Buckled up and ready to go? Untangling airports using open source tools on Microsoft Azure

By Kenji Takeda, Solution Architect and Technical Manager, Microsoft Research as written on blogs.msdn.microsoft.com
Nobody likes a delay at the airport. Many of us have spent time buckled up, ready for takeoff, wondering why our plane is stuck on its way between the gate and the runway. Scientists in the United Kingdom are working hard to help untangle these airport operations, to help save fuel, money, and impact on the environment. Cloud computing is empowering the research team to parse the anatomy of these snarls and create a model that will one day recommend better paths for every plane.
Tim Walmsley, Environment Manager for Manchester Airport, which is the third largest airport in the United Kingdom, handling over 23 million passengers per year explains:
“Aviation is an industry that’s growing. So there are lots of ways that the industry is trying to tackle the impacts that growth could bring to the climate. The Airport Optimization Project feeds into that because we want to reduce the amount of CO2 that’s generated when an aircraft lands, taxis, and ultimately departs.”
One of the great understudied choke points at airports is the time aircraft spend taxiing to and from the runway. Sandy Brownlee, PhD , is a senior research assistant at the University of Stirling in Scotland who turned his computer science expertise toward this problem. He used Microsoft Azure to store data on thousands of taxiways at different airports and create open tools, now available to anyone on GitHub, to model and improve aircraft taxiing to reduce pollution and improve efficiency. Jason Atkin, assistant professor at the University of Nottingham, is Brownlee’s partner in their project with Manchester Airport, and also developed systems that are now streamlining operations at London Heathrow Airport. “One of the things cloud computing does is bring the power and data processing ability of huge machines to any researcher’s desk,” Atkin says.
Modeling required Brownlee to bring together data for dozens of airports from publicly available sources, including Flight Radar 24 and Open Street Map. He was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was to use open-source tools on Microsoft Azure , such as Linux virtual machines, and developing his methods using OpenJDK. Processing speeds using Azure enabled him to complete his work in one-tenth the time of just using his desktop computer. “So rather than spending several months waiting for my data to be ready so that I could get on and do things, I had it within a couple of weeks,” he says.
“Taxiing is a really critical problem because it connects everything else,” Brownlee explains. Many are familiar with strategies for aligning takeoffs and landings to improve safety or efficiency, but just imagine how the time spent slowly taxiing to or from the gate adds quite another layer of complexity to the puzzle.
One pilot can take longer than another to cover the same ground, traffic congestion can be heavy at busy times, and mechanical delays of any sort can throw off predictions. Taxiing delays ripple through the entire system, throwing off other timing. Modeling and predicting that taxi time can help airports change when and where they direct planes and yield big savings. Brownlee estimates modeling could help cut bottlenecks at Manchester in half.
But beyond bottlenecks, he also hopes someday the model will help guide decisions in weather emergencies or when a runway must be closed. Airports worldwide can use the modeling to understand what to do about a sudden change. “By getting more researchers worldwide involved … we could get a lot more benefit from different areas of knowledge all coming from the same problem,” he says.
The team applied for an Azure for Research award that let them explore how cloud computing could speed up their work, and it paid off by accelerating their analysis by several months. This enabled them to develop their open source tools on Microsoft Azure, apply their data science expertise to bigger datasets, investigate many more airports, and help set up models to make air travel more efficient and environmentally-friendly for us all. As a result, Tim Walmsley is confident that the future is bright for Manchester Airport, “As we embark on the 1-billion-pound project to transform our airport, the Airport Optimization Project … will make sure we maintain efficiency, safety and the passenger experience.”

