It's always interesting when Microsoft acknowledges the use of a major third-party product for internal purposes. Microsoft has always tried to offer it all when it comes to software and services -- or at least as much of it as possible.
But later this month, the company will be pulling back the curtain on how it uses Red Hat Ansible Automation in its Fortune 100-class operations. Microsoft will be one of several Red Hat customers speaking at AnsibleFest Atlanta from Sept. 24 to 26. Other customers talking about their Ansible adoption at the show include Datacom, Energy Market Company and Surescripts.
Launched in 2013, Red Hat Ansible Automation is a tool for automation across the stack from infrastructure to networks to cloud to security for both IT operations and development.
"Adopting Red Hat Ansible Automation has not only changed how our networks are managed, but also sparked a cultural transformation within our organization," said Bart Dworak, Microsoft's software engineering manager for Network Infrastructure and Operations, in a statement. "By putting automation at the forefront of our strategy and not as an afterthought, we've been able to scale it in ways we did not know possible. Our engineers are now constantly looking for creative ways to solve their problems using Ansible Playbooks."
Microsoft turned to Ansible to improve the productivity of hundreds of engineers across 600 locations worldwide. Those engineers use Ansible for designing, building and deploying IT networks at scale, and the use of Ansible Automation has saved an estimated 3,000 work hours per year and reduced downtime.
For Microsoft, the Ansible deployment has a dogfooding element and AnsibleFest Atlanta will be an opportunity to drum up more partnership business with joint Red Hat-Microsoft customers. Microsoft's deployment of Red Hat Ansible Automation was done on top of Microsoft Azure.
Posted by Scott Bekker on September 16, 2019 at 8:11 AM0 comments
In 2015, 6Wunderkinder CEO Christian Reber sold his company to Microsoft for an estimated $100 million to $200 million.
Now, the founder of the company that created the Wunderlist app has a new item on his public to-do list: convince Microsoft to sell the app back to him.
"Still sad @Microsoft wants to shut down @Wunderlist, even though people still love and use it. I'm serious @satyanadella @marcusash, please let me buy it back. Keep the team and focus on
@MicrosoftToDo, and no one will be angry for not shutting down @Wunderlist," Reber Tweeted last week to the official accounts of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Marcus Ash, Microsoft's general manager for tasks in Berlin.
At the time of the June 2015 sale, the Berlin-based 6Wunderkinder claimed about 13 million users for the Wunderlist Pro and Wunderlist for Business software products.
Asked in a Twitter reply whether he was serious about proposing a business deal in a Tweet rather than through direct communication with Microsoft executives, Reber replied: "Serious offer."
As of Monday, original Tweet had 575 retweets and 2,400 likes.
The writing was on the wall for Wunderlist in April 2017, when Microsoft released a preview of a new Microsoft To-Do Office 365 application that was to eventually include Wunderlist capabilities. At the time, Microsoft indicated that its eventual aim was to retire the Wunderlist app.
It's unclear what Microsoft's actual timeframe is for discontinuing Wunderlist. In a Tweet (in German) last year after leaving Microsoft, Reber revealed that Microsoft was having technical difficulties porting Wunderlist's back end from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to Microsoft Azure.
In any event, Microsoft can now add a Twitter-based business offer to its list of tasks related to closing down Wunderlist.
Posted by Scott Bekker on September 09, 2019 at 9:38 PM0 comments
The VMware partnership with Microsoft to run VMware workloads natively on Microsoft Azure is coming to more datacenters over the next few months.
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger provided a roadmap update for the partnership on Monday during his keynote at VMworld 2019 in San Francisco.
The formal name of the joint offering is Azure VMware Solutions. As described by Microsoft at the late-April unveiling, the agreement allows customers to run, manage and secure applications across VMware environments and Azure with a common operating framework. Supported VMware technologies include VMware vSphere, vSAN, NSX and vCenter.
At launch, the offering was available immediately in two Azure regions -- U.S East and U.S. West. (While partners often refer to Microsoft Azure "datacenters," Microsoft calls them Azure "regions," which the company defines as sets of datacenters "within a latency-defined perimeter and connected through a dedicated regional low-latency network.")
