Windows 7's End-of-Life Throws PC Sales for Loop

IDC's latest update to its 2019 PC market forecast is promising an "interesting year" for PC sales, with Windows 7's end-of-support deadline providing a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy market.

Overall, IDC now expects to see unit shipments drop by 3 percent for the year for a total of 392.5 million units. The main challenge comes on the consumer side of the market, where shipments are expected to decline 6 percent year-over-year, as consumers spend more of their budget on replacing smartphones than PCs.

Yet IDC is projecting that the average selling prices (ASPs) for the entire market are rising 2.6 percent for the year, keeping the dollar value of the market roughly flat at $237 billion.

The ASP increase, according to an IDC statement, is being "driven by new technologies, such as thinner bezels on notebook screens that have increased demand for 2-in-1 form factors, and ongoing demand for gaming PCs. Additionally, shipments into the commercial segment are expected to provide an uplift in ASPs in 2019 as many enterprises move to replace their PCs before Microsoft ends support for Windows 7 in early 2020."

That key date of Jan. 14, 2020, when extended support for Windows 7 ends, and the other ASP-lifting factors are prompting IDC to declare that "2019 is shaping up to be an interesting year."

After 2019, maybe not so much. IDC currently expects unit shipments to decline by an average of 1.6 percent per year, hitting 367.7 million units in 2023.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 03, 2019 at 9:12 AM0 comments


Veeam Sees Partner Opportunity in Orchestration

Veeam is forging ahead with a second generation of its orchestration technology for disaster recovery that could present significant opportunities for the company's partners.

Failing over a complex environment in a disaster recovery situation is a multistep process. Processes and applications must be started in a precise order and spun up on the correct hardware or virtual machines. Orchestration solutions allow organizations to set the order that those automated steps are taken in case of need for a failover.

Veeam Availability Orchestrator v2 hit general availability on Tuesday during the VeeamON 2019 conference in Miami.

Danny Allan, vice president of product strategy for Veeam, said the flagship feature of the new version is that it now allows orchestrated business continuity from backups rather than strictly from replication environments.

"Doing it from backups means you don't have to be running 24x7 in both locations. This now democratizes orchestrated business continuity disaster recovery to the entire customer base, and not only the customer base but the whole industry," Allan said.

Allan described Veeam's vision of the cloud data management journey for customers as about a 10-year process. The first stage are backups protecting all workloads, followed by cloud mobility. Most organizations are in those two stages, Allan said. Because of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies in Europe are slightly ahead of U.S. companies in a third stage, visibility. Relatively few organizations have reached the fourth stage, orchestration, or the final stage, automation, he said.

One Veeam customer that is very interested in the automation tool is Tom Morley of ABM Industries, a large facilities management company. Morley, director of global technology operations and enterprise engineering, is an intensive user of Veeam technologies, but sees orchestration as a 2020 project after a current modernization overhaul is complete.

"As part of modernizing, our weakest spot is probably orchestration across all of our systems," Morley said. "Next year will be about orchestrating all the way down."

Veeam's v2 includes several other new features. Reporting and compliance capabilities have been enhanced to allow organizations to prove with the orchestrator that service-level agreements are being met. The tool also allows the ability to use the orchestrator for purposes aside from recovery, such as DevOps, testing and analytics. Veeam has also added role-based access control to allow for more fine-grained delegation.

Due to the complexity of orchestration environments, Allan sees Veeam's thousands of channel partners playing a significant role. "When you're doing orchestration, that is the automation of business processes. It takes an expert to do. Someone has to design it, probably partners," Allan said.

Cloud service provider iLand, a longtime Veeam partner with a substantial Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) practice, already has its own runbooks for orchestration of customer failovers. However, iLand Senior Vice President for Business Development Dante Orsini is very enthusiastic about some of the opportunities unlocked by v2's ability to orchestrate for non-DR purposes, especially security testing.

