Showing posts with label Microsoft Azure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Microsoft Azure. Show all posts

Friday, 19 May 2017

Firebrand Launch the Azure Academy

We’re living in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. According to Forbes, the cloud computing market is set to reach 127.5 billion by 2018 and 42% of UK and US companies are actively looking to hire professionals with cloud computing skills.

Microsoft’s public cloud offering Azure is leading the way with 120,000 new customer subscriptions per month. Demonstrating the strength of Azure, 90% of Fortune 500 companies are currently using the platform.

For those unfamiliar with Azure, it’s “a growing collection of integrated cloud services – analytics, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage and web – for moving faster, achieving more and saving money”.

In this post we’ll take a look at Azure’s growth and how rapidly expanding demand for Azure cloud professionals is creating a skills gap. 

The growth of Microsoft Azure



In July, Microsoft announced that Azure revenue and usage again grew by more than 100% in the past quarter. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella attributed the growth to a mixture of high demand for cloud platforms combined with Azure’s ability to offer solutions that reflect the realities of today’s world. 

Testimony to this high demand and growth, is Microsoft’s recent announcement of the first complete cloud offering delivered from a global provider within the UK. These datacentres, which adhere to Microsoft’s stringent Trusted Cloud principles, means Azure can now offer customers 28 regions – with six more coming soon. More than any other major cloud provider.  

As mass adoption continues to accelerate, so too does the demand for cloud professionals with well-developed skills in Azure solutions. In a recent study by the managed cloud provider Rackspace, jobs specifying Microsoft Azure experience increased demand in the UK by 75%.

Lagging significantly behind this demand however, is the number of qualified individuals capable of supporting a business’s Azure needs. Rightscale found that the number one challenge for companies looking to bolster their cloud capabilities is the shortage of appropriate skilled job candidates.

Furthermore, while Microsoft’s Azure certifications provide excellent insight into the cloud platform, professionals and businesses alike are increasingly looking to further their Azure knowledge and subsequent application.

Microsoft offer a series of highly-demanded Specialist Azure certifications; Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions and the MCSD Azure Solutions Architect – aimed at demonstrating how to competently implement and administer Azure in a business environment. However, the demand for more in-depth, technical know-how surrounding Azure has seen Firebrand training in partnership with Microsoft develop the Azure Academy.

The birth of Firebrand’s Azure Academy 


Azure Academy is a new, accelerated product created by Firebrand Training in partnership with Microsoft and partners. The Azure Academy introduces the cloud platform in a greater and never-before seen depth.



The accelerated nature of Firebrand Training means each deep dive is just 4 days. Moreover, the content provided includes more than 80% in-depth technical content not found in the Microsoft Official Curriculum.  

Our UK Commercial Manager, James Lapwood said: "We’ve worked with Microsoft and partners in creating the accelerated Azure Academy. The content of the programmes - from Apprenticeships through to expert-level Deep Dives - has been developed based on what the market has asked us for. All delivered at twice the speed of traditional training".  

This Academy, which should be seen as an extension of the MCSD Azure Solutions Architect, is made up of three deep-dive programmes:
  • Infrastructure and Networking
  • Data Platform
  • Application Development

Let’s take a look at them in a little more depth:


The first of the three brand-new Microsoft programmes is Infrastructure and Networking. The course will focus on topics such as:
  • Cloud computing environments
  • Azure storage, backup and recovery
  • Automation, PowerShell and the Azure CLI
  • Microsoft Cloud Estate

You can see the full curriculum here.

The second deep-dive program is Data Platform. This programme will develop understanding of Azure data services, analytics and IoT – plus a detailed look at security. Some of the topics covered include:

  • Implementing Azure SQL Database
  • Azure Redis Cache
  • Azure HDInsight
  • Azure BizTalk Service

Check out the full curriculum.

The third and final Azure Academy programme is Application Development. Aimed at developing your knowledge of designing cloud application in Azure, some of the topics you’ll focus on include:

  • Availability
  • Data-management
  • Messaging
  • Resiliency

Integrated into each deep dive program is a focus on Azure security. With security in the Cloud seen as the second largest cloud challenge to businesses, the need for a holistic understanding of security is imperative.

Check out the full curriculum


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Discover 7 new Microsoft MCSA and MCSE certifications

Microsoft have announced the launch of 6 new MCSA certifications and 1 new MCSE certification. This demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to a growing Azure, Big Data, Business Intelligence (BI) and Dynamics community.

These new certifications and courses will support Microsoft partners looking to upskill and validate knowledge in these technologies.  

Following the huge changes announced in September, these new launches will simplify your path to certification. They'll minimise the number of steps required to earn a certification, while allowing you to align your skills to industry-recognised areas of competence.

