Microsoft Product Terms: December 2020


As you’d expect, it’s a quiet month.

Microsoft 365 Business Voice, the SMB cloud telephony package, is added. Available via CSP and requires Microsoft 365 Business Basic/Business Standard/Business Premium.

The various name changes (ATP = Defender etc.) have (finally) been updated.

2 x Power Apps promotions that could be quite interesting have been added:

“Power Apps per App” promo = Available to new/existing EA/EAS/CSP customers & has a minimum purchase of 200.

“Power Apps per User” promo = Available to new/existing EA or EAS (not CSP) customers & has a minimum purchase of 5,000.

Microsoft and Nutanix hybrid cloud


Microsoft have announced a partnership with Nutanix to help organisations develop multi-cloud and hybrid cloud scenarios. Nutanix clusters will be added into Azure datacentres – extending on-premises Nutanix environments into the cloud:

https://www.nutanix.com/blog/hybrid-cloud-solutions-with-nutanix-and-microsoft-azure

Software and nodes will be paid for via “Microsoft Azure Consumption Commitment (MACC)” or PAYG, as well as existing Nutanix licenses being portable into Azure. Azure Hybrid Benefits can be utilised on the “Nutanix Clusters on Azure” and Microsoft’s Extended Support Updates are available too. Additionally, via Azure ARC, various Azure services – including Kubernetes – can be run in on-premises Nutanix environments.

Microsoft are really working to extend Azure to as many organisations as possible – VMware on Azure, Azure Stack, Azure Arc, and now this. It seems very much the approach they took to Office software on mobile devices – if you allow people to use your service alongside those from competitors, you end up in a better position that forcing them choose one or the other.

The service is currently in public preview – more info is available here and you can sign up to the waiting list here.

Microsoft & SAP Embrace


Microsoft & SAP work together.

Project Embrace is a new initiative from SAP to help their customers move to the cloud, and digitally transform, quickly and easily. Microsoft are a key part of this, particularly around SAP S4/HANA running in the Azure cloud. The 2 vendors have created a joint roadmap with guidance to help organisations move from on-premises to the cloud. This new phase takes things further whereby Microsoft & SAP will align their partner ecosystems and collaborate around customer support.

This seems similar in many way to the partnership Microsoft announced with Oracle earlier this year, continuing the trend of “co-ompetition” between some of the largest players in the new cloud world. It can also be seen as a revival of the SAP/Microsoft “Duet” partnership – a joint product they launched many years ago to facilitate collaboration for companies using SAP and Microsoft SharePoint.

It’s interesting that Microsoft talk about being the first global cloud provider to support Project Embrace, although the SAP statement includes Amazon AWS and Google Cloud alongside them.

You can see more from SAP, and the others involved, here.

Microsoft: Windows & AI – all change


On March 29th, Microsoft announced another company re-org. This one sees some big changes to the Windows side of things and gives a good overview of where Microsoft’s sees its future.

The biggest news is that Terry Myerson – Executive Vice President of the Windows & Devices Group (WDG) is leaving, and the team is being divided across two new entities.

Experiences & Devices

This team will be led by Rajesh Jha, who’s been at Microsoft since 1990, is a member of the Senior Leadership Team and most recently headed up engineering for Office 365.

In his email to Microsoft employees, Satya Nadella says:
“Computing experiences are evolving to include multiple senses and are no longer bound to one device at a time but increasingly spanning many as we move from home to work and on the go”

Hopefully, this gives an idea of where this team is heading – creating software, and devices, that work together in ways that match how people want to use them. Software experiences that work seamlessly across multiple devices – of different types and with different operating systems – are what more people are looking for. As the consumerisation of IT continues, users having multiple devices with Windows, iOS and Android will more and more become the norm within business settings.

As Nadella goes on to say in his missive:
“These modern needs, habits and expectations of our customers are motivating us to bring Windows, Office, and third-party applications and devices into a more cohesive Microsoft 365 experience.”

