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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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:
Click on the Home ribbon
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
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.
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.
Click Create Summary Page
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.
Sending and receiving documents and files in the form of an attachment is something that we are all very familiar with. The recipient is required to double-click on the attachment to open it and then it can be saved off as required.
However, did you know that there is a different way to attach documents? That you can also send the contents of a document in the body of the email as opposed to an attached file? This can sometimes be really useful and can be done by simply adding a button to the Quick Access Toolbar in Word.
Open the Word document you would like to send
Click the drop-down arrow on the Quick Access toolbar
Select More Commands
Select Commands Not in the Ribbonfrom the Choose commands from drop-down menu
Scroll down and select Send to Mail Recipient
The Send to Mail recipient icon will now be on the Quick Access Toolbar.
Click Send to Mail Recipient
Email fields will show. Complete these as normal. The Word document will appear in the body as opposed to as an attachment.
Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2016 will be licenced in a per-core + CAL (client access licence) model. This changes from Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 which were per-processor + CAL.
Whilst the main editions of Windows Server 2016 remain Standard and Datacenter (US spelling of course), another change is that Datacenter enjoys more features than Standard. This was not the case with Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 when Standard and Datacenter had exactly the same set of technical features and capabilities.
The licensing rules in brief
All physical cores in the server must be licenced
Core licences are sold in packs of 2
A minimum of 8 cores per processor must be licenced, even if the processor has less than 8 cores
For a single-processor server, a minimum of 16 cores must be licenced
Only physical cores need be counted; hyper-threading has no effect on licensing
Processors that are disabled in the server do not need to be licenced
Licensing all cores in the physical server with Datacenter edition allows you to run Windows Server in an unlimited number of VOSEs (Virtual Operating System Environment) on that server
Licensing all cores in the physical server with Standard edition allows you to run Windows Server in two VOSEs (Virtual Operating System Environment) on that server. You can apply extra licences to the physical server if you wish to run more than two.
A bit of background
If you’re scratching your head about the minimum licensing requirement or even why Microsoft chose to change the licensing model at all, a little explanation may help.
The reason for requiring a minimum of 16 core licences per server is to keep the prices of Windows Server 2016 in line with the minimum licensing (2 processors) of Windows Server 2012 R2. In turn, Windows 2012 required a minimum of 2 processors because it kept the price in line with the per-server + CAL model from Windows Server 2008 R2.
One reason for changing to per-core model is to align with a new benefit that will soon be in Microsoft Azure which will allow customers who have Software Assurance (SA) on their Windows Server licence to ‘lend’ that licence to the Azure datacentre. So you would only need to rent an empty VM and upload your own Windows image instead of paying for an Azure VM which had Windows. Azure compute units are based on cores so it makes sense for Windows licensing to match.
With Windows Server Datacenter edition, it gets even better because you don’t lose your on-premises rights and you can virtualise on-premises at the same time as on Microsoft Azure. We’ll blog about that in more detail at a later date.
System Center 2016 and Core Infrastructure Suite 2016 (a single SKU combination of both Windows Server and System Center) will also be licensed in the new per-core model.
Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face a complex and changing landscape when it comes to understanding all of the different ways new technologies can help their businesses.
Many Microsoft partners are capitalising on the opportunity to grow their businesses by expanding their roles to that of a trusted advisor and business consultant — looking for ways to help SMBs modernise across the IT platform.
Microsoft is focused on helping you deliver solutions that address your customers’ key goals and business challenges. So you can use technology to help make them be more successful, whether by improving operational efficiency, protecting data, helping employees be more productive, or better connecting with customers. In fact, only Microsoft offers a complete platform with the flexibility to deliver the solutions your customer’s need, from server to cloud, desktop to mobile devices.
ModernBiz Technical Series
The ModernBiz Technical Series provides training, demonstrations and hands-on instruction on how to use the latest Microsoft technologies to deliver solutions to SMB organisations. This set of training courses is designed to prepare Microsoft value-added reseller (VAR) partners to help customers get the benefits of the modern business by providing solutions and services that span the entire IT ecosystem, from server, to cloud, to devices.
