Azure implements stronger encryption to protect customers from ‘Government Snooping’

by Shijaz Abdulla on 08.08.2014 at 01:34

I received a notification on my Azure Management Portal today. It basically said:


When I clicked on OK to get more information, here’s what I got:

As part of Microsoft’s promise to protecting customer data from government snooping (details at Azure is implementing stronger cryptography to protect communications. The Transport Layer Security (TLS)/Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Cipher Suite enhancements and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) are implemented in the August 2014 updates of the Azure Guest OS. These changes will be available in versions 4.11, 3.18, 2.30, and 1.38 (if released) of the Azure Guest OS. For more detailed information regarding these security enhancements or for information you can share with a customer, please see the MSDN article, "Differences between Azure Guest OS and Default Windows Server" at

Now, that is really cool.

It shows Microsoft’s commitment to protecting customer data privacy and confidentiality in the Snowden era.

According to CNN, Microsoft had challenged the US government’s search warrant when it requested Microsoft turn over customer emails stored in its datacenters in Ireland. Microsoft challenged the warrant on the grounds that it violated constitutional privacy protections and that US warrants only were valid in the United States.

On July 31 2014,  a US District Judge ruled that Microsoft has to comply with the government request.

Microsoft has immediately said that it would appeal the ruling.

Microsoft & Cisco extend cloud partnership

by Shijaz Abdulla on 09.11.2013 at 15:41

Microsoft and Cisco have announced their extended partnership at the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) event in New York on Wednesday.

This is a great example of how a prominent hardware manufacturer like Cisco can take advantage of Microsoft’s proven track record and experience in building and managing some of the largest clouds on the planet and bring the best solutions to our customers.

Through this expanded partnership, we will bring together Microsoft’s Cloud OS and Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure to deliver new integrated solutions that help customers take the next step on their cloud computing journey. These new solutions are designed to improve business agility and reduce cost by driving infrastructure automation in support of core business processes and applications. This next-generation infrastructure will deliver increased application performance, resource pooling, visibility, automation and mobility through:

  • Converged ACI stacks that include fully integrated versions of Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, System Center 2012 R2, SQL Server, Exchange and SharePoint
  • Optimized application and workload performance through dynamic network policies that automate and simplify deployment
  • Comprehensive management, infrastructure programmability and deep visibility and automation across Cisco UCS/ACI, System Center and Windows Server 2012 R2 virtual and non-virtual environments
  • Complete support for workload mobility using gateway solutions delivered by both companies – delivering on the promise of hybrid clouds

Please read the below post by Satya Nadella, Executive Vice President, Cloud & Enterprise – Microsoft.

Free StorSimple 7020 storage appliance with Windows Azure

by Shijaz Abdulla on 02.11.2013 at 22:52

With the recent acquisition of StorSimple, we have an interesting offer for Windows Azure customers.

Till December 31, 2013, customers who sign up for Windows Azure with an annual minimum commitment of US$ 50,000 of Windows Azure credit will receive a StorSimple 7020 appliance that supports up to 200 TB of storage on the cloud. We will also throw in free gold support for the appliance for the first year.


The StorSimple is a unique, cloud-integrated storage solution, that works differently from conventional storage.

To know how cloud storage works, watch this video:

An overview of hybrid Cloud Storage

If you are in Qatar and would like to take advantage of this opportunity, contact me.


Cloud Storage demystified in 6 minutes

by Shijaz Abdulla on 23.09.2013 at 15:51

This is by far one of the best cloud storage videos I have seen. Take a look:

An overview of the Microsoft hybrid cloud storage

Interesting changes in Windows Azure services

by Shijaz Abdulla on 03.06.2013 at 22:07

Here are some interesting changes to the Windows Azure services as of June 3, 2013:

  1. The following services to be billed by the minute versus being billed by the hour:
    a. VMs, Web Roles and Worker Roles
    b. SQL Server and BizTalk Server running in Virtual Machines (no longer rounding to the nearest hour and no minimums).

    Windows Azure is the only cloud provider today that bills you by the minute!

