Microsoft pushes hybrid cloud computing into the sweet spot for cloud PaaS solutions

If Microsoft’s Q1 2015 earnings report can be taken as a reliable measure of where it makes sense for them to allocate resources and focus, hybrid cloud computing is now in the limelight. SharePoint on premises and SharePoint Online, Office 365 are great examples of this concept at work.

Earlier this week this writer published some comments on Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO’s comments on the earnings report, specifically how he chose to answer an opening question posed by one analyst covering Microsoft. The analyst asked a big one, why Microsoft is benefitting better from Cloud, IaaS and PaaS than its peers. The core of Nadella’s answer included 2 points germaine to the topic of hybrid cloud:

  • Microsoft’s R&D costs for cloud PaaS solutions has been substantially reduced as the result of their ability to focus R&D on the task of developing migration paths for proven on premises solutions to fill this need
  • Edge servers, on premises, provide powerful revenue momentum to power enterprise consumers towards Azure and even Office 365

SharePoint-Videos is completely behind both of the above points. We just hosted an online class on hybrid SharePoint on premises, and SharePoint Online, Office 365 computing solutions. Our course was led by Fabian Williams, who is a widely respected expert on this topic, and is also a SharePoint Server MVP. The course will soon be available for purchase for local use. If you would like to be notified once the course is available, please contact us.

Hybrid cloud solutions need to do more than look good on paper. They need to be built from complementary components, for example, enterprise search powered by data reposed on premises, along with data reposed in the cloud. So Fabian’s class includes a lot of technical detail on how to build a high value hybrid SharePoint computing solution. Please note: the intended audience for this course are SharePoint administrators, developers and architects.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Windows Developers can now use Office 365 REST based APIs to build the platform into their solutions

Windows application developers (working with Visual Studio as their IDE) can now build Microsoft Office 365 into their apps, and even solutions via . At TechEd Europe, Microsoft announced the availability of “REST based APIs” for Windows developers interested in building Office 365 into solutions and apps. SDKs for iOS, and a renovated SDK for Android developers were also mentioned in the works.

Readers interested in technical development of SharePoint, SharePoint Online, and Office 365 solutions and apps can learn more about these APIs by watching a set of videos on Microsoft’s Channel 9 on the topic, hosted by Jeremy Thake. The title of the first of these videos is Deep Dive: Integrate Office 365 APIs in Your Web Apps: (01) Deep Dive into Azure AD with the Office 365 APIs.

SharePoint-Videos has published several sets of video training content on the Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013 app model. So we noted this Microsoft announcement with interest. In this writer’s opinion, the availability of these APIs, which can be used to produce solutions conforming to the same app model, but leveraging methods more familiar (and, one can argue, more welcome) to the core of Windows solution developers using Visual Studio 2013, makes a lot of sense. After all, this segment of the developer community produces far more of the custom solutions required by larger organizations (Microsoft’s core market) than is the case for the segment of the developer community building web solutions strictly with JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Further, ceding the battle over whether or not a solution gets to Office 365 by hitting the PaaS as its chief target, or, via the APIs, merely plugs it in, makes even more sense. One way or the other, anyone using the custom solutions built by these developers may end up consuming Office 365. So “who cares how they got there” is likely to be a winning strategy.

An article in Visual Studio Magazine titled New APIs, SDK for Office 365 App Development also mentions a new SDK coming for iOS developers and an updated version of the existing Office 365 SDK for Android. But neither of these SDKs is available as of yet.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Implement a reliable enterprise social computing effort now to avoid having to do so later

Back in January, 2013, Gartner published a press release titled Gartner® Says 80 Percent of Social Business Efforts Will Not Achieve Intended Benefits Through 2015on the low likelihood of “social business efforts” succeeding by 2015. But the same press release makes clear the inevitability of success for these same efforts at some point in the future. So business should start to build out enterprise social computing networks like Yammer, now, to prepare.

The inevitability of the success of these efforts is depicted in the very first sentence of the release: “Enterprise social networks will become the primary communications channels for noticing, deciding, or acting on information relevant to carrying out work”. So how can organizations looking to prepare for the inevitable prepare?

