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Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute is free through June 30, 2015

The most common way for enterprises to connect their datacenters or home offices to resources in Microsoft Azure is over VPN. Although Microsoft has made connecting to Azure quick and easy, VPNs, in general, do have their drawbacks. Because they traverse the public internet, availability and performance are difficult to control. Latency can also be an issue for those applications and connections which depend on low latency communications.expressroute

Fortunately, Microsoft realizes many companies require better connections to their Azure resources, and they offer ExpressRoute as a solution. ExpressRoute provides private connections between Azure datacenters and a company’s on-premises datacenter. These connections don’t traverse the public internet so the result is higher security, lower latency, better reliability and faster speeds.

If you are thinking of extending your existing datacenter to Azure, or if you want to take advantage of the storage, backup, and recovery benefits of the Azure cloud, now is a great time to give it a try. Up until June 30, 2015, the Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute 10 Mbps Network Service Provider (NSP) offering is free of charge. Just to sweeten the pot, some Microsoft NSP partners are offering related promotions during this period.

If you want to explore the many benefits of a fast, reliable and secure private connection to the Azure cloud, you can find more information about the ExpressRoute promotion here.

For more on Azure and Microsoft’s cloud offering, take a look at our latest white paper.

10 Best Microsoft Azure Features For 2015

microsoft-azure-logo_11368901Welcome to 2015, I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season! As we gear up for Q1, I wanted to share some great new features (services) available today in Microsoft Azure. I had a hard time narrowing my list to only 10, there are a ton of new and great features for Azure. If you’re not using Azure today, keep reading, I can almost guarantee your business would benefit from at least one of the below.

1. Azure Search

We all know how important search is to any web based application. Users are used to Web search engines, sophisticated ecommerce websites and social apps that offer great relevance, search suggestions as you type, faceted navigation, highlighting and more, all with near-instantaneous response times. So, this feature is something we have been waiting on for quite some time in Azure, and now its finally in public preview! Microsoft Azure Search is a new service that allows you to embed search functionality into custom applications. It provides the search engine and storage for your data, which you access and manage using a REST API. Here are some of the key features – Read the rest of this post »

Perficient Assists Global Health Efforts with Office 365 Solution

pihLast week, Michael Novinson from the Channel Company published an article on its IT Best of Breed website around Perficient’s work with Partners In Health to deliver cloud communication capabilities to workers in remote locations. The full article is available here.

From the post:

The St. Louis-based company, No. 66 on the CRN SP 500, migrated the infrastructure and 3,000 employees of Partners In Health to a Microsoft Office 365 suite at the purchasing price without any markup.

Boston-based Partners In Health trains healthcare providers and delivers clinical and social support for impoverished communities in areas such as Haiti, Rwanda and Siberia. The organization has also been involved with responding to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“It’s a great cause,” Perficient CEO Jeff Davis told

Davis said Perficient – which was named Microsoft’s partner of the year in 2013 – was the only solution provider willing to do the work without any profit margin.

Novinson went on to discuss how the Gates Foundation donated the cloud services while Microsoft donated the software. The solution includes Exchange Online for email communication, Azure AD for identity management and SharePoint Online for collaboration.

Prior to Office 365, Davis said many employees were in remote locations with such little bandwidth that they had to go to internet cafes and use Gmail. Some Partners In Health employees were not on a single email system, he said messages would sometimes get lost due to time zone changes.

Since Office 365 operates out of the cloud, Davis said it does not require much data to be moved across the system, which is vital given the remote location of Partners In Health clinics, particularly in Haiti.

The SharePoint piece, though, will be much more data intensive, meaning Perficient might not be able to roll it out at every site.

Perficient also addressed Partners In Health’s server crashes and shored up issues with legacy systems since even a cloud-based application such as Office 365 requires some on-site computing power.

You can read the full piece here, or read a recently published case study describing the client’s challenges and how Perficient is addressing them.