On Monday, Gelsinger said the offering is also available in a third Azure region, the West Europe region, with further global expansion coming soon. "By the end of the year, we'll be in Australia and Southeast Asia," Gelsinger said.
According to a graphic displayed behind Gelsinger, the footprint of the partnership will also broaden within some existing geographies before the end of this year. The offering should be up and running in Microsoft's Azure regions in Northern Europe, U.S, West 2 and South Central, which is also in the United States.
The graphic also showed that by the end of the first quarter of 2020, the offering will be added to Azure regions in Canada and Japan. That will bring availability of the VMware offering to 10 of Microsoft's 54 announced Azure regions.
The joint solution has attracted a few major customers. "Customers are already launching into this platform today. Over 20 customers are on it," said Gelsinger, naming Lucky Brands, Dot Foods and Gap.
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 26, 2019 at 12:40 PM0 comments
There's a Texas-sized ransomware problem brewing on the heels of similar incidents in Florida.
The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) on Friday revealed that more than 20 entities, mostly smaller local governments in the state, were impacted by a ransomware attack.
"On the morning of August 16, 2019, more than 20 entities in Texas reported a ransomware attack," the Texas DIR said in an update Saturday evening that put the total number of affected agencies at 23. State government agencies were not among those affected.
The attacks seem to be coordinated. "At this time, the evidence gathered indicates the attacks came from one single threat actor. Investigations into the origin of this attack are ongoing; however, response and recovery are the priority at this time," the updated statement said.
Officials swung into action on Friday in a response that included, in addition to the DIR, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Military Department, the Texas A&M University System's Security Operations Center/Critical Incident Response Team, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Public Utility Commission, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other federal agencies.
The ransomware incidents in Texas follow a trio of incidents in Florida in Riviera Beach, Lake City and Key Biscayne. Two of those incidents involved huge ransomware payouts -- $600,000 for Riviera Beach and $460,000 for Lake City -- most of which was covered by insurance.
It is unclear whether cities are more heavily targeted for ransomware than other types of entities. On the one hand, small and local governments often have budget struggles that result in outdated IT infrastructure, and there are many documented cases of governments falling victim to attacks.
On the other hand, it's easier for a company to conceal a ransomware attack. Government agencies are more accountable to public scrutiny and less able to choose to keep an incident quiet.
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 20, 2019 at 12:49 PM0 comments
Microsoft is offering a big carrot to get organizations to Azure in combination with the stick of Windows Server 2008 end-of-support.
That stick that's feared across the IT landscape is that support is ending for Windows Server 2008 on Jan. 14, 2020. Specifically, Extended Support, which includes security updates, ends that day for Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Hyper-V Server 2008 and Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1.
It's a wide swath of the market that's still on those server operating systems. Microsoft recently estimated that 60 percent of its server installed base, or 24 million instances, remain on Windows Server 2008 and/or SQL Server 2008, which fell out of support last month.
The other part of the stick is that organizations that want to stay on Windows Server 2008 for some reason must enter into an expensive contract for Extended Security Updates (ESU) if they want any kind of security protection, and those are only available for three years.
The carrot is that Microsoft is offering another route for customers who don't want to, or are unable to, move off of Windows Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 right away. The carrot is a sort of half-move.
What those customers can do is migrate their instances, as they are, to Azure. Customers who rehost Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 workloads directly to Azure will get three full years of ESU at no additional charge. That gives them the option of upgrading from Windows Server 2008 at a more leisurely pace within those virtual machines.
They'll be paying Azure hosting fees and be in the public cloud, but they don't have to pay the ESU, so their existing operations can continue largely as-is.
It's a serious move by Microsoft to make Azure very appealing to organizations that have been at the tail end of the cloud adoption curve.
While attractive, this is only one of the options for moving from Windows Server 2008 before the deadline. For more detail on options for on-premises, hybrid and cloud migrations, check out RCP's "Partner's Guide to the Windows Server 2008 Deadline" (registration required).