One method is to implement Office 365 as a cloud computing solution. In the prior post to this blog we depicted some of the benefits of cloud computing. The two most magnetizing of these amount to the “pay-per-use” nature of acquiring computing resources, and paying for them, and the on-demand elasticity of planning infrastructure. Assuming these two points act as a one-two punch to secure executive buy-in, then the next step is to select an enterprise computing method.

Office 365 is a perfect match with Yammer. SharePoint-Videos offers a set of specialized training content on enterprise social, which is entirely focused on communicating best practices for organizations planning on a successful implementation of Yammer. Our course is led by Naomi Moneypenny, who is a widely acknowledged subject matter expert of enterprise social topics. The course is titled SharePoint 2013: Making Enterprise Social Real in Your Organization with Yammer and SharePoint.

The title of our course mentions SharePoint, but the methods presented can also, certainly, be implemented in an Office 365 computing environment. In this writer’s opinion, Office 365 is the preferred method of providing the SharePoint computing component to this solution. Yammer is, after all, a strictly online, cloud SaaS. Therefore, it makes sense to leverage another Cloud SaaS (ie Office 365) to optimize the efficiency of the enterprise social computing process and obtain an optimum return.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Be sure to include winning executive sponsorship as a core plank of your Office 365 adoption plan

Often stakeholders counting on a successful roll out of a new computing platform (like Office 365) for enterprise computing put together adoption strategies to hasten user adoption. But a core component of success, and, therefore, any adoption plan intended to support this goal, must be winning executive sponsorship.

Microsoft offers a voluminous set of information on all topics relevant to Office 365. This reader identified an hour long webcast likely to provoke some positive thinking on this topic titled Rethinking the Business Benefits of the Cloud. The webcast is led by Joe Weinman, author of “Cloudonomics”.

Readers should note the theme of MSDN’s Channel 9. The content is technical in nature. This webcast is no exception. So readers should plan on a project management technical presentation before blocking out time to attend this webcast.

Any effort to enlist executive sponsorship of cloud computing must include a demonstration of the business benefit cloud computing will likely delivery to a specific organization. Weinman organizes the notion of cloud computing, as he presents it, into 5 criteria:

The first of these is a cloud as a “common pool of shared dynamically allocated resources”. Weinman argues “as long as workloads are independent” this feature leads to a “smoothing” effect on the pace at which internal consumers consume computing resources, and, “higher utilization”. These two features, he argues, “create benefits for the organization.

The second big feature of cloud, for Weinman, is “location independence”. This one will likely be familiar to most readers as mention of this characteristic pervades most pro cloud presentations. Weinman adds an important caveat to this theme: any latency concerns need to be met. He provides a formula for calculating the likely effect on latency produced as the number of cloud computing nodes increases. He does express caution about the tendency to over build. The ratio of improvements to latency to number of nodes does reach a point of diminishing return. Bottom line: Weinman contends “only a small number of nodes” is required to reduce latency in a meaningful manner (delivering cost reduction).

The “online nature of the cloud”, easy access to the wide area network across an organization, constitutes the third important feature promising business benefits. In this case, the wide area network provider is actually making the investment required to manage latency. So service level quality assurance is a shared benefit delivered when a decision is made to implement Office 365, or a comparable cloud computing solution.

Cloud amounts to a “pay per use service”, as Weinman portrays it. This structure, he argues, works to the benefit of organizations by controlling, if not completely obviating the upfront costs of building the hardware and software computing infrastructure required, on premises, to support what amounts to the same type of consumption patterns by internal personnel.

The final benefit (which is a familiar one to us here at SharePoint-Videos) is the On-Demand opportunity to scale up, or to scale down infrastructure based on demand.

This webcast is certainly worth a watch for readers with an hour to spare.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Microsoft announces roadmap to Typescript 2.0

SharePoint-Videos offers several sets of specialized video training content on the Office 2013 (and, by definition, the SharePoint 2013) App Model. Just to cite one of these sets here, we have published a set on JavaScript and jQuery led by Marc D. Anderson, a widely recognized authority on his topics.

JavaScript and jQuery (which is a library of functions written for JavaScript), HTML, and CSS are the core tools for building Office Apps, per the App Model.

