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Get your Virtual New York Office

If you have clients around the world it can make a very favourable impression if you provide them with a number local to them.  It can cut their costs and gives your organisation a ‘just around the corner’ feel.  Imageframe is based in Reading, UK but we do have clients in the US so we set up a New York phone number which seamlessly transfers to our switchboard.  This costs roughly £181 per year per number and it also gives us additional UK calling minutes for the organisation.

Let’s start with the basics.

Skype for Business (either as standalone or part of an Office 365 plan) allows you to make calls to other Skype for Business and Teams users.  If you want to make calls to PSTN (public switched telephone network) phone numbers and you don’t already integrate with a phone service provider, Office 365 offers the Phone System and Calling Plan licences.   The Phone System licence provides cloud-based call-management features such as hold, forward, transfer and voicemail and will cost (as of the date of this post) £6+VAT per month as an add-on for Office 365 E1 or E3 plans.  Once you have assigned the Phone System licence to a user, you can add-on either the Domestic Calling Plan for national calls or the International Calling Plan for calls to both domestic and international numbers in hundred of countries.  Each of these provide a number of included minutes for calling per-month, rather like an included minutes mobile phone contract.

Purchase the Phone System and a Calling Plan licence and assign these to one of your Office 365 users.  Now you can choose their phone number from a wide choice of countries and cities.

The World is Your Oyster (almost).

You can transfer an existing landline number or choose from a selection of phone numbers for your call-enabled users.  Sign into the Office 365 admin centre and select the Skype for Business admin centre.

Link for the Skype for Business admin center

 

In the Skype for Business Admin Centre, you’ll be able to click on Voice and then Voice Users to see staff who have the phone system and calling plan licences assigned.

Skype for business phone system admin

 

You’ll also be able to obtain new numbers from the available countries.  The nice thing is that you can keep requesting new numbers until a funky one comes up like 0118 370 1234.  The image below is a selection of numbers for San Francisco (415).  We can acquire any of these or cancel and try again later to see a new selection.

 

Skype for business acquire new phone number

Once you have acquired numbers you can assign them to voice users.  There are two limitations here:

  1. the user’s country in their licence profile needs to match the country for the phone number you want to assign.
  2. you must set up an emergency location address for each country for which you acquire phone numbers.

We have a couple of unused Office 365 licences that we apply to demo personas.  These are ideal for assigning the international numbers.  View the user properties in the Office 365 admin centre, click on licensing and select edit.  Then change the user’s location in the drop-down at the top.  This will propagate to Skype for Business after a while and you can assign the US number.

Office 365 user licence properties

 

We have also set up a redundant emergency location address for the US as the US number will only ever be used for routing incoming calls and will not actually be used by a bona-fide person.  You can set up emergency locations in the Skype for Business admin centre (under the voice option).

Finish by Setting Up Call Forwarding.

Our demo users now have exotic phone numbers but they are not real users so will never answer the phone.  We can sign into the Skype for Business client as them and configure call forwarding so if someone rings their number, it will forward the call to one of our real users, or our switchboard.  The Skype client also tells us the call has been forwarded so we realise this is an international client.

Skype for Business call forwarding

 

No unused Office 365 licences?

We have assigned our numbers to demo users.  If you don’t have spare Office 365 licences then you can acquire Service Numbers instead of User Numbers.  Service numbers are intended to be assigned to services such as Audio Conferencing in Office 365, auto attendants or call queues.  Service phone numbers have a higher concurrent call capacity than user numbers but you are allowed fewer service numbers than user numbers.

If you acquire a service number, then you can create an Auto Attendant to forward calls to your switchboard.  You do this through the Call Routing option of the Skype for Business admin centre.

Skype for Business auto attendant

 

Give it a go and create your “London, Paris, New York” office locations.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


How to Make OneNote use £

We often run accessibility training for staff.  Not just staff with accessibility needs; all staff should have an understanding of how to create inclusive content and work collaboratively.

A very useful add-on for OneNote is Learning Tools.  This is developed by Microsoft and there’s no charge so we hope it will make it’s way into the native product at some point rather than needing a separate download.

