NetApp Insight Berlin 2016

Having spent many years away from storage solutions, I have just returned from NetApp Insight in Berlin (thanks to my employer EACS) and I can report that the world of NetApp has changed.
NetApp, although they have always seen themselves as a software company, are seen by many (me included before Insight) to be a traditional, on-premises, storage vendor that maybe are not as relevant in the new cloud dominated IT world as they used to be. This is absolutely not the case.
NetApp now define themselves as the leading Data Management Company and over the last two years have been developing the Data Fabric. This is an initiative that is underpinned by proven NetApp technology, to enable storage management of data wherever it may be – On-premise, Private Cloud, Next to cloud or in the Public Cloud. By re-writing a number of the key NetApp technologies, such as SnapMirror/SnapVault and making ONTAP available in Virtual (ONTAP Select) and SaaS (ONTAP Cloud ) forms as well as the traditional appliance, it is now possible to manage a Hybrid environment – placing your data in the most suitable place, be that cloud, datacentre or both and enabling the ability to move that data, using proven, secure tools, when needed to reduce costs or increase security – removing individual data silos in discrete locations.
Another initiative that became obvious over the course of the event was a desire to simplify; those of you familiar with NetApp will know that there are a large number of tools to manage a wide range of technologies. This is being simplified by reducing the number of model variants and the creation of new central management tools that will ultimately be capable of running all the functions of the traditional tools, to provide protection that works across the entire data fabric as applications move back and forth, in and out of the cloud.
NetApp are also moving into new areas to address trends in the industry such as DevOps with the SolidFire products that deliver radical simplicity through automated and predictable storage, enabling new models of storage consumption.
Finally, don’t think with all the great new initiatives mentioned above NetApp have abandoned the on-premise Storage market, on the contrary they have just release the biggest ever update to their range of FAS and All Flash FAS (AFF) appliances that offer up-to 3X the performance of the models they replace while being more efficient to run.
There are many new products and capabilities in the pipeline that can’t be talked about yet so watch this space….

Exchange 2016 – What can we look forward to?

With the release of Exchange Server 2016 slated for the end of the year it seemed a good time to have a look at what new capabilities it will bring over the existing Exchange 2013 product.

Clients

Let’s start with the area that everyone sees – client access.

All access is now via secure HTTPS encrypted connections, whether using the full Outlook client or the newly renamed “Outlook on the web” (formerly Outlook Web App), ensuring data is secure when in transit. While MAPI over HTTP is now the default communication protocol between Outlook and Exchange, clients that don’t support it will fall back to Outlook Anywhere (RPC over HTTP).

Outlook on the web has been enhanced to provide platform-specific experiences for phones (for both iOS & Android), including a “Premium” Android experience for phones when using Chrome on Android 4.2 or later. Search suggestions & refiners have been introduced to anticipate what the user’s looking for and refine that search with contextually-aware filters (such as date range, senders, etc).

Exchange 2016 also brings support for the Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL) authentication model in Outlook clients on Windows, Android, and other platforms. ADAL enables functionality like two-factor authentication to help improve security of your data.

Server Architechture

With the advent of increasingly more powerful servers the primary design goal for Exchange 2016 is now for simplicity of scale, hardware utilization, and failure isolation. Therefore with Exchange 2016 the number of server roles has been reduced to two: the Mailbox and Edge Transport server roles.

The Mailbox server in Exchange 2016 includes all of the server components from the Exchange 2013 Mailbox and Client Access server roles:

  • Mailbox services include all the traditional server components found in the Exchange 2013 Mailbox server role: the Client Access protocols, Transport service, Mailbox databases, and Unified Messaging. The Mailbox server handles all activity for the active mailboxes on that server
  • Client Access services provide authentication, limited redirection, and proxy services. Client Access services don’t do any data rendering and offer all the usual client access protocols: HTTP, POP and IMAP, and SMTP

Exchange 2016 now allows you to proxy traffic from Exchange 2013 to Exchange 2016 in addition to Exchange 2016 to Exchange 2013. This new flexibility gives you more control in how you move to Exchange 2016.

The Edge Transport role, as in previous versions, is typically deployed in your perimeter network, outside your internal Active Directory forest to handle all internet-facing mail flow, and is designed to minimize the attack surface of your Exchange deployment.

Cloud and Hybrid

When you choose to configure a hybrid deployment in Exchange 2016, you’ll be prompted to download and install the wizard as a small app. The wizard will function the same as in previous versions of Exchange, with a few new benefits:

  • The wizard can be updated quickly to support changes in the Office 365 service
  • The wizard can be updated to account for issues detected when customers try to configure a hybrid deployment
  • Improved troubleshooting and diagnostics to help you resolve issues that you run into when running the wizard
  • The same wizard will be used by everyone configuring a hybrid deployment who’s running Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2016

In addition to Hybrid Configuration Wizard improvements, multi-forest hybrid deployments are being simplified with Azure Active Directory Connect (AADConnect). AADConnect introduces management agents that will make it significantly easier to synchronize multiple on-premises Active Directory forests with a single Office 365 tenant.

Hybrid deployments will support the new modern authentication model in Outlook described earlier.

Exchange ActiveSync clients will be seamlessly redirected to Office 365 when a user’s mailbox is moved to Exchange Online.