In this training, you will:
Get hands-on experience: With a focus on building real-world solutions, this training consists of presentations, demos, and hands-on labs.
Get the skills you need to build real-world SMB solutions: This technical series is designed specifically for partners working with SMB customers to build solutions using the latest products and technologies from Microsoft.
Any of the ModernBiz Technical Series courses can be attended as a standalone course or as a part of the complete series.
Who should participate: The ModernBiz Technical Series course is for Microsoft value-added reseller (VAR) partners who work with small and midsize organisations. The training is designed for those who are ready to learn more about meeting the technical needs of SMBs with Microsoft solutions.
Audience: IT Professionals, Consultants, SMB Resellers
Level: 200 (Technical) This training aligns to the Microsoft ModernBiz campaign for SMB partners.
There are free one or two day courses for each of these key technology areas.
These courses are designed to help you migrate customers off legacy infrastructure and get the most out of their technology. Example topics are Windows Server 2012 on-premises, Azure infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Windows 10, Office 365, and Azure.
Grow Efficiently Track 1 is designed to teach you how to migrate SMB customers off of legacy infrastructure to either Windows Server 2012 on-premises or Azure IaaS
Track 2 covers how to migrate SMB customers to Windows 10 and get started with Office 365
Track 3 teaches how to integrate on-premises infrastructure with Microsoft Azure
Safeguard Your Business
In this track, learn how to use the latest Microsoft technologies to deliver solutions that help SMBs protect company information and improve business continuity. Modules in this track include Azure Backup and ASR, Securing Windows 10, Data Loss Prevention in Office 365, eDiscovery and Archiving in Office 365, and Office 365 and Azure AD Premium RMS.
Connect with Customers
These training modules cover Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online as well as Office 365 collaborative services.
Track 1 is devoted to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, including Introduction to CRM Online, CRM Online Integration with Office 365, and CRM Online Integration with Power BI
Track 2 teaches how to implement Office 365 collaborative services and business intelligence to solve business problems. Example modules include Modern Collaboration, SQL Server 2014 Data Platform, Azure Relational Database Services, Creating and Exploring a Power BI Dashboard, and Reporting from On-premises Analysis Services with Power BI.
Here, you’ll learn how to enable SMBs to work from anywhere on any device. Topics include Windows 10 Management (with IE 11 and Edge); Mobile Device and Identity Management with Intune, EMS, and Office 365; Remote Desktop Service and Azure Remote App; Deploying Office 365 ProPlus; Skype for Business Conferencing; and Securing Windows 10.
Imageframe are pleased to be running many of these courses so come along and say hi!
We described the new Office 365 E5 plan and standalone features as well as how to licence them in previous blog posts. One of the features included in the PSTN Conferencing for Skype for Business (SfB) is to allow presenters to dial-out to a national phone number in order to add attendees into the meeting (or for attendees to ask SfB to dial them back on a national phone number).
The word national is important there because the plan wouldn’t allow you to dial-out to international phone numbers. This would be enabled when consumption billing is introduced in 2016 and customers could maintain a credit balance that international and freephone call costs would be drawn against.
However, today Microsoft have announced a free trial period where international dial-out will be enabled at no cost.
PSTN conferencing for Skype for Business is available to buy in 15 countries (as of the date of this blog post):
During the free trial period, users of PSTN Conferencing will be allowed to make international dial-out calls at no charge to phone numbers in any of those 15 countries where PSTN conferencing is available for sale. International dial-out calls outside of the 15 countries will not be enabled. This free period will last until April, 30th 2016. After that, customers will be billed per minute for all International Dial-Out calls.
Whilst Microsoft are selling PSTN conferencing in 15 countries, the users can be worldwide so this makes it easier to sell to multinational accounts. For example, a UK company who subscribe to PSTN conferencing can host a webcast and offer a New Zealand dial-in number even though PSTN Conferencing is not available to buy in that country yet.