Azure SQL Database Threat Detection

Microsoft have announced that Azure SQL Database Threat Detection will become generally available in April 2017.

What does it do?

It adds another security level on top of the Azure SQL Database service, enabling organisations – even those without database security experts – to enjoy high level security for their online SQL databases.

It can detect potential vulnerabilities, SQL Injection attacks and also anomalous access – I.e. access attempts from unusual locations etc. Email alerts will take the recipient through to the Azure Security Centre, where they can easily see what was accessed/run, who did it and if it was a malicious event.

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Whenever organisations look at moving to the Cloud, security is right up at the top of the “things to be seriously considered” list – and rightly so. This new service from Microsoft makes it even more secure for organisations to have active databases in Azure- meaning more organisations will be able to experience the many benefits that can come from moving to the Cloud.

How much is it?

Upon General Availability, the service will cost $15 per server per month.

A good Microsoft post with more info and some customer examples can be found here and a guide to getting Azure SQL Database Threat Detection setup is here.

 

Windows 10 Current Branch for Business update

Windows 10 introduced the concept of “branches” – a new way of keeping the Operating System updated as part of Windows as a Service. The Current Branch for Business (CBB) is aimed at the majority of business users – giving the opportunity for updates to have been tested before arriving on corporate PCs.

Only the 2 most recent CBBs are supported by Microsoft, meaning that organisations need to be somewhat pro-active in keeping up to date. On November 29th, 2016 Microsoft announced that Windows 10 1607 (aka Anniversary Update) was the new Current Branch for Business and updated media is being provided to Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), MSDN and Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC).

When the new media hits the VLSC, the grace period for the initial CBB – 1507 – will begin. This means that after May 2017, Windows 10 1507 will no longer be serviced so organisations will need to move up to 1511 or 1607.

The MS post is here

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Microsoft Intune for Education

Microsoft have announced “Intune for Education” – as the name suggests, a version of the Intune app & device management program aimed at educational institutions. Features include:

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This means things need to be configured just once for students to be safe and productive across all the school’s devices.

Settings can be applied to apps, browsers and the Start Menu as well as anti-malware protection, all helping keep students as safe online as possible.

Integration with School Data Sync makes it easier than ever for apps to be automatically deployed based on student activity – add a student to the media class roster and they’ll have all the relevant apps available upon their next login.

More info can be found here and here.

 

Microsoft School Data Sync

Microsoft announced, on January 23rd 2017, that School Data Sync (SDS) hit general availability.

I have to say that I wasn’t aware of SDS while it was in preview, but it seems like an excellent tool to make life easier for schools. According to Microsoft, it:

“SDS helps schools automatically create online classrooms in Office 365 from their Student Information System (SIS or MIS)” and “imports user profiles and rosters from a SIS into Office 365 and automatically keeps them up to date.”

This saves time for IT and makes things run smoothly for teachers and their classrooms.

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SDS can also be used to help integrate 3rd party apps into the Office 365 environment, making them quicker and cheaper to deploy – for both the school and the partner.

If you work in a school or a partner with a focus on the education sector, I’d recommend getting familiar with SDS as it looks to be a great technology.

More info on SDS can be found here.

 

 

Microsoft widen Azure StorSimple availability

Microsoft StorSimple offers hybrid storage between on-premises systems and the Azure Cloud and was originally available to Enterprise Agreement (EA) customers as a hardware device that bridges the two systems. Microsoft then created a virtual appliance, again available to their Enterprise Agreement (EA) customers.

On February 2nd 2017, Microsoft announced that the StorSimple Virtual Array is now available to more customers including via MSDN and Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) subscriptions. This means that organisations without an Enterprise Agreement, including SMB organisations, will be able to make use of the StorSimple Virtual Array.

The MS post is here and more information about StorSimple can be found here.

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Microsoft lower Azure pricing

Microsoft Azure pricing has been lowered for certain services as of February 6th, 2017.

Azure Virtual Machines

Prices for the “Compute Optimized” F Series VMs (F1 to F16) have been reduced by up to 24%.

Prices for the “General Purpose” A1 Basic VM has been reduced by up to 61%.

Microsoft also say there will be price reductions on the “General Purpose ” D-series VMs soon.

Azure Blob Storage

Hot Block” Blob storage pricing has been reduced by up to 31% while “Cool Block” Blob storage has been reduced by up to 38%.

Only customers using Azure Blog Storage accounts can benefit from these new prices. If you have General Purpose Blob Storage, you can move data across to the Azure Blob storage to get the new pricing.

