VMware #I’m Compliant Campaign

If your organization uses VMware, you may be contacted by the VMware Global Compliance Services team giving your organization the option to be part of its #I’m Compliant campaign stating: “This campaign offers the opportunity to review your company’s state in regards of VMware software licenses usage and prove adequate compliance related to their terms and conditions. After the process is completed, your organization could obtain a Compliance Certificate related to the licenses reported usage.”

The #I’m Compliant invitation does not state that it is a license audit but, in effect, it is.

If you accept the invitation and participate you will be asked to complete a license Deployment Report and instructions on how to extract the required data from your VMware installations.

You will also be required to complete a Certificate of VMware Software License Deployment declaring that your completed license Deployment Report is an accurate report of the VMware software licenses you have deployed.

Note: The VMware EULA states that “During the License Term for Software and for two (2) years after its expiration or termination, You will maintain accurate records of Your use of the Software sufficient to show compliance with the terms of this EULA. During this period, VMware will have the right to audit your use of the Software to confirm compliance with the terms of this EULA.”

The SAM Club has come across many real world scenarios that have caused licensing issues and EULA breaches, including:-

  • Licences purchased in one country and installed outside the permitted country/region
  • Mixed support levels on VMware installations on a host machine often as a result of splitting, merging or reallocating licenses
  • The use of mixed OEM and channel licenses
  • Multiple installations using the same license key
  • Installations using the wrong license key
  • Wrong licenses upgraded by VMware in response to Upgrade Orders
  • Licenses missing from VMware’s own Installed Base Report (IBR) even though they are on the customer’s MyVMware portal

Please contact The SAM Club at info@thesamclub.co.uk if we might help you with any type of VMware audit, your VMware Licensing & Support and managing your MyVMware portal.

For our client’s that have an on-going Service Agreement with The SAM Club we include the above in our standard service.

 

 

Use your Microsoft SA Planning Services Soon

Microsoft has announced the phasing out of Planning Services days as a benefit of Software Assurance (SA).

The timeline is:-

  • 31st January 2020 – Training Vouchers can no longer be converted to Planning Services days.
  • 31st January 2020 – All Planning Services related to migration to cloud services are retired
  • 1st February 2021 – SA customers cease accruing additional benefits (days)
  • 31st May 2021 – Last day to create Planning Services Vouchers
  • 31st December 2021 – Remaining Planning Services fully retired

 

  1. URGENT ACTION is required if wish to convert your Training Vouchers to Planning Services days.
  2. URGENT ACTION is required to use your Planning Services days in relation to cloud migration

Planning Services provide deployment planning assistance for On-premises or Hybrid environments with Microsoft Consulting Services or qualified Microsoft partners.

Planning Services are largely focussed on transitioning On-premise workloads, such as Desktop (Office/Microsoft 365 & Windows), Exchange, SharePoint & SQL Server, to Microsoft-hosted or mixed (Hybrid) deployments.

Note: You must pro-actively activate your Planning Services benefit creating a Planning Services Voucher which must be assigned to your Project Manager. This is done via your VLSC and/or MPSA licensing web portals.

Although it will be 2 years before Planning Services are fully retired, we recommend that you consider using your Vouchers soon.

Note, however, that Microsoft has introduced FastTrack  to help organisations move to the Cloud.

FastTrack services are delivered by Microsoft employees, Microsoft-approved suppliers and Microsoft-approved partners (“FastTrack specialists”).

There are some specific eligibility criteria such as purchasing a minimum of 150 licenses from the eligible plans.

Customers with eligible subscriptions to Microsoft 365, Office 365, Azure, Dynamics 365 etc can use FastTrack at no additional cost for the life of their subscription.

If you need any assistance, please contact The SAM Club at info@thesamclub.co.uk

For those clients that have an on-going Service Agreement with The SAM Club we will be contacting you to help you claim and manage any outstanding Planning Services benefits, if required.

Also, see our blog on the phasing out of Training Vouchers as a benefit of SA.

Claim your Microsoft SA Training Vouchers Soon

Microsoft has announced the phasing out of Training Vouchers as a benefit of Software Assurance (SA).

It has been replaced by Microsoft Learn which is available to everyone now, is free and self-paced with options  for certification.

