Microsoft has been doing some pretty impressive things recently. I had the opportunity to go to their annual Tech-Ed Conference this past April in Houston and learn about their existing and upcoming technology that can potentially be used in our environment. One piece of technology is called Microsoft Azure. We are already utilizing Azure to host some of our websites, but now we extend our network with the cloud through Virtual Networking. According to Microsoft’s Azure website, “Virtual Network now supports more than one site-to-site VPN connection so customers can securely connect multiple on-premises locations with a virtual network (VNET) in Azure.” In other words, an environment that we have in the cloud at Azure can now securely connect to our local sites with no additional hardware. Money-saving if you ask me. Also, we can extend our Active Directory (the mechanism for our users to log onto to their computer and other various apps) to the cloud so that our users can easily log onto any cloud apps that we deploy.
On the more ‘fun’ side of features from Microsoft, they showcased a Windows 8.1 deployment across their PCs and mobile devices. It adds for some interesting functionality. For example, I configured a laptop with Windows 8.1 just to test out some things for our company. I then acquired a Microsoft Surface Pro device and when I logged into the Surface Pro for the first time using my Microsoft account, my settings from my PC were there. It included my tile preference, wireless networks, background theme, and my apps were ready to download from the Microsoft store. It looks like when they release Windows 8.1 mobile to their phones, you will get the same feature set and not to mention Cortana which is their version of Apple’s Siri. From the brief demos that I saw at TechEd, I would easily use Cortana more so than I do with Siri…and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve used Siri. Now all I need to do is get an Xbox One so I can watch movies on the go on the weekend and then send it to my Xbox when I walk in the door of my house and have it pickup at the exact moment that it left off. I wonder if my boss will cover that purchase for me and file it under ‘testing’?