Luper's Learnings – Azure Technical Community for Partners (May 2015)

This edition of Luper’s Learnings is coming to you from Chicago on the last day of the Microsoft Ignite conference. Wow! There have been so many Azure announcements between //build and Ignite. I’m going to try to capture some highlights here but would love to hear your feedback on what I have missed or what else I should include in June.  

This month’s Learnings:

  • I have spent this week attending the first Microsoft Ignite conference. Let me share a few highlights of my conference week with you. Then below, I’ll make sure to cover as many of the Ignite (as well as //build) announcements as I am able.
    • ChicagosNext hosted a 24 hour Hackathon in advance of Ignite that drew dozens of folks from all experience levels, ages and walks of life. I got to spend a few hours there Saturday night and saw some of the teams in action, solving their problems and building solutions that incorporated Microsoft cloud offerings.

    • One of my highlights for the week was an Azure Partner Networking Happy Hour that I co-hosted with Frank Campise from the US National Partner TS team. We had more than 80 individuals in attendance including ~70 partners and more than a dozen Microsoft SMEs from Azure Engineering and Documentation, evangelists from Microsoft’s DX team including Keith Mayer and Jennelle Crothers plus Kenny Young, a Microsoft Cloud Solution Architect.

    • Were you at Ignite? Let me know what your top sessions were! I’d love to be able to share that with the presenters and the Ignite team.

    • If you want to download all if the Ignite sessions and decks, you can get a script to do just that. If you want to be selective, sessions are available on demand from Channel9.

    • Not only did I get to meet and tweet dozens and dozens of Azure partners but I met Laura Fulton, a past winner of the Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change at a partner event at the Willis Tower. Read Jennifer Warnick’s terrific article about five recent Challenge for Change winners.

  • Some top takeaways from //build and Ignite --
    • A summary of the build day 1 keynote is here. Scott Guthrie called out a couple fun facts: Azure has datacenters in more locations than Google and AWS combined and more than 40% of Azure revenue comes from startups. 

    • Scott Guthrie announced that Visual Studio 2015 Release Candidates are now available for download. Additionally, Visual Studio Code, which runs natively on Mac OSX, Linux, and Windows is optimized for building and debugging modern web and cloud applications. It’s free and in preview now.

    • To accompany the VS2015RC, the Azure SDK 2.6 for .NET is available (works with older versions of VS as well as the 2015 RC.) The Azure SDK provides Azure Resource Manager Tools, Azure App Service tools, Diagnostics improvements for Cloud Services and more.

    • Some of the greatest buzz at build and Ignite was around the updated Azure Resource Manager (ARM.) In his blog post, Corey Sanders goes into lots of detail about ARM, templates etc. He says “This new template language will enable you to easily stitch together VMs, Virtual Networks, Storage Accounts, NICs, Load-balancers, and other PaaS services, like App Service and SQL Databases, in a single coherent application model.” Let me just say THIS IS A BIG DEAL. After you’ve read Corey’s post and watched the videos there, be sure to check out the templates on

    • Azure SQL Database previews major updates for BUILD talks about why partners and customers should use Azure SQL Database including summarizing everything that’s been added in the past year, the announcement of the preview of Azure SQL Database elastic database (I attended a session on this at Ignite… wow, just wow), near-complete SQL Server feature compatibility, the preview announcement of  Transparent Data Encryption and more. Here’s a 4 minute look at the Elastic Database Tools.

    • I heard about this new idea during build called a Data Lake. What’s a Data Lake?  Rumor has it that it’s “A hyper scale repository for big data analytic workloads.” You better read the above page and Introducing Azure Data Lake for more info and to sign up to get notified when a preview is available. You might also watch this 3 minute video.

    • At build the Storage team had several exciting announcements. They talked about the General Availability of Premium Storage, Tech Support is now available for Azure Files (Preview), public preview of client-side encryption in the Azure Storage client library for .NET and several roadmap items.

    • It will likely duplicate some of what I mention below but on Monday, Venkat Gattamneni posted that Azure shines bright at Ignite! He says that “…in the last 12 months, we’re proud to have added over 500 features and services to the platform.”

    • SaaS apps and infrastructure in the cloud are becoming increasingly important to our customers' businesses. Azure AD can help organizations detect and manage risk related to access to cloud resources. The Cloud Application Discovery feature is now Generally Available and integrated into the Azure preview portal. As part of this announcement, we've turned on a preview of our Privileged Identity Management feature as well.

    • You heard from me last month about the March launch of App Service (including API Apps, web Apps, Logic Apps etc.). Building on that (see what I did there?) is the Premium Tier for Azure App Service and, in Public Preview last week, the App Service Environment. An App Service Environment provides a fully isolated and dedicated environment for securely running all of your apps including Web Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps and Logic Apps. 

    • Mike Neil posted a blog post Microsoft Brings the Next Generation of Hybrid Cloud - Azure to Your Datacenter. Of particular interest to Azure folks are Microsoft Azure Stack which delivers IaaS and PaaS services into customer datacenters and the Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS). It extends your System Center capabilities and our best practices in operating one of the world’s largest cloud environments to simplify management of assets wherever they live. That means any instance (physical, virtual or container) and any cloud, including your data center, Azure, AWS, Windows Server, Linux, VMware, and OpenStack. It tracks and manages: Log Analytics, Security, Availability and Automation (as I discuss below.)

    • I spent some time at Ignite with Anirudh Garg from the Azure Automation team. He shared many things with me and here are a few you can use.

    • Yousef Khalidi announced New Networking Capabilities for a Consistent, Connected and Hybrid Cloud. These capabilities include ExpressRoute and ExpressRoute Premium Add-on, ExpressRoute for Office 365 and Skype for Business Enterprise Voice, New VPN Gateway offers Site-to-Site VPN and ExpressRoute coexistence (I’ve included more details below), Virtual Network Enhancements (I’ve included details below), Azure DNS and Networking support for Azure Resource Manager

    • My buddy Telmo Sampaio posted some specifics of capabilities in Azure Virtual Networking specifically around User Defined Routes and IP Forwarding. Also check out About VPN Devices and Gateways for Virtual Network Connectivity to learn about site to site VPNs and co-existence with ExpressRoute.

    • Application Insights provides development teams with a comprehensive 360° view across their live application’s performance, availability and usage. It’s now in Public Preview and, as you can read in Merav Davidson’s post, there is a cloud-friendly pricing model and Application Insights is already being used by nearly ½ a million apps.

    • Azure Site Recovery enables customers to deploy application-aware availability on demand solutions. Azure Site Recovery solutions have been tested and are now supported for SharePoint, Dynamics AX, Exchange 2013, Remote Desktop Services, SQL Server, IIS applications and System Center family like Operations Manager. Read all the details in Abhishek Agrawal’s blog post from Monday.

    • Speaking of ASR, we showcased with NetApp how customers can simplify disaster recovery for Hyper-V workloads without investing in a secondary datacenter.

    • Even more info on the Disaster Recover front… in case you haven’t seen the theme of Azure being much more customer centric check out Disaster Recovery to Azure enhanced, and we’re listening! For example, the team posted “Protection for Generation 2 virtual machine was one among the top feature request. While Azure is working on adding this support natively, the ASR team delivered a feature that converts Generation 2 to Generation 1 during failover then converts back to Generation 2 when you failback to on-premises.” We haven’t 100% met the customer ask yet but a terrific way to help with DR in the meantime.

    • The Power BI output has been a Private Preview feature of Azure Stream Analytics for the last couple of months. Along with the Stream Analytics General Availability announcement two weeks ago, we are very pleased to also announce that Power BI Output feature is now in Public Preview.

    • The new Azure Portal,, is coming. When?, you ask… not yet. But in discussions with the portal team at Ignite, they are targeting both usability and performance thresholds and once those are reached, they’ll be able to move towards General Availability. In the meantime, use the new portal, read about Azure Preview Portal Improvements (April update) and provide feedback. As mentioned in the post above, “Your feedback has driven the work for this update and all the work that we are currently doing.” This team is SO interested in hearing from users of the portal. Please give them your feedback.

    • While I’ve tried to summarize many of the announcements and add color and context, you should keep your eye on the Cloud Platform News Bytes Blog where announcements are posted regularly.

  • Many free eBooks at including the recently published Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Machine Learning, Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Automation and the ever popular Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure.

  • The Azure Media Player announcement happened pretty quietly last month. It’s a free player solution built to play back media content from Microsoft Azure Media Services. Azure Media Player has the ability to reach a wide variety of browsers and devices with a simple HTML and JavaScript code. Azure Media Player is easy to set up and use. It only takes a few minutes to get playback of media content working from your Azure Media Services account. Demo available at

  • Take a look at this 9 minute demo that Azure TSP Nick Ward from Australia shared on Office Mix. He shows how to create and administer an Azure Web App service.

  • I mentioned last month that I had built and launched an Azure Partner Readiness Catalog (APRC.) New features and many additional catalog entries were added over the past month (now at Release 2) taking the catalog over 350 entries as of this writing.
    • What is it? – It’s a crowd sourced catalog of Azure technical readiness materials. At the moment, our trusted contributors are Azure focused Microsoft folks from around the world. The plan is to broaden the contributor community in phases for the balance of CY2015. Have a suggestion for something that should be in the catalog? Please let me know!

    • Why? – When I started in this role in October, I was told that looking back a couple of years, partners said “There’s just not enough readiness material around Azure.” On the other hand, today partners say “There’s too much readiness material around Azure, I don’t know where to find what I’m looking for.” This catalog’s goal is to begin to address that problem.

    • Take a look and provide feedback using the Contact Us link at the bottom of the page.

  • Next week – The MVP Virtual Conference (MVP V-Conf) is a new, virtual, 2-day (14 and 15 May, Pacific time) event that showcases how the best and brightest independent technology experts are using Microsoft technologies today. With both IT Pro and Developer tracks, you might find some interesting sessions.

  • Nano server – for Modern Apps and Cloud. Announced in early April, it’s a purpose-built operating system designed to run born-in-the-cloud applications and containers. See what Virtualization Review has to say about it then evaluate it as part of the Windows Server Technical Preview 2.

  • Not only more info on Nano server but details on Hyper-V containers and the relationship to Docker in Mike Neil’s April blog post.

  • All of the (fabulous) noise in the past couple of weeks from build and Ignite seem to have drowned out the announcement that Microsoft had closed the acquisition of Revolution Analytics. Revolution created the R language for advanced analytics on big data. R is the world’s most popular programming language for statistical computing and predictive analytics, used by more than 2 million people worldwide.

  • Also in early April, Azure DocumentDB became generally available. DocumentDB is a fully managed NoSQL document database service that allows applications to query and process JSON data at scale.

  • Microsoft Migration Accelerator (MA) currently in limited preview provides the ability to migrate workloads running in an enterprise to Azure.  One of the limitations that customers face is the 127GB cap on the OS disk size of the Azure Virtual Machine.  This limitation is now removed by Azure, it can support OS disk size up to 1 TB.  Accordingly, we have enabled this functionality in MA to migrate servers with OS disk size up to 1023 GB.  You can now migrate those servers that previously didn’t qualify to take advantage of Azure.  For more information, read Azure VM OS drive limit has octupled.

  • At the end of March, Microsoft announced a new offering that enables students to take advantage of the cloud for free: Microsoft Azure for student developers. Video of Scott Guthrie’s announcement as well.

  • Launched this week, a new online role-play simulator to help you learn how best to pitch and sell Microsoft Azure to prospects. The game contains the Pitch Perfect video, which walks you through a mock sales conversation about Azure. Then, after you watch the video, you participate in a fun and interactive online game to test your knowledge of the concepts explored in the video. The entire effort takes 20 minutes or less to complete – so you can get some quick tips and then get back on the phone with prospects.
    • Desktop - Go to and login with your Microsoft Account / Live ID and the Pitch Perfect Role Play will populate.

    • Mobile device - Download the mLevel app from any of the major app stores then type the code “Azuresalespitch” in the email field. You’ll then be able to login with your Microsoft Account / Live ID and the Perfect Pitch Role Play will populate.

  • Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 can be deployed on Microsoft Azure virtual machines. Need I say more? Read the complete details.

  • Microsoft’s 2015 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) is being held in Orlando, Florida in July. I’ll be there, will you? Get all the details and register here.

  • Finally (if you got all the way down here) our cloud ROCKS. Why should customers choose Azure vs. AWS? We think that Azure lets you build stuff faster, seamlessly connect your datacenter to the cloud, use what you already know and minimize your risk. Please, share this with your customers and let us know their reactions.


Whew… I hope you made it through all of that! Have a terrific weekend! If you have topics you’d like me to include, please let me know what they are!

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