELL
  • HPE
  • Lenovo
  • Cisco
  • Huawei
  • Intel/Wortmann
  • Fujitsu

The following services are available with Azure Stack today, but as it is an agile product from Microsoft, we will expect MANY interesting updates in the future.

With Azure Stack, Microsoft provides a simple way to spread services between on-premise and in the public cloud. Possible scenarios could be:

  • Disconnected scenarios (Azure Stack in planes or ships)
  • Azure Stack as your development environment for Azure
  • Low latency computing
  • Hosting Platform for MSPs
  • And many more

As we all know, IT is hybrid today in most of the industries all over the world. With the combination of Azure Stack and Azure, you will have the chance to fulfill the requirements and set up a unique cloud model for all of your company services.

Summary

As you have seen, Azure Stack brings public Azure to your datacenter with the same administration and configuration models you already know from public Azure. There is no need to learn twice. Training costs go down, the standardization gives more flexibility and puts fewer loads on the local IT Admins which gives them time to work on new solutions for better quality. Also, with cloud style licensing things becomes less complex, as things are simply based on a usage model. You could even link your Azure Stack licenses directly to an Azure Subscription.

As hybrid cloud services are the future for the next 10 years or even more, Azure and Azure Stack together can make your IT world the most successful that it ever was in the last 10 years and moving forward.

If you want to learn more about Azure stack, watch our webinar Future-proofing your Datacenter with Microsoft Azure Stack

How about you? Does your organization have interest in Azure Stack? Why or why not? We here on the Altaro Blog are interested! Let us know in the comments section below!

Thanks for reading!

Posting passwords on Trello leads to latest data exposure mess

Data exposures in web applications and cloud services are becoming more in fashion these days, and Trello is the latest service being used poorly in the enterprise.

According to an investigation reported by Brian Krebs, Flashpoint security analyst David Shear discovered hundreds of boards exposing data and passwords on Trello from government agencies, healthcare organizations and others. This follows news that large enterprises and government agencies accidentally set Amazon Web Services buckets and Google Groups to public.

By default, Trello boards are either password-protected or visible only to team members. However, it is possible to share boards with anyone on the web, and the contents of those boards can even be indexed by search engines.

Shear found organizations sharing logins and passwords on Trello for corporate WordPress accounts and iPage domain hosting accounts. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health in Phoenix exposed sensitive info, including how to navigate the organization’s payroll system. Even the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was found to be leaking passwords on Trello.

Many companies don’t realize that they have employees storing confidential or sensitive information on public-facing sites, like Trello.
Justin Jettdirector of audit and compliance for Plixer

James Lerud, head of the behavioral research team at Verodin, based in McLean, Va., called this incident “the latest in a long line of public exposures involving improper handling of credentials.”

“There have been numerous examples of private keys out in the open on GitHub. It’s pretty difficult for companies like Trello or GitHub to prevent this type of exposure; the responsibility lies with the users of these services,” Lerud wrote via email. “Companies [that] use these types of services need to regularly audit what kind of data is being exposed to the public and not rely on a third party to discover problems.”

Justin Jett, director of audit and compliance for Plixer, based in Kennebunk, Maine, said it is “an extremely dangerous practice to store credentials on public-facing sites or directories.”

“Passwords should never be stored in a manner that could be perceived as plaintext. They should be stored in a secure and encrypted environment where data thieves aren’t given a free pass to the data. The number of phishing attacks used to steal users’ credentials continues to grow; we don’t need to make it even easier for the thieves,” Jett wrote via email.

“Many companies don’t realize that they have employees storing confidential or sensitive information on public-facing sites, like Trello. Security teams often don’t have the visibility they need to know when credentials have been compromised until after a data breach,” Jett wrote. “In many cases, it likely comes down to a matter of educating users on best practices. Corporate training can aid the reduction of such blatant exposure of sensitive data.”

What is the future for Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging?


With the influx of cloud services integrating with on-premises products, many Exchange administrators wonder what…

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changes they’ll see in the next version of Exchange Server, particularly with unified messaging. To predict the evolution of Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging, we can glean some clues from how the company implemented and changed this feature in previous Exchange versions.