This blog will outline the new certifications Microsoft have announced, focusing on the technologies, skills and job roles they align to. 

So what's new?


MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365

This MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 certification is one of three Dynamics 365 certifications launched. It demonstrates your expertise in upgrading, configuring and customising the new Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform.

There are currently no MOCs aligned to this certification. We have developed our own Firebrand material that will prepare you for the following two exams needed to achieve this certification:
  • MB2-715: Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement Online Deployment
  • MB2-716: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customization and Configuration 
This certification will validate you have the skills for a position as a Dynamics 365 developer, implementation consultant, technical support engineer or system administrator.

This certification is a prerequisite for the MCSE: Business Applications. 

MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations

The second of these three Dynamics 365 certs is the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. Here, you’ll get the skills to manage a Microsoft SQL Server database and customise Microsoft Dynamics 365.

On this course, you’ll cover the following MOC:
  • 20764: Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure 
The second part of this course, of which there is currently no MOC, will cover Firebrand's own material. 

To achieve this certification you’ll need to pass the following exams:
  • 70-764: Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure
  • MB6-890: Microsoft Development AX Development Introduction 
Earning this cert proves you have the technical competence for positions such as Dynamics 365 developer, solutions architect or implementer.  

Just like the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365, this certification is also a prerequisite to the new MCSE: Business Applications certification. 

MCSE: Business Applications

Earning an MCSE certification validates a more advanced level of knowledge. The MCSE: Business Applications certification proves an expert-level competence in installing, operating and managing Microsoft Dynamics 365 technologies in an enterprise environment.

In order to achieve this certification you’ll be required to pass either the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 or the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. You’ll also be required to choose one of the following electives to demonstrate expertise on a business-specific area:
  • MB2-717: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales
  • MB2-718: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service
  • MB6-892: Microsoft Dynamics AX - Distribution and Trade
  • MB6-893: Microsoft Dynamics AX - Financials  
Earning your MCSE: Business Applications certification will qualify you for the roles such as Dynamics 365 developer, implementation consultant, technical support engineer, or system administrator.

MCSA: Big Data Engineering

This MCSA: Big Data Engineering certification demonstrates you have the skills to design and implement big data engineering workflows with the Microsoft cloud ecosystem and Microsoft HD Insight to extract strategic value from your data.

On this course you’ll cover the following MOCs:
  • 20775A: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft HDInsight – expected 28/6/2017
  • 20776A: Engineering Data with Microsoft Cloud Services – expected 08/2017
And take the following exams:
  • 70-775: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft HD Insight – available now in beta
  • 70-776: Engineering Data with Microsoft Cloud Services – expected Q1 2018
This course is aimed at data engineers, data architects, data scientists and data developers.

Earning this MCSA acts as a prerequisite, and your first step, to achieving the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential.

MCSA: BI Reporting

This MCSA: BI Reporting certification proves your understanding of data analysis using Power BI. You’ll learn the skills to create and manage enterprise business intelligence solutions.

The MOCs you’ll cover on this course include:
  • 20778A: Analyzing Data with Power BI
  • 20768B: Developing SQL Data Models 
In order to achieve the certification, you’ll take the following exams:
  • 70-778: Analyzing Data with Power BI - expected Q1 2018
  • 70-768: Developing SQL Data Models 
This certification is aimed at database professionals needing to create enterprise BI solutions and present data using alternative methods.

This certification is a prerequisite for the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential. 

MCSA: Cloud Database Development 

This MCSA: Cloud Database Development certification will prove you have the skills to build and implement NoSQL solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search for the Azure data platform

This certification covers the following MOCs:
  • 40441: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
  • 20777: Implementing NoSQL Solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search – expected in August 2017 
In order to achieve the certification, you'll have to pass the following exams: 
  • 70-473: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
  • 70-777: Implementing NoSQL Solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search – expected in Q1 2018
This course is aimed at specialist professionals looking to validate their skills and knowledge of developing NoSQL solutions for the Azure data platform. 

This certification is also a prerequisite certification to the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential. 

MCSA: Data Science

This course will teach you the skills in operationalising Microsoft Azure machine learning and Big Data with R Server and SQL R Services. You'll learn to process and analyse large data sets using R and use Azure cloud services to build and deploy intelligent solutions.

This certification covers the following MOCs:
  • 20773A: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R – in development, expected May 2017
  • 20774A: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning – in development, expected June 2017
To achieve this certification you’ll be required to pass the following exams:
  • 70-773: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R – available now in beta
  • 70-774: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning – available now in beta 
This certification, which is your first step to the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics cert is best suited to data science or data analyst job roles. 


