Luper's Learnings - Azure Technical Community for Partners (March 2015)

If we haven’t met yet, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Steve Luper, the Worldwide Technical Director for Azure Managed Partners in Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group. My goals are a) to build a community of technical folks at partners delivering solutions on Azure, b) help partners with Azure enablement and c) provide a vehicle for partners to get access to engineering, competency and support resources within Microsoft.

 This monthly Luper’s Learnings email began in December 2014 and is one component of a worldwide community of technical people within partners delivering solutions leveraging Microsoft Azure. Other community components will include webinars / calls, in person community opportunities and online collaboration via Yammer.

If you received this directly from me then you are on my list and you will continue receiving my Learnings each month. If you would prefer to stop receiving it, please reply to me and I’ll remove you promptly. If somebody forwarded this email to you and you would like to begin receiving it from me directly each month, just email me at luperslearnings (at)  

This month’s Learnings:

  • I had terrific opportunities in February to travel to Cairo, UK, Munich and San Francisco to discuss Azure with folks from all over the world. Thanks for your input and insights, keep them coming. I want to make sure that the Learnings below are what interest you. Later this month I’ll be attending the second Azure Conference in Pune, India on March 18-19. If you are in India, I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

  • Last month I mentioned the all new Microsoft Ignite conference being held in Chicago in early May. This is Microsoft’s unified enterprise technology conference. It will bring together the best of previously individual events – the Management Summit, the Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and TechEd. If you want technical training, this is the place to be!!!

    • As of today, there are around 600 sessions listed in the Session Catalog and 120 of them are related to Azure. The complete schedule builder tool is expected to be available about 30 days before the event.

    • I will be at Ignite and am recruiting Azure Product Management and Engineering folks to attend an exclusive networking happy hour for attendees who work for Azure partners. Email me at if you will be attending, want to receive an invite to the happy hour and have a chance to win some goodies during the conference.

    • Register now as it’s going to be a huge conference in high demand.

    • Keep an eye on @MS_Ignite for updates.

  • Just today, a blog post went up announcing Microsoft Azure Network Security Whitepaper version 3 is now available. This updated white paper provides information on how customers can use Azure’s native network security features to help protect their information assets.

  • How does a free eBook sound? Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure by Michael S. Collier and Robin E. Shahan is the first eBook in Microsoft Press’s free Microsoft Azure Essentials series.

  • Identity is a BIG DEAL! Azure Active Directory and companion offerings are terrific offerings for customers wanting identity solutions either fully in the cloud or hybrid on-premises / cloud based. Coming at the end of this month is a fast paced live virtual session called Azure Active Directory Core Skills Jump Start. Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson and Technical Evangelist Simon May dive into Identity and Access Management (IAM) in Azure AD with hands-on labs and powerful demos. Learn how to configure single sign-on, provide user self-service management, and set up multifactor authentication. Get what you need to master identity management, resolve password reset issues, and much more, in today's BYOD world of constantly connected, highly mobile identities!

  • If you can’t wait a few weeks, you can do a bit of brushing up on Azure Active Directory with the updated Azure Active Directory Editions article that gives you an in-depth comparison of Azure Active Directory Basic, Azure Active Directory Premium and the free edition.

  • On 16 February, Lori Woehler, Principal Group Manager, Compliance & Trust blogged that Microsoft Azure is the first cloud computing platform to conform to ISO/IEC 27018, the only international set of privacy controls in the cloud. Our General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Brad Smith also weighed in saying Microsoft adopts first international cloud privacy standard. You can read full details of the standard directly from ISO at ISO/IEC 27018:2014.

  • That same date (yup, this stuff moves fast) Giridhar Mosay, Program Manager posted New features in Azure Backup – Long term retention, offline backup seeding and more. The subject of the blog post pretty much summarizes the new features that came out in the February Azure Backup update. Don’t forget to get the latest Azure Backup agent.

  • Do you use Azure Websites? Whether you do today or are interested in learning more, this Learning map for Azure Websites give you a comprehensive look at how to test drive Azure Websites, quickly migrate your web assets to Azure Websites, and create a rich and smooth experience for your customers globally.

  • Of course, that presumes that you have selected Azure Websites rather than Cloud Services or Virtual Machines to build, deploy and host a web site in Azure. We feel like Azure Websites should always be your first choice but you may run across reasons why you’d need to choose one of the others. A few months ago there was a pretty comprehensive post, Azure Websites, Cloud Services, and Virtual Machines comparison to help you understand the options and make the right choice for your web application. You’ll find a good table comparing the options as well as a rich, follow-on discussion at the bottom.