Perficient’s Top 5 Microsoft Azure Blog Posts of 2014

Yesterday, we shared the top five SharePoint related blog posts of 2014. Gold TOP five.As several of those SharePoint posts alluded to, when it comes to the cloud, 2014 could be called the year Microsoft went “all in” and truly made cloud king. And Azure is a significant piece of that. 80% of Fortune 500 companies are on the Microsoft Cloud, with 50% using Azure. Our team shared their knowledge around Azure throughout the year, and here are the top five posts, in no particular order:

Multi-Forest Identity Solution – Azure AD Sync
In this post, Vaibhav Mathur discusses the much awaited multi-forest identity solution, Azure Active Directory Sync Tool. He gives background on why customers with complex multi-forest environments needed this. 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.

Watch Out Amazon-Microsoft Azure is Here to Rule
After an impromptu airport encounter with Amazon and Google advocates, Vaibhav recognizes just how little some folks know about Azure and its capabilities. Most know Azure as only IaaS, but it has a wide variety of features in its PaaS offering and SaaS. In fact, Microsoft was one of two vendors described as leaders in Gartner’s application PaaS (which it calls aPaaS) Magic Quadrant. He goes on to talk about storage, business continuity, predictive analysis and security. Read the rest of this post »

Azure & StorSimple Hybrid Cloud Storage – Webinar Recap

Since it’s inception in 2010, Microsoft Azure has continuously posted triple digit growth, and is the only major cloud service that consistently leads in both IaaS and PaaS. You can get more background on Azure in this recent Forbe’s article.hybrid2

There are many ways enterprises can take advantage of Azure, with one being hybrid cloud storage. Last week, we held our final Microsoft webinar of the year, Lower Cost and Complexity with Azure and StorSimple Hybrid Cloud Solutions. Simply put, StorSimple is a cloud-integrated storage (CiS) product that allows you to store commonly used data on premises and put more infrequently accessed data in Azure.

During the session, Perficient Director Adetayo Adegoke provided an overview of Azure’s technical storage capabilities, and showed how a hybrid storage appliance like StorSimple can give you massive amounts of capacity and added functionality, all while providing disaster recovery and reducing costs significantly. Tayo also reviewed the current storage solution architecture for most (i.e. on premises) and the situation that goes along with that traditional storage. Bottom line – storage today, in the traditional sense, is complex and expensive.

Tayo not only explained how hybrid cloud storage (HCS) solutions are less complexity at a reduced cost, he illustrated it, and also shared why he wouldn’t recommend a pure cloud storage solution (issues around integration, performance, and security).

Moving on, Tayo talked about the fundamental value of StorSimple, which connects Windows, Linux and Hyper-V/VMware servers to Azure storage in minutes with no application modification. He shared target use cases on when to use StorSimple,  and how HCS works conceptually, walking through the actual operations.

You can watch them webinar in its entirety (or skip ahead to a section of interest) by watching the replay available here.

Azure Mobile Services – Offline Sync Now Available

Before I get into the details of the announcement on Offline Sync, let me take a moment for a quick introduction to Azure Mobile Services, as I don’t believe we have blogged on Mobile Services yet.  microsoft-azure-logo_11368901

With Azure Mobile Services, it’s easy to rapidly build engaging cross-platform and native apps for iOS, Android, Windows or Mac, store app data in the cloud or on-premises, authenticate users, send push notifications, as well as add your custom backend logic in C# or Node.js.

With Azure Mobile Services, you can easily authenticate your users with Active Directory, securely connect to on-premises resources like SAP, Oracle, SQL Server, and SharePoint, and leverage cross-platform frameworks like Xamarin and PhoneGap to build enterprise-grade apps.

Azure enables you to build mobile apps that can consume data from your own data center. With Hybrid Connections it is easy to access your data securely from your on-premises data centers, anywhere in the world.

Notification Hubs is a massively scalable mobile push notification engine capable of sending millions of push notifications to iOS, Android, Windows, or Nokia X devices within seconds. You can easily hook Notification Hubs into any existing app backend, whether that backend is hosted on-premises or in Azure. Read the rest of this post »

Video How-To’s in Office 365

Video Portal was announced back in November with initial push to “first release” customers and a global deployment available by early 2015. This portal powered by Azure Media Services provides adaptive streaming optimized for video playback for the device it’s being viewed on. Leveraging Office Graph, simple drag and drop interface, discover ability across enterprise search and Delve, integration with yammer conversations, and sharing capabilities on mobile makes this an intuitive and engaging knowledge management add in.