"One of the big drivers we see is security," said Orsini, referencing the ability to run vulnerability assessments and penetration tests on a copy of a customer's applications and data. "Now you can do this in a nonintrusive fashion, take a look if there are any challenges and make a plan," Orsini said.

Currently for an organization with 100 applications, the partner would need to find the 100 application owners and involve them in the testing process. With the orchestration, more robust tests could be done safely as a first step, making it necessary to track down only the owners of applications that had major security issues.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 22, 2019 at 10:48 AM0 comments


Veeam Reaches $1 Billion in Annual Revenues

Veeam is unusual among private software companies in that it regularly and publicly shares financial performance data via press release.

It's not the kind of comprehensive disclosure you'd see from a public company with net income, revenues and business unit results, but it's still a remarkable degree of transparency.

This week, Veeam provided an update at its annual VeeamON conference in Miami and revealed a significant revenue milestone.

"We achieved $1 billion in revenue bookings," said Ratmir Timashev, co-founder and executive vice president for sales and marketing. Timashev said the figure was based on revenues for the trailing 12 months.

The revenue marker trails slightly, but only slightly, behind Timashev's prediction in 2013 that the company would reach $1 billion in five years.

"We can blame [that] a little bit on subscription rights," Timashev said, referring to the shift in revenue models and the marketwide way in which businesses are buying software on a monthly basis rather than paying for licenses upfront.

Veeam also said this week it had 350,000 customers and was adding 4,000 net new customers per month and 50,000 per year.

Veeam sells backup and availability software for cloud data management.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 22, 2019 at 10:47 AM0 comments


CISA: Office 365 Environments Set Up by Partners at Risk of Security Misconfigurations

Organizations whose Office 365 environments were set up by third-party partners are at risk of a number of security misconfigurations, a federal computer security watchdog warned on Monday.

In an analysis report titled "Microsoft Office 365 Security Observations," the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) described four common security misconfigurations found during a multi-month investigation begun last fall. CISA is the new standalone agency within the Department of Homeland Security that functions as the lead national government unit on civilian cybersecurity.

The investigation focused on customers who have used third-party partners to migrate their e-mail services to Office 365. The CISA report did not say how many customer environments it looked at, how large the organizations were in terms of seats or revenues, how widespread the problems were at those sites, or what kinds of third-party partners were involved.

The conclusion, however, was stark. "The organizations that used a third party have had a mix of configurations that lowered their overall security posture (e.g., mailbox auditing disabled, unified audit log disabled, multi-factor authentication disabled on admin accounts)," the report said. "In addition, the majority of these organizations did not have a dedicated IT security team to focus on their security in the cloud. These security oversights have led to user and mailbox compromises and vulnerabilities."

The report details five Office 365 configuration problems, with some of them exposing administrator username/password prompts to attack without multifactor authentication (MFA) protections in place, others involving audit logs being left off, and another allowing attackers who had compromised on-premises accounts to move laterally into the cloud.

The main MFA problem involved organizations that didn't set up MFA for the Azure Active Directory (AD) Global Administrators in an Office 365 environment. Microsoft does not require MFA by default in creating the accounts, and many organizations don't change the setting. The report notes that the Azure AD Global Administrator accounts are the first ones created and are required to configure the tenant and migrate users. "These accounts are exposed to internet access because they are based in the cloud. If not immediately secured, these cloud-based accounts could allow an attacker to maintain persistence as a customer migrates to O365," the report warned.

A related problem flagged by CISA involves legacy protocols that don't support MFA. Those include POP3, IMAP and SMTP. While the report acknowledges that users with older e-mail clients may need these less secure protocols, efforts should be made to limit their use to specific users and to wean the organization off of those protocols as quickly as possible.

Of all the problems highlighted in the report, CISA stressed enabling MFA as a best practice: "This is the best mitigation technique to use to protect against credential theft for O365 users."

Auditing is another commonly discussed problem in Office 365 security circles. Mailbox auditing was disabled by default prior to January 2019, meaning organizations trying to investigate potential breaches often discovered they had no logs to look at if they hadn't enabled the feature. CISA urged organizations whose Office 365 configuration was set up prior to January of this year to ensure that mailbox auditing is enabled.

