Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

Azure SQL Data Warehouse

July 23rd, 2016

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the general availability of Azure SQL Data Warehouse.
There are incompatibilities between the on-premises version and the cloud version, and new technologies like PolyBase which makes the move form on premise SQL less than trivial.

Redgate have released a new Data Platform Studio Azure SQL Data Warehouse to reduce the task to hours rather than days – Data Platform Studio is free to use for one-off migration.

Always Encrypted in Azure SQL Database – now available to all

July 23rd, 2016

Always Encrypted in Azure SQL Database is Generally Available

Always Encrypted is a feature designed to ensure sensitive data and its corresponding encryption keys are never revealed in plaintext to the database system. With Always Encrypted enabled, a SQL client driver encrypts and decrypts sensitive data inside client applications or application servers, by using keys stored in a trusted key store, such as Azure Key Vault or Windows Certificate Store on a client machine. As a result, even database administrators, other high privilege users, or attackers gaining illegal access to Azure SQL Database, cannot access the data.

•To ensure the data is protected from malicious cloud database admins, co-tenants, or/and malware in Azure SQL Database. Always Encrypted can guarantee full isolation of data from the cloud provider when client applications or middle tier services are hosted on premises, but even for all-Azure apps, Always Encrypted substantially reduces attack the surface area, by removing the database from it.
•To prevent the disclosure of sensitive data within customer’s organization. With Always Encrypted, DBAs, who do not have access to the keys, can administer the database without having access to sensitive data in plaintext.

see https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/sql-database-always-encrypted-azure-key-vault/ for more information and a tutorial

Microsoft wins Data privacy battle

July 23rd, 2016

Tech giant Microsoft scored a major legal victory yesterday with a unanimous decision by an appeals court that ruled warrants issued by U.S. authorities do not extend to data stored in other countries. The ruling by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was applauded by the vast majority of the tech industry, which had strongly supported Microsoft’s case against the government.

“The decision is important for three reasons: it ensures that people’s privacy rights are protected by the laws of their own countries; it helps ensure that the legal protections of the physical world apply in the digital domain; and it paves the way for better solutions to address both privacy and law enforcement needs,”
Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith said in a statement about the decision.

Territorial Limitations

The case centered around a previous decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which had ruled against Microsoft’s efforts to quash a warrant issued under the Stored Communications Act (SCA). The SCA is part of the broader Electronic Communications Privacy Act passed in 1986 designed to protect the privacy of users interacting with an electronic communications service provider.

The warrant directed Microsoft to seize and produce the contents of an email account that it maintained for a customer who used the company’s electronic communications services. The government stated that it believed the emails contained information about narcotics trafficking.

But the information the government requested was stored on servers in Ireland, and Microsoft refused to transfer the data to the U.S. In explaining its decision in favor of the company, the appeals court explained that “warrants traditionally carry territorial limitations: United States law enforcement officers may be directed by a court-issued warrant to seize items at locations in the United States and in United States-controlled areas . . . but their authority generally does not extend further.”

A Ruling for Privacy

The decision was hailed by technology companies, business groups, and privacy advocates. “This ruling is a major affirmation that the rights we enjoy in the physical world continue to apply in the digital world,” said Greg Nojeim, director of the Freedom, Security and Technology Project for the Center for Democracy and Technology. “By declaring that a U.S. warrant cannot reach communications content stored abroad, the court ruled strongly in favor of privacy and national rule of law.”

Amicus briefs supporting the company had been signed by the Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, Verizon, Apple, Cisco, and the National Association of Manufacturers. The Republic of Ireland also supported Microsoft’s case, arguing that the warrant represented an assault on the nation’s sovereignty.

While the decision is certainly a win for Microsoft, the government may yet appeal. The case could eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. is also likely to push for new laws requiring companies to store customer data within the U.S. if it decides it can’t legally compel organizations to surrender data stored overseas.

SQL updates July 2016

July 23rd, 2016

The 13th cumulative update release for SQL Server 2012 SP2 is now available for download at the Microsoft Support site.
•CU#13 KB Article: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3165266
•Understanding IncrementalServicingModel for SQL Server
•SQL Server Support Information: http://support.microsoft.com/ph/2855
•Update Center for Microsoft SQL Server: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/sqlserver/ff803383.aspx

The 4th cumulative update release for SQL Server 2012 SP3 is now available for download at the Microsoft Support site.
•CU#4 KB Article: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3165264
•Understanding Incremental Servicing Model for SQL Server
•SQL Server Support Information: http://support.microsoft.com/ph/2855
•Update Center for Microsoft SQL Server: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/sqlserver/ff803383.aspx