Monday, 27 June 2016

How to achieve MCSD Azure Solutions Architect certification



There can be no doubt that cloud technology is the way forward for businesses of all sizes – from equipping micro-companies with the technical resources to punch well above their weight, through to enabling enterprises to shrink their in-house infrastructure whilst also increasingly flexibility.

There is fierce competition amongst providers to be ‘King of the Cloud’, but Microsoft Azure is a strong contender, with comprehensive offerings in both IaaS and PaaS. MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect is the definitive Microsoft Azure certification: by achieving it, you will have career-boosting proof of your expertise.

The key challenge of the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification is its breadth. It comprises 3 Microsoft Specialist certifications, with associated exams:

As the titles suggest, you’ll need to wear many hats: developer, systems/network admin, DevOps and solution architect.




Being part of the Microsoft stable, Azure – and by extension this certification’s syllabus - tends to do things the Microsoft way, even if there is the occasional conciliatory nod towards Linux and friends. You will have a much easier time if you nail the core Microsoft building blocks before you start the official certification.

Here’s a handy list of tools and topics for you to use when brushing up:

Building websites using .NET: You’ll be learning how to deploy .NET web applications to Azure, so be familiar with building and hosting ‘regular’ websites using .NET.

Microsoft SQL Server: Azure’s database offering, ‘Microsoft Azure SQL Database’ shares its code base with Microsoft SQL Server. Since we don’t yet live in a happy utopia with only ‘1 SQL to rule them all’, familiarise yourself with the specifics of SQL Server, particularly the T-SQL query language.

Visual Studio: You’ll spend a lot of time knees deep in Visual Studio, so get very familiar with the shortcuts and options which will save you time and pain. Or work out how to make it pretend to be Vim or Emacs, if that’s your thing.

C#: Unless you currently spend all of your time coding in C#, remind yourself of its specifics so you don’t spend countless hours wondering why your code doesn’t work, before realising that you’ve actually been trying to write C++ / Java / JavaScript all along.

PowerShell: Becoming a PowerShell guru can make your life a lot easier by automating repeated tasks. You’ll also be using it a lot for Azure configuration, so make sure you swot up on its differences from bash (or DOS, if you’re really old-skool).

Active Directory: In classic Microsoft style, things with similar names are actually quite different, so ‘Azure Active Directory’ does things quite differently from ‘regular’ Active Directory. But the core functions, including authentication, authorisation, directory query, and user/group management, are still there, and the syllabus includes extending on-premises Active Directory into Azure.

Core networking: Make sure you know your subnets, your VPNs, your UDPs etc.

There’s a shed-load of info and training material about everything Microsoft-related, including Azure and the topics above, on the Microsoft Virtual Academy, including a number of free e-books.

However you're planning to prepare, to achieve the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification, making sure you’re as familiar as possible with the ecosystem of Microsoft development and networking tools will give you a strong head-start. Happy studying!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Which Microsoft Azure certification is best for you?

 By Sarah Morgan


Adoption of cloud infrastructure is no longer a new trend or unknown entity. Cloud computing is now a mainstay in the IT industry and the numbers back this up. According to a 2016 IDC study, public cloud spending is growing at 6 times the rate of overall IT spending growth, due to reach £96 billion annually by 2019. Plus, there are now over 18 million cloud jobs worldwide.

Alongside cloud technology, usage of Microsoft Azure is also growing rapidly. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said there are now over 5 million organisations using Azure Active Directory, and over 50 trillion objects stored in Azure as a whole. This highlights the scale of Microsoft’s cloud operations, with Microsoft keen to grow and develop its cloud services in the near future.

Image from Microsoft
80% of Fortune 500 companies are now using Microsoft cloud technology and Azure is gaining 90,000 new customers a month. With worldwide adoption of Azure infrastructure increasing, having the skills to manage Azure systems is now a great asset to you and your business. Also, helping you take advantage of Azure’s benefits like Microsoft support resources, interoperability with many devices and high flexibility and versatility of Azure virtual machines. The range of Azure courses on offer has steadily grown alongside the cloud platform and there are now many to choose from, each offering you Azure skills suitable for different roles.  To help you decide which is best for you, in no particular order, below is a breakdown of all current Microsoft’s Azure certifications.


Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions


The Microsoft Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification is aimed at Server Engineers or Architects. It proves you know have the knowledge and skills to migrate your existing on premise architecture to Microsoft Azure. Perfect for anyone needing to migrate their legacy systems to the cloud where you'll need to create Azure virtual machines and networks, implement and manage Azure storage solutions, implement cloud and mobile services among other skills in migrating and implementing Azure.

To achieve the Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification, you’ll need to pass Microsoft exam 70-533. If you're looking to develop the skills and knowledge to pass this exam, you'll need to get to grips with course 20533B: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, which is aligned to the 70-533 exam. 

