What Are Microsoft “Flights” And “Flighting”?

There is a term that I’ve heard for a while when talking to Microsoft program managers, and it has started to be used publicly by Microsoft staff. I read it on a post by Ben Armstrong:

If you are already on 10049 and have not yet enabled Hyper-V, you can either follow the above steps, or hang tight while we work on the next flight!

Rick Claus also used the term in the latest episode of the Ignite Countdown show.

Like all cloud services, in case you don’t know, this is what we’re doing with regards to flighting new things into it.

Microsoft’s Gabe Aul also explained the term in a Blogging Windows post on March 18th:

… we’ll have some weeks where we expect builds to flow out (we call them “flighting windows”) and some where we’ll hold back

And the term was also used by Aul when he explained the frequency of builds for Windows Insiders:

… we’d have a candidate build, and we’d flight that out broadly within MS to make sure we could find any gotchas …

So what are they talking about? You’ve probably heard that Windows 10, when it RTMs, isn’t “finished”. In fact, it’ll probably never be a finished product in the view of Microsoft until they release Windows 11 (if there is one). Microsoft will be updating this OS on a regular basis, adding new functionality. I know we’ve heard that sort of thing before, but it’s real this time. Windows Insiders are seeing it now, and the reality is that Microsoft development process was changed quite a bit after Windows 8.1 to make this possible. We know from TEE14 that the same happened to Windows Server to make it work more seamlessly with Azure.

This approach is taken from cloud computing and lightweight phone/tablet OSs:

  • You release a block of code that is developed and tested to a stable point.
  • There is a stack rank of additional features and changes that you wanted to implement but didn’t have the person-hours to complete.
  • You get feedback and that modifies the stack rank.
  • The market changes and more features are added to the stack rank
  • You code/test some new stuff over a short period and release it

This release is a flight and the process is flighting. It’s just another way of saying “release”. I guess, “release” in a devs mind is a big irregular event, whereas a flight is something that happens on a regular basis.

In the Microsoft world, we see flights all the time with Azure and quite frequently with SaaS such as O365 and Intune. Windows is moving this way too. The result is you get a regular improvement of the product instead of every 1,2, or 3 years. Microsoft can be more responsive to feedback and change. Consumers will love this. Businesses will get control over the updates, but I suspect, as we saw with the April 2014 update (AKA “Update 1”) that came into force in August 2014, there will be a support baseline update every now and then to ease the difficult for Microsoft on supporting Windows.

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Microsoft News – 13 March 2015

Quite bit of stuff to read since my last aggregation post on the 3rd.

Windows Server

Hyper-V

Windows Client

Azure

Office 365

Intune

Miscellaneous

Microsoft News – 3 March 2015

Here’s the latest in the Microsoft world!

Hyper-V

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Miscellaneous

Video – Pricing Solutions With Azure Virtual Machines

One of the biggest blockers, in my personal opinion, to Azure IaaS adoption in the SME space is understanding how to price solutions. I don’t get questions about technology, features, cost, trust or any of that; instead, I get questions such as “how much will this cost me?”. Microsoft does not help themselves with a very complex pricing model – please don’t try to bring up AWS – Microsoft doesn’t sell AWS so I don’t get why they are relevant!

So I’ve started producing some videos for my employers. This one focuses on pricing solutions based on Azure virtual machines.

The Price Of Azure Online Backup is … I Don’t Know!

Microsoft sent out emails last night to inform Azure customers that the pricing of Azure Online Backup is changing.

Currently, you get 5 GB free and then pay €0.149/month (rounded to €0.15) in North Europe for each additional 1 GB.

On April 1st, the pricing structure changes:

image

So, 5 GB free. Then for each machine you backup, you pay at least €7.447, with an additional charge of €7.447 for each additional 500 GB protected on that machine. And that DOES NOT COVER the cost of storage consumed in Azure. You have to pay for that too (GB/month and transactions).

So how much will that be? I have no frickin’ idea. There is no indication what kind of storage or what resiliency is required.

It might be Block Blobs running at €0.0179/GB (LRS) or €0.0358/GB (GRS). But who knows because Microsoft didn’t bother documenting it!

That leads me to an issue. The biggest blocker I’ve seen in the adoption of Azure in the SME space is not cost, technical complexity, or trust. The biggest issue is that few people understand how to price a solution in Azure. If you’re deploying a VM you need the VM/hour cost, storage space, storage transactions, egress data, and probably a gateway. Is there a single place that says all that on the Azure portal? No. What Microsoft has is isolated islands of incomplete information on the Azure website, and a blizzard of pricing in their Excel-based pricing “tools”.

If Microsoft is serious about Azure adoption, then they need to get real about helping customers understand how to price tools. Azure Online Backup was the tool I was starting to get traction with in the SME/partner space. I can see this new announcement introducing uncertainty. This change needs to be changed … fast … and not go through the Sinofskian feedback model.

