Talking DevOps, hardcore air hockey and more with Donovan Brown


Written by Vanessa Ho as found on

Donovan Brown was a new technical seller at Microsoft struggling with a demo when he sent the email that changed his life.
“I had completely hosed the VM [virtual machine] I was using,” Brown recalled. He sent a desperate, cold-call email to a technical evangelist for help, which led to an invite for Brown to demo on stage, which led to a meteoric career rise.
Three years later, the once-unknown salesman has become one of Microsoft’s top presenters, with Brown now the senior program manager in charge of the company’s vision for DevOps, an approach to software development that incorporates Agile methodologies. DevOps calls for development and operations teams to step out of their traditional silos and collaborate in a system that emphasizes automation, testing, monitoring and continuous delivery.
Microsoft Build 2016, San Francisco.

Microsoft Build 2016, San Francisco.

Many organizations are interested in DevOps for its potential to deliver products faster in evolving markets, but aren’t sure how to build a supply pipeline or adopt new ways of working. A longtime developer who is also passionate about car-racing and air hockey, Brown has risen as a leader at a critical time for the industry, demystifying DevOps for thousands of IT pros around the world.
“DevOps is here. It is how you succeed. It is how you beat the competition. Why should you do DevOps? Because your competition already is,” Brown said recently in a demo for developers at Microsoft’s Ignite New Zealand conference. It was one of his many high-profile appearances in 2016, which included keynotes at Microsoft’s enormous Build and Ignite events.
Along the way, Brown has become known for his quirky personal brand as a gifted public speaker who also has killer technical chops. His winking catchphrase, “I’m going to rub a little DevOps on it and make it better,” has spawned the memorable hashtag #RubDevOpsOnIt. He has become so recognized in dev circles that he’s now known as “The Man in the Black Shirt,” a reference to the polos he wears on stage.
Read the full story here.


New Windows 10 devices at CES, Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, summiting the highest peaks in 50 states (in under 50 days) – Weekend Reading: Jan. 6 edition

By Thomas Kohnstamm as written on

Happy New Year, and welcome to the first Weekend Reading of 2017. We know many of you are still climbing your mountain of post-vacation emails or getting re-acquainted with commuting schedules, but please allow us to distract you with our top news from an exciting first week back in the office.
CES Logo
At the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft partners put their innovation on full display. Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, MSI, Samsung and Toshiba introduced new Windows 10 devices in a variety of form factors to empower gamers and the creator in all of us.
VR-ready gaming PCs, increased power and performance, lighter hardware with longer battery life, OLED and 4K screens, infrared cameras and fingerprint readers that unlock Windows Hello all featured heavily in this CES lineup.


Microsoft made some of it’s own announcements at CES this week including the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform that will help automakers build the future of intelligent vehicles.
The set of services is built on the Microsoft Azure cloud and will enable auto manufacturers to create custom connected driving experiences that are in-line with their brand. The living, agile platform aims to address predictive maintenance, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, customer insights and autonomous driving capabilities.


Speaking of the cloud, Microsoft Azure became one of the first hyper-scale cloud computing platforms to achieve the HITRUST CSF certification, the most widely recognized security accreditation in health care.
The certification distinguishes Azure as an organization that patients and health providers can count on to store their private information. The accreditation incorporates industry-specific security, privacy and regulatory requirements. It also provides a single framework for health organizations to evaluate the Azure environment.

While we enjoy dependable health services as much as anyone, we also enjoy really fast cars (at least on Xbox) andForza Horizon 3” Rockstar Car Pack just delivered seven new high-speed vehicle options.
This pack features everything from classic Japanese power to a Ford trophy truck to the hybrid styling of the 2015 BMW i8. The Rockstar Car Pack is included in the “Forza Horizon 3” Car Pass, which is available for separate purchase or as part of the Ultimate Edition of “Forza Horizon 3.” Players can also get the car pack standalone for $6.99 in the Xbox Store.

