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SAM Club Kickers October Manager of the month

Congratulations to Roy Russell who is the October Manager of the Month.

Roy is a big Chelsea fan so fits in well with Frank Lampard also winning the October Manager of the Month for the Premiership.

Strangely Roy currently only has 1 Chelsea player in his team….

SAM Club Kickers Oct 2019 Mgr of the month

Keep an eye on your team with the international break.  It’s a good time to reassess your squad and transfer the non-performers or injured players out.

Customer journey migrating to Azure and licensing considerations

The SAM Club’s 6th Azure User Group meeting was kindly held at Neon Underwriters, a long-term client of ours based in London. The topic for this meeting was about a customer’s journey migrating to Azure. The SAM Club also presented on some of the licensing considerations that firms need to consider when planning their Azure migration.

Customer journey migrating to Azure event

Azure Licensing

Ian Nicholls from The SAM Club kicked the event off with a presentation on Azure licensing, discussing how Windows Server on premise licenses with SA (Software Assurance) can be used within Azure via the Hybrid Use Benefit. Emphasis was placed on the planning phase when considering moving to Azure and the importance of licensing.

Microsoft use the ‘Group of 8 Rule’ which refers to the number of cores, so a VM (virtual machine) must be licensed for 8 cores minimum. If a Windows Server Standard license for 16 Cores is used within Azure under Hybrid Use Rights, this can be used for a max 2 VM’s (2 x 8 Cores) based on the specification of the VM. The rule for a Standard license is that it can be used for an on-premise server or in Azure but not both. But you get 180 days of concurrent use rights whilst migrating servers.

This rule also applies to Windows Server Datacenter (DC) which seems strange as DC is for unlimited VM’s within a host server on premise. But within Azure there is no concept of a host server. A Datacenter license can be used both on premise & in Azure – based on the Group of 8 rule. So, a 16 Core DC license can be used for a max of 2 VM’s within Azure.

You can also stack licenses so by adding more cores, you can run a VM for 16, 24, 32 cores etc. Savings of up to 40% on VM’s can be seen when using the Azure Hybrid Use benefit.

SQL licensing

The Azure Hybrid Use Rights for SQL Server within Azure only applies to the per core licensing model for SQL Server Standard and Enterprise per core licenses with SA.

SQL Server licenses on the server/CAL model are not applicable for Azure Hybrid Use Rights.

SQL Server Enterprise when used for General Purpose or Hyperscale Service Tiers are entitled to 4 cores for 1 core with SA owned and used. Business Critical or Azure Virtual Machines are only entitled to 1:1 core.

Each VM must be licensed for every core with a minimum of 4 cores per VM.

With migrating to Azure there is also 180 days of concurrent use rights to assist with the process.

BYOL – Bring your Own License

Where software licenses that are owned and used within Azure outside of the Hybrid Use Benefit, such as SQL Server on the Server/CAL model, a License Mobility Verification Form must be completed within 10 days and submitted via the LSP/Reseller.

Azure Dedicated Host

Azure Dedicated Host (DH) is a new service that is currently in preview from 1st August 2019 so has some limitations.

Azure Hybrid User Rights can be used for a Windows Server Datacenter license being applied to the DH for all the cores. A DH can also be used for SQL Server with an Enterprise License also being applied based on the number of cores on the DH.

It is also possible to group DH together, like an on premise ESX farm for example.

The DH addresses compliance requirements by giving the ability to place Azure VMs on a specific & dedicated physical server with host level isolation – no third party VM’s will be placed on your hosts.

With Azure VM’s, Microsoft complete and apply maintenance to the VM’s as required. With Dedicated Host servers, you have the option to defer host maintenance for up to 35 days, thereby gaining full control over the sequence and velocity of the maintenance process. Most maintenance events have little or no impact on your VM’s. But there may be some sensitive workloads where every second of pause could have an impact. You can therefore opt in to a maintenance window for control and to reduce the impact on your service.

Existing Azure VM’s can be moved to Dedicated Hosts and it is our understanding that portal support for this will be available soon.

Pricing

  • Charged per dedicated host – not VM
  • No upfront costs
  • Host price based on:
    • VM series (Dsv3 & Esv3 – support for Fsv2 coming soon)
    • Hardware Size
    • Region
  • Software Licensing, Storage & Network usage billed separately – no change compared to Azure VM’s
  • No termination Fees
  • Reserved Instance are not currently available during the preview phase.

Below are the current Dedicated Host options. It is worth noting, that with an on-premise server running VM’s there are no limitations on the number of VM’s.

With DH there is a limit based on the number of virtual CPUS available:

Azure Dedicated Host options

Updated License Terms:

On 1st October 2019, Microsoft updated their licensing terms for dedicated hosted cloud services.

Due to the emergence of dedicated hosted public cloud services, beginning 1st October 2019 on-premise licenses purchased without software assurance and mobility rights cannot be deployed within the following public cloud providers: Microsoft, Alibaba, Amazon (including VMware Cloud on AWS), and Google. They will be referred to as “Listed Providers.”

These changes don’t apply to other providers and there will be no change to the Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) program or to the License Mobility for Software Assurance benefit, other than to expand this benefit to cover dedicated hosted cloud services.

Farrer & Co LLP: Journey to the Azure Cloud

Neil Davison IT Director at Farrer explained, signing an agreement with Net Documents in 2013/14 was Farrer’s first toe in the water with their journey to the cloud. Farrer were one of the first law firms to move their infrastructure to the cloud, which was considered due to aging technology during a review of their infrastructure. There were server room issues, cabling issues and technology nearing end of life, so a full replace was needed. Dell worked with Farrer on a review strategy roadmap so they could consider replacing their on-premise infrastructure, versus Private and Public Cloud options. When this was presented to the board it was clear that Public cloud offered the best solution.

Any security issues that the board raised were addressed by Microsoft’s trust center and they found this resource invaluable in helping convince the board to approve the project. In 2016 the project was approved, so Farrer set about finding the right partner to help them with help from Microsoft. After tendering to 4 partners, SystemsUp were chosen and they led Farrer through every aspect of the migration.

The planning phase took 14 months and their infrastructure was mapped so they could see what was in place and which systems linked to each other. From here a migration plan was formulated and as the integration between systems was crucial, the decision was taken to move everything to Azure at the same time.

Security

Microsoft offers a very high level of security, but it is still a shared responsibility. So, Farrer had to put a plan in place for security on servers and patching, mapping against CIS benchmarks – which is run by Microsoft and advises on measures to take to help improve your company’s security score.

A high-profile client did an audit at Farrer and security was a high concern all round, but Azure was not the concern, most questions were around the Net Documents software with Azure being a tick box exercise.

Farrer backfilled their infrastructure team and utilised SystemsUp to upskill the team so that they had in house knowledge once the project was completed.

Farrer have other security products in place aside from Microsoft’s; currently on the Microsoft M365 E3 plan they use products from Checkpoint and Tenable.io to complement their security and are considering moving to Microsoft M365 E5 next year.

Testing

Testing took thousands of hours and they had a team test the migration plan before it was executed live. Some of the systems were 20 plus years old so some latency was picked up. The decision was made to use the Amsterdam datacentre as this is one of the first locations to receive updates with London being the second datacentre location.

Changes did happen during the migration with updates from Microsoft coming through regularly in Azure, but SystemsUp understood Farrer’s environment and were able to adapt accordingly. A question was raised in the room about how this new adoption of technology is being received within the law firm. There is always resistance to change but that is the nature of the world we live in now and technology is becoming more of a competitive edge for law firms to have over the competition.

There is a testing group in place at Farrer who meet every 6 weeks to review changes and decisions made on which updates to implement.

Changes internally

The infrastructure team at Farrer have changed the way they work, and the team have reskilled using resources such as the Microsoft Enterprise Skills initiative for support and training. They are more focused on being proactive and looking at what’s coming; which makes them more agile and able to leverage new technologies such as AI.

Farrer see Azure as much more than a lift and shift and feel they have only touched the surface of what is possible in Azure. Re-platforming of systems is taking place now and considering other cloud services.

Since migrating their entire infrastructure to Azure and using Microsoft 365 Farrer have had 100% uptime.

Regarding Business continuity Farrer have completed fail over testing for a week with the London Datacenter being used during the DR (Disaster Recovery) period which ran as good as the live environment. Remote working is enabled through a Checkpoint VPN providing direct access with an always on VPN connection.

The next step for Farrer is a review of the infrastructure and costings, they have some servers on Reserved Instances (RI) now and they review them quarterly with SystemsUp.

Additional resources

Microsoft have a Fast Track Service team for Azure which is available based on eligibility.

Discussion on next topic and host

Ideas for the next meeting topic were:

  • Azure Sentinel demo and security discussion
  • Dictalogic demo (an alternative to BigHand)

The date and location are to be confirmed.

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?
Microsoft Cloud Economics Assessment

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.

Are your Microsoft Azure Costs Spiralling?

As more organisations start to use Microsoft Azure it is important to review your Azure portal(s) on a regular basis.

Spiral Staircase - Microsoft Azure Costs spiralling?

There are two portals. The original portal, aptly named ‘Classic’ and the newer version Azure Resource Manager (ARM). Moving from Classic to ARM is not straight forward but it’s worth considering for potential cost savings as Classic has limitations.

Windows Server Hybrid Rights

As you start to migrate VM’s to Azure, your Windows Server Datacenter & Standard Edition licenses with SA or Windows Server Subscriptions can be used with Hybrid Rights for the OS’s hosting VM’s within ARM. This saves you licensing additional Windows Servers for the Azure VM’s thereby helping to reduce your costs. *Note that this option is not available with the ‘Classic’ portal.

Disks

If you review the Disks that you’ve purchased, there is a column called ‘Owner’. Where this is blank it indicates that the Disk is not being used by a VM. However, this Disk would have been purchased and is, therefore, contributing towards your costs.

Reserved Instances (RI’s)

This is where a VM can be reserved for dedicated use on a one- or three-year basis. RI’s require a one-time up-front payment but can offer discounts up to 70% when compared to the standard on-demand pay-per-use VM pricing model. *Note RI’s are not available within the ‘Classic’ portal.

The ARM portal also provides performance information on VM’s. After a 30-day period, you can see information on VM’s that may have been specified incorrectly and only using a small % of the CPU available. This provides another option to review and reduce Azure costs.

Are you using Azure for Test and Dev environments? Are you making full use of the Azure credits which come with your Visual Studio subscriptions? Visual Studio Professional provides a credit of US$50 per month and US$150 per month with Visual Studio Enterprise. But, these credits are for use by your named licenced developers and cannot be used on a team basis.

At The SAM Club, we monitor our clients’ Azure Portals and provide regular reports for review, highlighting potential cost savings for consideration. Contact us if you would like to know more about our independent Software Asset Management Service. We are not a license reseller, so you can be confident that the information we provide is unbiased and, in your organisation’s, best interest.

If you are considering moving to Microsoft Azure you might find attending our regular Azure User Group meetings useful.

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 SQL Server – Cost Analysis / License Review/Case Studies

Recently, The SAM Club has worked on three Microsoft SQL Server licensing projects all with different scenarios and saved our clients significant costs on each occasion.
Micrsosoft SQL Server

Case 1:

Client A had a mixture of SQL Server Standard (licensed with User CALS) and SQL Server Enterprise licenses. On comparing their installations with licenses owned, it quickly became apparent that the client was severely under-licensed. SQL Server Enterprise was being installed as the ‘norm’. After an initial clean up exercise, the whole SQL Server estate was reviewed, and each installation reconsidered as to whether SQL Server Standard or Enterprise was required. The current and immediate requirements were considered as well as the SQL Server 2014 User CALS which didn’t have SA. Based on the client’s plans we reviewed the licensing options; considering SQL Server Standard with User CALS and the Per Core permanent licensing models, as well as the subscription model, over a 6-year period. The license costs ranged from £316k to £210k, a significant difference and proved invaluable in helping the client with their decision process.

Case 2:

Client B following a merger of two firms, the SQL Server estate needed a complete review. One firm had been licensed on the SQL Server Standard + User CALs model whilst the other firm had older Per Processor licenses without SA. The client had been through a process of decommissioning several applications and reviewing its IT infrastructure. After discussions and examining the pricing of different licensing models and options it was decided that, in the longer term, it was best for the client to opt for a separate SQL Server VM Farm. Two servers were commissioned and licensed for SQL Server Enterprise to allow the client to run a mixture of SQL Server Standard and Enterprise VM installations, ensuring they are compliant and to provide the longer-term flexibility for the numerous SQL Server instances required.

Case 3:

Client C has an SCE agreement covering all its SQL Server estate. On comparing their installations to the licenses within their SCE agreement, we identified a shortfall of more than £300k per annum. A project was kick started and discussions held as to how to reduce the deficit. A decision was made quite quickly, based upon the number of SQL Server Enterprise installations, to consider a separate SQL Server VM Farm licensed with SQL Server Enterprise. On completion of the analysis the shortfall was reduced to less than £70k per annum.

Also, in Cases 1 and 2 we were able to help resell the SQL Server licenses no longer required to offset some of the costs.

As part of our analysis we consider:

  • Full history of the SQL Server licenses purchased
  • The installed base and SQL Server purposes, including:
  • SQL Server installations for Dev and Test
  • Active / Passive Servers
  • Installations where no separate license is required e.g. SCCM & Commvault
  • Installations nearing end of Microsoft Extended Support

Question : How does your SQL Server installation base compare to your licenses owned? Are you using the most cost-effective license model?

Over the years, SQL Server costs have significantly increased, and Microsoft has changed its licensing models and SA benefits between major releases. Contact The SAM Club if you are interested in an independent licensing review of your SQL Server environment. We will provide a report based on our findings for your review and consideration. The SAM Club is not a license reseller, so you can be confident that the information we provide is unbiased and in your firms best interest.