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Azure: Did You Know? Virtual Machine Config Management – DevOps

By now you’ve heard the term DevOps. (If not, Wikipedia’s definition works.) So what tools are available to me in the Microsoft Azure environment t0 support DevOps?

051414_1128_techedna2012Azure Virtual Machines have a variety of built-in extensions that can enable configuration management. There are two extensions for Windows Powershell. The custom script extension allows you to run a script on a virtual machine at provisioning time or after it is running. The Windows Powershell DSC Extension allows you to define the state of a virtual machine using the Powershell Desired State Configuration language and apply it. There are also extensions that allow you to configure your virtual machines to use open source configuration management utilities such as Chef, Dockery, or Puppet.

If you’d like to know more about DevOps and how Microsoft Azure can help enable your business transformation, contact Perficient and one of our 28 certified Azure consultants can help!

What to consider when moving applications to the Microsoft cloud

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According to Computerworld, 42% of IT decision makers planned to increase spending on cloud computing in 2015. While companies are adopting cloud technologies at rapid pace, migrating from existing technology to the cloud can still be a challenge. For an optimal (read: as smooth and quick as possible) move to the cloud, it’s critical to consider your requirements and explore the available features.

While this ZDNet article where Mary Jo Foley interviews a former Azure evangelist is a couple years old, I think these tips to guide your thought process still hold true: always plan for the long term, start with something simple and know the outcomes you want to achieve.

When done right, migrating on-premises applications to the cloud can lead to a significant ROI. The process, however, can seem rather complex, as there are numerous paths to take and changes that are required. A directive as simple as, “lets move some applications to the cloud,” involves many choices, and must consider an organization’s requirements, evaluation criteria and architectural principles, according to Gartner. You’ll want to look at a number of salient points, which we will cover in a webinar this Wednesday, July 29 at 1 pm CT: Optimize Business Performance by Moving Apps to the Microsoft Cloud.

During the session, Perficient’s Joe Crabtree, National Practice Lead for Custom Application Development, and Chris Pietschmann, a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect, will give an overview of migrations to Microsoft Azure, a rundown of the various service options and a tried and true approach to planning for a successful migration. Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – A Deeper Look at the Microsoft “Send” App

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a new Office 365 mobile app called “Send“. The idea behind the app is to be able to send quick and simple messages to other users via email.

The first question that came to mind was, “What problem is this app trying to solve?” My phone can already send emails, IMs and text messages, did we really need another option?

My thoughts then shifted to “How does this work?”, “What kind of security options are there?” and other questions that clients are bound to ask.

In the interest of peeking behind the scenes, I ran the app through Fiddler to see what the traffic looked like. Some thoughts based on the results are below…
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Azure, IoT and the Future Enterprise Data Center

The Cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) are two of the most exciting areas of computer science right now. The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about small devices with sensors and other components that can both gather data from and interact with the real world. The Cloud is the platform perfect for aggregating together all the data from these IoT devices so it can be analyzed using the clouds massive compute and storage resources.

Microsoft has been positioning itself as a leader in the cloud with the Azure Platform since its initial public availability in the beginning of 2010. Since that time, Microsoft has built out the PaaS, IaaS and SaaS features of Azure to be the enterprise data center of the future. The Azure Platform supports any compute, storage, security and server configuration an enterprise would require without needing to build and maintain an expensive internal data center. Azure offers all this while simultaneously offering a far more affordable and superior SLA.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an exciting area of computer science with hardware such as Raspberry Pi 2, Arduino, MinnowBoard Max, Intel Galileo and other DIY style devices available today. The IoT ecosystem has reached a really exciting time where the developer/engineer of IoT devices and systems are no longer required to be engineers that need to design all the hardware themselves. Which ever hardware platform you choose there are plenty of “off the shelf” components that can be easily integrated. This “off the self” or commodity hardware for IoT has made the technology more accessible today than ever before! Read the rest of this post »

Power BI General Availability Date Announced

In a little bit of an underplayed blog post, Microsoft announced last weekend that Power BI general availability would be July 24, 2015.   This is great to finally hear/read, because it has felt like DECADES since the preview for the Power BI “new experience” went online.

