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Microsoft and Salesforce expand strategic partnership to accelerate customer success

Salesforce names Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for Salesforce Marketing Cloud to help customers scale and grow; new integration between Salesforce Sales and Service Clouds with Microsoft Teams will boost productivity

REDMOND, Wash., and SAN FRANCISCO — Nov. 14, 2019 — Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) on Thursday announced plans to expand their strategic partnership to help customers meet the evolving needs of their businesses and boost team productivity. Salesforce has named Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Salesforce will also build a new integration that connects Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Service Cloud with Microsoft Teams.

Salesforce and Microsoft logos
“At Salesforce, we’re relentlessly focused on driving trust and success for our customers,” said Marc Benioff and Keith Block, co-CEOs, Salesforce. “We’re excited to expand our partnership with Microsoft and bring together the leading CRM with Azure and Teams to deliver incredible customer experiences.”

“In a world where every company is becoming a digital company, we want to enable every customer and partner to build experiences on our leading platforms,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “By bringing together the power of Azure and Microsoft Teams with Salesforce, our aim is to help businesses harness the power of the Microsoft Cloud to better serve customers.”

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“Marriott has more than 7,200 properties spanning 134 countries and territories, so driving efficiency and collaboration is critical,” said Brian King, global officer, Digital, Distribution, Revenue Strategy, and Global Sales, Marriott International. “The combination of Salesforce and Microsoft enables our teams to work better together to enhance the guest experience at every touchpoint.”

“With 400 brands and teams in 190 countries, we are always looking for ways to scale more efficiently and strengthen collaboration,” said Jane Moran, chief technology advisor, Unilever. “The powerful combination of Salesforce and Microsoft enables us to be more productive and connect with each other and our customers like never before.”

Salesforce names Microsoft Azure as its public cloud provider for marketing cloud

With Salesforce Marketing Cloud, marketers are empowered to know their customers, personalize marketing with Einstein, engage with them across any channel, and analyze the impact to improve campaign performance. Bringing its Marketing Cloud workload to Azure, Salesforce joins the over 95% of Fortune 500 companies benefitting from an Azure infrastructure offering the most global regions of any cloud provider.

Through this partnership, Salesforce will move its Marketing Cloud to Azure — unlocking new growth opportunities for customers. By moving to Azure, Salesforce will be able to optimize Marketing Cloud’s performance as customer demand scales. This will reduce customer onboarding times and enable customers to expand globally more quickly with Azure’s global footprint and help address local data security, privacy and compliance requirements.

​Salesforce and Microsoft Teams integration will boost productivity

​As teamwork becomes a driving force in the workplace, people want to bring workflows and frequently used apps into their collaboration workspace environments. Sales and customer service are highly collaborative, team-centric functions, and many companies actively use both Salesforce CRM and Microsoft Teams. As part of this agreement, Salesforce will build a new integration that give sales and service users the ability to search, view, and share Salesforce records directly within Teams. The new Teams integration for Salesforce Sales and Service Clouds will be made available in late 2020.

Building on a commitment to customer success

These new integrations will build on existing solutions that enable mutual customers to be more productive, including the hundreds of thousands of monthly active users using Salesforce’s Microsoft Outlook integration to create, communicate and collaborate.

​About Salesforce​

Salesforce is the global leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), bringing companies closer to their customers in the digital age. Founded in 1999, Salesforce enables companies of every size and industry to take advantage of powerful technologies—cloud, mobile, social, internet of things, artificial intelligence, voice and blockchain—to create a 360° view of their customers. For more information about Salesforce (NYSE: CRM), visit: www.salesforce.com.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Stephanie Barnes, Salesforce PR, (415) 722-0883, stephanie.barnes@salesforce.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Allianz partners with Microsoft to digitally transform the insurance industry

Allianz and Microsoft to reimagine the insurance industry experience with Azure to streamline insurance processes; Microsoft will partner with Syncier, the B2B2X insurtech founded by Allianz, to offer customized insurance platform solutions and related services

Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and president, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing & Operations and Christof Mascher, COO and member of the Board of Management of Allianz SE
Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and president, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing & Operations (left) and Christof Mascher, COO and member of the Board of Management of Allianz SE (right). Source: allianz.com

MUNICH, Germany, and REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 14, 2019 — On Thursday, Allianz SE and Microsoft Corp. announced a strategic partnership focused on digitally transforming the insurance industry, making the insurance process easier while creating a better experience for insurance companies and their customers. Through the strategic partnership, Allianz will move core pieces of its global insurance platform, Allianz Business System (ABS), to Microsoft’s Azure cloud and will open-source parts of the solution’s core to improve and expand capabilities.

Syncier will offer a configurable version of the solution called ABS Enterprise Edition to insurance providers as a service, allowing them to benefit from one of the most advanced and comprehensive insurance platforms in the industry, reducing costs and centralizing their insurance portfolio management. This will increase efficiencies across all lines of insurance business, resulting in better experiences through tailored customer service and simplified product offerings.

“Teaming up with Microsoft and leveraging Azure’s secure and trusted cloud platform will support us in digitalizing the insurance industry,” said Christof Mascher, COO and member of the Board of Management of Allianz SE. “Through this partnership, Allianz and Syncier strive to offer the most advanced Insurance as a Service solutions on Microsoft Azure. The ABS Enterprise Edition is an exciting opportunity, both for larger insurers needing to replace their legacy IT, and smaller players — such as insurtechs — looking for a scalable insurance platform.”