Learning tools includes a dictation feature to transform speech to text and it’s very effective, especially with a good quality microphone or headset.

However, try as we might we cannot get it to recognise £.  Here’s an example:

OneNote Learning Tools dictation feature

 

As you can see, I’m dictating “Host a fantastic Office 365 excitement day from £500” (which is a blatant sales plug for our Buzz Days of course).  OneNote recognises when I say dollars, euros and yen and probably many others that I could recall from my travels outside of Reading (does Swindon use Roubles?) but try as I might, I cannot get it to place a £ sign.

The dictation you see where OneNote has wisely replaced the letters with asterisks was me saying 500 nicker.  Nicker is a slang term for pounds which OneNote is clearly not familiar with and thus thought I was being offensive.

No, OneNote, I’m not rapping, I’m simply trying to get our pricing correct.


Create an Azure Virtual Machine

An Azure Virtual Machine is a simulated computer (also known as a guest) hosted within a physical computer (also known as the host).  Virtual machines have been around for decades but the technical capabilities have advanced greatly over recent years and they are now a significant commodity in hosted infrastructures.  A virtual machine behaves like an actual physical computer but it shares the physical pool of resources, the memory, buses, processing power and storage, with other virtualised infrastructure.  The end user can connect to their virtual machine and it will have the same look and feel as if it was a physical computer.  The host computer runs a very specialised, reduced operating system (called the hypervisor) which takes care of the security, sharing and scheduling of all the guest operating systems on top of it.

The Azure Virtual Machine allows IT architects to create a network that will build success for the business. It means that the organization can easily set up temporary and therefore cost-effective environments for development and testing or they can transfer business-critical applications from on-premises servers to more advanced, reliable and economic hardware.  It allows organizations to try new ventures in a safe way; trying out new operating systems such as Linux or open-source application software.  It allows businesses to stretch and flex in a ‘fail fast’ way; if the business project or need is no longer relevant, then it can be switched off or even deleted without leaving redundant hardware.

Azure Virtual Machines are created through the Azure portal, which can be found at https://portal.azure.com or through programming interfaces such as PowerShell.  The simplest way to create an Azure Virtual Machine is using the portal; a browser-based user interface for interacting with Azure. It’s a straightforward process to create and configure Azure Virtual Machines and there’s even a Quick Start so that your Virtual Machine is up and running within minutes.

The difference between an Azure Virtual Machine and an on-premises Virtual Machine is that, in Azure, the IT architect does not control the host machine or its operating system.  All of the configuration is done through the cloud operating system, whether through the browser or the portal. In this example, we will create a new SQL Server Virtual Machine in Azure, using an image from the Azure gallery.

  1. Log in to the Azure portal at https://portal.azure.com using your Azure subscription account.
  2. On the Azure portal, click New.
  3. The portal opens the New window.  Select the Compute option and then select the option See all.
  4. In the search field, type SQL Server 2017, and press ENTER.
  5. To see the relevant options, click the Filter icon, and select the image for Windows SQL Server, which will be published by Microsoft.
  6. Select the image named SQL Server 2017 Developer on Windows Server 2016.
  7. Under Select a deployment model, ensure that Resource Manager is selected.
  8. Click Create.
  9. There will be a number of options for configuring the Virtual Machine, such as its size, location, and security information. Once you have selected the relevant options, select Deploy. The Virtual Machine will take a few moments to deploy.

Once the deployment has completed, you can connect to the VM remotely using Remote Desktop Connection on your PC or in the case of our SQL Server installation, through the SQL enterprise tools.


Azure Virtual Machine Types

When creating an Azure Virtual Machine, you will be presented with a wide choice of codes from A0 to M128s.  These represent the intended use and configuration of your virtual machine; basically, how many cores, RAM and storage it includes but there are other intricacies to this as well. Your choice depends on the workloads you want to run on the virtual machine. The most important thing is that you understand what the virtual machine will be used for. Once this decision is made, the IT architect can select the series and the size of virtual machine.

