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Posts Tagged ‘azure’

Advanced analytics in healthcare with Epic, SQL Server and Azure

Over the months we have released a lot of information on building analytic platforms in healthcare. Several members of my team have played key architectural roles in not only implementing the Cogito platform and performing readmission analysis with it, but also expanding the platform to include customer satisfaction data from Press Ganey.

These functions were deemed critical to the initial phases of these projects, but are largely ‘back-end’ architectural projects. They do not address the ad-hoc analysis needs of the business, the delivery technologies available or much less the predictive capabilities that can be added to the platforms.

Fortunately there are a lot of new technologies in the Microsoft stack to address these needs.

As part of our advisory services to help our clients understand what new capabilities they have with their new platforms we regularly build concept visualizations. The following videos are examples of out of the box capabilities we built for one of our clients utilizing:

Self-service analytics with Power Pivot and Power View

3D visualizations with Power Map

And finally natural language query processing in the cloud with Q&A in Power BI

These technologies are well known and are being leveraged within several of our large clients, but a couple of recent announcements from Microsoft introduces even more exciting capabilities.

Power View now supports forecasting. This is a great new add currently available in the HTML5 version of Power View in Power BI. It gives the user the ability to quickly forecast a trend line, account for seasonality and even adjust the confidence intervals of the calculation. Below is a screenshot of some readmission forecasting being performed on the dataset from the earlier videos.

Forecasting

Important to note is that you not only see the forecasted line (light blue lines which runs through the top chart gray box) but the second chart also shows the hindcasting feature which lets a user start a forecast in the past in order to see how accurate it would have been against real data. (light blue line to the left of the gray box in the second chart).

While valuable and easy to use, this technology doesn’t give us the ability to predict who is at risk of readmitting. For that, we need a more powerful tool.

Azure Machine Learning Services is a recently announced cloud service for the budding Data Scientist. Through a drag and drop interface you can now build experiments of predictive models, train and score the models and even evaluate the accuracy of different algorithms within your model.

The screenshot below shows an experiment that was built against the same readmission data used in the forecasting example (Epic Cogito dataset). The dataset was modified to flatten multiple patient admissions onto one record and included the following attributes as well as some others:

Attributes

The experiment was then created to compare two different classification algorithms, a boosted decision tree vs. a logistic regression. *Note that this blog is not intended to debate the accuracy or appropriate use of these particular algorithms. These were just the two I used.

Model

Once the experiment is complete and evaluated a simple visual inspection shows the accuracy gains one algorithm has over the other.

Results

After some tweaking (and this model still needs it) there is a simple process to create a web service with the associated API key which you can use to integrate the model into a readmission prediction application. One that accepts single record or batch inputs.

API

As you can see, there are a number of options for introducing advanced analytics into your healthcare environment. Feel free to contact me with questions on how these tools can be put to work in your new healthcare analytics platform.

Multi-Forest Identity Solution – Azure AD Sync

 

microsoft-azure-logo

Last week I wrote about strategic benefits with Microsoft Azure and included some market research of other big cloud competitors. Continuing on that and in part 2 of this series I will talk about the one of the most awaited multi-forest identity solutions – Azure Active Directory Sync Tool

In April this year, Microsoft announced set of great new identity synchronization features available in preview. Including password write back, Azure AD Sync (AAD Sync), and multi-forest support. Working with customers with multiple on-premises Active Directory forests and multiple on-premises Exchange organizations wanting to migrate to Exchange Online using a hybrid deployment it’s not been a trivial approach implementing Forefront Identity Manager (FIM). FIM provides self-service identity management for users and a framework to enforce security policies. FIM implementation isn’t trivial and cost effective for many Office 365 scenarios and as a result I experienced customers with complex multi forest environments turning their backs to Microsoft and going after other vendors.

Customers with single forest typically relied on DirSync which is really a downsized version of FIM. Although a clean and easy setup DirSync suffers from a number of limitations. The most painful for large companies being the fact that it only synchronizes identity data from one forest to Azure AD. The other drawbacks includes creating an Office 365 account  for all Active Directory users of a particular OU and minimal control over the user object.dirsync

Hence on the path to bridge gaps and prompted by the need for in-the-cloud password replication back to the on-premises AD( their users log on to every day), Microsoft released “DirSync with password reset write-back”. It’s part of the Azure AD Premium offering which allows users to reset their Azure AD user account password via the “MyApps” web portal. Now came the need to address multi-forest synchronization and greater control over configuration. This lead to the next big announcement from Microsoft – Azure Active Directory Sync (AAD Sync).

