Cloud

Windows 10 – Time To Get On Board

Windows 10 has been publicly available since 29th July 2015. Since then, Microsoft have been encouraging users to upgrade in many ways – consumers had a year window to upgrade from Windows 7/8/8.1 for free, along with Windows Update prompts reminding consumers that they can do so.

There’s always going to be complaints with any new operating system, but the in-place upgrade process has been the best yet from Microsoft. Gone are the days when any IT professional would strongly avoid it, it’s a much more stable and revertable method.

The upgrade has been optional, but we’re now getting much closer to being forced to go Windows 10 (not that I think this is a bad thing). The two big ways this is happening are:

New PCs with Windows 7 or 8.1 are going to be much less common come November 1, 2016. The top OEM vendors won’t be allowed to do this anymore (E.g. Lenovo, HP, Dell). You could still go to a whitebox builder and buy an OEM version of Windows 7, it just won’t be a pre-packaged option anymore. Windows 7 is very old now, and it’s unrealistic to expect Microsoft as well as all the hardware manufacturers to continue supporting it with new drivers.

The other main driver is Intel’s 7th generation of i series chip, Kaby Lake. This has already been released and seen in some laptops, with desktop CPUs due to be released early 2017. Microsoft is drawing a line in the sand and saying there will be no support at all if you’ve got this new CPU. I have yet to get my hands on a device with these new CPUs to try, so it will be interesting to see if anything breaks with this combination of OS and CPU.

Windows 7 has had a very good run, with great reasons; but the vast improvements that have taken us to Windows 10 (not to mention the better security architecture), as well as internal support for cloud services means this is the way of the future.

If you haven’t started the transition to Windows 10 it’s time to get planning, before you hit the above roadblocks and haven’t put the planning and preparation into the change.

 

Important Azure and Office 365 URLs for Admins

I keep forgetting some of the main URLs I need for Microsoft’s online cloud based services. Instead of going direct to where I want, I log into one point I know and follow the bouncing ball to get to my destination – hardly efficient.

Instead, here’s my list of important Azure and Office 365 URLs to get where you want. The ones that require your domain as part of the URL aren’t hotlinks.

Office 365
Office 365 Admin Portal https://portal.office.com/adminportal/home?switchtomodern=true#
Office 365 Admin Portal (old) https://portal.office.com/Admin/Default.aspx?switchtoclassic=true#
Office 365 Portal with specific internal domain https://login.microsoftonline.com/?whr=yourdomain.com (modify to your own domain on the end)
Office 365 Apps https://portal.office.com/myapps

Azure
Azure AD and Old Portal https://manage.windowsazure.com
Azure AD and Old Portal to a specific domain https://manage.windowsazure.com/yourdomain.com (modify to your own domain on the end)
Azure New Portal https://portal.azure.com/

Intune
Intune Admin Portal https://manage.microsoft.com/MicrosoftIntune/

Skype For Business Online
Skype For Business Admin Portal https://adminau1.online.lync.com/lscp/ (possibly Australia only?)

Exchange Online
Exchange Admin Center https://outlook.office365.com/ecp/

Apps
Power BI https://app.powerbi.com
Exchange Online Mailbox https://outlook.office365.com/
Yammer https://www.yammer.com/office365
SharePoint Online https://yourdomain.sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/sharepoint.aspx
Planner https://tasks.office.com
Office Online (Word, Excel etc) https://office.live.com
Sway https://www.sway.com/
Security and Compliance https://protection.office.com
Office Store https://portal.office.com/store

 

Microsoft have a list of all Office 365 URLs and IPs too, but that’s for you to configure your firewall preemptively rather than an Office 365/Azure Admin.

If you have any adds or changes, please let me know!

 

Update 7th September 2016

Microsoft have put up a giant list of links to all the Azure bits and pieces, check it out!

Who Will Be There For The Long Run?

You may have noticed that the theme on my blog has changed. The theme I was using was a light version of a pro product, which I didn’t buy. I was looking at changing some small settings and discovered that the creator of the theme had stopped supporting it a few months ago.

Knowing that I’d probably have issues in the future, I decided to find a different theme. It had to work with the content I already had and look pleasing enough to me. I also didn’t want a v1.0 theme, because that gives me no assurance that the creator has any interest in updating it when future WordPress versions are released.

I realised that this same methodology is how I approach most pieces of software. Ideally it needs to have been around for a little while to prove they can deliver, and keep their product updated. It needs to have good support, either from the community or the creators. It needs to integrate well with existing systems, but also not cause you to be locked in to the product itself.