RTR - managed solution

Legal firm embraces cloud computing, wins case for mobile productivity

As written by Office 365 Team on blogs.office.com
Lawyers at RTR, a criminal defense firm in Miami, Florida, had been using faxes, couriers, and an unreliable server—which impeded productivity. Then one of its lawyers introduced Microsoft Office 365, mobile devices, and smartphones. Now documents are stored online, lawyers access case files in court and at home, on any device, and they use simultaneous coauthoring to create briefs. Productivity is up by an estimated 25 percent.
During the last hurricane season in South Florida, a lightning strike destroyed the server that stored every electronic document ever created at the office of RTR, one of the largest criminal law firms in the southeastern United States. While this IT crisis caused some anxiety and embarrassment for the firm’s seven attorneys, it also served as an unexpected stroke of good fortune for one of them.
“Since joining RTR in 2008, I’ve been trying to bring the firm into the twenty-first century, technologically speaking,” says Joe Nascimento, the newest member of the firm. “Our senior partners are highly respected and have successfully argued cases in front of the US Supreme Court, but their understanding of business technology was a little behind the times. I wanted to improve mobility and productivity at the firm by introducing better business tools for the workplace.”
None of the attorneys used laptops or smartphones to access emails and documents while working on cases in courts across the country. They carried paper files and waited for faxes to be sent to hotel rooms. “We had already gone through three servers when the lightning struck,” says Nascimento. “We realized that something had to be done to safeguard our documents. I jumped on the opportunity to introduce cloud computing and the idea of mobility to the firm. It’s made a huge difference to productivity and efficiency at RTR.”
Nascimento chose Microsoft Office 365 for the firm’s cloud-based business productivity tools. Office 365 unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online. No on-premises server is required. RTR worked with ConQuest Technology Services to deploy the solution. “The transition to Microsoft Office 365 would not have been so smooth without the training and around-the-clock support of its IT service provider, ConQuest,” says Nascimento.
“Office 365 kick started our adoption of twenty-first century IT,” says Nascimento. “I’ve introduced my colleagues to laptops, mobile devices, and smartphones. I’d estimate that we are at least 25 percent more productive when working inside and outside of the office.”

Anywhere Access to Files

Today, RTR has a better disaster recovery solution: all electronic documents have been uploaded to SharePoint Online for more reliable storage at a Microsoft data center. No one is worrying about the safety of their case files when the next lightning strike hits. Lawyers and staff can search for and access files they need on any PC, laptop, mobile device, or smartphone, anywhere they are connected to Internet. This flexibility benefits RTR lawyers who must comply with different courthouse policies: some courts allow the use of phones during proceedings, while others allow tablets or laptops.
“While my partner is questioning the witness, I can use my phone or my tablet to retrieve a required document, edit it, and email it to my assistant in the office with instructions to file it electronically,” says Nascimento. “Five minutes later, the judge’s assistant receives the file, prints it, and brings it up to the bench. Before, I would have left the courthouse to find a lawyer I knew in the area and borrow a computer. With all our information at our fingertips, we’re providing more efficient and effective services for our clients.”

Round-the-Clock Productivity

Criminal law does not follow a nine-to-five routine. Nascimento often gets a phone call following an arrest in the middle of the night. Instead of having to go to the office to prepare the Notice of Appearance for his client and file it in court the next morning, he can access the relevant documentation from home, prepare the paperwork, and file it right away.
The tight deadlines of criminal appellate work mean that Nascimento’s colleague, Criminal Appellate Specialist and RTR partner, Benjamin Waxman, often emailed files to himself to work at home. Then he would email the latest version back to himself to resume work at the office the next morning.
“Sometimes, Benji opened the wrong document and begin reworking an older version,” says Nascimento. “Now he’s saving five hours a week because he saves his documents on his personal site and uses Office Online to edit the document from home. When he saves the document back to OneDrive for Business and starts work the next morning, he’s always using the latest version. With Office 365, Benji can take on a larger caseload, and spend more time with his family.

Search Saves Time

Previously, RTR lawyers relied on their memory of past cases and manually searched files to find particulars of existing appellate work that could be reused when starting similar appeals. Today, they are saving 10 hours of work every week by using search to look through old emails and files in SharePoint Online and quickly retrieve case law, statutes, and prior successful arguments that have relevance for a new appeal.

Seamless Collaboration

Waxman’s new work habits have a positive effect on productivity and teamwork at the office. His assistant, Elizabeth Hernandez, is relieved that when RTR lawyers work from home, they access and edit documents online instead of on paper. She no longer faces 50-page documents covered in handwritten notes waiting for retyping in the morning. She’s saving several hours of copy editing every week and working on more important projects.
RTR lawyers collaborate on the hundreds of pages of briefs that are necessary to appeal a case through state, federal, and supreme courts. Previously, coauthoring was an iterative process fraught with versioning issues.
“Collaborating on briefs is so much easier thanks to the simultaneous editing that we can do using the Microsoft Word app in Office Online,” says Nascimento. “I am in my office, Benji is in his, and Elizabeth is in hers, and the three of us can edit a single draft at the same time. This was an amazing eye-opener for everyone. Office 365 has completely transformed how we work at RTR.”
Other related posts:
Read customer success stories to learn how Managed Solution helps businesses implement technology productivity solutions.