SQL Server 2014 Service Pack 2 (SP2). This service pack is available on the Microsoft Download Center, MSDN, Eval Center, MBS/Partner Source and VLSC. SQL Server 2014 SP2 includes a rollup of released hotfixes as well as more than twenty improvements centered around performance, scalability and diagnostics . These improvements enable SQL Server 2014 to perform faster and scale out of the box on modern hardware design,
SQL Server 2014 SP2 now includes:
•All fixes and CUs for SQL 2014 released to date.
•Performance, scale and supportability improvements.
•New improvements based on connect feedback items filed by the SQL community.
•Improvements originally introduced in SQL 2012 SP3, after SQL 2014 SP1 was released.
see https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/sqlreleaseservices/sql-2014-service-pack-2-is-now-available/

Qatar to implement data privacy law -watch out for the fines

July 20th, 2016

Qatar’s Advisory (Shura) Council unanimously approved the draft of a landmark new data privacy law, requiring companies to increase their level of data security and protection against cyber threats. The law was originally drafted in 2011, but has recently gained importance in the wake of the alleged cyber attack on Qatar National Bank. During the attack, hackers gained access to the bank’s customer records and leaked them online in a massive 1.4 GB file. The file contained sensitive information on more than 1,200 individuals, including Al Jazeera journalists and members of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family.

Creating a regulatory framework for cyber security has become an urgent priority to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future. In the near future, these laws will place the burden and responsibility of protecting sensitive information on the leadership of every organisation in the country. Organisations that fail to comply with the new laws will face heavy fines of up to 1.37 million USD.

Qatar is not the first country in the GCC to implement such laws. Oman, for example, has been one of the most proactive countries in the GCC in terms of adopting legislation to help promote cyber security and protect the country’s virtual borders. Under the new law, companies are obliged to protect sensitive information from being leaked or hacked. Failure to do so could result in hefty fines (5 million QAR).

According to the Qatari Ministry for Transport and Communication, the new law seeks to create “established standards of data protection as determined by the state”. The third chapter of the law outlines basic data protection responsibilities will become mandatory for all organisations in the country. These responsibilities include properly training data handlers to detect and to mitigate cyber security threats, by using “the necessary precautions to prevent personal data against loss, damage or disclosure”.

Organisations will be required to ensure that their networks and systems are adequately protected. They will be expected to rely on effective, up-to-date cyber security measures, and test these measures on a regular basis. In Qatar CEOs may need to urgently look into authorising budgets for cyber security – to pay for technology rather than to pay fines.

Synergy Software Systems, Dubai goes to Microsoft WPC Toronto 2016.

July 16th, 2016

The WPC 2016 in Toronto was the first WPC to be sold out. More than 16,000 attendees from 135 countries.

In his keynote, Satya Nadella demonstrated how Microsoft is dedicated to continue to support the growth of its customers and partners through new innovations and partnerships, driven by the Microsoft ambitions to reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud platform, and create more personal computing. see https://partner.microsoft.com/en-US/wpc/wpc-2016-vision-keynotes
Nadella stated that the entire Gross Domestic Product is being shaped by digital technology. You can learn more about the transformative power of technology in his new LinkedIn post, Reinventing Business Processes.
On Day 1 Satya Nadella described the three core ambitions that Microsoft will pivot the business around in FY17. It was the turn of three VPs to flesh out the story for each of these:
• Build the intelligent cloud platform – Scott Guthrie (@scottgu), Executive VP Cloud + Enterprise Group
• Reinvent productivity & business processes – Kirk Koenigsbauer (@kjkoenigsbauer), Corporate VP, Office Marketing
• Create more personal computing – Yusuf Mehdi (@yusuf_i_mehdi), Corporate VP, Windows & Devices

This year in particular, the message of digital transformation has been very strong, and has been anchored around what Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise Group, called “a generational shift” of organisations seeking to move their business to the cloud. Scott as usual pleased the crowd with lots of great info on the scale and industry leading capability of Azure. He claimed that the 34 Azure regions are more than AWS and Google combined, talked up the increasingly “open” nature of services available on Azure and highlighted Azure’s leadership position in multiple Gartner Magic Quadrants (https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/campaigns/magic-quadrant/).

Scott referenced a great set of resources covering key Solution Areas that are enabled with Azure (https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/solutions/). Scott closed out his presentation with a review of management tools. EMS now called Enterprise Mobility + Security (https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/server-cloud/enterprise-mobility/Overview.aspx) kicked things off (apparently 40% of installed Office365 base have access to EMS). He invited Julie White to show a couple of new tools within EMS.

