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Azure Active Directory Sync – AAD Connect Disaster Recovery and High Availability

In this blog we look at a fantastic new feature built into the AAD Connect tool. Its name is ‘Staging Mode’ and it has a dual purpose; a) it allows you to have a server which is essentially on standby, and b) it can be used just as its name suggests, in a kind of test mode where you can see what is being imported before it all gets sent off to Azure AD.

In real life it would be utilised thus:

Customer A has a functional installation of AAD Sync / AAD Connect which is synchronising objects and attributes between Azure Active Directory and the On Premise Active Directory. They then build an AAD Connect server in their DR datacentre (or wherever they prefer), and during the initial configuration, enable ‘Staging Mode’. Apart from this setting, they configure it just like their existing live AAD Sync / AAD Connect server. They even leave the scheduled task enabled and running. All of a sudden, DR strikes, and the live AAD Sync / AAD Connect server goes offline forevermore, cast into the computer graveyard in the sky. Rather than restore the server from backup, they simply log into their second AAD Connect server and disable ‘Staging Mode’. This server then starts synchronising with Azure Active Directory in earnest, without having to miss a beat.

What Staging Mode does is very simple. It acts just like a functional AAD Connect installation, except for the fact that it exports nothing to Azure Active Directory or your on premise Active Directory. It also does not perform any password sync or password write-back functions. The metaverse is fully populated and ready to start exporting data, giving you the easiest possible way to have a server on standby. Unfortunately there is no replication between your two synchronisation servers, so any configuration changes need to be replicated manually, but this is another step to making AAD Connect fully HA, which is becoming much more desirable as Azure Active Directory gains traction.


DD, Infrastructure Team


Storage Market: Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow

Mixed press recently from the old and the new when it comes to Flash storage. NetApp is claiming that the new All Flash FAS is the fastest growing product in NetApp’s history, whilst newcomer Pure Storage has seen a large drop in their UK business.

You would think it would be the other way around but with the Flash market becoming crowded, and in a hurry, it is likely that in the short term the scale storage vendors will be driving hard on price to grab as much market share as they can. Good news for customers no doubt, but some see Flash as a short term solution.

Many major storage vendors took their eye off the ball by focusing largely on the Hybrid Cloud story and were slow to understand that high performance, cost competitive arrays were appealing to customers in difficult times. Some would say it was the pressure on the share price that forced a rethink but it does show that when pushed they can get to market quickly. They also have the sales engines to stimulate the demand. It’s a strategy that Microsoft has deployed for years.

The bigger battle comes from the main disruptor which is Cloud Computing. Cloud and on premise are meant to be bedfellows in building Hybrid estates. However, a reality for many workloads is cloud for some and on premise for others, which sounds more like a siloed approach to me.

Charles Darwin is often quoted as having said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”. It’s an uncertain world for traditional storage right now, so this comment has probably never been more appropriate.

David Fuller, Partners & Alliances Director, EACS


WPC day 3 – The 5 Year Question

Update from day 3 of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which I am attending with Mike Dearlove our Managing Director and Jason Bass, our Technical Director…

If you have been asked the same question for the last five years, then maybe the answer you are giving should change.

Phil Sorgen kicked off Day 3 of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) by declaring that the most common question Partners ask him is about Cloud Profitability. It demonstrates how difficult this job has been if this conversation is still common. However, as a Partner and as if I needed reminding, Microsoft is on a mission in terms of its cloud services and you will either be on the bus or not…but its leaving anyway.

I’ve attended WPC for a number of years now and heard a variety of keynotes. This year I heard the best one yet. Brad Smith is Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel. He is the guy who is responsible for ensuring that Microsoft has the most trusted Cloud Platform. His mantra is that when it comes to the Internet everybody should be empowered and protected.

Brad spoke about some of the issues that Microsoft and all of us face in the current ever changing political and social climate. These included Microsoft’s reaction to incidents such as Charlie Hebdo and the cyber-attacks on Sony. This is the guy who has sued the American Government three times. He has already won twice and is expecting a decision about the third issue soon.

Whatever I write won’t do this justice, so I am hoping that we will be able to share the keynote content with you at some point in the near future. You should all take a look if you can.

Last on the keynote, as usual, was Kevin Turner who laid out Microsoft’s strategy for FY2016:

  1. Own the cloud
  2. Windows 10
  3. Compete to Win
  4. Obsess over customer satisfaction

For me it took a while to get going and the cheerleading wasn’t as impactful. However, there is no arguing that Microsoft has a very strong story in each of its prime focus areas.

Last year the competitive element was more subdued. This year the gloves were loosened if not fully off but the fact that they regularly showcase Microsoft delivering services across vendors is to be applauded. For example, the collaboration of Linux in Azure and the integration of Office 365 and Salesforce shows a maturity that I believe has become stronger since Satya Nadella took over. Kevin couldn’t resist having a dig at the prime competitor Google though.

Much of today’s sessions focused on leadership and digital marketing, as well as predictions from Gartner in their annual reading of the tea leaves session. Tomorrow there are the UK and worldwide subsidiary Partner events where the local teams get to confirm what their priorities are for 2016.

The big pluses for me at this year’s conference have been the conversations and meetings held with the leadership teams and I hope to be able to share some of the great things that EACS will be doing in the coming weeks and months.

Hopefully you have enjoyed and benefitted from some of these insights, but you can always reach out to us if you would like to have a longer discussion.

David Fuller, Partners & Alliances Director at EACS

WPC Day 2: There must be an award for that?

