Tag Archives: Microsoft

Technology

Microsoft Consulting Services’ sporting analogy

Earlier this week I was at a workshop where Microsoft Consulting Services described their potential to engage with clients/partners on five levels, using a sporting analogy

  • Owner: full responsibility from design to implementation and go live.
  • Manager: lead in design and control – architect designs and have user experience lead, lead developer, lead test.
  • Player: Provide consultants for key point activities.
  • Coach: Work alongside individuals with a particular focus on skills transfer and mentoring.
  • Commentator: Review designs, plans, code, scripts.

Someone suggested it’s actually a football analogy and doesn’t work for their sport (Rugby Union) but I disagree. Regardless, the real point is that the relationship can work at one of a number of levels.  Would be interesting to hear what people who’ve engaged with MCS feel about this though…

Technology

Microsoft’s message to UK partners for FY13 (#PBBBirm #MSPartnersUK)

I spent most of yesterday at Microsoft’s Partner business briefing in Birmingham. The afternoon workshops were especially good value (I was in the Public Cloud session, learning more about Office 365) but the morning keynote (delivered by Janet Gibbons, Microsoft’s UK Director for Partner Strategy and Programmes) had some interesting messages that are worth sharing further:

  • 95% of Microsoft’s global revenues are generated through it’s channel partners.
  • 2012 is the biggest launch year in Microsoft’s history with almost every product having a major refresh or a new iteration (from Windows 8 to Halo 4).
    • Microsoft is spending significant volumes on product advertising.
  • Microsoft is still a software company, but increasingly a devices and services company.
    • Many of those services relate to software subscriptions.
    • Interestingly, there is a 26% piracy rate for software in the UK (20% of Office users are illegal/mis-licensed) – and no piracy with online services.
    • There are new partner opportunities for selling Office 365 and managing the customer relationship (billing, etc.) to expand the revenue opportunity with value-added services.
  • Microsoft’s FY13 priorities are:
    • Excite customers, businesses and advertisers with Windows 8 devices and applications.
    • Win against Google every time with Office 365 and launch Office [2013].
    • Build application ecosystem for Windows 8, Windows Phone and Windows Azure.
    • Win the datacentre with private, public and hybrid cloud.
    • Grow SQL Server through BI, big data and mission critical [deployments].
    • Drive deployment for Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, Active Directory.
    • Win with business solutions.
    • Grow Windows Phone market share.
    • Drive Xbox profit and grow Kinect and Live Attach.
    • Grow reach, search and monetisation of our consumer online  services.
Interesting to see the Microsoft FY13 scorecard in public: great openness at #PBBBirm - to be applauded #MSPartnersUK http://t.co/AtIlIVNw
@markwilsonit
Mark Wilson

Of course, there was the obligatory Windows 8 marketing message (maybe I’ve been through too many new operating system release cycles and it all feels like another turn on the merry-go-round so I switched off a little in that part) but it was also interesting to hear Intel stand up and say (I paraphrase), “we’re still friends with Microsoft and even though Windows runs on another platform too x86 is better [does anyone remember when Windows NT supported DEC Alpha and ARC-MIPS alongside Intel x86?]. Don’t forget that Atom is power-optimised too [not just underpowered] and we have all this lovely built-in security stuff in our hardware platform”.

As for Office and Office 365 – probably too much for this post but some of the changes coming up in the next release look fantastic. I’m certainly glad I made the switch from Google Apps, although maybe a P1 plan wasn’t the best idea…

Technology

Microsoft Surface: my attempt to cut through the hype

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve watched the hype build about Microsoft’s mysterious mystery event (thank goodness I missed the build-up last week as I was still on holiday in France…), watched the news break, and watched everyone either go ooooh, ahhhh, or hrmmm…

I couldn’t stand it any more and decided that I too should weigh in with my comments on some of the comments I’ve seen about Microsoft Surface. I may even come back and add to this list over the next few days:

