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Office 365 – Getting Closer To “True” Single Sign-On For Outlook

One of the Office 365 concepts that gets glossed over a bit is “single sign-on”, in particular when it comes to Outlook. Many will provide the statement that if you implement AD FS, then you have single sign-on.

While it is true that AD FS provides single sign-on for some workloads, I’ve often argued that Outlook, possibly the most popular application used with Office 365, is not single sign-on under any scenario.

Last week Microsoft somewhat quietly updated documentation around “Modern Authentication” which gets us closer to “true” single sign-on.

Below is a link-filled overview of Modern Authentication and how it gets us closer to “true” single sign-on…
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Office 365 – Azure AD Connect: Did You Know?

brain_gears_shutterstock_wordpressAzure AD Connect is the synchronization tool formerly known as “Azure AD Sync” which was formerly known as “DirSync”. Regardless of what you call it, Azure AD Connect is the tool you’ll use to synchronize your on-premises Active Directory with Azure AD.

With each name change, new features have been added to the product.

Below are 10 quick little tidbits you might not have known about Azure AD Connect.
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Azure: Did You Know? Azure Storage Explorer

This week at the Microsoft Connect() 2015 conference there were many new features and updates Microsoft Azure and rest of the Microsoft developer stack. Among these updates was the announcement of the all new Azure Storage Explorer being added to the set of Azure SDK tools. The Azure Storage Explorer is a stand-alone application that allows for Azure Blob Storage to be worked with in a similar fashion as using Windows File Explorer to browse and manage a file system. This enables you to create and delete Blob containers; upload, download and delete Blobs; as well as enables searching across all containers and blobs within your Azure Subscription. Additionally, the new Azure Storage Explorer runs on both Windows and Mac OSX.

Azure Storage Explorer screenshot

Previously, since the beginning of the Microsoft Azure platform, it was a bit cumbersome to work with Azure Blob Storage, as you pretty much needed to use the .NET SDK to write an application to manage your Blobs and Containers. This works well for making an application upload, download and delete the Blobs it needs behind the scenes. But what about the instances where an Admin or Developer needs to just look at what’s out there in Blob Storage? Well, now thanks to the new Azure Storage Explorer, you can just browse and manage Blob Storage with ease.

Azure Storage Explorer can be downloaded here:

Big News – Yammer Deprecating SSO and DirSync!

Yammer-logoIf you are a Yammer customer, you will know that the identity and directory synchronization has been separate from the rest of Office365. This means that you need separate servers and software installations to sync users from your on-premises AD and provide SSO capabilities to Yammer. If you are unsure about this configuration, check out my post from last year that details all the particulars.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced it is finally deprecating the Yammer specific tools. From the announcement –

Yammer single sign-on (SSO) and directory synchronization (DSync) are legacy tools that Yammer developed being acquired by Microsoft. As Yammer gets closely integrated with Office 365, we are removing the need for customers to learn and maintain separate tools for Yammer. Instead, customers can use the familiar Office 365 tools to setup single sign-on (Office 365 sign-in with federated identity) and directory synchronization (Azure Active Directory Connect).

This is a huge announcement! Microsoft has finally integrated the identity functions for Yammer into the rest of O365. Here is the schedule: Read the rest of this post »

Innovation with Azure Machine Learning and Dynamics AX

On a call with Microsoft this morning, they referenced this public case study. I thought it was a really nice example of using a multitude of Azure services to innovate their business – Machine Learning, Mobile Services, IoT Hubs, and Dynamics AX. Check out the video below and the full description here –

SUGCON 2015 – Knowledge Sharing Among Sitecore Aficionados

Sugcon_400x400_finalThe Sitecore User Group Conference 2015 was a great event organized by the community for the community. In addition to everything I learn, Sitecore events also give me a chance to catch up with colleagues (present – former – future), vendors and friends, and I always leave with renewed vigor and focus. Below are a couple of quick takeaways from two of the sessions I attended.

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Azure DevOps: Scale Out Your Build System

Azure_LogoEvery developer knows that builds are an integral piece to the Application Lifecycle. Using an automated build and testing process will help speed the time to market for your application. Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server offers a number of features to help with this process.

To use Team Foundation Build for automated building and testing of your app, you must first set up a build server, add a build controller and a few build agents, and finally designate a drop folder. If you have a small start-up team working on a new project, you can probably deploy all these build system components on a single computer in a few minutes. As your team and your code base grow, you can expand your build system incrementally, with relative ease.

If you work on a small team with an on-premises Team Foundation Server, consider this topology: Read the rest of this post »

Azure Site Recovery Integration with SQL Server AlwaysOn

Azure_LogoAzure Site Recovery now provides native support for SQL Server AlwaysOn. SQL Server Availability Groups can be added to a recovery plan along with VMs. All the capabilities of your recovery plan—including sequencing, scripting, and manual actions—can be leveraged to orchestrate the failover of a multitier application using an SQL database configured with AlwaysOn replication. Site Recovery is now available through Microsoft Operations Management Suite, the all-in-one IT management solution for Windows or Linux, across on-premises or cloud environments.

For more information, please visit the Site Recovery webpage.

Azure Backup Support for Application Workloads Now Available

Azure_LogoAzure Backup can now back up your on-premises application workloads, including Microsoft SQL Server, Hyper-V VMs, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Exchange. You can back up your applications to a local disk or to Azure, allowing you to eliminate local tape libraries and leverage the unlimited storage capability of Azure. You can also manage all your on-premises backups from a single user interface.

Backup continues to support backups of your production IaaS VMs in Azure and to help protect your Windows client data, along with your shared files and folders. Backup is now available through Microsoft Operations Management Suite, the all-in-one IT management solution for Windows or Linux, across on-premises or cloud environments.

For more information, please visit the Azure Backup webpage.

Takeaways from SharePoint TechFest Houston

I had the opportunity to attend SharePoint TechFest Houston last week and was duly impressed with the level of continued interest in SharePoint as a platform and the future of the product. Here are a few takeaways from the conference:


To kick things off, Synxi CTO Naomi Moneypenny delivered the keynote address focusing on the future of SharePoint as the SP2016 release is just over the horizon. Microsoft’s Cloud first approach has led to some interesting new solutions coming with the release of SP 2016 and Naomi did a great job of hitting the highlights by giving a mention to: Azure Rights Management, Azure AD, SSO, SQL full text search in the cloud, Delve and Office Graph. A quick demo of Delve gave some insight as to what one of these changes would look like for end users.

Next up, I attended a breakout session presented by Perficient Senior Solution Architect Joe Crabtree: “Optimize Your Hybrid Cloud Solution with Azure Powered SharePoint Site Provisioning.” This was a great deep dive in to an automated site provisioning solution based on Joe’s blog post found here.

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