Introducing the Enterprise Mobility Suite

Microsoft announced today the new “Enterprise Mobility Suite”, a bundle of previously released and upcoming new products revolving around Mobile Device Management.

EMS includes the following Azure services bundled together in a single subscription price:

  • Azure Active Directory Premium
  • Windows Intune
  • Azure Rights Management

Each of these is available as standalone products on a per user, per month subscription.  With the EMS, you get a 30% discount as a bundle of services.

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Office for IPad Officially Released

Office for IPad!

 

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella has just announced the release of Office for IPad.  This marks the shift from Windows only to supporting any tablet platform. 

Nadella’s new blog post, “A cloud for everyone, for every device” says it all – no more Windows exclusivity with the recognition that for Microsoft to thrive it needs to be open, support non-Windows devices and provide agnostic cloud services. 

The license is included in your Office 365 subscription – now you can install office on up to 5 PCs AND 5 tablets!

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Odd Change in Upgrade to SharePoint 2013 in Office 365–Filterable Columns in Lists

In our consulting practice, we have a document library for storing our sales presentations, documents, and templates.  In order to make it easier to find older materials, we created a “Sales Document” content type with a number of filterable columns.  The columns use the term store to provide a hierarchical tag structure.

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We originally created the document library in the SharePoint 2010 version of Office 365 and over the weekend we upgraded to SharePoint 2013.  In upgrading, our filter columns broke – in our list view they are no longer filterable!  If you hover over the column, you get the error, “This column type cannot be sorted or filtered”. 

I thought it might be some corruption during the upgrade process, so I created a new Document Library and assigned the exact same content type with the same columns.  The document library worked just fine. 

Then I turned on Metadata Navigation Fields for hierarchy and filter fields and my problem re-occurred. 

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So here seems to be the rule: if you turn on navigation filtering, the filtering within the column header becomes disabled.  This seems to be new to 2013 as I had turned these on in 2010 and it worked just fine.

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Resources for Azure Architects Looking for Best Practices

For those architects moving from a traditional ASP.NET, SQL and IIS world to developing applications for Azure, there are some new challenges in designing applications that are maintainable, high performance and secure.

Design Patterns are prescriptive and re-usable solutions or best practices that can be used by Architects to solve problems and optimize their solution architectures. 

Competing Consumers

As you move to the cloud, there are some key challenges such as availability management, data consistency, distributed caching, and security that are unique to the cloud and present some challenges for those moving from a traditional on premise context to develop cloud optimized applications.

Figure 1 - Running tasks in a cloud environment by using a set of dedicated computational units

Microsoft has published a series of articles and e-books on Design Patterns for Azure that you might find useful if you are moving your existing application to the cloud and/or implementing a new architecture using Azure services:

Enjoy!

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New Microsoft Project Lite Service Arriving in May

Microsoft Project has been around for many years and is a key tool for many organizations to plan, track and resource projects.  Microsoft also has an enterprise class Portfolio management product – Project Server and now Project Online – that allows project managers to collaborate on multiple projects and for portfolio managers to see the big picture across the organization and to review portfolios of multiple projects.

Project Online is Project Server running in the cloud completely integrated into Office 365.  It costs $33.90 / user / month on an annual subscription.

In recent years, enterprise portfolio management platforms have had competition from lighter weight, cloud based project management and collaboration systems.  Offerings such as Basecamp, Zoho Projects, and WorkZone provide simpler, cheaper and 100% cloud based solutions for teams managing and collaborating on projects. 

In order to compete with these offerings, Microsoft has just announced a new Project Lite offering that will be $7 / user / month.  It will be available May 1, 2014 and will be less focused on portfolio management and more on project teams requiring a light weight project management solution. 

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OData SSIS Component Now Available for SQL Server 2012

OData is Microsoft’s open data protocol and is a key part of their hybrid, cross-platform, distributed computing strategy.  As mentioned in a previous blog post, OData is everywhere including SharePoint, Excel and Azure.

Microsoft has just released its OData Source for SQL 2012 SSIS.  Users can now use OData as a SSIS data source and then provide further ETL processing using the standard SSIS components. 

This may be particularly attractive for those running SharePoint Online, Azure or Project Server in that these services provide readily consumable OData sources. 

