Azure Bootcamp – Edmonton

Having much fun delivering some training to our customers in my home port of Edmonton today.  We’ve taken over the Microsoft office for the day.  Got a full session on Azure IaaS and ARM etc.  Exposure like this allows us to demonstrate some of the new and/or cool stuff available in Azure in a hands-on lab environment.

Doing it all again in Vancouver tomorrow…


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Azure Cloud Architect Training – The Sequel


Haven’t written much in the last few weeks due to the time of year – everyone is on vacation here in Western Canada (everyone it seems apart from me!).  I was also wrapping up a few odds and ends and doing alot of presales which is too boring to write about.

Today though  I finally kicked off a large 50,000+ user Exchange 2007 > Exchange 2013 on premise upgrade for a large Enterprise customer as technical lead.  I imagine this project will give me lots to discuss in the coming weeks and months. Working with legacy Exchange 2007 is like going back to the bad old days of messaging (imagine working with clustering instead of DAGs)!

As always the art of successfully delivering large scale migrations is in Planning and Communication.  The techy stuff is the easy part…

Meanwhile I am off to Seattle next week for more Azure Architect training, which is actually a sequel to the event I attended back in May.  It was so successful and the feedback was so positive that they have decided to deliver more of an immersive  “hands-on” technical lab format this time.  So can’t wait for that to start and I’ll post some stuff about it once it’s underway.  I’ll need to write a couple of certs soon with the accumulated knowledge.  Initial agenda items are below.  Particularly interested in the “vending machines” topic – how to hack a vending machine in Azure?  Who knows 🙂

Sample Case Study Workshop Topics 

  • Enterprise Ready Cloud
  • Building an Enterprise Class Network
  • Containers & DevOps
  • Building a Resilient IaaS Architecture
  • Serverless Architecture
  • Intelligent Analytics
  • Migrating EDW to the Cloud
  • Agile Continous Delivery
  • OSS DevOps
  • App Modernization
  • Optimize the Architecture
  • Vending Machines
  • High Performance Computing

Sample Hackathon Topics 

  • Enterprise Ready Cloud
  • IaaS Architecture
  • Enterprise Class Network
  • Serverless Architecture
  • Intelligent Analytics
  • Vending Machines
  • High Performance Computing
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Bug Hunting in the Security and Compliance Centre


I  was finishing up an Exchange Hybrid deployment for a customer this week and came across an interesting bug in the new Office 365 Security and Compliance Centre.

The requirement was a mass PST ingestion to the Online Archive mailbox for each freshly migrated user.  I’m going to cover this rather time-consuming and annoying process in a future blog post, describing the wonders of the Azure AZ Copy Tool which seems to be permanently in Preview.

I was having a look around and noted that the S&C center allows a degree of Exchange recipient management.  I was particularly interested to see that it allows you the option of enabling an Archive mailbox for an Exchange user when you go to


We all know that although you can do this via the Exchange Online admin GUI, when you tick the box to enable the archive you get an error.  The same happens with remote PowerShell to Exchange Online.  The PowerShell error is shown below:

Enable-Mailbox user-15 -Archive:$true

Remote PowerShell To Exchange Online Trying To Enable Archive

(checkout Rod Milne’s blog for a walk-through)

I figured I’d try enabling an archive mailbox anyway, somehow hoping i wasn’t going to be faced with the dreaded PST import copy process described above.  And it worked!  At least no error message and I even logged out and in again and tried it for a couple of different users.  The archive mailbox was provisioned when viewed in OWA (didn’t test with Outlook).  Thinking I must have missed this new functionality announcement – which would be awesome given the fact that doing it via GUI should be possible IMO – I had a search through the documentation and blogs and could not see anything that discussed this.  Trying to enable via the EAC still results in failure, so clearly there was a mismatch happening between portals.

