Visual Studio 2019 now available

Microsoft announced that Visual Studio 2019 is available to download as of 2nd April 2019. With improvements on the previous version, Visual Studio 2019 enables users to get into code more quickly by making it easier to use.

Visual Studio 2019

Visual Studio is licensed per developer and provides Azure Credit for subscribers:

  • US$50 for Visual Studio Professions (standard subscription)
  • US$150 for Visual Studio Enterprise (standard subscription)

Note: Overages are billed after the monthly credit has been consumed.

If you are considering Azure for Dev & Test purposes, then check out our blog from our recent Azure User Group meeting on this subject.

Visual Studio is also the perfect solution for gaining access to the latest Microsoft releases for Dev & Test use (Windows Server, SQL Server etc).  See the latest version of the benefits by subscription level here.

If you would like to know more about licensing Visual Studio or to get advice on your current licensing position, please get in touch.

System Center 2019 now available

Microsoft announced the general availability of System Center 2019 on 14th March 2019. As customers grow their deployments in the public cloud and on-premises data centres, management tools are evolving to meet customer needs. System Center continues to play an important role in managing the on-premises data centre and the evolving needs with the adoption of the public cloud.

System Center 2019

Some of the features include:

  • Tools to monitor and manage data centers
  • Support and manage capabilities in the latest versions of Windows Server
  • Enable hybrid management and monitoring capabilities with Azure

System Center 2019 is in the LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel) which provides 5 years of standard and 5 years of extended support.

Click here for further information on the announcement and how System Center can benefit your organisation.

If you would like independent advice on your current licensing position, please get in touch. We offer an independent SAM Managed Service or can work with clients on a project basis for upcoming Microsoft renewals and compliance reviews.

Azure DevTest – SAM Club Azure User Group meeting 2

Azure DevTest was the topic of the 2nd SAM Club Azure User Group meeting, that was held this month at one of our clients who kindly hosted in a central London location. The number of clients attending increased and all those in attendance agreed that the discussions are useful and interesting.

Microsoft started the meeting with a ‘hot off the press’ announcement that Azure can now be purchased direct from Microsoft. The Azure price will be based on the US$ exchange rate which will be set at the beginning of each month with Microsoft making a commitment to not make a profit on exchange rates. The benefits were discussed around flexibility of billing and being able to move away from the ‘use it or lose it’ format of the minimum monthly commit, Azure SCE agreements.

Organisations using Azure can still purchase via their preferred reseller also.

Microsoft talked about the Cloud 9 portal which was recently acquired and how this can help analyse usage.

Azure DevTest – Test and Development in Azure

The discussion then focused around the agreed topic of Azure DevTest environments which tends to be a popular starting point for moving to Azure.
Open discussion between our clients identified some of the issues they have with their developers and managing their needs.

Some of the key points were:

  • Understanding of the developer’s specific requirements
  • Backups and ability to spin up new systems quickly with the latest copy of the live system
  • Balancing overheads for storage requirements
  • Development teams always want more space/resource which can’t always be provided easily or quickly
  • Number of people working on an app at the same time
  • Visual Studio license credits being allocated to an individual, there is a need to pool for a team of developers
  • Controlling costs, how can IT heads manage developers spend in Azure
  • Access required to full dataset / data security – where is the data?

Some benefits Microsoft highlighted around Azure Test and Development labs:

  • Ability to set spending thresholds and set up alerts at spending levels and the ability to turn an environment off when required
  • Central reporting
  • Multitenanted so multiple users can run apps at the same time
  • Pool Visual Studio credit into test and development labs
  • Complete cost management control – can set a period of the day developers can access
  • Allows Dev teams to spin up new environments when required quickly

Microsoft talked about their client Centrica who have been using Azure test and development.

Azure DevTest quote Centrica

Azure App Service

The Azure App Service was briefly discussed as an option for clients to move apps from on-premise to cloud and deploy web/mobile/API apps.
The issue around some of the legal vendors not being on board with cloud was raised with clients as a blocker to this. In house apps could be used within this service.

Chatbots

Microsoft discussed running use cases with Microsoft technical teams to use chatbots within Azure to help fee earners. Azure cognitive services could help potentially analyse initial case communications to drive efficiency with ability to search precedence library as an example.

Azure Infrastructure Cost Analysis

Microsoft mentioned that they provide funding for full infrastructure scans using a Movere – described as a MAP Toolkit on steroids. The scan is run for a minimum of 2 weeks up to a month and aligns all apps and infrastructure to a cost in Azure.

Taking a high-level lift and shift exercise considering existing licenses i.e. SA for Hybrid Use Rights can save up to 70% of the costs.

Calculating the compute for 1 or 3 years for always on production applications and using Reserved Instances will also help to reduce costs.

The next meeting

As security and data breach keeps coming up in discussions around cloud it was decided that for the next meeting we invite Stuart Aston, who is Microsoft National Security Officer along to share Microsoft’s stance on security and compliance. All attendees will provide their list of questions for Stuart before the meeting so that they can be addressed. If you are interested in attending the next meeting, which is being held on 9th April, in London then please get in touch for further information.

You can find out more about previous SAM Club Azure User Group meetings in our blog post here and subscribe to our blog updates.

Azure User Group Meeting

The SAM Club’s first Azure User Group Meeting was held at Microsoft, 2 Kingdom Street, Paddington, London, W2 6BD on Thursday 24th January 2019 with several of our clients in attendance.
Azure User Group event - The SAM Club
The objective of the Azure User Group is to help educate and provide a means of communication with Microsoft and peers on the Azure Infrastructure solution.

Microsoft started off talking through some use cases of Legal Services clients who have made a transition to Azure – including Taylor Wessing, Farrer and other clients who cannot be named.

Another firm was mentioned but is to remain anonymous, who run their production workload on-premise, but are using AI to get better insight into identifying fraudulent claims. AI augments work in the middle office to flag claims that could be fraudulent based on intelligent analytics. They have already flagged over 100 cases using the technology.
Azure User Group attendees - The SAM Club
Open discussions followed which touched on the following subjects:

Security

A big concern amongst the Legal firms; was Client and Personal confidential data in the Public Cloud & Security.

Microsoft discussed the level of security in their datacentres from a physical aspect, the datacentres are protected to military levels and are not found on maps. Any visitors to the datacentres are checked out and all electronic devices are taken from them before they can enter. All data held within the datacentres is anonymised, so no member of staff could identify which data set belongs to which organisation.

Compliance

Legal firms are regularly audited by their biggest clients, particularly big banks which may be using Azure themselves. However, the compliance teams don’t understand Azure and want to be able to see and access the data.

A point was raised to Microsoft to educate the Compliance industry – Microsoft do have a large list of compliance accreditations and can discuss compliance organisations such as SOX, SRA & Banks.
Partners in legal firms are more concerned about where data resides and if something goes wrong; it is their reputation on the line.

Resilience

It was mentioned that Azure and Office 365 does take away control with getting the infrastructure back up if there are outages. But there is nothing the IT team can do and feel powerless. With a new site going live it can leave confidence a bit shaky. There needs to be more detailed information available from Microsoft in these situations to help manage expectations.

Microsoft mentioned that they replicate an organisations server in the cloud two times to ensure resilience.

Blockers

Microsoft advised that they are actively working with vendors to ensure their applications are available and can be run within the Public Cloud.

Auto scaling and Optimisation of VMs in Azure

Optimisation of workloads was not seen as a big concern for legal firms as they don’t have a ‘Black Friday effect’ sometimes there is a slow down in app performance if a SQL report is run and fee earners all launch an app at the same time. Microsoft talked about daily peaks and troughs in app usage and possible savings Azure can offer in working out compute costs.

The next meeting

The Azure User Group attendees agreed that the discussions were informative and would like to continue monthly initially. The next agenda topic was agreed to focus on Test and Development environments and the benefits of Azure.

Here are some testimonials from the event
“Great kick off to the Azure User Group. Found it very insightful. Looking forward to the next one and hopefully using the sessions to assist us with our thought process for moving to Azure. Looking forward to the next meeting.”