How does the process of Virtual Machine selection differ from sizing on premise Virtual Machines?  The machine will need as much RAM, CPU and disk as your operating system and applications will consume and in this respect, the selection of Azure Virtual Machine is identical to the process of selecting the sizes and configuration of on-premises physical or virtual machines currently.

One key aspect of Virtual Machine selection that is different, however, is that the Azure cloud environment allows the IT architect to scale. With some restrictions, you can scale your virtual machine up to a more powerful instance or down to a less powerful and cheaper virtual machine.  Azure Virtual Machines also offer high availability (HA) via scale-out.  For the on-premises architecture, this would require densely packed hardware and the IT team would have to take care of the Virtual Machine hosts, networks and storage whilst also thinking about redundancy and ensuring that the virtual machines were running at all times. Azure is different because the cloud takes care of that work for the IT team and offers high availability as part of that process.

Azure allows organizations to be cost-effective by setting up a group of smaller machines which share workloads and can be turned on or off according to demand or on a timed schedule.  Effectively, Azure charges for the compute power you are using when the virtual machines are turned on and doesn’t charge for virtual machines that are turned off.  The organization is only paying for any persistent storage or networking of the virtual machines when they are powered off, but not for unused compute power.

 

Selecting a Virtual Machine Size

To select the correct Virtual Machine series, the IT architect will need to know the intended workload. Each virtual machine type is optimised to run a different workload, so it’s essential that this planning is done first. For example, if you are looking for a virtual machine that can work with Big Data solutions, then the organization should select a virtual machine from the High Performance Compute VM series. At the time of writing, Microsoft offers six virtual machine types:

General Purpose – Balanced CPU-to-memory ratio
Compute Optimised – High CPU-to-memory ratio
Memory Optimised – High memory-to-CPU ratio
Storage Optimised – High disk throughput and IO
GPU – Specialised virtual machines for heavy graphics rendering and video editing
High Performance Compute – Fastest, most powerful CPU with optional high-throughput network interfaces (RDMA)
Once the series has been selected, the IT architect can choose the virtual machine size.

 

Selecting a Virtual Machine Size

One key piece of advice to note is that if the organization believes that they may need to move up to another larger virtual machine in the future, then it is best to check that the larger machine is available in the same hosting region (e.g. UK South, West US) as the original virtual machine. Otherwise, the organization will have to move the virtual machine to the new region.  Although it’s not an onerous task to move a virtual machine from one region to another, it is best to avoid if possible.

The following table will help the IT architect to identify the correct size of virtual machine for the requirements.

 

Table of Azure virtual machine types

 

To summarise, choosing an Azure Virtual Machine is a crucial part of the transition to cloud.  There is a good choice available and you have the ability, with some restrictions, to switch in the future as your needs change.


The Azure Pricing Calculator

The Azure Pricing Calculator, located at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/pricing/calculator helps you to predict the estimated monthly Azure bill for any Azure workload.  Once you have Azure services running, the Azure Portal helps you to monitor actual costs that you have incurred.

 

Screenshot of the Microsoft Azure Pricing Calculator
Figure 1 Azure Pricing Calculator website

 

The Azure Pricing Calculator helps you understand the costs of moving your technical estate to Azure, and to estimate pricing once your data and applications are in Azure.  The calculator allows you to view the price for different sizes and configurations of your Azure Virtual Machines in terms of the machine’s CPU, memory, storage, location and hours in use.  You can add any combination of Azure services to the calculator and view the pricing for complete solution.  This allows you to make better decisions on your move to the cloud by expediting the cost component of the decision.

The calculator is also useful in determining if you have all of the crucial resources in place for a successful migration to the cloud as relevant Azure services will be suggested when you add a component.  For example, if you add a virtual machine, you will typically require storage so the calculator helpfully adds that component into the pricing.

Since the Azure Pricing Calculator allows you the mix your configurations before you make your purchase, the cloud migration process becomes clearer.  This facility is particularly critical when the technical estate of the cloud infrastructure is in a constant state of change.  Microsoft Azure has monthly releases of new updates and new features.  This flexibility means there are a lot of different choices that can be made and the calculator not only helps you plan for your costs but can even reduce them altogether by helping to overcome the challenge of comparing your existing costs with the impact on cost of moving to Azure.