Below is a summary of Video Q&A with Microsoft team, MVPs, and community members:

Why does Office 365 Video need Flash installed?

Microsoft is working to add HTML5 video playback support in a future update. This will remove the current Flash dependency. For the initial release, we prioritized security of the videos’ playback stream. We are working with Azure Media Services on new player and detection tech that can get the right player (native, HTML5, or flash) and the right stream from Azure media services, so that we offer both adaptive streaming and security on latest mobile devices and browsers. For native iPhone app, we are using Azure Media Service SDK to support HLS. Browser playback doesn’t work currently for mobile devices because of flash. Read the rest of this post »

Windows Server 2003 End of Support Looms – A Webinar Recap

It’s no secret – Microsoft support for Windows Server 2003 ends on July 14, 2015. Clock

Last week, Perficient, AppZero and Cisco teamed up for a webinar, Planning & Preparing for Windows Server 2003 End of Life. During the session, the speakers discussed the options and paths available when moving off Windows Server 2003, including the transition to a cloud model, benefits of Windows Server 2012, virtualization on Cisco UCS, and what exactly AppZero can do for your migrations.

First, Steve Andrews, a senior solutions architect at Perficient, explained exactly what end of support/end of life means: no updates, no compliance, no protection. But, the good news is, for those still on Windows Server 2003, there is the opportunity to transform your datacenter by transitioning to a hybrid cloud model, which Steve reviewed. He then showed attendees how to get started:

  1. Discover & Assess: Catalog and categorize apps and workloads
  2. Target: Identify destinations
  3. Migrate: Make the move

You have a variety of target options, from replacing the server hardware or virtualizing with Hyper-V to a new server, to relocating to a cloud service such as Azure IaaS or decommissioning if no longer in use. Read the rest of this post »

Azure Media Services: Live Streaming Video Experience

Did you watch the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics online? Maybe you caught a bit of the 2014 FIFA World Cup from the office on your laptop? Perhaps you watch an occasional Sunday Night Football game from the in-laws on your tablet. If so, you’ve consumed Azure Media Services Live Channels Media Streaming. ams

This service powers all sorts of public live media streaming services from NBC, the NHL, NFL, FIFA and many other partners. It has been available to us for a while now, in preview mode, and we at Perficient have been unable to discuss it – until now. On Thursday, Microsoft announced the general availability of Live Channels! Here’s a link to Scott Gutherie’s blog.

Live streaming is a very very cool, and rather difficult to harness technology. There are limitless application possibilities in today’s ever mobile, and connected world for live streaming. And up until now, actually using that technology – at a reasonable price point – was difficult. Read the rest of this post »

Webinar: Hybrid Cloud Storage Solutions – Lower Cost & Complexity

Storage StorSimple_MScomGraphic_590x590_Ais on the mind of many this holiday season. At home, if you are a parent, it’s a question of “Where are we going to store all these overwhelmingly large toys?” At work – it’s more likely to be a data issue.

If local storage is your issue, you probably know one of your options is a hybrid cloud storage appliance (on a side note, wouldn’t it be nice if we could store those toys in the cloud?).

Doing more with less has become the “new normal,” so it only makes sense that the demand for scalable, reliable, and secure cloud solutions is increasing.  One of the biggest challenges facing many of our customers is the tremendous data growth and the amount of storage management work required that data growth requires.

Join us on Tuesday, December 16, at 1 p.m. for a webinar, “Lower Cost & Complexity with Azure and StoreSimple Hybrid Cloud Solutions,” to learn how a hybrid storage appliance such as StorSimple can supply your organization with massive amounts of capacity and added functionality, all the while providing disaster recovery and reducing costs by up to 50%. Perficient Director Adetayo Adegoke will show you how you can seamlessly use a cloud-integrated storage (CiS) product to store commonly used data on premises and put more infrequently accessed data in Azure.

You can also take a look at the white paper, “The CIO’s Guide to Understanding Microsoft Cloud Services,” to learn more about Azure’s capabilities.

To register for the webinar, click here.
Lower Cost & Complexity with Azure and StoreSimple Hybrid Cloud Solutions
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
1:00 p.m. CT