Nadella Puts Microsoft Teams at Center of Earnings Call

Microsoft released its first quarter earnings on Tuesday afternoon, reporting revenues of $37.2 billion and earnings of $1.82 per share. The company beat analyst expectations on the back of strong cloud growth.

However, the centerpiece of the Satya Nadella-led earnings call on Tuesday evening was the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform, which keeps surging to new highs due to COVID-19-related remote work.

Microsoft Teams now has 115 million daily active users (DAU), Nadella told analysts during the call. That's a 475 percent increase over the 20 million DAU that Microsoft reported for Teams in November 2019, before a huge portion of the global workforce started logging in from home offices rather than their companies' office space. It's also a 53 percent jump over the last number Microsoft released -- 75 million DAU in April.

Unlike some metrics that Microsoft reports consistently, the Teams DAU figure is revealed sporadically and only when the company has a milestone that fits a positive growth story. For example, Microsoft reported DAU in March of 44 million, and then a month later released the 75 million DAU figure for April to show the 70 percent growth of users in about a month of global work-from-home decisions. Since then, growth has slowed and the company went quiet for six months.

"We are seeing increased usage intensity as people communicate, collaborate and co-author content across work, life and learning," Nadella said before tossing out a few more momentum metrics:

  • Referencing Teams as a part of the larger Microsoft 365 suite, Microsoft reported that Microsoft 365 users generated more than 30 billion collaboration minutes in a single day in the quarter.
  • Nearly 270,000 educational institutions are using Teams.
  • A large deal with PepsiCo will include a rollout of Microsoft 365 and Teams to 270,000 employees worldwide.

During a question portion of the call with analysts, Nadella answered an inquiry about the Teams opportunity by describing how he views Teams. "Teams is very exciting to us because, unlike anything else that we have done at the application layer, it's literally like a shell. It has a platform effect because meetings, chat, collaboration, as well as business process applications, integrate into Teams so that scaffolding richness makes it a very robust platform," Nadella said.

Nadella also highlighted for analysts the pace at which Microsoft is adding new features to Teams. He claimed more than 100 new capabilities in the last six months, and specifically called out breakout rooms, meeting recaps, shift scheduling and events with up to 20,000 participants.

During a separate question about artificial intelligence, he called out how heavily Teams is drawing upon Microsoft's AI research and development. "Every Teams session is full of AI because of the transcription services, the speech recognition services and so on that it incorporates," Nadella said.

Other positives in the quarter for Microsoft were Azure growth of 48 percent and 20 percent growth of the larger Intelligence Cloud segment generally, which includes Azure. Negatives included a 5 percent drop in licensing revenues from Windows OEMs and a 10 percent drop in search advertising business compared to the year-ago quarter. Contributing to the Windows decline is a comparable against a quarter that benefited from the end of support for Windows 7, but it also comes in a quarter that Canalys, Gartner and IDC all reported as a boom time for PCs.

Microsoft stock rose by about 1 percent in after-hours trading on the earnings news but moved 2 percent lower after Microsoft shared second-quarter guidance that was more conservative than analysts expected.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 28, 2020 at 10:14 AM0 comments


Pandemic Translates to Booming Quarter for PC Sales

The PC market boomed in the third quarter, with pandemic-related buying producing growth rates at levels not seen for a decade.

Market researchers from IDC, Gartner and Canalys all released their growth estimates this week. The three firms told similar stories -- heavy purchasing on the consumer side, robust activity around Chromebooks and education, and very strong growth in the United States.

For the third quarter, the growth reports were 12.7 percent from Canalys, 14.6 percent from IDC and 9 percent from Gartner. (Gartner's headline number was lower, 3.6 percent, but that figure didn't include Chromebooks.)

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: Canalys

In fact, the numbers could have been better if it weren't for component shortages, according to Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers.

"Consumer demand and institutional demand approached record levels in some cases. Gaming, Chromebooks, and in some cases cellular-enabled notebooks were all bright spots during the quarter. Had the market not been hampered by component shortages, notebook shipments would have soared even higher during the third quarter as market appetite was yet unsatiated," Ubrani said in a statement.

Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa suggests that it's time to start thinking about the consumer PC market differently, and in a way that could point to strong future growth: "The market is no longer being measured in the number of PCs per household; rather, the dynamics have shifted to account for one PC per person."

The business PC market was a different, not as strong, story in the third quarter, illustrated by Dell's performance. Among major PC vendors, Dell was the only one to decline, seeing shipments fall by a little less than 1 percent for the quarter, according to IDC's numbers. By comparison, Lenovo and HP were both up about 11 percent, Apple was up 39 percent and Acer was up 29 percent.

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: IDC

Gartner's news release on the numbers noted that Dell broke a streak of 17 consecutive quarters of year-over-year growth. "Dell's decline is one indicator of cautious spending by business buyers as a reaction to the current weak economies in most developed nations," the market research firm said in its statement.

Canalys Research Director Rushabh Doshi picked up on a nuance of the remote work reality that complicates the separation of the business and consumer PC markets.

"As the line between work and home lives is increasingly blurred, it becomes important to position devices towards a wide array of use cases, with a focus on mobility, connectivity, battery life, and display and audio quality," Doshi said in a statement. "Differentiation in product portfolios to capture key segments such as education and mainstream gaming will also provide pockets of growth. And beyond the PC itself, there will be an increased need for collaboration accessories, new services, subscription packages and a strong focus on endpoint security. These trends will most benefit vendors who provide holistic solutions that enable their customers to make structural changes to their operations."