Azure has a great deal of choice but, in some ways, too much choice can be a difficult problem to have!  The Azure Pricing Calculator helps navigate the complexities of the Azure migration and choose the optimal configuration and pricing for your environment.  By proactively playing with the Azure Pricing Calculator, you can simulate various scenarios amongst the various Azure instances, types and features that are available.

Often, it can be perceived that organisations need to move all of their estate to the cloud but in reality, this is not always the case.  When onboarding your technical and data infrastructure to the cloud, it can be a good idea to start small in order to set yourself up for success.  The Azure Pricing calculator can help you to price up different scenarios to help you to navigate hybrid architectures as well as full cloud architectures.


Introduction to the Azure Portal

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform and infrastructure created by Microsoft and the Azure Portal is one way for administrators to work with the cloud-based services and resources that are held in Azure.  It’s extremely straightforward and as it’s browser based, doesn’t require any new client software to be installed.

The portal can be found at portal.azure.com and it is sometimes known as the Azure Resource Manager or ARM for short.  The Azure Portal allows users to conduct a range of activities in Azure including creating and browsing resources, configuring settings for services such as Virtual Machines and monitoring the resources while they are in operation.

Due to the range of activities available on the portal, a detailed description is beyond the scope of a brief article but the main activities of the portal are very easy to use.  To log in to the Microsoft Azure portal, open a browser and navigate to https://portal.azure.com.  Log in with your Azure subscription account or if you don’t have one yet, you can set one up using the link on the portal page.

Once you are logged in, you can see the Azure dashboard.  There is a good search facility, which means that developers and IT architects can find what they need quickly.  You can also see your account information at the top right-hand corner.  The portal itself is free to access and does not incur any cost to use.

It’s possible to bring your existing knowledge to bear on Azure.  For example, the portal has its own Bash functionality and you can deploy JSON templates and your existing web apps via the portal. Azure offers a wide range of varied services on the portal but everything is located in one place.  This unified approach means that people can find what they want quickly, rather than having to use different interfaces or applications for different things.

Like most administrative tasks, once your Azure deployments are established, well-known and documented, it’s more likely the Azure API or PowerShell interface will be used to provide ongoing automated operations and functions.  For example, a PowerShell script to spin up a new instance of a pre-configured virtual machine with SQL Server for the marketing team who want to store some results of a campaign.  This is straightforward to include as part of your operations workflow rather than expect an IT administrator to log into the portal and create the virtual machine.

From the Finance perspective, you can access billing information through the portal so that it’s possible to keep an eye on costs for each service.  User rights can be set to allow IT administrators access to the Azure services but not the subscription or billing information and vice versa for finance users.  The Azure portal uses Power BI to provide context and clarity to the billing information as well as other types of data such as service and maintenance information.  From the users’ point of view, this means it is easy to port experience from the Azure portal onto Power BI, which is another interesting and useful data visualisation and reporting technology from Microsoft.

To summarize, the Azure portal is a unified window into Microsoft Azure.  It’s an easy, one-stop-shop to everything Azure.


How Does Premium Assurance Differ From CSA?

How Does Premium Assurance Differ from Custom Support Agreements?

We detailed the new Premium Assurance in a previous blog post.  At a high level it looks similar to an existing Microsoft service called Custom Support Agreements.

They are very different beasts though.  Custom Support Agreements are where organisations cannot move off an older software version and take out a support contract with Microsoft.  They are typically expensive, not off-the-shelf and thus taken by larger organisations with complex needs.  They cover different products, are sold and supported by different Microsoft teams, have different objectives, business rules and pricing.

Premium Assurance is a standard add-on to Software Assurance and is listed in the price list.  It’s easy for customers to purchase, for partners to sell and for everyone to understand.

Will Premium Assurance spell the end of Custom Support Agreements?  Microsoft hasn’t elaborated at this stage but so far it looks like all existing CSA products in the market today will continue unchanged.