Thanks to the power of twitterland, I tweeted to the community, in particular the guru of all things Hybrid…Michael van Hybrid (@vanhybrid).  He confirmed:


This isn’t the first time I’ve found product bugs.  A few years ago when I used to do a fair amount of GroupWise and Lotus Notes migrations, I’d find bugs in the Quest Migration Manager for Active Directory and Exchange product.  That code was originally written by Aelita Software, which employed a team of about 375 software developers in Russia.  No surprises for guessing then that some of that Russian code never translated correctly into English.  If I remember correctly I had three official bug fixes included in future version releases.

I don’t think the Office 365 environment will provide such rich pickings, there’s a remarkable amount of QA that goes on before any net new functionality such as the Security and Compliance center goes into Prod.  However, when you have multiple engineering teams collaborating, things can get missed and this was a biggie in my opinion.

A few days later the esteemed Tony Redmond (@12knocksinna) confirmed the bug was accepted, which made me smile…cool!


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Microsoft posts Q1 2016 SLA performance for Office 365. Unsurprisingly, it was good.

Great article by Tony Redmond digging into the stats for O365 Q1 SLA

Thoughtsofanidlemind's Blog

Microsoft recently posted the Q1 2016 performance against SLA for Office 365 and reported a 99.98% outcome, which is the same number that they posted for the two previous quarters. Overall, things have been pretty consistent in terms of Office 365 service recently.

That’s not to say that Office 365 has not been without its problems. Looking at the Service Health Dashboard (SHD) for any tenant is likely to turn up some issues for any given period. It’s the nature of a very complex infrastructure that is in a state of perpetual software and hardware updates that some glitches will occur.

However, the sheer size of Office 365 and the number of tenants and users it now supports means that any single support incident or outage is unlikely to dent performance against SLA. At their Q3 FY16 analyst briefing, Microsoft said that Office 365 has 70 million active users, so…

View original post 403 more words

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People you always wanted to meet…


Just finished Day Three at the Azure Cloud Architect Training Bootcamp in Bellevue, Seattle.   I am beyond impressed at the quality of delivery and attention to details of the event, more so as I had no idea in advance that it would be attended by both internal Microsoft field resources and Partners alike.  Turns out we have 200 folks from all over the world attending, a Worldwide Geekathon discussing all thing Azure.  The goal is to get aligned with the latest updates from the horses mouth a.k.a Azure Engineering Team.

I’m not going to go into detail here about the multiple interesting briefings and sessions going on, you can go read about that here.  This post is purely in recognition of the experience I had this morning at the 0800am keynote speech.

Normally I’m a “please don’t talk to me until at least 10am and had two coffees” kind of person.  However I sat totally engaged listening to an individual called Rick Bakken, Sr. Director of Data Center Evangelism at Microsoft.  He’s the guy who’s envisioned putting Microsoft’s latest and next generation data centers at the bottom of the ocean because it’s nice and COLD there:

Microsoft Plumbs Ocean’s Depths to Test Underwater Data Center

According to Rick, the investments being made in large scale datacenter technology to support the Cloud  is truly staggering.  Millions of miles of undersea cable are being laid every year, connecting continents in dark fiber exclusively owned by Microsoft simultaneously making it the worlds largest Telco.  Generations of DC deployment, going back to Gen1 in 1989 to current and future Gen5, have radically evolved and learned from their predecessors.  These sites are now cookie-cutter deployments done on a grand scale following a modular concept:

Rick confides that Information Technology is now a changing conversation – the business model is changing from Enterprise to Utility IT.  There exists in most organizations a duplication of multiple application workloads and human interaction which can be standardized once a move to the cloud is fully understood and adopted as a new business model.  This makes complete sense; in the last 18 months my initial conversations with project sponsors and stakeholders has radically changed from being a technical discussion first and foremost, to a business discussion. This often involves having the customer deeply assess their own environments about how IT is being consumed and how this might change in Azure.  Planning and Discovery in a Business Analyst role is now more important than the traditional “how do we migrate data” technicalities.

This radical change in information technology psychology is driving the cloud consumption we now hear about so often.  To accompany the pace of change, Microsoft has built a whole science around squeezing every last ounce of efficiency out of their datacenter deployments whilst learning from what went before:

The key takeaway is that the inefficiencies being removed allow the IT spend to go up, enabling reinvestment:

Underlying it all is the one thing that they can’t get enough of:

“It’s not about how many servers we deploy every day, or how many data centers we spin up every quarter – it’s all about power and cooling.”

