Some Thoughts & Comments From WPC 2015

Here are some things that I thought were noteworthy from Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2015 in Orlando this week. Keep reading even if you don’t work for a Microsoft partner, because this stuff affects anyone working in the Microsoft world.

These may be paraphrases because I wasn’t taking precise notes.

“Cortana is everyone’s assistant”

Not it’s not, when on the phone (the most mature version) it’s only supported in 10 countries. You can make it work internationally by screwing up your regional settings. This is what we call The Curse of Zune.

“I love my iPhone”

The Microsoft employee that said this live on a keynote stage was summarily executed backstage. Holy crap on a cracker!

“Cortana Analytics ….. <Snores>”

See The Curse of Zune. I’ll care when Cortana is relevant.

“Cortana Analytics will help businesses all over the planet”

Uh, no. It’ll help the USA at first, and then a max of 10 countries. Don’t believe me? Check out … I dunno … history.

“Sea Otters!!!!”

Apparently, this is why 12,000+ Microsoft partners flew to Orlando this week, according to Terry Myerson. Strange, because Sea Otters are native to the Pacific coast.

“Laissez le bon Windows rollez”

My reaction to Bryan Roper’s Windows 10 demo. OK, he’s Cuban-American and not cajun, but that’s what I thought (and tweeted) at the time. Best demo of Windows 10 I’ve seen yet, and LOVED the energy. The hat beats the hair, easily. We need more Roper in keynotes.

“Microsoft to expand its Surface distributor count from a couple hundred to a few thousand worldwide”

This is huge news. It means nothing to most people, but for the last 3 years my employers have said “sorry, we can’t sell that” over and over and over. To finally open the sluice gates through the channel to business, Microsoft’s new $1 billion business could double or treble in a year.

*Yawn*

Seriously, Microsoft, trim those keynotes down to 2 hours. Down … to … two … hours. Oh my!

“Soon you will see premium Microsoft phones designed for Windows 10”

Nice timing – I’m due an upgrade from my provider. Me wanty Continuum.

“CSP program to include Azure, Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) and CRM Online, in addition to Office 365”

Again, means nothing to most of you, but this opens up a joint syndication channel to end customers via the channel. It’ll simplify purchasing, and force big changes in the channel too.

“New sync engine coming to OneDrive for Business”

This is badly needed. Two reasons I hear from partners that use DropBox with customers instead:

  • Constantly failing sync that is costly to repair
  • Problems with file path limitations

“There will be 5 more #Azure regions opening in the next few months”

Wowzas! South Korea is rumoured, though Finland was too. India is to come online with 2 regions before the end of this year.  Canada is getting two in 2016 (Toronto and Quebec City).

“Microsoft cloud partner competencies shifting to adoption instead of sales”

Competencies are the incentive-based expertises that partners must qualify to achieve. One measure has been amount of associated licensing sold to the partner’s customers. This is changing, as it it internally with Microsoft’s sales people, from monetary value to adoption. This is to counter “shadow sales” of cloud services that are more like sneaky discounted inclusions in volume licensing deals rather than requested purchases.

“WPC 2016 will be in Toronto”

Start camping out for your sessions now. The reviews that I heard of of the last WPC in Toronto were horrific – big crowds, tiny rooms, and few people able to attend sessions.

“You’ve got to have technical people dedicated to keeping up with Azure”

Keeping up is my job. It’s impossible for one person to keep up. Either have a team of subject matter experts that have time allocated to do this, or get serious about attending regular tech updates. And this isn’t just Azure, it’s EVERYTHING Microsoft from 2 years ago onwards.

“We’ve got to become more technical”

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner told this to partner sales people, account managers, owners and Microsoft subsidiaries, many of which have drained away technical roles over the last 5 years. Fact is, folks, Azure is a technical sale. No solution design, no pricing, no sale. Please move on.

“Continuum is my favourite feature of Windows 10”

Satya Nadella agrees with me. If Continuum-capable flagship Windows phones can be put into the hands of enterprise users with Office 365, then we have a game changer. But Microsoft needs to fix the channel. Their fascination with telecoms companies ha crippled the phone. Even Apple is selling unlocked phones via distribution now.

Microsoft News – 16 July 2015

It’s been a busy week with WPC driving announcements that affect partners.

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Windows Client

Azure

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System Center

  • Datazen Enterprise Server: Datazen Enterprise Server is a collection of web applications and Windows services. Acts as a repository for storing and sharing dashboards and KPIs.

Office 365

Licensing

Miscellaneous

Microsoft News–13 July 2015

I don’t have all that much for you, but the big news is the Azure Site Recovery (ASR, Microsoft’s DR site in the cloud) now supports VMware virtual machines and physical servers, without using System Center. You do need to run some stuff on-prem and in the cloud to make it work though, so there will be a tipping point where the solution becomes affordable.

Azure

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System Center

Office 365

Introducing @Cloud_Girl_MWH

Hey folks, if you’re interested in keeping up with the goings on in Office 365 then please let me introduce you to Nicole Sheridan, aka @Cloud_Girl_MWH. Nicole is one of the big reasons that Ireland is one of Microsoft’s most successful markets for Office 365. No; she doesn’t work for Microsoft (so it’s not all marketing). Nicole is on Twitter as @Cloud_Girl_MWH and is now blogging for MicroWarehouse.

