In the new world of IT

During TechEd something quite spectacular happened. Everyone should have been prepared and awaiting this news but none the less it felt like the community was woken up from a coma. Brad Anderson made a great opening keynote when he emphasized that Microsoft is going Mobile-First; Cloud-First. But that’s not what I’m getting at, Anderson is know to give great Keynotes. But we’re coming to the spectacular thing I had in mind.


What this, Mobile-First; Cloud-First, means is in short that Microsoft is providing the newest, most awesome features to its cloud services and not as on premise solutions first. While looking back the change can be seen going on for some time with the latest features in Exchange coming to Office365 (BPOS at that time) first and later on to Exchange on-prem. This resulted for me in some talk to partners and customers on how they were to sell hosted Exchange (mail as a service) to customers when A) Microsoft did just that, often to a lower cost for the customer and B) Microsoft were first in every new feature.

In Sweden at least there were something that Microsoft could not compete on – the fact that a partner could guarantee that the customers email would never be stored outside the country boarders. Something that is quite common requirement for government and such organizations in Sweden and the rest of Europe. Probably the rest of the world.

But what now with more and more services coming to the cloud first? The other morning I read an interesting article about how technicians got scared during the “off shore everything” times and that this would happen once again. Actually, the article was a summarization on the TechEd conference. But it had an interesting point on the new era we are approaching, or actually might be in already.

Let’s take a recap. Microsoft is delivering all their new products as Mobile First; Cloud First. This is frightening due to the fact that when everything is Cloud Only, who needs to hire a local technician to change backup tapes, build clusters or manage a printer with a stuck paper – or is just that, manage a faulty printer, everything that is left for us to do?

planeTo start off, do you want to manage a faulty printer or even change backup tapes? Is that really the best thing you can do with your time? No? Then why do you do it? If you ask me, this is essence of Cloud First, if I’m allowed to break Cloud and Mobile apart for a second. When it comes to Mobile first, its more about the end user, you and me as well. Currently I’m writing this blog post on a Microsoft Surface (gen 1) on an airplane with three seats on every row and it holds 8 rows, including the cockpit. Could I have done this on a laptop on the plane or on a workstation PC at my desk? Yes I could, but I wanted and felt inspired to do it on the plane. Therefore I did it as well. That is if you ask me the (at least one of the) core requirement or incitement to go Mobile First.

Is it mobile first then? Well, both yes and no. The Surface does make it mobile since it is such an easy to carry device, but I’m actually writing the post in Office Word (Office for RT but..) instead of in a blog app and that isn’t really Mobile First if you ask me. In order to actually be Mobile First we need apps as well. Now I’m not saying that all work should or needs to be done on an airplane but it’s the possibility to work from anywhere, anyhow that is the key here.

So, what is left for us then, when everything is moved to the cloud, and why should we want to move anything to the cloud? Well to start with, everything isn’t moving to the cloud in an eye blink. We are going to see a hybrid environment for some time. Office365 with e-mail, collaboration (SharePoint) and communication (Lync and Yammer) is really the first pillar. The second pillar that I can see happening in our industry is Mobile Device Management (MDM). And now I’m not counting hosted public web sites and DNS due to the fact that they’ve more or less only been hosted, not been running in a Cloud per say. Let’s take a minute to discuss the phenomen of a Cloud while we are on the topic. What is the difference between running something at a hoster and running something in the Cloud? For some time before the Cloud we’ve had “IT on tap” or “as a Service”. The key difference would be that “the cloud” is elastic. And that doesn’t just mean that you can scale up and down as you like but also that things in the cloud can move, just like a cloud in the sky. Services running at a hoster runs at the hoster until you take down the server and move it home or elsewhere. Or that you change a pointer such as a DNS record to run the service somewhere else. With a cloud service you simply move the service as it is. No need to “take it down” and “unplug all cables”. Regardless if you want to add more or reduce power/capacity or if you would like to run it from a different place in the world.

Why is this of interest? Well, if you think about it, it hasn’t changed that much from what you did before. It was troublesome to host the public webpage and the public DNS service so you put them at a hoster. Now we’ve taken it one step further. It is a pain to change the backup tapes and replace faulty hard drives to we run the servers in a datacenter where we can add or remove a VM when we want to run something new. With cloud-designed services we’ll be able to add a service, such as a website and just define how much power it should have, during what times and where. And if you think about it, what isn’t a website these days? What’s on the other end of your smartphones bank app, or on the other end from the ConfigMgr agent? Web services of course. Same goes for exchange, have you looked at Exchange 2013 admin GUI? It’s PowerShell or web. In a not that distant future all we’ll be is a bunch of web masters really. Time to learn PowerShell, .NET Framework and C#. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid of what’s new. Now it’s time to land my flight among the clouds, hope to see you soon…





Note: The article was written the week after TechEd North America 2014, before the troublesome  few days between 23rd and 26th of June 2014 in regards to Microsofts cloud services. Perhaps the article would have had a different approach. Probably not.

About The Author

Tim Nilimaa is a consultant with Lumagate in Sweden. He has been working with Configuration Manager for 8 years. His knowledge has been selected as a speaker at many events among them Microsoft Management Summit.

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