Tag Archives: technical

Battle lines over Windows Server 2008 migration drawn

With technical support for Windows Server 2008 ending this week, the battle between Microsoft and AWS for the hearts and wallets of its corporate users is underway.

At its re:Invent conference last month, AWS introduced its appropriately named AWS End-of-Support Migration Program (EMP) for Windows Server, aimed at helping users with their Windows Server 2008 migration efforts. The program promises to make it easier to shift users’ existing Windows Server 2008 workloads over to newer versions of Windows running on servers in AWS’ data centers. The EMP technology decouples the applications from the underlying operating system, thereby allowing AWS partners to migrate mission-critical applications over to the newer versions of Windows Server.

The technology reportedly identifies whatever dependencies the application has on Windows Server 2008 and then pulls together the resources needed for applications to run on the updated version of Windows Server. The package of software includes all applications files, runtimes, components and deployment tools, along with an engine that redirects API calls from your application to files within the package, the company said.

Punching back in a blog this week, Vijay Kumar, director of Windows Server and Azure products at Microsoft, stressed the advantages of his company’s products for users undergoing Windows 2008 server migration efforts. Users can deploy Windows Server workloads in Azure a number of ways, he wrote, including the company’s Virtual Machines on Azure, Azure VMware Solutions and Azure Dedicated Host. Users can also apply Azure Hybrid Benefit service to leverage their existing Windows Server licenses in Azure.

Kumar also noted that users can take advantage of Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates program specifically aimed at Windows Server 2008/R2 users, which provides an additional three years of security updates. This can buy users more time to plan their transition paths for core applications and services, he wrote.

The battle to own Windows Server 2008 migration

AWS has long targeted Windows Server users and, in fact, has convinced more than a few IT shops to switch over to AWS EC2 cloud environment. It stepped up those efforts with the introduction of its AWS-Microsoft Workload Competency program for partners last fall, according to one analyst.

[AWS] had as many as 14,000 Windows Server customers running on EC2 as of July 2019. That number is a fivefold increase over 2015.
Meaghan McGrathSenior analyst, Technology Business Review

“[AWS] had as many as 14,000 Windows Server customers running on EC2 as of July 2019,” said Meaghan McGrath, a senior analyst at Technology Business Review. “That number is a fivefold increase over 2015.”

Microsoft has stemmed some of the bleeding, however, McGrath added. For instance, the company has convinced many of its partners to push its free migration assessment program, which gives users a more precise estimate of what their total cost of ownership will be by keeping their SQL Server workloads in Microsoft environments compared to migrating them to AWS’s EC2. But the company is also applying some financial pressure, as well.

“As of last fall, there is a caveat in the Software Assurance contracts among [SQL Server] users that made it much more expensive for them to bring their licenses over to another vendor’s hosted environment,” McGrath said. “The other financial incentive is [Microsoft’s] Azure Hyper Benefit program, which offers users a discount on Azure services for migrating their workloads from licensed software.”

32-bit apps snagging Windows Server 2008 migration efforts

Last summer, Microsoft officials said the operating system still represents 60% of the company’s overall server installed base — a number that’s likely so large because it’s the last 32-bit version of Windows Server. Many corporate users developed customized applications for the platform, which can be expensive and time-consuming to migrate to 64-bit platforms. Users can also have difficulty migrating a 32-bit app to a 64-bit environment that was purchased from a reputable third-party developer, typically because that developer has discontinued support for that offering.

Paul DeloryPaul Delory

“When you are dealing with a [Windows Server] 2008 app, you can’t assume there will be a 64-bit version of that app available,” said Paul Delory, a research director at Gartner. “Users have to coordinate with all their vendors from whom they bought commercial software to know if they are supporting their app on the new OS. If not, you have to factor in the associated costs there.”

Still, the added expense of adapting your existing 32-bit app on Windows Server 2008 is not nearly as expensive as remaining with your existing versions of the operating system and associated applications. With the product going out of technical support this week, users will have to pay for Microsoft’s Extended Support, which could double the cost for the technical support they were getting under their initial services agreement.

“You can go to extended support, which gets you three years’ worth of updates, but that requires you to have Software Assurance,” Delory said. “Extended support costs you 75% of your annual licensing costs, and SA [Software Assurance] is an additional 25%, making it twice as much.”

He said a practical and less expensive solution for users facing this situation is to consider gravitating to a SaaS-based offering such as Office 365 or a similar offering with the same capabilities.

“Something like [Office 365] will be the path of least resistance for many companies because it offers them the chance to sidestep some of these problems,” Delory said. “You can make these problems someone else’s in exchange for a reasonable monthly fee.”

Other options for users leaning away from a Windows Server 2008 migration are much less attractive. They can leave the server in place and mitigate the vulnerabilities as best they can, Delory said, or tuck it behind a firewall and whitelist only certain IP addresses or leave certain ports open.

“You can bring in an Intrusion Prevention System to detect vulnerabilities, but that system must have an understanding of Windows Server 2008 vulnerabilities and be able to maintain them across all your applications,” Delory said.