“Allianz is setting the standard for insurance solutions globally,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and president, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing & Operations. “Together, Microsoft and Allianz are offering a solution that combines Allianz’s deep knowledge of the insurance sector with Microsoft’s trusted Azure cloud platform. By delivering an open-source, cloud-based insurance platform and software application marketplace, we will support innovation and transformation across this sector.”

Syncier’s ABS Enterprise Edition can handle insurance processes across all lines of business: property and casualty, life, health, and assistance. It can be customized for any insurance company, country and regulatory requirements. Insurers, brokers and agents adopting the platform can service clients and manage entire portfolios end to end in one system, gaining a unique 360-degree view of each client and the business.

To accelerate industry innovation, Syncier will also offer an Azure cloud-based marketplace for ready-made software applications and services tailored to the insurance sector. Such solutions could include, for example, customer service chatbots or AI-based fraud detection. The marketplace enables insurance providers to easily and quickly implement the available solutions in a plug-and-play manner.

Allianz uses ABS globally as a platform for all lines of business and along with Microsoft is committed to supporting the ABS Enterprise Edition long term as an industry solution. Today, ABS handles around 60 million insurance policies in 19 countries and is being rolled out to all Allianz entities.

About Allianz

The Allianz Group is one of the world’s leading insurers and asset managers with more than 92 million retail and corporate customers. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life and health insurance to assistance services to credit insurance and global business insurance. Allianz is one of the world’s largest investors, managing around 729 billion euros on behalf of its insurance customers. Furthermore, our asset managers PIMCO and Allianz Global Investors manage more than 1.5 trillion euros of third-party assets. Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological and social criteria in our business processes and investment decisions, we hold the leading position for insurers in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2018, over 142,000 employees in more than 70 countries achieved total revenues of 132 billion euros and an operating profit of 11.5 billion euros for the group. For more information on Syncier, visit www.syncier.com.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Gregor Wills, Allianz, +49 89 3800 61313, gregor.wills@allianz.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Microsoft and Nokia collaborate to accelerate digital transformation and Industry 4.0 for communications service providers and enterprises

Companies announce their first joint solutions combining Microsoft cloud, AI and machine learning expertise with Nokia’s leadership across mission-critical networking and communications

REDMOND, Wash., and ESPOO, Finland Nov. 5, 2019 Microsoft and Nokia today announced a strategic collaboration to accelerate transformation and innovation across industries with cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT). By bringing together Microsoft cloud solutions and Nokia’s expertise in mission-critical networking, the companies are uniquely positioned to help enterprises and communications service providers (CSPs) transform their businesses. As Microsoft’s Azure, Azure IoT, Azure AI and Machine Learning solutions combine with Nokia’s LTE/5G-ready private wireless solutions, IP, SD-WAN, and IoT connectivity offerings, the companies will drive industrial digitalization and automation across enterprises, and enable CSPs to offer new services to enterprise customers.

BT is the first global communications service provider to offer its enterprise customers a managed service that integrates Microsoft Azure cloud and Nokia SD-WAN solutions. BT customers can access this through a customer automated delegated rights service, which enables BT to manage both the customer Azure vWAN and the unique Agile Connect SD-WAN, based on Nokia’s Nuage SD-WAN 2.0.

“Bringing together Microsoft’s expertise in intelligent cloud solutions and Nokia’s strength in building business and mission-critical networks will unlock new connectivity and automation scenarios,” said Jason Zander, executive vice president, Microsoft Azure. “We’re excited about the opportunities this will create for our joint customers across industries.”

“We are thrilled to unite Nokia’s mission-critical networks with Microsoft’s cloud solutions,” said Kathrin Buvac, President of Nokia Enterprise and Chief Strategy Officer. “Together, we will accelerate the digital transformation journey towards Industry 4.0, driving economic growth and productivity for both enterprises and service providers.”

The cloud and IoT have ushered in the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, wherein enterprises are embracing data to automate and streamline processes across all aspects of their businesses. By joining forces, the two companies are bringing solutions to market that will simplify and accelerate this journey for enterprises, as well as enable CSPs to play a key role in helping their customers realize the potential of industrial digitalization and automation while also optimizing and better differentiating their own businesses.

Accelerating digital transformation for enterprises

Microsoft and Nokia are partnering to help accelerate digital transformation for enterprises by offering connectivity and Azure IoT solutions that unlock connected scenarios across multiple industries including digital factories, smart cities, warehouses, healthcare settings, and transportation hubs such as ports, airports and more.

The Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (Nokia DAC) 5G-ready industrial-grade private wireless broadband solution with on-premise Azure elements will enable a wide variety of secure industrial automation solutions that require more reliable connectivity, efficient coverage and better mobility than traditional Wi-Fi networks provide. For example, connected smart tools and machines on manufacturing floors that enable increased productivity, flexibility and safety for workers, or autonomous vehicles and robots in industrial environments that improve automation, efficiency and overall safety.

Enabling new enterprise services offered by service providers

Nokia’s Nuage SD-WAN 2.0 solution now enables service providers to offer integration with Microsoft Azure Virtual WAN for branch to cloud connectivity, with the companies planning to offer more options for branch internet connectivity in 2020. By automating branch and hybrid WAN connectivity, enterprises will have simplified, faster access to cloud applications such as Office 365, integrated security from branch-to-branch and branch-to-Azure and reduced risk of configuration errors causing security or connectivity issues.

Furthermore, the companies are integrating Nokia’s Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING) with Azure IoT Central to make the onboarding, deployment, management and servicing of IoT solutions seamless. This integration provides CSPs with the opportunity to offer their enterprises a single platform including vertical solutions to enable secure connected IoT services, such as asset tracking and machine monitoring on a national or global scale. Enterprises will be able to use Azure IoT Central and partner solutions for faster and easier enablement and implementation of their IoT applications together with Nokia’s IoT connectivity solutions.

