Sunday, April 17, 2011

Microsoft’s CloudPro Twitter Hour

As I posted last week, on Friday, Microsoft has an hour long twitter conversation around the cloud. The basic idea was that Microsoft and a few MVPs (I was one) would hang out on Twitter, and answer questions around the cloud and the cloud technologies. The hour came and went – and it was an interesting experiment, which I hope Microsoft will continue with. I lost count of the number of tweets but it was around 150 for the hour. The questions came from a range of sources. I do have the source data (well everything I captured and want to make a CSV file from it – give me a bit of time to write the PowerShell scripts to do it .

As I read through my notes, the following items were discussed:

  1. What is the cloud and what are the economics of the cloud and what’s there and not there. The answers were predictable – some definitions of what the cloud was (and the need for public cloud vs. private cloud). Lower cost was seen a key driver if not the key driver.
  2. Security in the cloud - both in general and with respect to US Patriot act. The architecture provides good provision against most risks and there is an SLA with financial penalties. And Simon May provided a great link to an article around hosted data and exposure to the Patriot act (see It goes some ways to addressing the concerns.
  3. Office 365 - now that it's in more public beta, there's more interest for sure. The questions looked at what features were there and a couple of things learned so far (e.g. no PowerShell cmdlets for SharePoint Online or Lync Online!).
  4. Training and the Future of the IT Pro. It’s clear, to me at least, that the IT Pro does not go away in this drive to the cloud. There continues to be work to be done to facilitate the cloud – IT Pros do not have to worry too much just yet. As for training, well this needs to evolve and training providers need to evolve too.

I understand from talking to the organisers that another event like this is being planned. What did you think? Comments please!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Getting Started with Office 365

It’s been an interesting week. After months of waiting, I managed to finally get myself onto the beta of Office 365. Office 365 is Microsoft’s latest software as a service offering, which is currently in beta. It consists of Office, Lync, Exchange and SharePoint. The latter three are hosted services where you use a client to access the hosted resources; Office can be consumed either locally (with cloud based document storage), of via the Office web apps (i.e. office in the browser).
It’s taken a few days to get myself up an running, but that’s mainly lack of time! While the setup and installation was simple, I’m still getting to grips with the basics and with working around some of the initial issues. The basic opinion so far is highly positive.
For me, the office component of Office offers little advantage to me – although the cost is highly attractive. I’ve always used Office (i.e. Word, Excel, PowerPoint) locally anyway – and have enough computing power to always run local clients. But I can see how attractive this might be for many small businesses (and not a few bigger ones too).
The basic signup process was simple – a few web pages and the Office 365 account was created, and I was able to logon to the main portal, which looks like this:
From this portal page, you can do all the tenant management actions along the panel on the left, and configure the services with the middle panel. Along the centre top and right hand side is simple help and access to help resources. All in all, a simple and clean interface into Office 365. Setting up the individual services was relatively straightforward, but if you are going to get value out of SharePoint, you have to know SharePoint a whole lot better than I do at present.
The Office 365 Exchange part – well it’s just a hosted Exchange server. The speed is good – it’s really very much what I’d have expected. It does have PowerShell Cmdlets. To get to these is very simple, as follows:

# First Get credential for site
$cred = Get-Credential
# Next create a new PS Session
# Use a hash table to setup parameters to new-pssession
$Office365 = @{ ConfigurationName = "Microsoft.Exchange"
                Connectionuri     = "
                Credential        = $cred
                Authentication    = "Basic" 
                AllowRedirection  = $true}