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Using the Windows Admin Center Azure services feature

To drive adoption of its cloud platform, Microsoft is lowering the technical barrier to Azure through the Windows Admin Center management tool.

Microsoft increasingly blurs the lines between on-premises Windows Server operating systems and its cloud platform.

One way the company has done this is by exposing Azure services alongside Windows Server services in the Windows Admin Center. Organizations that might have been reluctant to go through a lengthy deployment process that required PowerShell expertise can use the Windows Admin Center Azure functionality to set up a hybrid arrangement with just a few clicks in some instances.

Azure Backup

One of the Azure services that Windows Server 2019 can use natively is Azure Backup. This cloud service backs up on-premises resources to Azure. This service offers 9,999 recovery points for each instance and is capable of triple redundant storage within a single Azure region by creating three replicas.

Azure Backup can also provide geo-redundant storage, which insulates protected resources against regional disasters.

You access Azure Backup through the Windows Admin Center, as shown in Figure 1. After you register Windows Server with Azure, setting up Azure Backup takes four steps.

Azure Backup setup
Figure 1: The Windows Admin Center walks you through the steps to set up Azure Backup.

Microsoft designed Azure Backup to replace on-premises backup products. Organizations may find that Azure Backup is less expensive than their existing backup system, but the opposite may also be true. The costs vary widely depending on the volume of data, the type of replication and the data retention policy.

Azure Active Directory

Microsoft positions the Windows Admin Center as a one of the primary management tools for Windows Server. Because sensitive resources are exposed within the Windows Admin Center console, Microsoft offers a way to add an extra layer of security through Azure Active Directory.

When you enable the requirement for Azure Active Directory security, you will be required to authenticate into both the local machine and into Azure Active Directory.

To use Azure Active Directory, you must register the Windows Server with Azure, then you can require Azure Active Directory authentication to be used by opening the Windows Admin Center and then clicking on the Settings icon, followed by the Access tab. Figure 2 shows a simple toggle switch to turn Azure Active Directory authentication on or off.

Azure Active Directory authentication
Figure 2: The toggle switch in the Windows Admin Center sets up Azure Active Directory authentication.

Azure Site Recovery

Azure Site Recovery replicates machines running on-premises to the Microsoft Azure cloud. If a disaster occurs, you can fail over mission-critical workloads to use the replica VMs in the cloud. Once on-premises functionality returns, you can fail back workloads to your data center. Using the Azure cloud as a recovery site is far more cost-effective than building your own recovery data center, or even using a co-location facility.

Like other Azure services, Azure Site Recovery is exposed through the Windows Admin Center. To use it, the server must be registered with Azure. Although Hyper-V is the preferred hosting platform for use with Azure Site Recovery, the service also supports the replication of VMware VMs. The service also replicates between Azure VMs.

To enable a VM for use with the Azure Site Recovery services, open the Windows Admin Center and click on the Virtual Machines tab. This portion of the console is divided into two separate tabs. A Summary tab details the host’s hardware resource consumption, while the Inventory tab lists the individual VMs on the host.

Click on the Inventory tab and then select the checkbox for the VM you want to replicate to the Azure cloud. You can select multiple VMs and there is also a checkbox above the Name column to select all the VMs on the list. After selecting one or more VMs, click on More, and then choose the Set Up VM Protection option from the drop-down list, shown in Figure 3.

VM protection
Figure 3: To set up replication to Azure with the Azure Site Recovery service, select one or more VMs and then choose the Set Up VM Protection option.

The console will open a window to set up the host with Azure Site Recovery. Select the Azure subscription to use, and to create or select a resource group and a recovery vault. You will also need to select a location, as shown in Figure 4.

Azure Site Recovery setup
Figure 4: After you select the VMs to protect in Azure Site Recovery, finalize the process by selecting a location in the Azure cloud.

Storage Migration Service

The Storage Migration Service migrates the contents of existing servers to new physical servers, VMs or to the Azure cloud. This can help organizations reduce costs through workload consolidation.

You access the Storage Migration Service by selecting the Storage Migration Service tab in the Windows Admin Center, which opens a dialog box outlining the storage migration process as shown in Figure 5. The migration involves getting an inventory of your servers, transferring the data from those servers to the new location, and then cutting over to the new server.

Storage Migration Services overview
Figure 5: Microsoft developed Storage Migration Services to ease migrations to new servers, VMs or Azure VMs through a three-step process.

As time goes on, it seems almost inevitable that Microsoft will update the Windows Admin Center to expose even more Azure services. Eventually, this console will likely provide access to all of the native Windows Server services and all services running in Azure.