Azure Information Protection (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-platform/azure-information-protection) was also pretty impressive in the way that rights management and control of Microsoft Office documents was simplified and automated so that users might actually use it (all be it in the controlled world of demos).
Cloud App Security (https://www.microsoft.com/en/server-cloud/products/cloud-app-security/) can identify the SaaS apps that are running within your business and allow you to drill down into detailed information on each of these (apparently they have information on 13,000 SaaS applications).
Next up was Operation Management + Security/OMS (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-platform/operations-management-suite) allowing management across multiple environments (including non Microsoft such as vmware).

The big news here was that EMS and OMS are available to partners through the CSP licensing program.

A starring role in this section went to Facebook. Tim Campos (@tcampos) – the Facebook CIO explained that they had decided to go with Office 365 and then gave a glowing endorsement of Microsoft.

‘We need partnerships with industry leaders and we are glad that Microsoft has got its mojo back.’ He explained that Facebook employees spend four hours per day in collaboration systems with an unprecedented access to information. He discussed how tools such as Delve, Clutter and Microsoft Graph would help employees “sift through the noise”. . This was a huge endorsement of Office365.

There were some good demos across the Office 365 capability including Delve Personal Analytics (https://products.office.com/en-us/business/explore-office-delve) which was both impressive but a little Orwellian
The demo of all the capabilities of the Office suite from SharePoint to Skype was very slick and you can watch it at the 19:10 min mark in this video https://player.vimeo.com/video/174410386

In the last part of the day1 keynote there was one BIG item-
Windows10 is now available through the CSP program as a subscription service and called Windows10 Enterprise E3 at USD$7/seat/month. Providers will be able to wrap up a full end to end solution suite and buy it under a single subscription program (CSP) – Azure + Office365 + Dynamics365 + Windows10 E3.

Azure Stack (https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/overview/azure-stack/) got another call out, although there was not too much detail. A short discussion about the common APIs and services and how this would help deliver the vision of the Hybrid Cloud. However, for the service provider community this is a “must find out more” area.
Azure stack becomes an extension of Microsoft Azure and together they will become a huge connected network of compatible Azure services. @maryjofoley provided more detail in her article (http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-readies-first-technical-preview-of-azure-stack-hybrid-cloud-bundle/).
The sad news is that it has only just gone into beta and without it the new Dynamics Ax RTW will not be available till next year (as predicted by us long back in a blog post).
And for the official Microsoft site go to https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/overview/azure-stack/.

Microsoft and General Electric on Monday announced a deal to make GE’s industrial software platform available on Microsoft’s cloud, a move that puts Microsoft one step closer to its cloud computing rival Amazon. The deal also bolsters GE’s software ambitions. One memorable phrase was “Digital Twins” where IoT sensors feed data about a physical object to a virtual/ digital companion to allow near real-time review of status etc. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Twins).

Last week’s announcement of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft AppSource to showcase just how seriously Microsoft takes this message. Available this fall, Microsoft Dynamics 365 will unify the current Microsoft CRM and ERP cloud solutions into one cloud service with new purpose-built apps to help manage specific business functions. Microsoft AppSource will be Microsoft’s new destination for business users to find and try out line-of-business SaaS apps from Microsoft and Microsoft partners.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 will bring together the best of CRM and ERP cloud offerings into one cloud service with specific, purpose built, apps for each of your key business processes – like Finance, Sales, Customer Service, etc.

To ensure interoperability and extensibility they also use a common data model and consistent application platform. The common data model is a cloud-resident, business database, with hundreds of standard business entities spanning both business process (Dynamics 365) and productivity (Office 365).

The combination of these things gives customers a comprehensive solution for business process innovation that lets them:
• Start with what they need by offering apps that fit roles, industries, businesses – and grow at their pace to run their entire business in the cloud.
• Enable greater productivity by connecting structured workflow of business applications (Dynamics 365) and processes with the unstructured work of collaboration and productivity (Office 365) so tat employees are empowered with productivity tools surfaced in the context of their business processes, and vice versa.
• Gain built-in, actionable, intelligence with business applications that infuse big data, advanced analytics and IoT into processes which proactively guide employees and customers to optimal outcomes. With Dynamics 365, data and insights are transformed into intelligent
• ompose, modify and extend processes in real-time. Power BI, PowerApps and the new Microsoft Flow can empower business users to change and adapt their processes without requiring IT support, and with a consistent, flexible, extensible platform.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a cloud service so it will not be available, as is, on premises or in private clouds.

Steve Clayton (@stevecla) Demo -Steve has the great title of Chief Storyteller at Microsoft and he gave an impressive demo that pulled almost all of Microsoft cloud assets together:
•Dynamics 365
•Office365
•Azure (IoT)
•Azure Cortana Intelligence Suite

There were also some other tools that were included in the demo that looked interesting a certainly worth further investigation. For example, Microsoft Flow (https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/) a tool to help create automated workflows across Microsoft application portfolio.
Satya talked up the Conversations as a Platform “What if we could teach all computers and computing around us human language?”.