Hiking gear

In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, we featured experienced mountain climbers Melissa and Maddie on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. The two achieved their goal of summiting the highest peak in all 50 states in less than 50 days, using Microsoft technology to help along the way.
Thanks for joining us for another Weekend Reading. We hope to see you again next Friday as we pick up even more steam into 2017.

See how Microsoft can improve your business with Managed Solution here!



Flex—delivering supply chain innovation on a global scale with Office 365

By John Wrenn as written on
Global enterprises often struggle to maintain the kind of fast-moving culture of innovation that smaller companies appear to employ effortlessly. But this is a time of change in business, and thanks to technology advancements, global companies can communicate almost as quickly as a team working side by side. Now, companies like Flex can reach across geographical boundaries to serve global customers even more effectively than ever before. At Flex, our approximately 200,000 employees handle prototyping, design, manufacturing and logistics for customers worldwide. We’re operating as a single, cohesive company focused on innovation. It’s not just that we can communicate and collaborate efficiently among our more than 100 factories or between headquarters and our various business centers. We’re taking our focus on reinvention a step further by empowering all employees to share their ideas and experience to make Flex even more nimble.
The notion of continuous improvement is well established, but we wanted to make sure we’re capturing opportunities to enhance operations across every facet of our business—from the IT department to the factory floor. We’re supporting that effort with Microsoft Office 365, using the integrated apps not just for cross-company teamwork, but also as the basis for applications that foster innovation and process improvements. For example, we’ve built an ideation portal on Microsoft SharePoint Online where we can crowdsource ideas. Employees submit and vote on ideas, and we see which ideas gain momentum and buy-in. We’ve even included some gamification around the winning ideas to encourage our whole workforce to participate.
Giving employees the opportunity to see their ideas come to life is rewarding and empowering. It also benefits the operational efficiency of our business and enhances our level of service for customers. Supporting bottom-up communication is paramount to our ability to improve, because our employees see how things work every day and think about new ways to deliver improved results. And most important, employees can make an impact on a global level when their ideas are implemented as part of a workflow used by other colleagues.
We’ve also created interactive SharePoint Online communities for our project managers and salespeople, who can use Yammer directly from within the SharePoint Online sites or on their smartphones with the Office 365 mobile apps. Employees can freely engage with each other across geographic and hierarchical boundaries, communicating and cooperating throughout the company. Whether it’s for customer onboarding, production-line setup, materials distribution or new IT projects, select employees are using Office 365 to help us share expertise and foster better teamwork across Flex.
Our customers count on us to deliver the best solutions for their success. Showcasing the ways in which we’re tapping into our own knowledge base to become a stronger company makes us a better business partner and a smarter employer. The kinds of unified, open communication and support for innovation that we’re providing through Office 365 help us meet those goals in the modern workplace.

mjhs-managed-solutionMJHS celebrates nearly 110 years of care and innovation with modern Office 365 workplace