  • Microsoft is too late to the tablet game: Maybe they are. There’s the iPad, and then there’s… well, no-one really. But there’s still plenty to play for. Maybe back in 2007 someone asked for a tablet and got a table instead? Seriously, the device we previously knew as Surface was rebranded PixelSense last year, but we don’t seem to get the PixelSense screen tech in the Surface tablets.
  • It looks good: it does – really good. But we don’t yet know enough about the Surface hardware – if this is underpowered, or battery life is poor, or the screen is unresponsive, then it will fail, just like all the other iPad wannabes.
  • The keyboard in the cover is a gimmick/great idea/an admission that soft keyboards don’t work: horses for courses, I’d say – there are times when I use my iPad keyboard and times when I elect for a physical version – this way we get both.
  • Microsoft is cutting OEM’s throats? Are they really? My view (personally, not as an employee) is that it’s saying “come on guys, this is what can be done when you put your mind to it – stop letting Apple run away with the tablet market and design something that’s just as good, now that we have (finally) got an operating system (nearly) ready for you”. But there is an issue when (presumably) Microsoft doesn’t charge itself $85 per device for a copy of Windows.
  • This will undermine Ultrabook sales: perhaps it will, but however big the marketing push, they would have been niche anyway. Do IT Managers really have money to spend on “sexy” laptops when functional ones cost half as much? It might have killed off the Windows tablet market though, except that Surface will only be available from Microsoft Stores and online, which limits its availability somewhat, and makes it a consumer-only purchase. OEMs don’t really need to worry too much (sure, PC sales are in decline… but there are many factors behind that and mobile devices have been expected to surpass PC for a while now). And for those of us outside the US… we might not even get a sniff.
  • Ah, so it’s for consumers, so it puts Microsoft back in the game when it comes to consumerisation? Hrm Not really. On BYOD, there seems to be a shift towards choose your own device (CYOD) – i.e. we’ll give you more choice, maybe even let you contribute to have a better device, but it needs to run Windows. CIOs do need to re-architect applications to embrace cloud, mobility, big data and consumerisation – but that’s a big ask and it’s not happening overnight. Until then there’s life in Windows 7 (and 8) for a while. And laptops/tablets are only one side of the story; Microsoft is still struggling for smartphone market share…
  • Two versions of Windows, both on Surface devices, one that runs Windows RT and one for Windows 8 Pro – what gives? On this I agree, it will confuse the market. Maybe the x86 hardware should have been a reference platform for OEMs to sell in the business market, with ARM to consumers?
  • Analysts say… Really. There is some really good insight there, seriously. But now what do CIOs say? How about: where will this help me to deliver business value; what’s the impact on the rest of the IT environment; how can I transition to become a competitive (internal) IT service provider who no longer cares about devices and operating systems? Having said that, I think Forrester’s Sarah Rotman Epps is correct to highlight issues with the way Windows is marketed and sold, and IDC’s Crawford Del Prete (@Craw) is right on the money:
MSFT Surface must win the hearts of consumers before the minds of CIOs. Good start #surface
@Craw
Crawford Del Prete

For some time now, we (geeks, tech journalists and IT types like me) have lambasted Microsoft for being unimaginative, lacking innovation, and for being late to market. This time they have something bold, exciting and that could really shake up the way that PCs look and feel. They’ve also kept it secret and created a buzz (albeit a little too early, some might say) perhaps a bit like another company that seems to get credit for everything it does…

Let’s give the Surface a chance to get out of the door before we write it off, hey? It could actually be really good.

Now, what are they doing about smartphones?

Technology

A Microsoft view on the consumerisation of IT (#ukitcamp)

I never realised that my blog posts were feared. At least not until Microsoft’s Andrew Fryer (@deepfat) said he was less concerned about my event feedback on yesterday’s IT Pro Camp event than on my blog post! Well, all I can promise is to try and be objective, fair and balanced – which is what readers have come to expect around here – even if there is less Microsoft-focused content these days.