The wow factor as last year came form Hololens. The opportunity with “mixed reality” as an alternative to ‘Augmented Reality’ gave us some new jargon to use.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_reality).

The focus was on a proof of concept Microsoft and Japan Airline (JAL) have worked on to provide virtual training for aircraft engines and co-pilots. (https://blogs.microsoft.com/transform/2016/07/11/japan-airlines-creates-yet-another-first-class-experience-this-time-using-microsoft-hololens/).

The resignation of Microsoft COO Kevin Turner essentially removes a layer of management from the company’s operating structure. Gavriella Schuster was named full time worldwide channel chief. To her credit she took the trouble to visit the partner regional meetings and take questions head on.

Former Oracle channel chief, Judson Althoff will now have increased influence as the commercial lead. Reporting to him will be EPG (Enterprise Partner Group), SMS&P (Small, Midmarket Solutions & Partners), Public Sector and Developer Experience and Services.
Althoff took over Turner’s customary Wednesday morning vision keynote to describe the new operating model and how it will work. It was not a good sign that there was a steady stream of delegates walking out throughout his presentation. He had perhaps the most important messages for partners.
Of all information the provided at WPC apart the key question is where are Microsoft putting their focus? This is what all Microsoft internal metrics will be based on and therefore where Microsoft employees themselves will be focused. he dealt with that directly.

‘This does not mean that partners have to immediately change everything they do, but it absolutely means that the story they tell about their business to Microsoft has to align with this focus.’ Judson could not have made this clearer.
The all up drivers that shape the business:.
• Mission: Empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more
• Worldview: Mobile first, cloud first
• Ambitions: •Reinvent productivity and business process
• Build the intelligent cloud platform
• Create more personal computing
• Culture: Make a difference

…..and this is what that means for Microsoft’s sales teams:
1.Drive Digital Transformation with customers
2.Accelerate cloud adoption
3.Propel Windows 10 Enterprise deployment
4.Generate SQL Server 2016 growth
5.Drive ISV and SI momentum
6.Make experiences come to life through hardware solutions

The huge societal shift that is driving all of this is Digital Transformation and Experiences. According to PWC research 86% of CEOs think digital is their #1 priority and are using it to transform their businesses:
This is what all Microsoft internal metrics will be based on and therefore where Microsoft employees themselves will be focused.

An explicitly re-enforced theme was that SECURITY is at the heart of all of the differentiation messages. His claim is that EMS (https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/server-cloud/enterprise-mobility/Overview.aspx) is the fastest growing product that MS has ever had. This is a must add asset for cloud deployments.

SQL Server 2016 will be the richest in terms of built in capability, the most secure and also the best value that will democratise access the analytics.

There was lots more messaging -watch the whole video (https://player.vimeo.com/video/174543385)

Of all the partner programs at Microsoft relevant to Dynamics ERP and CRM VARs, none is more wide ranging and relevant this year than the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program . Coming up on two years of execution, CSP has grown from Azure, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility Suite to include CRM Online and the new AX on Azure. Project Madeira is on the horizon but expect at least another 18 months before it gets out to our region.

An online certification programme, the Microsoft Professional Degree is a Microsoft-led initiative built on the Open edX on Azure platform. It will look to provide professionals with ‘real-world knowledge and hands-on experience to grow their skills in critical fields’. The first curriculum will focus on the Data Science Degree programme, and will target the development of skills and experience in the data science industry, which is evolving rapidly. “The ability to offer Learning as a Service, to meet a learner where they are in their own journey and provide the targeted experiences they need to reach their specific goals, is critical to closing the skills gap,” said Alison Cunard, general manager of Microsoft Learning Experiences. A study by McKinsey & Company estimates that by 2018 the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills, as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

WPC was also a good chance to network with other partners, see new solutions, get first hand demos, meet up with AxPact and there was a mega concert with Swedish duo Icona Pop, and Gwen Stefani at the Air Canada centre but I am the wrong age to comment – suffice to say that the rest of the audience were obviously having a great time.

“day in the life” of how a modern retailer can delight customers and staff with Dynamics Ax POS

June 15th, 2016


This animated video shows a “day in the life” of how a modern retailer can delight customers and staff alike through the use of the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale solution. Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale (POS) is available either as part of the integrated Dynamics AX for Retail business suite, or as an individual POS solution. Features shown include the Modern POS experience, product.

As well as POS features such as multi-currency and multi-language, category and assortment management , multiple promotion and discount options and so on Dynamics Ax Retail also comes with advanced features for order management, margin alerts, and Trade rebate management, Royalties. This is supported by an Advanced WMS system with mobility, cross docking, buyer push, ASN, containerisation etc.