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The Importance of OData in Microsoft’s Data Strategy

OData is a standardized protocol for creating and consuming data APIs.  In a similar way to how web services and later REST provided an HTTP accessible standard for invoking distributed functions or APIs, OData provides a similar model for access data feeds.

Introduction to OData

 

Microsoft has embraced the OData protocol in multiple scenarios across multiple products. 

These include:

OData is a critical part of Microsoft’s data strategy and its support for open standards.  Microsoft has submitted the OData standard to OASIS so that it can be managed as an open standard.  There are unfortunately not very many vendors using OData as a standard – SAP is one of the few enterprise vendors supporting the standard.  Hopefully as OData moves into the OASIS family it will be adopted by other vendors so that it can be used more broadly than just within the Microsoft eco-system.

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Are You Evaluating Visual Studio Online? Read this Important Update on Migration Capabilities…

 

Visual Studio Online is Microsoft’s cloud based application lifecycle management service.  It replaces what used to be called Team Foundation Service and provides source code control, test management, task management and continuous integration services.

Visual Studio Online provides a subset of features available on premise.  For example, Lab Manager and SharePoint portals are not available and there are limits on template and report customization.

One of the key challenges in adopting Visual Studio Online is that there is no current migration path if you want to move back to Team Foundation Server on premise.

For migration of one premise TFS instances, there are a couple options including migrating databases and/or using a tool called the TFS Integration Platform.  However, this tool does not current work with Visual Studio Online successfully to migrate off of that platform. 

The lack of a migration option has been identified as an issue by Microsoft and there is a new blog post from Brian Harry, who is the Product Manager for TFS, that details a newly proposed one-time migration process for those who want to move off of Visual Studio Online.

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The key details are as follows:

  • Early adopter status has been extended to May 7, 2014.
  • Migration requires you to contact Microsoft by email at no charge.
  • You can only migrate to a TFS 2013 Update 2 server.
  • Migration is only available as a one time feature and will be available only for 6 weeks.

The key challenge that the VS Online team has is that with the speed of their release cycles, keeping up with schema changes and mapping them from the latest VS Online version back to TFS 2013 is complicated, requires extensive testing, and deployment. 

I’d very much like to have a permanent export feature – I think there are lots of scenarios that it would enable, and I haven’t given up on getting there.  However, going into the the implementation of this capability we knew it was going to be very expensive.  The big problem with it is that the service upgrades every 3 weeks but the on-premises product can’t.  That means that when we export, we have to “downgrade” or transform the schema from the then current schema on the service to the schema that was supported in some version (realistically, the most recent) of the on-premises product.  That means, for every feature we build, we must not only build the feature and build the upgrade path but we must also build the downgrade path.  And building the downgrade path isn’t the most difficult part – it’s validating it on a large enough set of real world customer data to make sure that it works reliably.

At this point, we know we have some large schema changes coming this summer as we enable process customization and other important features people are waiting for.  We are not going to be able maintain the the “downgrade” code path through those changes.  I don’t like it and I’m sure I’ll get my share of comments reinforcing this but I believe it’s a call we need to make.  To manage through this, we have decided to scope the capability, for now, to aiding people through the transition and will consider doing more later.  I’m not making any promises but will certainly listen to feedback over the next year.

So if you are evaluating VS Online as a mid-term to long-term solution, be aware that migrating off of it may be a challenge in the future.  If you are currently online and want to migrate on premise, make sure you take advantage of this one time migration program when it is announced.

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Office 365 Storage Limits Increased Again!

Microsoft has announced today another storage limit increase for Office 365.

The key changes are as follows:

  • OneDrive for Business and Site Collections now can be up to 1 TB in size. 
  • Office 365 Tenants can now buy an unlimited amount of storage.

OneDrive for Business users are allocated 25 GB / user.  For site collections, tenants are provided a total available storage of 10 GB + 500 MB x the number of users.  So if you have 20 users, each user gets 25 GB for OneDrive Storage and your Site Collection storage is capped at 20 GB.  However, as of today, you can now purchase additional storage of up to 1 TB for OneDrive and an unlimited amount (assuming you’re willing to pay) for Site Collections.

Extra storage is $0.20 / GB / Month.

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