There’s alot of learning being done along the way, some of it achingly simple: “Apart from literally being the coolest place to put a hot datacenter, we found out it’s also the most secure place!” Seems obvious yet security is a major complicating factor. Microsoft it seems has a team purely dedicated to buying fences to secure their datacenters.  Another example: “We found out in Dublin that when we opened the windows, our power bill fell dramatically!”

Rick admits the undersea datacenter design effort is still in R&D as they grapple with the ramifications of exploring a whole new environment.  Apparently there’s a lot of regulatory and compliance issues about potential conflicts of interest with the fish in a below-sea-level datacenter.  That’s why Microsoft employ a whole army of lawyers.

He delivers all this with great enthusiasm and humor – to be fair most of the Senior Program Managers speak with great authority – but this is another few levels up.   I’m looking around and every person in the room is gripped by the intensity and detail of the content being imparted despite it being so early.  This is content from the horse’s mouth that’s shaping “Big Data” (or Hyper Scale) computing…for the next 15 years.

Over the next 15 years Microsoft are going to continue to innovate as the leaders in this space.  Right now it’s about going harder, faster, better. Rick Bakken makes references to Google and AWS but is quick to stress that they are not competing with either of these two cloud giants.  “Customers are going to go with one out of the three cloud vendors or even multi-platform according to need.” This is also true for IaaS and PaaS.  “The new answer is we support everything and if we don’t already we will soon.”

I wish I had a video recording of this talk, unfortunately it was all NDA.  The takeaway though is very clear:  take your customers to the nearest Microsoft Technology Center and do the tour.  Understand the pace of the innovation underway in Cloud computing already being deployed and what’s in R&D. Go see for yourself!

You can grab the full PPT deck from this session here:!AmIoZuJAOxlngqInKTNetouxaqlQIw 

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Off to Azure Cloud Architect Training Bootcamp in SEA


One of the advantages of working for a large Microsoft Partner is getting access to some of the best training around.  Whilst there’s alot of value to be gained from the endless blog posts by experts in their field, in addition to other online resources such as the Microsoft Virtual Academy, there’s no substitute in my opinion to dedicated instructor-led classroom training.  Microsoft Airlift sessions were renowned in the past for their content quality as was the now defunct Microsoft Exchange Conference, replaced by the Ignite megaevent.  Bootcamps take this a stage further, where the focus is on deep-dive technical architecture training in a small group.  (Actually you have to be invited and meet a minimum criteria of experience).  The days are long and intensive where we get hit with the latest product information and updates, followed by hands-on lab sessions putting it all together.  The instructors delivering are usually a mixture of persons who work in the engineering teams.  In short, the folks you would want to learn from:

  • Course content has been developed, and will be presented, by senior Microsoft Solution Architects, Engineering, Azure CoE and CAT teams.
  • There will be a mix of presentations, chalk talks, case study workshops, hackathons, and Q&A panels.
  • Attendees will participate in general sessions alongside Microsoft FTE as well as separate sessions that have been specifically designed for just the partners.

Looking at the Agenda (below) for next week, as a guy transitioning into Azure in a big way, most of these areas will be taking my knowledge to a new level of understanding.  Not only in a technical capacity, but in how these solutions might add value to the customer in a particular complex scenario.  One of the hardest things to get right in presales, is having a wide ranging knowledge of all types of Azure options which could be employed and often there’s more than one. Throw in the murky world of Microsoft Licensing…

Next week’s agenda:

BootCamp Agenda

I’m really excited to see some of the topics being covered, including the  Hackathon and Customer Case Studies, which take the deeply technical and apply it to real world customer case evaluations. According to what i’ve read, some of the Microsoft guys play the customer role and us grunts have to make them happy.  What fun.