Premium Assurance

  • Software Assurance Add-on (requires SA)
  • Only for Windows Server and SQL Server starting with 2008 versions
  • All eligible servers must be included
  • Up to 6 extra years of support
  • Includes ‘critical’ and ‘important’ security updates
  • Available through certain volume licensing programs
  • Published prices
  • Sold via Worldwide Licensing with commissions paid to sellers
  • Discounts and price-protection for signing up early

Custom Support Agreements

  • Premier Support Add-on (requires Premier)
  • Software Assurance not required
  • Covers multiple products including Windows and Office but does not cover Windows Server or SQL Server
  • Typically last 1-3 years, not 6
  • Customer can cover just a subset of affected licences and pricing is tiered according to numbers
  • Only includes ‘critical’ updates but ‘important’ can be included sometimes for a fee
  • Bought when a product goes end-of-support; no discounts for buying early
  • Sold through Microsoft Premier and Services staff
  • Faster support through Premier-level support services and Technical Account Managers

Premium Assurance for Windows and SQL Server

Extend the Life of Line-of-Business Applications with Premium Assurance

I used to own an old laser printer which came with Windows 7 drivers.  It wasn’t the best printer in the world but I relied on it.  Try as I might I could not get updated drivers for it so with Windows 10 I was faced with two choices, keep it running on inefficient and possibly insecure Windows 7 drivers, or buy a new printer.  If I had the option to subscribe to updated Windows 10 drivers from the manufacturer, would I have taken that choice?  Probably; although shopping for new technology is so much fun.

On a larger scale, organisations often face compelling events that force an upgrade of machinery or software that they rely on.  Perhaps the business or product becomes more advanced and existing hardware or software is not capable of the required changes.  Perhaps it’s no longer possible to obtain replacement parts for machinery or support for a software package, meaning if it goes wrong and stops working, the very operation of the company could be at risk.

With software, it may not just be the line of business application that needs to be supported, but also the associated systems including the operating system and data platform.  If your application only runs on Windows Server 2008, you are faced with the choice of upgrading the application along with the business changes that would bring, or remaining on an unsupported operating system and risk exposure to new security threats or falling out of compliance with regulations.

 

Premium Assurance adds an Extra Six Years of Support

Premium Assurance (PA) is a subscription service from Microsoft that extends the product support for Windows Server and/or SQL Server versions by six years.

Under our current model, every application is supported for at least 10 years: five years of mainstream which includes feature updates and support calls; and five years of extended support for just security and critical updates but no hotfixes unless you have software assurance or a support contract.

Adding premium assurance increases that total lifecycle period to sixteen years.

 

Microsoft Product Support Lifecycle

 

Figure 1: Microsoft Product Lifecycle
You can always check the support dates for your products on the product lifecycle page at https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/search.

One thing to bear in mind here is the ten years is at the latest service pack level for most software.  When a new service pack is released, SP1, SP2, etc., Microsoft will provide either 12 or 24 months of support for the previous service pack depending on the product family.  When this period ends, that service pack or initial product release won’t get new updates.  So there’s already pressure on customers to keep up to the latest service pack.

If this all sounds harsh, it might be fair to realise how much additional engineering and support resources would be required to support every service pack of every version of every product.

Microsoft are not promising to support third-party line-of-business applications here, but the attraction of Premium Assurance is to provide additional breathing space to plan how to migrate off these older workloads.  Having the option for Windows Server and SQL Server means you’ll be covered on most key applications.

 

How to Obtain Premium Assurance

To see which servers a customer could cover with Premium Assurance, let’s look at an example server estate.

Example Server estate

Figure 2: example server estate of Windows and SQL Server

We have 9 licences of Windows Server 2008/2012/2016 and 9 licences of SQL Server 2008/2012/2014/2016.  We obtained these via three licensing programs: an Enterprise Agreement, an Enterprise Agreement Subscription and an Open agreement.  Some of our servers are covered with Software Assurance and some aren’t.

