What is ACI? Microsoft’s Azure Container Instances explained

Azure is rapidly turning into a container-driven public cloud, with strategic investments in tools and hires. It’s also running fast, launching new container-focused products and services on a regular basis. At first, Azure was catching up with Amazon Web Services’ features, but the release of the new Azure rapid-deployment container service that acts as a bridge between platform as a service and infrastructure as a service leapfrogs Amazon.

Introducing container as a service

Perhaps best thought of as a new class of cloud platform — call it “container as a service”— Azure Container Instances (ACI) let you rapidly create and launch containerized applications, without any overhead and with an easily scriptable set of commands. Designed to work both on its own and with tools like Kubernetes, ACI adds container-management commands to Azure, coupling them with a billing model that’s based on per-second usage, with no need to create and deploy (and pay for) container hosts.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s cloud revenue grows, while IBM’s fades

This is a tale of two cloud players, both old-guard IT firms with vested interests in on-premises software sales. One is making a very successful transition to the cloud era, while the other is failing badly. And it’s a familiar story. Microsoft is kicking butt, and IBM is getting its butt kicked.

In its most recent quarter, Microsoft announced revenues of $ 23.3 billion, $ 7.43 billion of that comes from what it calls “the Intelligent Cloud,” including Azure, a 97 percent year-over-year increase. There was another $ 8.45 billion from the Productivity and Business Process business, which includes Office and Office 365. The company did not separate out the installed software sales from the on-demand version, but it did say that for the first time, Office 365 is outselling the on-premises version.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Azure Stack: Microsoft’s private-cloud platform and what IT pros need to know about it

Microsoft’s release of Azure Stack, an on-premises version of its public cloud, could be important for networking and data center pros for one simple reason: It gives customers a way to use a popular and familiar cloud platform without shipping their sensitive data into a multi-tenant environment.

Azure Stack is software from Microsoft that’s been certified to run on a select group of partners’ hardware and is intended to look and feel just like the Azure public cloud. In addition to providing a common management platform between the public and private cloud, Azure Stack is important for another reason too: none of Microsoft’s biggest public cloud competitors have anything like it.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s DNA storage tech may fit in an enterprise

Microsoft has apparently firmed up its plans for a DNA-based storage device that it expects to be commercially available within about three years.

The software giant originally unveiled its research into DNA as an archival storage medium last year; it described the technology being able to store the amount of data in “a big data center compressed into a few sugar cubes. Or all the publicly accessible data on the Internet slipped into a shoebox.

“That is the promise of DNA storage — once scientists are able to scale the technology and overcome a series of technical hurdles,” the company said in a 2016 blog post.

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Network World Cloud

Microsoft’s Docs.com is sharing dangerously sensitive personal files, information

If you use Microsoft’s Docs.com to store personal documents, stop reading this and make sure you aren’t inadvertently leaking your private information to the world.

Microsoft sets any documents uploaded to the document sharing site as public by default—though it appears that many users aren’t aware of it. That means anyone can search Docs.com for sensitive personal information that wasn’t manually set private. PCWorld found social security numbers, health insurance ID numbers, bank records, job applications, personal contact details, legal correspondence, and drivers license numbers with just a few minutes of searching.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s Azure cloud storage had a rough night

On Wednesday night into the early morning hours of Thursday Microsoft reported that its Azure cloud customers had difficulty provisioning storage resources, including in its Eastern US region.

The service disruption had a domino effect that impacted many other services too, including its cloud-based SQL database platform. The issue was first reported at 21:50 UTC and was resolved by about 6:00 on Thursday.

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: What the AWS outage can teach us about WAN deployments +

“Due to a incident in East US affecting Storage, customers and service dependent on Storage may have experienced difficulties provisioning new resources or accessing their existing resources in the region,” Microsoft reported on its Azure health status page. Other services impacted include: Azure Media Services, Application Insights, Azure Logic Apps, Azure Data Factory, Azure Site Recovery, Azure Cache, Azure Search, Azure Service Bus, Azure Event Hubs, Azure SQL Database, API Management and Azure Stream Analytics.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s Windows Server OS runs on ARM, with help from Qualcomm

Microsoft has warmed up to Qualcomm to make a Windows 10 PC based on its ARM chip, and now the companies are bringing Windows Server OS to ARM.

For the first time ever, Microsoft is expected to show the Windows Server OS running on an ARM server. The server runs on Qualcomm’s Centriq 2400, an ARM-based chip designed for cloud servers.