In the near term, Doshi said the consumer-driven holiday season should make for a strong Q4 for PCs. But the Canalys analyst was bullish for the longer term, as well.

"The lasting effects of this pandemic on the way people work, learn and collaborate will create significant opportunities for PC vendors in the coming years," Doshi said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 14, 2020 at 9:55 AM0 comments


Rubber, Meet Road: Products Hitting GA at (or Around) Microsoft Ignite

Microsoft declared about two dozen products ready for general availability (GA) -- and thus production deployment -- this week during the Microsoft Ignite conference. The products ranged from elements of the high-profile Project Cortex to Azure SQL for edge deployments to major and minor components of Microsoft's three clouds.

A virtual event this year, Ignite kicked off on Tuesday morning with a keynote from CEO Satya Nadella and was scheduled to run through Thursday. Microsoft typically treats Ignite as a major launchpad for IT pro- and IT management-focused products and services across its enterprise portfolio with some developer, education and government tools and products thrown into the mix.

Delivering 'Content Management Superpowers' with SharePoint Syntex
One of the highest-profile announcements involved Project Cortex, a set of new services in Microsoft 365 involving the use of artificial intelligence. While Microsoft had said at Build in May that Project Cortex would be generally available in early summer, the project has been expanded with a first element now promised for purchase for Microsoft 365 commercial customers on Oct. 1. That Project Cortex-based product is called SharePoint Syntex.

What SharePoint Syntex is supposed to do is use AI to "automate the capture, ingestion and categorization of content to accelerate processes, improve compliance, and facilitate knowledge discovery and reuse," according to Microsoft documentation. Colorfully, the documentation describes SharePoint Syntex as giving SharePoint "content management superpowers."

Bringing SQL to IoT
Microsoft is pushing the SQL data engine to the edge with general availability of Azure SQL Edge. Designed for Internet of Things (IoT) gateways and edge devices, Azure SQL Edge is built on the same code base as Microsoft SQL Server and runs in a container of less than 500MB.

A Cloud for Health Care
Certain industries have specific regulatory requirements or privacy concerns that make the general-purpose public cloud a harder sell. With an eye to serving the specific needs of vertical industries, Microsoft plans to roll out several industry-specific clouds, and the company is starting with health care.

The Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare has been in public preview since May, but Microsoft now is promising a firm date for general availability within the month -- Oct. 20. At a high level, the cloud is architected to comply with regulatory frameworks like GDPR, HIPAA and HITRUST and includes capabilities from Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Power Platform, as well as partner solutions.

Upgrading the Compliance Manager
Recognizing the complexity and volume of compliance considerations that IT organizations of all kinds must deal with, Microsoft is making generally available immediately a new Compliance Manager for Microsoft 365 customers.

The new Compliance Manager is a superset of its existing Compliance Manager and the Compliance Score. Microsoft's design goal for Compliance Manager is to turn complex regulatory requirements into specific controls and help organizations measure their progress through scores.

Putting Windows and Linux Servers Under Azure Arc
Customers managing Azure services use Azure Resource Manager. For those who like the model and want to use similar tools and capabilities to manage more of their infrastructure, there's Azure Arc, which extends the model to other clouds, Kubernetes clusters and on-premises servers.

As of Ignite, Microsoft made Azure Arc-enabled servers generally available for Windows and Linux servers. From a single control plane, customers can now manage their servers with Azure Policy and use Azure Security Center, Azure Monitor or Update Management on them.

Dynamics 365 Project Operations Goes Live
Microsoft spun off a new solution out of Dynamics 365, this time for services businesses. Now generally available is Dynamics 365 Project Operations. The solution is designed to integrate sales, project management and accounting teams and cover parts of the process from quotes to invoices to business intelligence.

Microsoft Teams Activity
All the remote work going on in the world has Microsoft Teams as a critical product for Microsoft in the near-term and potentially in the long-term, as well. Microsoft has a few big initiatives going on here. One of them is a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices. In Microsoft videos, the devices are small desktop devices with screens that work as a complement to a PC and allow a user to do things like launch a meeting and see other participants on the device while controlling a screen share for the meeting from the PC.

While not quite ready as of Ignite, Microsoft now says to expect general availability for the devices in the "coming weeks." Initial hardware partners include Lenovo and Yealink. For the record, Microsoft is also working with AudioCodes, Poly and Yealink on less expensive Teams phones for common areas and has some Teams-related USB peripherals in the works.

Also for Teams, Microsoft announced that live captions with speaker attribution is now generally available. Also, the Teams displays will include Cortana voice assistance. The functionality is generally available but depends on delivery of the devices. Meanwhile, Cortana's Amazon peer Alexa also had GA news at Ignite: The Alexa channel is now generally available within the Azure Bot Service.

What's Your Productivity Score?
The novel coronavirus pandemic has also initiated a push by organizations to figure out how to track and improve worker productivity from remote locations. Microsoft is taking a crack at it with the Microsoft Productivity Score, which is partly about those questions and partly about monitoring how much employees and organizations are taking advantage of capabilities in Microsoft 365. While, again, not generally available immediately, Microsoft committed at Ignite to an end-of-October GA for Productivity Score. The score is broken into Employee Experience and Technology Experience.