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For Sale – REDUCED £440 Intel NUC Bean Canyon NUC8i7BEH i7 8559U 16gb Ram 1TB SSD – Windows 10

Some Technical Info

Intel NUC Bean Canyon NUC8i7BEH i7 8559U

General

Platform Technology Intel vPro Technology
Type PC barebone
Product Form Factor Mini PC
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) Security Chip
Localisation Region: United Kingdom

Processor / Chipset

CPU Intel Core i7 (8th Gen) 8559U / 2.7 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 4.5 GHz
Number of Cores Quad-Core
CPU Qty 1
Max CPU Qty 1
CPU Upgradability Not upgradable

Cache Memory

Installed Size L3 Cache – 8 MB
Cache Per Processor 8 MB

RAM

Installed Size 0 MB / 32 GB (max)
Technology DDR4 SDRAM
Form Factor SO-DIMM 260-pin
Slots 2 (Total) / 2 (empty)

Hard Drive

Type No HDD

Storage Controller

Type 1 x SATA
Controller Interface Type SATA 6Gb/s

Optical Storage

Type No optical drive

Card Reader

Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC

Monitor

Monitor Type None.

Graphics Controller

Graphics Processor Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
Video Interfaces HDMI
Max Monitors Supported 3

Audio Output

Sound Output Mode 7.1 channel surround
Compliant Standards High Definition Audio

Audio Input

Type 2 microphones

Networking

Wireless LAN Supported Yes
Wireless NIC Intel Wireless-AC 9560
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Compliant Standards IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0

Expansion / Connectivity

Bays 1 (total) / 1 (free) x internal 2.5″
Slots 1 (total) / 1 (free) x M.2 Card – 2280/2242
Interfaces 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 – Type A (2 front, 2 rear) ¦ 1 x Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 3.1 ¦ 1 x HDMI ¦ 1 x LAN (Gigabit Ethernet) – RJ-45 ¦ 1 x audio line-in/headphones/microphone – mini-jack ¦ 1 x SATA-600

Miscellaneous

Theft/Intrusion Protection Security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)
Security Slot Type Kensington security slot
Compliant Standards ICES-003, EN55024, UL 60950-1, IEC 60950-1, EN 60950-1, AS/NZS 4268, VCCI V-3, VCCI V-2, EN 62311, VCCI V-4, Directive 2012/19/EU, Directive 2011/65/EU, KN24, China RoHS, CNS 13438, ETSI EN 301 489-17, KN32, ETSI EN 300 328, ETSI EN 301 489-1, ETSI EN 301 893, AS/NZS 2772.2, CISPR 32, EN 55032, CAN/CSA-C22.2 No. 60950-1

Power

Device Type Power adapter
Nominal Voltage DC 19 V
Power Provided 90 Watt

Manufacturer Warranty

Service & Support Limited warranty – 3 years

Dimensions & Weight

Width 11.7 cm
Depth 11.2 cm
Height 5.1 cm

Environmental Parameters

Min Operating Temperature 0 °C
Max Operating Temperature 40 °C

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Colorado builds API integration platform to share data, speed services

Integrating data across corporate departments can be challenging. There invariably are technical and cultural hurdles that must be cleared.

The state of Colorado’s ambitious plan to integrate data across dozens of agencies by using APIs had to contend with another issue: It was being launched under intense media scrutiny.

“We typically think of IT as a back-office function,” said Jon Gottsegen, chief data officer for the state of Colorado. Not so in Colorado. A deeply troubled benefits eligibility system — more than a decade in development and charged with making improper payments — had put IT in the limelight — and not in a good way, he said. The newspaper term above the fold became part of his vocabulary, Gottsegen grimly joked.

Work on the state’s new API integration platform began in 2017 with a major transformation of the infamous benefits system. Partnering with Deloitte, IT rewrote the system’s code, migrated services to Salesforce and AWS, and used APIs to drive integration into various databases, Gottsegen said. This helped reduce the amount of time to determine eligibility for benefits from days to minutes — a major boon for state employees.

Today, the API integration platform — while still a work in progress — has dramatically sped up a number of state processes and is paving the way for better data sharing down the road, Gottsegen said.

Speaking at the recent MuleSoft Connect conference in San Francisco, Gottsegen shared the objectives of Colorado’s API integration strategy, the major challenges his team has encountered and the lessons learned.

People, of course, should come first in projects of this scope: Delivering better services to the people of Colorado was aim No. 1. of his team’s API integration platform, Gottsegen said. Security, data governance and corporate culture also demand attention.

Becoming the ‘Amazon of state services’

The task before Gottsegen and his group was to create a process for rolling out APIs that work seamlessly across dozens of different agencies. “Ideally, we want to be the Amazon of state services,” he said of IT’s grand mission.

Developers had to learn how to connect systems to databases that were regulated in different ways. Gottsegen’s team spent a lot of time putting together a comprehensive platform, which was important for integration, he said. It was also important to deliver the APIs in a way that they could be easily consumed by the various state agencies. One goal was to ensure that new APIs were reusable.

Part of the work also involved looking at how services relate to each other. For example, if someone is getting Medicaid, there is a good chance they are also eligible for house services. The API platform had to support the data integration that helps automate these kinds of cross-agency processes, he said.

Getting the API program off the ground was not just about solving the technical problems. When communicating with technology personnel across agencies, Gottsegen said it was important to convey that the API integration platform is about better serving the residents of Colorado.