On a lighter note, there’s a trip scheduled to the Microsoft Company Store at the Redmond Campus on the Wednesday night; i’ve been there before and usually can’t resist buying something.  There’s also social occasions in the evenings:

  • An ISV Expo will offer the opportunity  to interact with partner companies and for ISV partners to demo their solutions. Hearty appetizers and drinks will be provided.
  • An Engineering and executive social reception will offer the chance for all attendees, presenters, leaders, and experts to meet and mingle.

Frequently mentioned is:  “…Hearty appetizers and drinks will be provided….” – I’ve found the Microsoft catering to be awesome at the Redmond campus ( I had the best plate of pasta in my life one lunchtime during the EMS Bootcamp i attended last Fall).  This time we’re at the Westin in Bellevue but i expect the same standards to apply.

Forget about the food, what’s the point of all this great training?  Putting it into practice of course.  In my case i have challenged myself to write one of the following three exams by the end of June 2016, for which Partners are being personally rewarded to achieve:

I think in my case it will be the 70-533 to begin with, but lots of work and prep to do before then.

Playing in Seattle

I love the city of Seattle, this will be my fourth visit.  It has a cool vibe.  As someone who now lives in the land-locked Alberta Prairies,  it reminds me of  how much i miss the water. I grew up in Scotland not far from the seaside.  On my last trip to Seattle in October 2015, I hired a decent rental and drove out to the ocean (specifically to Ocean City) for some proper fish and chips and a long walk along the beach.  It was a 400km round trip for a plate of fish and chips, but man was it worth it!  There’s endless deserted beaches, where i was having some fun driving the 4×4 actually IN the ocean, as you do.  There was noone around!


I’m also a bit of a plane-spotter and thoroughly enjoyed the Boeing Factory Tour at Everett Field, production facility for all current Boeing commercial aircraft. Visiting the Museum of Flight nearby was also very cool.

This time i’ll be lucky to get a trip up the Space Needle  to get some nice photos and afterwards some tasty seafood.

So, I’ll hope to post some info next month on what i learned during the course and the latest news from the Azure engineering teams.


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Incident number: EX45856


It’s Friday the 13th today.  I’m not really superstitious, but i should have known not to schedule a cutover to Office 365 on this day…

I’ve been getting ready for a customer’s Exchange Hybrid migration from on premise Exchange 2010 to Exchange Online which was due to take place tonight.  All was going well, my batches of users have been nicely in sync and awaiting completion at 95% for a couple of weeks. Since i’m all about the detail, i was having a good scout through the customer tenant, having  a look at some of the user migration logs to ensure that all mailboxes were truly completing their 24 hour delta sync.  No issues detected, until i happened to notice that a bunch of users that i did a new migration for a few days ago had turned up in the tenant as contacts.  It looked as though the attributes hadn’t been stamping correctly on some of these objects.  First thing i noticed right out of the gate was that when clicking on any user details in the tenant, it threw a .NET Framework error:


Odd, pressing OK on above error then takes me onto the user page where clicking on any configuration options gave the following error:


This issue was repeating itself across multiple users.  Next step was to open a Support call via the Tenant scoped as SEV A (I always call out my estimation of the Severity A/B/C as i’ve been used to doing this for years with on premise Exchange Premier support).  I was pleasantly surprised to get a callback from one of the Exchange Online migration engineers within 30 minutes.  I have seen a huge improvement in response times within the last 3 months.   I had a couple of instances in late 2015 where a support call lingered for 8 hours and was passed around the system which led to alot of frustration and which i ended up escalating internally through Microsoft to the appropriate Manager.  His feedback was that they were onboarding alot of support staff to cope with the massive volumes of users being pushed through the funnel, but that there was a lead time involved, which of course is only natural.  Microsoft is not immune to the cause and effect of market conditions and to me it looked as though they had underestimated the onboarding volume to Exchange Online last year.

Anyway back to my issue.  After 90 minutes of log gathering via PowerShell from the on premise Hybrid CAS server, the engineer came back and announced I was affected by a known incident; specifically the dreaded Incident EX45856. It was already reported on the Office 365 service Health Twitter handle:

ex45856(when it’s on Twitter, you know it’s serious, right?)