Other GA Services and Products
Highlights of the other generally available services and products in Microsoft's Ignite announcements included:

  • Additional features for Azure Cognitive Search called Private Endpoints and Managed Identities.
  • An Anomaly Detector in Azure Cognitive Services, Metric Advisor.
  • A new Designer capability for Azure Machine Learning featuring drag-and-drop modules for things such as data prep, model training and evaluation.
  • New Azure Migrate features for datacenter-to-cloud migrations.
  • A next generation version of Azure VMware Solution (AVS) in US East, US West, West Europe and Australia.
  • Two new Azure Stack Edge appliances, including one designed to be carried in a backpack.
  • Azure Virtual Machines featuring Intel Cascade Lake processors.
  • Azure Disk Storage updates, including Azure Private Link integration and support for 512E on Azure Ultra Disks.
  • ServiceNow integration with Azure AD.
  • Microsoft Edge DevTools extension for Visual Studio Code.
  • An Azure Policy add-on for Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS).

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 22, 2020 at 9:42 AM0 comments


Microsoft Launches WVD Advanced Specialization

Microsoft on Tuesday launched an advanced specialization for Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), giving partners access to a new badge that highlights expertise in the newly essential area of supporting remote workers.

Advanced specializations layer on top of competencies within the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) as a way for partners to demonstrate Microsoft-sanctioned certification of their specialized skills.

Competencies are a baseline element of the MPN and Microsoft partners have used them for decades as a way to show expertise. There are currently about 19 competencies in the MPN.

Advanced specializations are newer and can only be attained after a partner already has a prerequisite competency. Microsoft currently lists 11 of the specializations, including Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop.

To attain the new Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop advanced specialization, a partner must first have a gold competency in Cloud Platform. The partner must also clear a revenue bar, document that five individuals have earned specific certifications and pass a third-party audit, which costs $2,000.

"Our newest advanced specialization will showcase your experience with implementing Windows Virtual Desktop, including deploying, optimizing, and securing virtual desktop infrastructure on Azure. This will ensure you’re prepared to meet the needs of your customers as they continue to evolve their remote work approach," said Dan Truax, general manager of Partner Digital Experiences and Programs in Microsoft One Commercial Partner, in a blog post announcing the advanced specialization.

Earlier this year, Microsoft released some Microsoft Teams-related advanced specializations, also related to the shift to remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WVD is Microsoft's virtual desktop infrastructure service for remote access to Windows 7 or Windows 10 desktops and applications. The virtual desktops are hosted in Microsoft datacenters.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 15, 2020 at 12:56 PM0 comments


Quest Buys Binary Tree

Quest Software this week added to its already full quiver of Microsoft modernization tools with the acquisition of Binary Tree.

While Quest already had capabilities for migrating to Office 365 within its broad existing toolset, Binary Tree brings sophisticated tooling for second-generation cloud migrations -- handling the complex requirements of enterprise cloud-to-cloud migrations necessitated by M&A and other concerns in a maturing market.

Quest, based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., positioned the acquisition as combining two companies with strengths in on-premises, hybrid and cloud migrations.

"I see tremendous opportunity by uniting two market leaders, each with strong capabilities that -- when brought together -- will offer best-in-breed solutions for customers modernizing their Microsoft environment. With the integration of our technologies and vast experience with their Power365 Active Directory and Power365 Tenant-to-Tenant solutions we are able to deliver more value faster to our customers and partners which is increasingly important as the market and business continues to evolve," said Patrick Nichols, who took over as CEO of Quest in April, in a statement about the deal.

While Binary Tree has focused lately on Office 365-to-Office 365 migrations and Active Directory migration work, it's been around since 1993 and has long experience and continuing business in Lotus Domino/Notes and other legacy migrations.

Quest, meanwhile, boasts dozens of products and its major brands include KACE, Foglight, Metalogix and One Identity. The company's products cover data protection, database management, identity and access management,  Microsoft platform management, performance monitoring and unified endpoint management.

In the statement announcing the deal, Quest committed to continue selling and supporting Kendall Park, N.J.-based Binary Tree's products "as the company works through the integration."

Partners of both companies can expect to see upsell opportunities where the two organizations' products are complementary, with an initial emphasis on Quest Change Auditor and Quest on Demand.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 03, 2020 at 11:40 AM0 comments


It's a Wide-Open SaaS-y World in the Public Cloud, For Now

The public cloud is a predominantly Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market, with the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) elements gaining steadily in SaaS' rear view.

Oh, and that SaaS market is still wide-open, even as the IaaS/PaaS sector becomes more consolidated by the year.

Those are the main takeaways of IDC's useful snapshot of public cloud revenues, released Tuesday. The numbers come in a 2019 after-action report showing combined public cloud revenues of $233.4 billion, SaaS revenues of $148.5 billion, IaaS revenues of $49 billion and PaaS revenues of $35.9 billion. Significantly, all of this data predates the effects of the global pandemic.

Specifically, SaaS makes up nearly two-thirds of the public cloud market (64 percent). The sector's growth is still half that of IaaS and PaaS, making it a long slog for those two to catch up. SaaS had 2019 year-over-year growth of 20 percent, while IaaS and PaaS were both near 39 percent. Meanwhile, SaaS application growth has been slowing slightly in recent years, although the current crisis could reverse that trend.