Learning from contractors

IT did not go it alone. Gottsegen said the state worked with a variety of contractors to speed up its API development process. This included working with MuleSoft to roll out a more expansive API management tier. IT also hired some contractors with integration expertise to kick-start the project. But he added that it was important to ensure the knowledge involved in building the APIs was retained after the contract ends.

“We want our teams to sit next to those contractors to ensure the knowledge of those contractors gets internalized. There have been many cases where state workers did not know how to maintain something after the contractor has left,” he said.

Good metrics, communication critical to API integration success

Before Gottsegen’s team launched a formal API integration program, no one was tracking how long it took agencies to set up a working data integration process. Anecdotal examples of problems would emerge, including stories of agencies that spent over a year negotiating how to set up a data exchange.

The team now has formal metrics to track time to implementation, but the lack of past metrics precludes precise measurements on how the new API integration platform speeds up data exchange compared to before.

In any case, expediting the data exchange process is not just about having a more all-encompassing integration tier, Gottsegen stressed. Better communication between departments is also needed.

As it rolls out the API integration platform, IT is working with the agencies to identify any compliance issues and find a framework to address them.

Centralizing security

Each agency oversees its own data collection and determines where it can be used, Gottsegen said. There are also various privacy regulations to conform to, including HIPAA and IRS 1075.

“One of the reasons we pursued MuleSoft was so we could demonstrate auditable and consistent security and governance of the data,” he said.

Navigating the distinctions between privacy and security is a big challenge, he said. Each agency is responsible for ensuring restrictions on how its data is used; it is not a task assigned to a centralized government group because the agency is the expert on privacy regulations. At the same time, Gottsegen’s group can provide better security into API integration mechanisms used to exchange data between agencies.

To provide API integration security, Gottsegen created a DevOps toolchain run by a statewide center for enablement. This included a set of vetted tools and practices that agencies could adopt to speed the development of new integrations (dev) and the process of pushing them into production (ops) safely.

Gottsegen said the group is developing practices to build capabilities that can be adopted across the state, but progress is uneven. He said the group has seen mixed results in getting buy-in from agencies.

Improving data quality across agencies

Gottsegen’s team has also launched a joint agency interoperability project for the integration of over 45 different data systems across the state. The aim is to build a sturdy data governance process across groups. The first question being addressed is data quality, in particular to ensure a consistent digital ID of citizens. “To be honest, I’m not sure we have a quality measure across the state,” Gottsegen said.

Gottsegen believes that data quality is not about being good or bad, but about fitness for use. It’s not easy articulating what particular data set is appropriate across agencies.

“Data quality should be a partnership between agencies and IT,” he said. His team often gets requests to integrate data across agencies. The challenge is how to provide the tools to do that. The agencies need to be able to describe the idiosyncrasies of how they collect data in order to come up with a standard. Down the road, Gottsegen hopes machine learning will help improve this process.

Building trust with state IT leaders

A lot of state initiatives are driven from the top down. But, if workers don’t like a directive, they can often wait things out until a new government is elected. Gottsegen found that building trust among IT leaders across state agencies was key in growing the API program. “Trust is important — not just in technology changes, but in data sharing as well,” he said.

And face-to face connections matter. In launching its API integration platform, he said, it was important for IT leaders across organizations to learn each other’s names and to meet in person, even when phone calls or video conferences might be more convenient.

As for the future, Gottsegen has a vision that all data sharing will eventually happen through API integrations. But getting there is a long process. “That might be 10 years out — if it happens. We keep that goal in mind while working with our collaborators to build things out.”

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For Sale – REDUCED £440 Intel NUC Bean Canyon NUC8i7BEH i7 8559U 16gb Ram 1TB SSD – Windows 10

Some Technical Info

Intel NUC Bean Canyon NUC8i7BEH i7 8559U

General

Platform Technology Intel vPro Technology
Type PC barebone
Product Form Factor Mini PC
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) Security Chip
Localisation Region: United Kingdom

Processor / Chipset

CPU Intel Core i7 (8th Gen) 8559U / 2.7 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 4.5 GHz
Number of Cores Quad-Core
CPU Qty 1
Max CPU Qty 1
CPU Upgradability Not upgradable

Cache Memory

Installed Size L3 Cache – 8 MB
Cache Per Processor 8 MB

RAM

Installed Size 0 MB / 32 GB (max)
Technology DDR4 SDRAM
Form Factor SO-DIMM 260-pin
Slots 2 (Total) / 2 (empty)

Hard Drive

Type No HDD

Storage Controller

Type 1 x SATA
Controller Interface Type SATA 6Gb/s

Optical Storage

Type No optical drive

Card Reader

Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC

Monitor

Monitor Type None.