In reality though, it’s only been since the beginning of this year.  And the development of the product, given constant online feedback, has been impressive.  If Microsoft intends for this offering to compete with Tableau and Qlik in the modern analytics visualization market, they needed to step up.  I feel they have.  They have added features, refined the UX , and apparently have brought the previewed Power BI Designer tool into it’s own, with the re-dubbed Power BI Desktop tool.

So what does GA bring for users of the current Preview service?  On that date, those accounts will be converted to Power BI free accounts.  Features included in Power BI Pro (the pay version of the service) will be disabled.   Bottom line, users of the preview will have to choose whether it’s worthwhile to pay based on the differences in functionality.  For $9.99 a month per user, it’s a relatively inexpensive prospect

What does this bring for Microsoft?  It’s the third draft of a “Microsoft BI” story they’ve been working on for several years — at least since 2010.  The story editing has definitely improved things, but there are still plots that go nowhere (hello PerformancePoint Services?), new characters every chapter (welcome, Rev R and DataZen!)., and sometimes it’s like a choose-your-own-adventure (“… if you choose NOT to run your solution in Azure, turn to page 108 …”) .

But the Power BI offering is solid, and it finally fills in a gap for many years in the Micosoft toolset: front-end visualizations.  The “2-for-1″ idea of linking that offering to self-service BI is also smart.  If they can continue to establish a coherent set of functionality around the brand, incorporating new tool acquisitions, I have high hopes for the product.   I believe the final pieces of the puzzle for Power BI as an offering are going to be overcoming (or just waiting out) the general market’s cloud aversion, and establishing an Enterprise level story for Power BI — particularly around security.

Office 365 – Office ProPlus C2R Not Compatible With MSI Installs

During a session at Microsoft Ignite, I heard a presenter mention that running MSI-installed versions Office products such as Visio and Project was not compatible with the “Click-to-Run” deployment of Office 365 ProPlus.

This was something I sort of stored in the memory banks with the intention of researching. One thing I did know was that I was running that exact configuration, MSI-installed versions of Visio and Project and Office 365 ProPlus. It had me wondering what the issues were at what exactly didn’t work.

While Microsoft Ignite was close to three months ago, I still have a laundry list of items that I’m following up on or sessions that I still plan to watch. The above issue wasn’t really a priority on my research list, until now…
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Azure: Did You Know? Azure RemoteApp, Access Apps from Any Device

remoteapp imageAzure RemoteApp provides a way to deliver Windows applications to any device with the power and scalability of Azure.  That’s a pretty bold statement… so what, exactly, does it mean?  Essentially, you can package up any Windows application on a VM image hosted in Azure and provide users access to it from any device using Remote Desktop Services.  Being hosted on Azure also means you get benefits such as scalability, fault tolerance, etc. with little to no effort on your part.

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Azure Active Directory Reporting APIs Now Available

shutterstock_100605349 (2)One of the most common things we hear from our clients is their need to automatically access security related reports from Azure AD. With last week’s announcement from Microsoft about AAD Reporting APIs Public Preview, we now have that capability.

Azure AD already has a robust set of activity, security and audit reports, with some of the most useful provided within Azure AD Premium, and they can all easily be viewed within the Azure portal. With the new APIs, we can now programmatically access that data via “any tool or programming language which supports REST APIs with OAuth” and integrate it into a custom dashboard, Power BI/Excel, or your favorite SIEM solution.

The following reports can be accessed via the API:

  • AuditEvents
  • AccountProvisioningEvents
  • SignInsFromUnknownSourcesEvents
  • SignInsFromIPAddressesWithSuspiciousActivityEvents
  • SignInsFromMultipleGeographiesEvents
  • signInsAfterMultipleFailuresEvents
  • signInsFromPossiblyInfectedDevicesEvents (AAD Premium)
  • IrregularSignInActivityEvents (AAD Premium)
  • allUsersWithAnomalousSignInActivityEvents (AAD Premium)
  • CompromisedCredentialsEvent (AAD Premium)

Ready to get started? Check out this guide to Get Started with the Azure AD Reporting API.

MSFT US Partner & Industry Team Partner of the Year: Perficient!

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I am absolutely thrilled to share that Perficient has been named Microsoft EPG United States Partner and Industry Team Partner of the Year for 2015. This is a huge honor, and we are incredibly thankful to Microsoft, our customers and our partners for sharing in this recognition and working so closely with us this past year.

