Microsoft Viva Sales: Aims to provide seamless integration from any CRM into Office 365 and Teams.

With the annoucement the Viva Sales platform, Microsoft aims to help organisations harness the power of their existing CRM platform and seamless expose this within and across Microsoft Teams and Office 365 without third party apps, plug-ins, or data exchange tools. Microsoft’s goal is a native, common and familiar experience regardless of an organisations choice of CRM system.

Viva Sales will connect customer data across from any CRM into Teams and Office.
Image: (c) Microsoft

This approach is not unique to Microsoft. Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack last year was in part to enable them to ramp up their communications tools for sales teams. Microsoft, however, is not looking to compete directly with Salesforce or any specific CRM vendor. Microsoft’s goal here is more around “filling gaps” left behind by legacy and traditional CRM systems that done provides the “smarts” that systems like Salesforce and Dynamics 365 provide for example.

In the official announcement of Viva Sales, Microsoft said:

We definitely think people benefit from a CRM system, the difficulty is, a lot of what’s happening between a customer and a salesperson is actually never recorded in the CRM system, because it’s just too tedious.”.

Jared Spataro | Corporate VP for Microsoft 365

What does Viva Sales do?

Due for release in Q4 2022, Viva Sales will allow sales and marketing teams to automatically synchronise data between any, and all, of their communications applications such as Microsoft Teams and Outlook, and their CRM system which does not have to be Dynamics 365 either. This is like the Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Slack integration, and what Microsoft have done natively with Dynamics 365 and Teams.

In their official blog, Microsoft describe Viva Sales as a intelligent service which enables sellers to capture insights from across Microsoft 365 and Teams, eliminate manual data entry, and receive AI-driven recommendations and reminders – while staying in the flow of work. Viva Sales promises to streamline the seller experience by surfacing the insights with the right context within tools people already use, without them needed to dip in and out of their CRM therefore saving time and ensuring that the CRM becomes part fo the core workflow without compromise on the productivity tools the teams use across the wider organisation.

Microsoft say that Viva Sales will work with any CRM to automate data entry and brings AI-powered intelligence to sellers in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.

The key benefit for organisations using Viva Sales is that is that Viva is already (naturally) integrated with Microsoft Teams and Outlook which are used and adopted.

The launch of Viva Sales isn’t just about sales however. What!!!?, Well, Microsoft has a much broader vision with Viva to provide a layer of intelligence across its entire Office 365 suite and Teams. This strategy is demonstrated by the incredible reach and integration available through the Microsoft Graph – a major part of strategy for moving beyond the underlying enterprise resource planning tools and more towards the type of workflow play displayed and respected by the likes of ServiceNow.

A Change of Approach

This approach is a strategic shift for Microsoft. In the past, Microsoft’s go-to-market strategy was to require their customers to choose their products such as Teams and Dynamics 365 over the say WebEx, Zoom and then Salesforce or HubSpot. With Viva Sales, this is now about choosing what products work for you and then leveraging the intelligence services through Viva and the Microsoft Graph to bridge them together and provide data intelligence on top.

“The most significant thing about this announcement is we are saying … choose whatever you want to choose — what we actually think will be most valuable over time will be the layer of intelligence that binds it all together.”.

Microsoft

Microsoft have compared the enterprise software industry to that of a city, where it is built from the ground up. For example, If Azure, AWS and GCP are the city’s foundations, then SaaS applications and workflow are its roads and buildings.

“People will keep putting money into sewers and roads and stuff like that,” he said, “but a lot more money goes into the hardware put on top.”

What do you think?

What do you think of the announcement? Is this a good move for Microsoft or are sellers better off just working in their native CRM?




Like what you read, why not subscribe?

Microsoft ends support for their once-dominant web browser Internet Explorer.

Today (June 15th 2022), what was once the “king of the web browsers” has officially retired after 27 years, marking the end of an era. As of now Internet Explorer is officially “end of life”.

Bill Gates and Microsoft Internet Explorer Logo
Bill Gates – Showcases Internet Explorer (c)

Microsoft Internet Explorer was released in 1995 and quickly became the dominant browser, almost instantly wiping out the previous dominant player Netscape. Internet Explorer was the dominant web-browser for more than a decade as it was bundled with the Windows operating system (similar to how Edge is today) that came pre-installed on billions of computers.

What does “End-of-life” mean?

In short, just that – it’s dead. Officially, “End of life” refers to the point in time when an application is no longer supported by the software company that makes it. In this case, Microsoft’s end of life for Internet Explorer means continued use of the browser after today is still allowed, but Microsoft will no longer update it, patch it or support it if something goes wrong.

This is important since new computer viruses, malware, and ransomware attacks are developed daily, and the web-browser is a major window into many of the apps that employees, customers, consumers use every day. Users should therefore stop using Internet Explorer use their modern Chromium-based Edge browser (or other 3rd party choice) since no more security updates will be provided by Microsoft as of now.

It has been a while coming

This has been a while coming, ever since Internet Explorer’s market share continued to be dominated by Google Chrome and others and Microsoft announced, and launched it’s new Edge Browser which built on the open source Chromium framework which Google uses within it’s Chrome browser.

Microsoft had already ended support for Internet Explorer for their Teams web app back in 2020, shortly followed by removing support across their other key web apps and services including OneDrive, Dynamnics, PowerApps, Outlook and Office from August 2021.

“Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10,”

Microsoft

Microsoft will continue to be supported in very few situations including with customers running the Windows 10 long term services branch (ltsb).