By Stuart Geller as written on
Since “The Four Brooklyn Ladies” founded the MJHS Health System (MJHS) in 1907, we have grown into one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in greater New York. One of my challenges is to ensure that the values of a nearly 110-year-old healthcare provider are reflected in the 21st-century technology we use. With Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based business tools, our employees work productively in today’s digital world, while preserving the innovative, culturally sensitive healthcare services that are part of our history.
Before we settled on Exchange in the cloud, we used another product as our on-premises messaging and collaboration platform. This system had significant email reliability issues and storage limitations. We needed cloud-based business productivity tools that aligned themselves with the highly-regulated healthcare industry, where we are required to meet HIPAA standards. We evaluated G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work) but chose Office 365. First, Microsoft signed a Business Associate Agreement, something that Google was unwilling to do at the time. And we were more than satisfied that Office 365 met our strict standards around security and compliance, in everything from email retention to archiving and eDiscovery. We also use Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection that bolsters our defense against malware and phishing emails. It’s great to see Microsoft offerings evolve to keep pace with swift changes in the threat landscape.
At the enterprise level, it’s important to use technology that works in the language of the industry. Our employees are familiar with Microsoft offerings, and the ease of transition to the new business tools was a great incentive for us. Not only does Office 365 ensure that we will always be on the latest version, but the interoperability of the different components of the suite is efficient and effortless, improving productivity.
We pride ourselves on delivering innovative, sensitive patient care in the home. Our mobile health workers carry Windows-based devices and now they can use Office 365 to access the information they need to do their work, without returning to the office. With Office 365, mobile access to all our technology resources is easier than ever, which means more time interacting face-to-face with our clients.
We are seeing increased interest in video conferencing across MJHS with Skype for Business Online, especially for board meetings and presentations. We are piloting the PSTN conferencing capabilities, and we are excited to make the most of the newest functionality, particularly Dynamic Conference Codes, which eliminates overlapping conference calls and protects the privacy of each meeting. By eliminating existing superfluous conferencing solutions, we expect to reduce our costs in this area by 80 percent.
And by consolidating other third-party providers, for mobile device connectivity, archiving and eDiscovery capabilities, we have further simplified our administration and significantly reduced our overall costs. With Office 365, these types of services come standard, and once again allow us to acquire great functionality with a reduction in costs.
The Four Brooklyn Ladies could never have imagined how much healthcare would change in the past century. However, it’s great to know that with IT tools like Office 365 we can ensure that their core values of cultural sensitivity, service and compassion are still at the forefront of our service to the community.

kroton-managed-solutionKroton does its homework and chooses Office 365 over Google Apps for Work

As written on
When Kroton merged with another company to become the largest private educator in Brazil, it embraced the enormous responsibility of providing the best possible education to more than a million students across a large and vastly diverse country.
With the merger, Kroton found itself divided between two cloud environments, Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work. It had to choose just one, to help unify the company, reduce costs, and provide students with the very best experience.
So, Kroton did its homework. Its IT team spent three months evaluating the Microsoft and Google cloud offerings, resulting in a 50-page report of findings. In the end, Office 365 made the grade. “We performed a very deep analysis,” says Mauricio Oliveira, the IT Infrastructure and Technology Manager at Kroton. “It was clear that Office 365 met all our requirements and in many cases delivered far beyond them.”
With the start of the 2015–2016 school year, 1.4 million Kroton students, teachers, and staff throughout Brazil are using Office 365, and the company has ambitious plans for things like an innovative job placement service, virtual team assignments and projects, and new operational efficiencies—all to make Kroton the best it can be for its students.


Education provider brings the latest productivity tools to more than 1 million students