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 08, 2019 at 10:30 AM0 comments
Microsoft is investing resources in select customers in a new effort to get more on-premises data warehouses onto the Azure cloud.
Microsoft and Informatica unveiled a migration offer on Tuesday designed to lower the expense and risk of a proof-of-value project to determine the feasibility and advantages of moving a data warehouse to Azure.
The offer, for qualified customers, includes tools to reveal the contours of a data estate, free code conversion of existing schemas, a SQL Data Warehouse subscription for up to 30 days and on-site help.
Informatica's end involves its Informatica Enterprise Data Catalog and Informatica Intelligent Cloud Services for up to 30 days of a proof-of-value project. Informatica, an enterprise software company with a portfolio of data integration tools among other products, went private in a 2015 deal that attracted an investment from Microsoft.
In a blog post, John Chirapurath, general manager of Azure Data & AI for Microsoft, said the new program is designed to address the perceived risks involved in making a data warehouse move.
"For customers that have been tuning analytics appliances for years, such as Teradata and Netezza, it can seem overwhelming to start the journey towards the cloud. Customers have invested valuable time, skills, and personnel to achieve optimal performance from their analytics systems, which contain the most sensitive and valuable data for their business," Chirapurath wrote.
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 06, 2019 at 12:15 PM0 comments
If it seems like there's more talk about artificial intelligence (AI) than there is market momentum, that's a feature -- not a bug -- for partners, according to a senior Microsoft executive.
Julia White, the corporate vice president who leads product management for Microsoft's cloud platform, made a big splash at the Microsoft Inspire 2019 partner conference last week with a HoloLens demo involving a hologram translating her keynote into Japanese.
But in an Inspire briefing for media, White framed AI in an interesting way.
"In our executive briefing center here at Microsoft, the No. 1 requested session on Azure is AI. That's what everyone wants to talk about, every customer," White said. But then the interesting thing, if you look at actual production, real at-scale AI solutions, it's only about 4 percent. In the enterprise space. Really, it's tiny. It just tells you the interest is so high and the customers reality is still, you know, nascent."
Put another way, White is saying only one in 25 enterprise customers are currently using AI solutions, but nearly all of the rest of them are interested in AI.
In the context of partners, White contends that's a great situation to be in. "To me, that's huge partner opportunity," White said. "They need someone to come in and help them think through, what is their AI strategy? How do they use the technologies, because it's pretty complicated, and trying to navigate how they use it within the way they do it."
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 25, 2019 at 2:57 PM0 comments
Microsoft wrapped up its annual Microsoft Inspire partner conference last week in Las Vegas with a lot of product news, business initiatives and demos.
Here are 11 quotes from the major Corenote addresses at the show that capture key moments showing what Microsoft is up to and where the company and its partners are heading.
1. Windows Server to Azure
There's a hard deadline coming at the beginning of the next calendar year. Windows Server 2008 reaches its end of support in January 2020, and Microsoft made sure partners understood that they should be moving those customers to the Azure cloud.
According to Microsoft's internal estimates, about 60 percent of its server install base is on Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, which just passed its own support deadline earlier this month. Microsoft puts the market opportunity for those migrations at $50 billion.
2. Democratizing Digital
Democratizing digital is an emerging catchphrase for Microsoft. The quote above, which pulls together Althoff's point-by-point definition from a longer stretch, captures the key elements of the idea.
3. Listing the First-Class Citizens
Under Nadella, Microsoft has demonstrated, again and again, that Azure is the key. As long as Microsoft is getting revenues from Azure usage, it's putting less effort into all the other games Microsoft famously used to play to favor its own internal technologies over competitive technologies that also ran on its platforms.
4. SQL Database Hyperscale Demo
In a heavily promoted demo during Nadella's Corenote address, Kumar showed off Azure SQL Database Hyperscale with a massive amount of data. The demo involved feeding simulated data from a million vehicles into the relational database in the cloud to return operational insights across the entire fleet.
5. Boom Teams
"How many of you remember the explosive growth of SharePoint about a decade ago? Teams is already on a faster trajectory than that."