The analysis report also pointed to another logging feature which is still disabled by default -- the unified audit log. That log records events from several Office 365 services, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive, Azure AD, Microsoft Teams and Power BI. Administrators can enable the unified audit log in the Security and Compliance Center.

Another configuration choice that can lead to security problems involves password sync using Azure AD Connect, the report states. A useful migration tool designed to create Azure AD identities from on-premises identities or to match previously created Azure AD identities with on-premises AD identities, Azure AD Connect can cause security problems in certain cases.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 13, 2019 at 10:48 AM0 comments


Microsoft To Offer 'Channel as a Service'

Buried in Microsoft's slew of Build-related announcements this week was an expansion of the co-sell program that has already incented the Microsoft field to sell billions of dollars worth of partners' solutions.

Begun as a program for Azure ISVs, the Microsoft co-sell program was a way for Microsoft to get its own salesforce selling the partners' cloud infrastructure-based solutions. Under co-sell, the Microsoft field got 10 percent of the total value of the ISV partner solution, paid by Microsoft, for landing a sale.

Microsoft said at the Build show in Redmond on Monday that nearly 3,000 ISVs whose solutions run on Azure have generated more than $5 billion in revenue over the past 12 months with the co-sell program. That figure is roughly in line with previous figures the company has released about the scale of the co-sell program.

Now Microsoft is leveraging its massive channel to expand the program in two ways.

First, Microsoft is expanding co-sell beyond Azure. It will now encompass Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. In a statement, Microsoft said the idea is "to create deeper collaboration in selling line-of-business applications." The capabilities are planned for availability at the start of Microsoft's fiscal year on July 1. The roadmap also calls for later expansions to Office 365 and Dynamics 365 add-ins.

Next, Microsoft is expanding sales incentives beyond its own salesforce. Now Microsoft channel partners will be able to resell eligible ISV solutions through the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. "For all ISVs, small and large, this effectively offers 'channel as a service' to accelerate customer acquisition through one of the world's largest distribution channels," the statement said. It was not immediately clear if the field sales incentives would be changed for fiscal year 2020 or what those incentives would be for resellers representing other ISVs' solutions through Microsoft's engine.

Helping to power the co-selling opportunities is the introduction of what Microsoft describes as "transactable seat-based SaaS capabilities for AppSource and Azure Marketplace."

The automation and incentives in the expanded co-selling program, especially on the partner-to-partner (P2P) side, represent an important new phase of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). With the hundreds of thousands of partners in the MPN worldwide, the ability for those partners to connect through the Microsoft marketplaces they already use with (ideally) little friction could rapidly accelerate P2P revenues.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 07, 2019 at 10:49 AM0 comments


Microsoft, VMware Launch Expansive Partnership

VMware infrastructure will run on the Microsoft Azure cloud with full support from both companies under a partnership announced Monday.

CEOs of Microsoft, VMware and VMware majority owner Dell Technologies Inc. announced the deal at Dell Technologies World in Las Vegas.

The arrangement follows a controversial recent effort by Microsoft to conduct its own implementation of a VMware technology integration for Azure in a way that was not supported by VMware. It also comes several years after a similar VMware-Amazon Web Services deal.

Other parts of the expansive partnership include support for managing Office 365 across devices via VMware Workspace ONE, integration by VMware of support for Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), and future work on networking and on delivery of Azure services for VMware on-premises customers.

In a statement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella positioned the deal as part of Microsoft's recent pattern of working closely with sometimes bitter, or at least partial, competitors to advance common customer interests. "At Microsoft, we're focused on empowering customers in their digital transformation journey, through partnerships that enable them to take advantage of the Microsoft Cloud, using the technologies they already have," Nadella said.

Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group, expanded on the theme in a blog post, putting the VMware deal in a line of agreements that includes SAP, Red Hat, Adobe and Citrix.