I went along to yesterday’s IT Pro Camp on Consumerisation as a result of a Twitter conversation that suggested I come and see what Microsoft is doing to embrace and support consumerisation.  To be fair, I should have known better. For the last 20 years, Microsoft has provided desktop (and back-office) systems to enterprises and the consumerisation megatrend threatens this hegemony. Sure, they also operate in the consumer space, but consumerisation is increasingly mobile and cross-platform which means that Microsoft’s dominance is weakening*.

What the UK TechNet team has done is to put together a workshop that looks at how Microsoft tools can be used to support consumerisation in the enterprise – and, at that level, it worked well (although I’m pretty sure the event synopsis changed at some point between me booking my place and it actually taking place).  Even so, I was naive to expect anything more than marketing. Indeed, I nearly went home at lunchtime as it was starting to feel like a big System Center Configuration Manager pitch and there was very little discussion of what is really meant by the consumerisation of IT.

There is little doubt in my mind that the event provided a great demo to show off a host of functionality in Microsoft’s products (and, to be fair, there is an increasing amount of cross-platform support too) but, time and time again, I was the awkward so-and-so who asked how I would implement a feature (for example Direct Access) in a cross-platform estate (e.g. for BYOD) and the answer was that it needs Windows.

So, earlier in the week I was slating Oracle for an event that basically said “buy more of our stuff” and this week… well, it’s just “stuff” from Redmond instead of (different) “stuff” from Redwood Shores, I guess.

Even so, there were some snippets within the product demos that I would like to call out – for example, Simon May (@simonster)’s assertion that:

“We need to be more permissive of what’s allowed on the network – it’s easier to give access to 80% most of time and concentrate on securing the 20%.”

In a nutshell, Simon is re-enforcing the point I made earlier this month when I suggested that network access control was outdated and de-perimiterisation is the way forward (although Microsoft’s implementation of NAC – called Network Access Protection – did feature in a demonstration).  There was also a practical demonstration of how to segregate traffic so that the crown jewels are safe in a world of open access (using IPsec) and, although the Windows implementation is simpler through the use of Group Policy, this will at least work on other devices (Macs and Linux PCs at least – I’m not so sure about mobile clients).

Of course, hosted shared desktops (Remote Desktop Services) and virtual desktop infrastructure reared their ugly heads but it’s important to realise these are just tactical solutions – sticking plaster if you like – until we finally break free from a desktop-centric approach and truly embrace the App Internet, with data-centric policies to providing access.

There was no discussion of how to make the App Internet real (aside from App-V demos and SharePoint/System Centre Configuration Manager application portals) but, then again, this was an IT Pro event and not for developers – so maybe a discussion on application architecture was asking a little too much…

Other topics included protection of mobile devices, digital rights management, and federation, featuring a great analogy from Simon as he described claims-based authentication as being a bit like attempting to buy a drink in a bar, and being asked to prove your age, with a driving licence, that’s trusted because the issuer (e.g. DVLA in mainland Britain) has gone through rigourous checks.

Hopefully this post isn’t too critical – my feedback basically said that there is undoubtedly a lot of work that’s gone into creating the TechDays IT Pro Camps and for many people they will be valuable. Indeed, even for me (I haven’t been involved in Microsoft products, except as a user, for a couple of years now) it’s been a great refresher/update on some of the new technologies. But maybe IT architects have a different view? Or maybe it’s time for me to get more intimately involved in technology again?

 

* I don’t see Microsoft being pushed out any time soon – Windows still runs on a billion PCs worldwide and analysts haven’t given up hope on Windows Phone either – at least not based on an IDC event I attended recently.

Waffle and randomness

No longer one of Microsoft’s Most Valued

Three years ago, I was very excited to announce that Microsoft had given me a Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award, recognising some of the work I had been doing at that time around virtual machine technology (specifically Hyper-V). I’ve been re-awarded twice since then but 1 October has passed once more and, for the 2011/12 season, there is no award for me.