The company’s strategy the last several years has been a gradual shift from on-premises products to subscription-based cloud services. In some instances, Microsoft has integrated a cloud service with an on-premises product to sway enterprises toward its cloud offerings. For example, despite its name, Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection filters email for on-premises Exchange Server.

Microsoft plans to release Exchange Server 2019 in the second half of 2018. As of this article’s publication, the preview is under development. But we should expect Microsoft to add — and remove — some cloud-based features in this next version.

History of Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging

Microsoft debuted unified messaging in Exchange 2000 with its instant messaging (IM) feature on the company’s Real-Time Collaboration server platform.

When Microsoft released Exchange 2003, the company included its Live Communications Server (LCS) that split off some functionality from the Real-Time Collaboration stack. The LCS controlled IM, video and voice functions on the platform.

In July 2006, Microsoft and Nortel formed the Innovative Communications Alliance to share technology, improve their unified communications platforms and integrate Nortel telecommunications hardware with Microsoft software.

Microsoft then released Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007, which brought the company closer to a complete telephone system. OCS 2007 did not integrate into the public switched telephone network, but it did allow voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls. With VoIP, Microsoft needed voicemail, and the company incorporated this feature in Exchange Server 2007.

With all these changes, many IT pros have difficulty understanding what telephone services OCS, Lync and Skype for Business provide and which ones Exchange Server handles. Exchange Server answers the calls, but it does not provide any telephone services up to that point. Microsoft Exchange unified messaging can pick up the line and provide services after a call connects.

Microsoft Exchange unified messaging in the cloud

Following the launch of Office 365 in 2011, Microsoft focused on the development of its cloud products.

Lync Server 2010 was the private branch exchange (PBX) on the market when Microsoft released Office 365, but its features were limited compared to a cloud PBX offering. Lync Online — now called Skype for Business — only controlled IM and presence services for users who had mailboxes migrated into the service.

To predict the evolution of Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging, we can glean some clues from how the company implemented and changed this feature in previous Exchange versions.

Exchange Online, the hosted email service from Microsoft, provided a full unified messaging service from the cloud with all the same features of the on-premises version of Exchange. Companies could tie on-premises telephone systems to Exchange Online to use the cloud service for voicemail.

Microsoft now offers its Azure Voicemail cloud service, which replaces the unified messaging functionality of Exchange Online for customers who use the Skype for Business Cloud PBX.

Unified messaging in Exchange Server 2013 and 2016

With Exchange 2003, Microsoft introduced the concept of a front-end Exchange server. This wasn’t a complete deployment of separate Exchange bits for separate Exchange functions. Exchange 2007 and 2010 both featured differentiated server roles, such as the Mailbox, Hub Transport and Client Access roles.

With the release of Exchange 2013, Microsoft pared back those roles to more of a front-end/back-end configuration. Exchange 2016 features one Exchange server role other than the edge transport role, which is designed to be deployed in a demilitarized zone.

The Microsoft Exchange unified messaging role received very little development in Exchange Server 2013 and 2016. The only change for unified messaging with those releases is that Exchange 2016 no longer supports the deployment of separate roles. These trends will likely continue with the release of Exchange 2019 with a single deployment option for all the roles on the same physical server.

The future of Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging

At the moment, details on Exchange 2019 are sparse. Microsoft plans to release a public preview of the on-premises product in mid-2018.

Based on recent trends from Microsoft, we can expect that Exchange Server 2019’s minimum requirements will include supported versions of the Windows Server operating system and Active Directory.

Microsoft will continue to steer organizations to its online services over on-premises software. Companies that want the latest features and functionality will need to consider whether a move to Exchange Online is a better fit.

Microsoft to acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion | Stories

Acquisition will empower developers, accelerate GitHub’s growth and advance Microsoft services with new audiences

Chris Wanstrath, Satya Nadella and Nat Friedman
From left: Chris Wanstrath, Github CEO and co-founder; Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO; and Nat Friedman, Microsoft corporate vice president, Developer Services

REDMOND, Wash. — June 4, 2018 Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced it has reached an agreement to acquire GitHub, the world’s leading software development platform where more than 28 million developers learn, share and collaborate to create the future. Together, the two companies will empower developers to achieve more at every stage of the development lifecycle, accelerate enterprise use of GitHub, and bring Microsoft’s developer tools and services to new audiences.

“Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “We recognize the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion in Microsoft stock. Subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review, the acquisition is expected to close by the end of the calendar year.

GitHub will retain its developer-first ethos and will operate independently to provide an open platform for all developers in all industries. Developers will continue to be able to use the programming languages, tools and operating systems of their choice for their projects — and will still be able to deploy their code to any operating system, any cloud and any device.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Nat Friedman, founder of Xamarin and an open source veteran, will assume the role of GitHub CEO. GitHub’s current CEO, Chris Wanstrath, will become a Microsoft technical fellow, reporting to Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie, to work on strategic software initiatives.

“I’m extremely proud of what GitHub and our community have accomplished over the past decade, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. The future of software development is bright, and I’m thrilled to be joining forces with Microsoft to help make it a reality,” Wanstrath said. “Their focus on developers lines up perfectly with our own, and their scale, tools and global cloud will play a huge role in making GitHub even more valuable for developers everywhere.”

Today, every company is becoming a software company and developers are at the center of digital transformation; they drive business processes and functions across organizations from customer service and HR to marketing and IT. And the choices these developers make will increasingly determine value creation and growth across every industry. GitHub is home for modern developers and the world’s most popular destination for open source projects and software innovation. The platform hosts a growing network of developers in nearly every country representing more than 1.5 million companies across healthcare, manufacturing, technology, financial services, retail and more.

Upon closing, Microsoft expects GitHub’s financials to be reported as part of the Intelligent Cloud segment. Microsoft expects the acquisition will be accretive to operating income in fiscal year 2020 on a non-GAAP basis, and to have minimal dilution of less than 1 percent to earnings per share in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 on a non-GAAP basis, based on the expected close time frame. Non-GAAP excludes expected impact of purchase accounting adjustments, as well as integration and transaction-related expenses. An incremental share buyback, beyond Microsoft’s recent historical quarterly pace, is expected to offset stock consideration paid within six months after closing. Microsoft will use a portion of the remaining ~$30 billion of its current share repurchase authorization for the purchase.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is acting as legal advisor to Microsoft. Morgan Stanley is acting as exclusive financial advisor to GitHub, while Fenwick & West LLP is acting as its legal advisor.

Media & Analyst Conference Call

Nadella, Friedman, Wanstrath and Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood will host a joint conference call for media today, June 4, 2018, at 7 a.m. Pacific/10 a.m. Eastern to discuss this transaction. The call will be available to international callers at +1 (201) 689-8023 (no password required), to U.S. callers at (877) 407-0666 (no password required), or via webcast at https://edge.media-server.com/m6/p/eudfciq3 at that time. More information is available on http://news.microsoft.com.

Additional details will be available when the acquisition closes.

About GitHub

GitHub is the developer company. We make it easier for developers to be developers: to work together, to solve challenging problems, to create the world’s most important technologies. We foster a collaborative community that can come together — as individuals and in teams — to create the future of software and make a difference in the world.

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, (425) 638-7777,

rrt@we-worldwide.com 

Forward looking statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements, which are any predictions, projections or other statements about future events based on current expectations and assumptions that are subject to risks and uncertainties. The potential risks and uncertainties include, among others, that the expected financial and other benefits from the GitHub transaction may not be realized, including because of: the risk that the transaction may not be completed in a timely manner or at all; any restrictions or limitations imposed by regulatory authorities; the impact of the acquisition on GitHub’s developer community and enterprise customers; the extent to which we achieve anticipated financial and buyback targets; the impact of management and organizational changes on GitHub’s business; the impact on GitHub employees and our ability to retain key personnel; our effectiveness in integrating the GitHub platform and operations with Microsoft’s business; and our ability to realize our broader strategic and operating objectives. Actual results may differ materially from the forward-looking statements because of these and other risks and uncertainties of our business, which are described in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), including our Forms 10-K and 10-Q. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on forward-looking statements, and Microsoft undertakes no duty to update any forward-looking statement to conform the statement to actual results or changes in the company’s expectations.

