Build a Windows Azure portal on-premises with the Windows Azure Pack!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 05.09.2013 at 20:31

Have you used Windows Azure’s clean and simple management portal and wished you could build the same kind of portal for your Private Cloud?

Well, now you can – with Windows Azure Pack.

Releasing soon, Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server is a collection of Windows Azure technologies, available to Microsoft customers at no additional cost for installation into your data center.


It runs on top of Windows Server 2012/Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 and, through the use of the Windows Azure technologies, enables you to offer a rich, self-service, multi-tenant cloud, consistent with the public Windows Azure experience.

This can make your Private Cloud interface look like one from a real service provider.

Windows Azure Pack Management Portal

Windows Azure Pack includes the following capabilities:

  • Management portal for tenants – a customizable self-service portal for provisioning, monitoring, and managing services such as Web Sites, Virtual Machines, and Service Bus.
  • Management portal for administrators – a portal for administrators to configure and manage resource clouds, user accounts, and tenant offers, quotas, and pricing.
  • Service management API – a RESTful API that helps enable a range of integration scenarios including custom portal and billing systems.
  • Web Sites – a service that helps provide a high-density, scalable shared web hosting platform for ASP.NET, PHP, and Node.js web applications. The Web Sites service includes a customizable web application gallery of open source web applications and integration with source control systems for custom-developed web sites and applications.
  • Virtual Machines – a service that provides infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) capabilities for Windows and Linux virtual machines. The Virtual Machines service includes a VM template gallery, scaling options, and virtual networking capabilities.
  • Service Bus – a service that provides reliable messaging services between distributed applications. The Service Bus service includes queued and topic-based publish/subscribe capabilities.
  • Automation and Extensibility – the capability to automate and integrate additional custom services into the services framework, including a runbook editor and execution environment.

At the moment, the Windows Azure Pack is in “Preview”. Subscribe to this blog to be alerted when Windows Azure Pack becomes available!

Qatar First Investment Bank partners with Microsoft to build Private Cloud

by Shijaz Abdulla on 12.12.2012 at 14:35

[As reported on AME Info, Al Sharq, Al Arab, Al Watan, Al Raya, Zawya, The Peninsula,, MEED, and]

Microsoft Gulf and Qatar First Investment Bank (QFIB) announced that they have partnered to upgrade the core IT infrastructure of QFIB’s Data Center and Disaster Recovery site leveraging Private Cloud capabilities from Microsoft. When completed, QFIB’s Private Cloud model will be the first of its kind in Qatar’s financial sector.

According to recent reports by Gartner in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), 44% of FS CIOs expect that more than half of all their institutions’ transactions will be supported via cloud infrastructure by 2015.

L-R : Mowafak Kowatly, Account Manager Financial Services, Microsoft Qatar ; Samer Abu Ltaif, Regional General Manager, Microsoft Gulf ; Slim Bouker, Chief Operating Officer, Qatar First Investment Bank ;  Mahmood Shaker, Chief Information Officer Qatar First Investment Bank.

Commenting on the agreement, Samer Abu Ltaif Regional General Manager at Microsoft Gulf said, "We are very proud that Microsoft was entrusted by QFIB to design and implement such a comprehensive and mission critical project. To reinforce its commitment, Microsoft has provided the highest level of quality assurance guarantees at all stages of the project. We are also very pleased that, as part of this agreement, QFIB will be the first bank in Qatar to roll out the recently launched Windows 8 on all its PCs."

The implementation phase of this project will start in December and will entail a comprehensive transformation of QFIB’s IT environment, ranging from domain consolidation and security aspects, to desktop standardization and advanced solutions for interoffice communications. Once operational, the Microsoft solutions deployed at QFIB will provide greater cost efficiencies, faster delivery and more reliable running of applications, and a flexible infrastructure that can be scaled to meet advanced QFIB requirements.

Commenting on the agreement, Mr. Slim Bouker, Chief Operating Officer at QFIB said, "We are proud to be the first bank in Qatar to deploy Microsoft’s latest private cloud technology in upgrading our IT infrastructure (Windows 2012 Hyper-v, System Center 2012, SQL 2012 and Windows 8). Such a step will enable QFIB to enhance data security, reduce cost and efficiently support the future growth requirements of the business including servicing subsidiaries through multi-domain capabilities. We look forward to working with Microsoft on this exciting project"

Explaining the technical aspects of the project, Mr. Mahmood Shaker, Chief Information Officer at QFIB said,"We are pleased to partner with Microsoft in upgrading our core IT capabilities. We are confident that this project will reshape our IT infrastructure. By leveraging the Private Cloud capabilities, QFIB will introduce automation which will save on Banking Technologies and Datacenters expansion costs, improve IT service availability and enhance stakeholder experience"

Launched in 2009, Qatar First Investment Bank (QFIB) is the first independent Shari’ah compliant investment bank licensed by the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority. QFIB offers Principal Investments, Asset Management and Corporate Finance Advisory services. QFIB is ISO 27001 certified and is the recipient of the "Best Investment Bank in the GCC in 2011" under the Islamic Business & Finance category by CPI Financial. In 2011, QFIB was awarded the accolade of the "Best Financial Service Industry Deployment of the Year" by Computer News Middle East.