To be honest, that’s not a surprise and all good things must come to an end. MVP awards are for people doing great work in the community to evangelise Microsoft products* and I just don’t do much of that any more.  I also don’t have the same relationship with Microsoft’s evangelists that I enjoyed a few years back, and the PR people stopped feeding me information (so I guess my influence must have been on the wane). Ultimately, my career has moved in a different direction and I honestly believe that to keep me “on the team” would devalue the programme and what it stands for. (Kind of like the MCSE did when the exams got too easy…)

As I’m writing this, it seems like a good time to mention the Windows Server User Group too. I spoke to Mark Parris a few weeks ago, and we agreed that I would step down from any activities there (the user group still exists, under Mark’s leadership). Realising that this might look like bitterness on my part, I want to be clear that it’s unrelated to any decision about my MVP status – I just chose to announce it at the same time because it comes down to the same issues of time/priorities/career focus.

Thanks to all of the people both inside and outside Microsoft, who have supported me over the years, read this blog, retweeted my comments on Twitter, etc. I hope you’ll continue to do so, now I no longer have the badge. And good luck to all of the MVPs I’ve met over the years, either online or in person - as I joked with Aidan Finn a couple of weeks ago, if Microsoft ever launches a “Most Valuable Strategist” programme, I’ll be right in there!

*I appreciate that this may be a slightly contentious comment. Many MVPs offer objective and impartial advice too!

Technology

Microsoft’s Windows Azure datacentres: some statistics

Last week I blogged about designing a private cloud infrastructure, based on the practices employed by the major cloud service providers.

Today I got a taste of the scale of some of those cloud operations, when Microsoft gave an online presentation on Windows Azure to their International Customer Advisory Board (ICAB) for Server and Cloud (of which I’m a participant).

Remember the shipping contains that I mentioned as units of scale in a modern datacentre? Here are a few stats about Microsoft’s Azure datacentres:

  • Each datacentre runs at around 95°F (or 35°C): that’s pretty warm but, even though there is air conditioning installed, it’s rarely used, as the containers are self-cooling (using a water system).
  • Containers are stacked in units that are two high and then connected to power, water and networks. (Now that’s some appliance!)

Microsoft's Azure appliances

  • Each container unit contains around 2500 servers and a whole datacentre has 360,000 servers.

Inside onr of the containers

  • The containers are normally dark – I described resource decay in my earlier post – that means that it’s rarely necessary to enter the datacentre.
  • In fact, the datacentres are so highly automated, that there are just 12 staff: 9 armed security guards and 3 administrators. (I’m guessing that’s working 3 shifts, so only 3 or 4 on duty at any one time.)
  • Humans are never alone – systems exist to ensure that people can only enter in pairs, and leave in pairs too.
  • So far, Microsoft has spent $2.5bn on its six Azure data centres, with more planned (and that doesn’t include the datacentres for its other operations).
Technology

Designing a private cloud infrastructure

A couple of months ago, Facebook released a whole load of information about its servers and datacentres in a programme it calls the Open Compute Project. At around about the same time, I was sitting in a presentation at Microsoft, where I was introduced to some of the concepts behind their datacentres.  These are not small operations – Facebook’s platform currently serves around 600 million users and Microsoft’s various cloud properties account for a good chunk of the Internet, with the Windows Azure appliance concept under development for partners including Dell, HP, Fujitsu and eBay.

It’s been a few years since I was involved in any datacentre operations and it’s interesting to hear how times have changed. Whereas I knew about redundant uninterruptible power sources and rack-optimised servers, the model is now about containers of redundant servers and the unit of scale has shifted.  An appliance used to be a 1U (pizza box) server with a dedicated purpose but these days it’s a shipping container full of equipment!

There’s also been a shift from keeping the lights on at all costs, towards efficiency. Hardly surprising, given that the IT industry now accounts for around 3% of the world’s carbon emissions and we need to reduce the environmental impact.  Google’s datacentre design best practices are all concerned with efficiency: measuring power usage effectiveness; measuring managing airflow; running warmer datacentres; using “free” cooling; and optimising power distribution.