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.

HBO Now

The most successful on-demand video streaming services focus on building libraries of quality content. To appeal to wide audiences, these catalogs should include both past classics and compelling original programming. HBO Now, HBO’s on-demand streaming service, features premium on-air originals and an extensive on-demand collection of well-regarded shows and movies. Additionally, HBO Now performs well in our testing and offers an ad-free experience. That said, HBO Now is pricier than its competitors and does not offer HDR or 4K content, nor does it let you download shows for offline viewing. Much like HBO for regular cable, HBO Now works best as an add-on to another service. When it comes to standalone options, we recommend Editors’ Choice Netflix for its larger content library, and Editors’ Choices Hulu and Sling TV, for their live TV components.

Similar Products

What to Watch
Most people won’t have any trouble finding something to watch on HBO Now. For example, subscribers can watch HBO originals such as Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Silicon Valley, and Westworld. You can also choose to take a deep dive into other beloved series such as Deadwood, Girls, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, and The Wire.

Those shows alone might be enough to convince many people to subscribe. That said, many of HBO’s flagship shows are also available on other platforms. In fact, Deadwood, Oz, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, and The Wire are all available in their entirety on Amazon Video. HBO does not stream any animated series, let alone anime, which may be an important consideration for some. Both Netflix and Hulu offer options in those genres.
Other categories of content available on HBO Now include Comedy, Sports, Documentaries, Collections, and Late Night. Most of these categories feature scattered lists of productions that subscribers are free to peruse, but these are not the main appeal of the service. If sports are your primary interest, take a look at either fuboTV (a sports, news, and entertainment streaming behemoth) or ESPN+ (ESPN’s newest streaming service, which focuses on a selection of live sports and on-demand in-house shows).

HBO also has a collection of recent mainstream movies as well as popular films of years past across a wide range of genres, including action, comedy, drama, family, horror/sci-fi, Latino, romance, and suspense. During my testing, HBO Now highlighted Atomic Blonde, Dunkirk, the complete Harry Potter collection, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, The Lego Ninjago Movie, Logan, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Wonder Woman, for example. In total, scrolling through the alphabetical list of titles revealed a little over 550 movies, which is impressive. I like that these collections include multiple entries in a film series. For example, HBO Now’s collection included three Die Hard movies, three Back to the Future films, and four entries in the Fast and Furious franchise.
Nowadays, HBO Now is most similar to Netflix in that both primarily focus on high-quality originals. It also has parallels with CBS All Access, given that both have extensive back catalogs of high-quality content. Keep in mind that there’s no live component to HBO Now, such as you find with YouTube TV or Philo. As I mentioned, some shows stream simultaneously with the on-air release, including Westworld and Game of Thrones, but this is not the same as the live TV offerings of services like SlingTV or Hulu with Live TV.
Pricing and Platform
HBO Now is pricier than its competitors, at $14.99 per month. Netflix and Hulu both start at $7.99 per month. CBS All Access’ base plan only costs $5.99. Keep in mind that, for Hulu and CBS, those plans include ads in at least some part of the experience, and HBO Now does not. HBO Now is closer in price to Philo ($16 a month) and SlingTV ($20 per month), but both of those include a live TV component.
HBO Now supports an impressive number of platforms. In addition to the web, HBO Now is available on Android, iOS, and Fire OS devices. You can also use the service on the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. For smart TV users, HBO works on Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, and compatible Samsung TVs. There’s even an app for Google’s Daydream platform. Keep in mind that HBO Now is a US-only (and some US territories) streaming service, so international audiences will need to turn to other solutions, such as getting the regular HBO channel through a local cable provider. You might be able to spoof your location with a virtual private network, or VPN,, but I recommend testing your network setup with HBO Now’s trial before you pay anything, since many video streaming services don’t play nicely with VPNs.