The timeline is:-

  • 31st January 2020 – Training Vouchers can no longer be converted to Planning Services days
  • 31st January 2020 – Azure related training courses removed from catalogue
  • 1st February 2021 – SA customers cease accruing additional benefits
  • 31st May 2021 – Last day to claim accrued Training Vouchers
  • January 2022 – Training Vouchers no longer redeemable
  1. URGENT ACTION is required if wish to convert your Training Vouchers to Planning Services days.
  2. URGENT ACTION is required if you wish to use your Training Vouchers for Azure related courses.

Note 1: Training Vouchers are acquired when you purchase SA on On-premise product licenses such as Windows Server & SQL Server core licenses, as well as purchases of Microsoft 365 From-SA User Subscription licenses. (From-SA indicates a transition from SA for on-premise products such as Client Access License (CAL) Suites).

Note 2: You must pro-actively claim your Training Vouchers via your VLSC and/or MPSA licensing web portals. If you have not done so, we recommend you consider doing so soon. However, note that once created, Training Vouchers are valid for 180 days.

Although it will be 2 years before Training Vouchers are no longer redeemable, we recommend that you use your Vouchers soon as we expect Microsoft Certified Training Centres to start to wind down the number and range of courses offered.

If you need any assistance, please contact The SAM Club at info@thesamclub.co.uk

For those clients that have an on-going Service Agreement with The SAM Club we will be contacting you to help you claim and manage any outstanding Training Vouchers benefits.

Also, see our next blog on the phasing out of Planning Services as a benefit of SA.

Microsoft Cloud Economics Assessment and best practices before you migrate

Our 5th Azure User Group meeting was about the Microsoft Cloud Economics Assessment and was kindly held at Charles Russell Speechly’s head office in London. We had some new faces join the group which is always great and gives different perspectives on the challenges faced in the journey to cloud.
Microsoft Cloud Economics Assessments - Azure User Group

The meeting started with an update from The SAM Club and how we are evolving our services to support our customers as they consider the move towards Azure. The SAM Club is working towards becoming a Silver Partner with Microsoft to enable us to complete an Azure assessment to help our customers with their decision process and assessing tools such as Movere and Azure Migrate that are available. With Movere, we are considering becoming a partner to enable The SAM Club to be fully trained on the product and we will provide a separate blog on these tools in due course.

Microsoft update and key trends

Zephaniah Chukwudum, Sr. Product Marketing Manager (Azure Data & AI), Microsoft

Our first guest speaker from Microsoft talked about some of the key trends in the marketplace. Digital Transformation is the focus for Microsoft, enabling employees internally and customers externally with technology. Professional Services (such as law) are in the Top 3 priority sectors for the Microsoft Azure team. Zeph talked about the ‘Digital feedback loop’ and how operations impact services within an organisation, which loops to employees and customers – all are pinned by data and intelligence. Microsoft aim to help organisations take the mass of data they have and to enable them to use it rather than it be locked up in a database somewhere.

There will be a rise in native app developers as employees using data come up with ways to automate processes with AI. Zeph mentioned that since 2014 there has been a 6X increase in the investment into AI by companies based on research by Deloitte. AI capabilities are now being integrated as standard into cloud-based software, so smart insights are available to organisations in the cloud.

Microsoft Cloud Economics Assessment

Lewis Crawford, Engagement Manager in the Cloud Economic Assessment Team, Microsoft

The Cloud Economics Team at Microsoft are able to provide customers with an investment into their business of circa £15k which enables customers to benefit from a full scoping assessment of their entire IT infrastructure by breaking this down into a costing analysis, server optimisation analysis, workload/application identification, workload prioritisation for migration and also recommendations for mapping current infrastructure into Azure. Providing a universal view of infrastructure on premise and in the cloud, utilising the ARC scan (Actual Resource Consumption) within the assessment tool enables the delivery of an extensive analysis of what a customer’s infrastructure will look like in Azure, once right-sized and optimised, resulting in the additional benefit of large cost savings.

To qualify for the assessment there are two criteria:
• Executive / board level sponsorship to start cloud journey
• Cloud transition plan – compelling reason to move (EOS services / contract renewal)

The Assessment gives insight into
• Scope of Server count
• SQL and Windows Server EOS status footprint
• Outline of servers to remain on prem, decommission and migrate to cloud

Categorisation of in scope servers by workload type and detailed prioritisation of workloads and apps that would benefit from migrating to cloud. The assessment provides an in-depth analysis in order to create a business case for internal communications and to aid decision making with wider teams, board members and C level individuals.

