Microsoft unveils new Azure tools, opens up Office 365 with new APIs

28 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft Azure lands in Australia.

MICROSOFT HAS UPPED the ante in the price war for prosumer cloud storage, announcing unlimited OneDrive capacity for users of its Office 365 productivity rental scheme. Microsoft is making Office 365 a considerably sweeter deal with unlimited OneDrive storage for all users, as the commoditization of pure cloud storage continues.By embedding MDM directly into Office 365, Microsoft will take antother step toward making good on its promise to manage not just devices, but also the apps and data on phones and tablets running Windows, iOS and Android.

Azure Batch combines technology from Microsoft’s May 2014 acquisition of GreenButton with Azure to create a service that will help users execute large-scale jobs in the cloud.To further that incursion, Redmond today announced APIs (application programming interfaces) and SDKs (software development kits) that will allow developers of iOS, Android, and Web apps to take advantage of Office 365 capabilities.Customers in Australia such as the Commonwealth Bank have already been tapping into Azure for some time but this will be the first time they can use a local data centre for Azure.

In addition to borrowing Office software for a monthly fee, Microsoft is offering the chance to jump the queue for the upgrade, in return for the opportunity to be on the receiving end of marketing missives from the company. The coming capabilities will allow administrators to manage devices using policies and wipe corporate data when necessary, while still preserving personal data. Commonwealth Bank chief information officer David Whiteing said Azure gave it the flexibility to “scale things up and down”, using infrastructure on demand and not as a fixed asset. Chris Jones, corporate vice president of One Drive and Sharepoint, said: “Unlimited storage is just one small part of our broader promise to deliver a single experience across work and life that helps people store, sync, share and collaborate on all the files that are important to them, all while meeting the security and compliance needs of even the most stringent organisations.” The lines between productivity and storage have blurred in recent years.

At TechEd Europe, the Office team also announced support for more programming languages, in particular those used by developers on those platforms, and a partnership with the popular IFTTT task automator and Web service connector. SAS business intelligence global product manager Robby Powell said a large portion of its cloud portfolio was running on Amazon Web Services’ cloud computing infrastructure but not Azure. “Our advice to customers is ‘stay away from Azure until there’s large enough compute capacity and really get the value from SAS’,” Mr Powell said.

From a travel reservation app that connects to Office 365 calendars and contacts, to a sales automation app that fully integrates with Office 365 mail and files.” Why this matters: For Microsoft, this is simple business strategy. Google recently relaunched its enterprise offering as Google For Work, and Dropbox for Business unveiled several new services earlier this summer as they jostle to be the one-stop solution for enterprise. Business customers will see the unlimited storage appear as part of the roadmap for 2015 with First Release (Beta) customers getting first dibs as a reward for their endurance.

Office 365 is the subscription version of Microsoft’s productivity suite, which includes copies of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and several other programs. Batch is suited for traditional high-performance workloads like simulations and risk analysis, but also for workloads including file processing, rendering, transcoding and the like. It’s also crucial to keep current Office users happy, lest they stray to other productivity platforms, like Google’s revamped document apps. “We have millions and millions of users in Office 365, but we’re noticing these users are becoming more mobile,” Chris Johnson, group product marketing manager for Office 365, told me over the phone last week. Office 365 rental tariffs were recently simplified for small business users with a flat pricing structure based on up to $12.50 per person per month for up to 250 users. µ

Those users are also flocking to other mobile platforms—like Android—so Microsoft likely figured that if it can’t get the masses to jump on board Windows Phones and Surface tablets, it can at least make it easier for Android and iOS users to use Office 365. Perhaps the most exciting part of Microsoft opening up the Office 365 APIs—at least for me, personally—is the possibility for better integration with apps like IFTTT. “They’ll be releasing a channel in the next couple of weeks to create recipes that dig into office 365,” said Johnson.

There’s no limit on the number of devices that can access OneDrive storage, but access is tied to a single Microsoft account with a Personal subscription. With these updates, customer will be able to manage Office mobile apps, wrap management technology around their own line of business applications, enable secure mobile app viewing and better control the use of corporate resources with conditional access features. Azure Operational Insights — a new service that combines its HDInsight Hadoop-on-Azure service and on-premises System Center systems management product to collect and analyze machine data across cloud environments — is available today to those interested in trying out the preview. Microsoft execs said they are extending data-loss prvention (DLP) technology across Office 365 — specifically SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business “over the next few months.” In 2015, Office apps will support DP notifications to help further secure data, officials said. Azure Automation, a service for automating “time-consuming” tasks across Azure and third-party clouds so as to reduce risks that can happen when repetitive manual processes occur, is generally available as of October 28.

And Azure Active Directory Connect, due in preview before the end of 2014, will streamline connecting on-premises assets to the cloud and synchronize directories to Azure Active Directory. Shah cited two example apps where the new APIs might be useful: a to-do app with access to Office calendar tasks, and a CRM or sales app integrating with customer contacts and files. While Microsoft isn’t the first company to realize that killer apps drive cloud storage, it has arguably executed on that idea better than anyone as it turns online storage into a commodity.

Third-party developers also can write apps that will use App Launcher so customers ccan see and use their apps right alongside the Microsoft Office ones. Developers can now have their apps visible right alongside Outlook, Yammer, or OneDrive,” said Shah. “We’re seeing a lot of initial excitement from hobbyist developers as well as corporate developers, so we’re hoping this new support and all these tools really open this up for everyone to build against our growing platform, whether you’re an iOS developer, Android developer, Windows developer, or Web developer.”

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