You can sign up for a 30-day free trial of HBO Now, but this option requires a payment method. Oddly, the website directed me to sign up for the trial from my Android device. HBO does not give a hard limit on how many devices can stream simultaneously, but if you exceed a reasonable number of devices, HBO Now might kick everyone off the service for around 30 minutes and then require everyone to sign back in again. In the past, I have experienced some issues when signing on to multiple platforms with the same account, but I did not encounter any such issues in my testing for this review.
What About HBO Go?
To clarify a frequent point of confusion, HBO Now is HBO’s on-demand streaming service and HBO Go is an extension of its cable offering. To use HBO Go, you need to have an existing cable subscription that includes HBO. Both services offer the same content.
Web Interface
HBO Now’s interface on the desktop is clean and elegant with a black backdrop, white text, large thumbnails, and simple menus. Many of the elements are translucent as well, which reminds me a bit of Windows 10’s Fluent visual design. Performance is also quick; I did not experience any lag when searching for shows or navigating through the various sections. Across the top, you can jump directly to Shows, Movies, or More (Comedy, Sports, Documentaries, Collections, Late Night). You can also search for shows directly via the included search interface.
On the right-hand side of the screen, you can access your account settings or your Watchlist. Settings break down into a couple of different categories, including the basic account info, billing, and notification settings, but it also builds in a parental control panel. Here, you can set the maximum rating allowed for both Movies and TV shows and lock down these preferences with a four-digit PIN. I prefer the way Netflix and Hulu allow you to set up separate account profiles for each user, since it would be a pain to unlock and change this setting for every potential user. For example, if you want to watch Westworld, but do not want your child experiencing Delos Inc.’s particular brand of existential violence, there’s no way to set those preferences per viewer with HBO Now.

The default page highlights featured content in a large top-level slider, and a selection of Quick Hits (video snippets related to shows) appears directly below. Horizontal sliders offer another entry point for content categories otherwise accessible via the menu. This page looks a lot like Netflix’s home page, but I do appreciate that HBO Now’s content sliders are directly related to the menus. All of the individual content categories look similar. You can play content directly from any screen or simply add it to your Watchlist. Clicking on a show brings up a brief description, a section for any related video content (such as sneak peaks or interviews), and general information on the cast and crew. HBO Now does not, however, provide any aggregate rating information from Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, nor does it feature any sort of recommendation engine.
The playback interface is simple and effective with the option to enable subtitles. One drawback to the web version of this player is that it requires you to enable Flash, which is disabled by default on most standard browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari due to Flash’s frequently targeted security vulnerabilities. Both Netflix and Amazon Video use the HTML5 standard instead. I would also like HBO to implement something similar to Amazon Video’s X-Ray feature, which identifies all actors and actresses in a particular scene, tells you about any music playing, and offers fun facts like continuity errors.
Other Features and Performance
HBO Now does not currently support 4K or HDR content, nor does it allow you to download on-demand episodes for offline viewing. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offer all of these capabilities. Hulu is reportedly adding ad-supported offline viewing to its service, but that feature is not yet live. Neither 4K nor HDR technologies are new at this point, so it’s disappointing that HBO’s ongoing flagship programming does not support these standards. The vast landscapes of Westworld and the industrialized interiors of the Delos Inc. headquarters would look incredible with greater dynamic ranges and sharper textures.
One other difference involves HBO Now’s premier releases (such as Westworld and Game of Thrones), which, as I mentioned, are available for streaming at the same time as on cable. One drawback to this approach (for the consumer) is that you can’t watch entire seasons at a time unless you wait until the season ends. When Netflix or Amazon Prime Video release a season, the whole thing goes live at once.