A rapid shift in attitude towards cloud banking is happening within the financial services (FS) industry, according to Gartner, Inc. A Gartner survey* found that cloud is the top priority for global FS CIOs and that 39% of those surveyed expect that more than half of all their transactions will be supported via cloud infrastructure and software as a service (SaaS) by 2015.
In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), 44% of FS CIOs expect that more than half of all their institutions’ transactions will be supported via cloud infrastructure by 2015 and 33% of them expect that the majority of transactions will be processed via SaaS by 2015.

Find out about Qatar Airways’ evaluation of Windows Server 2012 in the Rapid Deployment Program

by Shijaz Abdulla on 10.09.2012 at 11:21

Qatar Airways, awarded the World’s Best Airline in 2011 and 2012 is one of our customers in Qatar that have enrolled into the Windows Server 2012 Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) powered by our partner ICT WLL.

Join us on September 18 for the Microsoft Enterprise Connect event and hear Mr. Shibu Mathai, Manager – Infrastructure Design at Qatar Airways share Qatar Airways’ experiences on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

Also speaking at the event are Mark Chaban (MEA Director Product Marketing), Jesus Martin (Infrastructure Specialist Lead – Gulf), Mohammed Alaa Eldin (Gulf Solutions Specialist – Identity & Azure),

Attendance to this event is free, but seats are filling up fast. Please make sure you register ASAP to confirm your place.

Microsoft Enterprise Connect: Your Own Private Cloud Roadmap
Where: Qamar Room, Hilton Hotel, Doha, Qatar
When: September 18, 2012, Registration begins at 8.30am

08:30 – 09:00   Registrations & Welcome Refreshments       
09:00 – 09:15   Keynote: Qatar Airways
09:15 – 10:00   Private Cloud Infrastructure       
10:00 – 11:00   Private Cloud and Datacenter Management
11:00 – 11:15   Coffee Break       
11:15 – 12:00   Desktop Virtualization & VDI
12:00 – 12:30   IaaS and Storage in Windows Azure       
12:30 – 13:00   Identity and Cloud Better Together       
13:00 -             Lunch & Networking

Click here to register | Save to Calendar

Private Cloud Roadmap event, Qatar

by Shijaz Abdulla on 29.08.2012 at 11:01

Your Own Private Cloud Roadmap with Microsoft


The shift of enterprise IT to the Cloud is a tremendous opportunity for you to reduce costs, increase business agility, efficiency and productivity, as well as engage people in innovative ways. According to the Gartner 2011 CIO Survey, ‘almost half of all CIOs expect to operate their applications and infrastructures via cloud technologies within the next five years’.
As Cloud becomes an increasingly significant priority in the Enterprise space, and more Cloud offerings become available with time, we invite you for an exclusive session where we will share the vision of Cloud Computing and have a value dialogue with you to see how cloud services can be incorporated in organization’s infrastructure for competitive advantage and minimal risk.

Hilton Hotel Qatar
Qamar Room
September 18, 2012
Registration begins at 8.30am








Registrations & Welcome Refreshments        08:30 – 09:00
Keynote ‘Enterprise & Cloud Vision’        09:00 – 09:15
Private Cloud Infrastructure        09:15 – 10:00
Private Cloud and Datacenter Management        10:00 – 11:00
Coffee Break        11:00 – 11:15
Desktop Virtualization & VDI        11:15 – 12:00
IaaS and Storage in Windows Azure        12:00 – 12:30
Identity and Cloud Better Together        12:30 – 13:00
Lunch & Networking        13:00

Learn how to build and operate a Private Cloud

by Shijaz Abdulla on 28.04.2012 at 09:55

Over the past few days I have been reviewing e-learning content on Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA). I was amazed by the wealth of training content available on MVA for the Private Cloud.

So, what is MVA?

imageMVA is a fully cloud-based learning experience focusing on Microsoft Cloud Technologies. MVA provides its users with a virtual university experience: the student can select a track and study the material and then do the self-assessment. Students on MVA can get access to all the information, statistics and advancements of their training career, allowing them to maintain a long-term relationship with Microsoft. Learning through MVA is free of charge, and you can study the contents at any time and at your own pace.