The server is being shown at the Open Project Compute Summit being held in Santa Clara, California, on Wednesday and Thursday.The ARM-based Windows Server hardware is for Microsoft’s internal use. No information was shared on when Windows Server would be available for ARM servers.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Azure Stack: Microsoft’s better plan for a hybrid cloud

Microsoft has long promised that it would deliver “Azure in a box” to customers who wanted access to cloud services but were unable to move workloads off-premises. Although Azure’s cloud services comply with many key business regulations, there are still companies that need to keep tight control of their data, whether for data sovereignty or for compliance with industry-specific regulations.

Microsoft will soon release its third “Azure in a box” iteration to satisfy those companies. First there was Azure Pack, then came CPS (Cloud Platform System), and now it’s the Azure Stack. With the release of a third technical preview and general availability sometime later this year, Azure Stack will replace CPS, bringing together an Azure-consistent software platform with managed third-party hardware.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s mysterious ‘Windows Cloud’ could be the second coming of Windows RT

Windows Cloud: That name has appeared in system files deep within some of the most recent Windows 10 Insider builds. While a few experts guess it could be a new version of Windows, what it actually is remains a mystery. 

As far as evidence goes, it’s pretty slim pickings. Two names, “Windows Cloud” and “Windows Cloud N,” appear in a list of Windows versions as early as the recent Windows 10 Insider Build 15002, as originally reported by the Walking Cat Twitter account. (The “N” designation likely refers to a version specifically designed for European countries.)

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CIO Cloud Computing

Cloud growth continues to boost Microsoft’s financials

Microsoft’s focus on the cloud continues to pay off. The tech titan showed growth across all its cloud-based businesses during the last quarter ended Dec. 31, including Office, Dynamics and Azure.

Reporting financial results for its fiscal second quarter on Thursday, the company said its Commercial Cloud business is pulling in revenue at the rate of $ 14 billion per year. During the previous quarter, that rate was $ 13 billion.

Azure growth was especially strong. Azure compute usage more than from a year earlier, and revenue from the business grew by 93 percent.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business gets Mac client, shared folder sync

Microsoft gave users and administrators of OneDrive for Business some new features on Tuesday that they’ve requested for a while.

The company also launched a new Mac client for its business-focused cloud storage service that can be deployed outside the confines of the Mac App Store. Users will also be able to sync files from SharePoint sites and OneDrive for Business shared folders to their desktops, like they have been able to for files that they own.

IDC Research Manager Chandana Gopal said in an interview that she saw the new features are Microsoft’s attempt to play catch up with other players in the enterprise cloud storage market like Box and Dropbox, which already offer Mac clients and broad syncing of all the files stored in their services. What’s more, Box and Dropbox are working on making it possible for people to stream files from the cloud to the desktop when they need them.

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s standing to sue over secret US data requests in question

Microsoft’s lawsuit objecting to the indiscriminate use by U.S. law enforcement of orders that demand user data without the opportunity to inform the customer may run into questions about the software giant’s standing to raise the issue on behalf of its customers.

A government motion to dismiss Microsoft’s complaint comes up for oral arguments Monday and significantly the judge said on Thursday that the issue of whether Fourth Amendment rights are personal or can be “vicariously” asserted by third-parties on behalf of their customers would have to be addressed by both sides. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizure of property.

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CIO Cloud Computing

Build chat bots with Microsoft’s Bot Framework

One of the more fascinating trends of this past year was the move to conversational computing. Instead of building complex apps, using bots over services like Facebook’s Messenger or Microsoft’s Skype can help simplify customer interactions.

Using bots is a technique that can also work over internal chat tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, giving rise to self-service “chatops” tools that can manage common service-desk queries. Last week, Microsoft unveiled more of its bot tools, with bots to take content and use it as the basis of conversational services.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s new service turns FAQs into bots

Finding customer service help online can be a pain. Filtering through a knowledge base to find the right answer to your question can be an exercise in fighting with nested frequently asked questions documents.

Microsoft is aiming to help by making it easier for companies to create intelligent bots that can answer common questions.

The QnA Maker, launched in beta on Tuesday, will let users train an automated conversation partner on existing frequently-asked-questions content. After that information is fed in, the service will create a bot that will respond to customer questions with the content from the knowledge base.

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s new service turns FAQs into bots

Finding customer service help online can be a pain. Filtering through a knowledge base to find the right answer to your question can be an exercise in fighting with nested frequently asked questions documents.

Microsoft is aiming to help by making it easier for companies to create intelligent bots that can answer common questions.

The QnA Maker, launched in beta on Tuesday, will let users train an automated conversation partner on existing frequently-asked-questions content. After that information is fed in, the service will create a bot that will respond to customer questions with the content from the knowledge base.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s Azure Stack TP2 Further Strengthens the Hybrid Azure Public / On-prem Environment

Azure Stack Technical Preview 2 (TP2) was announced at the Microsoft Ignite Conference at the end of September (2016), a MAJOR update from the TP1 release earlier this year focusing on extending the features and capabilities of Azure Stack as it progresses toward a formal release next year. 