Driving digital transformation for CSPs

Microsoft and Nokia are collaborating to host Nokia’s Analytics, Virtualization and Automation (AVA) cognitive services solutions on Azure. These AI solutions will enable CSPs to move out of private data centers and into the Azure cloud to realize cost savings and transform operations for 5G. Predictive Video Analytics is an example of a joint solution that will ensure optimal video experiences for CSP subscribers, improving reliability by up to 60 percent.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

About Nokia

We create the technology to connect the world. We develop and deliver the industry’s only end-to-end portfolio of network equipment, software, services and licensing that is available globally. Our customers include communications service providers whose combined networks support 6.1 billion subscriptions, as well as enterprises in the private and public sector that use our network portfolio to increase productivity and enrich lives.

Through our research teams, including the world-renowned Nokia Bell Labs, we are leading the world to adopt end-to-end 5G networks that are faster, more secure and capable of revolutionizing lives, economies and societies. Nokia adheres to the highest ethical business standards as we create technology with social purpose, quality and integrity. www.nokia.com

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Nokia Communications, +358 10 448 4900, press.services@nokia.com

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Microsoft’s new approach to hybrid: Azure services when and where customers need them

As business computing needs have grown more complex and sophisticated, many enterprises have discovered they need multiple systems to meet various requirements – a mix of technology environments in multiple locations, known as hybrid IT or hybrid cloud.

Technology vendors have responded with an array of services and platforms – public clouds, private clouds and the growing edge computing model – but there hasn’t necessarily been a cohesive strategy to get them to work together.

We got here in an ad hoc fashion,” said Erik Vogel, global vice president for customer experience for HPE GreenLake at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.Customers didn’t have a strategic model to work from.

Instead, he said, various business owners in the same company may have bought different software as a service (SaaS) applications, or developers may have independently started leveraging Amazon Web Services, Azure or Google Cloud Platform to develop a set of applications.

At its Ignite conference this week in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft announced its solution to such cloud sprawl. The company has launched a preview of Azure Arc, which offers Azure services and management to customers on other clouds or infrastructure, including those offered by Amazon and Google.

John JG Chirapurath, general manager for Azure data, blockchain and artificial intelligence at Microsoft, said the new service is both an acknowledgement of, and a response to, the reality that many companies face today. They are running various parts of their businesses on different cloud platforms, and they also have a lot of data stored on their own new or legacy systems.

In all those cases, he said, these customers are telling Microsoft they could use the benefits of Azure cloud innovation whether or not their data is stored in the cloud, and they could benefit from having the same Azure capabilities – including security safeguards – available to them across their entire portfolio.

We are offering our customers the ability to take their services, untethered from Azure, and run them inside their own datacenter or in another cloud,” Chirapurath said.

Microsoft says Azure Arc builds on years of work the company has done to serve hybrid cloud needs. For example, Azure Resource Manager, released in 2014, was created with the vision that it would manage resources outside of Azure, including in companies’ internal servers and on other clouds.

That flexibility can help customers operate their services on a mix of clouds more efficiently, without purchasing new hardware or switching among cloud providers. Companies can use a public cloud to obtain computing power and data storage from an outside vendor, but they can also house critical applications and sensitive data on their own premises in a private cloud or server.

Then there’s edge computing, which stores data where the user is, in between the company and the public cloudfor example, on their customers’ mobile devices or on sensors in smart buildings like hospitals and factories.

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That’s compelling for companies that need to run AI models on systems that aren’t reliably connected to the cloud, or to make computations more quickly than if they had to send large amounts of data to and from the cloud. But it also must work with companies’ cloud-based, internet-connected systems.

“A customer at the edge doesn’t want to use different app models for different environments,” said Mark Russinovich, Azure chief technology officer. “They need apps that span cloud and edge, leveraging the same code and same management constructs.”

Streamlining and standardizing a customer’s IT structure gives developers more time to build applications that produce value for the business instead of managing multiple operating models. And enabling Azure to integrate administrative and compliance needs across the enterprise – automating system updates and security enhancements brings additional savings in time and money.

“You begin to free up people to go work on other projects, which means faster development time, faster time to market,” said HPE’s Vogel. HPE is working with Microsoft on offerings that will complement Azure Arc.

Arpan Shah, general manager of Azure infrastructure, said Azure Arc allows companies to use Azure’s governance tools for their virtual machines, Kubernetes clusters and data across different locations, helping ensure companywide compliance on things like regulations, security, spending policies and auditing tools.

Azure Arc is underpinned in part by Microsoft’s commitment to technologies that customers are using today, including virtual machines, containers and Kubernetes, an open source system for organizing and managing containers. That makes clusters of applications easily portable across a hybrid IT environment – to the cloud, the edge or an internal server.

“It’s easy for a customer to put that container anywhere,” Chirapurath said. “Today, you can keep it here. Tomorrow, you can move it somewhere else.”

Microsoft says these latest Azure updates reflect an ongoing effort to better understand the complex needs of customers trying to manage their Linux and Windows servers, Kubernetes clusters and data across environments.

“This is just the latest wave of this sort of innovation,” Chirapurath said. “We’re really thinking much more expansively about customer needs and meeting them according to how they’d like to run their applications and services.”