But what is Microsoft up to, if anything, as regards tools for building these Apps? Microsoft has supported the development of a standards based tool called Typescript. The present version of this tool is 1.0. In a blog post titled TypeScript and the Road to 2.0, Jonathan Turner, a developer at Microsoft provides readers with a glimpse of the roadmap to release 2.0 for this MSDN project.

If readers are not familiar with Typescript, Turner provides a useful short description of the intention of this scripting language within this post: “When we released TypeScript 1.0 earlier this year, we focused on putting out a language that would help developers really scale their JavaScript projects.” So what does Turner mean by “scale”?

Scale is another abstraction, with big differences in meaning, dependent upon context. “Scale” here refers to the size of programs: “It’s been quite a ride watching what people have done with it, including Mozilla Shumway at 170,000 lines, Walmart stationery, and the rich Microsoft Azure experience, which is now over a million lines of code!” Turner sums up the intention: “the best language . . . for JavaScript at scale”.

But building this type of language for the purpose Microsoft has defined for us, requires collaboration with other standards projects actively at work for JavaScript. So Turner lets us know Microsoft has been collaborating with one of the most popular projects in the JavaScript world — Google’s AngularJS via its AtScript group. He also mentions Microsoft’s efforts to work with Flow, another popular group working on JavaScript standards.

Scalability is, of course, a key consideration as the Office App model matures and even more functionality is targeted for the client side of application processing. Inevitably, Apps will become more complex, which is where it looks like Microsoft plans Typescript to be.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

According to Microsoft’s new Office 365 Customer Success Center, communities are all about Yammer

In this, the final post on our current topic, Microsoft’s new Office 365 Customer Success Center on the web, the writer spends sometime discussing the “Communities” section of the site. The previous three posts provided readers with:

  • an introduction to the Center and a look at the Scenarios section
  • a deeper dive into the “Resources” and training aides supporting the Scenarios section
  • and a description of the “Adoption” section

Yammer

Yammer, and the personnel representing it, play a very big role throughout the Center. Many of these people staffed the Office 365 Summit in New York City, which the writer of this post attended earlier this month (October, 2014). We think this makes perfect sense for reasons we hope our readers will also find to be important:

  • Office 365 is a cloud, SaaS offer, whereas SharePoint has an on premises component. Yammer has always been, and remains, a cloud SaaS offer. So adoption, and the notion of a migration to Office 365 computing from SharePoint on premises, or in addition to it, are much more likely to be ingrained in the methods and procedures of Yammer champions. From the start they have had to deal with these issues. Where they have succeeded, it’s safe to say the methods are worth sharing with stakeholders (and their partners) grappling with the same objectives for Office 365 and SharePoint Online

Communities

The “Communities” section of the Center includes 3 links: a link to the “Office 365 Technical Network”, a link to the “Office 365 Partner Network”, and, finally, a link to the “Yammer Customer Network”. All three of these “networks” run on Yammer. We think including the link to the “Yammer Customer Network” makes a lot of sense (caveat: our writer can’t connect to neither the Office 365 Partner Network, nor to the Yammer Customer Network. So related comments should be understood as assumptions, only), if for no other reason than to provide Office 365 stakeholders with a basis to build enthusiasm (through dialogue with peers already running successful implementations of Yammer), and a location where they will be likely to pick up promising techniques, which they might find useful within their own organizations.

Unlike the other two sections we discussed, the “Communities” section does not include links to the “Resources” section. Neither are there any clickable training aides. But we think the links to the Yammer groups will prove to be very useful.

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Conclusion

Any organization seriously considering Office 365 as a computing platform should take the time to thoroughly study the very deep set of content Microsoft has provided on the Center web site. We are very confident the time will be considered well spent, with a meaningful ROI. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can help you and/or your team derive more value from the Center for your needs.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Champions of efforts to hasten user adoption of Office 365 computing will like the Adoption section of Microsoft’s new Office 365 Customer Success Center

In this third blog post on the topic of a new web site hosted by Microsoft titled Office 365 Customer Success Center the writer provides a description of the “Adoption” section of the web site. The first post on this topic provided an overview of the site along with a bit about how the public debut coincided with Microsoft’s Office 365 Summit World Tour. The second post explored site content accessible via links on the front page of each of 5 “Scenarios” for implementing Office 365. All 5 are included in one of the tabs on the horizontal navigation for the site titled “Scenarios”. The topic of this post, Adoption, is accessible via a click on another tab on this same horizontal navigation bar.