As written on
After education provider Kroton merged with its largest competitor, the organization saw an opportunity to make a fresh start with its productivity tools and standardize on the solution that supported strategic and educational goals. By choosing Microsoft Office 365 over Google Apps for Work, Kroton has new tools to help students get a high-quality education, connect better, and prepare for the workforce. It also meets high security and privacy standards while maintaining the flexibility required to drive innovation.
Choosing the right productivity platform, post-merger
As a distance learning leader, Kroton understands the power of technology to support more effective education for all students. After a merger in 2014 with its key competitor, Anhanguera, Kroton became the largest private education provider in Brazil with about 1.1 million students, 726 distance education learning centers, and 130 campuses spread across all states in the country.
In 2012, Kroton adopted Microsoft Office 365 for staff use, while its students continued to use a mix of learning systems and other productivity tools including Microsoft Live@edu, which was used by approximately 120,000 students. At the time of the 2014 merger, Anhanguera students and staff were using Google Apps for Work. Kroton and Anhanguera agreed that the combined organization needed to standardize on one solution to enhance collaboration and productivity, reduce costs, and simplify management. The merger gave them an opportunity to carefully evaluate their options and determine which technology would best support their strategic goals going forward.
“We performed a very deep analysis in which we defined and analyzed all features of Google Apps for Work and Office 365,” says Mauricio Oliveira, IT Infrastructure and Technology Manager, Kroton. “We cataloged all the features we needed across categories such as collaboration, email, unified communications, and online storage, and gave a grade to each solution based on how well it met our needs. We also went through a proof of concept for both solutions, as well as a financial analysis. After three months, we had a 50-page book describing the differences between the solutions and where each one was better for our company. At the end of our extensive evaluation process, it was clear that Office 365 met all our requirements and in many cases delivered far beyond them.”
Kroton is working closely with Microsoft Services Consulting to ensure the migration goes smoothly. Beginning first with Anhanguera, 17,000 employee mailboxes were moved to Office 365. “Microsoft supported us throughout the process,” says Oliveira. “The migration took place in two weeks’ time, and we were able to move all data without any loss.” The migration of Anhanguera student accounts was performed during the academic break, and in February 2015, 320,000 students started the new year with Office 365 ready to support their success and potential for another 480,000 to adopt it in the future. The next stage will bring Kroton students to the new platform by October 2015, at which point Office 365 will be available to approximately 1.4 million students in total.
Connecting across cultures with Enterprise Social
“We often say there are many Brazils within our country,” says Oliveira. “We want to overcome cultural and regional differences by enabling teams of students to collaborate from states all over the country. We plan to deploy Yammer to help them do that in a highly secure, private social networking environment.”
For example, students are required to develop multidisciplinary end-of-term projects, which are presented to instructors as part of the evaluation process. Currently, these groups are composed of students from one location. Yammer Enterprise will make it easy for students from different states within Brazil to collaborate on these projects and benefit from a variety of perspectives and skills.
Reducing travel by meeting online
Kroton staff has been using Microsoft Lync Online for meetings, internal calls, and presence. “Thanks to Lync Online, Kroton has been able to reduce its travel budget by 30 percent,” says Oliveira. “Lync Online also reduces our need for meeting space in our new offices because people can easily take meetings from anywhere.”
The company is enthusiastic about implementing Skype for Business Online, which integrates Microsoft unified communications technology with the Skype video calling service used by millions of people worldwide. “We are actively testing Skype for Business Online now among our 20-person infrastructure team, including myself. We have already noticed improved call quality and reduced bandwidth consumption compared to Lync Online, which will be a major benefit when we roll it out to the entire organization,” says Oliveira.
Enhancing security and control
Kroton uses its existing Active Directory service to control policies, settings, and identity verification for Office 365. Oliveira says, “This way, we can offer single sign-on for users and propagate all policies to Office 365 cloud services automatically.”
With strict requirements to help protect student privacy, Kroton needed a solution that it could trust with sensitive personal information. “Office 365 met our stringent security and privacy terms, providing a high level of service and support directly from Microsoft,” says Oliveira. “Brazil has a dedicated Microsoft Education team, so we always have the support we need.”
Innovating for student success
Connecting students to real-world employment opportunities is a key Kroton strategy. “We have a platform that enables businesses to publish job openings, which are then automatically matched to student competencies and locations,” says Oliveira. This platform also gives Kroton valuable information about the key competencies that employers are looking for, so the education provider can tailor its offerings to match. The company plans to integrate the employment matching solution with Office 365 single sign-on so students can participate more easily.
Kroton has long been a leader in the use of technology to further student achievement, and Office 365 enables the organization to continue that tradition. “Office 365 will give our students an edge in the workplace, and it plays an integral role in our company’s plans for the future,” says Rodrigo Galindo, President of Kroton. “Bringing more than a million users together on a unified productivity platform is a major undertaking, and the close partnership and support we have from Microsoft gives us the peace of mind that we need to make it happen.”