Microsoft claimed during Inspire that the Teams collaboration service has reached more than 13 million daily active users, overtaking Slack on that metric sometime in June. Microsoft is aggressively encouraging partners to emphasize Teams, which combines chat, videoconferencing, voice-over-IP calling and file-access capabilities.
6. The Persistence of Hybrid
"It used to be thought that hybrid compute was some sort of transition period until everything was 100 percent running in the cloud. Now the modern architecture's richness at the edge and leveraging the power of the cloud, and this connectedness of the two, enables us to innovate fantastic new solutions that really are at the heart of this notion of democratizing digital."
7. Microsoft Itself Becoming a Channel
"Our relationship has changed. The tables have turned, and we have become your channel."
Microsoft is integrating its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partner community with its Marketplace and deepening ties to Microsoft's own field. According to Schuster, the combinations create new opportunities for partners to sell their own services through Microsoft's Marketplace, have Microsoft's internal sales force sell the services or, now, even have other partners pull partner services into their own CSP service offerings.
8. Sometimes It's Good To Say 'No'
9. Sometimes You Have To Say 'Slow'
"[Customers ask] 'How can we take advantage of IoT? How can we take advantage of the Intelligent Edge, the Intelligent Cloud, all this great new capability that's coming up?' You actually have to slow people down and say, 'For what purpose?' This idea that you're going to simply throw technology at the wall and see if something sticks without having a crisp vision and strategy outlined will certainly lead to less optimal results -- let's put it that way -- if any success at all."
10. Scuttled IUR/Competency Changes
"As you may know, a couple weeks ago, we announced changes to the program competencies and internal use rights [IURs]. And the response from you, our partner ecosystem, was overwhelmingly negative. We clearly underestimated the value of those benefits and the impact that that would have on you and your businesses. ... We are going to keep the FY19 competencies and internal use rights just as they are, and you have my commitment that I will continue -- we will continue to listen, to learn, and though we may stumble, we will grow together and we will celebrate our wins together."
This issue was settled the week before the conference, with Microsoft reversing course after first trying to explain the unpopular decision to revoke IURs, partner support hours and some other benefits. The blowback had been so large that Schuster spent the very first minutes of the conference's first Corenote address on the issue.
11. The Stress of a Weekend E-Mail from Bill Gates
"Usually, when you get a weekend mail from Bill, you kind of wait and see, 'Do I really want to open it now?' And I opened it, and I've been working with Bill for a long time, and it started by saying, 'Wow.' I've never seen those words from him, I've never heard those words, and he was really thrilled to see us make progress. Of course, he had a long list of other things we need to be working on, as
Nadella got one of the show's biggest laughs in joking about the stress he still feels after five years as CEO when hearing from Microsoft's co-founder. The e-mail referred to the Azure SQL Database Hyperscale technology demonstrated on the Inspire stage.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 22, 2019 at 1:33 PM0 comments
Microsoft on Thursday reported earnings per share of $1.37 and a 12% gain in revenues to $33.72 billion for the fourth quarter.
The company's stock rose by more than 1% in after-hours trading on the results, which beat financial analysts' expectations. The earnings number was non-GAAP; the GAAP figure was higher due to a net income tax benefit of $2.6 billion for the quarter.
The most closely watched number for Wall Street this quarter was Microsoft's Azure growth metric. Microsoft reported that Azure was up by 64% compared to the year-ago period. Microsoft doesn't report Azure revenues, but the company's rate of growth has been slowing over the last few years as the company's total Azure revenues increase. For example, in the fourth quarter of 2018, Microsoft reported an Azure growth rate of 89%, and in the fourth quarter of 2017 it was 97%.
Combining Microsoft's commercial clouds by revenue did, in fact, yield a big number. "Q4 commercial cloud revenue increased 39% year-over-year to $11.0 billion, driving our strongest commercial quarter ever," Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said in a statement in Microsoft's earnings release.
For the full year, Microsoft revenues hit $125.8 billion, an increase of 14% over fiscal year 2018.