A quick primer on what Azure Stack is for those reading up on Azure Stack for the first time.  In short, Azure Stack is Microsoft’s Azure public cloud environment that organizations can setup and run on-premise in their own datacenters.  Unlike something like Amazon Web Services that is a cloud-only solution where you have to import and export configurations and environments between your existing on-premise datacenter and AWS, Microsoft’s Azure Stack provides the same platform between the public cloud, hosted providers, and on-premise providers for the simplicity of building, configuring, and moving workloads between private and public clouds.  The Hybrid model of on-premise datacenters and public cloud services is a huge focus for enterprises that I covered in my initial February 2016 blog post introducing Azure Stack (http://www.networkworld.com/article/3037483/cloud-computing/truly-understanding-microsoft-s-azure-stack.html).

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Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s Azure Stack TP2 Further Strengthens the Hybrid Azure Public / On-prem Environment

Azure Stack Technical Preview 2 (TP2) was announced at the Microsoft Ignite Conference at the end of September (2016), a MAJOR update from the TP1 release earlier this year focusing on extending the features and capabilities of Azure Stack as it progresses toward a formal release next year. 

A quick primer on what Azure Stack is for those reading up on Azure Stack for the first time.  In short, Azure Stack is Microsoft’s Azure public cloud environment that organizations can setup and run on-premise in their own datacenters.  Unlike something like Amazon Web Services that is a cloud-only solution where you have to import and export configurations and environments between your existing on-premise datacenter and AWS, Microsoft’s Azure Stack provides the same platform between the public cloud, hosted providers, and on-premise providers for the simplicity of building, configuring, and moving workloads between private and public clouds.  The Hybrid model of on-premise datacenters and public cloud services is a huge focus for enterprises that I covered in my initial February 2016 blog post introducing Azure Stack (http://www.networkworld.com/article/3037483/cloud-computing/truly-understanding-microsoft-s-azure-stack.html).

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Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s new Dynamics 365 will bundle ERP and CRM in the cloud

Microsoft is working on a new offering called Dynamics 365 that will combine its current ERP and CRM cloud services into a single bundle and include applications purpose-built for specific business functions.

Due to be available this fall, Dynamics 365 will feature apps for functions including financials, field service, sales, operations, marketing, project service automation and customer service. The apps can be independently deployed, allowing users to buy only what they need.

Microsoft’s Power BI and Cortana Intelligence tools will be natively embedded for predictive capabilities. With Cortana Intelligence, for instance, sales reps will be able to predict which products and services a customer will need next, thereby helping to focus their cross-selling efforts.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Bing Concierge appears to be Microsoft’s answer to Google’s conversational Assistant

CIO Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s weak phone sales drag down its Surface and cloud wins

Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia is proving to be quite the albatross around the company’s neck. The company has stepped away from focusing on phones, and its handset sales revenue fell by almost half in the first quarter.

Microsoft sold only 2.3 million Lumia phones during the quarter, 73 percent fewer units compared with the first quarter of 2015. That meant Lumia handset revenue fell 46 percent. This dragged down the company’s overall device revenue despite major gains in its Surface business. 

Sales of Surface tablets and the Surface Book touchscreen laptop brought in $ 1.1 billion for Microsoft during the last quarter, compared with $ 713 million during the same period last year. That’s good news for the company’s future, but it’s being hurt by the present state of the phone business.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

5 things to expect from Microsoft’s big developer conference

Microsoft executives will take the stage at Moscone West in San Francisco on Wednesday for the first of two keynote addresses to the company’s big Build developer conference. Here are five key things to expect from the next two days of Microsoft announcements:

1. New features in Windows 10 for developers and end users alike

Last year, Microsoft used Build to show off its vision for developing applications to run on what was then an unreleased operating system. In the intervening year, the company released Windows 10 to the world, and people have started using it in droves.

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CIO Cloud Computing

Private, public, or hybrid: Microsoft’s cloud flavors

Every cloud in the sky is unique, as is every computing cloud. Microsoft has its own view of what its cloud is all about, what it’s made of, and the tools it provides to help connect Microsoft-powered private clouds with Microsoft Azure public clouds with service clouds (from third parties).

Having multiple options as to where your cloud services reside provides real agility should you need or want it.