Graphics Controller

Graphics Processor Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
Video Interfaces HDMI
Max Monitors Supported 3

Audio Output

Sound Output Mode 7.1 channel surround
Compliant Standards High Definition Audio

Audio Input

Type 2 microphones

Networking

Wireless LAN Supported Yes
Wireless NIC Intel Wireless-AC 9560
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Compliant Standards IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0

Expansion / Connectivity

Bays 1 (total) / 1 (free) x internal 2.5″
Slots 1 (total) / 1 (free) x M.2 Card – 2280/2242
Interfaces 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 – Type A (2 front, 2 rear) ¦ 1 x Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 3.1 ¦ 1 x HDMI ¦ 1 x LAN (Gigabit Ethernet) – RJ-45 ¦ 1 x audio line-in/headphones/microphone – mini-jack ¦ 1 x SATA-600

Miscellaneous

Theft/Intrusion Protection Security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)
Security Slot Type Kensington security slot
Compliant Standards ICES-003, EN55024, UL 60950-1, IEC 60950-1, EN 60950-1, AS/NZS 4268, VCCI V-3, VCCI V-2, EN 62311, VCCI V-4, Directive 2012/19/EU, Directive 2011/65/EU, KN24, China RoHS, CNS 13438, ETSI EN 301 489-17, KN32, ETSI EN 300 328, ETSI EN 301 489-1, ETSI EN 301 893, AS/NZS 2772.2, CISPR 32, EN 55032, CAN/CSA-C22.2 No. 60950-1

Power

Device Type Power adapter
Nominal Voltage DC 19 V
Power Provided 90 Watt

Manufacturer Warranty

Service & Support Limited warranty – 3 years

Dimensions & Weight

Width 11.7 cm
Depth 11.2 cm
Height 5.1 cm

Environmental Parameters

Min Operating Temperature 0 °C
Max Operating Temperature 40 °C

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The Microsoft AI Idea Challenge – Breakthrough Ideas Wanted!

This post is authored by Tara Shankar Jana, Senior Technical Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft.

All of us have creative ideas – ideas that can improve our lives and the lives of thousands, perhaps even millions of others. But how often do we act on turning those ideas into a reality? Most of the time, we do not believe in our ideas strongly enough to pursue them. Other times we feel like we lack a platform to build out our idea or showcase it. Most good ideas don’t go beyond those initial creative thoughts in our head.

If you’re a professional working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), or an aspiring AI developer or just someone who is passionate about AI and machine learning, Microsoft is excited to offer you an opportunity to transform your most creative ideas into reality. Join the Microsoft AI Idea Challenge Contest today for a chance to win exciting prizes and get your project featured in Microsoft’s AI.lab showcase. Check out the rules, terms and conditions of the contest and then dive right in!

The Challenge

The Microsoft AI Idea Challenge is seeking breakthrough AI solutions from developers, data scientists, professionals and students, and preferably developed on the Microsoft AI platform and services. The challenge gives you a platform to freely share AI models and applications, so they are reusable and easily accessible. The ideas you submit are judged on the parameters shown in the figure below – essentially half the weight is for the originality of your idea, 20% for the feasibility of your solution, and 30% for the complexity (i.e. level of sophistication) of your implementation.

The Microsoft AI Challenge is accepting submissions between now and October 12th, 2018.

To qualify for the competition, individuals or teams are required to submit a working AI model, test dataset, a demo app and a demo video that can be a maximum of three minutes long. We encourage you to register early and upload your projects soon, so that you can begin to plan and build out your solution and turn in the rest of your materials on time. We are looking for solutions across the whole spectrum of use cases – to be inspired, take a look at some of the examples at AI.lab.

Prizes

The winners of the first three places in the contest will respectively receive a Surface Book 2, a DJI Drone, and an Xbox One X.

We hope that’s motivation to get you started today – good luck!

Tara

Adventist Health System is enhancing healthcare delivery using Microsoft 365 – Microsoft 365 Blog

Today’s post was written by Tony Qualls, director of enterprise technical services at Adventist Health System in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

Over the years, healthcare has changed from hospital-based care to preventive and continuous care that happens throughout an individual’s life—outside of hospital walls and inside patient homes and neighborhood clinics. Consequently, Adventist Health System is in the midst of a big transformation to a more consumer-centric organization to meet the needs of patients and families at every stage of health.

Our more than 80,000 employees are embracing this new care delivery model, and as many of them are frequently on the go, they need secure, quick access to information from anywhere.

With Microsoft 365, we’re able to give them access to the information they need in a secure, compliant environment. We’ve been a longtime user of Microsoft Office 365 to deliver the latest productivity innovations to our clinical and non-clinical employees. We migrated to Microsoft 365 to gain more flexibility with our licensing for Office 365 and for the Windows 10 operating system and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS).

We have 28,000 Microsoft 365 E3 licenses for our office staff and 41,000 Office 365 F1 licenses for our Firstline team members—nurses, doctors, and other employees. These individuals carry laptops and tablets with them throughout the day or access shared devices using badge-tapping technology. With Microsoft 365, we can cost-effectively license the specific applications that employees need to accomplish various tasks throughout their workdays.

For example, our clinical staff uses Skype for Business Online to improve patient flow and connect physicians with remote patients. Now, we’re taking it to the next level with Microsoft Teams—probably the fastest-growing Office 365 application we have deployed. Everything’s in one place—SharePoint Online sites, files, chat, meetings, and Microsoft Planner. It’s so easy to use, and we find that after people get invited to one Teams channel, they turn around and create channels of their own to support other projects. With Teams, we have persistent conversations, documents, and other resources about a topic in one place, which helps groups focus and move faster. In addition, it’s a highly secure environment that we trust, and we can remain completely compliant with HIPAA and other healthcare regulations.