The Future is Edge

Microsoft Edge, was released in 2015 and was upgraded in 2019 to include the Chromium open-source code which Microsoft is now a major contributor along side Google and others. The move was done to compete with more popular browsers like Google Chrome, which has (and still does in part) dominated the market.

Microsoft Edge is a modern open-source browser and offers improved compatibility, streamlined productivity, and hugely better browser security.

As new apps and software products are released onto the market by other companies, old software versions can’t keep up. Microsoft Edge Chromium-based browser can now support a wider variety of platforms, which makes it more useful for the modern era. IE 11, in comparison, held limitations preventing it from updating alongside newer technologies.

What about legacy web apps and sites?

For older websites and services, Microsoft Edge provides a built-in “Internet Explorer mode”, making the use of using older web browsers like Internet Explorer unnecessary.

Microsoft recognise that many larger organisations “may have a surprisingly large set of legacy Internet Explorer-based websites and apps, built up over many years.” As such Microsoft have promised to support legacy web apps via it’s Internet Explorer mode until at least 2029, which gives web developers 8 full years to modernise their legacy apps and eventually remove the need for IE mode.

Legacy Support and Help is available

Users shifting from Internet Explorer to Edge can easily transition their passwords, favourite websites, and other browsing data from to Edge.

Microsoft recommends that any organisation that still has concerns or needs to support Internet Explorer (and therefore need legacy support) do the following.


Like what you read? Feel free to subscribe

Windows Autopatch is now available for public preview

Microsoft Autopatch

Windows Autopatch, a service to automatically keep Windows and Microsoft 365 up to date in enterprise organisations, has now reached public preview. When officially released (GA), it will be included Microsoft commercial customers with a Windows Enterprise E3 license or higher.


In short, Windows Autopatch automatically allows organisation to shift the management and deployment of Windows 10, Windows 11 and Microsoft 365 Apps including quality and feature updates, drivers, firmware to Microsoft.

What’s the purpose?

Essentially this aims to take the nightmare out of the age-old “patch Tuesday” and promises to be a great time saver for IT admins. With Autopatch, IT can continue to use their existing tools and processes for managing and deploying updates to devices OR can look to phase in or replace this in entirety and with this new “hands off” approach and let Windows Autopatch take care of security, driver and firmware updates.

“Changing the way things get done, even when that change makes things easier, gives pause to most people who run large IT organisations. By joining the public preview, you’ll be able to get comfortable with Windows Autopatch and ready your organisation to take advantage of the service at scale”.

Lior Bela | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft


The main purpose of Windows Autopatch is moving the update orchestration burden from the IT department to Microsoft. Once deployed, configured and tested, Autopatch should allow the entire effort around planning and managing the Windows Update process (sequencing and rollout) to be taken away from IT freeing up time and resources.

“Whenever issues arise with any Autopatch update, the remediation gets incorporated and applied to future deployments, affording a level of proactive service that no IT admin team could easily replicate,” Bela added.

“Whenever issues arise with any Autopatch update, the remediation gets incorporated and applied to future deployments, affording a level of proactive service that no IT admin team could easily replicate.”

Lior Bela | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft

How to enable Autopatch

Windows Autopatch devices must be managed by Microsoft Intune for this to work and Intune must be set as the Mobile Device Management (MDM) authority or co-management must be turned on and enabled on the target devices.

As you’d expect, there are a handful of steps needed to enable the preview and to enrol your Microsoft 365 tenant into the Windows Autopatch public preview:

  • Log on to Endpoint Manager as a Global Admin and navigate to the Windows Autopatch blade which is under the Tenant Administration menu – this will only be visible if you have the right licenses deployed.
  • Using an InPrivate browser window, redeem your Autopatch preview code
  • Run the readiness assessment, add the required admin contact, and add the devices you want to enrol in the service.
  • Tick the box, to allow Microsoft to manage updates on behalf of your organisation.
Allowing Microsoft to manage updates for your organisation

Microsoft provides regularly updated instructions on how to add devices to your test ring and how to resolve common errors such as “tenant not ready,” “device not ready” or “device not registered.”

Microsoft also provides detailed instructions (and video) on how to add devices to your test ring and how to resolve the status of “tenant not ready,” or a status of “device not ready” or “device not registered.”

Microsoft YouTube video on enabling Windows Autopatch

How Autopatch works

The Windows Autopatch service automatically splits your organisation’s device estate into four groups of devices described by Microsoft as “testing rings”.

  • Test Ring: Contains a minimum number of devices for test purposes
  • First Ring: Contains ~1% of all endpoints (think of this like the early adopter ring)
  • Fast Ring: Contains ~9% of devices
  • Broad Ring: Contains the rest of the devices.

The updates are deployed progressively, starting with the test ring and moving to the larger sets of devices following a validation period in which the system and IT can monitor device performance and compare it to pre-update metrics through End Point Analytics.

Autopatch rings. Image (c) Microsoft

Autopatch also features a nifty, feature called “Halt and Rollback” that block updates from being applied to higher test rings or rolled back automatically. This is key for critical dates or projects which may be impacted by updates or where quality errors are detected in the Test Ring updates.

What about Patch Tuesday and Critical Updates?

Microsoft will continue to deliver monthly security and quality updates for supported versions of the Windows on the second Tuesday of the month (commonly referred to Patch Tuesday or Update Tuesday) as they have been to date. These will be delivered by Autopatch also.