$s = New-PsSession @Office365        
# Note: you see the session being redirected to your site
# Next Import the remote session
$Results = Import-PsSession $s
# And away you go. Here are some things to try:
# How many cmdlets returned?
# What mailbox cmdlets do we have gcm *.Mailbox
# Get mail boxes and statistics
Get-Mailbox | Get-MailBoxStatistics
It’s all quite straightforward although the remoting aspect of this means it breaks PowerShell’s Get-Help at least to some degree. The remote session to the server is very much limited (don’t enter the PSSession – even exit is disallowed!). You run all the cmdlets from the local PowerShell console. I’ve not seen PowerShell cmdlets for SharePoint or Lync yet, but I expect they will work in a very similar manner. One further thing you appear NOT able to do is run New-Mailbox to create mailboxes. At least, I’ve not managed to. The documentation does not specifically mention creation of mailboxes by PowerShell, but that may be an oversight or just documentation in production. I’ve got a test script that fails – which is a by product of the restricted session configuration object being used (Microsoft.Exchange).
SharePoint is not a product I know all that well yet. I can use it in a basic way, but I’ve got no real experience either managing or designing SharePoint sites. With Office 365 you get a single ‘vanity’ domain (i.e. Internet facing), as with BPOS, which is nice. I can see small businesses wanting to use this for their ‘shop front’. Ad of course, you get lots more available ‘inside’ your organisation. I definitely need to work more with this, but it looks like a good implementation. Shame their cmdlets are not be available yet. I would hope that Microsoft would ensure these are working before sending Office 365 to the masses, but we may not be that lucky.
Lync was a doddle to install – just download and run the client, login and away you go. In my case, it was marginally more complex to logon as my domain account is a pure local account, separate from the Office 365 account. But with a tad more typing, I was logged in. Enabling Federation was simple, but turns out there are two big gotchas that I came across.
1. First, “Public Internet Connectivity” only  includes Microsoft’s Live Messenger (aka MSN messenger) – AOL and Yahoo are not enabled and so far as I can tell there is no XMPP gateway features either. So that means no XMPP federation with Google, etc. And the time it takes to get federated even to MSN is slow – It’s been two days now and I’m still waiting to  be able to access Live Messenger users. Fuller PIC federation would have been nice.
2. Second, Open Federation does not  work initially with existing Lync customers until they do additional work on their Edge architecture. While you can indeed open federate from your Office 365 account, and you can get it to work, if you try to federate with any partner that has on-premise Lync, it initially fails. They need to do some more configuration to enable a new hosting provider. My good pal Tom Arbuthnot pointed me to a great post from my other old buddy Russ Kaufmann that some how I’d missed. Basically, if you are running on-premise Lync, Office 365 appears as a hosting provider, and your account there does not appear to be just another open federated domain.  Russ argues that this is because Microsoft “doesn’t seem to know how to implement their own product”. He might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment. The good news is that Russ has a fix which is to run New-CSHostingProvider to add a new service entry for Lync Online. See for the details and Russ’s views.
I would have hoped that this is just a ‘feature’ of the beta, and gets fixed for RTM. Russ is right that I, as a hosting tenant, should have my domain treated for open federation just like any other domain, and not hindered by virtue of being hosted at Microsoft. If I, as an Office 365 Lync On=Line user, want to federate with someone that has enabled open federation, I should be able to do that without more admin work on their part. 
But now that we know that, I can just get all my contacts to open up their edge servers and we can move past it. As I said, I hope MS can fix this by RTM, as I tend to agree with Russ! But then I usually agree with Russ!
The other components of Lync Online, like conferencing and peer-peer audio seem find. Once Tom and I got his Edge server sorted out, we were able to IM, he’s in my contacts list and I can see presence. We tested peer-peer IM, audio and desktop sharing. It all worked as it’s supposed to. The audio quality, once I got my mike plugged in correctly, was excellent. We did not test video only due to lack of camera at my end. I will be testing this during the week.Sadly, like SharePoint Online, I can’t find any cmdlets yet for Lync Online.
All in all, Office 365 looks like compelling. The price plans (a subject for another blog post!) look very interesting. I am almost certainly going to move a secondary domain onto it and use it to learn more about the suite.  I’ll be writing more in the coming weeks, particularly with more details on the PowerShell cmdlets for Lync and SharePoint once I get hold of them.
And if you fancy trying things out, you can get me, at least for now, on Lync as: Feel free to IM me and help me test this out!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

IT Pro Cloud Hour–Friday 15 April

The cloud, and all it’s variations, is one of the more fundamental paradigm shifts of modern times, at least as far as IT id concerned – perhaps as fundamental as the arrival of the Internet itself. As a way of advancing IT Pro’s understanding of the cloud, Microsoft is running an interesting event this coming Friday, April 15 from 12:00 to 13:00 (local time): IT Pro Cloud Question hour. This hour will be conducted on line via Twitter.

The way this is meant to work is pretty simple: to ask any Cloud related question, post your question to twitter and add the hash tag #cloudpro to your tween. Alternatively, you can text your question from you phone – text to 80809 or even send the question by mail to During the hour, a team of Microsoft and MVPs will be watching the questions and tweeting answers. Watch for @AskTechNetUK where at least some of the answers are going to come from (I suspect these will be MS staff) – others like me will be posting under our own twitter IDs, but still using the #Cloudpro hash tag.

For more information on this event and to learn more about the cloud, see:

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Call for assistance–Powershell Notes From The Field (NFTF)

I am currently hard at work writing a book on PowerShell to be published this autumn. I’m extremely fortunate to have three very talented and skilled co-authors Karl Mitchke, Mark Schill and Tome Tanasovski and a good editor in Marco Shaw. These names should be familiar to many on the PowerShell community – we are all MVPs, some of us have been around since the very beginning of the journey!).  I can’t say too much more about the book just yet, but watch this space for more details. It should prove to be a pretty good book!

The final chapter of this book is Notes From The Field. This is my chapter, and what I want to is to showcase some of the great, interesting and fun things you’ve all done with PowerShell. The chapter is aimed at showing PowerShell’s incredible awesomeness. I’m look for anything, including gotchas, that you find noteworthy. What I’d like is something like 10-15 separate stories each 400-500 preferably with samples or examples I can either include (if they are not too long) or point to  a URL for a longer script which might be appropriate in some cases).

To give you an idea, I’ve already written one NFTF example – which is my use of PowerShell to manage my collection of over 2000 Grateful Dead And Jerry Garcia live show recordings. Not everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps, but PowerShell has sure helped me to manage this vast collection – and I’ve written several simple one-liners to do specific things with the collection as well as longer scripts to do richer things.

‘What does this pay’, I hear you ask. Well, given the state of book publishing, I can’t offer very much – a beverage of your choice (and more if you submit several suggestions!) the next time we meet. If the publisher is amenable, I can possibly even get you a copy of the final book (but I can’t guarantee how generous the publisher will be so this may not be possible – I’m not even sure how many copies I am getting!).

I can certainly offer you any Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia Band show of your choice from my collection – send me a memorable date in the time period 1965-1995 and if Jerry or the Boys played that day, I can send you the show in a format of your choice. Did you ever go a Dead/Jerry show and enjoy yourself - if so, I can provide a copy of it assuming I've got it!!I can certainly put your name in print and ensure I think you in the preface!!

If you are interested, then I’ll need your piece by 1 May 2011, and preferably earlier. Once I get it, I’ll run it through the template, and doing some minor updates to ensure style consistency. Once I’ve completed an edit pass, I’ll send you back what I have for your approval. I’ve got to complete this by the beginning of June, so time is of the essence.  

Please contact me at DoctorDns {at} Gmail {dot} com. I’d be most appreciative of a response!