  • Azure HDInsight is in public preview on Linux. Now customers can select Linux clusters when deploying big data workloads to Azure. You can also more easily move existing Apache Hadoop workloads into the cloud, plus access an expanded set of big data components to run in the service. HDInsight, our managed Hadoop-as-a-service offering, brings the power of this open source, big data ecosystem to Azure in an integrated, managed, and supported way. HDInsight Linux clusters are updated, monitored, and operated by Azure, enabling customers to focus on queries and data, not machine management or Hadoop patching. Built on Ubuntu and Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) 2.2, HDInsight on Linux clusters can be deployed today by registering for the public preview via the Preview features webpage.

  • On February 18th, 2015, Microsoft announced the General Availability release of Azure Machine Learning--now the most comprehensive service in the cloud for advanced analytics. Read about the many exciting new features and improvements that have become available with this release. Azure Machine Learning offers cloud-based advanced analytics designed to simplify and streamline machine learning for business. Users can model their way, with best in class algorithms from Xbox and Bing, R or Python packages, or by dropping in custom R or Python code. The finished model can then be deployed in minutes as a web service, which can connect to any data, anywhere. Lastly, the user can expand their reach, by publishing out to the community in the product Gallery or into the Machine Learning Marketplace where both application programming interfaces (APIs) and finished services are available.

  • I love sharing customer and partner stories. Below are some of my recent favorites.

    • What game will you want to go with that burger? Ziosk may already know. Read this case study published in February about how Ziosk worked with Microsoft partner Artis Consulting to help build the next generation of its data infrastructure. As part of that process, Artis helped Ziosk to preview Microsoft cloud technologies including Azure Machine Learning, Azure Data Factory, Azure HDInsight, and Power BI, and to validate their use in a proof of concept.

    • Operating as a hosting provider in Scandinavia presents some challenges because of the competitive nature of the market. Innofactor, an IT systems and hosting provider based in Espoo, Finland, wanted to expand its hosting business but also needed a clear way to differentiate itself from its competitors. Read the ComputerWeekly story about how they are leveraging more Azure in a hybrid cloud offering.

    • Pearson uses cloud platform to bring digital textbooks to life and to analyze how kids learn. Partner Fino Consulting helped London based Pearson build their new Pearson System of Courses (PSOC). PSOC leverages Azure Websites, Azure Blob and Table Storage as well as Azure Cloud Services, Azure HDInsight and Azure SQL Database to deliver a complete solution

    • Those few stories not enough? The entire collection of Azure related customer stories can be found here and includes great names like Pier 1 Imports, Heineken, GE Healthcare as well as nearly 500 others you can reference.

  • Next month, on 25 April to be precise, the third annual Global Azure Bootcamp will be held. In 2014 it was held at 136 different locations. Be sure to check out locations near you for this year’s one day deep dive class to help get up to speed on developing Cloud Computing Applications for Azure.

  • Azure Mobile Engagement is now in public preview. Maximize mobile apps usage and revenue with Azure Mobile Engagement—a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-delivered, data-driven user-engagement platform that enables real-time fine-grain user segmentation, app user analytics, and contextually-aware smart push notifications and in-app messaging across all connected devices. It closes the marketing loop for app developers and marketers, allowing them to get in touch with their customers at the right time in a personal, contextually-aware, and non-intrusive way.

  • With 2014 solidly behind us, I’d like to point you to Microsoft for Work’s 5 must-read posts that clear up cloud misconceptions blog post. As you might expect, hybrid, security and mobility are all in that list.

  • I know that I mentioned it in February but I want to highlight it one more time—At the end of January, Takeshi Numoto, Corporate Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise announced our new Cloud Platform Roadmap. Since customers and partners have been asking for better line of sight into our product roadmap as we rapidly release products and services across the Cloud and Enterprise business, we decided to transform how we share what’s next for our products and services to provide better transparency.

  • Don’t believe everything you hear about Microsoft Azure – or spiders, for that matter. Grab this neat infographic to help clear up fiver stubborn myths about Microsoft Azure.