On the one hand, it’s nice to not feel the pressure to binge an entire season to avoid spoilers, but the downside is that you need to keep subscribing to HBO Now for the entirety of its release schedule. CBS All Access employs a similar strategy with the way it handles the release of Star Trek: Discovery. I don’t foresee either network switching to the content dump strategy any time soon, given their reliance on conventional cable releases. That doesn’t make it any better for the consumers, though.
I tested HBO Now on my PC connected to my home network (200+ Mbps download speeds via Ethernet). During my tests, I streamed episodes of Westworld’s latest season and Six Feet Under, as well as The Fate of the Furious without any lag or performance dips. The one exception to HBO’s lack of ads I saw in my testing was a brief (and skippable) HBO trailer for some of its other programming at the beginning of the stream. For example, the service showed me promos for its new adaptation of Fahrenheit 451.
HBO Now on Mobile
I tested HBO Now on a Nexus 5X running Android 8.1 and didn’t have any issues signing in to the app. The interface maintains the same visual design as its desktop counterpart. Its simple black-and-white visual scheme and large thumbnails look great, but I wish you could resize the thumbnails to fit more content on the page. Hulu’s app has the same problem; the interface is modern and aesthetically pleasing, but it can be a pain to navigate and discover new shows and movies to watch.

I also downloaded HBO Now on an iPhone 8 running iOS 11. The iOS app is visually and functionally identical to its Android counterpart. Despite the prevalence of poor reviews on the App Store, I had no issue signing in or streaming from the app.
The main app page breaks down into two tabs: Featured (the app displays featured show, movies, and collections) and Quick Hits (video featurettes). You can expand the content categories and access settings from the menu in the upper-left corner. I like that almost all of the options from the web are accessible from the mobile app, but am disappointed that I could not manage my subscription from my phone.
I tested the HBO Now app while connected to PCMag’s Wi-Fi network (50 Mbps download). Given that HBO shows tend to be quite long, make sure to connect to Wi-Fi to avoid outrageous cellular data costs. I launched an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and had no trouble playing back the episode or scrubbing to a new point in the show. In testing, the picture looks sharp and audio sounds crisp.
Pure HBO
HBO Now’s main advantage is its excellent original content, including currently airing shows, (such as Westworld and Game of Thrones) and classics (such as The Wire and Six Feet Under). Furthermore, HBO Now has excellent apps, does not run any ads, and supports a wide range of platforms. However, HBO’s on-demand service lacks the 4K, HDR, and offline viewability you get with Netflix and Amazon Video. HBO Now also costs more than similar services, some of which offer entire HBO series on demand. If watching HBO shows (and especially watching them as they are released) is important to you, you will enjoy HBO Now, but note that HBO Now works best in conjunction with another service. For full-featured alternatives to cable, we recommend Editors’ Choice Netflix for its expansive content library and Editors’ Choices Hulu and SlingTV for live TV consumption.

DJI and Microsoft partner to bring advanced drone technology to the enterprise

New developer tools for Windows and Azure IoT Edge Services enable real-time AI and machine learning for drones

REDMOND, Wash. — May 7, 2018 — DJI, the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, and Microsoft Corp. have announced a strategic partnership to bring advanced AI and machine learning capabilities to DJI drones, helping businesses harness the power of commercial drone technology and edge cloud computing.

Through this partnership, DJI is releasing a software development kit (SDK) for Windows that extends the power of commercial drone technology to the largest enterprise developer community in the world. Using applications written for Windows 10 PCs, DJI drones can be customized and controlled for a wide variety of industrial uses, with full flight control and real-time data transfer capabilities, making drone technology accessible to Windows 10 customers numbering nearly 700 million globally.

DJI logoDJI has also selected Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud computing partner, taking advantage of Azure’s industry-leading AI and machine learning capabilities to help turn vast quantities of aerial imagery and video data into actionable insights for thousands of businesses across the globe.

“As computing becomes ubiquitous, the intelligent edge is emerging as the next technology frontier,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Cloud and Enterprise Group, Microsoft. “DJI is the leader in commercial drone technology, and Microsoft Azure is the preferred cloud for commercial businesses. Together, we are bringing unparalleled intelligent cloud and Azure IoT capabilities to devices on the edge, creating the potential to change the game for multiple industries spanning agriculture, public safety, construction and more.”

DJI’s new SDK for Windows empowers developers to build native Windows applications that can remotely control DJI drones including autonomous flight and real-time data streaming. The SDK will also allow the Windows developer community to integrate and control third-party payloads like multispectral sensors, robotic components like custom actuators, and more, exponentially increasing the ways drones can be used in the enterprise.