At Adventist Health System, we strive for excellence in all that we do. Our IT employees strive to be recognized as an industry leader. Utilizing Teams is just one way we are supporting our organization’s vision to be wholistic, exceptional, connected, affordable, and viable.

Communication is crucial to the success of any organization, and Adventist Health System is no different. The quicker we can share information, updates, and plans, the faster we gain buy-in from our team members. The clinical workspace thrives on rapid communication and collaboration around patient care. This, in turn, helps foster better outcomes and patient satisfaction.

It’s exciting to see the Teams roadmap incorporating artificial intelligence capabilities by offering speech-to-text and meeting transcription services. As we gather takeaways and valuable information from meetings, I am happy that Teams allows me to focus on listening to my staff and peers while it captures and transcribes meeting notes for later review.

There’s an abundance of innovation coming from Microsoft, and we’ve taken the approach of releasing new Office 365 applications directly to employees and letting user communities provide guidance, tips, and support on Yammer channels. This has been a great adoption model that has empowered employees to put these tools to work in ways that make sense for them.

Because Microsoft matches productivity innovation with security innovation, we can confidently utilize new technologies on tens of thousands of mobile devices. We’ve standardized on Windows 10 Enterprise, chiefly for security features such as default encryption. But EMS also includes a great bundle of security tools and licensing options that have significantly decreased our licensing costs while giving us enhanced security capabilities.

From a support perspective, Microsoft Intune and mobile email with Exchange Online have been tremendous timesavers. Employees had to unenroll and re-enroll devices in a previous email security program, and our infrastructure support team was inundated with support tickets around the need to resync mobile email accounts. But with Intune, employees download the Microsoft Outlook mobile app, we apply the correct policies, and they’re off and running.

With Microsoft 365, our clinical, support, and IT staffs are all better equipped to help Adventist Health System transform its business in a secure, compliant manner to meet the needs of today’s changing healthcare landscape.

—Tony Qualls

For Sale – PALICOMP Gaming PC & Benq Monitor

Selling on behalf of my son who has recently upgraded his kit. He can answer any technical questions you might have, but the specs are:

Manufacturer: Palicomp

GTX 750ti

AMD 6300 3Ghz

16GB DDR3 RAM

1 terabyte hard drive

CD drive.

22″ 1080p 60Hz monitor.

It is three years old, and in full working order.

£300 collected from central Exmouth, and advertised elsewhere. I can also deliver to the central Taunton area. Sorry, unable to post or courier.

Price and currency: 300
Delivery: Goods must be exchanged in person
Payment method: PPG or Cash on Collection
Location: Exmouth
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

Geek of the Week: Take a break, and read about Jaime Teevan’s Microsoft research on working less

Jaime Teevan
Jaime Teevan is a technical advisor to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (Dan DeLong Photo)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is famous for creating a culture of workaholics in the early days of the software giant. He tracked the comings and goings of employees by memorizing people’s license plates, for instance.

Jaime Teevan is an acclaimed principal researcher at the company, and in her latest role, she’s serving as technical advisor to the current CEO, Satya Nadella.

Since you’re possibly avoiding work while reading this, you should know Teevan — our latest Geek of the Week — is also an advocate for finding smarter ways to make the most of a worker’s time, and she believes in the positive impact that breaks and recovery have on productivity.

Teevan led the productivity team at Microsoft Research AI and has published hundreds of award-winning research papers, technical articles, books, and patents, and given keynotes around the world. Her research earned her the Technology Review TR35 Young Innovator, Borg Early Career, Karen Spärck Jones, and SIGIR Test of Time awards.

She holds a Ph.D. from MIT and a B.S. from Yale, and is an affiliate professor at the University of Washington.

But enough about work!

“My favorite breaks are social  — chatting in the hallway with a colleague, texting my husband, and checking in with friends on Facebook,” Teevan said. “Of course, while Facebook makes for an awesome quick break, it carries with it the risk that I will get sucked in and never return to work. We did some research on this recently, and found that if we insert microtasks into a person’s Facebook feed it can actually help ‘distract’ them back to work. For example, I might see a microtask asking me to edit a sentence in a document I’m writing in between Conor’s baby update and a picture of what Brooks had for dinner last night. After I edit a few sentences within the context of my Facebook feed it’s very likely I’ll just open the document and start editing there.”

As for that famous Gates work ethic at her company, Teevan said disengaging from work improves our quality of life, makes us less stressed, and helps us feel happier.

“It’s not that hard to convince yourself to do something that feels good,” she said.

And if the perception where you work is that working all the time is encouraged, recognize that the “permeable boundary between work and life” can go both ways, she said.

“Bring your work home if you need to, but also bring the space to recharge into your work day without feeling guilty about it.”

