If you’re not up on the latest from Microsoft in the business intelligence space, check out this quick 2 minute video. It’s amazing the amount of innovation that is going into analytics and visualizations. Many people have said Excel is “one of the best, most critical BI tools we have”. Microsoft is now taking BI to the next level.
In the words of the founder and creative behind the amazing culture at Microsoft…
[tweet_box design=”box_01″ url=”http://erickra.us/1nX6nEB” float=”none” excerpt=”‘It takes more than great products to make a great company’ -Bill Gates ~37 Facts About The New Microsoft”]”It takes more than great products to make a great company.” -Bill Gates[/tweet_box]
In Part I, I went over the overview of use cases, scale, ingestion and storage. In Part II, I will cover the real-time streaming of data to longer-term storage for analytics. I will also go over the configuration of Power BI for real-time Q&A analytics.
Once the data arrives in an Event Hub, it won’t stay for long. Event Hubs have a configurable retention period of 1-7 days, so you need to “read” the data out fairly quickly. To do this, you need a service that can scale to millions of records per second and offer the flexibility to interpret the data along the way by minor forms of aggregation. For this, Azure Stream Analytics is the perfect solution.
If you’ve been following the cloud buzz, you’ve inevitably heard of IOT or Internet Of Things. At a high level, the concept is simple: connect a bunch of devices that weren’t previously accessible and use intelligent data to inform other devices or take some action. A couple simple examples might include sensors on doors, vending machines or robots. Where in the past, a repair person might have to repair a motor on a scheduled basis, sensor data could inform that individual to take action sooner (or postpone) based on what the data is saying.
Here’s a account of a 30 day experiment I did using only Office Online. For clarification, I will refer to the Office installed locally as (desktop) and Office products in the browser from Office 365 as (online).
Rules of the Experiment
Parameters of the experiment were pretty simple: unless jeopardizing my job or customer, I was only going to use Office (online) – no Office (desktop). This means I authored, edited, shared and presented content all from Office 365.
Microsoft and Docker recently announced the expansion of their partnership, bringing Docker to Windows Server and Azure.
What is Docker?
There are a number of use cases that make Docker excited and valuable to organizations
- Automating the packaging and deployment of applications
- Creation of lightweight, private PaaS environments
- Automated testing and continuous integration/deployment
- Deploying and scaling web apps, databases and backend services
What is Azure AD? At an architect level, Azure AD is a high-availability, geo-redundant, multi-tenanted, multi-tiered cloud service that has delivered 99.99% uptime for over a year now. We run it across 27 datacenters around the world. Azure AD has stateless gateways, front end servers, application servers, and sync servers in all of those data centers. Azure AD also has a distributed data tier that is at the heart of our high availability strategy. The data tier holds more than 500 million objects and is running across 13 data centers.
Figure 1. Azure Active Directory Architecture
It’s Not Just Another Directory to Manage
For starters, there are no costs for using Azure AD. The directory is a free resource. There is an additional Azure Active Directory Premium tier that is licensed separately and provides additional features such as company branding and self-service password reset. Azure AD offers many benefits, other than just typical “directory services”. When using a Microsoft cloud service like Office 365 or Microsoft CRM Online, the identities for those platforms are using Azure AD. This comes with huge benefits because those platforms instantly benefit from the features within Azure AD. For example, if you are an Office 365 user, you have access to thousands of other applications that integrate with Azure AD (assuming your organization leverages that SaaS vendor). Users could also benefit from additional services like multi-factor authentication to Office 365, Azure Rights Management Service, for encrypting documents/emails and Self-Service Password Reset.
Single Sign On
Azure AD’s gallery of pre-integrated SaaS applications grows pretty much every week and it is now supporting over 2300 total apps! Also, Azure AD now provides integrated SAML support for over 50 applications, including all of the apps pictured below.
Figure 2. Azure AD SaaS SAML Integrated Apps
Azure Multi-Factor Authentication prevents unauthorized access to both on-premises and cloud applications by providing an additional level of authentication. Protect your business with security monitoring and alerts and machine learning-based reports that identify inconsistent access patterns to mitigate potential threats.