AADSync has its underpinnings from components of Microsoft’s Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) metadirectory service, so its architecture is similar to both DirSync and FIM. You connect your active directory forests to AADSync via a connector. Like FIM and other meta directory services, these connectors feed into an aggregated store that contains a consolidated view of all the inbound identities. It’s this view that AADSync replicates to Azure AD. With Microsoft making progress with AAD Sync preview versions, partners and customers are now anxiously waiting for a public release to help them address their multi-forest identity needs.

 

aadsync1                                                                                   (Fig: AADSync account resource forest scenario-image source: Microsoft)

Just today Microsoft announced another version – AAD Sync Beta 3 with investments in hybrid exchange and multi-forest configuration by adding the multi-forest password write-back capabilities. Check out the installation guide for more details http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/24057.aadsync-installation-guide.aspx.  AAD Sync will allow customers to

Onboard their multi-forest Active Directory deployment to AAD

  1. Advanced provisioning, mapping and filtering rules for objects and attributes, including support for syncing a very minimal set of user attributes
  2. Configuring multiple on-premises Exchange organizations to map to a single AAD tenant
  3. Selective synchronization which enables you to only sync attributes required for the services you want to enable.
  4. AD password reset with multi-forests.
  5. Exchange hybrid deployment in multi-forests environments which enables you to have mailboxes in Office 365 as well as in your on-premises exchange.

 

An integrated on-premises / cloud identity directory is a key piece of Microsoft’s Cloud OS vision and this goes to show their commitment to cloud first, mobile first strategy.

Watch Out Amazon-Microsoft Azure is Here to Rule

microsoft-azure-logo

With my job I end up doing some travel and with that comes the fun of meeting new people, hearing new stories, and traveling new places (possible). My last trip was to the east coast covering New York and Florida and it got me connected with some interesting folks. Waiting at the airport for our flight which eventually took off the next day (12 hours of mechanical trouble), I met some folks from cloud business’. One was a Google advocate and the other Amazon. With me being in the Microsoft world it was a perfect mix of expertise. By the time we were three drinks in, we laid down all aspects of cloud Iaas, Paas, and Saas. There was no winner (you certainly don’t want one in a bar) at the end but I like to think all of us came out wiser than before.

This made me think how little people know about Microsoft’s Cloud platform Azure. I am always amazed when people refer to Azure as only Infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas). What many don’t know is that Azure has a wide variety of features in its Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering and Software-as-a-service. In fact Microsoft was one of two vendors described as leaders in Gartner’s application PaaS (which it calls aPaaS) Magic Quadrant. Azure as PaaS allows creation of scalable applications and services, supports multi-tier scenarios and automated deployments. As for SaaS, what would be a better example than Office 365?!

So here is my attempt to share my experience and knowledge about Microsoft Azure in the hopes that it will help you to make an informed decisions when selecting a cloud platform that best fits your business. In order to keep it engaging I will break this blog post in two parts.  The first one being more strategic and second one, tactical, involving Azure services and features.

In this Part 1 of 2 let’s start with the least common denominator among all cloud platforms – Storage.

Storage

storage-wars1

Now lately you might have experienced an influx of news around increased cloud storage and reduced costs. Storage wars between the three companies Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are at its best. Here is the latest cost analysis among these three leaders (Note: this is up to date as of this post publication).

Plans
Free(GB)
100 GB Cost
100 GB Cost
Microsoft OneDrive15 GB$1.99/month$3.99/month - 200 GB (1 TB is available with OneDrive for Business)
Google Drive15 GB$1.99/month$9.99/month - 1 TB
Amazon Cloud5 GB$4.17/month$41.67/month - 1 TB
WinnerMicrosoft & GoogleMicrosoft & GoogleN/A - similar plans do not exist in OneDrive

 

Now let’s take a peek at the enterprise storage pricing comparison. This is not comprehensive as there are too many factors in play and pricing will depend on egress, redundancy selected etc. and hence no clear winner

Plans
I TB
50 TB
100 TB
Microsoft Azure$40/month$2,000/month$4,000/month
Google Cloud Storage$26/month$1,300/month$2,600/month
Amazon AWS$30/month$1,475/month$2,926/month