Configuring and Deploying Microsoft’s Private Cloud

After completing this private cloud specialization, you will have an understanding of Microsoft’s vision for cloud computing, from the business perspective to the technical level. The 8 modules are divided into four core courses covering:

1. Private Cloud: Infrastructure Management

  • Module 1: Configure and Deploy Private Cloud Infrastructure
  • Module 2: Monitor and Operate Private Cloud Infrastructure

2. Private Cloud: Infrastructure Components

  • Module 1: Configure and Deploy Infrastructure Components
  • Module 2: Monitor and Operate Infrastructure Components

3. Private Cloud: Service Delivery and Automation

  • Module 1:; Configure and Deploy Service Delivery & Automation
  • Module 2: Monitor and Operate Service Delivery & Automation

4. Private Cloud: Application Services Management

  • Module 1: Application Services Management, Configuration, & Deployment
  • Module 2: Application Services Management, Operation, & Management


During the 8 modules of this specialization, you will be introduced to all the elements of building the Microsoft private cloud. You’ll learn how to optimize and deploy the private cloud starting at the infrastructure layer. You’ll also be introduced to advanced virtualization management features and the concept and implementation of the System Center’s private cloud application service model.

After completing all of the modules you will have an understanding of:

  • How using Microsoft System Center 2012 can help you build, deploy and manage a private cloud infrastructure.
  • How System Center 2012 incorporates tools to deploy, update, and manage applications within your private cloud.
  • System Center 2012’s new abilities to deploy, update, and manage applications within your private cloud.
  • How using new components of System Center 2012, specifically the Orchestrator and Service Manager components, enable you to deploy, update, and manage service offerings within your private cloud.
  • How applications are deployed and managed in the Microsoft private cloud.
  • How to use new capabilities in System Center 2012 to deploy your applications as services.

I highly recommend this training for all IT Pros as an excellent means of updating your skills and build your readiness to face new challenges as cloud computing evolves.

MCSE is back! Get Certified on the Private Cloud

by Shijaz Abdulla on 24.04.2012 at 15:19


Moving to cloud-enabled solutions means IT Professionals and Developers need a deeper and broader set of skills, and they need to be current on the latest technology solutions.  As cloud-enabled solutions transform IT in organizations, it is important for technology professionals to enhance their on-premise skills to unleash the potential of Microsoft technology solutions.

That’s why Microsoft has reinvented its certification program—to certify a deeper set of skills that are mapped to real-world business context. Rather than testing only on a component of a technology, IT Professionals and Developers are now tested on more advanced skills and a deeper understanding of the technology.

And just as Microsoft continually updates the certification exams to cover the latest skills, certified professionals will be required to recertify every two to three years.

The certifications have been reinvented to focus on technology solutions and the appropriate related skill level:


  • The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) level is the prerequisite certification necessary to get the Expert level certification. 
  • The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) is Microsoft’s flagship product for those who want to lead their company’s journey to the cloud.   It is the destination for established IT Professionals who have expertise working with Microsoft technology solutions.  The Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) is the destination for established Developers who have expertise developing solutions with Microsoft tools. 
  • After people have achieved their Expert level certification, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) is for the select few who wish to further differentiate themselves from their peers.

To learn more about Microsoft Certification Paths Go to MCSE overview page.

Only 1 in 5 datacenters operating efficiently: IBM Research

by Shijaz Abdulla on 17.03.2012 at 20:48

Only one out of every 5 datacenters in the world are operating efficiently, as per new research from IBM.

Out of 300 data centers surveyed in the IBM study, conducted by IDC, only 1 in 5 are operating efficiently.

Furthermore, nearly 80 percent of the 300 CIOs and IT leaders were found to be behind in making the most of their IT investments.

The study found that only 21 percent of companies surveyed are operating data centers at the highest level of efficiency. These optimized companies are able to spend 50 percent more of their IT budget on new projects and innovation to make their organizations more successful.

The vast majority – some 62 percent are somewhat efficient. And another 17 percent are operating at a basic level.


IBM took a look at the top performing data centers and identified the key characteristics that enabled those companies to be more efficient than others. Here are four tips to a smarter data center:

  1. Have a plan that aligns with business goals and keep it current.
  2. Optimize your current server, storage, network and facilities assets to maximize capacity and availability.
  3. Design for flexibility to support changing business needs.
  4. Use automation tools to improve service levels and availability. Less manual manipulation means faster response times.