It’s interesting that 3rd party apps are included here. He could be referring to managing them via EMS (the 3rd element of Microsoft 365) or is he perhaps hinting at something else?

Cloud & AI

Scott Guthrie (often seen in a red shirt) will lead this team. Guthrie has been at Microsoft since 1997 and is known for his work in many areas, including .NET. Satya Nadella says the goal of this team is to “drive platform coherence and compelling value across all layers of the tech stack” – this will include things such as “distributed computing fabric”, AI infrastructure, tools, and higher-level services around knowledge and cognition.

Other changes

There are more teams being created and more people being moved, all to support the drive towards a better device/app experience and to further the growth of cloud and AI. These include:

Panos Panay

The man in a large part responsible for the success of the Surface product line is now “Chief Product Officer”, tasked with “creating new categories and opportunities for the entire ecosystem”. This is an interesting move – what other devices, that wouldn’t come under the Surface banner, could be on the horizon?

Joe Belfiore

He will continue leading Windows experiences and “drive Windows innovation in partnership with the PC and device ecosystem”. Satya also says that “Joe will share more about the Windows roadmap at Build” – with the recent talk of multi-user editions of Windows (to facilitate access to remote desktops without requiring Windows Server), I’ll certainly be paying attention between May 7-9.

Windows Platform Team

This team will move into Azure team and help “accelerate (Microsoft’s) efforts to build a unified distributed computing infrastructure and application model”. Interestingly, the team led by Roanne Sones, which deals with technical engagement with OEMs, ODMs and silicon vendors, will also join the Azure team.

New teams

Two new teams have been created:

• AI Perception & Mixed Reality
• AI Cognitive Services & Platform

Which certainly show that Microsoft’s focus on Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality (such as HoloLens) is becoming ever more integral to Microsoft’s future aspirations.
As part of this, Harry Shum (EVP, AI & Research) & Brad Smith (Chief Legal Officer) have created the AI & Ethics in Engineering & Research (AETHER) committee, to help keep Microsoft’s AI technologies in check.

Further Reading

https://news.microsoft.com/2018/03/29/satya-nadella-email-to-employees-embracing-our-future-intelligent-cloud-and-intelligent-edge/

Microsoft give more info about VMware on Azure


Intro

Microsoft recently announced their plans to start running VMware software natively within the Azure cloud. This caused much interest in the tech world as well as some angry words from VMware!

You can read more about the initial announcement here

After the initial blog post, Microsoft went very quiet and had no more to say on the subject. I attended a webinar about VMware & Azure but this just covered the Azure Migrate tool – Microsoft’s new way of converting on-premises VMware VMs to Azure VMs running in the cloud…a great offering but not the super interesting part really!

Some news!

Today (December 19, 2017) Microsoft have given us a bit of an update, in a new blog post.

They tell us that they’re working with multiple VMware partners and will run the solution on existing VMware certified hardware:

preview hardware will use a flexpod bare metal configuration with NetApp storage

This will allow organisations to continue running the VMware software they have invested in – both in terms of money and time – and that they trust to run their business, but also allow them to have L3 network connectivity with Azure services such as:

  • Azure Active Directory
  • Azure Cosmos DB
  • Azure Functions

Microsoft are in discussions with these VMware partners – and also VMware themselves – and aim to:

make this offering generally available next year

VMware’s Angry Words

Interestingly, VMware angry words have become less angry.

There initial blog post was quite confrontational but has since been updated and now ahs a more reconciliatory tone. For example:

Original Post:

Recently, Microsoft announced preview of VMware virtualization on Azure, a bare-metal solution that is stated to run a VMware stack on Azure hardware, co-located with other Azure services in partnership with VMware-certified partners. No VMware-certified partner names have been mentioned nor have any partners collaborated with VMware in engineering this offering. This offering has been developed independent of VMware, and is neither certified nor supported by VMware.