 

Iaas Magic Quadrant

gartnermagic

During our talks we all agreed on one aspect – Amazon is the gorilla in the cloud business based on sheer revenue, but looking at statistics Microsoft is closing the gap at a rapid pace. In the May 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant  even though Amazon leads the space an interesting point to note (and one which isn’t easy to digest by the tech industry) is the inroads Microsoft has been making in strategic accounts. It is quite evident that Microsoft Azure IaaS is catching Amazon AWS in terms of functionality, automation and innovation. With late adopters Microsoft has been gaining traction and even though prospects consider their existing incumbent vendors, but this quadrant proves that Microsoft is overwhelmingly the top contender in that market.

Business Continuity

With the recent acquisition of InMage (which provides continuous data protection) Microsoft took another step towards business continuity solutions in the cloud. In a recent email Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO outlined his mission statement to the employees. He stated his goals and shared his vision for Microsoft in this 3,100 word email where he put forth the company as mobile first and cloud first. Staying true to his roots he invested in acquiring InMage, focusing on data protection and back up retention. Over time InMage will be rolled into the Microsoft Azure Site Recovery service to add scale to the company’s newly added disaster recovery and business continuity offering. Last month Microsoft also launched the StorSimple appliances which provides storage as a tier by integrating cloud services to on-premises storage.

Predictive Analysis

Microsoft recently launched preview of a new service called Azure Machine Learning. It is a public cloud-based service that lets developers embed predictive analytics into their applications. Think of the value this can provide you when you combine this with customer CRM and marketing systems,  generating scores predicting customer behavior. Another great new upcoming feature in Office 365 is Delve (formerly Oslo) and if you really put 2 and 2 together you’ll realize that horsepower behind Delve is nothing else but Azure Machine learning.

Security

Azure recently announced additional enhancements that honor their commitments to security and increased transparency. This includes stronger cryptography, including enhancements to the default Transport Layer Security (TLS)/Secure Socket Layer (SSL) cipher suites and enabling Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). PFS uses a different encryption key for every connection, making it more difficult for attackers to decrypt connections. This encryption work builds on the existing protections already in many Microsoft products and services, such as Microsoft Office 365, Skype and OneDrive. Customer content moving between customers and Microsoft will be encrypted by default. All of the key platforms, productivity and communications services will encrypt customer content as it moves between Microsoft data centers.  Data traveling between services (for e.g. one email provider to another) is protected and customer content stored in Azure is encrypted (there are also tools for developers to allow them to easily protect data).

I sincerely hope this provides you with valuable insights and enough to get you excited about Microsoft Azure. In case it does not then don’t forget to check back in a few days for Part 2 of this series which will contain information on more in-depth features of Azure like media services,  mobile devices, Azure web sites, Azure files and more.

 

Perficient wins Microsoft Partner Awards in all 3 US Regions!

The Perficient team is out in force in Washington DC this week attending Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC14).  At the conference the team was honored to receive Microsoft Partner of the Year awards in every Microsoft US region. This was a big honor, building on last year’s US Partner of the Year award and our US Healthcare Provider Partner of the Year awards. Thank you Microsoft, we appreciate the partnership and value the recognition!  From the news release

Member's of the Perficient team getting ready to accept Partner of the Year awards in every Microsoft US region

Member’s of the Perficient team getting ready to accept Partner of the Year awards in every Microsoft US region

For the second year in a row, Perficient was named both the East Region NSI Partner of the Year and the Central Region Enterprise Office 365 Partner of the Year. Additionally, the company was declared the West Region Compete Partner of the Year. These awards highlight Perficient’s capabilities in and successful implementations of Microsoft technology solutions including cloud computing technologies like Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Lync Online, Yammer, SharePoint Online, InTune and Dynamics CRM.

“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 three Partner awards, which which reflect the strength of Perficient’s Microsoft cloud consultation and delivery expertise at work across the country.”

Perficient has helped clients across multiple industries implement cloud solutions like Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. The company has activated more than one million Office 365 seats, which is more than any other National Systems Integrator.

