Office 365 / Azure Integration Update for Windows Server 2012 R2

If you’re a Windows Server 2012 R2 user and you use the Essentials Experience role (same features as the standalone SKU) in a multi domain controller (DC) environment, you may have noticed that the wizards for integrating with Office 365 and Windows Azure Active Directory are disabled. This is because they were designed to function in a single DC environment.

Today, Microsoft has corrected this behavior as part of update rollup 2975719. If you install this update rollup, you should now be able to use the wizards as intended.

More info: Update Rollup August 2014 | Office 365 Integration KB

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials – What’s New

In this R2 wave of Windows Server products, Microsoft is taking the time to update its “first server” version, Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

The Essentials SKU historically has been intended to be the entry level server for a small or midsize business. With Essentials R2, Microsoft is extending this feature set into the enterprise. Because the Essentials feature set is now an available role in the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2, companies with more than 25 users can backup their PCs, seamless integrate with cloud services or on-premise Exchange servers, and provide remote access to company data.

Besides the Essentials features now being available as a role, there are number of additional new features.

  • Full PC Restore over the network is now supported
  • Mobile Devices can be managed in the dashboard using Exchange ActiveSync
  • Quotas can be set on shared folders in the dashboard
  • The client connector can trigger a VPN connection so clients can always be connected to the network
  • Now supported as a member server in a domain
  • Health monitoring and reporting is now built-in
  • Remote Web Access theme now follows in the style of SkyDrive

What I like about this release is that its the small things that really make it all come together. There is now an option in configuring the remote access website to allow direct RDP access to the server or only access to the dashboard. PXE boot restores of client computers is awesome and is something I’ve been asking for since the Windows Home Server days. The dashboard now lets customers integrate with Office 365, Windows Intune, and Windows Azure Backup. BranchCache is now supported as well. If a company has multiple servers, the connector will now let users switch between them.

These are just a few of the many examples of what Microsoft has brought to the R2 release of Windows Server 2012 Essentials. Over the next few days and weeks I’ll be posting some tours of the new functionality.

Windows Server and System Center: Designed with You in Mind

If you’ve been keeping up with Microsoft related news, you’ve probably heard that Microsoft announced new features in Windows Azure, announced Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and SQL Server 2014. For many of these products, they are here less than a year after their predecessors. This is a huge accomplishment for Microsoft.

According to a blog post published by Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President for Windows Server and System Center, Microsoft is able to do this because they are building for the cloud first.

By building for the cloud first, Microsoft says that they are able to do couple things:

  • Battle harden what is built. By deploying in Windows Azure first, Microsoft can ensure that they are delivering a solid product both in the cloud and on-premise.
  • Unify the planning and delivery across multiple products. With this wave of releases, Microsoft has brought together Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, Windows Azure, and Windows Intune.

What this means for you as a Microsoft customer is that scenarios are being designed for better integration end-to-end, using real world feedback from people like you and I, and validated in the Windows Azure cloud.

It’s an exciting and interesting time for both Microsoft and its customers. I’m encouraged by the products I’m seeing and the scenarios that are being unlocked.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview Now Available

Tonight Microsoft has made available the public preview release of Windows Server 2012 R2. With this release, Microsoft is laying out its vision for what it calls the Cloud OS.

The Cloud OS is the platform that Microsoft is building with the release of Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, SQL Server 2014 and Windows Azure. The four key tenets of the Cloud OS are:

      • Transform the Datacenter
      • Enable modern business applications
      • Empower people-centric IT
      • Unlock insights on any data

New to Windows Server 2012 R2 are such features as:

        • Storage Tiering within Storage Spaces
        • Software-defined networking
        • Virtual IP Address management
        • Windows Powershell 4.0
        • Windows Server Essentials Experience

To get started with the Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview, go to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dn205286.aspx

Windows Server “8” Beta released

This morning, Microsoft announced the release of the Windows Server “8” beta. Windows Server “8” is the successor to Windows Server 2008 R2 and is a member of the Windows 8 family.

Microsoft has four pillars around the release of Windows Server “8”:

– Windows Server “8” goes beyond virtualization – With this release, Microsoft is building an infrastructure capable of running much more than a simple virtual machine. Features are being built in that enable new public and private cloud based scenarios.

– Windows Server “8” brings the power of many servers and the simplicity of one – New features are added that enable users to take better advantage of commodity storage, provide simplification to server management, and provide uptime in a better and more cost-effective manner.

– Windows Server “8” is designed for every app and every cloud – Server “8” will enable flexibility in deploying applications on-premise or in the cloud or a combination thereof using similar tools and frameworks. Windows Server “8” will be highly scalable and elastic providing for better density and efficiency, as well as providing a better platform for hosting providers.

– Windows Server “8” enables the modern workstyle – Server “8” enables enterprises to offer access to corporate data and applications on any device while providing a secure and seamless experience no matter where users are in the world.

Microsoft’s Bill Laing has a post for more on Windows Server “8” that I highly suggest reading.

If you want to download and evaluate Windows Server “8”, click here

Imagine Cup 2011–Day 1–Opening Ceremony

Imagine Cup 2011 – Day 1

Tonight in New York City, Steve Ballmer along with Jon Perera, General Manager of Microsoft Education, Arthur VanderVeen, CEO of the Office of Innovation at the New York Department of Education, Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and Dennis Crowley, co-founder and CEO of Foursquare officially opened the 2011 Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals.

The energy in the room was electric. The passion and the excitement from the students here is incredible. As soon as Ballmer’s name was announced the noise level in the room intensified. It was crazy.

IMG_0086Ballmer talked to the students about how they are in a business that is constantly working to change the world. He talked about the importance of the cloud and the impact it is having on the world and the students’ projects by enabling real time collaboration, commerce, and social interaction. Ballmer also talked about how devices of the future would be dynamic, faster performing, and include more sensors and do more things. Ballmer also mentioned that Natural User Interfaces would open up new possibilities and enable even more people to use computers.

IMG_0149IMG_0124To close out his remarks, Ballmer gave the students three key pieces of advice. The first is that ideas matter. When you come up with an idea make note of it. Stick with it. The second is to be passionate about what your idea and what you do. The third is to be tenacious. Don’t give up. Stick with it and see the idea through until the end.

IMG_0154Jeffrey Sachs then came to the stage and talked to the students about how the world has changed and there are many challenges that we face. These challenges range from strain on world food supplies to population growth, climate change, hunger, and others. He told students they were being given a lifetime homework assignment, and that this assignment was to find ways to better the world and to solve these tough challenges.

To close out the evening, Dennis Crowley came to the stage and talked to the students about IMG_0186sticking with their ideas and seeing them through. He talked about his experience with startups and said that Foursquare’s success is “built off of 10 years of failure.” He told students to never give up on their ideas and that even if the present wasn’t the best time for their idea, it could be a year from now, two years for now, or even ten years from now, but to be persistent and stick with it.

Tomorrow the competition begins.

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

I’ve arrived in New York City for the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup. For those of you just joining us, the Microsoft Imagine Cup is the premier student technology competition. I tend to tell people that it’s the Olympics of technology.

At the Imagine Cup, the top students from around the world come together to compete against each other in categories such as Software Design, Game Design, Embedded Development, and the Windows Phone 7 challenge just to name a few.

I’ll be here covering five teams and their progress throughout the Worldwide Finals. My teams are as follows:

The Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals begin this Friday, July 8th and end Wednesday, July 13th.

For more on Imagine Cup please visit www.imaginecup.com, or search for #ImagineCup on Twitter. You can also follow me on Twitter, @tziegmann, to follow along this week as well.