After working in I.T. for a while, I’ve found this is instinctively how I think. A big factor would be learning this from when things go wrong – from implementations, upgrades or changeovers and considering what decisions should have been made early on to prevent this.

This in itself causes issues, because how can a software solution get customers if everyone wants something that’s already proven? Companies will often take risks if option B is substantially cheaper than option A, or the vendor of the software have proven themselves with other solutions… but generally it’s safer to go with the proven solution.

Maybe this methodology is changing with the rapid release cycle we’re now seeing globally. It’ll probably cause more issues due to less testing time and more updates, which instinctively is the opposite of what we’ve all learnt to do in IT. This applies to the cloud too – you’re putting your faith in a 3rd party, but you have no visibility or control over changes. Without that visibility, how do you know everything of yours will work after the fact? Or will you be left trying to find another cloud vendor that works with your existing setup?

So yes, I have a new theme. It works, and it’s free. It’s newer than v1.0 so at least there’s some evidence that it will be maintained, but they may stop this at any time. I’m not giving them any money so I can’t complain, but it’s still the fundamental basis of my decision process. It’s luckily quite easy to change themes because of the well designed plug and play style of themes. This is what I expect from any software vendor (but rarely met), and anything beyond increases the risk of pain – it may not be now, but chances are it will come.

HP Cloud Day – Part 2

13th April
I had to rush off to the airport and crashed out, back home in Adelaide now. It was a very interesting event, and was great to get the opportunity to talk to some key HP staff. I’ll summarise the whole event in a few days once I’ve absorbed it all.

3:30pm
Bit of a gap as this section was particularly technical around layers, zones, repositorys, pools, catalogues – you get the idea :)

3:00pm
Architecture Deep Dive for HP Cloud:
IT becomes the service broker, and also needs to choose where to put what. It should also be designed to be able to be moved from one environment to the next.
This requires a common foundation. There are three layers for an Integrated cloud platform to cover all IaaS, PaaS and SaaS (hmm most things seem to be in threes today) – Demand – User Interraction, Deliver – Service Orchestration and Supply – Resource Operation.

2:25pm
If someone uses your hosted severs for an attack, who is at fault? The provider or the consumer? I’m not sure this one was actually answered (please correct me if I’m wrong!) but regardless it’s a good question, and there are a lot of grey areas because laws never keep up with new technologies.
Consumer responsibility vs Provider responsibility in order: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. So if you want the least responsibility, SaaS is the way to go.

2:10pm
Cloud Security is about perspective. HP have a lot of considerations and understanding of this, read some cloudy stuff here:
http://www8.hp.com/us/en/business-solutions/solution.html?compURI=1079449#tab=TAB2

2:00pm
Had a walkthrough of HP’s Comms Room Showcase Extravaganza, check my twitter feed @AdamFowler_IT for the pics (later because all forms of internet are now crawling here).

12:53pm
HP Networking – When you’ve got a single network switch that has 100’s of blades connected to it with 1000’s of VM’s, the MAC table is going to grow huge, and there are limits. HP manage the networking for your cloud to make sure these issues don’t occur… plus it’s their own switches and routers in use!
HP will support VMWare, Microsoft, Citrix and HP ux virtualisation technologies.

12:30pm EST
Welcome to part two, and I’ve now converted to local Sydney time to keep things confusing.

The building blocks that HP has to make your cloud: Private, Managed and Public all used converged infrastructure. The three key steps are: Standardize, Virtualise and finally Automate.

HP CloudSystem is 45% cheaper than Amazon EC2 as long as you buy enough. Based on 4 Chassis, 64 blades with 768 VM’s etc – that’s a rather decent deployment!

There are two stages to cloud; Step-by-step and fast track.

Step-by-step includes Standardize and consolidate, then Virtualise and automate.

Fast Track is then Self service infrastructure, self service applications with full lifecycle management and finally becoming a service broken in a hybrid environment.

The above is a bit deeper defining what I was talking about in Part 1. You’re smart, you’ll find where that is if you need to.

HP Cloud Day – Part 1

11:10am
I have just realised that the times are Adelaide times, not local :) Lunch time, so after that I’ll continue with Part 2.

10:44am
HP Enterprise Cloud Services: Global Availability, Communications & Collaboration, Enterprise and SaaS Applications. One of the bigger benefits is Testing as a Service which should dramatically decrease configuration and setup times. The big goal is to doing the right scale for the right cost. HP do end to end migrations.