“DJI is excited to form this unique partnership with Microsoft to bring the power of DJI aerial platforms to the Microsoft developer ecosystem,” said Roger Luo, president at DJI. “Using our new SDK, Windows developers will soon be able to employ drones, AI and machine learning technologies to create intelligent flying robots that will save businesses time and money, and help make drone technology a mainstay in the workplace.”

In addition to the SDK for Windows, Microsoft and DJI are collaborating to develop commercial drone solutions using Azure IoT Edge and AI technologies for customers in key vertical segments such as agriculture, construction and public safety. Windows developers will be able to use DJI drones alongside Azure’s extensive cloud and IoT toolset to build AI solutions that are trained in the cloud and deployed down to drones in the field in real time, allowing businesses to quickly take advantage of learnings at one individual site and rapidly apply them across the organization.

DJI and Microsoft are already working together to advance technology for precision farming with Microsoft’s FarmBeats solution, which aggregates and analyzes data from aerial and ground sensors using AI models running on Azure IoT Edge. With DJI drones, the Microsoft FarmBeats solution can take advantage of advanced sensors to detect heat, light, moisture and more to provide unique visual insights into crops, animals and soil on the farm. Microsoft FarmBeats integrates DJI’s PC Ground Station Pro software and mapping algorithm to create real-time heatmaps on Azure IoT Edge, which enable farmers to quickly identify crop stress and disease, pest infestation, or other issues that may reduce yield.

With this partnership, DJI will have access to the Azure IP Advantage program, which provides industry protection for intellectual property risks in the cloud. For Microsoft, the partnership is an example of the important role IP plays in ensuring a healthy and vibrant technology ecosystem and builds upon existing partnerships in emerging sectors such as connected cars and personal wearables.

Availability

DJI’s SDK for Windows is available as a beta preview to attendees of the Microsoft Build conference today and will be broadly available in fall 2018. For more information on the Windows SDK and DJI’s full suite of developer solutions, visit: developer.dji.com.

About DJI

DJI, the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, was founded and is run by people with a passion for remote-controlled helicopters and experts in flight-control technology and camera stabilization. The company is dedicated to making aerial photography and filmmaking equipment and platforms more accessible, reliable and easier to use for creators and innovators around the world. DJI’s global operations currently span across the Americas, Europe and Asia, and its revolutionary products and solutions have been chosen by customers in over 100 countries for applications in filmmaking, construction, inspection, emergency response, agriculture, conservation and other industries.

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 additional information, please contact:

Michael Oldenburg, DJI Senior Communication Manager, North America – michael.oldenburg@dji.com

Chelsea Pohl, Microsoft Commercial Communications Manager – chelp@microsoft.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.

For more information, visit our:

Website: www.dji.com

Online Store: store.dji.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DJI

Instagram: www.instagram.com/DJIGlobal

Twitter: www.twitter.com/DJIGlobal
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/dji

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/DJI

 

 

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The sky’s the limit with 5G wireless communication

We all know of institutions that are too big to fail. What about communication services in which failure is simply not an option?

According to many analysts and industry experts, the answer lies in 5G wireless communication.

Imagine smart roads that can alert municipalities when it’s time to plow snow or repair potholes. Or consider an electric grid knowing about a catastrophic power failure before it happens and fixing the problem in real time. Better yet, think about a person in need of life-saving surgery miles from the closest surgeon, who nevertheless receives the procedure through the use of telemedicine, where the surgeon uses computing power and robotics to control the operation.

In each case, a failure in communication might be disastrous. But with next-generation 5G wireless communication getting closer, faster broadband wireless speeds and increased capacity will deliver information better than it can with today’s 4G networks.

Therein lies the greatest excitement about 5G; entirely new business applications will be possible, according to Craig Mathias, principal analyst with Farpoint Group, a wireless and mobile advisory firm in Ashland, Mass. While a lot of new technology is being developed, “the business model impact is going to be more interesting than the technology,” he said.

