by February 17th, 2014
In my previous post I discussed how Microsoft and NBC were streaming every single event live and on demand at the Sochi Olympic Games. Azure makes publishing and streaming videos easier than ever before. This post will walk you through creating a media service, uploading content (video or audio), encoding it and publishing it for consumption. We will do this all using the Azure management portal.
- To start log into Azure and go to the portal (if you don’t have an Azure account you can get one for free at http://windows.azure.com). Select ‘Media Services’ on the left hand navigation bar, then select ‘New’.
- Fill in the requested information. Note that in order to create your Media Service. You must use and existing storage account or create a new one. In this example we will be creating a new storage account. This storage account will hold all of the media that we would like to stream from Azure.
- After you Media Service is created your dashboard should look similar to this. Our next step is to upload some content. Click on the ‘Upload’ button.
- You can select content to stream in two ways. You can upload content you have stored locally on your computer, or you can “upload” content to Media Services that is already located in Azure blob storage. The content can be located in any storage account you have access to in Azure.
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by February 10th, 2014
NBC and Microsoft recently publicized they are streaming every event of the 2014 Winter Olympics to any iOS, Android, Windows device using Windows Azure Media Services. What is Windows Azure Media Services (WAMS) and how does it work?
WAMS is a cloud optimized edition of the Microsoft Media Platform (MMP) which handles a variety of tasks such as format conversion, media encryption, analytics with on-demand and live streaming capabilities. Microsoft Media Platform is traditionally confined to a server farm but by leveraging Windows Azure WAMS has nearly limitless compute and streaming capabilities.
When considering infrastructure it is important to consider which configuration we will be using. There are two options to consider Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Using this method we must setup and configure virtual machines (VM) to connect to our WAMS setup. To utilize IaaS auto-scaling we must create additional VM’s to handle requests when demand is high. This means we must forecast an approximate number of active streaming requests, create the right amount of VM’s to handle the requests and turn on the auto-scale feature to utilize the dormant, yet pre-configured VM’s.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS). Using PaaS there is no extensive VM configuration. After deploying your cloud service and configuring IIS once you can now depend on Azure to auto-scale your cloud service automatically without having to configure additional VM’s for a “just incase” scenario. There will be no need to forecast the number of concurrent requests at any given time. As long as IIS is setup to provide on-demand and live streaming media correctly once then it is setup for your cloud application no matter how great the demand. Essentially by giving up some control in configuration we can save a lot of work. This is the method most likely being utilized to deliver the Olympics.
The setup for live streaming and on-demand will slightly differ in how they are captured and consumed by the public.
- The live streaming setup involves the footage being captured, encoded and then sent to web roles in Azure (typically referred to as an “ingest” server). This can work with a single web role but for redundancy additional web roles can be used. The additional web roles can consume the data as long as they are at a different DNS address. In this situation multiple web roles are probably used for world wide redundancy. As the data is being pushed to the cloud content delivery web roles begin to pull the data and push it to the requesting parties.
- On Demand streaming does not require the high speed capture and encoding of live footage but does require an enormous amount of storage capacity. Every event during the Olympics will be available for on demand streaming, which means every even must be captured and stored in Azure blob storage. Every event is being captured in full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution). You can imagine this will amount to a substantial amount of data, probably several terabytes. While the live streaming web roles need to pull the streaming encoded content, the on demand web roles need to the stream the media files. Sending a full HD stream to a device such as a cell phone with limited bandwidth is not the most efficient distribution process so Azure utilizes a technology called Smooth Stream.
Smooth Stream is a dynamic content delivery technology that will adapt the stream that is sent to the requester based on their bandwidth. It is being utilized for both on-demand and live streaming events. In order to deliver content at a consistent frame rate free of lag or pixelation the video is broken up into small fragments. As the fragments are delivered and played, the time it took to play the fragment as well as the playback quality will be sent back to Azure. If the quality or playback time does not meet standards set on the server then the next fragment will be sent at a lower quality and the process will repeat. If bandwidth increases during the next fragment a higher quality version of the next fragment will be sent. As you can imagine this means every Olympic event needs to be stored in full HD and in several tiers of lower quality fragments to deliver content to every type of device over any kind of bandwidth.
The Olympics is no doubt one of the most watched events of the year. By utilizing dozens of Azure data centers capturing, replicating and delivering content all over the world Microsoft is once again showing the power of what can be accomplished using Windows Azure. Microsoft began streaming the Olympics in 2008 and since has quietly become a media streaming powerhouse with the ability to deliver content to millions at a moments notice.
by January 30th, 2014
Yesterday, we hosted a webinar on Power BI for Office 365: Using SharePoint Online to Deliver Self-Service Business Intelligence. During the well attended session, Andy Tegethoff, Microsoft BI architect at Perficient, first reviewed what Power BI is all about, who is likely to be a user, and the components of it. He then dug deeper into Excel self-service BI, explaining and walking through Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Map.