Adoption

All of the site content is likely to be very useful within the context of a campaign to hasten user adoption of Office 365 computing. But the content exposed on the tab devoted to “Adoption” appears to be pointed towards the stakeholders, themselves. If our writer is correct in this assumption, then we are very comfortable giving a “thumbs up” to the notion of directing this section to stakeholders. The steps included on the tab are, in fact, arguably the correct steps stakeholders need to take to ensure their implementation and adoption plans are complete, and meet the criteria required to ensure a successful effort on this front.

By presenting each of the steps, Microsoft has gone a very long way towards providing a consistent (and, therefore, supportable) framework for structuring Office 365 adoption programs across a very wide range of organizations. Without a framework, one can argue, mounting an effort to promote user adoption, and to ease the on boarding process for personnel from a very diverse set of organizational cultures, would be comparatively very hard to support and not likely to promise success. So we think this section is a “must read” for any of our readers seriously considering an implementation of Office 365.

Once again, the supporting resources are particularly useful. Each of them is fully editable, so customizing otherwise very professionally crafted communications should be very simple, not to mention a low cost endeavor. The Adoption Resources page is chock full of content, once again, likely to be highly useful as stakeholders start to grapple with the task of hastening users to adopt Office 365 computing.

VisualSP, from SharePoint-Videos, has been designed precisely to deliver substantial benefits to adoption campaigns for SharePoint Online, Office 365 (in the form of an App available from the Office store). So we are particularly keen on efforts like the “Adoption” section of Microsoft’s Office 365 Customer Success Center.

In the final post on this series we’ll take a look at how Yammer has been plugged into this effort as the backbone of the “Communities” section of the site.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

As with many other valuable assets, the real benefit from Microsoft’s new Office 365 Customer Success Center can be found below the surface

This is a second post on topics germaine to a new web site launched by Microsoft in early October, 2014, the Office 365 Customer Success Center. This post describes the “Get related resources” and “Learn how it works” tabs included with each of the 5 “Scenarios” presented on the site. The first post on this topic is titled Microsoft Debuts a Success Site for Office 365.

The old adage “be sure to look below the surface (no pun intended)” applies to the Office 365 Customer Success Center web site. Readers with a high level of interest in any one of the 5 “Scenarios” for an Office 365 implementation, or, better yet, all of them, will want to click on the “Get related resources” and “Learn how it works” buttons included with each.

Get related resources

and save a lot of effort putting together your implementation plan. A click on this button from any one of the 5 listed “Scenarios” lands a visitor on the same page, which is a list of content provided at no charge by Microsoft.

As we just mentioned, some of this content would otherwise carry a price. All of the content can certainly be consumed to save a lot of time otherwise required to structure a promising plan for implementing Office 365. For example, the “Countdown Template” includes professionally rendered graphic elements and is editable. So organizations can simply fill in the blanks to put together an arguably attractive marketing communications piece entirely suitable for distribution to internal personnel.

The content included for each of the 5 “Scenarios” in each section of the “Get Started” and “Ongoing Learning” columns will save almost any organization a lot of time. Of course time means money, so we recommend Office 365 stakeholders take the time required to reviewing each of these pieces. The “Ongoing Learning” section includes links to video presentations on Youtube. The “Get Started” examples are marketing communications templates, which are editable. Why take the risk of missing the right phrasing proven to motivate personnel within an organization like yours, when Microsoft provides this content to you at no charge. No brainer, right?

Learn how it works

Readers will likely find the “Learn how it works” section to be a “productivity hub” on steroids. The only “want to have” we would express about this set of training content is a wish list request for more video content. Each of the training aids is composed of text and images. But we would recommend Microsoft consider adding video training to this set. Of course SharePoint-Videos is an enthusiastic champion of video training, which we think would really benefit this already great section of the site.

Training content is all directed to the actual Office 365 user, so stakeholders attentive to the need for end user support will likely want to incorporate this content into their support plan.