Highlights of recent Microsoft implementations include:

  • Working with a multinational firm to create a custom MVC application utilizing many Azure components, including SQL Azure, Web Roles, Worker Roles, and BLOB Storage. The solution replaces previous spreadsheet-style reporting with dashboards and data visualization, and is used to identify potential hazards and recognize exemplary employees.
  • Partnering with a leading transportation operator to plan and develop a global cloud-based employee portal solution utilizing Office 365 and, specifically, SharePoint Online. With a responsive design and support of multiple devices, the portal offers users improved search capabilities and better ease of use.
  • Collaborating with a large health plan provider to supply an integrated digital experience solution leveraging Sitecore and the Microsoft Server Stack. Basing all of the client’s sites on the same core set of components and a single framework, Perficient delivered a common user experience, independent of device, to all.

Through its partnerships with leading technology innovators, Perficient provides clients in all industries business-driven technology solutions and support in a wide range of practice areas. Perficient’s Microsoft consultants specialize in several practice areas including unified communications, social collaboration, business intelligence and cloud computing to provide digital marketing, portals, mobile and customer relationship management solutions to many of the most complex organizations in the country.

Microsoft’s WPC14 continues through Thursday.

Surprise! Microsoft Future Is Dependent on Data

In his July 10th email to employees, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella mentions the word “data” no fewer than 15 times.   This simple fact serves to highlight how dealing with data is a foundational part of Microsoft’s future strategy.   When he describes a “mobile-first and cloud-first world”, Mr. Nadella is describing a world where data is ubiquitous in “the background of our lives”.   He wants to position Microsoft at the twin apexes of both producing and consuming all that data.

Surprise! Microsoft Future is Dependent on DataThe keystone to that strategy is Microsoft’s hyper-scale public cloud platform, Azure. Azure is positioned to serve as a cloud data storage hub, offering NoSQL style BLOB storage as well as traditional relational storage with Azure SQL Database.   The HDInsight service leverages Azure BLOB storage to offer a Big Data option in the form of a full-blown Hadoop installation in the cloud. And virtualized SQL Servers can also be spun up for purposes including cloud-based BI and analytics.

Beyond even the cloud, the newly re-branded Microsoft Analytics Platform System is combination of SQL Server PDW (Parallel Data Warehouse) appliance with a local installation of HDInsight. Microsoft’s breakthrough Polybase technology allows integration between the two, allowing SQL users to query Big Data directly. And of course SQL Server 2014 joins the In-Memory database market, and still provides traditional SQL Server value and power in the on-premises market.

So, that sums up the Producing side. But what about Consuming?

Working from a position of some strength — and frankly also trying to ignore a traditional weakness — Microsoft has ordained that Excel is really the ultimate front-end for their BI platform. Power BI is the branding for this collection of services, and the so-called “Power Tools” themselves (Power Pivot, Power View, and Power Query) are the baseline components, available as plugins for desktop Excel and natively in Office 365 Excel.

Office 365 is truly the focus of most of the evolution of the BI delivery platform right now. In addition to the 3 basic Power Tools mentioned above, Office 365 also provides the geospatial analytics tool Power Map (currently also available in Preview for desktop users). And the coup de grâce comes in the form of Power BI Sites — an app available for SharePoint Online that provides collaboration, mobile, and natural language query functionality to the table.

All of these options combine to form Microsoft’s platform for pervasive data. As this strategy matures, I think we can expect to see tools merge and even go away to be replaced by others. But the fact remains that Microsoft is positioning their data platform to serve both cloud and on-premises, to be scalable, and to support goal, to “reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Microsoft, the productivity & platform company for a mobile world

This morning, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent his employees an email, and a pretty important one at that (Read it here). July marks the beginning of FY15 for Microsoft, and it’s a time to reflect on the previous year and plan for the future. For Nadella, this means determining where the focus lies as the company forges ahead in an industry deeply rooted in innovation.

Nadella is the third Microsoft CEO, leading the company since February, and has been with the company for over two decades. It’s safe to say, he’s seen a lot change at Microsoft during that time, and has held a variety of roles and positions – most recently, as the executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group.

With his background, running the division responsible for the technology powering Microsoft’s cloud-centric services, and the fact that Microsoft has led with the cloud for several years now, the choice to make Nadella chief executive fits right in with Microsoft’s transition. This cloud focus has been evident in recent partnerships with Oracle and Salesforce, both of which serve as a way to grow Azure, Microsoft’s cloud hosting platform, by providing popular application choices to use with Azure.

