SQL 2014 Release Date

Microsoft have announced that SQL Server 2014 has been RTM’d (Released To Manufacturing) and will be generally available from April 1st.

SQL 2014 brings a host of new and improved features, particularly around Business Intelligence and Cloud computing.

  • In-memory transaction processing (In-Memory OLTP), speeds up an already very fast experience by delivering speed improvement of up to 30x.
  • Customers do not have to rewrite their application or deploy new servers. We approached in-memory columnstore the same way – it is built into SQL Server.
  • Customers can easily and securely backup and recover on-premises SQL Server databases using Windows Azure
  • SQL Server 2014’s AlwaysOn technology was not just improved for this release, it was built to enroll Windows Azure virtual machines running SQL Server into a customers’ disaster recovery solution.

You can read more about this release here:


OneNote is free

Microsoft have announced a few OneNote changes and additions:

  1. OneNote for Mac is available for the first time and for free! With this, OneNote is now     available on all the platforms: PC, Mac, Windows tablets, Windows Phone, iPad, iPhone, Android and the Web. And they’re always in sync.
  2. OneNote is now free everywhere including the Windows PC desktop and Mac version. Premium features are available to paid customers.
  3. The OneNote service now provides a cloud API enabling any application to connect to it. This makes it easier than ever to capture ideas, information and inspirations from      more applications and more places straight into OneNote.

I use OneNote ALL the time – on my desktop, on my Surface, on my Lumia – all notes syncing between all devices so I’ve got everything I need no matter what device I’m using. Not only is it great for personal notes, it’s a brilliant way of collaborating and sharing info with team mates, colleagues and friends too.

Making it available on Mac opens this wonderfulness up to at least a couple of extra people Winking smile and making it free certainly widens the scope!

Head over to http://www.onenote.com/ to download OneNote now.

Windows 8.1 Enterprise Upgrade

One of the fundamentals of MS licensing has been changed. It’s always been the case that:

“the only way to get Windows Enterprise is to buy Pro + SA”

Well not anymore!

As of March 2014, there is a standalone Windows 8.1 Enterprise SKU available via Volume Licensing.


This means organizations who can’t/won’t enter into an agreement with Software Assurance can now benefit from things such as:

  • Direct Access
  • AppLocker
  • Windows To Go

and more

Other SA benefits are not effected so things such as:

  • New Version Rights
  • MDOP
  • Virtualization

etc. are still only available with SA.

What else has changed?

It is now ONLY possible to attached SA to the Enterprise Upgrade SKU.

This takes away one relatively common practise. Organizations would often buy machines with Windows Pro OEM and then attach Windows SA within 90 days. This is no longer possible as SA can be attached only to Enterprise – and that won’t come pre-loaded on machines.

If you bought the OEM devices before July 1st 2014, you still have the 90 days to purchase SA. Once that date passes, it will no longer be possible.

PSTN dialling coming to Lync Online

This is a big one. It’s been announced at this year’s Lync Conference that Lync Online will soon have the ability to make and receive calls to/from the PSTN network.

PSTN is the Public Switched Telephone Network – the “normal” phones rather than VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phones. This update will enable Lync Online users to make/receive calls directly to the regular phone network – will open things up to a huge number of users and companies.

I can’t see much more info than this at the moment – Twitter lit up with the news that this had been announced but that seems to be the extent of it! As I hear more, I’ll post again!

Office 365 and Multi-Factor Authentication

Cloud Services, rightly, throw up a number of questions around security and Microsoft always seem to be making improvements to the, already substantial, security of Office 365.

A recent one is the availability of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for all Office 365 users. This has been available for admins since June 2013 but has now rolled out across the board.

With Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365, users are required to acknowledge a phone call, text message, or an app notification on their smartphone after correctly entering their password. Only after this second authentication factor has been satisfied can a user sign in.

This will be very similar to the process already in place for Microsoft Accounts, when you sign into a new device and you receive a confirmation text.

Admins can set MFA for some/all users in the admin console, as you’d expect.

The second authentication factor options are:

  • Call my mobile
  • Text my mobile
  • Call my Office phone
  • Notify me through app
  • Show one-time code in app

Currently this isn’t available with the desktop apps of Office 2013 so MS have introduced App Passwords to help increase the security here.

Once an information worker has logged in with multi-factor authentication, they will be able to create one or more App Passwords for use in Office client applications. An App Password is a 16-character randomly generated password that can be used with an Office client application as a way of increasing security in lieu of the second authentication factor.


It’s interesting to see that Microsoft are continuing to invest in MFA with Office desktop applications, and so App Passwords will be only a temporary method.

We’re planning to add native multi-factor authentication for applications such as Outlook, Lync, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PowerShell, and OneDrive for Business, with a release date planned for later in 2014. This update includes the current phone-based multi-factor authentication, and it adds capability to integrate other forms of authentication such as: third-party multi-factor authentication solutions and smart cards.

Multi Factor Authentication with desktop apps isn’t something I’ve really though about to be honest, but as ever more data is accessed via Office and desktops, it certainly makes sense.

Read more about Office 365 & MFA here:


Power BI General Availability

Business Intelligence is an ever growing area and I think it will continue to grow for quite some time. Taking note of the data you have, analysing it and making decisions based on it is becoming more and more prevalent – think what Billy Beane has been doing at the A’s for years, what Bill James does with the Red Sox, look at how Opta stats have become such a huge thing within premier league football…all these are examples of business intelligence.

The old way:

The new way:


I’m amazed at some of the things that are being done with Power Bi, especially combined with Excel 2013! The opportunity for organizations to become so much smarter with how and what they’re doing is huge – the fact that it’s cloud based so allows access from anywhere is a big deal, especially with the Windows 8 & RT apps AND HTML5 support.

It’s available now so pricing is in the pricefiles – to see some of the things you can do with Power BI, head over to:


Windows Intune & Power BI coming to Open Licensing

In a very encouraging move, Microsoft have announced that, from April 1st 2014, customers will be able to purchase both Windows Intune through the Open licensing program.

Currently Intune is available only via the MS portal but will now sit alongside Office 365 (and soon Power BI too) on the regular pricelists.

See more here:


Hat tip to Licensing School for finding this.