Shijaz’s take:

My take on this? This represents a HUGE opportunity for organizations to re-evaluate their own datacenters and reflect on their IT spending. What percentage of your IT budget are you using for new projects, and how much of it goes into operating and managing existing infrastructure?

And how can Microsoft help? Look closely above at the 4 characteristics of highly efficient datacenters.

  1. Planning: Microsoft’s Private Cloud offering includes components like Operations Manager and Service Manager that help you make better informed decisions based on real statistical data from your own datacenter compared to SLAs that are defined with the business.
  2. Optimize your infrastructure to maximize capacity and availability. Microsoft’s Private Cloud solution helps you achieve that. You are able to capture your available assets into a “shared pool” of resources, that can be dynamically provisioned when your business application needs it. In other words, dynamic optimization, better utilization, more efficiency.
  3. Flexibility: Microsoft’s Private Cloud offering helps you achieve that degree of agility and flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of the business. Business application owners can request the infrastructure services to power their application, and be totally abstracted from the complexity of underlying hardware. What’s more, the datacenter now is able to allocate more resources for the application when needed, delivering utmost flexibility.
  4. Automation: Microsoft’s Private Cloud offering includes components like Service Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and Orchestrator (Opalis) that work together to provide you a highly automated datacenter based on workflows and run-books that you define, triggered automatically as conditions change in your environment.

To know more about how Microsoft’s Private Cloud offering can help you achieve highly efficient datacenters, contact me.



Cisco FlexPod validated with Microsoft Private Cloud

by Shijaz Abdulla on 25.02.2012 at 20:33

clip_image001[4]The Cisco FlexPod data center solution is now validated with a Microsoft Private Cloud Deployment Guide.

The FlexPod is a physical product built on Cisco server (UCS), Cisco networking, NetApp storage and Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track architecture with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft System Center. It can be optimized to fit a variety of mixed application workloads and use cases as the customer moves to virtualization and private or public cloud environments.

The FlexPod is built on:

  • Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and Nexus data center switches
  • NetApp FAS storage components
  • A range of third-party software

Download the deployment guide on the Cisco FlexPod DesignZone.

On another note, Cisco has also published documentation indicating the extension of their Nexus switches to work with Windows Server 8 Hyper-V, making use of the open extensible switch coming in Windows Server 8 Hyper-V – which allows networking vendors to support network virtualization capabilities with Hyper-V.

Announcing System Center 2012

by Shijaz Abdulla on 17.01.2012 at 18:19


Today, Microsoft announced a major new development in the Microsoft private cloud strategy and core management platform, the launch of Microsoft System Center 2012. System Center 2012 allows you to manage your virtual, physical, and cloud environments from a single console, using common and consistent experiences that provide full control across your existing datacenter investments.

Optimized for service delivery and providing both flexibility and control, the Microsoft private cloud enables you to experience IT as a Service on your terms. Adopting a more service-driven IT model can help you provision services faster—freeing up resources and enabling greater business agility to respond quickly to customer demands.

As part of the System Center 2012 release, Microsoft is simplifying how you purchase and gain access to the economic benefits of the cloud by offering two editions:

  • System Center 2012 Standard Edition, for managing environments with no or low density virtualization
  • System Center 2012 Datacenter Edition, for managing high density virtualization environments

With these streamlined purchasing options and enhanced private cloud capabilities, we are also announcing changes in the licensing and pricing of System Center 2012.

I am very excited about this brand new release of System Center and this is definitely testament to the fact that today we are committed to having the best and most complete Private Cloud solution in the market.

I will soon be posting more information on the new Standard and Datacenter editions and also provide more clarity on the new licensing scheme for System Center 2012 and how this will benefit both new and existing customers alike.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Microsoft private cloud and the exciting new features in System Center 2012 at the Microsoft private cloud website.

Microsoft Virtual Academy: Free Training

by Shijaz Abdulla on 20.11.2011 at 09:19


Cloud Computing! It’s one of the biggest opportunities for IT Professionals in recent years.  But wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple, effective way to get the skills and training you need to take advantage of this opportunity, and also get the recognition and rewards that you deserve?

This is where Microsoft can help give your career a boost.

Visit the Microsoft Virtual Academy training portal now and register to receive free and easy access to training for IT Professionals who want to get ahead in cloud computing. This content was developed by leading experts in the field, and the modules ensure that you acquire the essential skills and gain credibility as a cloud computing specialist in your organization.

MVA courses include:

  • Introduction to SCVMM, Architecture & Setup
  • Creating VMs,Template & Resources in VMM
  • Managing Windows Azure
  • SQL Azure Security
  • Identity & Access
  • Data Security and Cryptography


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