Revised post:

Recently, Microsoft announced a preview of VMware virtualization on Azure, a bare-metal solution that is stated to run a VMware stack on Azure hardware, co-located with other Azure services in partnership with VMware-certified partners. This offering is being developed independent of VMware, however it is being offered as a dedicated, server-hosted solution similar in approach to other VMware Cloud Provider Partners (VCPP). The deployment is on VMware certified hardware consisting of FlexPod. VMware is in the process of engaging with the partner to ensure compliance and that the appropriate support model is in place.

The original post also said:

Microsoft recognizing the leadership position of VMware’s offering and exploring support for VMware on Azure as a superior and necessary solution for customers over Hyper-V or native Azure Stack environments is understandable but, we do not believe this approach will offer customers a good solution to their hybrid or multi-cloud future.

This is now nowhere to be found in the updated blog post!

A better relationship between the two vendors will surely make for a better experience for customers who take up this new offering as closer ties should mean better support.

Next steps

They say they’ll share more info on plans for General Availability and partners “in the coming months” and if you’d like to take part in the preview – contact your Microsoft account manager.

Further reading:

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/blog/vmware-virtualization-on-azure/

https://blog.cloud.vmware.com/s/content/a1y6A000000aFlgQAE/vmware-the-platform-of-choice-in-the-cloud https://www.itassetmanagement.net/2017/11/28/vmware-azure/

Microsoft Product Terms: October 2017


Microsoft have introduced a number of changes in the October 2017 Product Terms document – let’s take a look.

SQL Server 2017

Linux

SQL Server 2017 has been released, and the big thing is its support for Linux.

Microsoft point out page 29 of the Product Terms that “SQL Server Licenses are platform agnostic” and can be used on “Windows or Linux platforms”.

Machine Learning Server

The Product Terms also states that only customers with SQL Server Enterprise + SA may use updates to “Machine Learning Server for Windows or Linux” that are released after October 2017.

Additionally, for each SQL Server Enterprise core license with active SA, customers may run “Machine Learning Server for Hadoop” on up to 5 (five) servers.

What is “Machine Learning Server” you ask? Good question! It was “Microsoft R Server” and now, with the 9.2 release, it becomes “Machine Learning Server”.

For more info – head to this Microsoft blog.

R Server

The various flavours of “R Server” are being retired and so there are transition plans in place for those organisations with Software Assurance.

R Server for Hadoop

For each 1 (one) R Server for Hadoop license with active SA, you may renew SA for 2 (two) x SQL Server Enterprise Core Licenses.

R Server for Linux

For each 2 (two) R Server for Linux licenses with active SA, you may renew SA for 2 (two) x SQL Server Enterprise Core Licenses.

R Server for Teradata DB

For each 1 (one) R Server for Teradata license, you may renew SA for 6 (six) x SQL Server Enterprise Core Licenses.

SQL Server for Linux Promotion

On page 95, we see there is a promo running from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018 where:

“Microsoft will offer a Linux-specific subscription license for SQL Server 2017”

and, unlike the regular license this promo offering will:

“allow use of SQL Server on the Linux platform only”.

I can currently only assume that this promo offering will be cheaper than the license that offers dual platform rights, but let’s see!

Microsoft 365 F1

This is a new offering, aimed at those “Firstline” (formerly Kiosk) workers, for whom Office 365 F1 (formerly K1) was intended. Microsoft are now looking to extended the features and benefits of Windows 10 and EMS to these workers too – hence an F1 version of the recently renamed Microsoft 365 bundle license.

There are a couple of key things to note:

“The Windows component of Microsoft 365 F1 operates as an Online Service” and does NOT have rights to:

  • Prior versions
  • Different language versions
  • Different platform versions
  • Lower editions of Windows (including LTSB)

Nor does it grant rights to access or use “virtualized instances of Windows”.

A Microsoft 365 F1 USL DOES grant access to Windows Servers, but is not a “CAL Equivalent License” for any other product.

A “step-up” from Office 365 F1 to Microsoft 365 F1 is available.

 

Visio Online licensing

There have been changes to the licensing here. We can see on page 5 of the Product Terms that:

Visio Pro for Office 365

has been removed and replaced by:

Visio Online Plan 1 & Plan 2

There doesn’t appear to be any further public info on what the plans contain etc. but, as it appears, I’ll be sure to post.