Called Azure VMware Solutions, the main element of the deal is technology built on VMware Cloud Foundation to run VMware workloads natively on Azure. "Customers can now seamlessly run, manage and secure applications across VMware environments and Microsoft Azure with a common operating framework," Guthrie wrote in his blog post. "Customers will be able to capitalize on their existing VMware investments, skills and tools, including VMware vSphere, vSAN, NSX and vCenter while leveraging the scale, performance and innovation of Azure."

In addition to giving customers the ability to manage on-premises and Azure clouds from within their current set of VMware tools, the two companies position the integration as a strong solution for application migration and modernization, datacenter resizings and disaster recovery/business continuity.

Azure VMware Solutions is available immediately in two Azure regions -- U.S. East and U.S. West -- with availability in the West Europe region coming shortly, according to a Microsoft FAQ. While it is sold by Microsoft, backed by the Azure service-level agreement and supported by Microsoft and VMware, it was developed in collaboration with VMware-certified partner CloudSimple. Additionally, a second version is being developed for release later this year by Virtustream, a Dell subsidiary.

The other immediate piece of the partnership will allow VMware Workspace ONE customers to manage Office 365 on devices using VMware's toolset. On stage Monday, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger described the arrangement as ending a dilemma for customers. "We've solved this battle that we've been having -- is it going to be a Workspace ONE device or a Microsoft Intune device? Gone," Gelsinger said. He said Workspace ONE would have best-in-class support for Office 365, Microsoft 365, Windows 10 and Azure Active Directory.

Also getting "first-class citizen" status within VMware infrastructure will be WVD, Gelsinger said. WVD is currently a Microsoft public preview for a service that delivers a multisession Windows 10 experience, optimizations for Office 365 ProPlus and support for Windows Server Remote Desktop Services (RDS) desktops and apps. VMware will  extend the capabilities of WVD through VMware Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure. A tech preview is expected by the end of this calendar year.

Longer-term, the companies are exploring integrations between VMware NSX with Azure Networking and exploring bringing specific Azure services to VMware on-premises customers. No specific timeframe was immediately available for those efforts.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 29, 2019 at 10:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft Market Cap Hits $1 Trillion After Earnings

Microsoft, which has been approaching a $1 trillion market capitalization for about a year, crossed the big business milestone in after-hours trading on Wednesday after outperforming Wall Street expectations with its third quarter earnings.

Microsoft was in a tight race among big tech companies last year with Apple, Amazon and Alphabet to reach the $1 trillion threshold. Apple made it first with Amazon following later, although both fell back below $1 trillion later in the year.

The milestone comes after Microsoft's stock had climbed 34% over the past year and then spiked another 3% after the earnings results Wednesday.

Ongoing strength in its cloud business and a recovery on the Windows side helped power a strong third quarter for Microsoft.

In results released after markets closed Wednesday, Microsoft reported earnings of $30.6 billion, an increase of 14% over the year-ago quarter and well ahead of analysts' expectations. Other headline figures included a 25% gain in operating income to $10.3 billion, a 19% gain in net income to $8.8 billion and a 20% increase in diluted earnings per share to $1.14.

CEO Satya Nadella pointed to the customer demand for Microsoft's constantly evolving cloud services as a key factor for the reporting period, Microsoft's third quarter, which ended March 31. The company pegged commercial cloud revenues at $9.6 billion for the quarter. That's a 41% jump year-over-year on an already large figure.

Inside those cloud revenues, Microsoft's strategic Azure cloud computing platform was a key growth driver. Microsoft reported 73% revenue growth for Azure. Office 365 Commercial revenue also continued to plow ahead, with 30% revenue growth. On the consumer side, Office 365 Consumer subscribers increased to 34.2 million.

One other business growth area for cloud was Dynamics 365, Microsoft's cloud platform for its ERP, CRM and other business applications. Dynamics 365 revenues increased 43% compared to the year-ago quarter.