…and reported on the  Office 365 Service Dashboard within the tenant as a service degradation:

Service Health Dashboard

The official support response was:

“…As discussed, your issue “Remote moved mailboxes are showing under Contacts” is identified as known issue and our backend team is working to get this resolved. We have updated your domain name with the backend team. You can check the status of the issue on Office 365 Dashboard under Incident number: EX45856…”

At time  of writing the detailed service statement status is shown as at 91% resolution whatever that means:

Service Error Statement

Long story short, it’s Friday the 13th and my customer was pretty understanding which is not always true.  Hopefully it won’t be long before things are resolved and we can reschedule the cutover date.  It’s good to see the Service Health dashboard is actually reflective of real time issues and that the front end Microsoft support staff are keeping the health status updated accordingly.



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Office 365 datacenters now available in Canada!


Haven’t posted in a while due to project commitments, however this is one announcement we’ve been waiting on for a long time!  All those customers holding off moving to the Microsoft cloud in Canada due to regulatory and compliance reasons over data sovereignty, can now get moving.  Many to be fair have been in the planning stages for some time, whether for a migration of email to Office 365/Exchange Online, or additionally into Azure.  I’ve completed a few Exchange Hybrid and Azure IaaS POC for example where customers have tested the water but had to hold off on complete data migration.

Read all the announcements here:

Azure and Office 365 Generally Available in the Canadian DataCentre

And just to prove it’s all true, you can see Canada now listed in the services health:


Azure Service Regions

It will be interesting to see how quickly the Canadian path to adoption increases over the coming months.

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Exchange Server 2007: T-1 year and counting!

Exchange Server 2007: T-1 year and counting

Get migrating people… 


Today marks the start of the one-year countdown before Exchange Server 2007 reaches the end of extended support. If Exchange Server 2007 is still part of your messaging infrastructure, it’s not too early to start planning an update.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 9+ years since we released CCR, LCR and SCR. These technologies of course laid the ground work for the Database Availability groups we’ve relied upon since Exchange Server 2010. Exchange Server 2007 also marked the start of the transition to building Exchange Server on .Net Frameworks as well. We have continued that investment and the .Net Frameworks is now the foundation of all critical Exchange processes in Exchange Server 2013, 2016 and Office 365. PowerShell, also new to Exchange Server 2007, is even more prevalent in current versions of Exchange and is the de facto management tool for modern Exchange Servers.

As revolutionary as Exchange Server 2007 was at the time, our latest versions of Exchange Server and Office 365 have even more to offer. Customers running Exchange Server 2007 have the option to upgrade via mailbox move to Exchange Server 2010, 2013 or migrate directly to Office 365. Customers wanting to migrate to our latest version of Exchange Server, Exchange Server 2016, will need to first decrement Exchange Server 2007. Customers wanting to maximize their on-premises server investment should strongly consider migrating to Exchange Server 2016 as Exchange Server 2013 is already three years into its own 10-year lifecycle.

Below are links which you may find helpful to start planning your migration off of Exchange Server 2007 and be on your way to experiencing the latest capabilities of Exchange Server.

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Excited to be P-TSP at Microsoft

I’ve recently been nominated and accepted by Microsoft as a Partner Technology Solutions Professional (P-TSP)!  I’ll be focused on Office 365 and Azure, assisting the MS Partner community with cloud adoption.

My day-to-day job will remain the same where i deliver pre-sales engagements or architectural guidance and implementation; however i will now have access to the same resources as internal Microsoft TSPs and directly assist Microsoft resources and customers. Basically, the job entails presenting, demoing and educating companies about the Microsoft cloud and its benefits and making sure it is a good fit for their business and technical requirements.

The cloud has really helped rejuvenate my career and opened multiple new possibilities…i was starting to get frustrated just being “the Exchange guy”.  I’ve been working in IT for over 10 years, it’s a career which has been good to me and allowed me to travel widely; it eventually brought me to Canada where I got married and recently became a father.  I feel that this is a great opportunity and a great challenge which came just at the right time. Hopefully more blog content will occur as a result!


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