10:33am
The current evolving state of hybrid delivery is a mix of traditional, private, managed and public. The future envisioned will be using common architecture, coverged management & security, open & standards based, develop once – run anywhere, and flexibility & portability. This is needed to reduce complexity of managing too many different evironments by too many different methods.

9:49am
HP Converged Cloud is built on OpenStack technology, and works on a hybrid delivery. Choice, Confidence and Consistency are the 3 main aspects of this. HP’s public Cloud services have now gone beta. The great challenge for clients is ‘how do I get started?’. Start with the ‘low hanging fruit’ (for those playing management buzzword bingo, that should help). Start with Dev/Test for the private cloud as there is little to no impact to end users. Then, in managed cloud there is the application transformation, including enabling the management of apps and servers in different ways. Most applications aren’t ready or aren’t designed for Cloud yet. Third is public cloud, which includes SaaS applications and Application Transformation.

9:31am
If you believe that services can be anywhere, the role of the IT Leader becomes ‘builder/broker’ which changes the competencies of IT. Moving from building to buying, when most IT staff were originally only trained in building. The IT Imperatives in a hybrid cloud delivery are:

– Build & consume right mix of services based on service requirements
– Leverage best of traditional IT, private, managed & public cloud
– Manage & secure hybrid environment to reap value & mitigate risk

9:18am
New technology access methods. The barrier to innovation has been lowered, particularly due to cloud technologies. Blogging back in the old days meant you had to build your own website from scratch, or use poor limiting services such as geocities (sorry to bring that one up). Bottom up adoption and CIO’s spending most of their time fighting fires are the more troublesome outcomes of this (in my opionion) but at the same time, a lot of people have some great ideas, but because the switch to turn it on is so easily accessible, people do it without proper thought or analysis of the business.

9:05am
Top level view of HP Cloud and the announcements from yesterday is what we’re about to discuss… many model changes around the world. A shift from West to East culture for business models. There is a higher demand for more agility and change, and working in an uncertain market and be flexible.

8:44am
Introductios from everyone involved, there are some key HP staff here and the general focus is private/public/hybrid cloud.

8:31am ACST
Hi,
I’ll be live blogging this tech day as much as possible here on AUTechHeads, as well as smaller comments on twitter at @AdamFowler_IT. You can also follow the hashtag #HPTechDay.

Make sure you refresh the page for the latest updates.

12th April 2012

A prediction: Personal Cloud Desktops in the next 5 years.

Hello,

Lying in bed last night, I had a revelation about where I can see us heading in the next few years. This is mostly reliant on better broadband though (hello NBN!) but regardless I believe my idea is where we are heading.

Firstly, if you use more than 1 PC/device then you’ll know the frustration of having to either do multiple installs of applications you use, or re-do settings. A good example of this is your browser’s favorites/bookmarks list. Sure you can type in the websites, but it’s nice to have a full list to just choose from. To fill this void, services like Delicious http://www.delicious.com/ popped up – your bookmarks in the cloud! Now it doesn’t matter where you are, you can access that same list.

Email went the same way – Outlook is nice to use, but it doesn’t help you when you’re at work and want to check your personal emails. Again, the solution was to have your emails in the cloud and sync all your devices/PC’s to that single point, or even just use a web interface and forget about using any other client.

Twitter is my third example. Personally, at home I use Tweetdeck, work I just use the webpage www.twitter.com and on my iPhone it’s the official Twitter App. They all have different options and strenghts/weaknesses, but there’s no standard to how I’m reading twitter between all these things. For those of you that attened TechEd Australia and didn’t fall asleep in the Keynote, this was one of the points Microsoft made about their future vision – consistency across all platforms.

At the moment, I’m at the stage that if I’m at work, or even in the lounge at home, I can remote desktop to my main desktop with everything set up how I like it. I’d rather do that then have to both installing a bunch of apps yet again, looking for that consistent user experience.

Anyway, I don’t see this consistency stopping with just the apps – I see it as being your whole environment/desktop. I believe this will happen one of two ways:

1. All your settings/apps/etc will be synced to the cloud on a single account. You sign in somewhere, and all these settings get pulled down. It’s almost like a roaming profile, but with a much wider reach. This may be the first step before #2, because there are many limitations with this.