Last quarter, the Intel chip shortage was a problem for Microsoft, with Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood at the time attributing a smaller overall PC market to the timing of chip supply to Microsoft's OEM partners. While in Q2 Windows OEM Pro revenue dropped by 2% and non-Pro revenue fell 11%, no such problems existed in Q3. Microsoft reported Wednesday that Q3 Windows OEM revenues were up 9% year-over-year. Revenues for Microsoft's own Surface products, meanwhile, were up 21% in the quarter.

In other highlights:

  • LinkedIn, which Microsoft purchased in 2016 for $26 billion, continued to perform well in the third quarter, with revenue increasing 27%.
  • Enterprise Services revenues increased 4%.
  • Gaming revenue was up 4%.
  • Search revenue increased 12%, excluding traffic acquisition costs.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 24, 2019 at 10:56 AM0 comments


How Not To Handle a Security Breach as an MSP

The ongoing security and public relations mess at Wipro, a massive IT outsourcing company based in India with many major U.S. customers, provides an object lesson in how not to handle a security incident as a managed service provider (MSP).

The story was broken this week by Brian Krebs at his respected security blog Krebs on Security. Official information from Wipro has been slow to come out and inconsistent, which is part of the problem.

Krebs approached Wipro earlier this month after hearing about a breach from several sources. According to his latest reporting, a first Wipro employee fell victim to a phishing attack on March 11, with another 22 employees falling for a second round of phishing attacks on March 16 to 19. As of Wednesday, the attack was still ongoing with more than 100 Wipro endpoints "seeded with" a ConnectWise product for remote control of client systems, as Krebs phrased it. Using the compromised Wipro systems as a jumping-off point, attacks have been launched against at least 12 clients, Krebs reported.

One Wipro customer source that Krebs spoke to worked at a large retailer and said the attackers used the access for gift card fraud at the retailer's stores.

Yet Wipro at first stonewalled Krebs' requests for comment, then released a non-informative statement before eventually acknowledging the breach to an Indian newspaper after Krebs published his first blog. Additionally, the company contested Krebs' timeline without providing one of its own, and appears to be passing off the forensic work of its customers as its own.

Krebs summarized Wipro's ham-handed public response this way:

  • Ignore reporter's questions for days and then pick nits in his story during a public investor conference call.
  • Question the stated timing of breach, but refuse to provide an alternative timeline.
  • Downplay the severity of the incident and characterize it as handled, even when they've only just hired an outside forensics firm.
  • Say the intruders deployed a "zero-day attack," and then refuse to discuss details of said zero-day.
  • Claim the [indicators of compromise] you're sharing with affected clients were discovered by you when they weren't.

The PR and communication lessons are important, but the substantive security component is even bigger. A major aspect of the market value of an MSP is the expectation that the MSP will be the strongest link in a customer's security chain and be more aware of security all along the chain than the customer could be. For an MSP to be the weakest link, and have to be alerted to its own security problems by customers, is pretty tough to recover from.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 18, 2019 at 10:55 AM0 comments


Keeping a Lid on Azure Consumption (Or Not)

Have you or your clients had any problems with Azure consumption overages?

It turns out that Microsoft is counting on customers to end up paying more for Azure than they may have planned to.

During Microsoft's last earnings call in January, CTO Amy Hood highlighted Azure consumption overages as a source of growth for the company.

"As a reminder, strong performance in larger, long-term Azure contracts, Azure consumption overages, and pay-as-you-go contracts will drive bookings growth and in-period revenue but will have a limited impact on unearned revenue," Hood said during the call.

There wasn't a direct dollar figure attached, and Hood's comment downplays the total a bit. But when you're a $110 billion revenue company, any amount of money that's worth bringing up in a half-hour call with investors qualifies as a significant sum.

We'd like to hear your stories about Azure consumption overages. How did the overage happen in your or your customer's case? How much did it cost? How did you address the problem and have you been able to contain it since? Drop us a note at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 11, 2019 at 10:56 AM0 comments


Office 365 Compliance and Security: Perception vs. Reality

Many organizations are under some risky misconceptions when it comes to the compliance and security of their Office 365 environments.