  • Microsoft and Veeam are partnering to take Availability Higher. There will be two sessions over the next two weeks discussing how businesses of all sizes are interested in opportunities to use Microsoft Azure to improve their quality and effectiveness. Data protection for virtual environments running Hyper-V or VMware represents a great opportunity for Veeam and Microsoft Azure to move a costly legacy workload into the Cloud and save the business valuable time and money. Topics discussed will include: How Veeam Cloud Connect works to enable Microsoft Azure, Veeam and StorSimple for the enterprise business and Granular Recovery solutions from Microsoft Azure using Veeam. Register for either the 5 March or 12 March sessions.

  • Modern Workplace - Cybersecurity: How Safe are You? The first Tuesday of each month (hey, that’s just a few hours away) watch the show to participate in live chat with subject matter experts, both during and after the show. You'll also receive exclusive access to whitepapers, e-books, and more! The next show is March 3, 2015 | 8:00 am PST / 4:00 pm GMT. Previous topics have ranged from Internet of Things to Innovative Strategies and more.

  • In the February Luper’s Learnings I told you that I was planning to share ExpressRoute content. I didn’t hear much feedback form the community on that idea so I’m hoping that you find the below helpful and interesting.

    • ExpressRoute gives you a fast and more reliable connection to Azure, making it suitable for scenarios such as periodic data migration, replication for business continuity, disaster recovery, and other high-availability strategies. It also allows you to more securely add compute and storage capacity to your existing datacenter. With predictable, more reliable, and high-throughput connections offered by ExpressRoute, you can build applications that span on-premises infrastructure and Azure, without compromising security or performance. Learn more.

    • Starting with a free promotion through June 30, 2015 wherever ExpressRoute is currently offered.

    • Once the promotion ends, it will be important for you to know about ExpressRoute pricing and how it works.

    • ExpressRoute is coming up on its first birthday. This overview from Ganesh Srinivasan is still a great way to begin your learning.

    • A few months later, Yousef Khalidi, Distinguished Engineer announced new partnerships, the ability to share connections across multiple Azure subscriptions, multi-region connectivity for HA and DR and more.

    • After the announcement above, Charley Wen documented the process of Enabling Multiple Subscriptions to Share an ExpressRoute Circuit

    • This Technical Overview is kept up to date including updates from just a couple of weeks ago.

    • FAQs are answered here.

    • If you’re not sure whether it makes sense to leverage ExpressRoute or Virtual Network VPN in a particular solution for your customer, refer to this blog post.

    • Directions to configure an ExpressRoute connection through an Exchange Provider are in this article.

    • We have fully exposed how you can perform operations on ExpressRoute via the Service Management API.

  • To close, I’m sure that you all know this but, in case your customers haven’t heard it yet -- On July 14, 2015 (just over 130 days from now,) Microsoft will completely end support for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2, as a part of its normal support lifecycle policies. Mainstream support for the products ended in July 2010. 

    • Any customers who currently run Windows Server 2003 and have not yet begun migration planning need to do so immediately.  Customers have great migration options, including the new Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, hosting partners, and Office 365.

    • Not quite a month ago, Takeshi Numoto - Corporate Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise posted good guidance for customers in this blog post.       

    • By migrating, customers can take advantage of modern technology for – Compliance, Hybrid Infrastructure and Application Innovation and Productivity. Migration is worth it! – many, many resources for you to assist your customers in retiring any remaining Windows Server 2003 machines.

    • Need help convincing customers to move? Get help making the case for migration at the complimentary on-demand webinar hosted by Microsoft featuring Gartner. Watch the webinar and help customers learn how to evolve their IT environments.

    • As a first step in moving to the cloud, you can help customers to run on-premises software in Azure Virtual Machines. The won’t have to buy any hardware and can very quickly set up a virtual machine in Azure using the gallery, or multiple virtual machines using Azure PowerShell commands.

    • Finally, as a partner, please take advantage of the resources and campaign we’ve built for you to use. Foster conversations regarding customers’ migration paths using the content available here, as well as the Cloud OS Customer Conversations and product specific content.  Present the migration process in four easy steps: Discover, Assess, Target and Migrate. 

Just for fun… Published back in December after a visit to Seattle (my part of the world), George Takei of Star Trek fame, shares a 6 minute video “Microsoft's Garage- Eye-Gaze, Skype Translator & Hackathons” and more in Takei's Take Seattle.

If you have topics you’d like me to include, please let me know what they are!