Microsoft Office 365
The new Office provides anywhere access to your familiar Office applications—plus email, calendar, videoconferencing, and your most current documents—on almost any device, from PCs to smartphones to tablets.
For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to: 
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
"At the end of our extensive evaluation process, it was clear that Office 365 met all our requirements and in many cases delivered far beyond them." - Mauricio Oliveira: IT Infrastructure and Technology Manager


Microsoft looks sexy again, and, at the moment, a little more innovative than Apple

By Mark Sullivan as written on
After seeing the lineup of products Microsoft just announced it's hard to deny that the company's hardware group has got its game on. Microsoft has brought the Surface design approach to the desktop with the new Studio all-in-one, which has a screen that kneels down into a "drawing board" mode on the desktop. The Studio can also be controlled with a new kind of rotary input device called the "Dial" that sits on the display calling up digital menus on the touch screen around its base.
Apple is at a very different place in its history than Microsoft and its Surface line. But, I think, Microsoft gets points for taking some shots at offering people—in this case designers and other creative types—some new ways of doing their daily work. Microsoft, starting with last year's Surface Book, has been wooing the creative community that has long been Apple's domain. A year from now we'll know a lot more about how Microsoft has fared at winning those hearts and minds.
In the meantime, the people in the Surface Group, led by Panos Panay, seem like they're having fun. They're taking risks, not just coldly calculating market wants and answering with incremental features that already exist in other products. Meanwhile, in Cupertino, Apple will hold a press event to announce some new Macs tomorrow. We're already fairly sure we'll be seeing cool new OLED touch bar that will digitize the line of function keys at the top of the keyboard. Apple is still a deeply innovative company. I'm just glad to see that Microsoft is making a game of it.

Students demonstrate their HoloLens apps after a quarter of VR and AR design

By Devin Coldewey as written on

hololens tech crunch

It’s just about impossible to get your hands on Microsoft’s impressive mixed-reality HoloLens platform these days — unless you’re a computer science student at the University of Washington. Then you get to play with them whenever you want.

At least that’s the case for the students in CSE 481V, in which, according to the course description, you will “learn a ton about Virtual and Augmented Reality, get familiar with the latest technology and software, and build an app in 10 weeks.”

This is the first time the course has been offered in this fashion, with generous underwriting by local VR/AR players Microsoft, Oculus and Valve/HTC. The 36 students in the course had access to the HoloLens dev team and all the major headsets — there were 25 HoloLenses involved, which is probably more than have ever been in one place. Students also got to hear from guest speakers like Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash and author Neal Stephenson — whose “Snow Crash” was required reading for the course.

All in all, it’s enough to make a guy want to matriculate.

hololens tech crunch 2

“We pitched the idea of a VR/AR class last year to HoloLens leadership and they immediately got excited and were eager to make it happen,” wrote Steve Seitz, one of the class’s instructors. “I was initially quite worried about the idea of relying on a brand new device and development platform for a 36 person class. But I’m extremely impressed with the development environment… it was good enough that students with no prior experience could get up and running quickly and make some really compelling applications in just a few weeks.”

You can see what those applications were at the course webpage, complete with weekly blog posts showing progress from concept to execution. There’s augmented reality cooking, a painting app and the clever idea of gamifying the process of scanning a room so it can be used in other apps.

The class culminated in a sort of open demo day at the UW campus, where students could show off their work to the general public and serious players like Microsoft Research’s CVP Peter Lee.

It’s a great opportunity for students, no doubt, but also a fertile testing ground for the companies in the space. How did these fresh young minds interact with the technologies? What did they run up against? What tools did they wish they had? This kind of extensive focus testing is always valuable, not to say this was an ulterior motive, just that it was no doubt a fruitful collaboration.

hololens tech crunch 3

“For the HoloLens team, this was an opportunity to evaluate the platform in a focused educational settings, and get early feedback,” wrote Seitz. The team also provided technical support and training.

Seitz and the class’s other instructor, Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, aim to offer the class again next year. UW is, of course, a convenient location for Microsoft to work with, but the institution is also a hub for research in this area, having pioneered many VR and AR ideas early on in its famous HITLab.

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