Ask about our advanced complementary solutions such as electronic labels for instant central price update across all your outlets.

Microsoft to buy Linked-In

June 13th, 2016

Microsoft is buying the professional social network LinkedIn for $26.2 billion (£18.5bn), the two companies have announced.
The news, announced on Monday afternoon, instantly sent LinkedIn’s share price soaring by 48% percent. The deal will represent one of the biggest in Microsoft’s history.

Microsoft said LinkedIn boss Jeff Weiner will stay in charge and report to Satya Nadella.
The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world’s professionals,” Nadella said. “Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organization on the planet.”

For Microsoft, it’s bringing a key, missing piece into the company’s strategy to build out more services for enterprises. “The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world’s professionals,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said.

Support for Microsoft Dynamics in the U.A.E. – Dubai – and the G.C.C and more -Synergy Software Systems

June 9th, 2016

“Go with Synergy and sleep at night.”

That mantra was propagated by our customers in the 90s and is still the message today – that is why:
- we have many customers who have been with us over 10 years and some over 15 years.
- we received the Highest Customer Satisfaction Award from Microsoft
- we attained President’s Club status (top 5% of Partners globally)
- we are the only Dynamics Ax partner in the Middle East accepted into Ax Pact
- we are the only Middle East Dynamics partner to attend Connect at Seattle last year
- we regularly work with Microsoft’ s global platinum partners to assist their deployments in this region.

The reasons are simple.
Our business is built on support, not on selling licenses.
We don’t outsource,
We don’t use temporary staff
We don’t use freelancers
All our consultants are centralized, in large modern offices, in the heart of Dubai
We support customers globally with web dial in and screens sharing.
We maintain a support infrastructure for testing, patching analysis.
We participate in the Microsoft TAP programme for beta testing
Even the support receptionist is a Microsoft certified consultant
We support an manned CRM helpdesk -even the
If we can’t support it ourselves then we don’t implement
Those who implement and our know your people and your business and your build are there to support you.
We have the depth and breadth of skills that a small company cannot offer.
On average our consultants have more than 10 years experience
Our Dynamics team has more than 300 man years of relevant experience and numerous certifications

Synergy Software Systems -”Working together”
Find out why so many companies have benefitted from our post implementation project review to stablise their system to provide a firm platform to take them forward, so that they can leverage the full power of Microsoft Dynamics.
Let us help you to sleep at night.

Windows 10 _ last chance for free upgrade -Redstone

June 9th, 2016

The free Windows 10 upgrade offer for consumer editions will end on July 29, Microsoft warns.
The Windows 10 Anniversary Update (Redstone 1) will be released in late July,

In early January, just five months after making Windows 10 generally available, the Microsoft reported that the OS had already hit the 200-million-device mark, significantly outpacing the growth trajectories of both Windows 8 and Windows 7. Microsoft’s goal is to put Windows 10 on 1 billion devices by fiscal 2018,

Microsoft warns of new self propagating ransomware – Ransom:Win32/ZCryptor.A

May 31st, 2016

The new ransomware, which Microsoft has dubbed Ransom:Win32/ZCryptor.A, is distributed through spam emails. It can also infect a machine running Windows through a malware installer or fake installers like a Flash player setup file.
The ransomware would run at boot and drop :
• a file autorun.inf in removable drives,
• a zycrypt.lnk in the start-up folder,
• and a copy of itself as {Drive}:\system.exe and %APPDATA%\zcrypt.exe.
It will then change the file attributes to hide itself from the user in file explorer.
The Microsoft advisory said a file headlined “All your personal files are encrypted” would be displayed to the user and the ransomware would encrypt numerous files, changing their extensions to .zcrypt in the process. A total of 88 file-types would be encrypted and Microsoft said it was important to enable file history, or system protection so that restoring personal files from a backup was possible in some cases. However, it appears that Microsoft was also not fully aware of the actions of the ransomware because it offered the following advice: “Some ransomware will also encrypt or delete the backup versions and will not allow you to do the actions described before. If this is the case, you need to rely on backups in external drives (not affected by the ransomware) or OneDrive.”

Windows users take care.

Windows 7 lives on a little longer

May 18th, 2016

Microsoft yesterday announced the release of the Windows 7 SP1 convenience rollup, a collection of security and other updates for the seven-year-old operating system. The release includes core Windows fixes, security fixes and hot fixes that have been issued since Service Pack 1 was released in 2011 and is designed to simplify the updating process.

Microsoft’s decision to release the bundle is a departure from the firm’s stance earlier this year, when it said it had no news on the promised convenience rollup of fixes for Windows 7, stressing instead “the success our customers are experiencing upgrading to Windows 10″.