Self-Service Password Reset
Tasks such as resetting passwords and the creation and management of groups to your employees should be self-service. No sense paying a help desk resource to reset a password when that can be done by the user (possibly faster than placing a phone call). Azure AD offers Self-service Password Change and Reset and Self-service Group Management with Azure Active Directory Premium. For more information, see Azure Active Directory.
Azure Search is getting rolling and customers may have questions, or will have questions, about where it makes the most sense. First and foremost, doing Search is hard, and it can also be expensive. Azure Search is targeted at three core scenarios in this iteration:
Most customers of ecommerce applications/sites will find products by using search first. Azure Search fits nicely into this space with its range of features including filtering, category counts (faceting), scoring, filters, sorting, paging and projection.
User generated/social content
There are many different flavors of user-generated content applications, but most share similar requirements when it comes to search. Examples of these kind of applications include recipe sites, photo sharing sites, user-contributed news sites and social network applications that have a Web and mobile presence. These applications deal with a large volume of documents, sometimes many millions, particularly when they allow users to comment and discuss on items. Geo-spatial data is often involved, related to location of people or things. Relevance tends to be driven by text statistics in addition to domain-specific aspects such as document freshness and author popularity.
Users of line of business applications often navigate through their content using pre-defined menus and other structured access paths. However, when search is incorporated into these applications a lot of friction can be removed from general user interaction making it quicker and more efficient to retrieve this information.
Azure Search supports these scenarios from mobile devices to web sites and everything in between. A great introduction to using the cloud to provide app capabilities that used to be very hard in a quicker, easier fashion.
Check out the Azure Search blog post for more information/scenarios.
For week 2, I’m working off of a Samsung Chromebook.
Let’s Get Right To It
Lync is a core tool for daily communication and collaboration.
My experimentation last week had a caveat with Lync; however, this week (on Chromebook) there’s no hiding behind the fact that Lync (desktop) app is critical to get work done.
- Instant Message – OK – IMs come in as notifications in the top of the page. After accepting an IM, it opens a new window in IE. If you IM with a lot of people concurrently, it could be easy to lose the IM windows. In Chrome, it’s a similar issue except for the fact that you can convert a window into a tab, so you can ‘collect’ them as tabs in a single window. It helps a little, but still a pain for both platforms. I would definitely prefer Lync (desktop) or Lync (modern) app on Windows. If neither of those, I would want IE or Chrome WITH the browser plugin.
- People Search – GREAT – The people search in “Outlook” or “People” apps of Office 365 return results insanely fast. From there I can easily IM, email or schedule a meeting with someone. Because this is so fast, it is one of the big reasons I prefer the browser experience over desktop
- Conferencing – GOOD – I can join conferences via the browser with excellent feature parity. On Windows, I can install the browser plugin and desktop share, join the Lync call (voice), etc. With Chromebook, I’m definitely sunk. Without the ability to install the plugin, I can’t desktop share or join the voice call. I have to use my cell phone for this.
- Desktop Share – BAD – non-existent without browser plugin or Lync on Windows.
- Without Lync (desktop) installed…I felt hinder. The browser would be good enough for a quick IM on the go…but not for full day of communication.
- Notetaking was nearly seamless in the browser. I am a huge handwritten note taker…which I missed. If I don’t mind opening a laptop for every meeting, I can type my notes just fine.
- Email and Yammer were the best and most seamless experience. The only challenge I had was the lack of local storage. Some times I would need to save a file locally to upload to another location (more on next line).
- My biggest concern was the lack of local storage. Yes, Google Drive was there…but all of the documents placed there would be indexed. Regardless of the fact that people call it my “personal index” that is data crawled and stored…and give the sensitive of the content I work with…it’s not a viable option for me.
- For the most part, Word, Excel and PowerPoint worked for my needs (creating, editing in the browser). I had one proposal that needed some fine tune adjustments. For that, I had to fall back on my Surface. It was a 5% case.