Top image: Erik Vogel, global vice president for customer experience for HPE GreenLake at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with a prototype of memory-driven computing. HPE is working with Microsoft on offerings that will complement Azure Arc. Photo by John Brecher for Microsoft.

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How Microsoft re-envisioned the data warehouse with Azure Synapse Analytics

About four years ago, the Microsoft Azure team began to notice a big problem troubling many of its customers. A mass migration to the cloud was in full swing, as enterprises signed up by the thousands to reap the benefits of flexible, largescale computing and data storage. But the next iteration of that tech revolution, in which companies would use their growing stores of data to get more tangible business benefits, had stalled.

Technology providers, including Microsoft, have built a variety of systems to collect, retrieve and analyze enormous troves of information that would uncover market trends and insights, paving the way toward a new era of improved customer service, innovation and efficiency.

But those systems were built independently by different engineering teams and sold as individual products and services. They weren’t designed to connect with one another, and customers would have to learn how to operate them separately, wasting time, money and precious IT talent.

“Instead of trying to add more features to each of our services, we decided to take a step back and figure out how to bring their core capabilities together to make it easy for customers to collect and analyze all of their increasingly diverse data, to break down data silos and work together more collaboratively,” said Raghu Ramakrishnan, Microsoft’s chief technology officer for data.

At its Ignite conference this week in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft announced the end result of a yearslong effort to address the problem: Azure Synapse Analytics, a new service that merges the capabilities of Azure SQL Data Warehouse with new enhancements such as on-demand query as a service.

Microsoft said this new offering will help customers put their data to work much more quickly, productively and securely by pulling together insights from all data sources, data warehouses and big data analytics systems. And, the company said, with deeper integration between Power BI and Azure Machine Learning, Azure Synapse Analytics can reduce the time required to process and share that data, speeding up the insights that businesses can glean.

What’s more, it will allow many more businesses to take advantage of game-changing technologies like data analytics and artificial intelligence, which are helping scientists to better predict the weather, search engines to better understand people’s intent and workers to more easily handle mundane tasks.

This newest effort to break down data silos also builds on other Microsoft projects, such as the Open Data Initiative and Azure Data Share, which allows you to share data from multiple sources and even other organizations.

Microsoft said Azure Synapse Analytics is also designed to support the increasingly popular DevOps strategy, in which development and operations staff collaborate more closely to create and implement services that work better throughout their lifecycles.

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A learning process

Azure Synapse Analytics is the result of a lot of work, and a little trial and error.

At first, Ramakrishnan said, the team developed highlevel guidelines showing customers how to glue the systems together themselves. But they quickly realized that was too much to ask.

“That required a lot of expertise in the nitty gritty of our platforms,” Ramakrishnan said. Customers made it overwhelmingly clear that we needed to do better.”

So, the company went back to the drawing board and spent an additional two years revamping the heart of its data business, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, which lets customers build, test, deploy and manage applications and services in the cloud.

A breakthrough came when the company realized that customers need to analyze all their data in a single service, without having to copy terabytes of information across various systems to use different analytic capabilities – as has traditionally been the case with data warehouses and data lakes.

With the new offering, customers can use their data analytics engine of choice, such as Apache Spark or SQL, on all their data. That’s true whether it’s structured data, such as rows of numbers on spreadsheets, or unstructured data, such as a collection of social media posts.

This project was risky. It involved deep technical surgery: completely rewriting the guts of the SQL query processing engine to optimize it for the cloud and make it capable of instantly handling big bursts of work as well as very large and diverse datasets.

It also required unprecedented integration among several teams within Microsoft, some of whom would have to make hard choices. Established plans had to be scrapped. Resources earmarked for new features would be redirected to help make the entire system work better.

“In the beginning, the conversations were often heated. But as we got into the flow of it, they became easier. We began to come together,” Ramakrishnan said.

Microsoft also had to make sure that the product would work for any company, regardless of employees’ technical expertise.

“Most companies can’t afford to hire teams of 20 people to drive data projects and wire together multiple systems. There aren’t even enough skilled people out there to do all that work,” said Daniel Yu, director of product marketing for Azure Data and Artificial Intelligence.

Making it easy for customers

Customers can bring together various sources of data into a single feed with Azure Synapse Analytics Studio, a console – or single pane of glass that will allow a business professional with minimal technical expertise to locate and collect data from multiple sources like sales, supply chain, finance and product development. They can then choose how and where to store that data, and they can use it to create reports through Microsoft’s popular Power BI analytics service.

In a matter of hours, Azure Synapse will deliver useful business insights that used to take days or even weeks and months, said Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president for Azure Data.

“Let’s say an executive wants a detailed report on sales performance in the eastern U.S. over the last six months,” Kumar said. Today, a data engineer has to do a lot of work to find where that data is stored and write a lot of brittle code to tie various services together. They might even have to bring in a systems integrator partner. With Azure Synapse, there’s no code required. It’s a much more intuitive experience.”

The complexity of the technical problems Azure Synapse addressed would be hard to overstate. Microsoft had to meld multiple independent components into one coherent form factor, while giving a wide range of people – from data scientists to line of business owners – their preferred tools for accessing and using data.


With Azure Synapse, there’s no code required. It’s a much more intuitive experience.”

~ Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president for Azure Data


That includes products like SQL Server, the open source programming interface Apache Spark, Azure Data Factory and Azure Data Studio, as well as notebook interfaces preferred by many data professionals to clean and model data.

“Getting all those capabilities to come together fluidly, making it run faster, simpler, eliminating overlapping processes – there was some scary good stuff getting done,” Ramakrishnan said.

The result is a data analytics system that will be as easy to use as a modern mobile phone. Just as the smartphone replaced several devices by making all of their core capabilities intuitively accessible in a single device, the Azure Synapse “smartphone for data” now allows a data engineer to build an entire end-to-end data pipeline in one place. It also enables data scientists and analysts to look at the underlying data in ways that are natural to them.

And just as the phone has driven waves of collaboration and business innovation, Azure Synapse will free up individuals and companies to introduce new products and services as quickly as they can dream them up, Microsoft said.

“If we can help different people view data through a lens that is natural to them, while it’s also visible to others in ways natural to them, then we will transform the way companies work,” Ramakrishnan said. That’s how we should measure our success.

Top photo: Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president for Azure Data, says Azure Synapse will deliver useful business insights that used to take days or even weeks and months. Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures.

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Azure Sphere will be generally available in February of 2020, delivering IoT security to set innovation free

Today, at the IoT Solutions World Congress, we announced that Azure Sphere will be generally available in February of 2020. General availability will mark our readiness to fulfill our security promise at scale, and to put the power of Microsoft’s expertise to work for our customers every day—by delivering over a decade of ongoing security improvements and OS updates delivered directly to each device.

Since we first introduced Azure Sphere in 2018, the IoT landscape has quickly expanded. Today, there are more connected things than people in the world: 14.2 billion in 2019, according to Gartner, and this number is expected to hit 20 billion by 2020. Although this number appears large, we expect IoT adoption to accelerate to provide connectivity to hundreds of billions of devices. This massive growth will only increase the stakes for devices that are not secured.

Recent research by Bain & Co. lists security as the leading barrier to IoT adoption. In fact, enterprise customers would buy at least 70 percent more IoT devices if a product addresses their concerns about cybersecurity. According to Bain & Co., enterprise executives, with an innate understanding of the risk that connectivity opens their brands and customers to, are willing to pay a 22 percent premium for secured devices.

Azure Sphere’s mission is to empower every organization on the planet to connect and create secured and trustworthy IoT devices. We believe that for innovation to deliver durable value, it must be built on a foundation of security. Our customers need and expect reliable, consistent security that will set innovation free. To deliver on this, we’ve made several strategic investments and partnerships that make it possible to meet our customers wherever they are on their IoT journey.

Delivering silicon choice to enable heterogeneity at the edge

By partnering with silicon leaders, we can combine our expertise in security with their unique capabilities to best serve a diverse set of customer needs.

MediaTek’s MT3620, the first Azure Sphere certified chip produced, is designed to meet the needs of the more traditional MCU space, including Wi-Fi-enabled scenarios. Today, our customers across industries are adopting the MT3620 to design and produce everything from consumer appliances to retail and manufacturing equipment—these chips are also being used to power a series of guardian modules to securely connect and protect mission-critical equipment.

In June, we announced our collaboration with NXP to deliver a new Azure Sphere certified chip. This new chip will be an extension of their popular i.MX 8 high-performance applications processor series and be optimized for performance and power. This will bring greater compute capabilities to our line-up to support advanced workloads, including artificial intelligence (AI), graphics, and richer UI experiences.

Earlier this month, we announced our collaboration with Qualcomm to deliver the first cellular-enabled Azure Sphere chip. With ultra-low-power capabilities this new chip will light up a broad new set of scenarios and give our customers the freedom to securely connect anytime, anywhere.

Streamlining prototyping and production with a diverse hardware ecosystem

Manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce cost, complexity, and time to market when designing new devices and equipment. Azure Sphere development kits from our partners at Seeed Studios and Avnet are designed to streamline the prototyping and planning when building Azure Sphere devices. When you’re ready to shift gears into production mode, there are a variety of modules by partners including AI-Link, USI, and Avnet to help you reduce costs and accelerate production so you can get to market faster.

Adding secured connectivity to existing mission-critical equipment

Many enterprises are looking to unlock new value from existing equipment through connectivity. Guardian modules are designed to help our customers quickly bring their existing investments online without taking on risk and jeopardizing mission-critical equipment. Guardian modules plug into existing physical interfaces on equipment, can be easily deployed with common technical skillsets, and require no device redesign. The deployment is fast, does not require equipment to be replaced before its end of life, and quickly pays for itself. The first guardian modules are available today from Avnet and AI-Link, with more expected soon.

Empowering developers with the right tools

Developers need tools that are as modern as the experiences they aspire to deliver. In September of 2018, we released our SDK preview for Visual Studio. Since then, we’ve continued to iterate rapidly, making it quicker and simpler to develop, deploy, and debug Azure Sphere apps. We also built out a set of samples and solutions on GitHub, providing easy building blocks for developers to get started. And, as we shared recently, we’ll soon have an SDK for Linux and support for Visual Studio Code. By empowering their developers, we help manufacturers bring innovation to market faster.

Creating a secure environment for running an RTOS or bare-metal code

As manufacturers transform MCU-powered devices by adding connectivity, they want to leverage existing code running on an RTOS or bare-metal. Earlier this year, we provided a secured environment for this code by enabling the M4 core processors embedded in the MediaTek MT3620 chip. Code running on these real-time cores is programmed and debugged using Visual Studio. Using these tools, such code can easily be enhanced to send and receive data via the protection of a partner app running on the Azure Sphere OS, and it can be updated seamlessly in the field to add features or to address issues. Now, manufacturers can confidently secure and service their connected devices, while leveraging existing code for real-time processing operations.

Delivering customer success

Deep partnerships with early customers have helped us understand how IoT can be implemented to propel business, and the critical role security plays in protecting their bottom line, brand, and end users. Today, we’re working with hundreds of customers who are planning Azure Sphere deployments, here are a few highlights from across retail, healthcare, and energy:

  • Starbucks—In-store equipment is the backbone of not just commerce, but their entire customer experience. To reduce disruptions and maintain a quality experience, Starbucks is partnering with Microsoft to deploy Azure Sphere across its existing mission-critical equipment in stores globally using guardian modules.
  • Gojo—Gojo Industries, the inventor of PURELL Hand Sanitizer, has been driving innovation to improve hygiene compliance in health organizations. Deploying motion detectors and connected PURELL dispensers in healthcare facilities made it possible to quantify hand cleaning behavior in a way that made it possible to implement better practices. Now, PURELL SMARTLINK Technology is undergoing an upgrade with Azure Sphere to deploy secure and connected dispensers in hospitals.
  • Leoni—Leoni develops cable systems that are central components within critical application fields that manage energy and data for the automotive sector and other industries. To make cable systems safer, more reliable, and smarter, Leoni uses Azure Sphere with integrated sensors to actively monitor cable conditions, creating intelligent and connected cable systems.

Looking forward

We want to empower every organization on the planet to connect and create secure and trustworthy IoT devices. While Azure Sphere leverages deep and extensive Microsoft heritage that spans hardware, software, cloud, and security, IoT is our opportunity to prove we can deliver in a new space. Our work, our collaborations, and our partnerships are evidence of the commitment we’ve made to our customers—to give them the tools and confidence to transform the world with new experiences. As we close in on the milestone achievement of Azure Sphere general availability, we are already focused on how to give our customers greater opportunities to securely shape the future.

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Private preview announced for Azure Spring Cloud: fully managed service for Spring Boot microservices

As customers have moved their workloads to the cloud, we’ve seen a growth in the use of cloud-native architectures, particularly microservices. Microservice-based architectures help improve scalability and velocity but implementing them can pose challenges. For many Java developers, Spring Boot and Spring Cloud have helped address these challenges, providing a robust platform with well-established patterns for developing and operating microservice applications. But creating and maintaining a Spring Cloud environment requires work. Such as setting up the infrastructure for dynamic scaling, installing and managing multiple components, and wiring up the application to your logging infrastructure. 

To help make it simpler to deploy and operate Spring Cloud applications, together with Pivotal, Microsoft have created Azure Spring Cloud.

Azure Spring Cloud is jointly built, operated, and supported by both Pivotal and Microsoft. This means that you can use Azure Spring Cloud for your most demanding applications and know that both Pivotal and Microsoft are standing behind the service to ensure your success.

High productivity development

Azure Spring Cloud abstracts away the complexity of infrastructure management and Spring Cloud middleware management, so you can focus on building your business logic and let Azure take care of dynamic scaling, security patches, compliance standards, and high availability.

With a few clicks, you can provision an Azure Spring Cloud instance. After configuring a couple dependencies in your pom file, your Spring Cloud app is automatically wired up with Spring Cloud Config Server and Service Registry. Furthermore, you can deploy and scale Spring Boot applications in seconds. 

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To accelerate your development experience, we provide support for the Azure Spring Cloud Maven plugin and VS Code extensions that optimize Spring development. In other words, you can use the tools that you already know and love.

Ease of monitoring

With out-of-the-box support for aggregating logs, metrics, and distributed app traces into Azure Monitor, you can easily visualize how your applications are performing, detect and diagnose issues across microservice applications and their dependencies, drill into monitoring data for troubleshooting and gain better understanding of what end-users do with your apps.

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Open source innovation with Spring integrations

Azure Spring Cloud sets up the compute foundation for cloud-native Spring applications. From there, Azure Spring Cloud makes it simple to connect to data services such as Azure SQL Database, MySQL, PostgreSQL, or Cosmos DB to enable enterprise grade end-user authentication and authorization using Azure Active Directory, to bind cloud streams with Service Bus or Event Hubs, and to load and manage secrets with Azure Key Vault. To help you save the effort of manually figuring out dependencies and eliminate boilerplate code, we’ve created a rich library of Spring integrations and starters for your Spring applications.

Sign up for Azure Spring Cloud

Both Pivotal and Microsoft are looking forward to hearing feedback on the new Azure Spring Cloud from our joint customers. If you’re interested in joining the private preview, please submit your contact details here. To hear more from Pivotal on today’s announcement, head over to their blog and let us know what you think.

The service will be available in public preview, for all customers, before end of the calendar year.

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Azure customers: New Azure AD support for F5 Networks makes it easier to secure all your applications

Howdy folks,

We often hear from our customers about the complexities around providing seamless and secure user access to their applications—from cloud SaaS applications to legacy on-premises applications. Based on your feedback, we’ve worked to securely connect any app, on any cloud or server—through a variety of methods. And today, I’m thrilled to announce our deep integration with F5 Networks that simplifies secure access to your legacy applications that use protocols like header-based and Kerberos authentication.

By centralizing access to all your applications, you can leverage all the benefits that Azure AD offers. Through the F5 and Azure AD integration, you can now protect your legacy-auth based applications by applying Azure AD Conditional Access policies to leverage our Identity Protection engine to detect user risk and sign-in risk, as well as manage and monitor access through our identity governance capabilities. Your users can also gain single sign-on (SSO) and use passwordless authentication to these legacy-auth based applications.