Rule 1: Only Enterprise Licensing Programs are Eligible for Premium Assurance

As of March 2017 when Premium Assurance arrived on the price list, licences obtained through an Enterprise Agreement, Enterprise Agreement Subscription, Enrollment for Education Solutions or Server and Cloud Enrollment are the only ones eligible.

In our example estate above, we have six Windows Servers and six SQL Servers through these programs.  We can disregard the licences obtained through Open.

Rule 2: Only Servers Covered with SA are Eligible

Premium Assurance is sold as an Add-on to Software Assurance so a server licence must have active Software Assurance to be covered by Premium Assurance.  This narrows down our eligible servers to four Windows Servers and three SQL Servers.

Rule 3: All Eligible Servers Must be Covered by Premium Assurance

Once you have established the eligible servers, you must add Premium Assurance to all of them.  It is not possible to add PA to just a selection.  You can subscribe to either Windows Server Premium Assurance or SQL Server Premium Assurance or both.

Example Server estate coverage

Figure 3: Servers that would require Windows Server Premium Assurance and SQL Server Premium Assurance coverage

What do you notice missing from this example?  That’s right; any detail around versions.  Let me explain why that is important.

 

What Product Versions are Eligible for Premium Assurance?

Premium Assurance is not by version, it’s by product.  Our example server estate included a mix of SQL 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2016.  We want Premium Assurance for the SQL 2008 specifically.  If the 2012 and 2014 versions are also eligible for PA then they must be included.  The earliest version of SQL Server and Windows Server that can be covered is 2008.

To cover a product version, Premium Assurance needs to be purchased before the extended support period for that version ends.  The figure below details the extended support and premium assurance purchase periods.  To ensure we have Premium Assurance support for SQL Server 2008, we must purchase PA before extended support ends in June 2019.

Premium assurance timelines

Figure 4: Support timeline by product and version.

 

Buy Early, They Pay Less

If Premium Assurance doesn’t start until the extended support period ends, why would a customer want to pay for it now?  It’s true that we’d charge customers straight away for a benefit they’re not going to get until 2019.  Doesn’t sound fair does it?  But it allows the customer to lock a low price for all future purchases if they maintain Premium Assurance and Software Assurance.  Once customers enroll in Premium Assurance, they are entitled to the original purchase price even across Software Assurance renewal cycles and even if the underlying base licence price changes.

There are four levels of pricing, expressed here as a percentage of the base licence cost.  The example shown below is for Windows Server Standard edition (2-core licence pack).  Prices are illustrative.

Premium assurance prices

 

Figure 5: Premium Assurance price levels by time of purchase.

As you can see there’s a 58% increase in price if customers wait until the last minute to buy Premium Assurance for Windows Server 2008.  Buying early represents 5% of the base licence cost and this rises to 12% from July 2019.

 

Removing Premium Assurance

You can stop Premium Assurance altogether if it’s no longer required (perhaps you have moved the workloads in question) and you can also reduce the number of Premium Assurance licenses as long as it aligns with your eligible server numbers.  Remember, all servers through the EA, EAS, EES and SCE that have active SA need to be covered; not just some of them.

 

What Product Editions are Eligible for Premium Assurance?

The Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions of Windows Server and SQL Server from 2008 onwards are covered.  SQL Server Business Intelligence Edition is not specifically covered.  Windows Server Enterprise editions are covered by purchasing two of the Windows Server Standard edition SKUs for each Enterprise edition server.

Specifically, the new price list titles for these offerings are:

SQL SERVER ENTERPRISE ED PREM ASSU
SQL SERVER STANDARD ED PREM ASSU
SQL SVR STANDARD CORE PREM ASSU
WINDOWS SERVER DC CORE PREMASSUR
WINDOWS SERVER STD CORE PREMASSUR
SQL SVR ENTERPRISE CORE PREM ASSU
WINDOWS SERVER STANDARD PREM ASSUR
WINDOWS SERVER DATACENTER PREMASSUR

 

How Will Premium Assurance Work Technically?

There will be a software package that customers install on eligible servers to enable the provisioning of updates to those servers.  What’s to stop customers installing that package on no-eligible servers?  Like much of Microsoft Volume Licensing, it will likely rely on customer trust and the occasional software audit.