For normal updates, Autopatch uses a regular release cadence starting with devices in the test ring and completing with general rollout to broad ring.

Any updates addressing a critical vulnerability, such as Zero Day threats, will be expedited by Windows Autopatch with a aim to patch all devices immediately.


Microsoft provides further info in the Windows Autopatch support documentation, including details on service eligibility, prerequisites, licensing and features.

Viva Goals promises to bring ‘purpose and alignment’ to the employee experience

Microsoft Viva Goals has just been annouced and has entered a closed private preview. It will be included in the current Microsoft Viva suite subscription from Q3.

What will this bring?

Viva Goals is based heavily upon Microsoft’s 2021 aquisition Ally.io, who are a world leader in the realm of objectives and key results (OKR) platform which will find its way into Viva and gradually across the rest of Microsoft 365 and Teams. Viva Goals promises to help aligns teams to an organisation’s strategic priorities and will bring them together around an organisations’ company mission and purpose and values.

According to Microsoft’s latest work trend index report, more than half of all managers say they feel leadership is ‘out of touch’ with employee expectations around work life, hybrid work, and workload commitments. This new Viva Goals module is designed to address this by bringing purpose and alignment into Viva alongside the other core purposes the focus on culture and communications, wellbeing and engagement, growth and development, as well as knowledge and expertise.

Viva Goals (image (c) Microsoft

“Viva Goals brings business goals into the flow of everyday work, making it easier to stay up to date with connected data and automated reminders as well as to share OKRs and their progress across the organization with customized dashboards and quick links. It integrates with Microsoft Teams, Azure DevOps, etc.—and has more integrations to come with Microsoft Viva, Power BI, and other Microsoft 365 apps and services”.

Vetri Vellore |Corporate VP |Microsoft Viva Goals

Vellore states that (according to the work trend index report) 77% of employees say it’s important or very important for their employer to provide a sense of purpose and meaning at work, and 69% say its important or very important to be rewarded for impact instead of hours worked.

Want to see Viva Goals in action

Viva Goals is Private Preview, but to learn more about the wider Microsoft Viva suite, visit the Microsoft Viva website and check out the video below.

Viva Goals in action (YouTube)

Microsoft announces new Managed ‘Security Experts Services’ to ramp up fight against cybercrime

Microsoft’s security business is growing faster than any of their other mainstream products and services, and today they announced they will be adding three new services designed to help organisations spot and respond to cybersecurity incidents.

Here’s the TL;DR version.

  • Microsoft are bolstering their security services offerings to go along with its technology products and partners.
  • Security is the fastest-growing broad product category for Microsoft.
  • Microsoft are increasing annual research and development spend in cybersecurity from $1 billion to $4 billion (more than any other security vendor anywhere).

The new services will see Microsoft’s own cyber security experts providing hands-on, proactive threat hunting for organisations unable to fully build out their own SOC due to the global security skills shortage and cost.

Keep reading to learn more…

This new announced investment comes as we see increasing reports from industry analysts on the continued increase in cyber security budgets globally as organisation continue to invest in protecting against the ever-increasing threat of ransomware attacks, identity theft and network hacks. 

Attacks are getting smarter and more targeted

Cybercrime attacks are continuing to rise and get increasing sophisticated, costing the world’s businesses $6 trillion USD last year, with that number expected to rise to $10.6 trillion in 2025.

According to Microsoft, “most human-operated ransomware attacks share some common traits, as attackers take advantage of an organization’s reliance on legacy software configurations or poor “credential hygiene” to gain entry into systems, and once in to find privilege escalation points to move through systems and carry out attacks.“.

Whilst identity hygiene is improving many organisations still do not get the basics right with poor identity protection, lax controls, no (or patchy) MFA and a disjointed and fragmented approach to security rather than a Zero Trust ‘defence in depth mindset’

Guarding single points of entry is not enough anymore, and a system or systems of managed extended detection and response (MXDR) is helping to help companies take a step back and look to guarding overall systems rather than focusing on locking down network ports or domains etc. “, Microsoft said in their latest security blog.

What is Microsoft Security Experts?

Microsoft Security Experts is a newly announced set of human, AI and software led services they will offer to organisations which will provide managed security services without them needing to build everything in house.

Microsoft Security Expert Services

Whilst just the start, the three new security managed services include Defender Experts for Hunting, Defender Experts for XDR, and Security Services for Enterprise.

  • Microsoft Defender Experts for Hunting.
    • This involves Microsoft Security engineers hunting and altering organisations of issues they proactive hunt in clients’ devices, Office 365 productivity software installations, cloud apps and identity platforms programs.
    • This will put Microsoft into a more direct competition with pure-play security software companies such as CrowdStrike.
    • Cost is circa $3 pupm.
  • Microsoft Defender Experts for XDR.
    • This is a more people intense service that will see Microsoft Security Experts helping organisations act on threats. Microsoft say that this type of work is typically done by a variety of different organisations today, including the big four accounting firms.
    • Cost is $14 pupm.
  • Microsoft Security Services for Enterprise
    • This service includes an even broader set of people-driven services.
    • It aims to be more specific and customised to the needs of large enterprise organisations.
    • It’s set to help elevate the global security skills and people challenge which affecting almost every organisation.
    • Costs are bespoke to each organisation.

Microsoft and Security

Security is already a $15 billion annual business for Microsoft, and in 2021/22 it has increased faster than any other significant product or service that Microsoft sold – up 45% YoY.