By business unit for the quarter, the Intelligent Cloud unit had the fastest growth, up 19% to $11.4 billion in revenues. That unit comprises server products and cloud services, which includes Azure, and Enterprise Services.
The Productivity and Business Processes unit grew 14% to $11 billion. That unit includes Office Commercial, Office Consumer, LinkedIn and Dynamics. Among the highlights for the unit were Office 365 Commercial revenue growth of 31%, an increase in Office 365 Consumer subscribers to 34.8 million, a 25% bump in LinkedIn revenues and a 45% gain in Dynamics 365 revenues.
The slowest-growing business unit was More Personal Computing, which reached $11.3 billion on 4% growth. Windows OEM revenue was a positive for the unit, with a 9% increase, and Surface revenues were up 14%. Gaming revenue, however, was a drag with a 10% drop.
Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took up a theme he's expressed in previous earnings calls this year -- that major customers are becoming more like partners, with roles as crucial to Microsoft as the historic OEM relationships.
Describing "deep partnerships with leading companies in every industry," Nadella said, "Every day we work alongside our customers to help them build their own digital capability -- innovating with them, creating new businesses with them, and earning their trust. This commitment to our customers' success is resulting in larger, multi-year commercial cloud agreements and growing momentum across every layer of our technology stack."
In a statement released just before Microsoft's earnings, John Dinsdale, chief analyst and research director for Synergy Research Group, called Microsoft the clear No. 2 (after Amazon Web Services) in cloud infrastructure services and a very clear market leader in the fragmented Software as a Service (SaaS) market.
For cloud infrastructure, Dinsdale noted, "[Microsoft's] revenue growth rate is way above the overall market growth rate, so it is gradually gaining market share -- 9% in 2016, 11% in 2017, 14% in 2018 and 16% in the first quarter of 2019."
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 18, 2019 at 3:05 PM0 comments
Microsoft is taking a big step in the direction of making Azure a friendlier platform for managed service providers (MSPs).
The theoretical appeal of Azure for MSPs has always been clear. Customers could move or create infrastructure on Microsoft's public cloud, and Microsoft partners, with far more cloud expertise than the average customer, could provision and manage that infrastructure on their behalf.
In reality, that has been difficult with native Microsoft tools. A number of third-party solutions have sprung up to help partners manage multiple customer clouds.
At the Microsoft Inspire conference for partners this week in Las Vegas, however, Microsoft is highlighting a new native toolset called Azure Lighthouse that addresses those challenges for partners in a scalable way.
"We...want to make Azure your best platform for delivering managed services to your customers. And so, we're investing in you with a new service that we call Azure Lighthouse," said Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft corporate vice president for One Commercial Partner, in her Monday Inspire keynote address. "Azure Lighthouse builds partners in by design into Azure by enabling multi-customer, multi-tenant management at scale in a secure environment with automation so that Azure becomes your best platform to deliver those managed services to your customers. And we're going to continue to invest in that service for you."
The announcement comes as Microsoft is strongly encouraging partners to lead with Azure as a replacement for aging Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 systems. SQL Server 2008 reached the end of support last week and the 2008 versions of Windows Server lose support in January.
"We estimate about 60 percent of our server install base is still on Windows Server and SQL Server 2008. That's 24 million instances. That is a $50 billion market opportunity that you should be going after right now, this year, because those customers are vulnerable and exposed," Schuster said. "You know you could easily migrate those VMs into Azure and remove that vulnerability for them."
While the migration may or may not be easy, the general availability this month of Azure Lighthouse could make management of multiple customers much more efficient for partners.
Microsoft Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich described Azure Lighthouse in a blog post as a single control plane for service providers to view and manage Azure across all their customers. A new delegated resource concept within Lighthouse simplifies cross-tenant governance and operations, Russinovich said.
Russinovich claimed substantial scalability and automation for Lighthouse: "Partners can now manage tens of thousands of resources from thousands of distinct customers from their own Azure portal or CLI context. Because customer resources are visible to service providers as Azure resources in their own tenant, service providers can easily automate status monitoring, and applying create, update, change, delete (CRUD) changes across the resources of many customers from a single location."