The process looks like this:
Microsoft Cloud Economics Assessment - process flow
It is advised that the 30-day process includes an end of month or end or end of quarter process for the 2 week scan, to obtain accurate peaks and troughs for the analysis to help with right sizing for the cloud. Maybe starting during the last week of the month. It is possible to run the scan for longer, but applications like Movere are licensed on a 30 day basis which includes the time to analyse the data.

The analysis can then be used to support the business case for moving to Azure and can consider areas such as:
• Servers at end of support
• Hardware older than 3 years
• Non-Production environments
• Lowest utilized production servers
• High end always on production servers

An area that can bring large cost savings is if you have existing licensing for Servers and SQL under Enterprise agreement with SA is the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit – which means you don’t pay twice for these licences when migrating to cloud as it is factored into the pricing.

The Azure Calculator is a useful resource for looking at costings, you can analyse cost savings with the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit, Reserved Instances* (RI) which dependant on VM size can offer savings of between 10% and 70% seen from an end user perspective.

*An Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instance (RI) is a virtual machine (VM) on the Microsoft Azure public cloud that has been reserved for dedicated use on a one- or three- year basis.

It is possible to cancel an Azure Reserved VM Instance at any time (up to £37,265.45 per year). Cancelling allows you to return the remaining months of an Azure Reserved VM Instance back to Microsoft for an early termination fee of 12 percent. The remaining prorated balance, minus the fee, is then refunded via the original purchase. Alternatively, the Azure Reserved VM Instance could be reused or exchanged for use with another Azure Reserved VM Instance.

There are different levels of discount per VM size and some VM’s are not offered with this discount but the report at the end of the Cloud Assessment will detail costs of 3-year RI with AHUB (Azure Hybrid Use Benefit) so you can see which servers to optimise in the cloud.

Support is offered early in the process of moving to Azure, so even if your organisation is in the early stages of needing to present the ROI case to the board Microsoft Cloud Assessments can be carried out.

Round table Discussion

First, we heard from a legal client who has already made the transition to Azure in 2017. End of life was the reason for migration, and they had adopted Net Documents so it seemed the time to do it and they used a lift and shift approach into the cloud. As they found that SQL Paas was not supported by a lot of vendors pivotal to the legal sector, they over optimised servers initially. The exercise was less about cost saving on migration, but over time they have optimised server usage by monitoring them in Azure. Optimisation is the plan going forward and they are looking at Reserved Instances for further cost savings.

Initially, they said that regarding TCO – they saved a bit on the running costs, but they saved a lot on hardware, support and services that the hardware refresh would have incurred.

Vendors in the legal sector need educating on SQL

A major concern from the room was around the main Vendors when it comes to specifying the servers for their products. The room stated that these are often appeared to be over spec’d and for on premise servers which they are forced to follow due to the vendors support terms. When purchasing new software from a Vendor, their server spec is all that is available and using the Azure calculator the costs are considered too high. Microsoft also recognised this and are working with SI’s and vendors to help educate them. Microsoft suggested that as a group we identify and advise them on 10 vendors that can be investigated.

Discussion on next topic and host

Ideas for the next meeting were discussed and some topics suggested were:
• Panel of peers to discuss their experience migrating to Azure and challenge Microsoft
• Microsoft and iManage to present the way to the cloud
• Azure Sentinal – Intelligent security analytics

The next meeting date and location is to be confirmed for mid-September

You can find blog articles from our previous events here:
Azure User Group meeting
Azure User Group meeting 2 Dev /Test
Azure User Group meeting 3 Security & Compliance
Azure AI Chatbots is the hype justified?

Take care when splitting and combining VMware vSphere licenses

If you are changing your virtual server IT infrastructure, then you may need to split or combine your VMware vSphere licenses.VMware vSphere - technology image

Photo by Daniel Chen on Unsplash

All vSphere licenses installed in the same VMware server farm must have the same Support Level, i.e. Basic (9×5 business hours) or Production (24×7).

So, if you have different support levels on your VMware vSphere licenses you need to take care when splitting and combining them.

Also, if you have VMware server farms installed in different countries and since vSphere licenses are licensed on a geographic regional basis (depending upon in which country they were purchased), you must take care not to split and combine licenses from different regions.

Of course, before combining license keys ensure that they are for the same release. You may need to upgrade some license keys via your MyVMware portal beforehand.