Firebrand has a 3 day accelerated version of the Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions course, 50% faster than traditional courses. You'll learn how to:

  • move your virtual machines, websites, storage and data services to Microsoft Azure
  • manage it all in the long term
  • get skilled up on Azure features like: 
    • Active Directory 
    • Content Delivery Network 
    • SQL Data Services 
    • managing Azure in a hybrid environment.

Image from Microsoft



Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions


The  Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions certification is aimed at Developers looking to specialise and take their skills onto Azure. This certification proves you can create an environment for web development on Azure virtual machines as well as design cloud applications on Azure.

You need to pass Microsoft Exam 70-532 to achieve the certification. You should look to sit course 20532B: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions as this is aligned to the 70-532 exam.  This will give you the best possible chance of getting Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions certified.

Firebrand has an accelerated 3 day Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions course. This is 50% faster than traditional training courses and will teach you to develop the following skills: 

  • ASP.NET web architecture and development skills 
  • Hosting on Azure 
  • Storage and management of SQL data on Azure.

Specialist: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions


The Microsoft Specialist: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions certification is most suited to Azure Cloud Architects or Azure Consultants. It demonstrates your skills to design and manage the technologies Azure offers and how they work together. It is best suited to those looking to design public and hybrid Azure solutions in their business.

In order to achieve the Microsoft Specialist: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions certification, you’ll need to pass exam 70-534: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions. Whilst there is no specific course aligned to the exam, you can sit Firebrand’s accelerated 7 day course which includes all the skills you’ll need for the 70-534 exam. It covers topics like:

  • Designing best practices for virtual networks 
  • Network Security Groups (NSGs) and how they help to create perimeter networks
  • System Centre products and how they integrate with Azure


MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect


The MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect is the most comprehensive Azure specific certification currently available and combines all three of the Specialist certifications. As the title suggests, it is aimed at Azure Solutions Architects, proving you have all the skills to design, build and deploy an entire solution on Azure. To achieve the certification, you have to pass all three specialist exams 70-532, 70-533 and 70-534.

This means the best way to pass these is to sit all three Microsoft Specialist courses,  aligned to each exam. 

The best way to this is by sitting Firebrand’s accelerated 7 day MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect course, which is 40% faster than traditional training. It includes curriculum for Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure SolutionsDeveloping Microsoft Azure Solutions and Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions, which are aligned to all three exams. This covers the full range of Azure topics including:

  • Designing cloud applications for resiliency
  • Hosting web applications on Azure
  • Implementing and managing virtual networks
  • Planning and implementing data services 

MCSA: Linux on Azure


The newest Azure certification on the market, the MCSA: Linux on Azure, is the first ever certification from a Microsoft and Linux collaboration. It is aimed at Linux Systems Administrators, Engineers and support staff. It proves your skills as a Linux systems administrator and your abilities to migrate and use these systems on Microsoft Azure.

You need to pass exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions and the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) exam. Sitting courses 20533B and LFS220: Linux System Administration will prepare you for both exams. 

On LFS220, you’ll learn about Linux processes, filesystems, backup and recovery methods and networking. The 20533B course will then cover Azure migration, so you can use your Linux systems on Azure. Firebrand has an accelerated MCSA: Linux on Azure course, which can get you certified in just 5 days.


What else?


As well as the Azure specific certifications we’ve mentioned above, there are other Microsoft certifications that include very useful skills relating to Azure. These could be useful to you before specialising with an Azure certification. Check out a breakdown of these below:

MCSA: Windows 10 – Microsoft’s cross-platform vision is led by Windows 10 and included in this is its combination and integration with Azure. Microsoft’s MCSA: Windows 10 certification is aimed at Support Technicians and Systems Administrators and teaches you about security, administration and technical support for Microsoft’s newest operating system. Crucially, the course also covers how to integrate Windows 10 with Microsoft Azure and features like Active Directory, Microsoft Intune and Azure Rights Management. 

MCSA: Office 365 – Office 365 is a cloud-based technology. This means it is closely linked to Azure. Much of what the MCSA: Office 365 covers is integrating Office 365 with supporting technologies including Azure Active Directory, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. All of these are based in the cloud. Getting MCSA: Office 365 certified is a great way to start building your cloud and Azure skills, whilst of course getting in depth skills on Office 365. This certification is aimed at Systems Administrators looking to specialise in Office 365, or if you need to setup Office 365 in your business.