IDC has started looking broadly at the public cloud market as two main buckets, rather than three. There's SaaS on the one side and IaaS and PaaS together on the other side. The market research company explains the grouping as reflecting the way end customers consume the services when deploying applications on the public cloud.

When it comes to market consolidation, those two buckets tell very different stories.

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: IDC

While SaaS is more mature from a revenue and growth perspective, the market is completely disorganized, owing partly to the nearly infinite variety of applications involved. Market leader Salesforce.com commands only 7.8 percent of total revenues. Microsoft, with its many SaaS offerings headlined by Office 365 and Dynamics 365, is second with 7.4 percent. After a top five rounded out by SAP, Oracle and Google, the "rest of market category" accounted for a whopping 74 percent of revenues in 2019.

On the IaaS + PaaS side, it's a highly consolidated market, with Amazon in the lead at 34 percent, Microsoft next at 18 percentand Google, Alibaba Group and IBM all in a tight market share range between 4 percent and 5 percent. The entire rest of the market in 2019 took 35 percent of the revenue, IDC said.

Still, IDC, which spends much of its time characterizing market sectors, viewed the rest of the IaaS/PaaS market as healthy. AWS and Microsoft have more than half of global revenues, but the firm sees a vibrant market of companies with what it describes as targeted use case-specific PaaS offerings.

IDC cautioned that next year's snapshot of the 2020 public cloud may show very different results from the trends suggested by the 2019 numbers, especially because of an acceleration in enterprises' shift to the cloud.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 18, 2020 at 11:26 AM0 comments


Microsoft Earnings Up 13% in Q4

Microsoft revenues were up 13% in the fourth quarter as the company continued its growth amid the pandemic and associated economic headwinds.

Revenues for the quarter, ended June 30, hit $38 billion. Diluted earnings per share decreased 15%, to $1.46, in part because the company took a $450 million charge in the quarter for its late-June move to permanently shutter the Microsoft Store physical locations.

Microsoft's stock price was down about 3% in after-hours trading, even though both the revenues and earnings announced Wednesday beat analyst expectations.

"Our commercial cloud surpassed $50 billion in annual revenue for the first time this year. And this quarter our Commercial bookings were better than expected, growing 12% year-over-year," Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said in a statement.

For the full year, revenue grew 14% to $143 billion and diluted earnings per share were also up 14% to $5.76.

Despite the cloud growth, investors may have been concerned about the sequential drop in Azure growth. While Microsoft does not break out Azure revenues, the company reports percentage growth. In the third quarter, Azure growth had been 59%, while the fourth quarter brought 47% growth.

By major business units for the quarter, Productivity and Business Process was up 6% to $11.8 billion, Intelligent Cloud was up 17% to $13.4 billion and More Personal Computing was up 14% to $12.9 billion.

Other notable growth trends in Microsoft's business-oriented product lines included:

  • A 19% jump in Office 365 Commercial revenues
  • Growth of 38% for Dynamics 365 revenue
  • An increase of 19% in server products and cloud services revenue, which included the 47% Azure revenue growth
  • Growth of 7% in Windows OEM revenue
  • A 28% hike in Surface revenues

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 22, 2020 at 3:31 PM0 comments


Inspire: Nadella Urges Partners To Embrace 'Tech Intensity'

Satya Nadella has been shopping around the term "tech intensity" for a year-and-a-half as a sort of refinement of, or at least a related concept to, "digital transformation."

But at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference on Wednesday, the Microsoft CEO elevated "tech intensity" to an organizing principle that can help companies both weather the current historic global challenges and perhaps grow after those challenges have started to recede.

"While the pandemic has taught us that no business is 100 percent resilient, those fortified by digital technology are more resilient, more capable of transforming when faced with these secular structural changes in the marketplace. We call this tech intensity, and every organization and every industry will increasingly need to embrace it in order to be successful and grow," Nadella said during his keynote at the two-day virtual event that wrapped up Wednesday (emphasis added).

Nadella said Microsoft is working with the Harvard Business School to develop frameworks and scorecards for companies in various verticals related to tech intensity.

"Tech intensity inside of an organization creates new operating architecture, breaking up the traditional silos to expose the technology and data and business process workflows inside the company in a very modular platform. This enables citizen developers, in collaboration with their digital and IT teams, to respond to these changes in the marketplace, this new opportunity, with agility. Our collective opportunity is to channel this intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge era into tech intensity for every business on the planet," Nadella said.

In the lead-up to his tech intensity definition, Nadella worked through a several verticals where customers and partners are exhibiting tech intensity.

They included:

  • Health care and the surge in telehealth: "More than half of the primary care visits at some of the major health care systems are now being conducted virtually, and providers are increasingly relying on new capabilities like these AI-assisted bots to ensure patients get the information they need whenever and wherever they need it."
  • E-commerce: "[It] has been pulled forward multiple years, according to one analyst. Offline retailers are embracing new models like contactless shopping, curbside pickup."
  • Financial tech: "People [are putting] aside their physical wallets in favor of digital ones, and banks are harnessing the power of AI to manage risk."
  • Manufacturing: "Every category [is] moving to automate everywhere, simulate anything and quickly advancing from early experiments with IoT and AI to rapid adoption at scale, creating digital twins and using mixed reality for remote assistance and field service."
[Click on image for larger view.]