At the beginning of the year, Microsoft announced it would phase out support for Windows 7 and 8 on new PC hardware. The move seemed designed to encourage businesses not to downgrade new Windows 10 machines to an earlier OS, as has been common in the past in order to standardize corporate hardware. However, Microsoft later watered down the plans, pushing back the point at which it will end full extended support for Windows 7 and 8.1 machines running on Intel’s Skylake CPUs.

Many organizations are still in the early planning stage when it comes to Windows 10 and in a recession curtailing costs today may mean more than cutting costs over the next 12 month. Most of the PCs running Windows 10 today are in the consumer segment of the market, and tWindows 7 is probably running on 80 percent-plus business Windows PCs it is estimated.

“Microsoft has to find ways to please and delight enterprise customers, and ease the burden on IT departments. The Anniversary Edition update to Windows 10 will drive upgrades by early adopters, but mass adoption is still some way off, more like mid-2017 through to 2020. Unless organizations will have a clear insight into its business value e.g. to add key business features such as Enterprise Data Protection .

Gartner had predicted that adoption of Windows 10 by business would be “significantly more rapid” than that of Windows 7 but this year it was more cautious, claiming that flat IT budgets are pushing the start of enterprise migrations back to 2017.

IoT and Microsoft Dynamics

May 16th, 2016

Davos presentation: How is the internet of things transforming the global marketplace?

On the agenda:
- Designing smart consumer products
- Partnering to create inter-connected business models

Speakers:
· Michael Gregoire, Chief Executive Officer, CA Technologies, USA.
· T. K. Kurien, Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board, Wipro, India.
· Michael McNamara, Chief Executive Officer, Flex, USA.
· Andreas Raptopoulos, Chief Executive Officer, Matternet, USA.

IoT and Microsoft Dynamics

The Internet of Things (or what some prefer to call the Internet of Everything) is the connection of devices .
Standalone devices communicate within interconnected networks, to respond to each other. Today, there are twice as many connected devices than people, and the will rise. rapidly

In retail, and supply chains for example connected devices provide more data intelligence forgreater strategic insight and control e.g monitoring of cold store temperatures. Unified data will transform how retail industry participants are able to plan, market and engage with their customers. Many technologies make this possible and its all brought together and managed by the azure IoT technology stack
· Mobile integration – the interlinking of devices, smartphones, tablets and more conventional tech such as laptops and desktops.
· Cloud storage and services – relating to enhancements in storage capabilities and the increased accessibility of external connections.
· Hardware and software innovation – linking to continuous improvements in memory, processes, inter-device communication, and data transfer.
. Big data predictive analytics
. Machine learning

Microsoft Technical Architect Alex Anikiiev explains how companies can implement industry scenarios using Microsoft Dynamics AX, CRM, and a broad range of Microsoft IoT services. He provides many of examples and demos that include:
•Simulation of manufacturing equipment using Robotics with sensors/actuators,
•Connected devices/Data collection,
•Azure Cloud storage,
•Azure Mobile Services,
•Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 apps,
•Universal apps (HTML5/JS),
•Power View,
•Power BI,
•Big Data (Azure HDInsight),
•Azure Machine Learning,
•Microsoft Solver Foundation optimization,
•Project Siena apps connected to CRM/ERP, and
•Cutting edge Smart Glass technology

The azure IoT suite from a development perspective

SQL 2016 available from 1 June 2016

May 14th, 2016

Microsoft announced last week that SQL Server 2016 will be generally available on June 1 for purchase and installation.
Microsoft is moving forward with a cloud first release and the new terminology of SQL Server 2016 being “generally available” as opposed to RTM or released. I’m guessing this will be the new way we’ll get bits as sold and supported, when they ‘are generally available’.

The new Stretch Database function that allows users to store some of their data in a database on-premises and to send their infrequently used data to Microsoft’s Azure cloud. An application connected to a database using that feature can still see all the data from different sources.

Another key feature is the new Always Encrypted function, which makes it possible for users to encrypt data at the column level – both at rest ,and in memory.

That’s still only scratching the surface of the software, which also supports creating mobile business intelligence dashboards and new functionality for big data applications.

In addition to its on-premises release, Microsoft will also have a virtual machine available on June 1 through its Azure cloud platform that will make it easy for companies to deploy SQL Server 2016 in the cloud. Many of the new features in SQL Server 2016 like Always Encrypted and Stretch Database are already available in Microsoft’s Azure SQL Database managed service, but the virtual machine will be useful for companies that prefer to manage their own database infrastructure or that plan to roll out SQL Server 2016 on premises and want to test it in the cloud.

The feature mix for each edition is available (Developer, Express, Standard, Enterprise),
Standard will has a core limit (24) and low memory (128GB), but does get two node Availability Groups (and FCIs). Stretch Databases, RLS, Dynamic Data Masking and more are also available. ‘It is disappointing that Always Encrypted isn’t allowed, – there is of course a wish to push companies with the need for more features to Enterprise but wish that wasn’t based on security, where we have enough problems.