2. Your own virtual desktop in the cloud. Instead of just syncing bits and pieces – your whole desktop can either be hosted in the cloud, or synced there. Differential Syncronisation would make any changes required back and forth. Think of it the same way you do email, but on a larger scope. You sit in front of a new PC, and either download or plug in your desktop – and everything’s there just how you left it. This is already in place in some corporate environments, but as far as I know it’s only doing a remote session to a server. This is the next step, where you have the option of still using your local powerful PC because you’ve got a copy of the desktop on it. If that isn’t needed, then you can still just remotely control your little space in the cloud (again, I’m hoping you see the parallels with email here).

So there you have it. My prediction. I want my personal desktop in the cloud, but also don’t want to be limited by latency or bandwidth issues.

TLDR; A personalised virtualised desktop that downloads locally on demand, with differential synchronisation for changes.

Do You Trust The Cloud Yet?

The Cloud – Monkey (from Monkey Magic) had one, should you use it too?

Has your CIO/CEO/IT Manager done this?

Do you trust the cloud?

I would be surprised if you whole-heartedly said ‘yes’. Firstly because you’re talking back to a blog post which is quite strange behaviour, but secondly because there’s a lot of media attention going on in this space.

Just to rehash the last week, there were two major events, one from Google and the other Microsoft.

Google:

Wednesday 8th September (ish, it’s hard to gather what timezone they’re all talking about) saw a Google Docs outage. The outage lasted 52 minutes: 23 minutes from being alerted to kick off a rollback proccess which then took 24 minutes to do. Add an extra 5 minutes – the time it took for “the additional capacity restored normal function”.

The cause was due to a change they had implemented to improve real time collaboration, but the heavy load of the real world exposed a memory management bug.

Microsoft:

Wednesday 8th September again (although later in the day in America, so the 9th for Aussies) it was Microsoft’s turn. Office 365, Dynamics CRM and some other non-enterprise level services (Hotmail, Skydrive, Live stuff) were down for a few hours. This one was not as clear cut – the outage itself was for the North American data centres, which meant genereally that Australians were fine as we use another based in Singapore. The fix was an update to DNS servers, which means we all have to wait for replication of the new records around the world before everyone everywhere is without issue.

The cause for this is a bit less detailed than Google’s, with ‘DNS issues’ being claimed as the cause.

That’s scary, how do I cope with these outages?
So, would your business complain about these outages? OK yes, you probably have someone who complains about their keyboard clicking too loudly when they type, so of course someone will complain about this.

If you wanted to jump into the cloud, I’d suggest to look at a hybrid solution. This isn’t news to many readers I’m sure – multiple paths of redundancy for “everything” which includes your servers and services. For emails, you can split between your local Exchange (or even hosted) and Google Apps. Postini replays everything that goes through it to Google Apps, so your users can jump onto Google Apps in the event of an Exchange outage and continue working. Then, you’re not missing out on the feature rich options of Exchange, but the business critical emails have full redundancy.

My Conclusion:
The real summary here is – go ahead, use the Cloud. BUT – do what you should already be doing (i.e. redundancy, are you paying attention here? Good.). A single provider in the cloud is not reliable enough at this stage to be trusted for it’s own inbuilt redundancy. Trust two clouds, or one cloud and the other half on-premesis.

If you’re a small business with a portaloo full of staff, then it becomes much harder to justify. Also, is there a manual process that can be used in the event of a service failure? Business Continuity should dictate what’s required for redundancy. Maybe writing things down for a day is a completely valid way of coping with the outage, with little or no loss to the business? There’s no reason to spend money on redundancy in that sort of situation.

Google Apps and Office 365 both guarantee 99.9% uptime – sounds great, but that’s ~42 minutes a month they’re allowing for. How much would your business lose if nobody could do their computer based work for 42 minutes during the day, every month on average? Over a year, that’s slightly over 1 full working day. If the cost of that outweighs the cost of getting a second cloud service or some other means of redundancy, then it’s already paid for itself. Getting a service refund after the event isn’t really what people care about, they just want it to work.
Sources:

Google Docs Blog – http://googledocs.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-happened-wednesday.html
Google Postini: http://www.google.com/postini/continuity.html
Windows Blog – http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_live/b/windowslive/archive/2011/09/08/current-hotmail-and-skydrive-issues.aspx
Office 365 Tweet – http://twitter.com/#!/Office365/status/112008132443648000
ZDNet Microsoft Outage – http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/outage-hits-microsoft-crm-online-office-365-customers/10359