Microsoft officials credited the Azure Expert MSP community and other Azure-specialist partners with helping in the development and iteration of Azure Lighthouse.
In a Microsoft video describing Azure Lighthouse, Jason Rinehart, platform architect for managed services at 10th Magnitude, said the tool, with its hooks into the marketplace, is helping his company get customers live on Azure faster. "Some of the key benefits that we're seeing are greater operational efficiency because of the single view [and] faster time to onboard because of the new automated process and because of this new marketplace," Rinehart said.
Another partner in the video, Reed Wiedower, CTO of New Signature, pointed to the role-based access control as a key feature that protects a customer's security and control while giving a partner a way to manage multiple customers and subscriptions. "By being able to apply the same policy to the same sets of resources, all at the same time, it reduces the chance of human error creeping into the equation," Wiedower said.
Other early adopters of Azure Lighthouse include DXC Technology, Nordcloud, Rackspace, Sentia, Dynatrace, Ingram Micro and Veeam.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 16, 2019 at 12:28 PM0 comments
It's been a few years since Microsoft wanted to talk about how many partners it had.
In the old days, the company would regularly boast of 600,000 or even as high as 800,000 partners in broad terms. When it came to registered members of the old Microsoft Partner Program or the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), the figures regularly landed north of 400,000 organizations.
Lately Microsoft has kept those totals close to the vest. Two years ago, I committed a little algebra on some figures Microsoft revealed to conclude that the company had about 264,000 partners. But Microsoft did not come out and claim that number.
This year, Microsoft is shouting out the figures from the rooftops.
We're told Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's keynote speech at Microsoft Inspire on Wednesday will focus on the numbers 100 to 17 to seven. One hundred refers to the 100,000 Microsoft employees, 17 refers to 17 million partner employees worldwide, and seven for the 7 billion people in the world Microsoft hopes to reach.
In a pre-conference media briefing, Gavriella Schuster, the corporate vice president running the Microsoft One Commercial Partner organization, said, "The way I think about our partner program is that we service 300,000 organizations around the world. We're seeing about 7,000 new organizations join our network every single month."
Why the change of heart on talking numbers? I'm not sure, but it always seemed weird for the company not to highlight the huge advantage it has over competitors in the unmatched scale of its channel program.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 15, 2019 at 11:32 AM0 comments
Microsoft is reversing course on a plan to revoke partners' ability to use internal use rights (IURs) to run their businesses after a substantial partner backlash.
"Given your feedback, we have made the decision to roll back all planned changes related to internal use rights and competency timelines that were announced earlier this month. This means you will experience no material changes this coming fiscal year, and you will not be subject to reduced IUR licenses or increased costs related to those licenses next July as previously announced," said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft One Commercial Partner, in a statement posted on Microsoft's partner portal on Friday.
Since the mid-1990s, Microsoft has encouraged partners to use IURs to run their business on Microsoft software, further familiarizing partners with the software and services from Microsoft that they sell or recommend to customers. The IURs were available as part of the program membership fees, and the licenses for Windows desktops, servers and other elements of the stack were often worth much more than the cost of the membership.
In recent years, IURs were extended to include cloud services, and Schuster said in interviews this week that the cost of providing the cloud services was consuming a disproportionate share of Microsoft's partner budget and necessitating cuts to other partner benefits.
The now-canceled plan would have changed the mix of IURs starting in October and retired IURs entirely on July 1, 2020. Product licenses still would have been available for business development scenarios. Those changes, plus a plan to cut off partners' on-premises support incidents, prompted a contentious Change.org petition titled "Disapprove Microsoft Partner Network Changes," which had more than 6,000 signatures as of Friday.
The decision to roll back all the planned competency changes also means that on-premises support incidents will continue to be available to competency and Action Pack partners.
In her statement, Schuster apologized for the confusion and noted that a key determining factor in rescinding the changes was partners' trust in Microsoft.
"As we move forward, we commit to providing even more advance notice and consultation with our partner community to mitigate concerns and address issues up front," Schuster wrote.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 12, 2019 at 9:18 AM0 comments