The Developer Edition is free.

SQL Server 2014 added a lot of features but it was not worth most people upgrading from 2012.

SQL Server 2016 is a full new release. with many new improvements, and is worth considering as an upgrade.
If you just need the core T-SQL, database engine features, then you still run on older versions for a supported configuration, with HA capabilities and better performance, look at 2016. it just runs faster. (The CSS engineers have a whole series of posts on the various improvements made in SQL Server 2016 that make it faster)

For the fact sheet see http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/sql-server-2016/

I don’t think anyone should just upgrade your SQL Server 2008, R2, 2012, or 2014 instances just because there is a new version. Each upgrade should be considered on its own, weighing the pros and cons that against the resource costs (licensing, personnel cost, and development efforts). However, if you are looking to upgrade, and want newer features, I think this is a version that you could move to and run for the next decade easily. Many features have been improved, and the new enhancements give you room to grow.

I’m excited about the new version of SQL Server 2016, something I haven’t been able to say for a long time.

Technology trends for retail in 2016

May 5th, 2016

Last year was a banner year for mobile. Mobile search overtook desktop for the first time, heralding the smartphone as the connected digital device of choice. We also saw further market penetration for new mobile platforms such as wearables and mobile pay.

A study by MasterCard found that eight out of 10 consumers now use a computer, smartphone, tablet, or in-store technology while shopping.

Forrester also predicts that cross-channel retail sales with reach $1.8 trillion in the US by 2017.

The mobile device is increasingly becoming an essential part of the customer’s shopping journey. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons, NFC and QR codes are the latest proximity technologies on offer to retailers, providing an opportunity to engage with customers via their smartphone.

Retailers are increasingly experimenting with mobile to facilitate click-and-collect. Sam’s Club [Walmart], use mobiles to send notifications whenever an order is ready for in-store pickup. Nordstrom in May 2015, started testing a service that lets customers text or call their Nordstrom associate as they near the store. The store employee will head down and meet the customer outside, so they don’t even have to get out of their car.

We anticipate that more retailers will also adopt social selling solutions such as Soldsie (selling through comments) and Like2Buy (user generated content galleries). Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all released buy buttons in 2015, and while none of them gained widespread adoption, we can expect social networks to continue investing in social commerce.

We also expect that users will continue using social networks to discover and talk about products, so retailers should keep investing in their social media initiatives. Forty-three percent of social media users respond that they have purchased a product after sharing or favoriting it on Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.

42% of customers will conduct research in-store
When a customer starts looking at their phone in-store, studies have shown that 42% of customers of them may be doing in-store research, to help them find the perfect product. Using mobile to improve the in-store experience can help to convert these shoppers. Cosmetics brand Sephora’s app gives consumers easy access to product reviews and ratings, allowing in-store shoppers to access this information before deciding whether to buy. Similarly Macy’s mobile app also lets users scan product barcodes in-store, so that they can view online reviews, promotions, and more.

On lien stores can offer more choice of unlimited products but users tire of endless searching. Retailers that seem to be winning, whether on line or on premise are the ones that ‘curate assortments’ i.e. who carefully select the top styles, show the top models, or a showcase of ‘good, better, best’ instead of trying to stock every color, or every single SKU.”

71% of those shoppers who research in-store say it’s an important part of the experience
Retailers need to keep up with this trend and provide customers with the in-store mobile technology they need. More retailers are now able to appreciate the ROI of their mobile strategies , and the majority are looking to further their investment in mobile. Innovations include: beacons to send coupons, information and offers to customers’ smartphones, while they shop. According to a report published by Eagle Eye, beacons will be used to distribute around 1.6 billion coupons to smartphones annually by 2020.

Starbucks, recently streamlined this process by updating its app’s barcode screen to show available rewards, offers, and coupons. to ensure users won’t forget that they have a redeemable reward and they don’t have to pull up a separate screen to redeem the offer.

Omnichannel shoppers spend more money
The key focus for retailers in 2016 will be omnichannel. No matter what industry you’re in or how complicated your operations are, bringing online and offline together is important in every facet of your retail business.

To attract consumers who spend more, it turns out that an effective mobile strategy is key . In 2015, IDC research found that shoppers who buy on and offline have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who only shop via one channel.

Omnichannel strategies will also drive more retailers to adopt cloud-based apps, because these solutions enable them to scale quickly, work from anywhere, and get real-time insights into various aspects of their business. Maintaining an item file, accurate inventory levels, and managing a pricing system between channels is one of the foundational roadblocks for a lot of retailers who are not necessarily managing their stores and their online business with the same platform.