That's the upshot of a new 37-page report by CollabTalk LLC and the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University titled "Organizational Security & Compliance Practices in Office 365." The report, released last week, was commissioned by Spanning Cloud Apps, RecordPoint, tyGraph, Rencore and Microsoft. (RCPmag.com sister site Redmondmag.com is an in-kind sponsor of the research.) It's based on surveys of more than 270 IT professionals, executives and managers across 19 industries, and includes commentary from several Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) and experts.

In short, the report found that those who believe Microsoft is doing a good job with security and compliance may not be taking the baseline steps required to ensure their environments are safe and in compliance -- in other words, they may not be doing the basic things that Microsoft's tools rely on to help ensure protection. And those who don't believe Microsoft protections are enough tended not to be aware of all the steps Microsoft takes on their behalf.

Specifically, the report said that:

  • Of those that thought Microsoft security was sufficient, 80% of respondents have either not run security and compliance checks, or do not know if they have.
  • Of those who did not think the current security protection offered by Microsoft was sufficient, 57% of respondents were not aware of Microsoft's security division.
  • Of those who did not think the current security protection offered by Microsoft was sufficient, 71% of respondents were not aware of Microsoft's overall security and compliance strategy.

One of the MVP commenters, Matthew McDermott, lays responsibility for this gap squarely on the organizations, which are themselves struggling to keep abreast of the many administrative tools, settings and options within Office 365 components and dealing with hybrid environments that involve many more platforms than just Office 365.

"The gap presented in this research is not from a lack of features, vision or direction from Microsoft; the gap comes from within organizations," said McDermott, Spanning's principal technical marketing engineer and the Conference Chair for Office & SharePoint Live!, an event run by RCPmag.com's parent company, in a statement about the report. "Companies must invest in personnel and tools to ensure compliance and secure systems. It's not enough, with today's threat landscape, to be reactive. You need to be proactive in your approach to keeping your assets and customer data safe and secure."

Another of the MVPs, Erica Toelle, product evangelist at RecordPoint, portrayed the gap as a painful step in a journey toward a better overall situation on security and compliance. "Before the cloud, people managed security and compliance all on their own. Outsourcing this to Microsoft is a good idea. Microsoft has more budget to hire the industry-leaders, so they are more secure. People don't perceive this because their understanding is immature. They don't know how much Microsoft is protecting them or not. They also don't really have complete control over the situation," Toelle stated in the report's conclusion.

Recommendations in the report include approaching security and compliance more holistically, identifying feature gaps and creating an operational strategy for addressing them, conducting inventory audits, creating training plans, developing governance and change management programs and committees, and setting up pilot programs to understand the latest features and capabilities of Office 365.

The report is available from the Spanning Web site here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 01, 2019 at 10:55 AM0 comments


Microsoft Releases Previews for New Cloud Security Services

Microsoft on Thursday released previews for two new cloud-based security services in advance of the RSA Conference 2019 next week.

Microsoft Azure Sentinel is a native security information and event management (SIEM) tool that runs in Microsoft's public cloud. Microsoft Threat Experts is a new "managed threat hunting service" within Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP).

Ann Johnson, corporate vice president for Cybersecurity Solutions at Microsoft, touted Azure Sentinel as "the first cloud-native SIEM within a major cloud platform" during a media briefing on Wednesday.

Johnson said Sentinel was built from scratch with the help of industry partners as a modern security tool to collect, parse and present security data from users, devices, applications and infrastructure, both on-premises and in the cloud. Like many of Microsoft's current initiatives, key selling points are the flexible and scalable nature of having the solution running in the cloud and the ability to leverage Microsoft's artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure and expertise.

At the same time, Microsoft also championed the tool's potential to cut both administrative burdens of on-premises SIEM approaches and the time wasted on inconsequential SIEM alerts.