  2. The billing will stop for stopped VMs. No need to delete instances to manage and reduce compute costs.
  3. Reduced rates for MSDN subscribers when they use Windows Azure VMs.
  4. Public Endpoint Access Control Lists (ACLs) for VMs
  5. More Gateway Device Options when setting up Windows Azure Virtual Network: Citrix, F5 and WatchGuard.
  6. Windows Server 2012 R2 will be available after preview (also to be added to Virtual Machines Image Gallery, as a pre-built image).
  7. SQL Server AlwaysOn will be demo’ed during TechEd- to be generally available later this year for Virtual Machines. 


DOHA EVENT: Data Availability in the Hybrid Cloud Era

by Shijaz Abdulla on 14.05.2013 at 20:57

Below is an invitation to a joint event between Qatar Datamation Systems, Microsoft, Commvault and HP focusing on Data Availability in the Hybrid Cloud.

It is time to re-think your IT investment and infrastructure to address the exponential growth and availability of data, there is a compelling need for a strategic alignment of the backup recovery, archiving and disaster recovery.
See beyond today and focus on sustained business operations that can withstand threats and pitfalls that befall today’s business establishment.
We are honored to invite you in collaboration with Commvault, Microsoft, and HP to demonstrate the approach for the unified Data Protection & Availability across the software, hardware and cloud stack. We will share our thoughts on what are ahead and compelling insights into investing in the business outcomes and the concept of the Hybrid Cloud Data Protection.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
8:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Sharq Village & SPA


08:45 – 09:30     Registrations & Welcome Refreshments
09:30 – 09:45     Keynote
09:45 – 10:45     Commvault: The exponential way forward in Data
10:45 – 11:00     Coffee Break
11:00 – 12:00     Microsoft: Realizing the Hybrid Cloud With Windows
                          Azure & SQL
12:00 – 13:00     HP: The Converged Storage Approach
13:00                 Lunch


Backup to Cloud Part 3: Using Windows Azure Recovery services with System Center Data Protection Manager 2012

by Shijaz Abdulla on 12.05.2013 at 16:48

With the announcement of the Windows Azure Recovery Services Preview, you can now backup data to Windows Azure using the Windows Backup Agent or from DPM 2012 using the DPM Backup Agent.

We explored how to backup data using the Windows Agent in a previous post.

Now, let’s see how we can use System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 (DPM 2012) to backup data to Windows Azure.


1. Install System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 Service Pack 1 with all latest updates.

2. IMPORTANT: Follow part 1 if this post to create a backup vault on Windows Azure, and to create a self-signed certificate from the computer that you installed DPM on.


1. From the computer running DPM, open your Windows Azure Management Portal. Go to Recovery Services and click on the vault you created in part 1.

2. On the right, click Download Agent.


3. Choose the agent that works with DPM and install it on your DPM server.



4. Open the System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 DPM Administrator Console. Click Management in the left pane. Click on Online in the left pane.


5. Click Register.

6. Select the certificate that you created in part 1. Then select the corresponding vault on Windows Azure. Click Next.


7. Choose an internet proxy if needed. Click Next.

8. If you are running Windows Server 2012, you have the option of setting internet bandwidth throttling. This option is unavailable in Windows Server 2008 R2. Click Next.

9. Choose a folder for temporarily holding recoverable items during a recovery. This is more like a staging area and you need enough space as the size of data that you anticipate recovering in parallel. Click Next.


10. Choose a passphrase for encrypting your data. Make sure you save your passphrase in a safe place or you will not be able to restore your data. Click Register.


Your DPM server is now registered with Windows Azure.

You can now configure backup jobs to backup to cloud. The steps to configure these jobs are similar to normal backup jobs, except that you choose Windows Azure as your backup destination.


See also

Windows Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) General Availability (GA)!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 16.04.2013 at 19:23

Windows Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering hit general availability worldwide today.

Furthermore, to eliminate price as a discussion when comparing to the competition, namely Amazon, we made a new pledge to our valued customers. Quite simply, we will match AWS prices for commodity services such as compute, storage and bandwidth. We may charge less, but never more.

“If you had concerns that Windows Azure was more expensive, we’re putting those concerns to rest today.”