Microsoft is of course no new kid on the block when it comes to cyber defence, and last year blocked over 9.6 billion malware threats and 35.7 billion malicious emails as well taking down several huge state nation attacks.

Microsoft believe that they are uniquely positioned to help their customers and partners do more to meet today’s security challenges. “We secure devices, identities, apps, and clouds—the fundamental fabric of our customers’ lives – with the full scale of our comprehensive multicloud, multiplatform solutions. At Microsoft, we understand today’s security challenges because we live this fight ourselves every single day“.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella had already announced last year that their annual cyber security research and development spending is increasing to a staggering $4 billion, up from an already huge $1 billion.

What about the role of the Microsoft Partner?

Details are still emerging about how partners that sell security consultancy, enablement, training and of course managed extended detections and response (XDR) will be able to leverage these and build on their services.

Microsoft has said in their Yammer partner community site that they will be making a whole new set of investments in partners to help advance (or build) their managed extended detection and response (XDR) services business.

Growth and demand for Managed Security Services

According to Gartner, demand is on a fast growth trajectory, and more than 50 percent of organizations will be using managed detection and response (MDR) services for threat monitoring, detection, and response functions that offer threat containment and mitigation capabilities by 2025.

Microsoft say that their Partners will play a critical role in addressing this incredible customer demand.

Microsoft FY22 Q3: Big increases across Azure, Microsoft 365, Security Windows, Surface & Xbox

Microsoft’s Q3 2022 financial results we annouced last night, and once again they have annouced double-digit growth. Here’s the headlines.

  • Revenue $49.4 Billion (up 18%)
  • Net Income $16.7 Billion
  • Profit increase of 8% year on year

Much of this quarter’s growth is related to the cloud, with server and cloud services revenue up 29%  and Microsoft Cloud up 32% to $23.4 billion. Here’s a summary of the results.

Microsoft 2022 Q3 results

More Personal Computing

Up 11% to $14.5Billion was Microsoft’s “more personal computing” division which includes Windows and Xbox.

Up 11% also was “Windows OEM revenue growth,”.  Satya Nadella said that “Companies are adopting Windows 11 at a faster pace than any previous release.”

Xbox had its best sales in 11 years (up 14%), easily beating the relatively limited PS5 in terms of supply.

Cloud, Office 365, Business Processes

Office 365 revenue was up 17% in commercial and 12% in consumer with them now boasting 58.4 million consumer subscribers, up 2 million from last quarter and 8 million from this time last year.

Intelligent Cloud (Azure) revenue increased 46% in the quarter, and Microsoft said that the number of Azure deals worth at least $100million in the quarter more than doubled

LinkedIn continues to see huge growth, up 34% this quarter, which follows growth of 37%, 42% and 46% respectively in the previous three quarters.

Security was up 45% and was a huge call out, with revenue growth from security products and services across of Microsoft’s three segments.

Devices / Surface

Microsoft’s Surface devices also has a good quarter, up 13% increase in revenue despite the ongoing chip shortage. 2022 is Surface’s 10th anniversary, and I expect some big announcements this year to mark the date later this year.

Aquisition and Other Stuff

Microsoft announced a plan during this quarter to acquire video-game publisher Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the largest transaction in Microsoft’s 47-year history.

Microsoft also closed its Nuance Communications acquisition and laid out a strategy for expanding in health care, an industry Nuance focuses on.

Full report and annoucement

You can read the full report and analysis here.

https://news.microsoft.com/2022/04/26/microsoft-cloud-strength-fuels-third-quarter-results-2/

Microsoft Authenticator adds ability to generate Secure Passwords for you.

To mark the one year anniversary since Microsoft launched their Autofill feature on Authenticator, they have just updated the service with the ability to auto generate strong, unique passwords for you.

Microsoft Autofill (like a password manager) allows you to (for personal and corporate use) unites all of your passwords and stores them security in Azure AD via your Microsoft Account (or Azure AD account) for use across Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome (via an extension) as well as across your smart phone. Furthermore, the Microsoft Authenticator app can be used for managing all your passwords and this new feature helps you be even more secure online by generating secure and unique passwords that you don’t even need to worry about remembering (which is traditionally what leads to weak passwords).

Microsoft Authenticator App

To access this new feature, you need to be running the latest version of Authenticator on iOS or Android.

Authenticator will prompt you to use the feature when ever you create a new password for a website or cloud service or when you change the password of an existing one.

The app has slightly different behaviour across iOS and Android at the moment.

  • Android – tap the Passwords section, then click the (+) button, and choose Generate Password. You can save any passwords with the save icon and even name or copy them.
  • iOS – clickthe ellipses button at the top right of the app, and choose password generator.

What do you think. Do you use Microsoft Authenticator for password management today? What do you think of this new feature.

New Azure “Games development VM” aims to get creators building more games on Azure

Microsoft is on a mission to entice more game developers to use Azure as their platform of choice, by unveiling their Azure Game Development Virtual Machine. This was annouced in their Game Dev Blog post, on March 23rd where they spelled out the huge list of benefits for game developers in migrating their dev environments to Azure cloud-based game production environment.

Azure Game Development VMs

The purpose of the platform is to provide a cost effective and service rich environment for developers who want to test and build games in a production-ready cloud environment.

