Forrester names Windows Azure SQL Database an Enterprise Cloud Database Leader

by Shijaz Abdulla on 16.11.2012 at 22:45

Windows AzureWindows AzureWindows Azure

Forrester Research, Inc. has positioned Microsoft as a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Cloud Databases, Q4 2012. Microsoft received the highest scores of any vendor in Current Offering and Market Presence. Forrester describes its rigorous and lengthy Wave process: “To evaluate the vendors and their products against our set of criteria, we gather details of product qualifications through a combination of lab evaluations, questionnaires, demos, and/or discussions with client references.” You can read the full report for free here: http://www.forrester.com/pimages/rws/reprints/document/70541/oid/1-LLP641.

Forrester notes that “cloud database offerings represent a new space within the broader data management platform market, providing enterprises with an abstracted option to support agile development and new social, mobile, cloud, and eCommerce applications as well as lower IT costs.”

Within this context, Forrester identified the benefits of Windows Azure SQL Database as follows: “With this service, you can provision a [SQL Database instance] easily, with simplified administration, high availability, scalability, and its familiar development model,” and “although there is a 150 GB limit on the individual database size with SQL Database, customers are supporting multiple terabytes by using each database as a shard and integrating it through the application.”

If you’d like to read a few examples of customers taking advantage of these features, I’d suggest the following from the Microsoft case study site:

  • Fujitsu System Solutions: “Developers at Fsol can also rapidly provision new databases on SQL Database, helping the company to quickly scale up or scale down its databases, just as it can for its compute needs with Windows Azure.”
  • Connect2Field: “With SQL Database, the replication of data happens automatically…. For an individual company to run its own data replication is really complicated.… If we were to lose any one of our customer’s data, we would lose so much credibility that we wouldn’t be able to get any more customers. Data loss would destroy our customers’ businesses too.”
  • Flavorus: “By using sharding with SQL Database, we can have tons of customers on the site at once trying to buy tickets.”

The best way to try out SQL Database and Windows Azure is through the free trial. Click here to get started

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Available now: Citrix Receiver for Windows RT/Windows 8

by Shijaz Abdulla on 11.11.2012 at 22:58

The Citrix Receiver for Windows 8 and Windows RT are available now on the Windows Store.

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This 4.53 MB download lets you access your Windows VDI session from your Surface, tablet or slate device or computer running Windows 8 or Windows RT.

This potentially enables new scenarios for IT to support BYOD scenarios in today’s world where the line between work and home devices begin to blur. Users can work on any Windows device they choose, regardless of whether it runs Windows 8 or Windows RT and still be able to connect securely to their corporate managed Windows desktop session, which is governed by their organization’s IT policies. On the device itself, they can install and run their favorite apps, and store personal pictures, media and files.

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The Citrix receiver is also available for non-Microsoft platforms, enabling access to Windows desktops from heterogeneous platforms such as IOS, Android, etc.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the Remote Desktop client from Microsoft is also available with Windows 8 and Windows RT, allowing you to connect similarly to desktop sessions without Citrix.

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Updating Office 2013 on Surface RT

by Shijaz Abdulla on 01.11.2012 at 21:40

The Surface RT device ships with pre-installed Office 2013 Home & Student Edition Preview software. Being a preview, there are some issues that need fixing.

Thankfully, an update is available, which fixes all problems and removes the “Preview” tag from the application splash screen.

The update is available via Windows Update. If you do not see the update in Windows Update, follow the steps below:

1. Open the Search option on the charm bar, and type “update” in the search box. Press ENTER.

2. Choose the “Install Optional Updates” from the search results. This will fire the desktop version of Windows Update.

3. Under optional updates, select the update for Office 2013 Home & Student Edition (586 MB) and install it.

Surface RT: Hands on

by Shijaz Abdulla on 31.10.2012 at 09:04

Received my 32GB Surface RT tablet yesterday. I had pre-ordered on the Microsoft store like everyone else and had Aramex ship it to me here in Qatar through their Shop and Ship service, as the device is not available locally yet. I am composing this post on Word 2013 that came pre-installed on the device.