Fitting the effort to Microsoft's product set, Nadella emphasized a hierarchy with Azure at the foundation, GitHub and Power Platform in a middle development layer, and Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 on top. Enhancing the three clouds and development tools were Microsoft's security, compliance and identity tools.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 22, 2020 at 1:34 PM0 comments


Inspire: Microsoft Sets Partner Priorities for FY 2021

In the opening sessions of the Microsoft Inspire partner conference Tuesday, Microsoft executives urged partners to pivot their efforts to remote work, business continuity, security and cloud migration over the next year in a work world that the pandemic has "changed forever."

Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft's worldwide channel chief, detailed the four priorities for partners as the next steps for Microsoft's fiscal 2021, which started July 1. Microsoft is holding the Inspire conference virtually on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In a keynote called "Partnership Through Pandemic," Schuster heralded the role that partners have played to ensure that their customers could stay in business.

"You're the digital first responders, the unsung heroes, supporting and lifting the frontline workers up as they respond to this crisis. And your speed has been remarkable," Schuster said. "When our world started to change around us, partners did what you do best: Innovate and problem-solve using technology to help customers figure stuff out."

Schuster says that the initial phase of enabling organizations to support remote work environments were coincidentally set up by the work Microsoft and partners had been doing for the previous 18 months -- in terms of ongoing migrations to Office 365 and Microsoft Azure, as well as partners having gotten trained and proficient on Teams and Windows Virtual Desktop.

Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Worldwide Commercial Business at Microsoft, piggybacked on the theme in his keynote by emphasizing how priorities have changed radically -- for customers and for Microsoft -- over the last few months. "If it looked good to get out of your datacenter pre-COVID, it looks great to get out of your datacenter now," Althoff said. "If you think about it, we've seen more digital transformation happen out of necessity over the last two months than we've seen in the last two years alone."

Althoff also endeavored to impart meaning to the efforts of partners amid the overlapping public health, economic and societal crises. The name of his keynote was "Purpose-Driven Digital," and he defined the effort as "the art and science of leveraging technology innovation to drive business and societal outcomes for good."

As another example of the kind of effort that fits the purpose-driven digital theme but has been put on the back burner because of more recent events is Microsoft's ecological initiative. The effort was announced earlier this year with big goals for carbon-neutral and carbon-negative milestones for both Microsoft and its ecosystem, and a few months ago probably could have been expected to be a big theme at Inspire. On Tuesday, Althoff mentioned the environment in passing as something Microsoft and its partners could address under his framework. (Microsoft did provide details on progress with the initiative here.)

Schuster positioned the four priorities -- remote work, business continuity, security and cloud migration -- as a continuation of the critical work partners have been doing in the pandemic, and an opportunity to transition their businesses.

"This pandemic has changed the way we work forever," Schuster said. "From a partner perspective, this moment unlocks a huge opportunity to come in with a change-management and managed-services mindset."

Schuster said that in a follow-up session on Wednesday she would detail investments that Microsoft is making in each of those areas. Also speaking on Wednesday are Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Microsoft President Brad Smith.

One partner found Microsoft's FY '21 priorities to be consistent with Microsoft's pre-coronavirus initiatives and to be sensible, as far as they go.

Migration to cloud, for example, is certainly a pre-coronavirus priority that has increased in importance in recent months, said Ric Opal, a principal at BDO Digital who leads strategic partnerships and national go-to-market efforts. "It's true, but it's vague. They want migration to the cloud in the advanced workloads," Opal said in reference to applications tied to platform-as-a-service (PaaS) versus virtual machines that can easily be ported to a competitor's cloud. "Ultimately, they want them to be sticky. I want the same thing. I want sticky customers."

Opal also sees potential in security but contends compliance will be just as important in many cases. "We feel organizationally that a lot of people raced to get remote. Probably in going remote, they didn't care for security and compliance as much as they should have," Opal said. "Our viewpoint would be that compliance is a huge deal."

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 21, 2020 at 2:29 PM0 comments


Microsoft Partner Awards Shine Spotlight on COVID-19 Efforts

The 2020 Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards are filled with stories of Microsoft partners rapidly retooling their offerings or crafting bespoke solutions to meet the urgent pandemic-related needs of customers -- from companies to nonprofits to government agencies.

Microsoft on Monday released the list of winners of the 2020 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards, which included winners in 49 categories, finalists and country-level winners.

Microsoft channel chief Gavriella Schuster called partners' efforts inspirational in their ability and willingness to meet the moments of the last few months.

"Through it all, our partners have been working and innovating, building technologies across the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge that allow organizations of all types to connect, operate, and carry on. We've seen amazing displays of agility and creativity as partners navigate a new world for their businesses, while still supporting customers and building new products and services," Schuster said in a blog congratulating the winners. The Monday announcement comes a week before Inspire, Microsoft's annual partner conference which, like most industry events this year, is being held virtually.

The awards process this year was stretched out due to the coronavirus, with the deadline for submissions pushed back by three weeks to May 12. Even with all that partners were going through in their businesses and on behalf of their customers, Microsoft received 3,300 submissions for the awards -- up from 2,900 a year ago, noted Melissa Mulholland, director of Partner Enablement and Profitability for One Commercial Partner at Microsoft.

"Despite COVID-19 and the extension of the deadline, to still have an increase in submissions...is humbling," Mulholland said. That partners from 100 different countries set aside time during the crisis to put together submissions speaks to the marketing and business value of winning the award, she said. "It really signals that they've got a capability as well as success that customers really value."