"I don't need to have people maintaining infrastructure, patching, dealing with upgrades, things like that. I've just got my people focused on finding threats," said Eric Doerr, general manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), in a video about the MSRC's dogfooding of Azure Sentinel.

[Click on image for larger view.] The dashboard for the public preview of the Microsoft Azure Sentinel cloud-native SIEM. (Source: Microsoft)

Johnson put the alerts in the context of the IT security skills gap. "The cybersecurity landscape is at a point where the attackers do have an advantage due to a lack of skilled cyberdefenders. With an estimated shortfall of over 3 million security professionals by 2021, there simply are not enough defenders to keep pace with the growing profit opportunity that cybercrime offers," she said. "Existing defenders are overwhelmed by threats and alerts. They often spend their days chasing down false alarms instead of doing what they do best, investigating and solving complex cases."

Microsoft contends that its machine learning (ML) algorithms and knowledge from handling trillions of signals each day inform the Sentinel tool.

Pricing has not been set for Azure Sentinel. The preview is free and licensed Office 365 customers will be able to import data into the tool for free as an ongoing feature once the service is generally available.

The other preview, Threat Experts, is a high-end service for security operations centers. The intent is again to use Microsoft's expertise, AI/ML resources and massive global signals collection to provide context around security alerts that could help organizations find, prioritize and respond to security problems. The service consists of attack notifications that are supposed to be tailored to an organization's needs and the availability of Microsoft experts who can be engaged on demand.

[Click on image for larger view.] Microsoft Threat Experts provides customized alerts in the Windows Defender Security Center. (Source: Microsoft)

"Not every organization has access to the level of human expertise they need. Microsoft is now offering our security experts as an extension of our customers teams," Johnson said. "Experts provide the insights our customers need to get additional clarification on alerts, including root cause or scope of an incident, suspicious machine behavior and next steps if faced with an advanced attacker. They can also help determine risk and protection regarding threat actors campaigns or emerging attacker techniques."

Although the new Threat Experts service is also in preview, customers will already need to have Windows Defender ATP to access it. The Windows Defender ATP platform is a toolbox of prevention, detection, investigation and response tools for enterprises. Threat Experts joins elements like attack surface reduction, endpoint detection and response, automated investigation and remediation, Secure Score and advanced hunting tools. Windows Defender ATP is available only in Microsoft's most expensive licensing packages, such as Windows 10 Enterprise E5 and Microsoft 365 E5.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 28, 2019 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft, VMware Reportedly Collaborating Around Azure

A report this week from subscription technology site The Information suggests that Microsoft and VMware are drafting a deal that would make it much easier for enterprise customers to move VMware workloads to the Azure public cloud.

The historical rivals are jointly working on the integration and could be within weeks of an announcement, according to article author Kevin McLaughlin, who attributed the information to "a person with direct knowledge of the project and six others who have been briefed on it."

The arrangement reportedly involves VMware's server virtualization software. Neither Microsoft nor VMware are commenting. If true, it represents another example of Microsoft setting aside long-running competitive fights -- in this case, between VMware hypervisor technology and Microsoft's own Hyper-V offerings -- in favor of attracting increased workloads to the Azure public cloud and positioning Microsoft better for the more strategic fight with its larger public cloud rival, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

VMware already has a similar arrangement with AWS.

"While it is already possible to move computing jobs running on VMware inside private data centers to Azure, it requires extensive technical work. The new software Microsoft and VMware are developing aims to significantly speed up this process, making it cheaper for them to accomplish," the article by Kevin McLaughlin stated.

The deal follows a controversial move by Microsoft in November 2017 to build software on its own to allow VMware computing jobs to run on Azure, a move that VMware challenged at the time.

One interesting personnel detail in the article that supports the idea that the companies are working together is the presence of Ray Blanchard, identified as the former VMware executive in charge of the partnership with AWS. Blanchard joined Microsoft a year ago.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 27, 2019 at 9:12 AM0 comments


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