1511B66-technologies-of-the-future-cloud-mobile-tech managed solution

These technologies are shaping the future

By Joe Myers as written on agenda.weforum.org
Photo source: Statista
Cloud computing has been named the technology most likely to shape the future, according to an IBM survey.
The poll questioned C-level executives from 70 countries on which technologies they thought would be particularly important in the next three to five years. The following chart, produced by Statista, shows the percentage of CxOs (C-level executives) who identified a particular technology as influential.
Of all the respondents, 63% said cloud computing and related services would have the biggest impact by 2020. Next on the list was mobile solutions – named by more than three in five CxOs. The top three is completed by the internet of things, with over half the respondents considering it likely to be important in the next three to five years.
Other technologies on the list include cognitive computing, bio-engineering and innovations relating to energy.
They are all technologies with the potential to have a positive impact on societies, from mobile banking in the developing world to the solutions we need for tackling climate change, and also meeting our energy needs. The World Economic Forum’s Emerging Technologies Report highlights the most innovative solutions to the world’s toughest challenges.

Managed Solution team

The Managed Solution team enjoyed learning more about Windows 10 and Cloud advanced workloads from Microsoft business leaders and technology specialists at the Microsoft Partner Briefings in the West today.
NBC LogoWith the digital media landscape in upheaval, NBC News takes nothing for granted. Early to mobile apps, it continually seeks the Next Big Thing with which to create “special experiences” for consumers. Its latest find: Notification Hubs in Windows Azure, with which it cost-effectively pushes millions of breaking-news notifications within minutes. Consumers love the app (4.5 out of 5 stars), and NBC shaved months off time-to-market.

Business Needs

“The market for digital news is ferocious.”
Andrew Locke doesn’t mince words. Locke, Vice President of Mobile and Devices for NBC News, deals with that ferocity on a daily basis, from competitors including other traditional media organizations (TV and print) that have moved to the web, news organizations existing solely as websites, and app-only competitors.
NBC News has done well in this increasingly competitive market because of its unique assets, according to Locke, which include strong broadcast and cablecast brands; properties such as Today, Meet the Press, and NBC Nightly News; and a spectrum of expertise (rather than a single focus on, say, politics).
The company was early to the mobile market, producing phone apps starting in 2008. Its strategy includes “being on every platform that has meaningful traction with our audience,” Locke says. The strategy also includes a very specific target audience: “dedicated news consumers, especially big fans of our existing brands,” says Locke. Casual news consumers will get to the NBC News website on their own, often through social media. But for its core audience, NBC News wants to create what Locke calls “a special experience based on the best features that each platform has to offer to our news fans.”
NBC News wants to get its apps, with their “special experiences,” on as many types of devices as possible. It saw cloud computing as an important way to do this, because back-end functionality could be created once, and exposed to all compatible devices connecting to the cloud.
But the company didn’t, as yet, have its apps in the cloud.


NBC News already had apps for Windows Phone 7, but the releases of the Windows 8 operating system and Windows Phone 8, in addition to the availability of Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud-computing platform, presented the company with new opportunities to deliver a “special experience” to its core audience.
One of those opportunities was a new way to push notifications. Push notifications are a traditional, even vital, part of mobile apps, and NBC News already used them. But NBC wanted the fastest push notifications possible, to deliver breaking news ahead of the competition. It wanted a cross-platform solution that would eliminate the need to write time-consuming code, and to repeat that task for each mobile platform. It wanted a solution that could manage itself and scale to millions of users without incurring high latency. It wanted all this at a practical cost. What it wanted was Windows Azure Notification Hubs.
The company first considered running a push notification system on Amazon Web Services but balked at the complicated workflow that would have been required, according to Adam Wyss, Senior Software Engineer at NBC News. Instead, Wyss and his colleagues used Windows Azure Notification Hubs. With the development work they needed already available in Notification Hubs and the Windows Azure worker role, the NBC News team established its notification capability and pushed out client software in two days.
On the client side, NBC News uses toast notifications and plans to adopt Windows Phone Live Tiles, which will display notifications of news stories in near real time. The notifications will appear directly on the start screen, where they can have more screen real estate than a toast notification, without being intrusive.
The company also uses Windows Azure to process NBC News-specific lock screens that users can choose for their mobile devices. And it adopted Windows Phone voice integration to give users another way to navigate easily through the app.