Like partners who are broadly having success in this challenging environment, many of the award winners shared a common attribute. "It's those that were able to respond with clear solutions, whether it's helping the government in being able to track cases to being able to help schools get remote learning off the ground. [It's really about] coming out with creative and timely solutions," Mulholland said.

One such partner was RedBit Development in Burlington, Ontario, which won the first-ever Community Response Award. That award was created at the same time the award deadline was extended in April, a time when health care, education and business infrastructures were all straining under the weight of the burgeoning pandemic.

"This new award offers recognition to partners that are providing innovative solutions or services to help solve challenges for our customers and community during the COVID-19 pandemic," Schuster said of the award.

RedBit, a software consulting, design and engineering company, won for its work helping Canada's largest food rescue charity, Second Harvest, take its food distribution program national and support a grant portal as the COVID-19 emergency was causing a 40 percent increase in demand from food-insecure families.

"In just three weeks, RedBit rescaled and optimized the FoodRescue.ca platform on Azure, added a feature to enable non-food donations such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper, and launched a mobile app integrated with Dynamics 365 to make it easier for donors to donate food. On top of all of this, RedBit created a grant portal in under a week, to support the equitable distribution of federal relief funding to appropriate charities across the country," RedBit explained in a post about its Inspire Award submission.

Another social contribution award, Microsoft Partner of the Year for Social Impact, also went to a partner dealing with a COVID-19-related emergency for a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower young people through recreation and community building.

"With COVID-19, the nonprofit had to close 90 percent of its operations and stand down thousands of critical workers. When the Australian Government launched the 'Job Keeper' program to help COVID-affected organizations continue paying for staff wages, the organization needed to process over 5,000 employee records in a short timeframe to obtain the much-needed funding securely and compliantly," Microsoft's description of Barhead Solutions' winning entry read. "Within two days, Barhead and the nonprofit partnered to build a PowerApp leveraging Microsoft Power Platform to process the employee records, thereby ensuring 5,000+ employees were paid during this global pandemic including cooks and catering assistants, housekeepers and coaches."

Among the many other coronavirus-related solutions in the winning entries were:

  • Accenture/Avanade in the United Kingdom won "Modern Workplace for Firstline Workers." Working with national health organizations to help care teams stay connected from a safe social distance, the partner used Teams and Microsoft Bookings in separate solutions. Accenture/Avanade created "Nightingale Connect," a collaboration service enabled by Teams to allow an emergency temporary hospital system to coordinate operations nationally. The Microsoft Bookings solutions allowed doctors and patients to have virtual visits.
  • Rapid Circle in the Netherlands won the "Teamwork" award for, among other things, spinning up a Teams application in one weekend that helped a hospital assess the suitability and availability of hospital beds. The application delivered savings in time and costs that Rapid Circle was able to turn into a repeatable solution for other health care businesses.
  • PTC in the United States won the "Manufacturing" award for an augmented reality effort that helped ramp up production of ventilators needed for treating severely ill COVID-19 patients. PTC's solution is called Vuforia Expert Capture. From the Microsoft award description: "The UK government approached a consortium of industry partners for assistance with rapid manufacturing of ventilators amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. PTC and Microsoft provided Vuforia Expert Capture on Azure and HoloLens2 to record the entire ventilator build process and create supporting material at no cost. The outcome successfully increased peak output of 50 units per week to 1,500 units per week."
  • Leading Learning Partners Association (LLPA) in the Netherlands won the "Learning" category with a rapid retooling of its training procedures. "In a matter of days, 52+ countries quickly mobilized from in-person classroom training to virtual and hybrid deliveries due to COVID," the Microsoft description for LLPA read.
Modern Workplace Award Winners

Apps and Solutions for Microsoft Teams

  • Winner: Klaxoon (France)
  • Finalist: AkariSolutions Ltd.
  • Finalist: AskMeWhy
  • Finalist: ThoughtWireCorporation

Calling and Meetings for Microsoft Teams

  • Winner: Continuant (United States)
  • Finalist: Communicativ| de Teams Specialist
  • Finalist: Enabling Technologies Corporation
  • Finalist: Orange Business Services Global

Modern Endpoint Management

Modern Workplace for Firstline Workers

  • Winner: Accenture/Avanade Inc. (United Kingdom)
  • Finalist: Cognizant Technology Solutions US Corporation
  • Finalist: Long View Systems Corporation
  • Finalist: SnapNetLimited

Project and Portfolio Management 2020

  • Winner: ProActiveA/S (Denmark)
  • Finalist: PROJECTUM ApS
  • Finalist: WicresoftNorth America
  • Finalist: Sensei Project Solutions

Security and Compliance

  • Winner: Threatscape Limited (Ireland)
  • Finalist: Delphi Consulting
  • Finalist: Glück & KanjaConsulting AG
  • Finalist: ThirdSpaceLtd.