In today’s email, Nadella wrote:

We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world. Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. Billions of sensors, screens and devices – in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs – are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives. This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines.Microsoft core

He goes on to describe how the many devices, combined with cloud services, create a unique opportunity for Microsoft. And Microsoft’s passion? Well, it’s to allow people to thrive in our mobile-first, cloud-first world. And, while officially announced today, the company’s been heading in a more multi platform supportive direction for some time now (even releasing Office for iPad a few months ago).

It seems Microsoft is saying what so many have been looking for – the device doesn’t matter. Read the rest of this post »

Released – Official name for Oslo and New Office 365 SMB Plans

Oslo Renamed to Delve

Announced earlier this year as Codename Oslo, today Microsoft published the official name as Delve. Delve, the first experience powered by the intelligence fabric we call the Office Graph, will be available to Office 365 customers later this year.

Released - Official Name for Oslo and New Office 365 SMB PlansNew SMB Plans

Microsoft will release as of October 1st, 2014 three new Office 365 plans tailored to meet the needs of small and midsized businesses (SMBs), ranging from 1 to approximately 250 employees. The new plans are:

  • Office 365 Business – The full Office applications – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher, with 1TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage to access, edit and share your documents across your Windows PC, Mac, iPad, Windows tablet and smartphone.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials - The core cloud services for running your business – business class email and calendaring, Office Online, online meetings, IM, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing and much more.
  • Office 365 Business Premium – Get everything from both the Office 365 Business and Business Essentials plans.

This new lineup will replace our current plans for SMBs over time – Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business (more on that here).

 

 

 

 

Office 365 Roadmap Communications

Overview: Last week Microsoft hosted a Roadmap Communications discussion forum to align with the new Office 365 for business public roadmap. Panel involved experts from Microsoft and Office 365 MVP’s. I am sharing the summary  here for everyone’s benefit.

roadmapcom

Specific topics:

·         Roadmap at a glance

·         General Questions & Functionality

·         First Release

·         Yammer

ROADMAP AT A GLANCE

Q: How and where are the road maps communicated? 

A: You can find the latest roadmap information in our new Office 365 public roadmap. http://www.office.com/roadmap

Q: How is the new roadmap site and the Admin Portal Message Center going to work together?

A: The roadmap provides a view into features that we intend to delivered whereas the Message Center will provide a notification when the feature rollout will start.

Q: Will the roadmap show “everything”, “Most things” or “some “highlighted things”?

A: The roadmap will aim to show feature updates and enhancement to the service. Not all updates will be in the roadmap some due to PR sensitivity (small group) and some because they are incremental without impact (security patching). This process like any feature of the service will improve over time.

Q: Is there a Yammer roadmap page that shows all the upcoming releases, expected timeframes and things that are under consideration?

A: Here is the Yammer Release Schedule: https://about.yammer.com/success/engage/grow-your-network/release-schedule/

Q: On Yammer, we see the new Yammer features appear on the Customer Network. Will new features also appear first in the Office 365 Technical Network? 

A: Yes, they will also appear in this network.

Q: When will Office for Mac be updated? When will OneDrive for Business be available for Mac and/or Android?

A: Watch the roadmap for future releases.

Q: How will this new Roadmap Communications process interact with A/B testing or new features that are occasionally rolled out without notice to Yammer & Office365 admins? Can we expect advance notice of such changes, or is the onus on us to proactively keep up to date?

A: It is our intention to announce new features via the public roadmap, but to be clear, there are some updates that will not be announced. We are constantly making small improvements to the service including security and bug fixes that will not be announced. There are also updates that are sensitive for PR reasons (like the Office on IPad release) that we will not provide advanced warning for.

Q2: Will security changes will not be announced?

A2: We will announce updates to security controls and compliance capabilities to the service. As for changes to the services, datacenters etc., we are continually monitoring and managing security patching and updating the service to maintain the integrity of the service. Those changes are happening on a continuous basis and are not part of our roadmap disclosure process.

Q: There have been a couple of mentions of feature requests and notes that this YamJam isn’t the forum… But what is the proper forum for providing feature requests and feedback? Is the officespdev User Voice the right place? Is there one for business & IT? Is there an activelymonitored inbound channel for Yammer/Office 365 business/IT feature requests?

A: We don’t think there is one today. The developer User Voice space is probably not the right place. We’ll look into it and come back to the technical community.

Q: Will there be a separate roadmap for Office 365 Government Community Cloud and Office 365 Dedicated/ITAR customers?