Check out a recent article and a recent podcast, and read ahead to learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Jaime Teevan:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “I am passionate about using technology to help people work less but accomplish more. As a researcher at Microsoft Research I did this by studying how people get things done, developing new algorithms to make them more productive, and publishing the impact of these algorithms in academic articles. My research showed that it is possible to break many common tasks down into smaller pieces and use AI to automate the repetitive parts so that people can focus on the pieces where their unique insights matter most. I recently moved from Microsoft Research to the Office of the CEO, where I now serve as Technical Advisor to Satya Nadella. I look forward to furthering this work in my new role, but expanding upon it in the broader context of all of the ways that Microsoft can impact the world.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Breaks are an important part of being productive, and we all have an intrinsic need for rest, recovery, and balance. Research shows we are more productive at work when we prioritize small breaks in our day and successfully detach from work in the evening, especially when we are stressed, have a high workload, or are overloaded.”

Where do you find your inspiration? “Scientists learn about the world through observation; as a computer scientist, I learn by observing people interact with computers. I find inspiration when people behave unexpectedly, because it means there is something new to discover there. For example, many years ago when analyzing our search query logs I was surprised to see that people often issue the same query over and over again rather than searching for new information. This led me to spend several years studying repeat search behavior, and I was able to eventually build on this unexpected behavior to create our very first personalized search experiences.”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “A search engine. The petabytes of information available online is useless without a way to make sense of it. And our ability to intelligently sift through all of this information will become increasingly natural (via new interaction modalities like natural language, speech, and augmented reality) and actionable (via the ability to make intelligent inferences and integrate with the real world) as computing transforms around us.”

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “Probably the most unique aspect of my office is that I have a treadmill instead of a chair at my desk. Everyone who visits asks if it is hard to walk and work at the same time, but I find it very natural. We know sitting all day can be bad for you, and I’ve read research studies that show that you are more creative when you walk, but, honestly, I use the treadmill because it is easier to walk than stand. I still have a nice place to sit by the window when I’m tired of walking, though.”

Jaime Teevan
Forget walking to work. Try walking at work, like Jaime Teevan. (Microsoft Photo)

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Be intentional about transitions. People tend to focus only on the tasks at hand and ignore what they need to do to get started or wrap up – and, as a result, often fail to actually start or to successfully move on to the next task. There are tricks you can use to make your transitions easier. For example, you can make it easier to return to work after a break by leaving yourself a note outlining a specific simple starter task (e.g., re-word one bullet point in one slide). Our research shows that these starter tasks will often draw you into the larger task (e.g., editing the slide deck’s flow) in a way that just trying to start the task wouldn’t. You can also develop habits to help yourself disengage from work when you want to focus on other things. For example, our research shows that if you spend time reflecting on your priorities during your commute home you’ll do less work at home — and be more productive at work the next day.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Windows, of course.”

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Picard (although I’m more into fantasy).”

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Time Machine. Given the power to reverse causality, I can’t imagine choosing anything else.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “Politely decline. I wouldn’t want to give up the opportunity I have where I am right now to help Microsoft have a positive impact on the world.”

I once waited in line for … “Molly Moon’s ice cream. Salted caramel with hot fudge, yumm … ”

Your role models (And why?): “Researchers who push the boundaries of artificial intelligence and use it to make human intelligence shine, including: Susan Dumais, Eric Horvitz, Mary Czerwinski, Lili Cheng, Jennifer Chayes.”

Greatest game in history: “Charades.”

Best gadget ever: My electric foot warmer, because nothing is better than crawling into a warm bed at night.

First computer: “Apple IIe.”

Current phone: “Samsung Galaxy S7.”

Jaime Teevan
Jaime Teevan, away from work. (Photo courtesy of Jaime Teevan)

Favorite app: “The SwiftKey keyboard, which uses AI to make text entry easier. SwiftKey makes it possible for me to get a lot more done from my phone than you might expect.”

Favorite cause: “Diversity and inclusion in tech. To push the boundaries of what is possible we need to draw inspiration from every possible source, and diverse teams are fundamentally smarter and more creative. Selfishly, I also just want to work with an interesting range of people. As a mother to four young children, I am particularly passionate about helping researchers integrate parenthood into their academic careers. I have written several articles about conference travel with children and worked with conference organizational committees to implement better support for attendees with families.”

Most important technology from last year: “The cloud. Yeah, I know I seem late to the game with this answer, but this past year was the first year where I truly broke away from my desktop computer. Suddenly it became possible to seamlessly access the information I needed to be productive irrespective of the device I was on.”

Most important technology of the coming year: “I think we’re going to see microproductivity take off in the coming year. Most of the chunks of time we have in a day are just too short to even bother trying to get anything done. Think of the time you spend waiting for a meeting to start, riding in an elevator, or standing in line. We try to defrag our time by booking meetings with ourselves, turning off our phones, and taking email vacations. But rather than fighting fragmentation by changing how we work, we can embrace it by changing our tasks to fit the way we actually do work.

“The science behind actively managing our fragmented attention has gotten quite sophisticated, but at the moment it is primarily used to manipulate us; the casual gaming industry and social media thrive on drawing us in and keeping our attention. But intelligent attention management can be used to our advantage to help us focus on the things we care about.