Next, Andy went into Power BI with Office 365, which includes Power BI Sites (an app in SharePoint Online), Data Management, and Power BI for Mobile (currently available in the Windows Store for Windows 8 and 8.1 devices). He also gave a detailed walkthrough here, illustrating the features. Lastly, he discussed IT management for Power BI.
In closing, Andy provided several helpful links to get started with Power BI:
The attendees asked many great questions, and Andy had time to answer a large portion of them. You can view the webinar replay here, including the Q&A. Read the rest of this post »
by January 3rd, 2014
First of all, congratulations to my colleague, Ryan Duclos, who received the Microsoft MVP award on January 1, 2014. You can read more about the announcement in the Microsoft MVP Award Program Blog here:
These individuals were chosen because they have demonstrated their deep commitment to helping others make the most of their technology, voluntarily sharing their passion and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with the community.
They are nominated by Microsoft, other community individuals, or in some cases themselves. Candidates are rigorously evaluated for their technical expertise, community leadership, and voluntary community contributions for the previous year.
A dedicated professional who is passionate about Microsoft development, Ryan was kind enough to sit down for a few minutes and talk about his path to becoming a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional.
Who are you, where are you, and what do you do?
Ryan Duclos: I’m Ryan Duclos and I’m a Lead Technical Consultant for the Perficient New Orleans Business Unit. I live in South Alabama near Mobile.
What are your specialties and what do you focus on?
Ryan Duclos: I’m primarily focused on custom application development utilizing Microsoft and related technologies. I’m passionate about development utilizing .Net, SQL Server and Windows Azure technologies.
What did it take to be awarded a Microsoft MVP?
Ryan Duclos: There are several different ways to obtain this recognition. For me, it is mostly based on my involvement in the community by sharing my knowledge and experiences. I speak at events; I blog about Microsoft technologies; I organize events based on Microsoft technologies; I mentor developers in my area; I occasionally contribute to forums. Read the rest of this post »
by December 30th, 2013
Last week, we shared the top five SharePoint posts from 2013, as well as the top Office 365 posts. Today, it’s all about Sitecore. As a Sitecore Certified Solution Partner, Perficient has designed, architected, implemented and delivered numerous large, public-facing sites powered by Sitecore – one of which is Perficient.com. Recently, our corporate site won the North American Sitecore Site of the Year – Best Partner Site award. Needless to say, we are big fans of Sitecore and are proud of the work we’ve done on the platform (as seen firsthand in the webinar with Lamar Advertising). So without further ado, here are the top five Sitecore posts from 2013:
Sitecore as a Semantic Content Management System – Mark Servais
In this post, Mark digs into the definition of Semantic Web and Semantic CMS, explaining that a Semantic CMS is an extended CMS as we know it today. A Semantic CMS needs to include semantic functionality such as the storage and processing of data from semantic services, as well as an engine to process reasoning and knowledge relation of that data. The post illustrates Sitecore architecture versus proposed Semantic CMS (SCMS) architecture. From this, he concludes that Sitecore contains everything and more on the content side of the SCMS stack, as well as the presentation capabilities, but at this time, does lack a knowledge and reasoning engine that is built in.
Opportunity Costs of Responsive Design with Sitecore – Jamie Stump
Responsive Design is a pretty big buzzword – not just within the tech industry, but in any business that wants to be relevant in today’s ever changing world. Responsive Design is the concept of using one set of HTML / CSS markup that looks optimal for any screen size. Jamie explains the benefits of developing your Sitecore site with Responsive Design. Of course, Responsive Design is a choice, and a choice that comes with an opportunity cost and various things to consider, and this post explores that as well. Read the rest of this post »
by December 16th, 2013
With the release of Windows Server 2012 R2 comes many great new features, including a improved virtual machine named generation 2.
Generation 2 virtual machines provide quite a few enhancements across the spectrum of Hyper-V VM technology. Perhaps most notable is the removal of legacy emulated hardware. Removal of the legacy network adapter, IDE controller, floppy controller, serial controller (COM ports), and PCI bus, results in a more efficient VM. You should see faster boot times, and quicker installations from .iso. How does a VM boot without these integral components? Where necessary, they have been replaced with software based versions.
Other enhancements include:
- Replaced BIOS with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface)
- Faster boot times
- Support for boot volumes up to 64TB (Uses GPT instead of MBR)
- Enhanced Security
- Smaller attack surface
- Secure Boot – Prevents unauthorized firmware, drivers and OS from running during boot.
- Expansion of data and boot disks while VM is running. Nice!
- Complete reliance on VHDX file format resulting in much better performance (VHD’s are no longer supported).
- Enhanced Session Mode
- This allows device redirection and the ability to control display configuration when connected via the Virtual Machine Connection tool.
Some things to keep in mind with generation 2 machines: Read the rest of this post »
by November 8th, 2013
On Wednesday, we hosted a webinar on Windows Azure. During the session, Adetayo Adegoke, a senior solutions architect at Perficient, gave an overview on Azure, which is Microsoft’s secure, standards compliant, rapidly scalable and globally distributed cloud computing offering.