I must admit that even as an employee of Microsoft, this device has exceeded my own personal expectations! I will try to be honest in my review, although I must say that the device is mind-blowing as a whole.

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Here are some good reasons why I recommend this device:

1. Office – We all know without a shadow of doubt that Microsoft Office is the ultimate in productivity tools. Office 2013 Home and Student Preview is built-in to the device. Once Office 2013 is released, Surface users will receive the released version as a Windows Update. Office 2013 is also cloud connected and lets you save/sync your documents with Skydrive so that your documents are accessible and updated if you are on your desktop or on your Surface device. Although this is not an Office 2013 review, the inclusion of Office out of the box is a major plus compared to other tablets.

2. USB port – Self explanatory – What would you do without USB? This is a major plus.

3. Expandable storage – Sure, they have 32GB and 64GB flavors of the Surface. However, there is micro SD card reader tucked away under the kickstand which lets you expand a 32GB tablet to 64GB or more.

4. Kickstand – Speaking of Kickstand, this is a MAJOR feature. Think of all the awkward positions and tablet covers that you experimented with your current tablet. All that is gone now. You simply flip open the kickstand and the Surface stands on your table or your lap. And when the kickstand is closed, you won’t even know it’s there!

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5. VaporMg body – all that you read about VaporMg is not just hype – the material is light, strong and feels good to touch. Next time you get to hold a surface try to feel the material that the back cover and kickstand are made of. Ok, the picture above shows smudge marks, but that’s what happens when you let your 3 year old play with the Fresh Paint app on it. 🙂 Below is a picture of the Surface without the Touch Cover, next to a Qatar half riyal coin for size.

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6. Gorilla glass screen – During the launch they showed how they fixed wheels to the Surface and used it as a skateboard. Now that’s what I call strong. The screen can be read from almost any viewing angle. It has something to do with the bonding of the material used in manufacturing the screen, but it really is cool. The display is very clear.

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7. Drop proof – the device can be dropped in 72 different orientations without being damaged! No, I did not test this one myself, but judging from the look and feel of the device, I believe it.

8. Slick charger – the charger is small and can be slipped into a side pocket of your bag, the charger connects to the device through a magnetic connector. The charger has folding pins and works in both 110V and 220-240V power outlets.

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9. Touch Cover keyboard – this is a treat, a delight, a new height of awesomeness. I do not have enough words to describe it. Just 3mm thick and doubles up as a screen cover and a keyboard with just the right sensitivity. It does not type when I don’t want it to, and I don’t have to push too hard to make it type. The touch cover snaps on the device with a magnetic link. You can literally hold just the cover and the device will hang without falling off. When you close the cover, the display turns off, saving power. Below is the Touch Cover next to a Qatar half riyal coin for size. My advice – don’t order your Surface without it.
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10. Handling – the weight is uniformly distributed. I am a Technology Solutions Professional by day, and a student by night. I spend time reading PDFs and watching flash videos, and it doesn’t hurt my hand a lot no matter how I hold. And of course, I still have the kickstand when I want to lay the device down. The thickness of Surface is exactly the same as an iPad. In the below picture, I show you the thickness with the touch cover on.

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11. Unmatched driver support: Even if it is Windows RT, it is still Windows! I just plugged in my HP Deskjet 3050 printer to the USB port and the drivers were automatically installed and printer ready to use in under 2 minutes. Windows RT supports 100% of the top selling printers out there. What is mobility if you can’t print anywhere, wherever you are? In addition to the printer, it automatically detected my Bluetooth mouse, Home NAS/media server, phone and some other devices, just like Windows 7 does.

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12. Front and Rear cameras: Works great with Skype. I read somebody’s rant about the cameras online, but I found them perfectly OK. By the way, Skype for Windows 8 is available on the marketplace. Also noteworthy is that the rear camera is mounted at an angle so that the camera looks straight even if you use the kickstand. Tested it, works perfectly!