Exchange Online Inactive Mailboxes

A new license has been added to the Exchange Online product line – the “Exchange Online Inactive Mailbox” SKU.

The product name is fairly self-explanatory as this license is required when licensing inactive mailboxes. Again, when there is more public information, I will update with the ins & outs.

UPDATE: Microsoft have confirmed that this change WILL NOT be taking place currently. Although the SKU has been added to the Product Terms, it is not active.

Skype for Business Online Renaming

We get confirmation this month of the Skype for Business Online name changes:

Skype for Business Online PSTN Calling = Calling Plan

Skype for Business Online PSTN Conferencing = Audio Conferencing

Skype for Business Online PSTN Consumption = Communication Credits

Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX = Phone System

Education

We see that Microsoft 365 (the bundle of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 & Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS)) A3 & A5 have been added to the product line-up.

There have also been changes to the Student Use Benefits:

Student Use Benefit

Citrix XenDesktop Essentials coming to Microsoft CSP


Citrix XenDesktop Essentials enables organisations to host Windows 10 virtual machines in the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

The licensing change was announced by Microsoft towards the end of 2015 and XenDesktop is, at the moment, the only solution that makes this technically possible (although I believe VMware now have a certified product too).

Citrix XenDesktop is purchased via the Azure Marketplace – and is only available to customers with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. As this licensing program has a minimum entry of point of 500 users/devices, this means SMB organisations are unable to take advantage of hosted desktop offerings.

However, Citrix have now announced that XenDesktop Essentials will soon be available via the Microsoft CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) program too. This licensing model has no minimum entry requirements, is very flexible and aimed at SMBs looking to embrace Microsoft Cloud technologies – such as Office 365 & Azure- particularly via partner services. For businesses, and partners offering these services, this upcoming change should make the move to Azure hosted VDI (if that’s what people want) – that much easier.

Open.jpg

I wonder if this heralds any further changes to availability of Azure Marketplace offerings?

Windows Server 2016 – Nano Server


What is Nano Server?

A new way of deploying Windows Server introduced with the 2016 release, Nano Server was, in Microsoft’s words:

A deeply refactored version of Windows Server, …designed to give you the lightest and fastest server OS configuration with fewer patch and update events, faster restarts, better resource utilization and tighter security.

With a greatly reduced footprint, it makes deployment faster and also presents a much smaller area for attackers to focus on.

Nano Server footprint.png

Microsoft gave some examples of where Nano Server would be a great fit:

…it’s particularly useful for clustered Hyper-V, clustered storage and core networking services scenarios; or as an application platform it’s highly optimized for modern distributed and cloud-based apps which leverage containers and micro service architectures

We can see it was aimed at making server infrastructure easier to manage, more secure and more agile. Using the Current Branch for Business/Semi-Annual Channel update model means Nano Server receives new features and updates on a regular basis. This means active Software Assurance (on both Windows Server server licenses AND CALs) is a requirement to run this deployment model.

What’s changed?

In June 2017, Microsoft have said that, from the next release, Nano Server will be for running containers ONLY.

As part of this effort to focus on containers, we will be removing the functionality for infrastructure-related roles.

For organisations looking to deploy smaller Windows Server instances for infrastructure related roles, the recommendation is to now use the Windows Server Core installation option.

Organisations currently running Nano Server for non-container functions such as IIS, Storage hosts etc. will need to understand how this affects them.

  • How many machines will be impacted?
  • Where are they?
  • What are they running?
  • When will they need to move to the next release of Windows Server – bearing in mind they are on the regular semi-annual cadence?
  • How much time and effort is required in switching from Nano Server to Server Core?

As always, I’m interested to hear your views. Will this make a big impact within your organisation? Do you already use Nano Server? Will this focus on Containers change that?

Further reading

Microsoft articles:

Exploring Nano Server

Delivering Continuous Improvements

Windows Server 2016 new update model


Microsoft have recently announced a couple of upcoming changes to Windows Server 2016.