I’m kicking off 30 Days with Office 365 experiment with a Day 1 post on my Outlook experience today. Being one of the more critical tools of my work day, I thought I’d start here and see how it goes. I definitely wasn’t new to OWA (Outlook Web Access), and felt fairly confident I would be ok for awhile working via the browser.
Login/Launch – I found the initial login/launch incredibly quick. The web page was responsive and I was in to my Inbox in seconds.
Touch Mode – On first login, the website asks me if I want to switch to desktop mode (instead of touch mode), and kindly asks me if I want to remember this setting. Since I’m on a touch-enabled laptop, I decided to stick with desktop mode for the first day.
Creating/Replying/Deleting – Creating a new message and replying were fast as expected. Same as with Outlook 2013, if I navigated away from a message (new or reply) a draft would be saved for me automatically.
Moving Messages – No issues moving messages into other folders. Right-click exposed a context menu just like in Outlook 2013 and drag-and-drop worked as well.
Browser Tab – There wasn’t an easy way to open a second tab for things. A fairly easy work-around, I simply created a second tab and navigated to the Calendar.
Threading – Every once and a while, this still throws me off. Threading works as expected, but if you fork a message, the threading does not portray this like it does in Outlook 2013. It just shows the messages in chronological order, which can give the impression that they were replies of one another, when in fact they just share the same subject. There are some dots to the left of the threads, but without an authoritative answer, I’m only guess what they mean.
Signature – I am also missing the ability to store multiple signatures, but this is very minor and hasn’t been an issue for me.
Multiple Email – Since I’m in the context of one user account, I don’t have the ability to view/send email from multiple accounts like I would in Outlook 2013. Easy work around was to have another tab open for my personal accounts. I didn’t actually do this method, and found myself using my phone more for this scenario.
Meeting Preview – With that out of the way, the Calendar functionality really is good. The single click preview is awesome.
Single Pane – The general ability to do almost everything in a single window is really productive.
Personal Calendar – The biggest downfall for me was the inability to overlay personal calendars. I have several calendars that I use and having multiple windows open for them is a bit of a hassle. However, this won’t be the case with everyone and my phone still does an excellent job of aggregating appointments so I can see free/busy across all of them.
I will cover the “People” update under the Lync overview, Day 5
Task Lists – Like Outlook 2013, Tasks are shown from Exchange, but can also be linked from SharePoint Online. With that, the same great “merged” view of different task lists
Message Followup – I rely on Tasks a lot for following up on email requests and a simple right click allows me to set a follow up flag for emails.
I really couldn’t find any thing that didn’t work.
The email search works as good as Outlook 2013. However, the filters aren’t easily identifiable. Here is a list of the filters that work:
|From||Searches the From field.|
|To||Searches the To field.|
|Cc||Searches the Cc field.|
|Bcc||Searches the Bcc field.|
|Participants||Searches the To, Cc, and Bcc fields.|
|Subject||Searches the subject.|
|Body or Content||Searches the message body.|
|Sent||Searches the date sent. You can search for a specific date or a range of dates separated by two dots (..). You can also search for relative dates: Today, tomorrow, yesterday, this week, next month, last week, past month. You can search for the day of the week or month of the year.|
|Received||Searches for the date received. You can use the same search terms as for Sent.|
|Category||Searches the Category field.|
|Attachment||Searches for the specified attachment by title. For example, attachment:letter.doc will find any message with an attachment named letter.doc.|
|Has||Use has:flag to find items that are flagged.Use has:attachment to find items that have one or more attachments.|
I found Touch Mode great for tablet like scenarios (triaging email, quick responses, managing calendar, etc). Though, I did have a little bit of trouble initially finding the option to switch back to desktop mode.
|Touch Mode On||Touch Mode Off|
All in all – it was a seamless transition for the day. No challenges navigating or working with the Outlook in the browser. I definitely did not experience any productivity loss, which was most important. I don’t think I would have any issues converting over to Outlook (online) long-term, especially with the anticipated release of Office 365 Groups, which will integrate with Yammer.
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