These dedicated game development virtual machines will come pre-built and packed ready to go with tools including Unreal Engine, Visual Studio, Perforce, Incredibuild, DirectX dev kits, and many others and Microsoft say that developers can also use the virtual machines to quickly create custom workstations, build servers that meet their needs.

ID @ Azure Program

Microsoft also  re-introduced the ID@Azure program, which was made generally available following the blog and official announcement. First annouced in December 2021, the free program which is focussed on those independent developers, and offers a range of cost-free tools that include things like training modules, a free Azure PlayFab Standard Plan for 2 years, and Up to $5,000 in Azure credits. Additionally, developers also get official support from Microsoft’s cloud and gaming support experts.

It’s worth noting, if course that Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming service also run, naturally on Azure.

Microsoft re-writes their partner program with a distinct focus on driving and building Cloud Services

Image

Yesterday evening (16th March 2022), Microsoft announced that are evolving the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) partner programme to “delivering what partners need to innovate, grow their businesses and deliver on the promise of digital transformation for customers across organizations and industries”.

Amongst other things, this will say goodbye to the current silver and gold competencies and strengthen focus on partners attaining Advanced Specialisations

This follows controversial changes to the Cloud Solution Provider program (CSP) with their New Commerce Experience platform which introduced a premium on pay monthly Microsoft 365 subscriptions also aimed, in part, to driving longer term partner-to-customer relations.

“The changes reflect Microsoft’s investments in the cloud as a strategic growth area and the need to align partners with the evolving requirements and buying patterns of customers”, according to Rodney Clark | Corporate vice president of Channel Sales.

The new “Cloud Partner Program”

From October 2022, the 15-year-old Microsoft Partner Network, will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program which will be focussed on six key areas:

  • Azure Data and Artificial Intelligence
  • Azure Infrastructure
  • Azure digital and app innovation
  • Business Applications
  • Modern Work
  • Security

The three Azure-related solutions partner designations will also become prerequisites for the Azure Expert MSP from October 2022, creating a bunch of work and certs for existing MSPs to stay “compliant”.

Gold and Silver Partners are no more.

Under the new Cloud Partner Program, Microsoft said that they will be retiring the current Silver and Gold competencies currently to help differentiate and stand them beyond a baseline partner “network membership” status. Instead, the focus will be around Advanced Specialisations, something Microsoft has been banging the drum about for a while – with many partners questioning where these were heading….. now we know

The new two-level program will continue to be open to Microsoft’s current partners — resellers, systems integrators, managed services providers, device partners and independent software vendors, but they are changing the way they categorise them and segment the partners.

New Partner Categories

Microsoft are also changing the way their partners are identified and recognised partner capability with two different “qualifying levels”:

The solutions partner level is a designation that is based on the partner meeting specific requirements across a new partner capability score which is measured across each of the 6 solution areas.

This partner capability score rank partners’ technical skills and “cloud” performance based on KPIs which include their certifications, new customers added, successful deployments and overall growth. The score will be a telemetry-based calculation based on reporting though their Partner Center portal, and partners must earn at least 70 points out of 100 to earn the designation. Partners will be able to access the portal to see their current progress toward that goal.

Specialisations and expert programs (similar to the Advanced Specialisations and Azure Expert programs today), will allow solution partners to differentiate and to demonstrate deep technical expertise and experience in specific technical scenarios under each solution area.

Changes will take effect slowly

Over the next 6 months, Microsoft will start transitioning to the new partner program model which will also change its name from “Microsoft Partner Network” to the “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program.

Microsoft stressed that there will be no immediate changes to partners’ business or program statuses, including anniversary dates.

Partners have until September 30th to decide whether to join transition to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program or renew their legacy Microsoft Partner Network benefit status for one last year if they need more time to prepare and transition.

Microsoft have added the new telemetry and reporting alignment for the new solution areas and specialisations to help partners start tracking, measuring, and planning their readiness.

Partner Centre “Solution Partner” competency tracking

Other Changes and Investments

Microsoft stressed in the announcement yesterday that in addition to renewing the benefits that partners already use and rely on, they are making them more customised.

Vital benefits, like Internal User Rights are not going away (something they attempted to remove several years ago which was overturned when partners went into up-roar) but they will now be called “product benefits”. These will continue to include on-premises licenses, cloud service subscriptions and Azure credit and said, “In fact, we’re increasing investment in our program by more than 25%.

Whilst we are still navigating through the various docs and changes, in short, it means partner investment for internal use and demo/dev environment will increase significantly and these will grow/extend based on things like the number of specialisations held against solution areas.


Closing thoughts

Like any change, people may be quick to judge and critic, but as 11 Competency Microsoft Gold Partner, these changes are good in my opinion and reflect the future direction of digital transformation and the way in which organisations like us want and need to work with partners.

“These changes are good in my opinion”

We have time to adapt (I suspect the program will be tweaked further too, as partners provide feedback). Microsoft is a different beast to traditional hardware partners like Cisco and Dell for example, but for me, Microsoft already give their partners a great amount of commitment, investment, and love. Partner benefits such commercial incentives, training, Internal Use Rights and (as a top-tier managed partner) strategic account and technical development, for us (at Cisilion) make the Microsoft Partner Program one of the best in terms of true partnership.

That said, Microsoft is a complicated beast, with lots of pockets of preferential partners, old operating models, outdated and silo’d systems and fragmented partner resources (Yammer, Partner Centre etc.). We are lucky being a managed partner since our partner manager works closely with us and helps us navigate through these challenges.