In the next post to this blog we will take a look at the “Adoption” section of the Office 365 Customer Success Center site.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Microsoft Debuts a Success Site for Office 365

With little public fanfare, Microsoft quietly launched a new web site for Office 365 in early October, 2014. This website is titled Office 365 Customer Success Center. The site includes lots of content most Office 365 stakeholders will likely end up consuming.

The positive tone implicit to the title is fitting, especially given Microsoft’s objectives for the site. The site exists to serve as a resource for Office 365 stakeholders and their partners as they work to drive user adoption of the unique features of the Office 365 suite of computing tools. This writer attended Microsoft’s Office 365 Summit in New York City, and, specifically, the adoption track. The presentations made during this one day event provided attendees with a lot of information likely to be very useful as they address their respective needs to draft adoption strategies capable of supporting the unique needs of their respective communities of users for a premier cloud, SaaS solution like Office 365.

Office 365 Customer Success Center includes 6 sections (actually each of these sections is more a sub site, than simply a section) titled:

  • Scenarios
  • Adoption
  • Deployment
  • Communities
  • Partners
  • and Resources

Scenarios

Five of what actually amount to rationales for implementing Office 365 are included in the Scenarios section of the site. Each of these 5 computing procedures constitutes an important feature of most any Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program for an organization.

  • “Get it done from anywhere” is a core component of BYOD and, typically, a key driver for implementing the program in the first place
  • “Emails and calendar on the go” are both likely to be on the top of most any list of “most popular” activities for mobile personnel engaged in business computing. So providing them with a section of this sub site makes a lot of sense
  • “Store, sync and share your files” can be problematic for personnel outside of their office. Nevertheless, successfully following an organization’s guidelines with regard to how corporate data is to be handled can’t simply stop at the front door. So learning about how to successfully safeguard this data, on the go, via Office 365 will likely be a section stakeholders will want to explore
  • “Run more effective meetings” is an objective magnetizing interest from many organizations. Sharing desktops, and video conference calls are moving up the ladder of “must have” computing capabilities, if, for no other reason than the cost savings they promise when compared to their in-person meeting sibling
  • “Work like a network” directly promotes Yammer as a cloud SaaS uniquely capable to “[help] your organization listen, adapt, and grow in new ways by working like a network.” Yammer is all about news feeds. Many organizations support collaboration objectives to encourage personnel to share more information as a method of improving productivity.

In the next post to this blog we will take a look at how each of these 5 topics are treated on the Office 365 Customer Success Center web site.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Another couple of points for organizations to consider when they consider migrating to SharePoint Online, Office 365

As Vlad Catrinescu, a Microsoft MVP and widely acknowledged SharePoint subject matter expert recently pointed out in a post to his Absolute SharePoint blog, Microsoft will soon remove two features from SharePoint Online, Office 365. Organizations contemplating an implementation of this cloud SaaS should familiarize themselves with the features before reaching a conclusion on this question.

The title of Catrinescu’s post is Microsoft killing some features in Office 365 SharePoint Online. The features Catrinescu identifies are (and the following is a direct quote from Catrinescu’s blog post)

  • The “Tasks” link in your MySite
  • The “Sync to Outlook” Button
  • SharePoint Tags
  • SharePoint Notes

Catrinescu provides some workaround tips as well as links to posts on Microsoft’s support site, so readers with time are encouraged to read his post.

We share his interest in trying to find out why Microsoft decided to remove the features and will surely share any verified information we come up with on the topic. Catrinescu thinks a number of these changes stem from Microsoft’s effort to offload collaboration features from SharePoint over to Yammer. We agree with this assessment, though, once again, we reiterate we have no definitive information directly from Microsoft on the topic.

Eliminating the “Sync to Outlook” feature makes sense when one considers recent announcements about Outlook Web Access (OWA). Microsoft is in the process of adding features to OWA, so removing hooks between SharePoint Online, Office 365 and Outlook on the desktop makes sense.

But the question of whether or not these changes make sense, or not, is likely not to be of significance to organizations already using SharePoint on premises, who are considering implementing SharePoint Online, Office 365, either in a hybrid computing architecture, or via a migration. If your organization is already using the Sync to Outlook feature, or if you need hooks to tasks from MySites, you will likely want to closely consider what you are planning to do and leave open an opportunity to change plans

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.