Grade: F. Must try harder.

Microsoft News – 26 February 2015

In today’s cloudy link aggregation I have news on Windows Server (2003 end of life to Azure), Private Cloud bugs, Azure, and Office 365.

Windows Server

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Microsoft News – 24 February 2015

Here is the latest news in the world of Microsoft infrastructure:

Hyper-V

Windows Server

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Miscellaneous

Why I’m Diving Into Azure

Two years ago, if you’d asked me which direction I would expand into from Hyper-V, it wouldn’t have been into Azure. But, things change. Back in 2007, I believe that I blogged that I wouldn’t work with Hyper-V and would be sticking with VMware. Then a year later I’m working with Hyper-V, blogging about it, and eventually evangelizing about it too!

But what got me to change my mind about switching to Hyper-V? It was System Center. I was a fan of System Center and I saw the potential of Microsoft big picture thinking for the data centre. How times have changed. In recent years, I have moved more and more away from using System Center. While I still love the potential power of the suite, it has become less and less relevant for me and my customers. Microsoft saw to that back in 2012 when they changed the licensing of System Center. Other things, such as increased complexity of installation and maintenance (hiding necessary upgrade steps while pushing automated upgrades via Windows Update) makes owning System Center more of a complexity than it should be. And meanwhile, the Windows Server group has made the automation of System Center less necessary by giving us PowerShell. The market of System Center has shrunk to a relatively small number of very large sales. And that doesn’t include my market here in Ireland.

Unlike many of my fellow MVPs, who are gravitating to the small amount of but large profit System Center work that is out there, I’m moving in my own direction. The writing is on the wall. The cloud is here, real, and relevant to businesses of ALL sizes. I’ve been adding Microsoft Azure IaaS to my arsenal of Hyper-V, clustering, and Windows Server storage/networking skills over the past year or so. Once again, it appears that I’m swimming in a small pool but I’ve been there before; I swam in the Hyper-V puddle that became an ocean.

There’s so much to Azure and it’s growing and evolving at an incredible pace. It’s not an alien technology. There is the fact that Azure is based on Hyper-V (WS2012 to be exact). But Azure compliments on-premises deployments too. Need off-site backup? Want an affordable DR site? Need burst compute/storage capacity? Azure does all that … and much more … with or without System Center, for SMEs, large enterprises, and hosting companies.

I’ve been running a lot of Microsoft partner training locally since last August. I’ve been doing quite a bit of Azure writing for Petri.com. Expect to see some of that appear here too. Oh!, before you ask, yes, I will still centre on Hyper-V and I’ll continue to talk about the new stuff when the time is right Smile

Microsoft News – 19 February 2015

Here’s the latest in the Microsoft world. Shame on Lenovo for pre-installing adware that is a man-in-the-middle attack. Crapware must die!

Hyper-V

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Microsoft Partners

Miscellaneous

Presenting Using Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

Yesterday was the first time that I came “this close” to my prefect presenting peripherals setup. I’ve wanted to be able to present from a tablet without the tether of a VGA or HDMI cable for years but it has never been possible. I have tried various things, but none worked out … either the performance sucked, the screen resolution was too low, or it just flat-out didn’t work at all.

Then came along Miracast, powered by hardware and enabled in Windows 8.1 with no drivers required. Last year Microsoft launched the Wireless Display Adapter (Amazon.com, Amazon UK). This is a dongle that plugs into HDMI capable TVs and projectors, and is powered by USB (from the display device or direct from power). I picked one up last November in the USA, and my employer just started distributing them to resellers (not direct via retail) in Ireland.

Previous to yesterday, I have been using my dongle to project ripped video and Netflix to the TV. It works perfectly, sending video and audio to the TV. There are times when I work from home when I’m sitting on the couch working on my laptop while video streams to the TV. And in theory, I could even use the TV as a second monitor! And yes, I’ve even used the TV for rehearsing presentations.

But yesterday was the first time that I presented using Miracast via the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter. I brought along a cheap Windows tablet with Office installed and the dongle was plugged into a nice HDMI ready projector, and power came direct from a socket. The tablet connected flawlessly. However, PowerPoint killed the tablet … 1 GB RAM is just not enough. I ended up using my KIRAbook to present … wirelessly. It was nice to set up in the room where I wanted to be instead of behind a podium. Sure I would have liked to have roamed … but it was not to be.

Anyway, next time, I’ll have a Toshiba Encore that has 2 GB RAM and I’ve verified that PowerPoint will work on. And that will allow me to roam, using presenter mode on the tablet and have my notes in front of me.

FYI: the dongle works really well. But we have a Sony display (a TV without a tuner) at work that we cannot get dongles to work with. Everything else has worked fine.

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