“I found the Azure User Group meeting extremely useful, as it was good to meet up and discuss with fellow counterparts in other organisations that are in similar positions and are able to share their experiences. Also, being able to provide feedback to Microsoft face to face and how they can help was also very beneficial. Can’t wait for the next one”

If you have not already subscribed to our blog subscribe here to keep up to date with the Azure User Group updates and if you are interested in attending please get in touch.

Changes to Software Assurance benefits for Exchange 2019

The latest Microsoft Product Terms for November 2018, show some additional Software Assurance benefits for Exchange, see page 25. Microsoft update their Product Terms monthly and with the recent Microsoft product announcements, The SAM Club we have been looking for any useful information. We have found that the below benefits are now available for customers with active Software Assurance on Exchange 2019 products.

SAM Club Exchange Server 2019

4.1 Exchange Enterprise CAL with Services 2019 Supplemental Terms and Conditions

Exchange Server Enterprise CAL with active SA coverage includes the rights to Data Loss Prevention and Exchange Online Protection.

4.2 Exchange Online Voice Mail Service

Customers with active SA coverage for Exchange Server Standard 2019 or Exchange Server Enterprise 2019 may use the Exchange Online Voice Mail Service to access voice messages from Outlook. Use of this Online Service is subject to the OST

Exchange 2019 has recently been released by Microsoft, see more on our article about the release.

Microsoft announce the release of Exchange Server 2019, Skype for Business Server 2019, SharePoint Server 2019, and Project Server 2019

Microsoft Exchange Server 2019, Skype for Business Server 2019, SharePoint Server 2019, and Project Server 2019 are all now available to commercial customers. The products can now be downloaded from the Volume Licensing Service Center or the Business Center (MPSA)

SAM Club Microsoft Office 2019 Servers available

Some of the new features are listed below for these Servers, with links to more detailed release pages for each product.

Exchange Server 2019

Exchange Server 2019 includes scale and performance enhancements, new and improved search powered by Bing technology, new options to restrict the forwarding of meeting requests, and increased control over “out of office” settings.

Skype for Business Server 2019

Skype for Business Server 2019 provides on-premises and hybrid customers with additional security, quality, and performance features to improve the hybrid scenario.  New features include Cloud Voicemail, Cloud Call Data Connector, Streamlined Migration to Teams, and support for TLS 1.2.

SharePoint Server 2019

SharePoint Server 2019 brings the ease of use of SharePoint Online to on-premises customers.  For end users, the new release delivers modern libraries, lists, and communication sites.  IT professionals will see improved performance and scale with simplified management. And developers will now be able to build for both cloud and on-premise environments with deeper SharePoint Framework integration.

Project Server 2019

Project Server 2019 offers a robust end-to-end project and portfolio management solution, with strong collaboration capabilities powered by SharePoint Server 2019. Updates include enhancements to performance and scalability, improved reporting, and an expanded set of APIs.

The licensing models remain the same but please get in touch if you would like to understand more about your licensing options.

You can read about other recent releases from Microsoft for Office 2019 and Windows Server 2019 on our blog.

Source: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Office-365-Blog/Office-2019-servers-available-for-commercial-customers/ba-p/275879

Microsoft launch Microsoft Learn portal

As of 1st of November 2018 Microsoft will retire the E-Learning Software Assurance benefit and replace it with a brand new free portal called Microsoft Learn.

Microsoft Learn

For any customers currently using the E-Learning portal through Software Assurance please be aware that as of the 1st November the portal and all content will be retired so there will be no access to current courses, transcripts, completion certificates and admin tools. It is advised that you compete any courses and download transcripts and course completion certificates before 1st November.

Customers will now be directed to the new Microsoft Learn website where there are some courses for Azure and new Dynamics 365, Power BI, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow courses today and will expand over the next year.

You can read the announcement and advice from Microsoft here.

Microsoft release Office 2019 for Windows and Mac

Microsoft has announced the availability of Office 2019. If you have active Software Assurance (SA) cover on your Office products, as of the General Availability date of 24th September 2018 then you are entitled to this new release.

SAM Club Microsoft release Office 2019

Licensing Office 2019 through the Volume Licensing Programs remains the same as Office 2016 Standard and Professional Plus per device licenses. However, it will be about 10% more expensive due to the October price rise.

If you purchase new licenses from now onwards, you will be entitled to use them at the 2019 release even though you might install them at an earlier release, such as Office 2013 or 2016, under downgrade rights.

Office 2019 provides enhancements to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Project, Visio, Access, and Publisher for customers who can’t be cloud-connected or receive regular updates.

The new enhancements are a subset of a long list of features that have been added to Office 365 ProPlus over the last three years.

Office 2019 is a one-time release and won’t receive future feature updates so we don’t see any point in customers maintaining active Software Assurance (SA) in order to solely receive new releases. (However, there are other benefits of SA such as Roaming Use Rights, and options to acquire a “From SA” USL (User Subscription License) if moving to an Office 365 / Microsoft 365 E3/E5 plan if all your organisation’s Office licenses have active SA.

The announcement page has some useful links to FAQs on both the new features and the new technology to deploy it – Click-to-Run. There’s also confirmation that Exchange Server 2019, Skype for Business Server 2019, SharePoint Server 2019, and Project Server 2019 will be released in the coming weeks.

Microsoft will continue to add new features to Office 365 ProPlus monthly, including innovations in collaboration, artificial intelligence (AI), security, and more.

Microsoft’s focus for Office going forward is Office 365, but they state that “We see the on-premises version of Office as an important part of our commitment to give customers the flexibility they need to move to the cloud at their own pace”.

Microsoft will cease Extended Support for Office 2019 in 2029 so we expect them to be pushing all customers to Office 365 by then.

To discuss the best licensing options to upgrade to Office 2019 or if you are considering making the move to Office 365 please get in touch so we can help you choose the best licensing option for your organisation.

Have a look at our recent blog article about the release of Microsoft Windows Server 2019.

Source: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2018/09/24/office-2019-is-now-available-for-windows-and-mac/

Do you know if your Microsoft licenses are fully compliant?

Microsoft licensing rules are always changing and there are a lot of considerations for IT Heads managing licensing within their organisation.

Microsoft licensing

Have licenses been installed correctly? If not you could have a compliance issue and should your organisation get audited then issues like this can be costly.

Do you have Microsoft licenses where the Software Assurance is coming up for renewal? If so, are you taking advantage of any license grants I.e. Windows Server 2016 per processor to per core licensing change.

Do you know which volume licensing program is the best fit for your organisation? Microsoft licensing can be a minefield, with the change in license rules and the many license programs that are available i.e. CSP, MPSA, EA, SCE etc.

Would your organisation benefit from an independent review? We can discuss your requirements with you, identify any potential compliance issues and help identify the right Microsoft licenses and programs for discussion with your license reseller.

Contact us by email for more information.

We provide an independent software asset management (SAM) service to assist Heads of IT manage their software licensing. Our services include a Standard SAM service and a Compliance program that can be tailored to your needs.

Do you use VMware vCenter Foundation?

If you use VMware vCenter Foundation – this tip could be useful. VMware released an update to VMware vSphere 6.5 in July 2017. vSphere 6.5 Update 1 provided some general updates and enhancements, including all the security and bug fixes that were part of 6.0 U3; removing some of the concerns that customers had about upgrading. You can read more about the update here.

SAM Club VMware vCenter Foundation tip

VMware also announced that the number of nodes that vCenter Foundation Edition can manage was increased from 3 to 4.

This is a minor improvement, but may be useful with smaller environments where an extra node could make a big difference.

However, please note that when adding on a further node, you may potentially have to purchase a new vSphere license and a Microsoft Windows Server Datacenter license.

Further information about this announcement from VMware can be found here.

Note : The Essentials Edition of vCenter is still limited to 3 nodes and ESX Essentials or Essentials Plus, can only be managed by vCenter Essentials due to technical limitations.

If you need any assistance with reviewing your VMware or Microsoft licensing, please get in touch with us info@thesamclub.co.uk