Also, see our earlier blog about splitting license keys.

Because of the complexity of VMware licensing, the SAM Club helps its Clients maintain their MyVMware licensing portals and maintains a synchronised single pane view of all licensing & support data in their SAM Workbooks.

If you might benefit from The SAM Club’s expertise and assistance with your VMware licenses, support renewals and MyVMware portal please contact us.

Enhanced Citrix eLearning benefits with Customer Select Service (CSS) subscriptions

Citrix has enhanced the free eLearning benefits that come with organisations’ Customer Success Services (CSS) subscriptions. The on-line training courses can be accessed by logging into the Citrix Select eLearning portal.

Citrix eLearning - brainstorming image

The courses are on-demand and self-paced making it easy to learn when it’s convenient.

To access its Select eLearning Subscription a user’s Organisation must have an active CSS entitlement and the user must be a designated Technical Contact within MyAccount.

If a user isn’t a Technical Contact they will not see any CSS Access icons when browsing the eLearning catalogue. (That can be corrected by updating the user’s Profile in their MyCitrix portal).

The Select eLearning entitlement enables technical users to:

  • Gain the skills needed to optimize their Citrix environment
  • Learn about other Citrix technologies that can add value to their implementation

Citrix has improved its Select eLearning in several ways:

  • Expanded content choices by adding new courses.
  • Redesigned its training portal for easier navigation and access to all training content and topics – from a single unified view.
  • The new portal also features a student dashboard that makes it easier to track users’ progress.

Citrix Premium eLearning

To supplement CSS customers core Select eLearning benefits, Citrix now offers Premium eLearning (at an additional cost), which gives access to advanced content, Hands-on Labs, and digital badges that validate the competencies users gain. Technical users can earn up to four certifications through online assessments, available at no additional cost. Citrix states that a subscription will help users stay up-to-date on the latest developments, leading practices, and how-to guidance for Citrix products.

The SAM Club’s services include helping its clients access and maximise their benefits from their Citrix Licenses and Subscriptions. If we might help, please contact us.

How do you know which version of Microsoft licenses your organisation owns and is licensed to use?

Image of trees Photo by Ju On on Unsplash - Mirosoft licensesDo you know which version of Microsoft licenses your organisation owns and is licensed to use? The Microsoft Business Center Portal (BCP) by design displays the original license view in case of licensing model changes. For example, with the licensing model for Windows Server having changed from processor to core licensing with the 2016 release, are you able to tell what your organisation owns and is entitled to?  So, as an example, with licenses for Windows Server 2012 R2 that expired on 31st October 2018, the SA term and the original order proves and guarantees entitlement to use Windows Server 2016 and/or 2019 instead of the 2012 R2 version.  But the BCP does not show or highlight this in any way.  In fact with a recent scenario we have seen the BCP shows no evidence of the SA term and expiry.  This could lead organisations to purchase the current version when in fact it is already owned.

At The SAM Club, we maintain the records for our clients in their SAM Workbooks and provide the help and guidance to ensure new software purchases are not made when a license already exists. If you would like to know more about our service then please get in touch.

Do you need to reset your MyCitrix logins?

If you haven’t logged in to your MyCitrix portal recently you may find that your login doesn’t work.

Padlock on a fence - MyCitrix portal

For security reasons Citrix has been invalidating users’ previous passwords, thereby, forcing users to go through a password reset process.

We suppose that by doing this, Citrix will effectively purge the ability of users who are no longer active or who have left their firms from being able to login.

So, you may wish to check that your login still works and, if not, to reset it before an urgent, time-critical situation arises for you to access your MyCitrix portal.

P.S. Whilst you’re in your MyCitrix portal you might like to perform a health check &/or do some tidy up, e.g.

  • Delete any out of date users
  • Check/Update your active user list
  • Check/Update your support renewal contacts
  • Check/Update who is your preferred Citrix Partner
  • Archive old licenses

OR, The SAM Club can help you do this and look after your portal on an on-going basis as part of our Managed Service. It may seem like a simple thing to manage a licensing portal, but it’s easy to miss some of these little things that can actually save you thousands in licensing costs – read our Adobe licensing portal blog for more info.

Please contact us for an exploratory discussion.

Azure AI ChatBots is the hype justified

SAM Club Azure AI Chatbots - User Group meetingAzure AI Chatbots was the topic of the 4th SAM Club Azure User group meeting, the meeting was kindly hosted by Gardiner & Theobald at their offices in London.