The required 5G technology is nothing minor, however. A host of network trials, research and development of 5G devices, standards and specifications development, and government policies for 5G infrastructure buildouts stand between the promise and the reality of 5G technology. This year, carriers like Verizon and AT&T are expanding 5G tests in cities across the U.S. and globally. Verizon is also showcasing its 5G development during the 2018 Winter Olympics. In addition, organizations are working in partnership with telecommunications companies to develop 5G devices and the applications to be used on them.

That said, 5G wireless communication is coming, and enterprises are paying attention. The ones thinking ahead are putting plans in place so they’re prepared to take advantage of 5G technology when it’s commercially available. In this issue of Network Evolution, we explore what companies are doing to be 5G-ready.

It won’t happen overnight, much less in 2018. But this is the year for enterprises to sit up, take notice and start planning if they haven’t yet.

Also in this issue, network managers share their reasons for choosing smaller software-defined networking vendors instead of major providers like Cisco or VMware. In addition, one unified communications expert offers his tips for consolidating UC features and the pros and cons of deploying UC across the enterprise. Finally, in this month’s Subnet, learn about Durham County, N.C.’s, plan to create a more seamless experience through network automation.

SAP offers extra help on HR cloud migrations

SAP recently launched a program that offers services and tools to help with an HR cloud migration. The intent is to help HR managers make a business case and to ease some of the initial integration steps.

 SAP has seen rapid growth of its SuccessFactors cloud human capital management platform. But the firm has some 14,000 users of its older on-premises HCM suite, mostly in Europe, who have not fully migrated. Some are in a hybrid model and have been using parts of SuccessFactors.

Customers may feel “a lot of trepidation” over the initial HR cloud migration steps, said Stephen Spears, chief revenue officer at SAP. He said SAP is trying to prove with its new Upgrade2Success program “that it’s not difficult to go from their existing HR, on-premises environment to the cloud.”

The problems that stand in the way of an HR cloud migration may be complicated, especially in Europe.

HR investment remains strong

The time may be right for SAP to accelerate its cloud adoption efforts. HR spending remains strong, said analysts, and users are shifting work to HR cloud platforms.

If I were a cloud HR systems provider, I would be very excited for the future, at least in North America.
David Wagnervice president of research, Computer Economics

IDC said HCM applications are forecast to generate just over $15 billion in revenues globally this year, up 8% over 2017. This does not include payroll, just HCM applications, which address core HR functions such as personnel records, benefits administration and workforce management.

The estimated 2018 growth rate is a bit below prior year-over-year growth, which was 9% to 10%, “but still quite strong versus other back office application areas,” said Lisa Rowan, an IDC analyst. Growth is being driven in part by strong interest in replacing older on-premises core HR systems with SaaS-based systems, she said.

Cloud adoption for HR is strong in U.S.

Computer Economics, a research and consulting firm, said that in terms of organizational spending priorities HR is “right down the middle” of the 14 technologies it tracks, said David Wagner, vice president of research at the firm. It surveyed 220 companies ranging from $50 million to multibillion-dollar firms.

“Investment is higher in everything this year,” Wagner said, but IT operational budgets are not going up very fast and the reason is the cloud transition. Organizations are converting legacy systems to cloud systems and investing the savings back into the IT budget. “They’re converting to the cloud as fast as is reasonable in organizations right now,” he said.

“If I were a cloud HR systems provider, I would be very excited for the future, at least in North America,” Wagner said.

Cloud adoption different story in Europe

But Europe, where SAP has about 80% of its on-premises users, may be a different story.

Wagner, speaking generally and not specific to SAP, said the problem with cloud adoption in Europe is that there are much more stringent compliance rules around data in the cloud. There’s a lot of concern about data crossing borders and where it’s stored, and how it’s stored and encrypted. “Cloud adoption in general in Europe is behind North America because of those rules,” he said.

SAP’s new cloud adoption program brings together some services and updated tools that help customers make a business case, demonstrate the ROI and help with data integration. It takes on some of the work that a systems integrator might do.

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, said SAP is aiming to reduce the risk and uncertainties involved in a sizable project. 

“That’s a wise move since cost, risk and uncertainty is the unholy trinity of bugaboos that plague organizations contemplating such substantial changes,” King said.