MCSA: Windows Server 2012 – Getting certified in another of Microsoft’s most prominent technologies is most useful for Server Engineers, Server Support or Server Administrators. It gives you all the skills to implement, configure and manage Windows Server 2012. The certification also includes a brief overview of Azure and how Windows Server 2012 relates to it. This is an important factor as many System Administrators are using Azure cloud infrastructure that uses Windows Server 2012. If you’re planning to run your Azure architecture with Windows Server 2012, this certification gives you a useful bridge between the two technologies.


Now you know what skills each Azure certification demonstrates, you should be able to find an Azure certification that helps you achieve your goals. The range of Azure certifications from Microsoft is still relatively young and growing and as Azure develops, so will the accompanying certifications. This means if there isn’t an Azure certification that helps you do exactly what you need right now, Microsoft may well develop one in the near future.

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Azure Active Directory: Tomorrow’s Identity Management, Today

   By Debra Littlejohn Shinder

Identity and access management form the backbone of your network security plan, and now with the integration of on-premises and cloud-based services in a hybrid environment, organizations need a solution that will simplify user access to cloud apps and allow them to get to the resources they need no matter what type or brand of computing device they’re using. 

Microsoft’s answer to this is Azure Active Directory, which will not only enable your users to access your SaaS applications and Office 365 but also lets you publish your on-premises web apps so that they can be accessed from computers, tablets or smart phones running Windows, Android, iOS or OS X. 

Your on-premises Active Directory and other directory services can be synchronized automatically with Azure AD. You can sync users, groups and contacts to the cloud and Azure AD supports both directory sync with password synchronization and directory sync with single sign-on:


  • Directory sync with password sync: users can sign into Azure AD with the same username and password they use for accessing the company network.
  • Directory sync with single sign-on:  users can use their company AD credentials to access both cloud and on-premises resources seamlessly. You can even have single sign-on across multiple AD forests using Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS). 


All of this convenience doesn’t come at the cost of security. Users can enjoy all the benefits of single sign-on and administrators can breathe easy knowing that the access channels are secured. 

You have the option of enabling Azure multi-factor authentication to provide more protection for your sensitive and confidential data and applications, and security monitoring will keep you apprised of what’s going on with both your cloud apps and your on-premises apps. 

Active Directory integration tools, Azure Active Directory Sync and Azure Active Directory Synchronization Tool (DirSync) have been replaced by Azure Active Directory Connect, which encompasses their same functionalities and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Azure web site. This tool lets you easily connect your on-premises directories with your Azure AD via a wizard-based interface that will deploy and configure all of the necessary components for you. 


Credit: Microsoft Azure Directory


Azure AD Connect has three parts: Sync Services, AD FS and the health monitoring service (Azure AD Connect Health). AD FS is optional; it’s used to create a hybrid solution with your on-premises AD FS deployment. In order to install Azure AD Connect, you’ll need to have Enterprise Administrator credentials, along with a subscription to Azure and Azure AD Premium (or the trial version). You’ll also need an Azure AD Global Admin account and your AD domain controller needs to be running Windows Server 2008 or above. 

The installation wizard will help you to select the type of synchronization that’s best for your organization (password sync or single sign-on), then it will install the software components that are needed in order to deploy the type of synchronization you chose. After the components are installed, it will verify the integration of the on-premises and cloud directories to ensure that everything is working. 

By default, Azure AD Connect installs an instance of SQL Server 2012 Express, creates the appropriate groups and assigns the necessary permissions to them. However, if you want, you can use a SQL server that you already have. You’ll need to specify its name in the options configuration section of the wizard. You also might want to create an account for the sync services to use instead of using the default account, so that you can choose your own password. When you use the default, Azure AD Connect generates a password automatically and you don’t know what it is. Usually you won’t need to, but there are some advanced tasks that do require you to know and enter the password. 

The quickest and easiest way to integrate your on-premises and cloud directories is to use the Express installation option. It is for single-forest configurations and uses the password hash sync type so users can log onto the cloud with the same password they use for the corporate network. It’s a quick and simple process with just six steps. If you want more options, you want to go with the Custom installation, which lets you choose Federation with AD FS or password sync, lets you add more directories to sync, and gives you far more flexibility and control over identities and features such as Azure AD app and attribute filtering, password and user writeback, and more. Writeback means that password changes made in Azure AD and users created in Azure AD will be written back to the on-premises directory. 

Azure Active Directory brings your on-premises and cloud assets together for maximizing the benefits of both. You can find much more good information about Azure at www.cloudcomputingadmin.com.



Author Profile

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP (Security) is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security.

She is also a tech editor, developmental editor and contributor to over 20 additional books. Her articles are regularly published on TechRepublic's TechProGuild Web site and WindowSecurity.com, and has appeared in print magazines such as Windows IT Pro (formerly Windows & .NET) Magazine.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Firebrand embraces Microsoft’s cloud first ethos


Speaking from a meeting room that previously held Firebrand’s sever rack, we caught up with Bevan Miller, our Head of IT, to discuss Firebrand’s recent migration to Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

Firebrand now in the cloud

Over the past year, Firebrand’s forward-thinking IT team have been migrating business critical systems to Microsoft’s public cloud platform – Azure.