Office 365 is more than just mail

I’m spending a large proportion of my time these days talking to clients about Office 365. This is great that so many people are now seeing the value of moving to a cloud service but there does seem to be some confusion over what Office 365 is.
I think the branding doesn’t help, after all Office has always been about Word, Excel & PowerPoint on your PC to most people!
The biggest issue I have is where people (including a number of vendors who should know better) say “Office 365” and it becomes obvious that what they really mean is “Exchange Online”.
I believe this comes from the fact that most people will migrate mail to the cloud first and so this is what becomes associated with the Office 365 name but it really is so much more – SharePoint, Lync, OneDrive for Business and Yammer all add so much more potential and, with the appropriate plan, a copy of Office is included too!
So next time someone talks about Office 365, ask them what they really mean. If they just want mail in the cloud then there is a separate plan for that called Exchange Online!

Windows 10

With the Windows 10 Preview having been available for a couple of months now it would seem to be a good time to look at this new version of Windows and see what if offers business users.

One converged Windows platform
A lot of work has been done in the background over the last few years to converge the disparate Windows Versions (Phone, RT, Home, Pro, Enterprise, etc) to ease development of applications across platforms. This convergence is realised for the first time in Windows 10 where, essentially the same code base is used from the small, thin and light – up to the largest and most powerful laptops, desktops and all-in-one PCs. Windows 10 even scales to industry and ruggedized devices, purpose-built industry solutions, small foot print devices (Internet of Things) and all the way up to 85” touch-screen conference room displays.
This common platform will help users move between devices without needing to learn another user interface and another way of doing things, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Desktop Experience
For many people moving to Windows 8 was a culture shock as the default screen you were greeted by was the Start Screen. Optimised for Touch devices this was a little confusing for a Mouse & keyboard equipped device. Windows 10 builds on the improvements made in Windows 8.1 update by detecting the device type at startup – for mouse and keyboard users, the Windows 10 user experience begins at the familiar desktop. The Start menu experience of Windows 7 has been expanded, providing one-click access to the functions and files that people use most.
Also bridging the gap between the touch-optimized tablet experience and the mouse and keyboard experience Windows 10 allows “modern apps” to run in a window on the desktop – resulting in modern apps seamlessly co-existing in the desktop space alongside desktop apps.

Data Protection
Microsoft have also made progress in helping companies protect their business data. While BitLocker helps protects data as it resides on a device, once the data leaves the device it’s no longer protected. With Windows 10 an additional layer of protection is provided by using containers and data separation at the application and file level – enabling protection that follows the data wherever it goes. Whether the data moves from a tablet or PC to a USB drive, email or the cloud – it maintains the same level of protection. Users won’t need to change behavior, use special apps, or move to a separate, locked-down environment to keep corporate data secure.

Deployment and Updates
To reduce the impact of deploying new devices to users, new dynamic provisioning technologies have been introduced to reduce the need for traditional wipe & reload approach. Businesses will be able to configure off-the-shelf devices, without reimaging – potentially permitting an employee to purchase a new device in a retail store and have it remotely provisioned by the IT department into a standard corporate build.
Windows 10 will be delivered in a way that gives more choice and flexibility to businesses. As a result, a business can pick the speed of innovation that is right for each group of its users, rather than apply a one size fits all solution. Consumers, and opt-in businesses, will be able to take advantage of the latest updates as soon as they are available, delivered via Windows Update. Business customers can segment their own user groups, and choose the model and pace that works for them. They will have more choice in how they consume updates, whether through Windows Update or in a managed environment. And for all scenarios, security and critical updates will be delivered on a monthly basis.
Apps
Windows 10 will also include a single, unified app store to allow for volume app purchases based on existing organizational identity, flexible distribution and the ability for organizations to reclaim or re-use licenses. Organizations will also be able to create a customized store, curating store experiences that can include their choice of Store apps alongside company-owned apps into a separate employee store experience.
So, whether you are just upgrading your estate to Windows 7 or have embraced Windows 8 in your organisation it would appear that Windows 10 will offer some compelling features to look forward to in 2015.

Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 Update

Along with the usual “Patch Tuesday” updates last week (8th April) Microsoft also released the following updates:

Windows Server 2012 R2 Update and Windows 8.1 Update (KB2919355)

These are actually a cumulative update rollup and contain some new features.

Windows 8.1 features are detailed here http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-8/whats-new

These updates should be installed to ensure future patches are received, see this from Microsoft –

Important All future security and nonsecurity updates for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2 require this update to be installed. We recommend that you install this update on your Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, or Windows Server 2012 R2-based computer in order to receive continued future updates.

 

End of Support – Are you Ready?

Just a quick post to remind you all the following product are due to end support on April 8th

 

Exchange 2010 SP2 will transition out of support on 8th April 2014

Outlook 2003 will transition out of extended support on the 8th of April 2014

Exchange Server 2003 will transition out of extended support on the 8th of April 2014

Windows XP will transition out of extended support on the 8th of April 2014

 

If you’re not already running or planning to upgrade to a newer version of these products you really should be or your systems could be at risk.

 

 

2013 Service Pack 1 is here

The next wave of updates for the 2013 suite of products have arrived with Service Pack 1 being announced today

Exchange 2013 SP1 – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=41994

Key updates are

  • Support for Windows Server 2012R2,
  • The return of the Edge role (does anyone actually use this?)
  • The introduction of MAPI over HTTP

Further details are here – http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2014/02/25/exchange-server-2013-service-pack-1-available.aspx

Office 2013 SP1 (32Bit) – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=42005
Office 2013 SP1 (64Bit) – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=42006

SharePoint 2013 – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=42008

Further Office details here – http://blogs.technet.com/b/office_sustained_engineering/archive/2014/02/25/announcing-the-release-of-service-pack-1-for-office-2013-and-sharepoint-2013.

Also released today are Update Rollups for Exchange 2010 SP3 and 2007 SP3

http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2014/02/25/released-update-rollup-5-for-exchange-2010-service-pack-3-and-update-rollup-13-for-exchange-2007-service-pack-3.aspx