Steven Martin, Operations GM – Azure

The reason is simple. We want to remove price as part of the equation. We’d rather compete on the services we provide and the complete vision of the Microsoft Cloud OS which provides rich:

  • Infrastructure services
  • Platform services
  • Hybrid scenarios (move VMs from your datacenter to Windows Azure and back. Use common technologies across private & public clouds (Active Directory for identity, System Center for Management, Hyper-V for virtualization, .NET for development)

Furthermore, based on customer input, we are also announcing two new higher capacity virtual machines:

  1. A four virtual processor VM with 28 GB of memory
  2. An eight virtual processor VM with 56 gigabytes of memory!


These configurations enable workloads with increasing compute demands.

Oh, and BTW, yes, Azure IaaS runs 100% on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

Finally, it should be noted just how fast Azure is growing. Bill Hilf is quoted as saying that Azure is growing at the rate of 1,000 customers A DAY and today supports over 200,000 active customers.

Sharing files on the Cloud

by Shijaz Abdulla on 30.03.2013 at 09:18

I have been trying out multiple solutions to share and sync data from my computer to the cloud.

One of the tool I like to use is SkyDrive, and they provide up to 7GB of space for free. What makes SkyDrive interesting to me is the integration with Office 2013. You can easily browse, open and save documents from any Office application on to your SkyDrive. What’s more, all your connected devices can be used to access the same content, and they stay synced.

Last weekend I was taking notes from an online class in the Bachelor’s program that I am doing at IOU. I was using OneNote 2013 on my Lenovo x220 Tablet to take notes on a notebook saved to SkyDrive. Within seconds, the I realized that the content was syncing to my Surface RT device and my Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone device.

OneNote 2013 with content synchronized between computer and phone.

There are many other vendors out there who also provide cloud-based file sharing, especially for the Enterprise and supporting a wide array of devices that you can upload content and sync from.

For example, Citrix ShareFile is a commercial solution for securely sharing, syncing and storing files upto 10 GB in size. All communications between Citrix ShareFile and the user are encrypted using either Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption protocols and up to AES 256-bit encryption.

Mannai, Microsoft and Qtel offer cloud-based solutions for Qatar’s SMEs

by Shijaz Abdulla on 24.12.2012 at 15:26

image  image

Mannai Corporation’s ICT group presented a set of its new IT and communication Cloud-based solutions and services for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Qatar together with its partners Qtel and Microsoft. This event was held during its ‘First End to End Cloud IT Solutions for the Private Sector’ event held at the Holiday Villa Hotels and Residence, Doha.

"With the Cloud, smaller budgets are no longer a hindrance to an SME’s ability to compete in the market with its peers and larger enterprises. SMEs can operate cloud based virtual servers and a host of applications that can be rapidly deployed and achieve a higher ROI," said Dr Sanjay Modak, Group General Manager, Mannai ICT Group.

SMEs can now obtain all their Qtel business products and services requirements from Mannai, which acts as a one-stop shop and brings a greater range of offers and value to the customer from both companies.

"Today, Mannai takes an innovative approach in offering end-to-end ICT products and services with its partners. This wide range of IT solutions, ranging from economical ERP packages to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud based offerings to website construction and e-commerce enablement, is provided on a flexible OPEX model, which reduces SME costs while providing highly scalable, elastic and affordable scenarios for SMEs to enjoy the same levels of IT enablement as large enterprises but at a fraction of the cost. As a value addition, Mannai’s managed services model allows these businesses to focus on their core competencies while leaving their IT and communications worries in the hands of Mannai," said Moni George, General Manager, New Business & Markets, Mannai ICT Group.

Microsoft, who were co-sponsors of the event, presented their Microsoft Office Productivity Solutions on the cloud. Microsoft Country Manager, Naim Yazbeck, was present at the event.


Mannai’s team presented the latest state of the art cloud based ERP and other solutions. The SME market for managed IT services is poised to grow rapidly during the coming years.

Mannai, recognizing this trend, has forged partnerships with key players and is today providing a comprehensive portfolio of ICT solutions to Qatar’s large SME market.

This includes products and services such as ERP, CRM, security, webhosting, domain-based emails, backup/recovery solutions, document management, e-commerce and Qtel’s range of voice and data solutions.

Coupled with Microsoft’s Office 365 and an unmatched support infrastructure with 24×7 customer support, Mannai is proud to bring the best technology to Qatar’s growing SME segment.

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