A modern business requires countless services and software to run, and Firebrand has been working hard at getting them into the cloud. Our recent Office 365 migration means that users can now login to the Firebrand business applications and authenticate through Azure and Federation Services.

Firebrand employees can access their critical apps across public networks – BYOD and working from home has never been simpler.

But that’s not all – OneDrive for Business, Exchange Online, SharePoint, Yammer, Skype for Business, File Services, legacy CRM, database services, finance systems, RemoteApp, Directory Services and Windows Deployment Services are now all running in Azure.



Cloud migration – not just a buzzword

Full cloud migration can be a daunting task but the benefits are massive. Firebrand staff now experience full BYOD and working from home flexibility – when they connect to the corporate network, regardless of their connection, they’ll find their apps are already installed alongside their personal settings.

The IT team have also cut their operational time by enabling the cloud to manage their server load. Real time scaling support that efficiently adapts to business demands is now maintained by Dot Net Solutions, a managed services and solutions partner.



Dot Net Solutions manages all of Firebrand’s third line support – using System Centre Operations Manager for security and update patches, monitor, maintain and triage system issues before they impact business applications.

The result: Bevan and his team get more time to focus on business solutions and streamlining technologies.

With our server stack sitting securely in the cloud, little to no operational time is being dedicated to regular hardware maintenance tasks. There’s now no need to add to the server stack when the company expands, Azure flexibly responds to any increase or decrease in our business demands.

Firebrand can now easily deploy additional security features through Azure’s Multi Factor Authentication giving us real time security monitoring and enabling fast action on alerts.

Risk to critical files is minimised too - if our server room experiences any disasters, our critical servers and data will be spared as they are now backed-up multiple times across Azure's geo-redundant virtual machines.

We now also use Microsoft Data Protection manager in conjunction with Azure Data Backup Vaults as well as a full Virtual Machine through the Azure Backup Service.

Those training with us will also get to see Azure in action - Firebrand’s cloud courses are now powered by Azure. Plus, Bevan’s team can now utilise Azure to set up Firebrand’s classrooms, cutting 6-7 days of setup time to a mere ten minutes


How we converted our server rack space into a meeting room

Cloud migration means saying ‘Goodbye’ to the majority of your server racks and when we said our farewells, we suddenly came into possession of a whole new workspace.

Previously stuffed with whirring servers and their backups, we quickly made use of the space by converting it into a new meeting room.

Our absence of physical servers and specialised AC means that the Firebrand London office has more than halved power consumption, server estate footprint and redundant power requirement – cutting electricity bills and contributing to Firebrand's green commitment.


Why Firebrand migrated with Azure

As Microsoft are also the Operating System vendor, they are able to closely integrate the hosting platform with the desktop. For example, Operating System stack integrated to back-end infrastructure makes it easy for personal devices to securely and quickly access corporate resources through Azure Rights Management Service.



And despite launching later than other cloud services, Azure has learnt from its competitors – taking advantage of their successes and avoiding their failures.

Azure isn’t the only public cloud service available, but with over $15billion invested into Azure – it’s clear that Microsoft is committed to their advancing cloud service.


Putting themselves out of a job?

As more and more of Firebrand’s IT services become automated and self-sufficient – Bevan’s team is leaving behind the traditional IT support role.

It may sound like Firebrand’s IT team are putting themselves out of a job, but the fact is, when conventional support becomes automated, IT departments are able to apply their skills to business enhancing projects - like making Firebrand's business files more accessible by migrating them to Microsoft OneDrive.

Bevan and his staff now have more time to ensure Firebrand continues to be a cutting edge business with the best tools available.


Related articles:



About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

New accelerated Microsoft courses from Firebrand


By Sarah Morgan


Become an Azure architect, learn how to install Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 in your organisation then master NAV 2015’s financial application area. Study it all - twice as fast as traditional training - on three new accelerated Firebrand courses.

Firebrand is excited to bring these new accelerated Microsoft courses to our ever expanding training portfolio:



Microsoft Specialist: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions

Learn how to build websites, application storage and infrastructure with Azure – Microsoft’s global cloud platform that boasts over 90,000 new customer subscriptions per month.

The third Azure specialist course in Firebrand’s portfolio, Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions will give you the skills you need to design public and hybrid cloud solutions.

Study Microsoft Official Curriculum, take your Microsoft exam 70-534 onsite at the end of your three day course, and return to work certified.

Become an Azure Architect in only three days!





Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 Financials

Learn how to automate and streamline your business processes with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 financials. In just six days you’ll get the knowledge you need to manage your business with NAV 2015 and get to grips with new features like Tablet Client and Office365 integration.

By the end of this six day course, you’ll be able to setup and use the Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 Finance application area. You’ll also learn:

  • How to setup and use VAT, budgets, cash management & multiple currencies
  • Basics of Sales and Purchase
  • Basic functionalities, including sorting and filtering
  • Management of roles and user rights
  • Creation of fixed assets and how to use them in transactions

Learn how to manage your organisation’s finances with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 in only six days!


Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 Installation and Configuration

On this accelerated two day course you’ll learn how to install and configure Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015. Built for small and medium sized businesses, NAV 2015 will manage your organisations finance, manufacturing, sales and more.

Make the most of the newest version of Dynamics NAV; get introduced to new features like an enhanced PowerShell API and single sign-on with Office365.

Learn how to install and configure Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015, and configure multiple NAV 2015 client types, in just two days with Firebrand.


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About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

How to test your Azure Traffic Manager settings

   By Debra Littlejohn Shinder



The more traffic you have, the more important traffic management becomes. When motor vehicles first appeared on the roads, they were few and far between and little management was necessary. Yet today traffic control devices are essential to prevent accidents and traffic jams. Likewise, today’s oft-overburdened networks carry data packets from hundreds or thousands of endpoints across routers and switches and through gateways, making traffic management a necessity to ensure performance and reliability.

Microsoft Azure Traffic Manager is a tool designed to work with Microsoft’s cloud operating system to enable you to control the way traffic is distributed to Azure cloud services, web sites and other endpoints that you specify by applying policies to DNS queries. This can result in significant improvement to availability, performance and responsiveness – all of which can be concerns when working with cloud services over an Internet connection, especially for those who are used to the high speed of today’s local networks.

Traffic Manager is deployed in association with an Azure subscription, after which you can add your endpoints, select a monitoring configuration and load balancing method, then create a profile and configure the settings. You can configure Traffic Manager settings in the Management Portal, by using REST APIs or using PowerShell. You can also create nested profiles, which refers to a setup where you have another Traffic Manager profile as an endpoint.

For more information about how to control network traffic distribution with Azure Traffic Manager, be sure to check out Richard Hicks’ article over on CloudComputingAdmin.com.

Before you get that far, though, you might want to test your Traffic Manager settings after configuring them. To do that, first make sure that you set DNS TTL to a low value, such as 30 seconds, so that the changes you make will be quickly propagated and you won’t have to wait to see the results.

You can check your Traffic Manager profile using the common nslookup utility:

  1. Open an administrative command prompt window.
  2. Enter ipconfig /flushdns to flush the DNS resolver cache.
  3. Enter nslookup <Traffic Manager domain name>

Examine the results returned from this command. This should show the DNS name and IP address of the DNS server that you’re using to resolve the domain name. It will also show the Traffic Manager domain along with the IP address to which it resolves. The second IP address shown should be a public virtual IP (VIP) address that is assigned to one of the cloud services or web sites you’ve configured as an endpoint in Traffic Manager.

Now, to test your failover load balancing method, follow these steps:

  1. With the endpoints up, using a single client, use the nslookup tool to request DNS name resolution of your company domain name. The resolved endpoint should be for your primary endpoint.
  2. Either take down your primary endpoint or remove the monitoring file (this will make it appear to be down to Traffic Manager).
  3. Wait now for the DNS TTL plus two minutes to pass.
  4. Now flush the DNS client cache as described above.
  5. Request DNS resolution again. This time the IP address returned should be for your secondary endpoint.
  6. Take down the secondary endpoint and repeat the process for each of the endpoints. The key here is to be sure that the DNS resolution request comes back each time with the IP address of the next endpoint on your list.

If you’re using the round robin load balancing method, the steps to test are a little different. The first step is the same, but the endpoints won’t be in order. Make sure you get back the IP address of one of the endpoints on your list, then flush the DNS cache and repeat to get a different address from your list, and so forth, until the IP addresses for all of your endpoints have been returned.


Author Profile

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP (Security) is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security.

She is also a tech editor, developmental editor and contributor to over 20 additional books. Her articles are regularly published on TechRepublic's TechProGuild Web site and WindowSecurity.com, and has appeared in print magazines such as Windows IT Pro (formerly Windows & .NET) Magazine.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

How to stay ahead: IT skills you'll need in 2015


By Sarah Morgan
When Microsoft Evangelists Ed Baker, Andrew Fryer and Susan Smith began their TechED presentation, they asked a simple question – ‘Are you still doing the same thing at work as you were 5 years ago?’ Attendees replied with an overwhelming No

And undoubtedly, if they asked that question in another 5 years to the same audience of IT professionals, the answer would again be a resounding No

The IT Industry is changing rapidly. Consumers, clients and businesses all expect IT to do more and more. Fail to keep up with new technology and you might find you’re hard earned skills have suddenly become obsolete. 