The newly created award recognizes Perficient for sweeping Microsoft’s regional Enterprise Platform Group (EPG) honors. In addition to the national award, Perficient was named Microsoft’s East Region National Solution Provider (NSP) Partner of the Year, Central Region NSP Partner of the Year and West Region NSP Partner of the Year.

From the press release:

“Perficient’s ability to deliver high-quality digital experiences, business optimization and industry solutions for our largest and most critical customers in the enterprise customer segment is what won them National Solution Provider Partner of the Year across East, Central and West regions in U.S. EPG,” said Rich Figer, Senior Director, U.S. Enterprise Partner Group Sales at Microsoft. “We are also honored to name Perficient the overall U.S. EPG Partner and Industry Team Partner of the Year in 2015 based on unanimous confidence across our partner sales executive teams in all three regions across the United States. They consistently deliver cloud-optimized solutions across our platforms and productivity services with complete customer and Microsoft sales executive satisfaction.”

Perficient has activated over 2.5 million Office 365 seats and has 26 Azure certified consultants, more than any other NSP.

“Microsoft’s enterprise offerings have grown increasingly cloud-based as companies move to adopt this innovative, efficient and secure technology,” said Mike Gersten, Vice President of Perficient’s Microsoft national business group. “Cloud computing lowers operating costs and provides agility and scalability options unavailable on limited legacy infrastructure. We are honored to receive these partner awards, which reflect the strength of Perficient’s Microsoft cloud consultation and delivery expertise at work across the country.”

While at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), it’s also been exciting to see the video highlighting how Perficient and Microsoft have worked together to empower our customers, and in this case, Partners In Health, to achieve more through technology. Dave Mayo, CIO at Partners In Health, spoke of the value of our partnership:

“Perficient’s proven track record in the health care industry, its Microsoft cloud services expertise, and its recognition as a top U.S. Microsoft partner all stood out prominently when we were looking at technology solutions providers,” said Dave Mayo, CIO of Partners In Health. “Thanks to our partnership with Perficient, we have adopted a consolidated, reliable platform for colleague interactions that enables us to more effectively serve the world’s most vulnerable. Perficient’s generosity and support of our efforts has earned our profound gratitude.”

Thanks to our entire team that helped to make this happen. What I love most about working here at Perficient is the people. Our team is second to none, and every single day, I’m amazed by the talent and passion they possess. Sweeping the nation with all three regional awards for Microsoft EPG PTU Partner of the Year is proof of their commitment to helping our customers scale operations and remain agile with Microsoft solutions. Well done, team! I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in the coming year.

You can read the full news release here.

Microsoft HDInsight Joins the BAA for HIPAA Compliance

For those who would like to take advantage of HDInsight — Microsoft’s Azure-based Hadoop service — but have had concerns regarding compliance and security, this news is for you.

HDInsight is now part of Microsoft’s Azure compliance BAA for HIPAA.  In fact, Azure as a whole — including Storage and Azure SQL services — are now HIPAA compliant.  This means that regulatory barriers and concerns over use of Azure services for Healthcare Analytics are down.  HIPAA HIPAA Hooray!   Sorry.  I couldn’t resist.

But this is of particular interest when looking slightly forward, at the frontier of IoT (Internet of Things) applications in the Healthcare Analytics realm.  The cloud, particularly for Microsoft, weighs heavily in the general story regarding these “advanced analytics” solutions.  HDInsight, actually a Hortonworks version of open source Hadoop tweaked to run in Azure, offers as its chief advantage a supported Hadoop capability easily integrated into Windows/SQL Server/Azure environments.  It’s an obvious choice for Big Data storage and analysis if you are already working in the Azure ecosystem.  Couple that with the elastic compute and storage capability of Azure, and HDInsight is quite compelling Microsoft-centric IT organizations looking to expand into the cloud.

As for Healthcare, as regulatory pressure and consumer competition push the industry down the Digital Experience path, the Cloud will increasingly become part of solutions designed to improve customer experience, increase patient safety, and reduce cost.  Microsoft Azure is going to become more and more of a sensible option for Healthcare orgs looking to do those things.