WPC Day 1: Universal Windows, Business Intelligence & Constant Innovation

Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust – What to expect at this year’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference


WPC Day 2: There must be an award for that?

Update from day 2 of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which I am attending with Mike Dearlove our Managing Director and Jason Bass, our Technical Director.

Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference delivers many things and one of these is to showcase some of the great work that Partners have done with customers. It is there to encourage others to do the same, so that Microsoft can benefit from a Global non-direct salesforce.

It’s not just Microsoft who hands out awards, but also Partner to Partner. For example, EACS are Cireson’s UK Partner of the Year for 2015.

There should also be an award for the breakout session that least resembles the title! There are over 600 breakouts during the week and so it’s important to choose wisely. I think my wisdom must have been stopped at customs on the way in. If a session is titled x then it should be this topic that is the main area of focus and takes the most time. Not have the compulsory messaging that Microsoft wants us all to hear this week.

There were some interesting roundtable discussions about how Microsoft will execute the strategy of customers deploying and consuming cloud based services. Over 500 Azure services were released in the last year alone and this rate of change is only going to intensify. It feels a bit scatter gun in its approach to see if they can find the killer Azure “app” that will drive cloud consumption and can be confusing for both customers and partners as to where to place their bets.

Microsoft believes that for cloud coupled with mainstream services such as Office 365, then a next step on this journey is Enterprise Mobility. Managing and controlling end points whilst delivering a great user experience is a dichotomy, but the EMS suite gives a foundation for this.

Swans swimming on water is not a bad analogy for how Partners have to sometimes execute the operational tasks that go with delivering cloud based services. However, this has been recognised and Microsoft is putting steps in place to make this process as seamless as possible. Customers should feel no impact but the service that partners can then give will accelerate.

Tomorrow are the partner keynotes including Kevin Turner to rally the troops. He usually has a trick up his sleeve that will be unexpected. I’m looking forward to seeing what this is.

David Fuller, Partners & Alliances Director at EACS

WPC Day 1: Universal Windows, Business Intelligence & Constant Innovation

Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust – What to expect at this year’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference


WPC Day 1: Universal Windows, Business Intelligence & Constant Innovation

It’s been a long day and I have tried to think of a title that incorporates HoloLens but have failed miserably! However, here are some of my observations from day 1 of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which I am attending with Mike Dearlove our Managing Director and Jason Bass, our Technical Director.

As “A PC in every home” was to Bill Gates, “To empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more” is the bold mission that Satya Nadella is driving.

At Day 1 of Microsoft’s conference the leadership team took the opportunity to share how they feel partners can enable customers to transform. It took them 3 hours to do it, so I felt sorry for John Case who had the final slot presenting to a room that was only a third full.

The key notes for me held 3 key messages:

  1. Universal Windows
  2. Business Intelligence
  3. Constant Innovation

Universal Windows

The commonality of operating systems is the central component in Microsoft’s Mobile First, Cloud First world. Microsoft clearly understands that the device you are using is the most important one to you at that given time, whether this is a phone, tablet or PC and therefore a common interface makes users comfortable and familiar.

They are also going all out to make Windows 10 the most rapidly adopted OS in history. On launch day they aim to migrate millions of users to the new platform by being out in the communities. They also have a good number of friendly clients that will go live on 29th so readymade test cases will be early proof points as to the benefits of the platform.

For the feature creatures, a nod to the past with the Start menu returning should help user adoption. There are also additional components which will assist productivity such as snapping multiple documents to the screen as well as the ability to create multiple desktops which are easy to navigate and access without constant minimising and maximising.

Business Intelligence

Power BI will be out on general release on 24th July and was a thread that ran through most of the keynotes today.

Surfacing your data so that you can plan, manage and grow your business makes common sense but understanding what data you want to surface will probably be the most difficult conundrum.

Cortana will also be widely available and be a conduit to use natural speech to reach into your data and grab the stuff that makes sense for you.

Constant Innovation

The HoloLens is very very cool. It is the most transformational technology that I have seen. The demos today were jaw dropping. The applications that this technology can be used for are almost limitless and this is version one and will be run, developed and delivered by the same common operating system.

For organisations of all shapes and sizes around the world this will become a no brainer but it will take time as working practices evolve and develop. Cultural barriers are its biggest challenge.

This said it wasn’t the only innovative element on show. Some of this I’ve touched on with Cortana and Business Analytics but the constant need to continue to move current platforms on is also strong.

A new E5 suite of applications for Office 365 was announced. To again quote John Case “E5 will encompass the core value of the modern productivity and collaboration capabilities Office 365 provides today, as well as significant new capabilities including Skype for Business services for real-time communication such as Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing, new analytics features like Power BI Pro and Delve Organizational Analytics, and new advanced security features such as eDiscovery, Customer Lockbox, Data Loss Protection (DLP) and Safe Attachments.”

Julia White also reaffirmed Microsoft’s commitment to Sharepoint.

The direction of travel for Microsoft is well and truly set and in my view is to be applauded. However, there are some turbulent waters ahead, especially with how it engages with its channel.

The day wasn’t without flaw. Some of the live demos were not quite what they should have been which could damage some confidence of early adopters. The expo isn’t quite to the same standard, in my opinion, as in previous years and some of the sessions were terrible.

Day two is all about the detail where how the vision gets executed is brought forward.

It should be an interesting time!

Call back tomorrow.

David Fuller, Partners & Alliances Director, EACS

Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust – What to expect at this year’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference