#Microsoft today, has launched an initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a #COVID19 economy grounded in three areas of activity:
(1) The use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them;
(2) Free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require;
(3) Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.
Within the announcement, Microsoft said they are also developing a new learning app in Microsoft Teams to help employers upskill new and existing employees. This will bring together best in class content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party training providers, and a company’s own learning content and make it all available in a place where employees can easily learn in the flow of their work.
Read the full Microsoft blog and announcement here;
The Cisco Live 2020 keynote yesterday (June 16 2020) followed the same theme as many of the other leading tech vendor events and focussed primarily on the current social and economic climate brought about by the global COVID19 pandemic before touches on new Cisco Webex and Cisco SecureX features which were the core focus of announcements on day 1.
Key Priorities Announced
“Possibilities” was the main theme of the keynote on Tuesday 16th June, in which Chuck Robbins summarised the current climate and demand on technology as the need to reimagine applications, secure data, transform traditional network and data centre infrastructure, and the “empowering” of teams through technology as being more important now than ever. which namely allowed Cisco to ire-introduce and emphasise some of the new core features coming to their Webex and SecureX platforms.
Outside of this, most of the keynote didn’t focus on new announcements, but openly discussed the chaosthat #Covid19 has thrown on the world nicely introducing the keynotes’ main theme – simple “Possibilities”.
“2020 has been a difficult and challenging year,”, “We started out with a new decade with hope, and we never imagined that in June we would have experienced what we’ve experienced this year.” Chuck Robbins, Cisco Live 2020
Chuck Robbins went on to talk about the combination of the COVID19 pandemic, and the fundamental change to business, employees and how we work, combined with the urgency, rapid change in direction and crazy tasks that every organisation has been faced with ensuring the technology, people and business can function from home which has of course been a challenge for many organisations globally.
“One of those big challenges included shifting office workers to a remote work style. This stark change, on top of all of the exterior issues, has taken a toll–both on the enterprise and individuals.” Chuck Robbins, Cisco Live 2020
Additions to Webex and SecureX
Javed Khan, VP of collaboration at Cisco, was next on the virtual stage joined by Gee Rittenhouse, senior VP at Cisco, to discuss some of the new features being added to their WebEx and SecureX platforms.
With so many people working from home now and for the foreseeable future due to #COVID19, video and web conferencing use has skyrocketed across all major platforms, namely Zoom, Microsoft Teams and of course WebEx.
By April 2020, Cisco said they were seeing more than 25 billion meeting minutes a month (which was up nearly 3 fold which is three times the size of the normal monthly average and said that “We have the unique opportunity to use our collaboration technology and our amazing people to help power an inclusive future for all.“
We already know the future of Webex (currently in preview) will bring an enhanced experience leveraging what Cisco have called “Cognitive Collaboration” which will deliver insights about upcoming meetings, contacts as well as information about your day to reduce the need to keep flicking between Webex and Outlook.
Next, Javed Khan formerly announced the addition of the Webex Assistant, a personal digital assistant that can be used within the WebEx platform to enable handsfree operation and event in meeting administration WebEx meetings. With the Webex Assistant, users can “ask” Webex to record the meeting, take notes, and even send highlights to attendees when the meeting has finished.
Security built in was another focus of WebEx improvement, with extended data loss prevention (DLP) retention, Legal Hold tools for chat and content which is also coming to Webex Meetings. Cisco also announced an expansion to their end-to-end encryption including AES 256 Bit encryption with GCM mode for increased protection for meeting data and resistance against tampering. Security around meetings has of course been very top of mind for many whereby Zoom have had their reputation dented over claims and fears of poor security across their platform.
Cisco also announced the Webex Desk Pro – an “AI powered” collaboration device that features a 27-inch 4K display, 71-degree HD camera and digital whiteboarding which looks like a cross between a Surface Studio and a Cisco EX device.
Cisco said that they would be “doubling down on AI” and that they would be adding even more intelligence into their contact centre solutions, converting customer support agents into “super agents” to ensure that they always have all the all the right information at their fingertips to allow them to solving customer issues faster than ever. Javed Khan said that the goal of Cisco Contact Centre platform is to “improved customer satisfaction and improved customer loyalty.”
It’s also very apparent that Cisco are going to be dropping the “Webex Teams” name and moving to “Webex App” or simply back to just “Webex” as part of their next update integrations. I think this is a good move as to be honest, customers got confused when Webex Teams simply got Teams, which, let’s face it, every assumed they meant Microsoft Teams!
From a security perspective, another huge focus for Cisco, Gee Rittenhouse talked about some of the new optimised features within SecureX, which he called “the most comprehensive cloud native platform in the industry.”
Gee Rittenhouse continued his explanation of the SecureX platform, stating that “In one place, you can see your entire environment, threats and incidents, and resolve policy changes.”
This was followed by a quick demo in which Cisco illustrated how Cisco SecureX customers could directly see all the possible security threats across their network through a single view/dashboard. They demo showed a “kill chain” explorer view whereby, upon clicking on a particular detected threat, the system generated a relationship graph so that the SecOp team can see everything related to that single threat along the ability to then block it across the organisation with a just couple of clicks. There is also some automation behind this allowing some auto remediation as you’d expect.
Cisco said they have a huge and growing number of integration partners, and are sharing intelligence and threat protection details with other leading security vendors including Microsoft, McAfee, and many others
As you’d expect from Cisco – huge focus on collaboration and security which right now is top of mind as many organisations get ready for a quite different future for the time-being at least.
What did you think? Did you attend the conference? What were your key takeaways and what did I miss?
As Microsofts’ annual dev conference Build opened today (May 19 2020), Microsoft announced the launch of the Microsoft Cloud For Healthcare, — a new Microsoft Industry Cloud solution.
Microsoft said that the solution aims to integrate Microsoft Cloud with an “industry-specific data model” “cross-cloud connectors,” and APIs to better help serve the global healthcare industry.
Global capabilities uniting the healthcare industry
The Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare wi bring together capabilities from across many Microsoft Cloud Services 365. This includes Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, and if course Azure. This will be powered by a common data model which will allow the sharing of data across various applications to provide better analytics. Microsoft say that this will allow health providers globally to provide better services for patients, clinicians and doctors by helping make it easier to deploy resources to the needs of all hospital and care units.
For example, Cloud for Healthcare, will focus on what Microsoft has identified as important needs for the field, like engaging patients, facilitating health team collaboration and improving operational efficiency, all with strict security measures.
Of course, an important component of healthcare is aftercare, where medical professionals need to keep in touch with their patients to follow up on their recovery and any post opp treatment, tools available to do so are generally limited to follow-up phone calls and emails, which are not only tedious but can sometimes not meet security standards or provide the best care.
Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot Service will be available as part of this service, which Microsoft say is behind more than 1,500 instances of COVID-19-based bots that have gone live globally since March 2020. These bots can help alleviate the strain on emergency hotlines for public and provide health providers while addressing common questions that patients might have.
Microsoft has said that a public preview will be coming in coming days and will be free for 6 months for evaluation, with general availability bringing late this calendar year.
Microsoft has also said that although the healthcare industry will be “first served” with the solution, they also promised that more industry-specific clouds solutions will follow.
What do you think.. Is industry specific Cloud solutions a good next step for Microsoft?
Microsoft said yesterday that they have now passed 75 million daily active paid users in Microsoft Teams. The news came as part of their Q3 2020 results announced yesterday (29 April).
Incredible usage numbers
Microsoft have seen over 200 million meeting participants a day in April, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Just last month they hit a previous record of 2.7 billion in just one day… This has nearly doubled in a month…up over 70% since last months huge surge.
What’s more.. Of the 75 million (which of course are all business use today), Microsoft said that over two thirds of these are using the richer collaborate features of Teams, sharing content, doing live authoring, collaborating and interacted with files and other apps within Teams.
The difference between apps like Teams and Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Webex and other video conferencing only services that Microsoft Teams is not just a video calling platform (while of course it does that extremely well as the stats above show). Teams is Microsoft’s “Hub for Teamwork” and is the central focus for Microsoft 365.
In the earning announcement yesterday, Microsoft said “Teams is about actually getting work done where meetings and video is one part. So that’s, for example, something that utility of it will only increase for our customers as some people come back to work.”
Speaking about healthcare specifically, there have seen “more than 34 million Teams meetings in April alone and as education establishment becomes online classrooms, more than 183,000 educational institutions now rely on Teams, and there are now over 20 organisations with more than 100,000 employees are also now using Teams.”
Now Focus on Security, Adoption and Change Management
I have seen many many many of our customers and other organisations rolling out Teams and incredible pace over the past 6 weeks to ensure people can stay connected. With this now the new norm,(for now anyway) the shift is now around focussing on the foundations to ensure Teams and more agile working becomes a new way of working. Security & Complaince and of course User Adoption.
User Adoption and Change Management is key as true collaborative working (not just scheduling video calls) requires time, a change in mind set and skills, practice and reinforcement to change a employees mindset into a truly collaborative workforce (Co editing and authoring for example rather than still sending files around in email).
Ensuring Security and Compliance across Office365 and Microsoft Teams is of course important. With more users accessing corporate data across mobile, their home decides and of course away from home, checking, enabling data and lifecycle management and data within Teams is important. Like Office365, Teams is Secure by design, and uses the following standards: ISO 27001 , ISO 27018 , SSAE16 SOC 1 and SOC 2 , HIPAA , and EU Model Clauses (EUMC) . Within the Microsoft compliance framework, Microsoft classifies Office 365 applications and services into four categories described more here.
What happens after Covid19?
Of course, once this Covid-19 pandemic is over (or some form on normality returns) it will be interesting to see how the use of these platforms continues of whether this huge advance in digital transformation and collaboration will tail off and people revert back to previous ways of working.. Habits die hard after all.
The next update to Windows 10 (called cleverly “May 2020 Update” will be out next month (May 2020) as is available in theRelease Preview #WindowsInsider Ring if you want to try it safely before it officially lands.
As this is the release preview (or release candidate as it used to be known), this should be the final version of the Windows 10 May 2020 Update, which means, so long as no major bugs are detected or reported, the update should be available early next month for all Windows 10 users.
Unlike Windows XP, 7 and 8, Windows 10 is delivered as a service which means that as well as releasing security updates and patches as required, Microsoft provides major updates to Windows 10 twice a year – once in the spring and again in the autumn. These bi-annual updates are usually big feature updates and this latest version update will be the Windows 10 May 2020 Update.
To make it easy for users and enterprise admins to check the global status of known application compatibility and bug reports, Microsoft has a Windows release health dashboard that offers a status on the rollout and any known issues for the May 2020 Update. This is Microsoft’s way of being more cautious and transparent about updates following the October 2018 Update that caused file deletion issues.
What’s new in the May 2020 Update?
As you’d expect, Microsoft provides detailed information about all the changes and new features in each release/update to Windows 10 which you can see here. There are loads – some major and some minor and some simple performance and other behind the scenes updates. I’ve provided a summary of my top 5 below.
1. You can now label your Virtual Desktops
In case you didn’t know, Windows 10 allows you have separate desktop instances to help keep your personal and work life separate or to simply organise your desktop for different projects for example.
To get to and add additional Windows 10’s virtual desktops, you simply head over to the Task View interface (by pressing Windows+Tab on your keyboard). Whereas these were previous just labelled “Desktop 1″, “Desktop 2,” etc. you can now rename them.
To do this, just click the name of each virtual desktop at the top of the Task View interface and then type a name. What is nice is that these names can even use emoji (press Windows+. to get emoji picker).
2. New Disk type and GPU temperature in Task Manager
Task Manager now displays your disk type, whether it’s SSD or HDD, which makes it much easier to see the type of hardware in your device. These details are displayed on the Performance tab which you can get to by opening Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and then clicking “More Details”.
The Task Manager’s performance tab also now displays your GPU temperature. To get to this, go to your GPU’s status page under the Performance tab. This works with dedicated graphics cards only.
3. Faster (and working) Windows Search
Last years’ Windows 10 May 2019 Update fixed the Start menu search by taking advantage of the old Windows search indexer. Unfortunately, reports from users, admins and #WindowsInsiders of excessive disk and CPU usage and other overall performance issues, meant many simply turned off the search indexer.
Microsoft says this is now fixed, since the search indexer now detects peak usage times so it can better optimise when the indexer runs and can also pause if the device gets busy again while indexer is running.
4. Re-install from the Cloud
In this build, Microsoft has introduced a new re-install from Cloud option in the recovery section of settings, which can be used when resetting your PC to a new default Windows build.
To do this, go to Settings > Update and Security > Recovery and choose to reset your PC and remove everything, and then you can tell Windows to use “Cloud Download”, instead of reinstalling Windows 10 from the files on your local system or needing to provide a USB with the Windows 10 media on. This is much like the way iOS and Android devices now work.
This method is also expected to come to Enterprise imaging and update tools like System Centre and Intune very soon.
5. Improved Network Status pane
The network status page which can be found at Settings > Network & Internet > Status has been had an overhaul and new lick of paint in this update. This is much easier to navigate and now the main network status at the top of the page.
This layout doesn’t add anything new but makes provides better and more relevant information without having to click through loads of options – its also easier to access the trouble-shooters.
I do find it frustrating that tasks like renaming adaptors for example, still opens the legacy Control Panel settings!! – Microsoft are gradually retiring of these, however.
6. Native Support for Network Cameras
Ok, so I said top 5 – but this one almost made the list so thought I’d talk about it.
In this release – Windows 10 is adding support for IP-based cameras. With this, it will now be possible to add network-based cameras by going to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and other devices > Add Bluetooth or another device.
If there’s a supported camera on your local network, Windows 10 will be able to find it, or you can add it to your system in one simple click.
Once done, you will then be able to use the native, built-in Camera application to access the network camera without needing to use a third-party app.
As the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing most companies to shift their operations to collaboration and video conferencing tools like Slack, Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams, all of these services have seen a huge jump in useage and in their share prices!
Verizon isn’t a name you’d usually think of in this suave until, maybe, now with their acquisition of Bluejeans.
BlueJeans, provide a video interoperability gateway service as well as a simple but encrypted videoconferencing platform with around 15, 000 customers. By acquiring Bluejeans, Verizon will not only be able to compete in the video conferencing space, but can also leverage its global footprint to scale the service further and assist users in areas including field service work, distance learning and telemedicine.
Verizon’s CEO, Tami Erwin, said in a press release
“As the way we work continues to change, it is absolutely critical for businesses and public sector customers to have access to a comprehensive suite of offerings that are enterprise ready, secure, frictionless and that integrate with existing tools.”
Verizon’s CEO, Tami Erwin
Quentin Gallivan, CEO of Bluejeans has said that the agreement will allow the company to “accelerate product development to innovate secure and immersive collaboration experiences for our customers. In addition, we will be able to leverage the R&D of both companies to create compelling innovations to enhance our offering in use cases like telemedicine, distance learning and field service.”
Who know how this will develop and extend. Whether they verizon will keep this as a niche product set or if they will plan to look to compete and integrate / interoperate it with other products will remain to be seen..
Microsoft has agreed to buy Affirmed Networks, a company that builds tools that enable software-defined networking capabilities, such as network function virtualisation (or NFV), across the emerging 5G infrastructure.
Today, Affirmed Networks provides a way for global mobile/data data carriers to grow networks to meet increasing demand by drawing on virtualised cloud based infrastructure.
Affirmed existing customers include AT&T, Orange, SoftBank, Telus and Vodafone.
Why the purchase?
This is a smart move I think, since adding 5G capability and integrated services to drive their Azure cloud busienss and in particular edge computing services like AzureStack through 5G smart networking makes a lot of sense….
This would of course help Microsoft leap forward and accelerate their Azure Cloud business by allowing them to develop and sell products/services that are more appropriate for a specific industries that focus on alway connected and edge based services in line with global network operators roll out of this new super fast 5G connectivity.