So how do Microsoft (and, presumably others like Amazon too) design their datacentres? And how can we learn from them when developing our own private cloud operations?

Some of the fundamental principles include:

  1. Perception of infinite capacity.
  2. Perception of continuous availability.
  3. Drive predictability.
  4. Taking a service provider approach to delivering infrastructure.
  5. Resilience over redundancy mindset.
  6. Minimising human involvement.
  7. Optimising resource usage.
  8. Incentivising the desired resource consumption behaviour.

In addition, the following concepts need to be adopted to support the fundamental principles:

  • Cost transparency.
  • Homogenisation of physical infrastructure (aggressive standardisation).
  • Pooling compute resource.
  • Fabric management.
  • Consumption-based pricing.
  • Virtualised infrastructure.
  • Service classification.
  • Holistic approach to availability.
  • Computer resource decay.
  • Elastic infrastructure.
  • Partitioning of shared services.

In short, provisioning the private cloud is about taking the same architectural patterns that Microsoft, Amazon, et al use for the public cloud and implementing them inside your own data centre(s). Thinking service, not server to develop an internal infrastructure as a service (IaaS) proposition.

I won’t expand on all of the concepts here (many are self-explanitory), but some of the key ones are:

  • Create a fabric with resource pools of compute, storage and network, aggregated into logical building blocks.
  • Introduced predictability by defining units of scale and planning activity based on predictable actions (e.g. certain rates of growth).
  • Design across fault domains – understand what tends to fail first (e.g. the power in a rack) and make sure that services span these fault domains.
  • Plan upgrade domains (think about how to upgrade services and move between versions so service levels can be maintained as new infrastructure is rolled out).
  • Consider resource decay – what happens when things break?  Think about component failure in terms of service delivery and design for that. In the same way that a hard disk has a number of spare sectors that are used when others are marked bad (and eventually too many fail, so the disk is replaced), take a unit of infrastructure and leave faulty components in place (but disabled) until a threshold is crossed, after which the unit is considered faulty and is replaced or refurbished.

A smaller company, with a small datacentre may still think in terms of server components – larger organisations may be dealing with shipping containers.  Regardless of the size of the operation, the key to success is thinking in terms of services, not servers; and designing public cloud principles into private cloud implementations.

Uncategorized

Microsoft Solution Accelerators

Microsoft’s Solution Accelerators have been around for a while now and, as the name suggests, are intended to accelerate the deployment of solutions built on Microsoft technology.  Each solution accelerator is a free download from the Microsoft website but they don’t seem to be as well-known as they should be – with many IT organisations still producing their own documentation or purchasing third party tools that duplicate this free of charge functionality.

One of the earliest solution accelerators I worked with was the Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) toolkit, which has since made major advances in its maturity and is now known as the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT).  This is just one of the more commonly used accelerators though – the full list of solution accelerators covers a diverse set of technologies from using Windows PE to create a malware removal kit to migrating custom Unix applications to discovering the ports used by Windows Server System products to planning for payment card industry (PCI) compliance.

As the complete set of solution accelerators is so extensive, and growing, it’s not practical to go into detail about each one but here are just a few that technical architects and administrators might find useful:

  • Infrastructure Planning and Design (IPD) Guides: intended to complement product documentation by focusing on infrastructure design options, each guide leads the reader through critical infrastructure design decisions, in the appropriate order, evaluating the available options for each decision against its impact on critical characteristics of the infrastructure. The IPD Series highlights when service and infrastructure goals should be validated with the organization and provides additional questions that should be asked of service stakeholders and decision makers.
  • Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit: an agentless toolkit that finds computers on a network and performs a detailed inventory using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and the Remote Registry Service. The data and analysis provided by this toolkit can significantly simplify the planning process for migrating to a variety of Microsoft products including device driver availability and recommendations for hardware upgrades.  MAP can also be used to gather performance metrics from computers being considered for virtualisation before modelling a library of potential host hardware and storage configurations for “what-if” analysis.
  • Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT): MDT is the recommended process and toolset for automating Windows desktop and server deployment, providing unified tools and processes in a common deployment console together with guidance documents for reduced deployment time and standardised desktop and server images, along with improved security and ongoing configuration management.  MDT can integrate with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 and Windows deployment tools for zero touch deployment and, for those without an SCCM infrastructure, MDT makes use of Windows deployment tools for lite touch deployments.
  • Microsoft Security Compliance Manager: Intended to reduce the time and cost associated with hardening the security of and infrastructure this solution accelerator provides access to the complete database of Microsoft recommended security settings so that baselines can be created and exported in multiple formats including .XLS, Group Policy objects (GPOs), Desired Configuration Management (DCM) packs, or Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) to automate the security baseline deployment and compliance verification process.
  • Service Level Dashboard Management Pack for System Center Operations Manager (SCOM): This dashboard integrates with SCOM 2007 R2 to assist in tracking, managing, and reporting on line-of-business (LOB) application service level compliance, displaying a list of applications and their performance and availability against a target service level agreement (SLA). 
  • Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF): Providing is practical guidance for IT organisations, MOF reflects a single, comprehensive IT service lifecycle to help IT professionals connect service management principles to everyday IT tasks and activities in order to ensure alignment between IT and the business.  Where ITIL is descriptive and describes “what to do”, MOF is prescriptive and provides the “how to do it” guidance.
  • IT Compliance Management Guide: Intended for IT managers, professionals, and partners who configure Microsoft products to address specific IT governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) requirements, implementation of the recommendations in this series of guides allows enforcement and management of IT GRC requirements to be shifted onto the underlying Microsoft technologies.

There are also a huge number of specific solution accelerators for given technology scenarios: like servicing offline virtual machines, applying the principle of least user access (LUA) to user accounts on Windows XP, using Windows security and directory services with Unix or server and domain isolation using IPSec and Group Policy, as well as product operations guides for Active Directory, DNS, DHCP, file services, print services, etc. and migration guidance for scenarios such as Novell NetWare to Windows Server or Oracle on Unix to SQL Server on Windows.  These are just a few examples so check out the full list of Microsoft Solution Accelerators for more options.

For more information on solution accelerators (e.g. new releases and updates), register for Microsoft’s Solution Accelerator Notifications newsletter.

Technology

After hours at UK TechDays

Over the last few years, I’ve attended (and blogged in detail about) a couple of “after hours” events at Microsoft – looking at some of the consumer-related items that we might do with out computers outside of work (first in May 2007 and then in November 2008).

Tonight I was at another one – an evening event to complement the UK TechDays events taking place this week in West London cinemas – and, unlike previous after hours sessions, this one did not even try and push Microsoft products at us (previous events felt a bit like Windows, Xbox and Live promotions at time) – it just demonstrated a whole load of cool stuff that people might want to take a look at.

I have to admit I nearly didn’t attend – the daytime UK TechDays events have been a little patchy in terms of content quality and I’m feeling slightly burned out after what has been a busy week with two Windows Server User Group evening events on top of UK TechDays and the normal work e-mail triage activities.  I’m glad I made it though and the following list is just a few of the things we saw Marc Holmes, Paul Foster and Jamie Burgess present tonight:

  • A discussion of some of the home network functionality that the guys are using for media, home automation etc. – predictably a huge amount of Microsoft media items (Media Center PCs, Windows Home Server, Xbox 360, etc.) but also the use of  X10, Z-Wave or RFXcom for pushing USB or RF signals around for home automation purposes, as well as Ethernet over power line for streaming from Media Center PCs.  Other technologies discussed included: Logitech’s DiNovo Edge keyboard and Harmony One universal remote control; SiliconDust HD HomeRun for sharing DVB-T TV signals across Ethernet to PCs; using xPL to control home automation equipment.
  • Lego Mindstorms NXT for building block robotics, including the First Lego League -  to inspire young people to get involved with science and technology in a positive way.
  • Kodu Game Lab – a visual programming language made specifically for creating games that is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone.
  • Developing XNA games with XNA Game Studio and Visual Studio, then deploying them to Xbox or even running them in the Windows Phone emulator!  Other related topics included the use of the Freescale Flexis JM Badge board to integrate an accelerometer with an XNA game and GoblinXNA for augmented reality/3D games development.  There’s also a UK XNA user group.
  • A look at how research projects (from Microsoft Research) move into Labs and eventually become products after developers have optimised and integrated them.  Microsoft spent $9.5bn on research and development in 2009 and some of the research activities that have now made it to life include Photosynth (which became a Windows client application and is now included within Silverlight), the Seadragon technologies which also became a part of Silverlight (Deep Zoom) and are featured in the Hard Rock Cafe Memorabilia site.  A stunning example is Blaise Aguera y Arcas’ TED 2010 talk on the work that Microsoft is doing to integrate augmented reality maps in Bing – drawing on the Seadragon technologies to provide fluidity whilst navigating maps in 3D but that environment can be used as a canvas for other things – like streetside photos (far more detailed than Google Streetview).  In his talk (which is worth watching and embedded below), Blaise navigates off the street and actually inside Seattle’s Pike Place market before showing how the Microsoft imagery can be integrated with Flickr images (possibly historical images for “time travel”) and even broadcasting live video.  In addition to the telepresence (looking from the outside in), poins of interest can be used to look out when on the ground and get details of what’s around and even looking up to the sky and seeing integration with the Microsoft Research WorldWide Telescope.
  • Finally, Paul spoke about his creation of a multitouch (Surface) table for less than £100 (using CCTV infrared cameras, a webcam with the IR filter removed and NUI software – it’s now possible to do the same with Windows 7) and a borrowed projector before discussing his own attempts at virtual reality in his paddock at home.

Whilst I’m unlikely to get stuck into all of these projects, there is plenty of geek scope here - I may have a play with home automation and it’s good to know some of the possibilities for getting my kids involved with creating their own games, robots, etc. As for Blaise Aguera y Arcas’ TED 2010 talk it was fantastic to see how Microsoft still innovates and (I only wish that all of the Bing features were available globally… here in the UK we don’t have all of the functionality that’s available stateside).

Uncategorized

Three phases of Microsoft support

The Microsoft support lifecycle policy has been around since October 2002 but still seems to be a source of confusion for many.  In effect, there are three phases of support:

  • Mainstream support provides full product support, including security updates, hotfixes and the ability to raise product enhancement requests.
  • Extended support means that a product is on its way towards retirement and, in order to open a support case on a products in its extended support phase, a Premier Support contract with Microsoft is required. There is a higher risk involved in relying on products in their extended support phase (when compared with mainstream support products) as extended support is only available for business and developer products – and it does not allow product enhancement requests, or non-security updates (unless an Extended Hotfix Support Agreement is available – more on that in a moment…).
  • Self-help means “Google it!” as Microsoft will not accept support requests for products in this phase.  The Microsoft knowledge base is available, as are all the resources of the Internet, but the risks involved with of running out-of-support products is high.

For business and developer products, there is normally 5 years of mainstream support, followed by 5 years of extended support.  Self-help via the Microsoft online support site will be available for at least 10 years.  There are some exceptions (e.g. Windows XP) as these products predate the support lifecycle policy.  For consumer products there is no extended support, just 5 years of mainstream support, and the commitment to self-help from Microsoft is 8 years.

Microsoft does have support solutions for individual customers that are forced to stray outside mainstream support.  Extended Hotfix Support agreements allow customers to request non-security hotfixes for products in their extended support phase and these agreements involve substantial fees (for the agreement, and for every non-security hotfix requested). Furthermore, there is no contractual commitment from Microsoft to agree to a hotfix request. Custom Support agreements are prohibitively expensive and designed to provide limited support during the self-help
support phase. These agreements are product- and customer-specific.

Finally, be aware that the support lifecycle does not just apply to product versions, but service pack and cumulative update versions too.

%d bloggers like this: