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. 

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

by Shijaz Abdulla on 24.12.2012 at 15:26

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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.

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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.

Microsoft Datacenter Tour: Where is the Microsoft Cloud?

by Shijaz Abdulla on 10.08.2011 at 16:35

Office 365 launched

by Shijaz Abdulla on 29.06.2011 at 05:22

Office 365 has finally launched!

imageOffice 365 brings you familiar Microsoft Office collaboration and productivity tools delivered through the cloud. Everyone can work together easily with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. It includes business-class security and is backed by Microsoft. Whether you are a small business or multinational enterprise, Office 365 offers plans designed to fit your organization’s unique needs.

Check out the Office365 website and sign up for a trial to find out more!

User productivity you can count on:

  • Virtually anywhere-access to email, important documents, contacts, and calendars on nearly any device (including PC, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android phones, Symbian phones, and BlackBerry).

  • Office 365 works with the software your users already know and use like Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint.

Office 365 takes the worry out of IT:

  • An easy-to-use administration console allows IT administrators to stay in control of user accounts, access rights, and organization-wide deployment.

  • Office 365 is a hosted online service within best-of-breed data centers that have received SAS 70 and ISO 27001 certification.

  • Your security and privacy are paramount. Visit the Trust Center for detailed security, privacy, and compliance information for Office 365.

  • You can count on Microsoft, an industry leader in productivity, for reliability. Microsoft provides a financially-backed 99.9% uptime guarantee.

Partners: Do you have a Hyper-V Cloud Practice?

by Shijaz Abdulla on 08.05.2011 at 05:58

If you are a partner certified in Systems Management and virtualization, you are likely to be already engaged in Private Cloud deployments and helping customers build dynamic datacenters.

Have you thought of “best practices” or looked for “standardizing” your engagement practice with customers? Have you thought if there is a “framework” to help you identify areas for improving your practice?

Have you looked for a “template” for a design/scope document or a project plan? Have you looked for a project kickoff presentation or a project closeout presentation? Have you wished that you had a “PoC kit” that will help save time and effort in PoCs?

If your answer is “YES”, then you are committed to quality and building a structured practice!

I’m happy to inform you that we have plenty of resources that will help you at:

https://partner.microsoft.com/40150816

You will need to have an account that is associated with a Microsoft partner to access the content marked with a lock icon.

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What is a cloud? (and why should I care)

by Shijaz Abdulla on 06.01.2011 at 22:57

The ‘cloud’ is definitely an often used (and misused) buzz word in today’s technology industry. So what exactly is a cloud? What is a cloud made of? Is it any different from hosting? These are some of the matters that I will address in this post.

So what is a cloud?

Wikipedia defines Cloud Computing as “internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture and utility computing. Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure “in the cloud” that supports them.” (retrieved Jan 6, 2011)

Let’s take a closer look and break it down a bit.

“…shared servers provide resources…”

So the cloud is made of shared servers working together in a manner that results in the abstraction of the underlying infrastructure from the user or the consumer.

“…on demand…”

The cloud is elastic, which means, it can scale to any extent to help you manage utilization “spikes”, just like an electricity grid. If your business application or website suddenly requires more resources or above normal utilization due to that marketing campaign you just launched, the cloud will be able to provision and make available resources to you “on the fly” during your time of need and then “de-provision” these resources when utilization is back to normal. Because the cloud abstracts the underlying infrastructure, this entire process is invisible to the consumer.

“…a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture and utility computing.”

By now, you would have realized it. If you need shared servers working together, abstracted from the user, dynamically scalable to any business demand – you need virtualization. But, does simply having the leanest, meanest hypervisor in the market help you implement the cloud? No. It is as important that you have a robust management solution. If your abstracted infrastructure cannot understand how a utilization spike on your application looks like, how will you be able to provide “on demand” services to your users? If your cloud infrastructure does not have visibility on the health of your ‘service’, how can it predict or understand a need to scale up dynamically?

Without doubt, management is an indispensable component of the cloud. I explained this in greater detail in an earlier post.

This is why System Center, with components like Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and Opalis are key players in your journey to hosting your own ‘private’ cloud.

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“Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure ‘in the cloud’ that supports them”

This re-affirms the abstraction of the underlying infrastructure. The business does not need to know what hardware, operating environment or hypervisor you’re running on. All the business cares about is the ‘service’. To be able to ensure availability the ‘service’ at any scale that the business requires dynamically, abstracting everything else is a key characteristic of the cloud.

Hosting vs. Cloud:
So is the cloud what my hosting provider offers me?

Well, it depends. Many hosting providers today state that they bring you the cloud. In reality, some of them actually do, others don’t. The key message here is that mere server hosting is not cloud. Only when the benefits I discussed above are realized, then behold — we have a cloud.

If your “cloud” hosting provider states something like they will give you a ‘dedicated’ HP blade server with 2.5GHz Processor, 4 GB RAM, 80 GB SAN storage, 80 GB backup storage, a dedicated Cisco firewall and a 1 TB monthly traffic included – chances are they have missed the cloud by a mile!