13. Cloud connected out of the box experience: My other computer is a Lenovo X220 running Windows 8 Enterprise. When I unboxed my Surface, it asked me a few questions to set my language and wireless connection. Next, I entered my Windows Live ID and password. The next thing I know, the device configured my device exactly the way my Lenovo was configured. Same wallpapers, same color scheme, etc. both my devices look exactly the same and I can work seamlessly on any of the devices, and sync my stuff over SkyDrive. This, to me, is a true cloud connected experience, spanning different kinds of devices, different form factors, without compromise.

14. Apps – Yes, apps. Oh sure, Windows Store is new and doesn’t have as “many” apps as other stores, but I found all that I need for IM, Skype, and others. A foursquare app would be a cherry on top as far as I am concerned. Today when I browsed the app store, I found that it was localized with prices shown in Qatari Riyals and spotlight apps from my region (such as Al Jazeera). I also bought Angry Birds using my Qatari credit card, so no issues there. There is also a lot of rant going on in the internet about Surface RT not being able to run Windows 7 apps. So what’s the big deal? Can you run Macintosh apps on an iPad? In fact, the more you use Surface and the modern apps, the little you would want to go back to the old style apps. I seriously don’t want to go back to the old kind of apps on my touch device. By the way, there is another version of Surface (Surface Pro) that will ship with support for Windows 7 apps, but this will have a normal CPU that needs a fan, and will be thicker and possibly heavier.

Other tips/interesting points:

  1. The Touch Cover keyboard has keys for opening the Search, Share, Devices and Settings icons on the Charm bar.
  2. At first sight, the function buttons seem to be missing on the Touch Cover keyboard, replaced by volume, charm bar keys, etc. But when used with the Fn key, these keys become function keys.
  3. Someone ranted about not being able to use the on-screen keyboard comfortably when holding the tablet. He probably didn’t see the thumb keyboard option. (Click thumbnail below)

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  4. The integration with xbox is phenomenal. With SmartGlass you can use your Surface to watch videos on your xbox.

I said I will be honest, here are a few things that some people might consider as lowlights:

1. 3G SIM card slot, or lack thereof. Not a big deal for me – with multiple devices that people tend to carry today, I believe Mi-Fi is the way to go instead of getting a new SIM/connection for every device you have.

2. The charger power cord could be longer.

3. Touch cover keyboard learning curve, as others have noted, but this is a short one. For me it took about 5 minutes to get used to it, and now I am typing naturally on this keyboard right now and it is still day one. I will try to post a video of me typing away like a pro. 😉

4. The black Touch Cover is not exactly black, it’s black on the inside and a shade of gray on the outside. But it doesn’t overshadow it’s coolness in any way.

5. Availability in more countries/markets.

6. Kickstand angle cannot be adjusted, although I think the kickstand is factory set at the most comfortable position. I am using the kickstand and touch cover to type this post right now and I am comfortable.

7. Lesser apps in the app store – although my opinion differs, see point no. 14 above. Besides, Windows is, and continues to be, the most popular OS for end users. It is just a matter of (a short) time before the Store is filled with apps from every noteworthy app-maker.

This tablet is a game-changer, unique in its own way compared to other devices available today in the market. Windows 8 revolutionizes the way users interact with their devices, and brings consistency and seamlessness no matter what kind of device you use, by bringing your data, apps and everything you care about, wherever you go.

Pre-order a Surface RT device today

by Shijaz Abdulla on 18.10.2012 at 05:12

A front view of Surface, shown with a cyan Touch Cover, one of five colors available.

Surface is Microsoft’s highly anticipated tablet, launching on October 26.

Surface will be available for purchase beginning Oct. 26, 2012, at all Microsoft Store locations in the United States and Canada, including in all 34 new holiday stores. In addition, Surface will be available for sale online in eight markets across the world: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. See Surface.com for more details.

The company announced a special limited-quantity pre-order for Surface with Windows RT available 9 am. You can now pre-order Surface for delivery by October 26, 2012. 🙂

SKUs and Cost

Surface with Windows RT will initially be available in three SKUs: a 32GB version priced at US$499, a 32GB version bundled with a black Touch Cover priced at US$599, and a 64GB version bundled with a black Touch Cover priced at US$699.

