TechNet Live Tour: Cloud for IT Pros

Microsoft’s TechNet Live Tour is giving a half day seminar on the cloud and what it means for the IT professional. I’ve been invited along so, for a change, I’m going to try a bit of a “live blog” approach, just typing as I go. It’s going to cover Windows Intune, Small Business Server 2011, Office 365, Dynamics CRM 2011, Azure, Windows Phone 7 and IE9.  Could be a long afternoon.

The event opens with a keynote on the Cloud for IT Pros given by Dave Northey. The cloud and the consumerisation of IT are the big impacts of now and Dave will cover them both. Dave suggests that business led technology a decade ago. But today consumers lead. The average home PC is more powerful than work PCs. Most consumers use Windows 7, yet XP is still used extensively in business.

The three big cloud providers are Microsoft, Amazon and Google, with room for a fourth. Cloud computing is Internet-based computing whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand like the electricity grid – Wikipedia.

Cloud Data Centre
Shared resources – stability, security, reliability, QoS, SLAs

On-Demand – pay as you go, no upfront investment, instant access, scale, no money wasted when projects fail

Public Cloud v Private Cloud
Private cloud uses own data centre. Control over data but less scale.

Regardless aim is for capacity to follow demand. What workload patterns are suitable for cloud?
– On and off, e.g. Batch jobs, video transcoding
– Growing fast, e.g. Unexpectedly successful services
– Unpredictable bursting, e.g. Spikes caused by natural disasters
– Predictable bursting, e.g. End of month for finance.

Type of cloud services
– Software as a Service (SaaS) for users
– Platform as a Service (PaaS) for developers
– Infrastruce as a Service (IaaS) for IT

Datacentre evolution
– Traditional datacentre
– Virtualised datacentre
– On premises private cloud
– Off premises cloud
Virtualisation was a pre-requisite for the cloud.

The private cloud is virtualisation plus self-service, scalability and automation.

Azure is Ms’ platform as a service. It’s a developer offering linked into Visual Studio, .net, PHP and so on. Three components – Azure AppFabric for access control and comms, SQL Azure for database, Windows Azure for compute and storage.

Dave then gives a demo of some of the features of Azure including simply connecting to a folder stored in the cloud but the most impressive part was the management of all the virtual machines. In the (short) demo, a cloud-based server was provisioned with web services.

Cloud services are coming, with private clouds first followed by the move to the public cloud.

Ooh, they’ve announced a Surface device is here.

Surface1

Surface2

Surface3

Surface4

Dave also gave an inpromptu demo of Windows Phone 7 which was as much a selection of soundbites as it was a demo.
– Microsoft expects to be #2 behind Android and ahead of iPhone.
– Multiple forms factors from HTC and Nokia who make over 100 million phones per year.
– It’s a consumer device first
– Marketplace will have quality, tested apps.
– Try before you buy option available to all developers but only one version required – that’s clever.
– Average app lifetime, i.e. Find, download, try, delete is 5 mins.
– Expected that a developer wil earn 10 times as much from Windows Phone app as from iPhone.

Next up was Office 365 by Patrick Herlihy.

Office 365 is the new Software as a Service offering which includes Office, Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online and Lync Online.

Office licensed on a pay as you go per user. Full and latest version of Office. Lync will offer IM, presence and web conference from the start. Voice will arrive later.

Different licensing options for different types of users, e.g. Kiosk worker for basic options, Information worker for more. There are lots of different licensing options depending on your organisations need.

The process to moving to the cloud and using Office 365 goes through standardisation, deployment, service change and includes privacy & security considerations. In particular, most ActiveDirectories will need a good tidy.

Regarding sign on, there are two options – Ms Online IDs or new Federated IDs which allow single sign-on from existing credentials. The latter will need an internal deployment of ADFS.

DirSync synchronises the organisation’s internal ActiveDirectory with the version hosted in the cloud for Office 365. This is needed to keep online permissions etc in step with the organisation.

Exchange Online can co-exist with in-house Exchange and there are tools to move mailboxes between the two systems.

Patrick gave a quick on-line demo of the product. The on-line versions were all very similar to their Windows-based equivalent. Firefix, Safari and IE are all supported. The management tools were comprehensive as well.

The public beta of Office 365 is available now.

Patrick continued to Microsoft’s Intune, a cloud-based PC management service. It offers malware protection, alert monitoring, patch management, software and hardware inventories and remote assistance / desktop sharing. He then gave a demo of the system and it was competent enough. I could certainly see it replacing a number of separate tools. However you got the feeling that it was version 1 and version 2 would be much better. Probably best suited to SMEs with hundreds of PCs rather than thousands.

As proceeds were running late, I had to leave, missing some of the subsequent sessions. But I’ll be back…

Overall, a useful introduction to Microsoft’s vision of a cloud-based future.