Teamwork

  • Winner: Rapid Circle (Netherlands)
  • Finalist: AkariSolutions Ltd
  • Finalist: RSM Product Sales LLC
Business Applications Award Winners

Dynamics 365 Business Central

  • Winner: NAB Solutions AB (Sweden)
  • Finalist: ABC GROUP B.V.
  • Finalist: Cooper Parry Group Ltd
  • Finalist: WiiseSoftware Pty Ltd

Proactive Customer Service

Connected Field Service

  • Winner: Accenture/Avanade Inc. (Germany)
  • Finalist: Content and Code
  • Finalist: Hitachi Solutions America Ltd.
  • Finalist: HSO Nederland B.V.
  • Finalist:RSM Product Sales LLC

Modernize Finance and Operations

  • Winner: HSO (Netherlands)
  • Finalist: Accenture/Avanade Inc.
  • Finalist: Fullscope Inc.
  • Finalist: GWS Gesellschaft für
  • Finalist: Warenwirtschafts-Systeme mbH

Intelligent Sales and Marketing

PowerApps and Power Automate

Power BI

  • Winner: Slalom Consulting (United States)
  • Finalist: Cognizant Technology Solutions US Corporation
  • Finalist: Pragmatic Works Software Inc.
  • Finalist: Tallan Inc.
Azure Award Winners

AI and Machine Learning

  • Winner: Accenture/Avanade Inc. (United States)
  • Finalist: Altius
  • Finalist: Axilion Ltd.
  • Finalist: Concurrency Inc.

Application Innovation

Azure Influencer

  • Winner: ReadyMind (Mexico)
  • Finalist: FCamaraConsultoria e Formação
  • Finalist: Neudesic
  • Finalist: Slalom Consulting

Data Analytics

  • Winner: Informatica (United States)
  • Finalist: Catapult Systems
  • Finalist: Infosys Limited
  • Finalist: CAPGEMINI Technology Services SAS

Data Estate Modernization

  • Winner: Wipro Technologies - Global HQ (Switzerland)
  • Finalist: Cognizant Technology Solutions Philippines Inc.
  • Finalist: Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.
  • Finalist: TimeXtenderUS

Datacenter Migration

  • Winner: DXC Technology Services (United States)
  • Finalist: Infosys Limited
  • Finalist: Intercept
  • Finalist: Cognizant Worldwide Limited

DevOps

  • Winner: Accenture/Avanade Inc. (United States)
  • Finalist: Arinco
  • Finalist: Embee Software Pvt. Ltd.
  • Finalist: LARSEN & TOUBRO INFOTECH LIMITED

Internet of Things

  • Winner: Mariner (United States)
  • Finalist: Cognizant Technology Solutions US Corporation
  • Finalist: Iconics Inc.
  • Finalist: Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.

Mixed Reality

  • Winner: Taqtile Inc. (United States)
  • Finalist: 北京商询科技有限公司
  • Finalist: Meemim Inc.
  • Finalist: Trimble Inc.

OSS on Azure

SAP on Azure

Industry Award Winners

Automotive

  • Winner: JDA Software - Global (United States)
  • Finalist: ERICSSON ARASTIRMA GELISTIRME
  • Finalist: VE BILISIM H A.S.
  • Finalist: Linker Networks
  • Finalist: Technosoft(SEA) Pte. Ltd.

Education

  • Winner: DuggaAB (Sweden)
  • Finalist: Applied Cloud Systems (ACS) (joint nominee)
  • Finalist: Business IT
  • Finalist: HaldorAB
  • Finalist: NetApp

Energy

  • Winner: Ernst & Young LLP (United States)
  • Finalist: Envision Group
  • Finalist: Esri
  • Finalist: Seeq Corporation

Financial Services

  • Winner: Ernst & Young LLP (United Kingdom)
  • Finalist: UIPathNew York
  • Finalist: PowerObjects-An HCL Technologies Company
  • Finalist: Finastra

Government

  • Winner: Cognizant Worldwide Limited (United Kingdom)
  • Finalist: Accenture Spain/Avanade Spain (joint nominee)
  • Finalist: Genetec Inc.
  • Finalist: Knowledgelake Inc.

Health Care

  • Winner: Accenture/Avanade Inc. (United States)
  • Finalist: apoQlarGmbH
  • Finalist: Illuminance Solutions
  • Finalist: WWT

Manufacturing

  • Winner: PTC (United States)
  • Finalist: Blue Yonder (formerly JDA Software)
  • Finalist: Icertis Inc.
  • Finalist: AVEVA Solutions Limited

Media and Communications

  • Winner: CSG Systems Inc. (United States)
  • Finalist: AdPushup Inc.
  • Finalist: Avid Technology Inc.
  • Finalist: Teradici Corporation

Retail

Other

Advisory Services

Alliance Global SI

Alliance Global ISV

  • Winner: Adobe Systems Inc. (United States)
  • Finalist: VMware Inc.
  • Finalist: Icertis Inc.
  • Finalist: HashiCorp

Customer Experience

  • Winner: Insight North America (United States)
  • Finalist: CodeTwo Sp. z o.o. Sp.k.
  • Finalist: Quadrasystems.net (India) P Ltd.

Community Response

  • Winner: RedBitDevelopment (Canada)
  • Finalist: ACS
  • Finalist: FiveP Australia Pty. Ltd.
  • Finalist: NetApp
  • Finalist: NTT DATA Philippines Inc.

Diversity and Inclusion Changemaker

  • Winner: AkariSolutions Ltd. (United Kingdom)
  • Finalist: BIG BRAIN CONSULTING LTDA
  • Finalist: RedManeTechnology LLC
  • Finalist: Concurrency Inc.