“With microproductivity, our tools algorithmically break small microtasks off from our larger productivity tasks and surface them in the right context so we can complete them when we would otherwise just be killing time. What’s more, as we do these microtasks the system can learn from the data we provide to start assisting us or even automating the microtask entirely. The transformation of work into microwork will change when and how people work, and enable individuals and artificial intelligence to work together to efficiently and easily complete complex tasks.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Every now and then step back and look broadly at what you do. New technology will almost always impact people and society in unexpected ways, because we operate in a messy, nuanced, social world. A broad perspective is necessary to understand how technology can be applied to make the world a better place.”

Website: Teevan.org

Twitter: @jteevan 

LinkedIn: Jaime Teevan 

Maxta hyper-converged MxSP helps services firm fuel growth

When Larry Chapman arrived at Trusource Labs as IT manager, the technical support services provider was in the hyper-growth stage, while its IT infrastructure was stuck in neutral.

The IT infrastructure consisted of no shared storage and a server with a single point of failure. Chapman decided to upgrade it in one shot with hyper-convergence. Trusource installed Maxta MxSP software-based hyper-convergence running on Dell PowerEdge servers last April when it opened a new call center.

The company started in 2013 with a call center in Austin, Texas, and added one in Limerick, Ireland, in the past year. It has since built a second call center in Austin, a 450-seat facility called “Austin North” to deal with the company’s rapid customer growth and for redundancy. Trusource plans further expansion with another call center set to open in Alpine, Texas, in 2018.

In four years, Trusource has grown to 600 employees and around $30 million in annual revenue.

“We were in hyper-growth mode from when we started until I got here,” said Chapman, who joined Trusource in mid-2016. He said when he arrived at Trusource the network consisted of “one big HP server with 40 VMs and 40 cores. Obviously, that’s a single point of failure; there was no shared storage and no additional servers.”

Chapman considered building his IT infrastructure out the traditional way, adding a dedicated storage array and more servers. But that would require adding at least one engineer to his small IT staff.

Forty minutes, start to finish, and boom, I was running hyper-converged infrastructure.
Larry ChapmanIT manager, Trusource Labs

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to hire a storage engineer to calculate LUNs and do all the storage stuff,” he said. “Over the course of years, there’s a lot of salary involved there. So I started looking at new next-generation things.”

That led him to hyper-converged infrastructure, which requires no storage specialists. He checked out HCI players Nutanix, SimpliVity and Maxta’s MxSP.

Chapman ruled out SimpliVity after Hewlett Packard Enterprise bought the startup in January 2017. He worried SimpliVity OmniStack software would no longer be hardware-agnostic after the deal closed.

“I like the option to be hardware-agnostic,” he said. “I will buy my server from whoever can give me the best deal at the time. At the time I looked at SimpliVity; it was hardware agnostic, but I didn’t think it would be in the future.”

He liked Nutanix’s appliance, but its initial cost scared him off. The price seemed especially steep compared to Maxta. Chapman chose Maxta’s freemium license option, which provides software for free and charges for maintenance. He said the Maxta hyper-converged MxSP price tag came to $54,000 for four three-node clusters. After the initial three years, he will pay $3,000 per server for support.

“I had to look at the quote a couple of times. I thought they left something off,” he said. He said a comparable set up with Nutanix would have cost around $150,000 just for the HCI appliances.

After selecting the Maxta hyper-converged software, Chapman priced servers, picking three Dell PowerEdge R530 models with 24-core processors, 120 GB of RAM and four 10 GigE interfaces for a total of $24,000. Each server has 800 GB solid-state drives for cache and six 1 TB hard disk drives in a hybrid setup.

Throw in switching and cabling, and Chapman said he ended up with his entire infrastructure for a 450-seat call center based on the Maxta hyper-converged MxSP software for $125,000.

Chapman said he was a bit leery of installing do-it-yourself software, but he followed Maxta’s  checklist and did it himself anyway. Installation went smoothly.

“Forty minutes, start to finish, and boom, I was running hyper-converged infrastructure,” he said.

As part of the setup process, Maxta hyper-converged MxSP asks how many copies of data to keep on the virtual machines. Chapman said he selected three copies across his three nodes, “so no matter what combination of things I lose, as long as I have two of the servers up, the VMs will run like nothing happened.”

That bailed him out when a parity error brought down a server, but no one even noticed until an alert went out. “Everything was still chugging along,” Chapman said. A firmware upgrade fixed the problem.

Trusource now runs its production workload on the Maxta MxSP HCI appliances.

He said Trusource does not use dedicated backup software for the Maxta hyper-converged cluster but replicates between data centers.

Chapman said his setup allows easy upgrades at no additional software cost because of the Maxta perpetual license.

“I will just take the server off line, shut it down, put a new server in, turn it on and repeat the process for each new server,” he said. “If I need bigger drives, I can just swap out drives while the system’s running. If I need more processing power, I just add another node in the cluster, another $8,000 server and I’m done.”