A: As outlined in the “Improving visibility” post, the roadmap currently does not incorporate Government Community Cloud or Officed 365 Dedicated/ITAR plans. http://blogs.office.com/2014/06/19/improving-visibility-to-service-updates

Q: How often is the Release Schedule updated? Can a “last updated” be added at the page level, if not the accordion/feature level?

A: For the Office 365 roadmap, we are always looking at ways to make the information more useful for customers, and we appreciate the feature suggestion. We think to make this useful it would need to be at the feature level. We are evaluating our current systems to see how much overhead we would add to track this additional piece of data.

GENERAL Qs & FUNCTIONALITY

Q: Would it be possible to get a User Voice site that is setup to correspond to the Roadmap? Then people could vote on the items that are most important to them…

A: Great idea. We don’t currently have plans but we are always looking at ways to improve the customer input into the development process.

 Q: Is it possible to have a link to a corresponding blog post, technet article, etc… which has a description of the feature being implemented within the roadmap instead of just a small blurb about it?

A: Great suggestion, we’ll work with content publishing to get this implemented.

Q: So are there any Yammer Groups focused on OneDrive for Business? 

A: Yes, there’s a OneDrive for Business group that has all the content from a YamJam plus more recent discussions. Find it here:https://www.yammer.com/itpronetwork/#/threads/inGroup?type=in_group&feedId=4208139 

Q: Should my attention as the Yammer champion in my organization be focused on this network or the YCN?

A: If you’re a Yammer champion, you’ll likely want to spend time in the YCN to share successes and learn how to improve business processes. However, if you have any technical questions or want to talk roadmap, then this is your network. We will have more info soon explaining “which network to use and when”. There are dedicated teams running the 3 Preferred O365 networks (YCN, O365 Technical Network, O365 Partner Network) and we be making another announcement soon that clearly defines the difference between the networks and where you should go for info. 

Q: Currently the Office 365 for Admin app is broken for Windows Phone. Are there any plans to enhance the app? Maybe include a newsfeed for Roadmap and other portal notifications? 

A: An update that fixes the app should be arriving in the coming weeks. Thanks for you suggestion. We don’t have any plans to share yet but when we do, we will communicate out on the blog and message center.

Q: For OneDrive for Business, can we have logs for auditing the file uploads and downloads? As an Admin, I would like to track what documents my associates are uploading and where they are downloading?

A: Have you looked at the auditing features available as part of SharePoint Enterprise? Depending which license you have, but this might be useful. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint-help/configure-audit-settings-for-a-site-collection-HA102866204.aspx  

 

FIRST RELEASE

Q: There was talk of the #firstrelease program allowing Office 365 admins to release the new features to a defined group of users. 

Will this be possible? Or are features released to everyone in the organization?

A: First Release applies to the entire tenant – it doesn’t provide any capability to designate a set of users for piloting new features.

Q: Will there be an option to “roll back” after opting in for the First Release update?

A: Yes, you can turn off First Release after turning it on and you will lose the updates that haven’t yet been applied to Standard Release customers.

Q: Will there be a way to get a similar experience as the Yammer Customer Network in Office 365? A network where we could experience the new features first?

A: Yes, in the First Release program. We encourage folks that can to enable First Release in their tenants to see the latest releases first.http://blogs.office.com/2014/06/19/improving-visibility-to-service-updates

 Q: Any plans to join the o365 first release users into a yammer first release set of users? 

A: Not at this stage, but that is an interesting idea! 

 Q: Where / How do I find security related fixes and enhancements to Yammer? For example, I plan to submit an enhancement request today about a requirement from our Information Security group: “Yammer allows users to upload dangerous files e.g. .exe”. It would be helpful to know where security-related enhancements or fixes are in a roadmap, or so I can see if my enhancement request “makes the cut”.

A: Let’s please engage in this network in the “Enterprise Social Service Updates” group. Have you seen our recent compliance announcements?https://about.yammer.com/yammer-blog/yammer-receives-iso-27001-certification-offers-dpa/

You can also find this information this network in the “Enterprise Social Service Updates” group in this network.

Q: Is there anything you can share yet about a possible instant messaging integration between Yammer and Lync?

A: Not at this stage beside what we said last March: http://aka.ms/esspc “In the future, we’ll integrate Yammer with Lync and Skype to enable a full spectrum of social interactions, from asynchronous posts to audio and video.” Once we have Unified Identity (slated for later this Summer) that opens the door for many things like Lync integration to happen.