 

To recap:

  • Premium Assurance adds an extra six years of support beyond the extended support of Windows Server and/or SQL Server.
  • Windows Server Premium Assurance and SQL Server Premium Assurance can be purchased independently and this applies to the 2008 or newer versions.
  • You need software assurance on these products to be eligible to purchase Premium Assurance.
  • The support offered by Premium Assurance is intended to keep the products secure and compliant.  It’s not going to involve features changes.
  • Premium Assurance became available from March 2017 through Enterprise Agreements and Enrolment for Education Solutions.
  • There is price-tiering to encourage customers to subscribe earlier.
  • You can add Premium Assurance at any time in your licensing agreement; mid-term or renewal but it must be for all eligible servers.

Per-Core Licensing FAQ

Windows ServerWindows Server 2016 (Standard and Datacenter Editions) and System Center 2016 will be changing to per-core + client access licence (CAL) when they are released towards the latter part of 2016.  We briefly blogged about the change earlier and we’re seeing a lot of the same questions so why not use that as an excuse for another post?

Why change?

The world is becoming cloudier and these licensing changes enable customers to operate more easily across on-premises servers and private and public clouds because we can just use a consistent currency of cores that simplifies licensing of hybrid use cases.  For example, a two-processor licence of Windows Server 2012 R2 on-premises today is translated into 16 cores of Microsoft Azure use right benefit.  If both of these environments are core-based it’s a nice easy transition.

Will I Still be Able to Virtualise with Standard Edition?

The case for licensing Datacenter Edition is for high-density virtualization, private clouds and hybrid cloud use.  The keys to making that successful are automation and being able to define networking, storage and the like with software rather than physically connecting network cables.  So Datacenter Edition will provide advanced software defined datacenter capabilities to make it the ideal for highly virtualized or private cloud environments.

Standard edition will not these features or will have them in more limited form.  Hyper-V is still included in both editions however and you can still virtualise in Standard Edition.  It will continue to be ideal for low density virtualized scenarios, including the use of containers and in some instances it makes financial sense over Datacenter Edition.

If you’re concerned that your solutions running on Windows Server 2012 Standard edition may not work after an upgrade, fear not; no pre-existing features are being moved from Standard to Datacenter.  Datacenter will be a superset and contain all the features of Standard edition.

Even though we’re writing about licensing in this post, we should cover a couple of Windows Server features just because they might affect how you licence.  Namely, Hyper-V containers, Windows Server containers and Nano Server.

Hyper-V Containers and Windows Server Containers

Historically, each server application would run on its own physical server; a 1:1 application to server ratio to ensure no conflicts with existing applications and workloads.  This resulted in a large number of physical servers, all typically with low utilisation.

Virtualisation of multiple applications onto a single physical server is now prevalent and we enjoy significantly higher consolidation ratios, greater utilisation and faster application deployment times measured in minutes rather than hours or days in a purely physical datacenter.  Plus all the benefits of virtualisation such as higher levels of redundancy and mobility.

There is however, a new and increasingly popular way to build, ship, deploy and instantiate applications: containers.

Whereas virtualisation is still 1:1 application to OS, albeit a virtual OS, containers can run multiple isolated applications on a single OS known as the control host.  And containers can run on a host OS which itself could be physical or virtual, so that’s fantastic flexibility.

That’s the difference between a Windows container and a Hyper-V container.  A Hyper-V container has a virtual host OS.   A Windows container uses the physical OS as the host.

With Windows Server 2016 Datacenter, you can run unlimited containers just as you can perform unlimited virtualisation.  With Standard Edition you are entitled to have unlimited Windows Containers, because they run with the physical OS as the control host.  Hyper-V containers follow the same rules as virtual operating system environments (VOSE) in that you are allowed two virtual control hosts every time you completely licence all physical cores on the server.

 

Virtualisation Licensing for Windows Server 2016

 

But why do we need containers?  What do containers provide that virtual machines can’t?