To help you get started, we made it easier to publish these legacy-auth based applications by making the F5-BIG IP Application Policy Manager available in the Azure AD app gallery. You can learn how to configure your legacy-auth based applications by reviewing our documentation below based on the app type and scenario:

1 Azure AD and F5.png

As always, let us know your feedback, thoughts, and suggestions in the comments below, so we can continue to build capabilities that help you securely connect any app, on any cloud, for every user.

Best regards,

Alex Simons (@Alex_A_Simons)

Corporate VP of Program Management

Microsoft Identity Division

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Now generally available: Azure Sentinel—cloud-native Security Information and Event Management solution

Machine learning enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI) holds great promise in addressing many of the global cyber challenges we see today. They give our cyber defenders the ability to identify, detect, and block malware, almost instantaneously. And together they give security admins the ability to deconflict tasks, separating the signal from the noise, allowing them to prioritize the most critical tasks. It is why today, I’m pleased to announce that Azure Sentinel, a cloud-native SIEM that provides intelligent security analytics at cloud scale for enterprises of all sizes and workloads, is now generally available.

Our goal has remained the same since we first launched Microsoft Azure Sentinel in February: empower security operations teams to help enhance the security posture of our customers. Traditional Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions have not kept pace with the digital changes. I commonly hear from customers that they’re spending more time with deployment and maintenance of SIEM solutions, which leaves them unable to properly handle the volume of data or the agility of adversaries.

Recent research tells us that 70 percent of organizations continue to anchor their security analytics and operations with SIEM systems,1 and 82 percent are committed to moving large volumes of applications and workloads to the public cloud.2 Security analytics and operations technologies must lean in and help security analysts deal with the complexity, pace, and scale of their responsibilities. To accomplish this, 65 percent of organizations are leveraging new technologies for process automation/orchestration, while 51 percent are adopting security analytics tools featuring machine learning algorithms.3 This is exactly why we developed Azure Sentinel—an SIEM re-invented in the cloud to address the modern challenges of security analytics.

Learning together

When we kicked off the public preview for Azure Sentinel, we were excited to learn and gain insight into the unique ways Azure Sentinel was helping organizations and defenders on a daily basis. We worked with our partners all along the way; listening, learning, and fine-tuning as we went. With feedback from 12,000 customers and more than two petabytes of data analysis, we were able to examine and dive deep into a large, complex, and diverse set of data. All of which had one thing in common: a need to empower their defenders to be more nimble and efficient when it comes to cybersecurity.

Our work with RapidDeploy offers one compelling example of how Azure Sentinel is accomplishing this complex task. RapidDeploy creates cloud-based dispatch systems that help first responders act quickly to protect the public. There’s a lot at stake, and the company’s cloud-native platform must be secure against an array of serious cyberthreats. So when RapidDeploy implemented a SIEM system, it chose Azure Sentinel, one of the world’s first cloud-native SIEMs.

Microsoft recently sat down with Alex Kreilein, Chief Information Security Officer at RapidDeploy. Here’s what he shared: “We build a platform that helps save lives. It does that by reducing incident response times and improving first responder safety by increasing their situational awareness.”

Now RapidDeploy uses the complete visibility, automated responses, fast deployment, and low total cost of ownership in Azure Sentinel to help it safeguard public safety systems. “With many SIEMs, deployment can take months,” says Kreilein. “Deploying Azure Sentinel took us minutes—we just clicked the deployment button and we were done.”

Learn even more about our work with RapidDeploy by checking out the full story.

Another great example of a company finding results with Azure Sentinel is ASOS. As one of the world’s largest online fashion retailers, ASOS knows they’re a prime target for cybercrime. The company has a large security function spread across five teams and two sites—but in the past, it was difficult for ASOS to gain a comprehensive view of cyberthreat activity. Now, using Azure Sentinel, ASOS has created a bird’s-eye view of everything it needs to spot threats early, allowing it to proactively safeguard its business and its customers. And as a result, it has cut issue resolution times in half.

“There are a lot of threats out there,” says Stuart Gregg, Cyber Security Operations Lead at ASOS. “You’ve got insider threats, account compromise, threats to our website and customer data, even physical security threats. We’re constantly trying to defend ourselves and be more proactive in everything we do.”

Already using a range of Azure services, ASOS identified Azure Sentinel as a platform that could help it quickly and easily unite its data. This includes security data from Azure Security Center and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), along with data from Microsoft 365. The result is a comprehensive view of its entire threat landscape.

“We found Azure Sentinel easy to set up, and now we don’t have to move data across separate systems,” says Gregg. “We can literally click a few buttons and all our security solutions feed data into Azure Sentinel.”

Learn more about how ASOS has benefitted from Azure Sentinel.

RapidDeploy and ASOS are just two examples of how Azure Sentinel is helping businesses process data and telemetry into actionable security alerts for investigation and response. We have an active GitHub community of preview participants, partners, and even Microsoft’s own security experts who are sharing new connectors, detections, hunting queries, and automation playbooks.

With these design partners, we’ve continued our innovation in Azure Sentinel. It starts from the ability to connect to any data source, whether in Azure or on-premises or even other clouds. We continue to add new connectors to different sources and more machine learning-based detections. Azure Sentinel will also integrate with Azure Lighthouse service, which will enable service providers and enterprise customers with the ability to view Azure Sentinel instances across different tenants in Azure.

Secure your organization

Now that Azure Sentinel has moved out of public preview and is generally available, there’s never been a better time to see how it can help your business. Traditional on-premises SIEMs require a combination of infrastructure costs and software costs, all paired with annual commitments or inflexible contracts. We are removing those pain points, since Azure Sentinel is a cost-effective, cloud-native SIEM with predictable billing and flexible commitments.

Infrastructure costs are reduced since you automatically scale resources as you need, and you only pay for what you use. Or you can save up to 60 percent compared to pay-as-you-go pricing by taking advantage of capacity reservation tiers. You receive predictable monthly bills and the flexibility to change capacity tier commitments every 31 days. On top of that, bringing in data from Office 365 audit logs, Azure activity logs and alerts from Microsoft Threat Protection solutions doesn’t require any additional payments.

Please join me for the Azure Security Expert Series where we will focus on Azure Sentinel on Thursday, September 26, 2019, 10–11 AM Pacific Time. You’ll learn more about these innovations and see real use cases on how Azure Sentinel helped detect previously undiscovered threats. We’ll also discuss how Accenture and RapidDeploy are using Azure Sentinel to empower their security operations team.

Get started today with Azure Sentinel!

1 Source: ESG Research Survey, Security Analytics and Operations: Industry Trends in the Era of Cloud Computing, September 2019
2 Source: ESG Research Survey, Security Analytics and Operations: Industry Trends in the Era of Cloud Computing, September 2019
3 Source: ESG Research Survey, Security Analytics and Operations: Industry Trends in the Era of Cloud Computing, September 2019

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Bollywood, blockbusters and a $5B industry: How Eros Now is redefining online video

Being on the cutting edge of technology was baked into the DNA of Indian video company Eros Now from the start.

Its parent company, Eros International Plc., was founded in 1977, the same year the VHS videocassette format was released in North America. While some in the entertainment industry were leery about the newfangled technology, Eros was all in.

“Back then, it was a scary thing,” says Eros Digital CEO Rishika Lulla Singh. “But we embraced VHS and we continued to embrace new technology.”

That approach has served the company well. Eros International Plc., a movie distribution and production company, was India’s first VHS distributor and the first Indian media company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Eros Now, its on-demand video arm, was launched in 2012 and has now attracted over 18.8 million paid subscribers and 155 million users worldwide with its more than 12,000 Bollywood films, music videos and original content including series and short episodes.

Eros Now amassed its big audience largely by premiering blockbuster films and related content such as trailers and music videos on its site even before they were on YouTube, Lulla Singh says. The company aims to differentiate itself not just as a one-stop destination for online entertainment but also as a tech innovator — and a new collaboration with Microsoft is underpinning those efforts.

Portrait of Rishika Lulla Singh, CEO of Indian company Eros Digital
Eros Digital CEO Rishika Lulla Singh.

Eros Now is working with Microsoft to migrate the company’s operations to the Azure cloud platform to improve video and viewing experiences for consumers worldwide. Lulla Singh says Microsoft’s ability to innovate in cloud computing and artificial intelligence, its research in voice services and discovery, and the company’s capacity for handling big data were the primary reasons Eros Now wanted to collaborate with Microsoft to develop next-generation video technology.

“We feel that Azure can help us to drive a lot of our ambitions to create the correct architecture for the video platform,” she says. “It was the sheer sophistication of the product over everything else on the market.”

The collaboration, Microsoft’s first effort in India in streaming video, signifies a move into a thriving entertainment market. Streaming video is growing rapidly in India, where the market is projected to reach $5 billion by 2023, according to a study by The Boston Consulting Group.

“India is among the fastest-growing entertainment and media markets globally, with cutting-edge innovation in content creation, distribution and data insights ,” says Anant Maheshwari, president of Microsoft India. “Our partnership with Eros Now is a significant milestone. Together, we hope to redefine the video viewing experience for consumers in India and across the globe.”

Lulla Singh has been working with teams across Microsoft and says she’s been struck by the company’s collaborative culture.

“Microsoft wants to enable other companies to be cool and to essentially realize your own ambition. The collaboration that’s come from that is incredible,” she says.

The rise in video streaming has shifted consumer expectations and the role of companies like Microsoft in the industry. Consumers are watching content on multiple devices, from smartphones to tablets, and media companies are facing increased competition to attract viewers, Maheshwari says. Those companies are looking to cloud providers for secure and scalable content delivery, he says, and for capabilities such as advanced search and smart content recommendations.

“What will differentiate video streaming services is the ability to give users exciting content to experience within the limited time and attention span they have,” he says. “AI and intelligent cloud tools will be the next drivers of the media business and will impact everything in the content value chain.”

Eros Now, Lulla Singh says, saw an opportunity to distinguish itself by creating original content that was a departure from the typical Indian television fare.

“The television landscape in India is very, very different to what happens in the U.S., where we have ‘Game of Thrones’ and a lot of sexy content,” she says. “That doesn’t really exist in the Indian television ecosystem.

“Most Indian programming is catered to more older audiences, which is actually not relevant to the new millennial audiences.”

Eros Now began developing its own original content around 2015, launching “Side Hero,” a Bollywood-inspired comedy series, last year, followed by “Smoke,” a drama about drug cartels. Last December, the company introduced “Eros Now Quickie,” a series of eight- to 10-minute episodes ranging from docudramas to comedy, and segments on food, health and travel.

Eros Now plans to continue innovating by personalizing content for customers by language, subtitles and other geographic-based preferences. Bollywood movies have been growing in popularity in regions outside India including China, Russia and Eastern Europe, Lulla Singh says. Eros Now, which currently has viewers in more than 135 countries, hopes to ride that momentum to expand into new markets and reach its goal of 50 million subscribers over the next three years.

“We just want to continue to create, continue to please our customers and grow in the process as well,” she says.

Top image: A sampling of Eros Now’s original content, which began premiering in 2018. (Images courtesy of Eros Now)