The new competency and specialisation driven programs, in my view are more relevant than the current ones and make sense. The increase in internal use rights (especially around Azure) are welcomed also.

The ink is still drying on the announcement, and we are still digesting the plethora of information, this is a good move for partners (IMO) and one we are excited to embrace. My views of course may change as we get to grips with the changes, impact, and the investment we, as partners need to make to transition to the changes.

Microsoft Security recognised as a Leader in 8 Forrester Wave™ categories

Microsoft has been recognised over the last 12 months as leaders in 8 Forrester Wave catagories.

Did you know, Microsoft analyse over 24 trillion security signals every 24 hours offering a uniquely comprehensive view of the current state of security.

This is backed by over 8,500 security experts from across 77 countries that provide a critical perspective on the security landscape and helps protect against industry and state nation attacks.

Microsoft say that “When you have comprehensive security, you have the freedom to grow your enterprise to match your vision. Comprehensive security is not only coverage, but also best-in-breed protection, built-in intelligence, and simplified management”.

1. Unified Endpoint Management

Microsoft Endpoint Manager brings together Microsoft Intune for cloud endpoint management and Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager for endpoints on-premises, empowers organisations to protect their apps and devices across platforms for a resilient, productive workforce.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

2. Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

Extended detection and response (XDR) is an early-stage market, and current vendor capabilities reflect that. XDR products have variegated feature sets based on their maturity, native portfolio, and vision for the SoC which is thought will likely replace (longer term) SEIM.

Microsoft Defender combines SIEM and XDR to increase efficiency and effectiveness while securing your digital estate. It allows IT to get insights across their entire organisation with their cloud-native SIEM, Microsoft Sentinel. Customer can leverage integrated, automated XDR to protect end users with Microsoft 365 Defender, and secure their multi cloud infrastructure with Microsoft Defender for Cloud.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

3. Identity as a Service

The shift to hybrid or fully remote workforces has also accelerated user access that bypasses enterprise networks. To manage these changes, organisations are looking to IDaaS providers to serve as their primary identity provider (IDP).

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

4. Security Analytics Platforms

In the past, vendors offered traditional SIEM systems as on-premises hardware or software deployments. In 2020, Azure Sentinel became the industry’s first cloud-native SIEM on a major public cloud.

Most of the vendors included in Forrester’s evaluation of the security analytics platform market deliver their products via SaaS or cloud-hosted models. This change has enabled vendors to more quickly roll out new capabilities to their customers and decrease the management overhead for these systems.

Image (c) Forrester Research Q4 2020

5. Enterprise Email Security

Microsoft were positioned as a leader for Enterprise Email Security, Q2 2021 receiving among the highest scores in the strategy category. Microsoft Defender for Office 365 also received the highest possible score in the incident response, threat intelligence, and endpoint and endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions integration criteria, as well as in the product strategy, customer success, and performance and operations criteria.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

6. Endpoint Security Software as a Service

Microsoft 365 Defender received one of the highest scores in the strategy category. Forrester notes that “the focus on endpoint security has increased as cyber risks shift from the network to the endpoints, prompted by increasing amounts of homeworkers and the bulk movement of data from enterprise network-connected data centers to edge devices.”

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is seamlessly built into Microsoft 365 Defender, and their XDR offering brings capabilities for identities, endpoints, cloud apps, email, and documents.

Microsoft 365 Defender delivers intelligent, automated, and integrated security in a unified security operations (SecOps) experience, with detailed threat analytics and insights, unified threat hunting, and rapid detection and automation across domains – detecting and stopping attacks anywhere in the kill chain and eliminating persistent threats.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

7. Unstructured Data Security Platforms

Microsoft has significantly increased their investment in building risk management and compliance solutions, inclusive of information protection and data loss prevention (DLP). They delivered new solutions, such as Microsoft Information Protection, Endpoint DLP, and product features, including trainable classifiers, the “know your data” dashboard, and enhanced sensitive information types, to name a few. Additionally, Microsoft continues to invest in extending the Microsoft Information Protection ecosystem with continued innovation via their SDK. Over 200 partners now extend this protection capabilities to various industry or vendor specific use cases.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

8.Cloud Security Gateways

Microsoft Defender for Cloud (formally Cloud App Security) received the highest possible score in the strategy category.

Defender for Cloud is focused on helping organisations gain visibility of all their cloud apps, discover shadow IT, protect sensitive information anywhere in the cloud, enable protection against cyber threats, assess compliance, and manage security posture across clouds.

Image (c) Forrester Research 2021

Read the digital defence report

To find out more read the Microsoft Digital Defence Report.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/security/business/be-fearless

Microsoft is showcasing the ‘Future of Hybrid Work’ Powered by Windows

Microsoft has annouced a Windows centred event on April 5 which will be led by Windows Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay and is focused on how “Windows Powers the Future of Hybrid Work”

Registration is open now

The official web registration page for the event is already live with the virtual event scheduled for 4PM UK time (8:00 AM US Pacific Time).

Whilst not much is known about the content of the event, it will likley be aimed at commercial customers and will highlight many of the new ans upcoming features (currently being tested and developed with Windows Insiders) designed to improve and enhance the Windows 11 experience and tablet experience.

It won’t just be about Windows 11

The event will likley not only be about Windows 11. Since this is about the future of work, expect to hear about further hybrid work enhancements use this event to across other aspects of Microsoft 365 and (as in previous events) may be some surprise new product announcements. There will also likley be updates to device management tools and further enhancements to Windows 365 Cloud PC and Azure Virtual Desktop services.

The Microsoft’s webpage for the event also states that there will be break-out sessions which will deep dive into demos around upcoming enhancements to Windows tools for productivity and collaboration, management, and security.

Watch it live on April 5th

I will be watching live (hopefully), and will share any key news and updates after the event. Leading Windows sites and of course the Windows blog will also be updates and the event unfolds.

This link will download calendar file so you can quickly add it to your calendar.

Cisco becomes first SD-WAN vendor to leverage Microsoft Informed Networking Routing to optimise performance of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint

Cisco Cloud On-Ramp

Cisco has released an updated version of their SD-WAN software which now supports the optimal routing of Microsoft SaaS apps including Microsoft SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams on their SD-WAN. Cisco’s Vipella SD-WAN solution is the first SD-WAN solution to be certified for this.

Note: At time of writing, this feature applies to Cisco’s Viptela SD-WAN solution and is not currently supported in the Cisco Meraki SD-WAN portfolio. This may change.

With this update to the Cloud OnRamp feature, Cisco SD-WAN “further integrates Cisco’s support for Microsoft’s Informed Network Routing technology that lets organisations share Microsoft 365 app feedback telemetry with networking vendors and to receive network link telemetry from them”, according to Jeevan Sharma, Manager, Product Management, Enterprise Cloud & SD-WAN group at Cisco in a blog about the enhancements.

Known as Cloud OnRamp for Microsoft 365, it uses “proactive and continuous link probing to assess the best performing path at any point in time. It also allows network admin to utilize Microsoft URL categories granularity for categorizing the Microsoft 365 apps into Optimize, Allow and Default categories, while active link probing makes sure that the best performing path is always selected”.

How it works

This latest update to Cisco’s SD-WAN software, which continually monitors and controls the connectivity, management, and services between data users (remote or office based) and cloud and data centre services, now includes support for more Microsoft SaaS applications specifically SharePoint (and OneDrive) and Microsoft Teams.

Cisco SD-WAN customers can leverage Cisco’s Cloud OnRamp to intelligently route Microsoft 365 traffic, to provide the fastest, most secure, and most reliable end-user experience. This is done by ensuring that all connectivity paths to Microsoft 365 from each WAN / Internet connection at the branch, office, regional hub and/or data center is monitored continuously for performance, and application traffic is then dynamically routed to the best-performing path without requiring human intervention. Cisco Cloud OnRamp also provides real-time and historical visibility into SaaS application performance.

“I am excited to announce that the integration between Cisco SD-WAN and Microsoft Informed Network Routing now includes support for Microsoft Teams and SharePoint app telemetry. This update will help us deliver an improved end-user experience through enhanced cloud connectivity. The partnership between Microsoft 365 and Cisco SD-WAN further enhances your Microsoft Teams and SharePoint experience by optimizing routing and path selection beyond traditional network telemetry probes”

Jeff Mealiffe | Principal Architect | Microsoft 365 Core Networking | Cisco

Microsoft and Cisco Partnership

Cisco SD-WAN is Microsoft Network Partner Program (NPP) certified and is also a Microsoft 365 networking partner. As part of this program, Cisco SD-WAN aligns with the Microsoft’s Connectivity Principles aimed at helping Microsoft 365 customers achieve optimal end-user experience.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN technology is available from leading network and vendors such as Cisco, Palo Alto etc, and typically include routers and switches or virtualised customer-premises equipment (vCPE). They run together using a connected software stack that handles things like policy, security, networking functions, and other management and security functions.

Cisco SD-WAN technology enables enterprises to build a scalable and carrier-neutral WAN infrastructure, allowing them to reduce WAN transport costs and network operational expenses. Cisco SD-WAN enables IT to apply business-centric, application-aware, and differentiated routing policies – providing end users at the remote offices, branch direct connectivity to performance-intensive trusted app, such as Microsoft 365, while routing generic Internet traffic via SWGs, CASBs, or the customer’s VPN connected data center.

Cisco FY22-Q2 results show growth across all product areas with exception of collaboration

Cisco published their Q2 financial results which were announced on the 16th February 2022. with overall revenues up 6% to $12.7B and GAAP operating income up 8% to $3.5B.
 

We continue to see incredibly strong demand across our portfolio, emphasizing the criticality and relevance of Cisco’s innovation

Chuck Robbins | Cisco Chair and CEO


In the full report, which you can see here, Cisco said that they continued to see “robust demand, with momentum once again across all geographic regions and customer markets”.

They reported their 3rd quarter of consecutive growth and 33% order growth YoY in Q2.

TL;DR

  • Internet for the Future increased 42%
  • Secure, Agile Networks increased 7%
  • End to End Security increased 7%
  • Optimised Application Experiences increased 12%
  • Hybrid Work (Collab) decreased 9%

Q2 Summary

Cisco reported their 3rd quarter of consecutive growth with >30% growth and 33% order growth year-over-year in Q2.

Overall Cisco’s product sales continued to grow in Q2 (up 9% overall to $9.35m).

