Moving partly into the cloud

Cloud is on everyones lips and has created a lot of buzz for the last few years. If there is one thing I’m certain about, it’s that cloud will be the data center of the future. It just doesn’t make any sense for businesses to keep their own data centers on-premise, and the advantages a true cloud platform can bring to the table outweights the traditional hosting providers capabilities with it’s elasticity, metering and other attributes. However – this transition will take decades to complete for large companies. Regulations has to change, cloud providers have to mature, a shift in corporate IT from being in full control to coordinate and manage a more fragmented infrastructure, legacy systems to be replaced, new business models to emerge and technology to mature all needs to happen. Naturally, this will take a long time – we are only in the beginning of a long journey towards the cloud.

In the meantime we will live in a hybrid world where we have one leg in our on-premise data centers and the other in the cloud. This will be the normal model for businesses for the foreseeable future.

As we’re getting more serious leveraging the cloud for parts of our workloads and are done with the simpler proof of concepts, pilots and silo applications we need to integrate these parts together with the rest of the portfolio of systems residing on-premise. This includes aspects such as identity management, propagation and single sign-on, consuming services residing on-premise from the cloud or vice versa, joining datasets across on-premise and the cloud, monitoring and operating hybrid solutions as efficient as if they resided in a single data center and so on and so forth.
The next generation solutions has to be architected to take advantage of the new capabilities provided by IaaS platforms, PaaS platforms and SaaS solutions all integrated seamlessly with on-premise capabilities. What should reside where, and how to provide solutions that are robust and fault-tolerant in a world more complex than ever before?

Microsoft is the dominant player in the traditional data centers on-premise. Virtually every company is leveraging a Windows Server infrastructure for a significant amount of workloads and is able to provide the smoothest, most transparent transition into the cloud compared to any other cloud provider with technologies such as Azure AppFabric, Virtual Network, Azure Connect, SQL Data Sync, Windows Azure Active Directory, System Center and so on. The product teams have done a great job in this area, but I don’t think Microsoft has been very successful in their messaging around this and the importance of this aspect.

In my opinion, this is what really sets Microsofts cloud offerings and strategy apart from other cloud providers out there, and I think this is a very important aspect for the next decade(s) while we are in this transition phase.

We’re certainly in an industry that is changing in profound ways impacting not only our own industry, but every industry, company and individuals on the planet. Cloud will play an important role as one of the key enablers for a whole new paradigm. Let’s get started!


The beginning of the end for BYOD?

BYOD has been one of the few megatrends of the last few years together with cloud, social and big data. I’m a product of BYOD myself with my own iPhone and iPad that I’ve used as tools for getting work done for many years.

Although the iPad has proven a cool gadget that is really simple to get started with, real work where I need to produce documents, collaborate with others using SharePoint, work with Office documents and access corporate line of business applications complicate things.
It’s not that it is impossible to get all of these things done, it’s just that it’s not frictionless. Friction is your enemy when it comes to user adoption and productivity.

The introduction of iPad in the workplace has led people to expect a frictionless experience in the same way they experience that with their personal apps and data on the very same device. The problem is that there is a corporate boundary between the managed devices and your precious iPad that leads to friction with additional logins, more passwords and extra clicks to get to the right service or information compared to doing the same thing with the traditional, dusty and very uncool Windows XP laptop.

If you ask financial services companies, they will not allow exposing sensitive customer information to an unmanaged BYOD device, at least not in a frictionless manner. It’s not because the end users wouldn’t want it – they would LOVE it, but from a security point of view that is just not doable.

Why did BYOD become a trend in the first place? It’s because the managed devices provided from the employer are uncool, heavy, slow, old and not very pleasant to use. No-one is passionate about their corporate-provided laptop, that’s just against nature.

But suddenly comes the slick, nice, cool Surface Pro device. It’s comparable with the iPad in coolness, but it can provide you with a frictionless user experience because it can be a managed device that is inside the corporate boundary, part of the Actice Directory domain, with the disk fully encrypted. With DirectAccess you don’t need VPN or stuff like that. You can access your corporate CRM or line of business applications with single sign-on, collaborate with your collegaues using SharePoint, Office and Lync seamlessly.

I’m having that experience now, and I use this device in completely different ways compared to what I was able to do with my iPad.
BYOD is not a trend the CIO and CSO is applauding – they had to accept it because they had no valid alternatives that would be acceptable to demanding employees. Now they have a great alternative that represents a true win-win for both parties: a frictionless user experience giving access to more functionality and information within the corporate boundary, while at the same time being in control from the IT perspectice.

Is this the beginning of the end for the BYOD megatrend?

My experience using Surface Pro as main computing device

I bought a Surface Pro a couple of weeks back and decided to give it a real try to replace my other devices and see if it can hold true to Microsoft’s promise of being a real hybrid tablet / pc device.

I use a Dell Latitude 6420 14″ laptop as my current laptop for work, complemented with an Ipad 3 for consuming stuff on the road, in the airplane and at home. I also have a powerful workstation at home with two 26″ monitors attached as well.

I’m working in the IT industry as a consultant, and do everything from programming to presentations to writing documents and not least: I attend a lot of meetings. I read books on my precious Kindle to keep up to date. I’m also interested in photography and use Lightroom and Photoshop on my home workstation extensively.

When I purchased the Surface Pro I decided to try and let go of my other devices to get some real experience using the Surface.

The first thing I decided on was what kind of peripherals I would need to succeed with my goal. I decided on the Touch keyboard, but primarily as a lightweight cover as I was skeptical using this as my main keyboard at work. I bought a nice, lightweight, backlit Logitech Bluetooth keyboard (K810), external mouse, MiniDisplayport to VGA adapter for my presentations, extra power adapters, 64GB Micro SD card for a total of 192GB of storage (in addition to my SkyDrive and external USB disk), some spare pens and a nice bag from Case Crown tailored for the Surface device with room for my accessories.

Case Crown bag for Surface

Case Crown bag for Surface

It’s a pleasure travelling around with this bag filled with all of my stuff – it weights next to nothing on my shoulder, and compared to my previous gear this is a HUGE difference, so I was off to a good start!

When I initially looked at the specs of the Surface Pro I falled in the trap comparing it with the Ipad, from different angles such as weight, battery life and price. The thing is – it doesn’t make any sense to do this comparison. Yes, it is a bit heavier, yes, it has shorter battery life (around 4 – 5 hours) and it’s not cheap either. BUT it’s a very lightweight pc, it’s got more battery life than other pc’s with comparable performance and I think the price is more than decent – it’s a very nice piece of hardware, not comparable with an Ipad or a cheap Atom-based laptop at all.

I have been using Windows 8 since early last summer, but must admit that the what-used-to-be-called Metro user interface wasn’t used much. I jumped into Desktop mode first thing after boot and stayed there. With Surface Pro this has changed in a profound way – to my surprise. I’m preferring to use the Metro apps, and really look forward to the rumoured versions of Metro-based Office apps later this fall. I’m finally appreciating what Microsoft is trying to achieve with the move to Metro, and I now view the Desktop as what the shell was for Windows 3 – it’s a legacy and will be treated that way from Microsoft moving forward. Embrace Metro sooner rather than later, and get used to it! Together with the Surface, this really start to make sense…

So, here I am, two weeks into my experiment. The Surface has been joined to the corporate domain with BitLocker enabled. It has fully replaced my Dell laptop which hasn’t been used at all. The kids have taken complete control over my Ipad, it’s hasn’t been missed after I got the Surface Pro. I haven’t used my workstation at home either, but will continue to use it for my photography activities, but Lightroom and Photoshop is installed and will be used for photography work while on travel which the Ipad would never be able to do. And of course – I’m using the Kindle app for reading books, not the Kindle device.

I’m surprised with the quality of the Touch keyboard. It’s much better than anticipated and is actually useful. I don’t bring with me my Logitech keyboard in meetings or at home, but at my desk I prefer a real keyboard and mouse and here the Logitech keyboard is really nice. I do miss 3G / 4G capabilities that I had with my Ipad. I use tethering on my phone, but that means I have to think more about battery usage than I did before.

The pen is way more useful than I had expected. Combined with OneNote, the pen is truly a nice addon. OneNote is probably my most used application (except Outlook), and with the pen this has been an even better tool for me.

I’m subscribing to the Xbox Music service and have suddenly my whole music collection (approx 1.000 CD’s) available from the cloud after having done an initial Xbox Music Match on my Surface as well as on my phone – Nice 🙂

Of course – there are some shortcomings:

  • I would like an even better battery. It is way better than my Dell laptop, but because it is so much more convenient to use everywhere (on the train, in the airplane, on the bus, while eating breakfast and so on), it’s being used in a different way where increased battery life becomes more important. It’s not a big deal (4 – 5 hours is not bad at all), but 10 hours would be even better
  • I’m looking forward to more apps migrating from legacy Desktop to Metro
  • I’m looking forward to Windows 8.1 with more flexibility with regards to running more than 2 apps side by side in Metro
  • I’m looking forward to a next-gen Surface that will no doubt include 3G / 4G capabilities
  • Finally, although the screen is great, I would like a better experience when extending with an external monitor.

It’s not the perfect device, but it’s the best one out there if you ask me. Highly recommended!