Indirect Provider

  • Winner: Ingram Micro (United States)
  • Finalist: Crayon AS
  • Finalist: Rhipe Limited
  • Finalist: Tech Data Corporation

Learning

Partner for Social Impact

Global SI Digital Transformation

  • Winner: KPMG (Global)
  • Finalist: Cognizant
  • Finalist: Infosys

Commercial Marketplace

  • Winner: Fortinet (United States)
  • Finalist: Flashgrid Inc.
  • Finalist: Barracuda Networks
  • Finalist: Check Point HQ United States

Microsoft for Startups

  • Winner: Uncrowd (United Kingdom)
  • Finalist: Egress
  • Finalist: ThroughPut Inc.
  • Finalist: Web3 Labs

Solution Assessment

  • Winner: Unify Cloud LLC (United States)
  • Finalist: 10th Magnitude
  • Finalist: INSIGHT ENTERPRISES AUSTRALIA PTY LTD

Surface Hub

  • Winner: DataVisionDeutschland GmbH (Germany)
  • Finalist: Red Thread Spaces LLC
  • Finalist: AVI-SPL
  • Finalist: Whitlock (joint nominee)

Surface PC

  • Winner: CDW Logistics Inc. (United States)
  • Finalist: 株式会社大塚商会
  • Finalist: Bechtle Logistik & Service GmbH
  • Finalist: Softcat Plc.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 14, 2020 at 10:00 AM0 comments


Survey: Public Cloud Security Incidents Becoming Commonplace

A new survey-based security research report suggests that seven in 10 organizations have experienced public cloud security incidents in the last year.

U.K.-based security company Sophos released its report, "The State of Cloud Security 2020," this week. The findings are significant due to the substantial sample size of the survey, with responses from more than 3,500 IT managers in 26 countries.

Conducted in January and February, the survey doesn't allow for any conclusions about changes in attack patterns since the coronavirus pandemic forced a shift to remote work, with its increased reliance on public cloud platforms. However, the survey reveals eye-opening trends about how common public cloud security incidents were already becoming at the beginning of this calendar year.

"Seventy percent of respondents said they had suffered a public cloud security breach in the last year," the report states. "This is extremely worrisome for organizations, with 96% of the 3,521 respondents expressing concern about their current level of security across the six major public cloud platforms."

For purposes of the survey, Sophos focused its definition of public cloud on Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), VMware Cloud on AWS and Alibaba Cloud. In addition, some respondents were also using Google Cloud and IBM Cloud.

As for how attackers are getting in, a third of the survey respondents attributed incidents to having cloud account credentials stolen. The other two-thirds of breaches resulted from a security misconfiguration. Of the misconfigurations, 22 percent involved cloud resource misconfigurations and 44 percent occurred at the Web application firewall.

Organizations using multiple public clouds may be having more trouble than those concentrating on a single cloud, the survey suggests. " Security risks inevitably multiply as organizations expand their number of cloud environments. Seventy-three percent of the organizations surveyed were using two or more public cloud providers and reported up to twice as many security incidents as those using one cloud platform," according to the report.

The full report is available here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 09, 2020 at 1:03 PM0 comments


With Lawsuit, Microsoft Goes After 'Sophisticated' COVID-19 Cyberattack

With the help of federal courts, Microsoft is seizing domains to try to slow a "sophisticated, new phishing scheme" that is employing pandemic-related messaging against customers in 62 countries.

Microsoft published a blog about the effort on Tuesday, the same day that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed documents from Microsoft's lawsuit.

"Our civil case has resulted in a court order allowing Microsoft to seize control of key domains in the criminals' infrastructure so that it can no longer be used to execute cyberattacks," said Tom Burt, Microsoft corporate vice president for customer security and trust, in the blog post.

The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit first got wind of the malicious activity, which it classifies as a business e-mail compromise attack, in December, although at that time the attack's messaging did not incorporate COVID-19 themes.

Back then, Microsoft had employed technical measures to block the attacks. Without saying so explicitly, Burt's blog implies that criminals ramped up their effort as they realized that worldwide concerns over COVID-19 could lower individual executives' routine wariness of suspicious messages and attachments.

"In cases where criminals suddenly and massively scale their activity and move quickly to adapt their techniques to evade Microsoft's built-in defensive mechanisms, additional measures such as the legal action filed in this case are necessary," Burt wrote.

Users clicking on an attachment or a link in what Microsoft is calling a sophisticated new phishing attack would be prompted to grant the attacker a number of dangerous permissions. (Source: Microsoft)

Like most phishing attacks, there were several parts to this attack. The cybercriminals designed phishing e-mails to look like they originated internally. Subject lines and message body text involved pandemic-related financial concerns. A key element of this attack was malicious links, such as an apparent Office attachment with a filename like "COVID-19 Bonus."

Clicking on the deceptive link led to a prompt from a malicious Web application asking the user to grant various permissions. As shown in a consent screen included in the Microsoft blog, the user could be allowing the attacker to access data, read contacts, read mail, view OneNote notebooks, send mail and get full file access.

The attack differs from simpler phishing attacks, which might send users to a sign-in screen, where they would be prompted to enter a user name and password to access the file or follow the link, and where small mistakes or inconsistencies in the interface might give users clues not to click any further.

Burt said the civil case allowed Microsoft to "proactively disable key domains that are part of the criminals' malicious infrastructure."

Microsoft also recommended that organizations protect themselves by enabling two-factor authentication on e-mail accounts, reviewing how to spot phishing schemes, enabling security alerts about links and files from suspicious Web sites and checking e-mail forwarding rules for suspicious activity.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 07, 2020 at 1:01 PM0 comments