But some organizations may not want it. For example, you may require complete control over your data and data compliance — for example, to satisfy regulations. In those cases, Microsoft’s options let you create a private cloud using Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft System Center.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s Azure Stack beta gets new services and DevOps tools

People testing out the public beta of Microsoft’s Azure Stack private cloud system have some new platform services and DevOps tools to play with less than two weeks after it initially launched. 

Starting Monday, users can download a beta version of the Web Apps feature for Azure App Service that runs on Azure Stack and makes it easier for people to build websites on top of it. Users can also install new beta tools for running MySQL and SQL Server workloads on Azure Stack. The system already has built-in tools for running things like virtual machines.

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CIO Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s revenue falls, but cloud remains a bright spot

Microsoft is betting on reinventing itself as a cloud company, and the financial results it released Thursday show that its push is paying off despite an overall decline in revenue. 

Azure revenue rose 127 percent from a year earlier, and sales of Azure Premium Services like Machine Learning were three times higher during the last quarter of 2015 than in the same period of 2014. (Not counting the effects of currency exchange rates.) The company also bragged that more than one-third of the Fortune 500 is using its Enterprise Mobility solutions, which make it easier to secure devices that a company controls. 

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Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s revenue falls, but cloud remains a bright spot

Microsoft is betting on reinventing itself as a cloud company, and the financial results it released Thursday show that its push is paying off despite an overall decline in revenue. 

Azure revenue rose 127 percent from a year earlier, and sales of Azure Premium Services like Machine Learning were three times higher during the last quarter of 2015 than in the same period of 2014. (Not counting the effects of currency exchange rates.) The company also bragged that more than one-third of the Fortune 500 is using its Enterprise Mobility solutions, which make it easier to secure devices that a company controls. 

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s revenue falls, but cloud remains a bright spot

Microsoft is betting on reinventing itself as a cloud company, and the financial results it released Thursday show that its push is paying off despite an overall decline in revenue. 

Azure revenue rose 127 percent from a year earlier, and sales of Azure Premium Services like Machine Learning were three times higher during the last quarter of 2015 than in the same period of 2014. (Not counting the effects of currency exchange rates.) The company also bragged that more than one-third of the Fortune 500 is using its Enterprise Mobility solutions, which make it easier to secure devices that a company controls. 

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CIO Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s new cloud price cuts benefit top-tier customers most

Competitive cost-cutting between clouds comes in cycles, and it seems Amazon and Microsoft have ushered in a new phase.

Right after Amazon unveiled a new reserved instance type, Microsoft sliced prices for a slew of virtual machines on Microsoft Azure. Even steeper discounts are available on top of that, but for Enterprise Agreement customers only.

The price reductions focus on what Microsoft describes as its most popular virtual machine type, the Dv2, which uses a 2.4GHz Intel Xeon E5-2673 v3 (Haswell) processor and has “load balancing and auto-scaling built in at no additional charge,” according to the post on the Azure Blog describing the price cuts.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s PowerApps spices up its secret cloud sauce

In another rapid catch-up move to the cloud, Microsoft announced a new shortcut method to enable mobile use of line-of-business apps, PowerApps — not only on iOS and Android, but of course, Windows 10 and Windows 10 Phone. It’s about turning apps—especially SaaS apps—into diversely mobile apps.

Note that Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store, among others, carry the client-side of these apps, but the back-end, server geometry of these apps has been dominated largely by a superfluity of cloud-based back ends, some on Apache/Tomcat, Nginx, in combinations with an increasing variety of relational and non-relational database infrastructure. A commonality: a wild west of server back-end structures.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Why Microsoft’s data chief thinks machine-learning tools are like tailored shirts

When Microsoft’s data chief thinks about the future, he sees a world where developers create applications that leverage machine learning and predictive analytics without the help of a data scientist.

Joseph Sirosh, the corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft’s Data group, likens the state of machine-learning tools to an age decades ago when people bought tailored shirts. In a similar way that mass manufacturing now lets people grab a shirt off the rack, he says a similar transition is coming to application development.

In an on-stage interview at the Structure conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Sirosh touted a vision of a marketplace for finished tools that developers can plug into apps to provide intelligent capabilities like speech recognition, facial recognition, forecasting and more. 

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Docker and Mesosphere power Microsoft’s new Azure service

If there were any lingering doubts about Microsoft making open source a core part of its business, they’ve been demolished.

Today at AzureCon, Microsoft revealed its new Azure Container Service, powered by two key open source technologies: Docker and Apache Mesos, by way of the Mesosphere DCOS data center management system.

Azure until now have been built exclusively with Microsoft-proprietary pieces, mainly the Azure Service Fabric that will extend Microsoft’s cloud into users’ data centers. There have been some open source pieces, but they were only for internal use, in the same way that Microsoft built the Linux-based network switch to use in Azure.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing