February 10, 2011 News Thursday: Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 RTM, Expression Encoder 4 SP1, Windows Azure Extra Small Instances Public Beta, and other Server and Tools News

Release to Manufacturing of Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1)

Yesterday, Microsoft released Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 to manufacturing and announced that it will be available to customers on February 22, 2011. Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 enables sophisticated desktop virtualization capabilities that build on the comprehensive virtualization functionality already included in the Windows Server operating system.

For more information on the announcement, take a look at the posts on the Windows Server and Virtualization team blogs. Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 will be generally available on February 22 through Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center.


A Microsoft Announcement due at TDWI Conference 2011

If you’re attending the TDWI World Conference in Las Vegas, starting this Sunday, February 13, please visit Microsoft at booth 203. We’ll be there to announce an exciting update from our SQL Server Business. Those not attending TDWI can also access details of this announcement by visiting Data Platform Insider, SQL Server’s official Blog. TDWI World Conference attracts decision makers from across the technology industry thanks to its industry leading array of in-depth BI and DW training courses.

For more information, visit the TDWI website.


Expression Encoder 4 Service Pack 1 Now Available

On January 31st, Microsoft released the availability of Expression Encoder 4 Pro Service Pack 1 (SP1).  Expression Encoder 4 Pro is a streamlined video production tool that enables developers to enhance, encode and deliver on-demand or live video content with ease. Expression Encoder Pro supports IIS Smooth Streaming, a technology that dynamically adjusts playback rates and quality, and today is the most affordable Live Smooth Streaming solution on the market, delivering hardware performance for a software price. 

Key features of the SP1 release include support for graphics processing unit (GPU) encoding to help customers accelerate their encoding processes and increase the number of streams their PC is capable of delivering. SP1 also supports live broadcasts of screen captures, caption updates, improved de-interlacing options, Digital Rights Management (DRM) content keys, HE-AAC codec support, live push/pull, Windows Phone 7 presets and more.

For more information, please visit the Expression Encoder website, the Expression Encoder forum, and the Expression Encoder blog. Also available is a new whitepaper on GPU best practices and report on PC configurations and performance.


Windows Azure Extra Small Instances Now Available As Public Beta

At PDC10 last October, Microsoft announced a private beta program for the ‘Extra Small’ Windows Azure Instance. Since that time, there’s been a lot of interest in the ‘Extra Small’ instance so Microsoft announced all customers can now use the beta version of the Windows Azure Extra Small Instance

For more information please visit the Windows Azure blog.


Customer Spotlight: ING Company Protects Pension Funds with Solution from Bitbrains, Grid Dynamics, and Microsoft Solutions

ING Insurance Benelux handles insurance, investment, and pension businesses in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.  To ensure the company keeps adequate pension fund reserves and controls liability, their risk managers wanted a faster way to obtain critical information and process simulations. ING Insurance Benelux deployed a cloud-based solution from Bitbrains IT Services that uses Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 and the HPC Excel Acceleration Toolkit (HEAT) solution from Grid Dynamics.  The service significantly speeds up financial simulations on insurance risk, saving hours of time and increasing the accuracy of important financial information.  For more details on this solution, check out the new case study!


Customer Spotlight: Digital Marketing Startup Switches to Microsoft as a Cloud Provider and Saves $4,200 Monthly

Kelly Street Digital developed an application that tracks consumer interactions in digital marketing campaigns. For seven months, the company delivered the beta application in the cloud through Amazon Web Services and paid consultants to manage the environment and administer the database. However, when the service went down and no support was available, the company decided that it needed a faster, more reliable, and more cost-effective solution.

After a successful pilot program, the company moved its application to the Windows Azure platform. Because its developers use Microsoft development tools that are integrated with Windows Azure, it was simple to migrate the database-centric application to Microsoft SQL Azure. The company pays only 16 percent of what it paid for Amazon Web Services, and it no longer has to pay consultants. Plus, its application runs much faster on Windows Azure.  Read the case study for more information. 


Customer Spotlight: Real World Windows Azure – Interview with Andy Harjanto, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Gestone

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, Andy Harjanto, Founder and CEO at Gestone was interviewed about his company’s use of the Windows Azure platform for its social-media project management solution.  Check out the Windows Azure blog for the full interview and Gestone’s case study located here.


Customer Spotlight: Sopima uses the Windows Azure Platform to simplify development and enhance features

Sopima built Sopima Online Contracts on the Windows Azure platform, and developers found that it was easy to make the transition from traditional programming to a cloud-based model.  By moving to a cloud platform Sopima programmers were able to focus more on business logic programming and less on issues of scalability, testing, deployment, and security with the application.

Antti Makkonen, Vice President of Research and Development at Sopima said, “Trying something new and different that they know will be huge in the future really got our developers excited. And because they could work in the familiar Visual Studio environment, they didn’t have to learn new languages and libraries.” To learn more, check out the case study online.


New Releases from BizIntelligence.TV

Microsoft’s Business Intelligence blog, BizIntelligence.TV, has come out with four new releases this week, also being announced through a BusinessWeek piece. The new BI.TV features include:

 ·        New Ways to Drive Top-Line Growth with Kevin Turner: As the world emerges from economic turmoil, companies are looking to innovate and reinvent their business models. CIOs now have the opportunity to become Chief “Innovation” Officers. Learn more by visiting the BI.TV MSDN blog, or check out the BusinessWeek piece.

·        Risk Reduction Advice from a Legend: Robert Kaplan of Harvard Business School, co-creator of the Balanced Scorecard, offers new ways to improve communications and risk management with compelling case studies outlining the mistakes executives make when it comes to formulating strategic plans. Visit the BI.TV MSDN blog to learn more, or take a look at the article in BusinessWeek.

·        How Mandarin Hotel Implements Its Unique Customer Loyalty Strategy via Personalization: An international luxury hotel chain with award-winning customer service built its personalized approach atop a mountain of clean, actionable data. But it’s how the data is collected, shared and turned into a customer experience to meet each guests’ needs that formulates its unique strategy. Read more at the BizIntelligence.TV blog.

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