In 2016, we’ll see more small and medium retailers adopt single-view and cloud-based tools. Since these businesses are a lot more nimble and aren’t usually tied down to large, complicated legacy systems, they’re in a great position to switch to omnichannel technologies.

Omnichannel retailing introduces a lot of complexities, not just in terms of operations and order fulfillment, but also when it comes to fraud prevention.
65% of retailers believe they lack the tools to effectively manage omnichannel fraud.

By 2019, 9.1% of all retail sales will be made on mobile
The rise of mobile commerce isn’t set to slow down In their report, ‘The Future of M-Commerce’, Barclay’s predict that 9.1% of all retail sales will be made on mobile by 2019, in comparison to the 3% of retail sales that were made on mobile in 2014. This figure equates to sales of around £32bn. Retailers who don’t invest in mobile will miss out.

Nearly half of shoppers say they are more likely to visit mobile-orientated stores
It’s a common misconception that consumers will abandon bricks and mortar stores in favour of online shopping. However, a report by VoucherCodes.co.uk and Centre for Retail Research found that 44% of consumers would be more likely to visit mobile-orientated stores, making it clear that mobile commerce is actually driving shoppers back onto the high-street – and into your retail store.

40% of consumers feel that the mobile experience could be improved
The same report also found that 40% of consumers feel that the mobile experience could be improved, suggesting that retailers could be doing much more to cater for mobile shoppers. This echoes how many retailers feel about the importance of improving the mobile experience, with 66% saying that investment in mobile would help them to drive growth.

51% of consumers expect transactions to be easier on mobile

Shopping on mobile is about convenience. Consumers want to be make purchases on-the-go, without the hassle of switching to a laptop or computer – and this requirement raises the bar for retailers in terms of mobile usability. Ensure that your mobile website offers a seamless customer journey– particularly because 40% of people will switch to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience.

Frictionless shopping has always been an objective of omnichannel. In 2016, we anticipate companies will further explore ways to reduce friction in the shopping journey. We can already see signs of this happening. The Amazon Dash button, for instance, makes re-ordering possible with literally just a push of a button.

Millennials are the most coveted audience among brand advertisers and retailers, and this year they grew to be larger than even the baby boomers. They are also the demographic most driving wearable device adoption, owning 50 percent of that market. Other industries have developed wearable interactions that bring utility, convenience and delight to customers – from ordering Ubers to updates on changing airport gates. Retailers have only scratched the surface to this point

Awareness of mobile payment has risen 10 percent in the last year but adoption has only gained one percent. Even with the slow growth, we are starting to see the category give rise to payment agnosticism. Retailers understand that they need to accommodate the transaction any way their customers want to pay, and that the walled garden may ultimately not work for them in future. This trend will only continue in the coming year as the benefits of mobile pay are more fully realized.

PayPal, recently rolled out the PayPal Here Chip Card reader. PayPal’s device is compatible with iOS and Android devices, and is built to accept both EMV and magnetic stripe cards, as well as NFC payments such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.

Similarly, Mercury, is a payment solution that equips retailers with the hardware they need to accept EMV cards as well as mobile payments. There’s also Poynt, a smart terminal that supports several payment technologies including magnetic cards, EMV, NFC, and QR codes.

As retailers increasingly adopt these payment solutions, expect more stores to start accepting additional payment types, most notably EMV cards and mobile payments.

Loyalty and promotions?
According to a study by MasterCard, only 18% of respondents considered promotions as important. The study also found that “in choosing a retailer, omnishoppers prioritize value, track record and convenience, over loyalty rewards.”

3% of people expect to do more mobile shopping in future

It’s simple: the ability to easily shop on mobile is what consumers want. A worldwide study by Latitude found that 63% of people expect to do more mobile shopping over the next few years, with 77% of smartphone users shopping regularly on their mobile, even when they’re at home.

Retailers will use mobile devices
In 2016, we anticipate the continued adoption of mobile devices such as mPOS systems and in-store tablet. A merchant using mobile technology well is cookware retailer Borough Kitchen, which runs Vend on their iPads.A tablet-based POS system improves the customer experience and speeds up. During their peak hours and the holiday season add new tills by switching on additional iPads to reduce queues and ring up sales much faster.

Mobile devices are just the beginning. In addition to using mPOS systems and in-store tablets, some retailers (particularly larger merchants) will likely look into ways they can leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) in their locations.

A study by McKinsey found that the uses of IoT in retail could have an economic impact of $410 billion to $1.2 trillion per year in 2025. That may be a long way off go, but what are your competitors doing now?

Big data and video analytics will clarify and add value to the personal shopping conversation.

Ask us about TCPOS, and Microsoft Dynamics Retail.