See the MS announcement here – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/new-lower-prices-on-azure-virtual-machines-and-blob-storage/

Oracle change their Cloud licensing rules

Oracle have announced a change in their licensing terms which looks to have a significant impact on organisations using Oracle software in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

No Core Factor table for Cloud Environments

Up until the 23rd of January, Oracle applied a “Core Factor” when licensing their software in the Cloud. (This is a concept that will be familiar to those of you who’ve licensed Microsoft SQL 2014.)

The Core factor table shows that Xeon processors (those used in AWS & Azure datacenters) have a core factor of 0.5, so the calculation was “number of cores * 0.5 = number of licenses required. So 16 cores in a Cloud VM would require 8 Oracle core licenses.

However, Oracle have updated their Cloud licensing document and it now says:

When counting Oracle Processor license requirements in Authorized Cloud Environments, the Oracle Processor Core Factor Table is not applicable

This means that 16 Cloud cores now needs 16 Oracle core licenses – causing customer costs to double without making a change to the environment!

Will these changes apply to existing scenarios or just new licenses purchased going forwards – that seems unclear at this point. One would assume that current implementations will be unchanged until contract renewal but that doesn’t seem to have been confirmed by Oracle at this point.

Thoughts

I generally only cover Microsoft licensing but saw this earlier today and found it very interesting. One must assume this is aimed at gaining customers for Oracle’s Cloud services but it presents organisations with a choice:

Move from your existing Cloud platform provider and continue using Oracle DB

or

Remain on your existing Cloud platform and use a different DB – SQL, PostgreSQL etc.

I will certainly be keeping an eye on how this progresses.

For more info on this, and Oracle in general, head over to The Oracle Base Blog.

 

 

 

Windows 10 Cloud Edition

Microsoft look to be readying a new edition of their operating system – Windows 10 Cloud. References to this have been found some of the Windows Insider builds being made available.

Mary Jo Foley says this won’t be a streamed edition of Windows 10, but rather something more reminiscent of Windows RT – the “cut down” edition aimed at ARM based devices. Perhaps this new release will be a competitor to Google Chromebooks…

More info over on Mary Jo Foley’s All About Microsoft blog.

Microsoft FastTrack expanded to Windows 10, Dynamics 365 and Teams

Microsoft have, for the last 18 months or so, offered Office 365 onboarding services known as FastTrack; these have been used to help organisations get up and running with their Cloud services as quickly as possible.

Microsoft have now announced that these services are being expanded to cover additional products, namely:

  • Windows 10
  • Dynamics 365
  • Microsoft Teams

Which will help make the move to these Cloud services smoother for many customers.

As well as these new products, the existing Office 365 FastTrack services see a number of improvements and additions including:

  • Compliance with ISO27001
  • Additional language support
  • Tools to help with user adoption

The Microsoft post can be found here and the FastTrack site is here.

Microsoft gives free upgrades to Windows 10 Pro via CSP

Microsoft have just announced that they are enabling free upgrades to Windows 10 Pro for certain customers licensed through the CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) program.

Organisations who have any CSP licenses for:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E5
  • Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE) E3
  • Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE) E5

are now eligible to upgrade Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices to Windows 10 Pro at no cost. This gives them the required base Operating System to then upgrade to Windows 10 E3/E5 via CSP – as these CSP licenses can only be used to upgrade devices running Windows 10 Pro anniversary update.

The free Windows 10 Pro licenses are perpetual and tied to the device. Even if the customer ends their CSP subscription, the free upgrade license will not be revoked.

The upgrade options will start to appear in the relevant portals within the next 48 hours:

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An Example

Say an organisation with 150 Windows 7 devices decided to replace 15 with new Windows 10 Pro machines. They then decide they want the new security benefits of Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and that paying monthly works for them so they go down the CSP licensing route. However, up until now, they could only have bought 15 CSP licenses – for those new devices – and for the other 135, purchasing a Windows 10 Pro retail copy would have been required…at around £150 each.

Now however, they can upgrade those 135 devices to Windows 10 Pro free of charge and then purchase CSP subscription licenses to upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5.

Who benefits?

Everyone.

Customers who want to move to Windows 10 can now do so at a lower cost, and utilise their existing hardware.

Partners have a wider audience to whom they can discuss Windows 10 via CSP, and the wider world of services the licensing model enables.

Microsoft further advance their drive to help customers move from the legacy operating systems and up to Windows 10.

I think this is a positive move for many organisations, and as I’m a big fan of Windows 10, a positive move for the OS itself.

The Microsoft post can be found here.