 Q: Will there be opportunities for customers & partners to communicate needs or even help co-create improvements to features & functions? In the spirit of rapid iteration and failing early, it would be good to be able to give feedback early and often.

A: That is a great idea. We have been working quite a bit to get more customer input into the product development cycle. We don’t have any plans today but we will look into it in the future.

 Q: Could we get subscriptions, notifications, or something to tell us a change is coming without the need to go to the site? Even an update in a Yammer group that we could subscribe to would work, but ideally an email, or an RSS feed would be best!

A: Great feedback! We are looking at ways to make the public roadmap even better. We are in the process of finalizing an API for Message center that will let you get those communications which include some new feature announcements as well as other communications.

A2: Consider joining a group in the network called Change Alerts. The idea is members post the changes they have observed or notifications they see in the message center, or by any other method. https://www.yammer.com/itpronetwork/groups/changealerts

YAMMER

Q: Yammer will be integrated into Office 365 … but which user profile should I focus on populating now”?

A: Active Directory will always be your source of truth! Keep the most relevant info in the AD, and let the user add work experience, social sites in the collaborative / network platform you use (aka SharePoint / Yammer). The vision is to have a unique Office 365 profile at some stage, so that will solve the potential profile discrepancies between tools we see today.

 Q2: The ‘unique Office 365 profile’ sounds good – can you give an estimated timescale?

We are still at the vision level with no timescale.

It is going to be incremental starting with a unified login experience (see this earlier announcement:http://blogs.office.com/2014/02/18/simplified-login-to-yammer-from-office-365/), then a unified navigation experience coming this summer (Office 365 navigation bar in Yammer: https://about.yammer.com/success/engage/grow-your-network/release-schedule/) and more to come!

Q: How do you edit a post in Yammer for iOS? Am unable to edit a reply I just posted.

A: No, there isn’t a way to edit posts on any device (mobile included). Check out this thread for more discussion on this subject:https://www.yammer.com/yammerycn/#/inbox/show?threadId=361143370

 Q: Where is the release cycle for Yammer and Office 365 Midsize plans? Rumor had it Spring 2014 but have not seen any updated timeframes.

A: All Office 365 plans are on a continuous release cycle. All of the multi-tenant plans are always up to date including the enterprise, mid-market, small business options.

Q2: That I understand, but where Yammer is the social tool for E plans, it is not live for M plans so that it can replace the newsfeed – or am I mistaken?

A2: Coming soon!

Q: As a Yammer admin, how should I manage A/B tests that are per user as opposed to per network?

A: Good discussion in the YCN about how other folks handle the change management aspect! Check it out:https://www.yammer.com/yammerycn/#/inbox/show?threadId=400168566

Q: Will there be any improvements to the monitoring features? Like notifications for new groups created for admins? Or only allowing specific users to create groups?

A: Monitoring and limiting usage to a set of people is a dangerous path with a social network. Even with good intentions you can quickly deter engagement.

Q: The roadmap doesn’t talk about Yammer Dsync with password-sync option like the Office 365 WAAD DirSync. This is the major roadblock for our users (to remember passwords when logging directly or through mobile). The roadmap talks about seamless transparent login to Yammer from the Office 365 portal and that too is in development. When will Yammer utilize the same identity?

A: It will take time to have DirSsync across O365 & Yammer. In the meantime, we are on track to support Office 365 credential support in Yammer this summer!

Q2: Isn’t this already available? Our users are able to transparently get on to Yammer from the top suite bar in Office 365. What do you mean by O365 credentials? I thought they are the same as our on-premise Active Directory?

A2: No, what we first delivered was the ability to go from O365 to Yammer, and this summer we’ll deliver the reverse: being able to login into Yammer with your O365 credentials & surface the O365 suite navigation. Watch this SPC session for explanation and demo:http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/SharePoint-Conference/2014/SPC282

Q: Will the (Yammer) Groups feature that will be made availabe in Outlook Web Access, also move into the Outlook client. Any timeframe on this?

A: Keep an eye on this page to see the latest updates for Yammer: https://about.yammer.com/success/engage/grow-your-network/release-schedule. Also, take a look at this blog: http://blogs.office.com/2014/03/31/the-evolution-of-email/

Q: I love the way Yammer and now O365 communicate their updates but do not like the level of detail that is provided (i.e. UI Enhancements with a screenshot but no real dates or how it will be rolled out, impact of the change, etc.) Will there be more details coming in the product release schedule website?