NBC News used Windows Azure and Windows Phone to create a highly compelling app, bring it to market quickly, and use its notification technology across all major platforms.

Creates “Special Experience” for Core Audience

NBC News succeeded in its goal to create another “special experience” for its core audience.
“We want breaking news alerts to reach our millions of users as fast as possible,” says Locke. “That’s why we use Windows Azure. We want a strong, highly rated NBC News app to be the leading choice for digital news.”
Users apparently agree that the NBC News app is a success. It’s rated 4.5 stars out of 5.

Speeds Time-to-Market from Months to Days

By choosing Windows-based technologies, NBC News gained the streamlined development experience it wanted. Wyss estimates that if his team had written a highly automated notification system itself, the process would have taken months, instead of just two days.
“Windows Azure gives us a fast, easy development environment,” says Wyss. “Turnaround through Windows Azure is faster than we could achieve inside our existing infrastructure. That’s more cost effective, of course, but the even greater benefit is faster time-to-market. None of our competitors are standing still, and our ability to shave months off time-to-market is an important competitive advantage.”

Provides Support Across Operating Systems

NBC News developers saved even more time, while expanding the reach of the notification technology, by taking advantage of its cross-platform support. A single Notification Hub can support both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 without additional coding—in addition to support for iOS and Android.
“We were extremely productive by using the Windows Azure Notification Hubs,” says Wyss. “There was only one hub to create, and now we have only one hub to maintain for all these platforms. Our choice of Windows Azure is proving very successful.”

skype for business us air force managed solution

U.S. Air Force Soaring to the Cloud with Office 365

By Leigh Madden | Senior Director, U.S. Air Force, Microsoft
For the United States Air Force, one of largest departments within the Department of Defense (DoD), having instant access to secure email and unified capabilities that enable real-time conversations can make all the difference when it comes to responding to threats at a moment’s notice or nimbly managing service-wide logistics.
The Air Force, along with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), understands that Microsoft offers secure cloud technology that can help provide the productivity and collaboration services that Service members need to fulfill their mission.
Last week, the Air Force, in partnership with the DLA, announced it awarded more than 100,000 seats of a DoD-dedicated version of Microsoft Office 365 to Microsoft, Dell, and General Dynamics through its Collaboration Pathfinder (CP) project.
The agreement, which has the potential to scale up in reach, is expected to help the Air Force and DLA reduce costs significantly over the next three years. The agreement is one of the largest commercial cloud contracts in DoD history.
As part of the deployment, which will begin in the next government fiscal year, the Air Force will have access to secure e-mail, calendaring, Office Web Applications, Skype for Business, and other important collaboration tools, helping the agency communicate more easily across active, civilian, and reserve personnel and move toward a consolidated mobile and messaging platform. Just as important, the Air Force anticipates that the migration will help it realign critical resources to better support its mission in a trusted cloud environment.
As noted in the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA) Strategic Plan, cloud computing plays an increasingly vital role in the DoD. Its ability to provide agile capabilities and real-time access to data is constantly enhancing the DoD’s decision-making skills and daily operations.
In addition, by securely combining commercial and government services with Microsoft’s trusted Cloud for Government solution, the Air Force is demonstrating its commitment to building on the successful DoD Enterprise Email (DEE) initiative and its support of the DoD’s unique security requirements and best practices.
No organization deserves a more enterprise- and security-ready approach than the Air Force. This announcement shows that when it comes to a trusted, secure, and productivity-enabled cloud, Microsoft is up to the task.
Source: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/government/blogs/us-air-force-soaring-to-the-cloud-with-office-365/


What is Cloud Computing?