The first relates to the Windows Server 2016 update schedule:

Semi-annual Channel

Those of you working with Windows 10 or Office 365 may well be familiar with this term and concept already. This is Microsoft’s “Cloud Cadence”, giving feature updates twice a year – with each release being supported for 18 months from release.

As these updates bring new features, they are classed as new versions so it’s perhaps not surprising that:

Servers without Software Assurance do not have rights to the Semi-annual Channel releases

To access this new update schedule, customers must have Software Assurance on their Windows Server Standard or Datacenter licenses.

Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC)

For situations where such regular updates won’t work, there is the Long Term Servicing Channel which is effectively Windows Server with the same release & support schedule we’re all used to:

5 years mainstream support + 5 years extended support

and of course the option for a further 6 years with the purchase of Premium Assurance.

What does it look like?

This diagram from this Microsoft article gives a good visual representation of how the update schedule will work:

WS Channel

Organisations will have the option to skip a release and wait until the next release before upgrading.

The naming convention, as you can see above, will follow that of Windows 10, System Center etc. using the year and month. This means a new Windows Server release in March 2018 will be 1803 for example.

What does this mean?

It will be interesting to see how many organisations will move their server infrastructure to what is quite a rapid update schedule, particularly where they need to remain in step with support for 3rd party applications.

I’m intrigued to hear people’s thoughts on this. Do you see this being used within your organisation? What positives/negatives do you think this will bring?

Further Reading

Microsoft Articles:

Delivering continuous innovation with windows server

Semi Annual Channel overview

Things I DIDN’T see at Microsoft Inspire 2017


There were LOADS of announcements and updates at Microsoft Inspire but equally, there were some things that weren’t mentioned very much, or even at all. This is a run down of the things I noticed by their absence and I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you DID hear about some of these things, then please let me know!

Azure Stack

Much talked about for the last couple of years has been Azure Stack. The next iteration of Hybrid Cloud, it allows organisations to run Microsoft Azure services within their own datacentre. In the weeks leading up to MS Inspire 2017, information around the licensing models and costs was released online. I was VERY excited (which to be fair isn’t that unusual) but I also saw a fair amount of interest from partners and end users, across Twitter and LinkedIn.

I thought we’d be seeing plenty of talk about Azure Stack in the Inspire keynotes but, unless I missed something, it wasn’t mentioned at all. There were a few sessions being run by the Azure Stack hardware vendors such as Dell EMC and one licensing related session, but that was it.

Workplace Analytics

A little before Inspire, Microsoft started to release information about Workplace Analytics, which uses Office 365 data to help:

business leaders understand collaboration patterns across organizations that influence productivity and employee engagement

Workplace Analytics

With its aim of making collaboration more fruitful and efficient, and to help with hiring staff and building teams, it seems like it could be a key product for many organisations. I expected to see talk of this in one of the keynote sessions but again, it didn’t appear to get a mention. I also didn’t see any sessions talking about Workplace Analytics.

Perhaps it was felt that the the product didn’t fully fit with the messaging around the four solution areas of:

  • Modern Workplace
  • Business Applications
  • Applications & Infrastructure
  • Data & Artificial Intelligence

Whatever the reason, I was surprised not to hear more about it.

Windows 10 Mobile

This one didn’t surprise me to be honest. While it’s clear that Microsoft are still very much working towards the “Cloud First, Mobile First” mantra – it’s also become clear that a mobile phone OS isn’t high up on the list…if it’s on the list at all!

There were lot of sessions aimed at the mobile world. Sessions on building apps with Xamarin, managing mobile devices with EMS and how BlockChain can integrate with the mobile world were all on show…but nothing specifically on the Windows mobile OS.

Conclusion

Microsoft have so many products and threads to their business, and Inspire is a relatively short amount of time in which to get important messages across, that – of course – not everything can be covered in huge detail. However, these 3 stuck out as quite conspicuous by their absence.

Were there products or topics that you thought were under represented? What are your thoughts on the above?