The conversations started with a client who is looking at developing Chatbots in Azure discussing the reasons they are considering AI Chatbots. Law firms are increasingly being asked what makes them different from their competitors. Technology is included in this for example: Can they get 24-hour access to policies that can be accessed via mobile apps? Chatbots can be developed to offer these services.

Microsoft invited ANS who are one of only 40 Azure Managed Service Partners (MSP) globally, but headquartered in the UK, who develop and design Chatbot’s. Chatbot’s are more than just a frequently asked question (FAQ) function on a website. The truth is the technology behind it is much more versatile.

Some examples of the different types of bots mentioned were:

    • ExperienceBot

For a website to help a prospect to find the right contact within a firm. An ExperienceBot could help point someone in the right direction of partners with the relevant knowledge.

    • StaffBot

Employees wanting to know how many days holiday they have, requesting holiday, maternity benefits etc this could all be accessed via the bot rather than contacting HR. Chatbots are not only able to automate tasks, they can be proactive. Feedback provided into the bot from staff can help answer common queries and can also be used as an anonymous way to capture data.

    • SupportBot

How many support calls are being received on what topics and it is possible to automate the responses to reduce the number of calls and increase response times.

A Chatbot is only limited by your own creativity. Could we see websites where you answer a few questions such as looking for a new car which then returns all makes and models for consideration?

An example of a successful Chatbot use case is the ‘Do Not Pay’ chatbot that was developed by Stanford University student, Joshua Browder. It is now perhaps the most recognisable name of any legal chatbot and is now known as “The world’s first robot lawyer”. It was developed to help users contest parking fines and has helped save motorists $13 million in parking fines.
The bot is now giving free legal aid to users through a simple-to-use chat interface. The chatbot, using Facebook Messenger, can now help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada. For those in the UK, it helps them apply for asylum support.

ANS created a parking Chatbot to help assist with their staff parking, using a camera in their carpark and data sources such as staff holidays, meetings and weather they can predict when parking spaces might be available.

A Chatbot can never answer every question that anyone will ask. But built in ‘error’ replies such as ‘I don’t know the answer but can ask someone to contact you’ can help. Gathering information on additional questions can then be beneficial to develop the Chatbot further.

ANS have created a ‘BaseBot’ which is free to download on GitHub that enables you to deploy an AI powered Chatbot in under 1 hour. A great starting point for a simple Chatbot for a pilot.

Microsoft offer an QnA Maker in Azure where you can create a simple FAQ service from existing content. This offers an ideal starting point for organisations thinking about Chatbot technology and can be set up for only a small investment.

There are many off the shelf bot technologies, but if more bespoke Chatbots are required then working in partnership with a developer is recommended so they can integrate your data and build to your specific requirements.

A final use case that ANS presented was with Staffordshire University, they developed an AI-driven coach and support assistant using intelligent Chatbot technology. It provides students with key information such as course timetables, campus facilities and extra-curricular activities. It is also a support tool to help identify any at-risk individuals who may be unhappy or unsettled and provide guidance and support.

Feedback from the roundtable highlighted resistance from partners and how to drive change and get buy in, as there can be too much technology. The suggestion is always to start small with a pilot group that can then champion the concepts. ANS recommended a collaborative approach; upfront involvement from partners to discuss their pain points with developers who can translate that into what’s possible with AI Chatbot technology. Also starting off with a version one of a Chatbot to prove it’s use, then develop it further with internal and external data.

Next Azure User Group

The meeting rounded off with discussion on the topic for the next event which was agreed as Microsoft Cloud Assessments. This process looks at client’s workload on-premise and works out the costings/commercials for moving to Azure with a detailed report. The next event will be held in early August and will be announced soon.
You can find blog articles from our previous events here:

Azure User Group meeting
Azure User Group meeting 2 Dev /Test
Azure User Group meeting 3 Security & Compliance

Microsoft announce the special Office Professional plus installation rights will remain

Microsoft announce that they will not now remove the special Office Professional Plus installation rights that customers are currently entitled to with Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 From SA licences. The current rights are detailed on page 54 of the May 2019 Product Terms, and this announcement confirms that the rights are here to stay rather than being removed after 1st August 2019.

Citrix Workspace - digital workspace

The SAM Club can help you understand your licensing position, document and maintain your software assets and help with new technology planning and renewals. Find out more.