A: Continuous development makes it difficult to set a concrete release date. Like any feature of the service how we release and communicate is improving over time. The public roadmap is a big leap forward in what we believe is the right direction. We will use the Office 365 roadmap for the overview and link to more details about features once those details are available. Often when something is still in development we’re working on gathering all of the details.

Q: When is Yammer Enterprise available to education plans (A2). Was announced back in March and still no update?

A: We said “spring” last March: http://aka.ms/esspc. Stay tuned for an update! 

 

 

 

Source: IT Pro Nework

Office 365 Feature Rollout and First Release Program

FrustatedDid you always feel Office 365 has been going through rapid updates and you as a customer or partner are left with no insight? Until now Microsoft has been rolling out features without regard to the tenant profile. There is generally no process for partners to get updates before or after customers. I personally know of multiple instances where it’s been a nightmare for organizations to keep track of and stay informed of all the changes, left alone the communication to their end users.

Microsoft has taken the first step by coming out with a new feature called “First Release” Program.  This will allow anyone (customer or partner) to be in the front of the line for a small subset of significant updates. The program is scoped to Exchange and SharePoint features and I hope they expand to more capabilities. Each tenant can choose to be in the First Release group or in standard release to determine when they get the select list of releases. If you’re responsible for a number of different organizations tenants, you may persuade them to keep First Release turned off, so that you get early warning and experience. Then you’ll be able to support them more knowledgeably.

Note: Yammer is NOT part of this program

With Office 365, you get product updates – like new email features, more site storage, and new collaboration features – as they become available. You can decide when to receive the updates by opting in to the First Release program or remaining on the Standard Release program.

First Release

FirstRelease

With this option, you and your users receive a select set of significant service updates as early as one week after the official announcement. Choose this option if you and your

employees are comfortable with regular updates to the Office 365 service.

Standard Release

StandardRelease

With this default option, you and your users receive a select set of significant service updates 3 weeks or more after the official announcement. For at least 3 weeks, you have time to learn about the updates and prepare your employees.

How to take benefit of this new feature?

1. Go to your Tenant portal

2. Go to Admin > Service settings > Updates.

3. Turn First Release on or off.

One another widespread frustration we usually experience is when users in an organization on the same tenant see different updates on the UI.  This is due to the fact that it is an ongoing upgrade and is not completed yet. The users in one Office 365 organization are located on different server farms and the update is performed not by Office 365 organization; the new patches are deployed on the server farms. This is the reason why not all users in a company can see the new feature (for e.g. toolbar). While the upgrade is ongoing it is normal that some colleagues of yours still don’t have the feature available. An update might take up to 2 months and after this time passed all users in your organization should see already the feature available.

Webinar Recap: The Modern Data Warehouse – A Hybrid Story

Last week, we held a webinar, The Modern Data Warehouse – A Hybrid Story. As the world of data evolves ever so quickly, it transforms the industry and creates a need for new approaches to business intelligence. Data warehousing technology that worked well for years, serving its purpose to manage and understand business driven data, is now falling short for some.

During the session, Duane Schafer, Director of Perficient’s Microsoft BI Practice, first reviewed what makes up a traditional data warehouse, discussing both logical and physical architecture, and stressors to the traditional data warehouse that drove the need for change. Gartner reported in The State of Data Warehousing in 2012, “Data warehousing has reached the most significant tipping point since its inception. The biggest, possibly most elaborate, management system in IT is changing.”

Duane went on to describe this change, and what was behind it, including recent findings from TDWI Research. and shared his thoughts around a modern DW alternative, and answered a common question – How does this affect our ‘traditional’ DW approach? As is often the case with a more modern alternative, there are new capabilities that make it a worthwhile choice. For the modern DW, these capabilities include:

  • Scaling out relational data to petabytes / scale out technologies within the Parallel Data Warehouse
  • Scaling out “Big Data” / scale out non-relational data in HDInsight (for Azure or PDW)
  • In memory columnstore for next generation performance (up to 100x faster and 10x compression)
  • Great performance for mixed workloads / query performance at scale
  • Integrating relational data and Hadoop

As well as forecasting capabilities in Power View for Office 365 and Microsoft Azure Machine Learning.

For the full webinar replay, including the Q&A portion, click here.