"Cloud Computing", by definition, refers to the on-demand delivery of IT resources and applications via the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing.

The Basics

Whether you are running applications that share photos to millions of mobile users or you’re supporting the critical operations of your business, the “cloud” provides rapid access to flexible and low cost IT resources. With cloud computing, you don’t need to make large upfront investments in hardware and spend a lot of time on the heavy lifting of managing that hardware. Instead, you can provision exactly the right type and size of computing resources you need to power your newest bright idea or operate your IT department. You can access as many resources as you need, almost instantly, and only pay for what you use.

How Does it Work?

Cloud Computing provides a simple way to access servers, storage, databases and a broad set of application services over the Internet. Cloud Computing providers such as Amazon Web Services own and maintain the network-connected hardware required for these application services, while you provision and use what you need via a web application.

Six Advantages and Benefits of Cloud Computing

Trade capital expense for variable expense - Instead of having to invest heavily in data centers and servers before you know how you’re going to use them, you can only pay when you consume computing resources, and only pay for how much you consume.
Benefit from massive economies of scale icon - Benefit from massive economies of scale - By using cloud computing, you can achieve a lower variable cost than you can get on your own. Because usage from hundreds of thousands of customers are aggregated in the cloud, providers such as Amazon Web Services can achieve higher economies of scale which translates into lower pay as you go prices.
Stop guessing capacity - Eliminate guessing on your infrastructure capacity needs. When you make a capacity decision prior to deploying an application, you often either end up sitting on expensive idle resources or dealing with limited capacity. With Cloud Computing, these problems go away. You can access as much or as little as you need, and scale up and down as required with only a few minutes notice.
Increase speed and agility - In a cloud computing environment, new IT resources are only ever a click away, which means you reduce the time it takes to make those resources available to your developers from weeks to just minutes. This results in a dramatic increase in agility for the organization, since the cost and time it takes to experiment and develop is significantly lower.
Stop spending money on running and maintaining data centers icon - Focus on projects that differentiate your business, not the infrastructure. Cloud computing lets you focus on your own customers, rather than on the heavy lifting of racking, stacking and powering servers.
Go global in minutes - Easily deploy your application in multiple regions around the world with just a few clicks. This means you can provide a lower latency and better experience for your customers simply and at minimal cost.

Types of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has three main types that are commonly referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Selecting the right type of cloud computing for your needs can help you strike the right balance of control and the avoidance of undifferentiated heavy lifting.
Source: http://aws.amazon.com/what-is-cloud-computing/

6.15.15 Azure BlogBuilding End to End Video Workflows in the Cloud by Peter Walsted, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Azure Media Services

Imagine building an end to end live video workflow where all components would exist in Azure?
In today’s live video world, you are dependent on heavy investments in on-premises hardware to support your encoding efforts and your constant struggle with operational issues. Can this be simplified by allowing you to plug your existing live stream into an endpoint and you are ready to go? Yes, that is now a reality with Azure Media Services, as we are releasing a public preview of Live Encoding. By leveraging the power and scalability of Azure, you are now able to build end to end video workflows that runs truly in the cloud.
This public preview of Live Encoding for Azure Media Services leverages the same live encoding technologies used to power digital coverage of some of the largest events on the planet, such as Super Bowl XLIX and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

What does it do?

Live Encoding for Azure Media Services expands on the industry-proven live cloud platform. It can be combined with dynamic packaging, dynamic encryption, sub-clipping, dynamic manifest manipulation, ad-marker insertion, and near-seamless live/on-demand capabilities to build comprehensive live and cloud DVR workflows.
Common use cases include event-based streaming with dynamic ad insertion, plus 24/7 streaming with cloud DVR requirements.

Features include:

  • Live encoding of a single bitrate live feed into an adaptive bitrate stream
  • Ability to ingest a live feed over RTP protocol (MPEG transport streams), RTMP, and Smooth Streaming
  • Ability to control insertion of slates and to signal ad insertions to the client
  • Thumbnail previews of the live feed
Source: http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2015/05/27/building-end-to-end-video-workflows-in-the-cloud/

Contact us Today!

Chat with an expert about your business’s technology needs.