A variety of accessories will also be available, including Touch Covers in five vibrant colors — black, white, magenta, cyan and red — priced at US$119.99 so customers can express their personal style (1). Customers will also have the option to purchase a Type Cover in black for US$129.99, which adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.

Additional Product Information — Surface With Windows RT

  • Software – Surface with Windows RT comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview (2) (which includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote)

  • Exterior – 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37 inches, 1.5 pounds, VaporMg casing, dark titanium color, volume and power buttons

  • Storage – 32 GB (3); 64 GB

  • CPU – NVIDIA T30, 2 GB of RAM

  • Wireless – Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0 technology

  • Cameras – Two 720p HD cameras, front- and rear-facing

  • Audio – Two microphones, stereo speakers

  • Ports – Full-size USB 2.0, microSDXC card slot, headset jack, HD video out port, cover port

  • Sensors – Ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass

  • Power Supply – 24W power supply

  • Warranty – One-year limited hardware warranty

  • Apps (included) – Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview (2) (Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote), Windows Mail and Windows Messaging, SkyDrive, Windows Internet Explorer 10, Bing, Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and Xbox Games

Itanium-based Systems and Windows Server 2012 under Software Assurance

by Shijaz Abdulla on 18.10.2012 at 00:01

Windows Server 2012 is the first version of Windows Server that does not have a an edition for Itanium-based systems.

Customers who currently have licenses under Software Assurance (SA) for an earlier version of Windows Server on Itanium-based systems often have questions about how the SA works for future versions.

I found some guidance in the October 2012 Products List document, from which I will  paste below:

Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium Based Systems

License grants associated with end of life of Windows Server for Itanium Based Systems: Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version of Windows Server for Itanium Based Systems. Volume licensing customers with active Software Assurance for Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium Based Systems licenses on September 1, 2012 or as of the date of first availability of Windows Server 2012 for download on the Volume Licensing Service Center, whichever is earlier, (“Qualifying Licenses”) will be permitted to upgrade to and use Windows Server 2012 Datacenter software in place of Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium Based Systems. To facilitate this upgrade, for every two Qualifying Licenses the customer has, the customer will be deemed to be granted one Windows Server 2012 Datacenter processor license upon availability of Windows Server 2012.

  • If a customer has an odd number of Qualifying Licenses then the customer will need to round down to the nearest even number to determine its grant. For example, a customer that has three Qualifying licenses will be deemed to be granted a total of one Windows Server 2012 Datacenter license.
  • Licenses acquired under this grant include Software Assurance coverage. Such coverage expires when the corresponding coverage on the Qualifying Licenses expires.
  • If customers acquired perpetual rights to use software under Qualifying Licenses, the licenses acquired under this grant are likewise perpetual; otherwise, licenses acquired under this grant expire when the underlying Qualifying Licenses would have expired.
  • Upon upgrade to Windows Server 2012 Datacenter under this grant, the customer’s existing Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium Based Systems Qualifying Licenses are no longer will be valid.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium Based Systems licenses subsequently acquired under the same enrollment term as part of an Enterprise, Enterprise Subscription, Open Value Subscription or EES customer’s scheduled true-up process are also Qualifying Licenses for purposes of the foregoing grant.
  • Notwithstanding the grant of Windows Server 2012 Datacenter licenses, and any upgrade to that version, obligations to pay amounts due and owing for the Qualifying Licenses and coverage remain in full force and effect.

[end quote]

Exchange 2013, Lync 2013, SharePoint 2013, and Office 2013 RTMs

by Manoj Chandrasenan on 14.10.2012 at 16:17

Exchange 2013 reaches RTM

http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2012/10/11/the-new-exchange-reaches-rtm.aspx

Lync 2013 reaches RTM!

http://blogs.technet.com/b/lync/archive/2012/10/11/lync-2013-is-finished.aspx

SharePoint 2013 reaches RTM

http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/blog/Pages/BlogPost.aspx?pID=1035

Office 2013 reaches RTM

http://blogs.office.com/b/office-news/archive/2012/10/11/office-reaches-rtm.aspx

 

Exchange Server 2013

These are some of the key capabilities that Exchange Server 2013 offers:

High Availability – Increased availability with automated Database Availability Groups (DAGs) focused on increased uptime.

Modern mobile and Web clients – Work from virtually anywhere on the browsers and devices including IE, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome as well as Windows Phone, iPhone, Blackberry, and Android.

Outlook Experience – Focused Outlook experience including a great tablet and mobile experience.

Compliance and Archive – Eliminate the need to buy and manage a separate archiving solution by allowing users to access an email archive from within their Inbox and equipping specialized users with eDiscovery tools. Provide every user a large mailbox so they do not have to worry about mailbox size limits.

Security – Protect your organization’s sensitive and confidential communications with end-to-end encryption of email messages – to both internal and external recipients.

 

Lync Server 2013

These are some of the key capabilities that Lync Server 2013 offers:

Multiparty HD Videos & content sharing – Lync Server 2013 provides High Definition resolution for attendees and provides a focused solution on video conferencing capabilities.

Modern mobile and Web clients – Single unified client experience across workloads. Lync Server 2010 and Windows 8 immersive experience optimized for touch and other mobile client experiences designed for the device in addition to a Lync Web App for browser access to meetings.

Integration across Office Apps – Communicate directly from within Office using a single identity and leveraging shared contact cards, and via integration with OneNote and SharePoint.

Federation with Skype – Communicate with anyone on Skype, providing Presence, Instant Messaging and Peer to peer voice.

 

SharePoint 2013

These are some of the key capabilities that SharePoint 2013 offers:

Cloud App Model – SharePoint 2013 introduces a Cloud App Model that enables to create apps, which are self-contained pieces of functionality that extend the capabilities of a SharePoint website.

Core platform enhancements – SharePoint 2013 has been improved and enhanced to support the new cloud-based architecture and app-driven development framework.

Social and collaboration – New and improved social and collaboration features make it easy for users to communicate and to stay engaged and informed. The improved My Site social feed helps users keep up to date with the people and content that they care about.

Search – Enhancements include custom content processing with the Content Enrichment web service, and a new framework for presenting search result types. Additionally, there have been significant enhancements made to the keyword query language (KQL).

Workflows – Windows Azure Workflow Manager Client is a redesigned workflow infrastructure that is built on Windows Workflow Foundation 4 and brings new power and flexibility to workflow authoring in SharePoint 2013.

Enterprise Content Management – Support for .NET client, Silverlight, Windows Phone, and JavaScript APIs, in addition to the newly expanded set of .NET server managed APIs.

Business Connectivity Services – OData connectivity, external events, external data in apps, filtering and sorting, support for REST, and others.

Application services – Machine Translation Service, which translates sites, documents, and streams for multilingual support, as well as Access Services and a new data access model. For converting files and streams to other formats, SharePoint Server 2013 has Word Automation Services and PowerPoint Automation Services.  SharePoint also provides data analysis tools, like Performance Point Services and Visio Services that enable business intelligence, and powerful new features in Excel Services.

Security Compliance Manager 3.0 now available for beta download.

by Manoj Chandrasenan on 14.10.2012 at 13:04

New baselines for securing Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 environments now available for beta review.

Security Compliance Manager 3.0 (SCM 3.0) is now available for download.

 SCM 3.0 is a free tool from the Microsoft Solution Accelerators team that enables you to quickly configure and manage both desktops and servers using Group Policy and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager.

In addition to key features from the previous version, SCM 3.0 offers new Windows Server 2012, Windows 8, and Internet Explorer 10 security baselines.

Join the beta now.

Secure your environment with new product baselines for Windows Server 2012, Windows 8, and Internet Explorer 10. The latest version of SCM offers all the same great features as before, plus an enhanced setting library for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 2008 R2 and bug fixes. The updated setting library gives you the ability to further customize baselines, and also improves GPO Import feature affinity. SCM 3.0 provides a single location for creating, managing, analyzing, and customizing baselines to secure your environment quicker and more efficiently.