Why? Because they are simply not providing you a cloud – shared servers that provision resources on demand. Instead, they are just giving you a hosted server. There is no elasticity, no dynamic resource provision and no abstraction. In a real cloud, you wouldn’t know what hardware spec you’re running on, simply because it doesn’t remain constantjust as your business doesn’t remain constant.

Interesting. So why should I care about the cloud?

My colleague Michael Mansour lists out top 10 reasons why the cloud is changing the consumer and business landscape. His post is definitely worth a read.

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‘Stop Press’ Humor: Wikipedia also defines ‘cloud’ as a visible mass of water droplets or frozen ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. Certainly not the cloud we’re talking about!

Binary Tree exits Google Enterprise Partner program

by Shijaz Abdulla on 14.10.2010 at 09:11

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Binary Tree, the world’s leading provider of cross-platform messaging migration and coexistence solutions, announced today that it is dropping its business partnership with Google. This means the suspension of all sales and marketing efforts for its CMT for Google Apps email migration product, and the exodus from the Google Enterprise Partner Program. Binary Tree will redirect resources to focus completely on transitioning customers to Microsoft’s on-premises and cloud based solutions for Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint.

Said Henry Bestritsky, Co-CEO of Binary Tree:

  • "It’s simply a matter of customer demand. The tremendous uptake we are seeing in the market for migrating to the Microsoft messaging and collaboration platform cannot be ignored. And that includes moving to the cloud-based versions of these solutions like Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). The customers we’ve talked to about moving to the cloud, regardless of their size, have told us that they don’t want to move to an e-mail system that offers less functionality and decreases their end user’s overall experience. They are used to a full-featured user experience for e-mail, calendaring and collaboration, and won’t compromise their user’s productivity to save a few bucks. Our goal is to focus our people, processes and technology on helping our clients and partners to transition to the optimal environment for their business value, and hands-down we feel that is the Microsoft platform.”

Stefan af Bjur, General Manager, Binary Tree Europe

  • "the companies we have spoken to in Europe have specific requirements for privacy and security that haven’t been met by Google’s hosted solutions. This is especially true of the multi-nationals with offices in Europe who have told me that they need these issues to be addressed and would also like to see a realistic roadmap from Google before even considering their cloud. To date, Microsoft continues to be the preferred choice for cloud services from these types of companies, as shown by the recent decision of a global provider in transport and energy infrastructure based in France."

Companies like Coca-Cola Enterprises, Gerber, Ingersoll Rand, JPMorgan Chase, and many more have chosen Binary Tree’s suite of products to help them make the move to Microsoft.

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Private Cloud event by HP, Microsoft & Mannai

by Shijaz Abdulla on 10.06.2010 at 17:35

HP Middle East, Microsoft Qatar and Mannai Corporation are jointly conducting an event at the Intercontinental Hotel on 16th June 2010 focusing on Private Cloud Computing solutions. Below is the agenda:

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Microsoft and Qtel sign strategic alliance

by Shijaz Abdulla on 20.02.2010 at 16:28

Based on content from Microsoft PressPass

Microsoft Corporation and Qatar Telecom (Qtel) announced on Feb. 17 the signing of a broad strategic alliance to bring together integrated cloud-based services, software applications, mobile services and devices over Qtel’s converged network. The alliance aims to expand Qtel’s service portfolio, helping redefine the digital work style and lifestyle of their subscribers. The announcement was made at Mobile World Congress 2010.

Dr. Nasser Marafih, CEO of Qtel, said Qtel and Microsoft would collaborate to deliver truly integrated and innovative communications services to business and consumer markets.

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"This is an important alliance that will deliver world-leading services and applications from Microsoft over Qtel’s world-class networks to make a real difference in people’s lives all made available through a seamless one-click, one-touch user experience," Marafih said. "Qtel’s efforts will add a distinct element of mobility and connectivity to enrich the overall experience for people, to make the technology truly come alive.

"For businesses, Qtel will deliver unified communications offerings — a combination of telephony, e-mail, mobility, conferencing, collaboration and tools like ‘presence’  to fuel a sense of real possibility and potential across the region."

The first products are planned to be introduced in the market by mid-2010.

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Photo: Qtel.qa

"Together we’re building a road map to deliver rich, connected experiences," Mulinder said. "Spanning TV, PC and mobile devices, these new services will bring differentiation for Qtel and deliver compelling new scenarios for consumers and businesses.", said Austen Mulinder, corporate vice president for the Communications Sector at Microsoft.

In its first phase, Qtel and Microsoft plan to run mobile e-learning pilot projects in Kuwait, Qatar and Oman aimed at providing students and teachers with the ability to easily communicate, collaborate and access various educational services, using solutions including Windows® Phone and the Windows Live platform.

Other services contemplated under this alliance include the delivery of value-added services across the PC, phone, TV and gaming with the goal of bringing consumers closer to experiencing seamless digital entertainment experiences across the many screens in their lives.