It offers Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) capabilities for a wide range of technical solutions, ranging from hosting Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) and SharePoint Virtual Machine (VM) deployments in Windows Azure to offering SQL database connection points to developers. It also provides a wide range of Microsoft Windows Operating System (OS) templates as well as offerings from other vendors (multiple Linux distros), and supports a wide range of programming languages.
Adetayo covered a number of topics during the one hour webinar. He started by explaining cloud jargon, covering the many terms and acronyms associated with Windows Azure, and then discussed what Windows Azure is, and how it can help IT pros. He went on to talk about running websites and VMs in the cloud, covered supported publishing methods and web frameworks, and reviewed what else the cloud can be used for. He provided attendees with a lot of interesting information around Azure and the cloud. For instance, did you know that with Azure, you only pay for what you use?
If you happened to miss the informative session, you can watch the replay here.
by October 28th, 2013
Microsoft’s Windows Azure is a secure, standards compliant, scalable cloud computing offering. It provides a simple, comprehensive, and powerful platform for the creation of web applications and services. As an open and flexible cloud platform, it allows organizations to build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of datacenters. You can build applications using your choice of language, tool and/or framework. And it works with the infrastructure you already own, providing a cost-effective means to enhancing your business continuity strategy.
If you are looking to learn more about Azure, join us on Wednesday, November 6th at 1 p.m. CT for the webinar, Windows Azure for IT Pros. Presenter Adetayo ‘Tayo’ Adegoke is a senior solutions architect in Perficient’s Microsoft practice, focused on implementing SharePoint, cloud, and virtualization solutions for clients. During this session, he’ll provide an introduction to Windows Azure, covering topics such as:
- Cloud jargon in plain English
- What is Windows Azure and how can it help me?
- Running web sites and VMs in the cloud
- What else can I put in the cloud / what else can I use the cloud for?
- How can I use the cloud?
- How do I manage this?
To register for the webinar, click here.
Windows Azure for IT Pros
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
1:00 p.m. CT
by October 17th, 2013
Perficient’s Microsoft team is excited to announce the promotion of David Greve to National Cloud Enablement Director! Perficient’s Microsoft team is more that just Microsoft’s 2013 US Partner of the Year award winner, we are Microsoft cloud computing experts. David’s role in the organization will ensure that Perficient continues to lead with the cloud when it makes sense for our customer’s business strategy. Increasingly our customers are asking us to help them increase productivity while reducing costs. Increase the ability to bring products and service lines to market faster, while reducing their on premise hardware footprint. Address needs around Big Data, analytics, Social Business and ability to scale as needed. Cloud based solutions are a natural fit.
David Greve is a two year Microsoft MVP in Office 365 and an author for an Office 365 Exchange migration book. He has over 16 years of consulting experience in the IT industry, designing and implementing Microsoft Solutions ranging from small to enterprise environments. Currently David is working on designing and developing Microsoft Cloud solutions, with a focus on Azure PAAS and IAAS, Exchange, Lync, Intune, CRM Online and SharePoint as well as strategic migration planning in complex business environments.
We at Perficient know that the market has matured to the point that a majority of our engagements will be cloud-based in the years ahead. We were Microsoft’s Cloud Partner of the Year globally in the inaugural year for that category, and we’ve been awarded cloud partner of the year in multiple regions and districts over the past 5 years. We’ve activated and deployed several hundred thousand seats of Office 365, and have extensive experience with Azure, Intune, CRM, and Lync. In fact Perficient is one of only a handful of companies globally with multiple Lync MCM’s on staff. We look forward to continuing to show our customers the way to the cloud and how leveraging cloud based solutions can help them to address their business needs.
by October 9th, 2013
What is Sitecore Azure?
In simple words, it is your Sitecore implementation running in Windows Azure, a popular cloud computing platform from Microsoft. Sitecore Azure provides development and deployment tools to support Sitecore CMS and DMS(Digital Marketing System) in Windows Azure.
Windows Azure: As you may already know, Windows Azure services are available both as IaaS (Infrastructure as a service) and PaaS(Platform as a service). To be precise it offers four execution models for your application:
- Virtual machines(IaaS)
- Cloud Services(PaaS)
- Web sites
- Mobile services
Please see Window Azure page to know more of various execution models and other information.
Sitecore – PaaS and IaaS
Sitecore Azure – PaaS: Your Sitecore environment in Azure is maintained and patched automatically, instead of you working with virtual machines directly and managing them. Your implementation can be scaled out by adding large building blocks such as instances, web roles and farms.
Sitecore in Windows Azure – IaaS: You can get a virtual machine, created out of a standard disk image or your own disk image and you are responsible for patching, installing updates and maintaining it. It offers you more control, with added maintenance liability though.
Sitecore Azure subscription – It is a PaaS offering where your Sitecore installations were managed by automated Sitecore features. You can also use your existing Windows Azure subscription for Sitecore Azure installation.
Windows Azure subscription: You could choose to subscribe to Windows Azure directly and manage Sitecore on your own. You can still use deployment tools that Sitecore Azure uses.
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