To learn more about the Security Compliance Manger tool, visit the TechNet Library.

SCM 3.0 provides ready-to-deploy policies and DCM configuration packs that are tested and fully supported. Our product baselines are based on Microsoft security guide recommendations and industry best practices, allowing you to manage configuration drift, address compliance requirements, and reduce security threats.

Easily configure Windows operating systems, Microsoft Office applications, and Internet Explorer with industry leading knowledge and fully supported tools.

Next steps:

Join the SCM 3.0 beta. Click here to join the beta and get the latest version of the tool.

Tell us what you think! Test drive the beta release, and send your constructive feedback to secwish@microsoft.com. We value your input; this is the perfect opportunity to be heard.

Tell your peers and customers about Security Solution Accelerators! Please forward this to anyone who wants to learn more about security and Microsoft Solution Accelerators.

Already using Security Solution Accelerators? We’d like to hear about your experiences. Please send comments and suggestions to secwish@microsoft.com.

Forrester loves Windows Server 2012!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 28.09.2012 at 22:13

The team at Forrester posted a blog titled, “Microsoft Announces Windows Server 2012,”. Here are just a few quotes.

On the release of Windows Server 2012 as a whole:

“Make no mistake, this is a really major restructuring of the OS, and a major step in function capabilities aligned with several major strategic trends for both Microsoft and the rest of the industry. While Microsoft’s high level message is centered on the cloud, and on the Windows Server 2012 features that make it a productive platform upon which both enterprises and service providers can build a cost-effective cloud, its features will be immensely valuable to a wide range of businesses.”

There is no doubt that this is the most significant jump in OS capabilities since Microsoft first introduced Windows as a server OS.”

Forrester Says Evaluate Windows Server 2012 NOW:

“But, and this is critical, you must begin to evaluate and pilot it even if you are still completing your rollout of Windows Server 2008, as many Forrester clients still are. My guess is that WS2012 is the future of Windows OS, and will probably serve as the core of Microsoft’s strategy for the next decade. I doubt their ability to produce a radical upgrade to this in the next four or five years, and even the next version of the OS is likely to look like WS2012. This implies that you need to understand how this new OS will change and enable your strategic IT road map, particularly since the new OS has features and capabilities that, if properly exploited by you (or by your competitors), could generate real competitive differentiation such as the ability to deploy applications more rapidly, manage them more efficiently, etc.”

And the crème de la crème

“For users contemplating a major new cloud or virtualization project or initiative, WS2012 should be the platform of choice, and any preconceived notions about Microsoft versus VMware for the virtualization layer need to be re-examined.”

Read the entire article.

If you are in Qatar and you need to know more about how you can implement Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and how it compares against your current virtualization platform, please contact me.

Microsoft Qatar announces Windows Server 2012

by Shijaz Abdulla on 28.09.2012 at 20:17

Just wanted to cover some of the buzz in the local press last week about Windows Server 2012, centered around our Private Cloud Enterprise Connect event in Doha.

For those of you that missed the event, I covered Windows Server 2012’s new virtualization features, while others covered VDI, the Microsoft Private Cloud story, Windows Azure and Identity Management.

Here are links to some of the local press coverage:

Speaking about the launch, Microsoft Qatar Country Manager Naim Yazbeck said, “At Microsoft, we have been hard at work delivering cloud innovation to help businesses succeed in this transformational time. What we are seeing in the industry calls for a different approach. Now, organisations can achieve a data centre without boundaries.” “The OS and apps are wherever you need them to be. We are committed to this vision and we call it the Cloud OS.

This platform should unlock further potentials for Qatari businesses and we wish to work closely with our partners in Qatar to leverage its maximum potential. I would like to congratulate Qatar Airways as the first to incorporate this platform in their ever growing business.” Yazbeck added.

“We have been using Windows Server 2012 through the rapid development programme (RDP) to experience how it can empower a dynamic data centre,” said Shibu Mathai, manager of infrastructure design at Qatar Airways.
“We have benefited from the new virtualisation enhancements in Windows Server 2012, I can envisage that cloud computing will be extremely beneficial for our business development’.

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