For the developers, containers unlock the ability to build an application, package within a container, and deploy, knowing that wherever you deploy that container, it will run without modification, whether that is on-premises, in a service provider’s datacenter or in the public cloud such as Azure.  You can also have complex multi-tier applications, with each tier packaged in a container.

Nano Server

So that’s containers in a nutshell.  What about Nano Server?  Is that a special edition for my granny?

If you are hosting lots of VOSEs, the last thing you want is for the host OS to reboot because that means everything I’m running on that host either needs to migrate to another server or also reboot.  You want to minimise what’s running to reduce the resources used and the surface area open to bugs and attacks. Yes, I used the B word.

Windows Server 2008 came up with Server Core which was a hugely reduced installation intended to just support specific workloads such as hosting VOSEs.  Windows server 2012 improved Server Core so it was more modular and you could install and configure the server and then switch into Server Core whereas in 2008 it was an either-or choice at installation.

 

Windows Server Core between 2003 and 2012

 

Windows Server 2016 goes further with Nano Server.  Just to give you an idea of the scale here, the charts below compare setup time, disk footprint and VHD size between the already trimmed Server Core installation and the new Nano Server.

 

Windows Server 2016 Nano Server

 

Now the big question here is how do you licence Nano Server?

Well, Nano Server is a deployment option within Windows Server 2016.  It’s included as part of the licensing of both Standard and Datacenter editions so there is no unique or separate licensing for Nano Server.  Good news.

Look Like an Expert with these Extra Facts

Q – Will the Core Infrastructure Suite SKU also be core based licensing?

A – Yes, Core Infrastructure Suite is a single SKU incorporating both Windows Server and System Center at a discount.  This will also be core based when Windows Server and System Center are released.

Q – Is the Windows Server External Connector available at the release of Windows Server 2016?

A – Yes, the Windows Server External Connector license will still be available for external users’ access to Windows Server.   Just like it is today, an external connector is required for each Windows Server the external user is accessing.

Q – How should I think about hyper-threading in the core based licensing?

A – Just count the physical cores.  Windows Server and System Center 2016 are licensed by physical cores, not virtual cores.  So you only need to inventory and license the physical cores on the processors.

Q – If processors (and therefore cores) are disabled from Windows use, do I still need to license the cores?

A – No, if the processor is disabled for use by Windows, the cores on that processor don’t need to be licensed.  For example, if 2 processors in a 4 processor server (with 8 cores per processor) were disabled and not available for Windows Server use, only 16 cores would need to be licensed.  However, disabling hyper threading or disabling cores for specific programs does not relieve the need for a Windows Server license on the physical cores.

 

Don’t Forget CALs

Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions will continue to require Windows Server CALs for every user or device accessing a server (See the Product Use Rights for exceptions).

Some additional or advanced functionality will continue to require the purchase of an additive CAL.  These are CALs that you need in addition to the Windows Server CAL to access functionality, such as Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions – we love to hear from you!


Using Tags in OneNote

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Using Tags in OneNote can be an effective way to fight against information overload. One of OneNote’s most powerful, yet underutilised features is tagging. Tags help you extract and organise data across notebooks. Every note or item marked with a particular tag will show up in the search results when you search for that tag. A summary can also be created to pull out and group all tagged items. This can be extremely useful when making a to-do list or focus on particular information.

To use tags:

  1. Click on the Home ribbon
  2. In the Tags group, click the drop-down arrow to see a list of the built-in tags

NOTE: Custom tags can also be created in this section

Using tags in OneNote

Use tags to organise your data. For example, you could mark important items with the ‘Important’ tag, To-do items with the ‘To Do’ tag or questions with the ‘Question’ tag and so on. Keyboard short-cuts can be used to tag items faster. You can apply more than one tag to an item.

Using Tags in OneNote
  1. Click the Find Tag button

By default, all tagged items will show grouped by tag name. You can also change the search options to include the current section, the current notebook or even all of your existing notebooks.

Using Tags in OneNote
  1. Click Create Summary Page
Using Tags in OneNote

A new page will be created in your notebook that contains all of the tagged items organised in to groups. This is a great way of creating to-do lists and organising your data more efficiently.