IT job roles are always changing 
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)

The challenge you continue to face in 2015 is this: how will you develop your career and stay 
relevant in a job market that is always changing?

Perhaps the best way is to hear from some of the pioneers themselves, specifically the three Microsoft Evangelists who spoke at 2014’s TechED on the panel titled: ‘Career Development: Next roles, Next skills and Staying Relevant in an evolving IT World’ 

What did Ed Baker, Andrew Fryer and Susan Smith have to say? What cutting-edge technologies do they have their eye on? Here's how to stay ahead with the IT skills you'll need in 2015.

Data Science 


Andrew Fryer, Microsoft Technical Evangelist UK, spoke about Data Science, dubbed 2015’s hottest profession.

Tech firms like Google, Amazon and Netflix are already using data science. But now non-tech companies, like Wal-Mart and Gap, are beginning to awaken to the benefits of data scientists.

But how would it help out your organisation? Well, you’ve likely backed up data, made logs of your website and recorded how your servers are running. And now it’s just sitting there, gathering dust. A data scientist would sift through this to find a previously hidden insight into what’s going on inside your business.

Data Scientists use a number of tools like Real Time Analytics, Big Data, Data Mining, Open Source and Machine Learning technologies to achieve their goals.

How do data scientists achieve their goals?
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)
To become a data scientist, explains Andrew, you’ll need skills in business knowledge, maths and statistics. On top of this, you’ll need to be infinitely curious.

‘This is all about experimentation and play…working out what might work and then rigorously testing it. That technique works really well if you have knowledge of business and maths.’


What you'll need to succeed as a data scientist 
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)



Andrew highlights Microsoft Azure machine learning (computers acting without being explicitly programmed) as a particularly good tool for taking raw data and making accurate predictions (take a look at his demo at 13:44).

Andrew has spent 15 years working in the business intelligence field and describes data science as ‘a big market for everybody.’ Data Scientists are now massively in-demand and make a good living. As Andrew simply puts it – ‘[he] gets nice holidays.’



Enterprise Mobility


Enterprise mobility describes the shift in work habits where more employees now work out of the office, using mobile and cloud services to perform their business tasks.

As the BYOD (bring-your-own-device) culture continues to take hold of the workplace and with the rise of wearable technology, more IT professionals are needed to keep these devices secure.

‘Mobility has been around for a long time, and security issues have always been present’ states Ed Baker, Microsoft UK Technical Evangelist.

‘All devices have massive amounts of data that we need to secure…and manage.’ So, argues Ed, the methods we implement to control this valuable data need to be managed.

But how will you manage (and secure) this new environment of enterprise mobility?

To begin with, states Ed, you’ll need security skills: ‘If you lose your data as an organisation, not only are you going out of business but you’re probably going to get fined, jailed or both, depending on what type of data…What we need is total control over our data.’

And to be able to do this, states Ed, we need to enable some form of Device Management through hybrid or cloud only technology. But to do this, IT pros will also need to develop their networking skills to implement group policies and maintain the security of your data.

Enterprise mobility skills 
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)





Take a look at 29:31 for Ed’s Enterprise Mobility from the user perspective demo.



DevOps


Necessitated by the IT industries rapid release cycles, DevOps is a ‘collaboration where Developers and Operations work together for continuous improvement.’

So collaboration is key, but how do you achieve it? According to Susan, Dev Ops is more than just application lifecycle management: it’s about maintaining and supporting your application after it’s been deployed.

But what do DevOps job specifications desire? As Susan revealed during her presentation, the current DevOp job postings are looking for skills in:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Scripting (Linux, Windows etc)
  • Infrastructure as Code – being able to automate your application environment
  • Collaboration
  • Security - to create compliant apps

Key skills you'll need to succeed as a DevOp
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)





Don’t feel put out if you don’t have every skill listed. What’s really important, according to Susan, is a broad knowledge of both Developer and Operations roles.

However, actions speak louder than words and Susan recommends that you become active within the DevOps community. Speaking at events, attending meet-ups and becoming prominent in the DevOps space will be a massive bonus to anybody seeking this kind of role.

To get DevOps moving in your organisation, take a look at this useful article from ZDnet.


Will your role change?

There you have it, three IT skills to keep an eye on in 2015, straight from the pioneers themselves.

Will your role in 2015 be affected by data science, enterprise mobility or DevOps? If so we’d love to hear from you, and if not – how else will your role be changing in the new year?


About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.