  • Secure Agile Networks (Enterprise Networking in the old world) grew 7% with most of the growth coming from data centre switching which experienced a double-digit growth in their Nexus 9000 product range in Q2.
  • Campus switching also grew well, led by double digit growth in their Meraki Wireless networking.
  • Collaboration Sales which includes WebEx, declined by 9% which continues to track a downward trend in their collaboration devices, meetings and voice services
  • End to End Security sales grew 7% with growth reported across their portfolio with products making up their “Zero Trust” portfolio seeing “double digit” growth.
  • Optimised Application Services which includes products like ThousandEyes grew 12%
  • Internet of the Future (which includes routed optical networking and 5G services grew a whopping 42% the biggest growth across their product portfolio

Services Product Growth

  • There isn’t much to report here other than Services Sales declined 1% in Q2.

Subscription Revenues

Cisco said that subscription revenues grew 7% year on year to $5.5B as they continue to transform themselves into more of a software business and remove the reliance on hardware only sales. Cisco said that Subscription reviews accounted for a total of 44% of their revenues in Q2 with annualised recurring revenue (ARR) up 11% to $21.9B

Supply Chain Issues Continue

Cisco said that supply chain issues will continue to impact Cisco in H2 (which ends in July 2022) and its expected to impact shipments and fulfilment throughout 2022.

Like most vendors at the moment and something my employer Cisilion is seeing as a continue challenge with our customers, Cisco have been badly affected by the supply chain issues stemming from the global shortage of semi-conductors.

Microsoft’s new “Cyber Signals” gives vital insights into current cybersecurity threats

Microsoft has launched their first Cyber Signals, a new quarterly cyber intelligence brief that highlights the latest cyber security threats, tactics, and strategies and is aimed at Chief Information Security Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Privacy Officers and other senior security opps teams.

Microsoft Cyber Signals Report

The brief is built using Microsoft’s extensive threat and data and research which leverages insights from more than 24 million security signals as well as intelligence data mined from the monitoring of 40 nation-state groups and over 140 threat groups. Microsoft has focused the first edition specifically on identity, which they believes is “the battleground for security” and the biggest weakest link in most organisations security posture.

In the briefing, Microsoft state that “Our identities are made up of everything we say and do in our lives, recorded as data that spans across a sea of apps and services. While this delivers great utility, if we don’t maintain good security hygiene our identities are at risk. And over the last year, we have seen identity become the battleground for security.

Perhaps the biggest point raised in this Cyber Signals report is the worrying low adoption of strong identity authentication across organisations. This includes multifactor authentication (MFA) which are proven to reduce the risk of compromised identity by 99.9%.

Here are they key highlights from the report.

  • Only 22% of customers using Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), Microsoft’s Cloud Identity Solution, have implemented strong identity authentication protection as of December 2021.
  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint blocked more than 9.6 billion malware threats targetting enterprise and consumer customer devices
  • From January 2021 through December 2021, Microsoft blocked more than 25.6 billion Azure AD brute force authentication attacks and intercepted 35.7 billion phishing emails with Microsoft Defender for Office 365.

The full brief also examines how nation-states are using spear phishing attacks and targeted social engineering to obtain passwords and other sensitive data. It also details the latest Ransomware attack trends and how they are being along with guidance and recommendations for how to stop the attacks.

“Microsoft ended 2021 with 71 billion cyberattacks blocked.”

Microsoft Cyber Signals

Much of the research explained by leading security chiefs including Christopher Glyer – the principal threat intelligence lead at the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center which employs nearly 4,000 security experts and threat hunters.

You can learn more about these trends and read the report on Microsoft’s Security Blog site….

… Oh and please let’s get MFA enabled for all corporate accounts and close that front door!

Use MFA

Faster adoption and higher satisfaction than ever… That’s Windows 11

Windows 11 officially launched on October 25th 2021 and ever since that day, Microsoft have been working hard ensure it’s shipped by default with all new modern PCs as well as of course through the free upgrade on supported Windows 10 devices.

Whilst there are still some niggles and bugs reported by users such as task bar functionality and the controversial move of the start menu (which can me moved back to the left if preferred), feedback continues to make a difference and Microsoft are still hard at work on features and updates which will be part of the first major update later this year (currently being tested by #WindowsInsiders as usual).


Microsoft announced, as part of their FY22 Q2 earnings call, a new Windows  blog post which highlights the scale and growth of the Windows market, user satisfaction and adoption.

The blog post cited a number of stats including the rapid adoption rate of Windows 11 stating that “Windows 11 also has the highest quality scores and product satisfaction of any version of Windows we’ve ever shipped.”

The PC is more important than ever

According to Microsoft, people are spending 40% more time on their Windows 11 PC when compared to how people used Windows 10. Whilst Microsoft don’t provide substantial details around how the data is collected, its likely as a result of the huge amount of telemetry data that Microsoft have across their product use. Of course Windows 11 has only really “existed” during these COVID-19 times, which is likely to be part of the reason people are spending more time on their devices than pre pandemic.

Over 1.4 Billion Windows devices

In the earnings call, Microsoft said they exceeded expectations for device shipments in Q2 and also exceeded their personal computing segment. Microsoft shared figures for Windows 11, Windows 10, Microsoft Teams, and their other services in a call to investors.

The big stat that was called out was that the total number of devices running Windows now stands at over 1.4 billion devices.

More Personal Computing earnings (Q2 FY2022)

Windows OEM licensing was up by a massive 25% this quarter driven by continued growth in the PC market, despite the on going global chip shortage.

Related to the above, Microsoft Surface revenue also grew by 8%, driven by unprecedented demand for Surface Laptop and Surface Pro 8.

Other OEMs like HP, Lenovo and Dell, Lenovo have also recently published record growth numbers which also help drive that a Windows 11 number upwards.