It’s all about mobile and edge computing
This acquisition has the potential, if executed correctly, to put Microsoft into a very key and unique position in the 5G world, since this now gives them a guaranteed “seat” at the table with the other major 5G telcos and other large service providers all over the world.
Not only could Microsoft use this connection to have Azure potentially serve as a core platform for 5G infrastructure, it also provides a potential capability to bring cloud computing resources running on Azure closer to the network infrastructure – speeding up and simplifying the running of cloud-based edge apps and services across 5G networks.
Is Microsoft about to tread firmly on Cisco’s Feet in the NFV space?
Of course, only time will tell how well Microsoft make use of this new acquisition and use it to drive forward with smart 5G connected Azure Services.
Cisco, has also been making significant investments in software for enabling virtualised networks (NFV) as has also been working with global telcos.
If fact, Cisco are already in deep partnership with Rakuten helping to power what many believe is the world’s first completely cloud-native virtualised telco network scheduled to publicly in Japan in May/June 2020. This will leveraging vast amounts of computing power from Intel-powered whitebox servers and will be powered by Cisco’s Virtualized Infrastructure Manager and is powered by Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Nexus 9000 switches.
This blog by Cisco goes into the technical depth about how this will tech will help streamline 5G network providers so its clear why Microsoft have jumped in at this early stage too..
There’s no doubt Microsoft haven’t been busy this past few months with some may say, it’s own rapid #MicrosoftTeams feature response took to #covid_19.
Whilst in preview for many at Microsoft for a while, Microsoft posted to twitter and the uservoice feedback site this afternoon (Monday 13th April) to announce that it will very shortly (we beleive this month) be increasing the number of participants viewed simultaneously on the meeting view from the current 4 to 9.
“Zoom however, lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen“
Microsoft have also said though publicly, that they are “continuing work to increase this limit even further.”
Is this all just to compete with Zoom?
In parts I think… Yes
But… Microsoft have been working on this for a couple of years but was obviously never really seen as a huge priority (despite the number of user requests).
Bear in mind Teams isn’t Zoom, but we often compare aspects of a product with a different solution. Zoom is purely a video conferencing service (whereas Teams is far more than that… Chat, channels, co-authoring, secure collaboration and integrated into Microsoft 365).
Of late though with everyone working from home, due to #covid19, Zooms features have been priased both in both the enterprise (security noise aside) and personal space…
I think this is mainly because Zoom lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen and whilst this is probably not practice to required for most Enterprises (but great maybe for schools and gym classes) the user community seems to think that the changes don’t go far enough to help with orgs with large team sizes….so the pressure on Microsoft to increase this further is by far from over!
Given the focus on enterprise and quality however it is likely Microsoft will put security and quality ahead of just features in this “turf war” and they have said they are continuing work to increase the limit even further “soon”.
It appears there’s nothing stopping Microsoft run at being the clear leaders across its cloud and data services.
Just announced, and for the 13th consecutive year, #Microsoft has been positioned as leader in the Gartner 2020 Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.
For the 2nd year running Microsoft is positioned furthest to the right for completeness of vision and furthest up in the ability to execute within the leaders’ Quadrant. Beating Salesforce, IBM Tableau, Oracle and SAP to the top right spot buy more than just a bit! #PowerBI #microsoft365
Microsoft and Gartner put this leading position down to the following:
Many of the strengths of Power BI come directly from our customer feedback such as:
Power BI insights and Office 365 productivity. Power BI looks and feels exactly like the rest of the familiar Office application making every user instantly productive.
Find answers fast with industry-leading AI. Power BI incorporates many of the latest advances in Microsoft AI to help non-data scientists prepare data, build machine learning models, and find insights quickly from both structured and unstructured data, including text and images.
Meet the most demanding enterprise needs. Power BI works together with Azure Synapse Analytics to enable fast, interactive analysis across petabytes of data.
Turning insights into action. Users can go straight from data to insights and insights to action with the Microsoft Power Platform, combining Power BI with Power Apps and Power Automate to easily build business applications.
The annual RSA Conference brings together 50,000 cybersecurity professionals to connect with peers from around the world to uncover new and better ways to keep the digital world safe. Most of the leading Security vendors are there as you expect. As is becoming the annual norm, Microsoft used this opportunity to being more exciting announcements around its ever expanding offerings and capabilities in security.
Inside Risk Management
Insider Risk Management which has been in preview for a couple of months is now widely available.
The world we work in today with Internet everywhere, multiple devices being carried by employees and a work from anywhere culture means corporate data is likely to be stored or accessed on laptops, tablets phones, and even watches. Where blocking access is not an option, IT need ways to identify, take action on, and prevent insider risks to keep their busienss data safe.
Insider Risk Management (part of Microsoft 365) helps tackle this challenge by gathering signals from across Microsoft 365 and other third-party systems, and then leverages the Intelligent Security Graph Insider Risk and machine learning to identify anomalies in user behavior and flag high-risk activities – enabling businesses to more effectively protect and govern their data.
Communication Compliance, which extends the existing complaince services within Microsoft 365 can be tuned to leverage machine learning to quickly identify and take action on code of conduct policy violations within all company communications channels. This has also just been generally released.
Microsoft Threat Protection
Over the past year Microsoft has been busy consolidating and harmonising all the various theat protection services and standardising the signalling, risk profile and events. In a world where multiple vendor solutions are no longer the recommended approach to provide end to end security, Microsoft Threat Protection helps simply whilst strengthening protection for the enterprise.
Traditionally, Security and IT have an endless list of alerts coming in from multiple monitoring systems and across their network, cloud, data centre and devices , making it almost impossible to link those at speed, recognise an attack, prioritise, and act quickly on the most critical threats or risks.
The unification of Microsoft’s Threat Protection services means that security/IT teams can now get a correlated, incident-level view of threats rather than having to manage and investigate multiple individual alerts from multiple systems.
The key capabilities in Microsoft Threat Protection include:
Investigating threats, automatically (or semi automatically) responding to them, and restoring affected assets to a secured state automatically, while simplifying hunting across the landscape for other signs of attack.
Self-healing compromised user identities, endpoints, and mailboxes, allowing security and IT teams to spend more time focussing on projects and policies by using AI and ML to automate remediation.
Sharing critical threat insights in real time to help stop the progression of an attack.
Azure Sentinel enhancements which are covered below.
Updates to Azure Sentinal
Microsoft Azure Sentinel is a scalable, cloud-native, security information event management (SIEM) solution which allows business of any size to keep pace with the exponential growth in security data, improve security outcomes, and reduce hardware and operational costs.
New enhancements have been announced this week at RSA in San Francisco designed to deliver instant value and increased efficiency for security operations teams. These include
New community rewards (bounty program) for contributions to develop dashboards, orchestration, playbooks etc
New developer guides and APIs along with GitHub code and data collections
Ability to import AWS CloudTrail logs at no cost until June 2020
New security campaign views which gives security teams an all-encompassing view of email attack campaigns targeted at their organisation
New connectors for easier data collection from a wider range of security appliances and services
Security Campaign Views
Campaign views and compromise detectionand response has also been made generally available following a short preview.
This feature gives security teams an all-encompassing view of email attack campaigns targeted at their organisation, along with making it easy to spot vulnerable users or configuration issues that enabled the attack or breach to succeed in the first place.
Early detection and response to compromised users is critical to ensuring that attacks are detected and actioned/remiated as early as possible so that the impact of a breach is minimised.
New Security Awareness Training
Through a partnership with Terranova, a market leader in computer-based training, Microsoft will be including Terranova’s entire phishing-related training set for free for organisations that use or are licensed for Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection Plan 2 (including in Microsoft 365 E5).
This security awareness training, coupled with Microsoft security solutions and risk analytics, will enable and extend Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection to provide a complete solution, encompassing customised user learning paths that enable IT and your compliance teams to create governance around organisational risk and maintain a stronger security posture.