Go on; giver her a follow! I promise that’s she’s a lot less narky than I am 😀

The August 1st Microsoft Price Increases Continue – Office 365 & More

I learned today that the price of Office 365 is increasing, at least in the Euro zone. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Every SKU except E3/E4 is going up by 10%
  • E3 and E4 are going up by 8%
  • 365 Pro Plus is not increasing

As well as that we will see other online prices going up:

  • CRM Online by 10%
  • EMS by a whopping 26%

We already know that user (not device) CALs for on-prem products are going up by roughly 13%:

  • Core CAL Suite
  • Enterprise CAL Suite
  • Exchange Server Standard & Enterprise CALs
  • Lync Server Standard, Enterprise, & Plus CALs
  • Project Server CAL
  • SharePoint Standard & Enterprise CAL
  • System Center Configuration Manager
  • System Center Endpoint Protection
  • System Center Client Management Suite
  • Windows Server CAL
  • Windows RDS & RMS CAL
  • Windows MultiPoint CAL

VDA pricing is going up by 9% approximately.

My advice: if you’re buying soon then buy now, and enter a volume license agreement that locks in your pricing for X years. A good distributor or LAR can give you the correct advice. That’s fine for the on-prem stuff, but cloud services are subject to fluctuation, even in volume licensing.

To any “journalist” that decides to quote this post: my name is Aidan Finn.

As usual, I will not be answering licensing questions. That’s the job of your reseller, LAR, or distributor.

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Microsoft News – 29 June 2015

As you might expect, there’s lots of Azure news. Surprisingly, there is still not much substantial content on Windows 10.

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Windows Client

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Azure

Office 365

EMS

Misc

Azure AD Connect is Generally Available

Thenews that AADConnect is now GA is great for anyone battling with synchronizing to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD or AAD). This tool really is going to be the start of connecting your business to Microsoft’s cloud solutions:

  • Azure
  • Office 365
  • Intune
  • RMS
  • CRM
  • And many more, including third-party solutions via AAD single sign-on

Why? Because you need to get users into the common AAD before these services become meaningful. I’ve used AAD in two different preview releases and found it really simple to get going. Any work that I’ve done with Azure RemoteApp has be done with this tool. Why didn’t I use DirSync? Because I found it to be unreliable. AADConnect solves a big problem too – which AD sync tool should I use – now you use just one tool.

According to Microsoft:

With a rich set of sync and write-back capabilities, you can:

  • Enable your users to perform self-service password reset in the cloud with write-back to on premises AD
  • Enable provisioning from the cloud with user write back to on premises AD
  • Enable write back of “Groups in Office 365” to on premises distribution groups in a forest with Exchange
  • Enable device write back so that your on-premises access control policies enforced by ADFS can recognize devices that registered with Azure AD. This includes the recently announced support for Azure AD Join in Windows 10.
  • Sync custom directory attributes to your Azure Active Directory tenant and consume it from your cloud applications

You can also use AADConnect to connect different AD forests.

In related news Azure AD Connect Health was also released to help customers troubleshoot what’s going on with ADFS. This new feature is included in Azure AD Premium.

This release for ADFS has 3 key capabilities:

  • Alerts based on events, configuration information, synthetic transactions and perf data. So, when something goes wrong, or is about to go wrong, we let you know.
  • Graphs of login activity that you can pivot multiple ways for easy viewing. These “usage insights,” are accessible when you enable auditing on your ADFS servers. They are based on audits generated when user’s login and tokens are generated for applications.
  • Access to key performance indicators across multiple servers, including token request counters, processor, memory, latency, and so forth

Microsoft News 28-May-2015

Very little to cover here, except one possibly controversial article on Hyper-V that you long-time readers might expect me to write an angry response to …

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Azure

Office 365

Microsoft News – 25-May-2015

It’s taken me nearly all day to fast-read through this lot. Here’s a dump of info from Build, Ignite, and since Ignite. Have a nice weekend!

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Windows Client

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Intune

  • Announcing support for Windows 10 management with Microsoft Intune: Microsoft announced that Intune now supports the management of Windows 10. All existing Intune features for managing Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 will work for Windows 10.
  • Announcing the Mobile Device Management Design Considerations Guide: If you’re an IT Architect or IT Professional and you need to design a mobile device management (MDM) solution for your organization, there are many questions that you have to answer prior to recommending the best solution for the problem that you are trying to solve. Microsoft has many new options available to manage mobile devices that can match your business and technical requirements.
  • Mobile Application Distribution Capabilities in Microsoft Intune: Microsoft Intune allows you to upload and deploy mobile applications to iOS, Android, Windows, and Windows Phone devices. In this post, Microsoft will show you how to publish iOS apps, select the users who can download them, and also show you how people in your organization can download these apps on their iOS devices.
  • Microsoft Intune App Wrapping Tool for Android: Use the Microsoft Intune App Wrapping Tool for Android to modify the behavior of your existing line-of-business (LOB) Android apps. You will then be able to manage certain app features using Intune without requiring code changes to the original application.

Licensing

Miscellaneous

Microsoft News – 23 April 2015

I’ve been really busy either preparing training, delivering training, on customer sites, or prepping my two sessions for Ignite. Here’s the roundup of recent Microsoft news for infrastructure IT pros:

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Windows 10

Azure

Office 365

Intune

Miscellaneous