Data Analytics, Cortana Intelligence Suite, Data Visualization The Cortana Intelligence Suite is a fully managed data analytics platform that offers a range of services aimed at helping businesses find meaning in all of the data they are collecting. This post will dive into the services that are offered by the platform. Prior to discussing these services in detail, let’s take a quick lap around data analytics specific to goals, what to expect when building and maturing a competency for your business, and challenges businesses experience while on this journey. After laying this groundwork, we’ll discuss the Cortana Intelligence Suite in a bit more detail and provide a list of the services offered by the platform. Additionally, we’ll cover how the Cortana Intelligence Suite can offer the tools needed to implement a robust strategy to address the key challenge areas we’ve described. Read More…
I’ve been reading a lot about the sweeping organizational changes at Microsoft. It’s always interesting to analyze and attempt to interpret their strategy and internal politics. (For example, why is the Dynamics business still separate? Is it being positioned to be sold? Probably not, but fun to consider.)

However, I am more drawn to the larger changes the re-org is enabling. The external press always seems to be negative about the actions of Microsoft’s executive leadership ever since Bill Gates left.  While I may not agree with every choice Steve Ballmer has made, when you really stop and think about how they have transformed themselves over the past six years, it’s pretty amazing — especially when set in juxtaposition to the lack of change at other lumbering IT giants. Microsoft is well on their way to transforming from a worldwide monopoly of “Windows and Office” to a “devices and services” business. Read More…

Last week, Microsoft proudly announced the 2013 East Region Partner Award winners during a ceremony at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston, TX.

“The 2013 East Region Partner Award Winners represent some of the best and brightest our ecosystem has to offer,” said Jack Braman, Vice President, East Region Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners (SMS&P), Microsoft Corporation.  “We applaud our winning partners for their incredible focus, passion and dedication to solving the most pressing technology challenges facing our mutual customers today.”

AIS was recognized with the 2013 Microsoft Mid-Atlantic Cloud Practice Award.  We were honored among the top Microsoft partners for providing outstanding solutions and services based upon Microsoft technologies, as well as fostering superior customer engagement in the Mid-Atlantic. The Cloud Practice Award recognizes “an innovator in the area of Cloud in their respective market. Their MS Cloud strategy components include Azure, CRM Online, BPOS/OFF365, IaaS/PaaS/SaaS/Private cloud. Partner must have adopted at least one MS cloud solution for internal use.”

Microsoft presents Field Partner Awards in 13 categories, with honorees selected from more than 200 organizations across the East Region.

“As a dedicated leader in Mid-Atlantic Cloud Practice, AIS is incredibly deserving of this award,” said Jack Braman. “AIShas a proven track record of consistent excellence in its service to commercial customers throughout the Mid-Atlantic.”

Please be our guest at the next Azure ‘n’ Action Café online session on April 10th from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. This is a jump-start overview session, including demos and best practices focusing on Windows Azure Virtual Machines: IaaS “On Your Terms.” You will experience how easy it is to bring your own customized virtual machine images — or select from a gallery and retain full control of your images — and maintain them as your business requires. You’ll also be the first to see how to provision a brand-new SharePoint 2013 farm in Azure IaaS.

The Azure ‘n’ Action Café is a series of “lunch and learn” online sessions on a variety of topics related to the Windows Azure Platform. Please register for Windows Azure Virtual Machines: IaaS “On Your Terms” by clicking on the link below and adding the meeting to your calendar from the registration page.

Click here to register to secure your seat at the Café.

We’re honored to announce that AIS’ own Media Center app won an Appy award for “Coolest App” at the SharePoint MVP Summit 2013. Media Center is a SharePoint app that allows you to integrate your Windows Azure Media Services (WAMS) assets in SharePoint. And we agree that it’s pretty darn cool.

You can download the award-winning Media Center app for free from the AppSource.

And here’s a brief video demo of the app’s capabilities:

Congratulations and special thanks to AIS team members Jason McNutt, Harin Sandhoo, and Sam Larko for their contributions to Media Center!

(UPDATED! Please note the new date. We’ll be presenting this session on March 20th, at 9:30 am to noon at Microsoft’s office in Chevy Chase, MD. We hope you can join us, as it’s shaping up to be a lively and very informative event!)

Reduced budgets, economic pressures and competition require our commercial and public sector clients to accomplish more with less these days.

After more than two years of early adoption research, analysis and technical readiness, AIS has determined that SharePoint 2013 has game-changing functionality as an application platform.  We leverage it because we can build great applications more quickly — and at reduced cost because we write much less code.

Most organizations own the product. But few truly leverage it as an application platform.  This free half-day session will present the major new capabilities of SharePoint 2013 and how they can be used for a new generation of applications, including:

  • Compelling User Experience, mobile browser support and productivity enhancements to delight users and drive adoption
  • Enhanced collaboration / social media integration
  • Robust and decoupled workflow engine to address even the most complex business process automation
  • Ability to re-vitalize and migrate Microsoft Access applications
  • Improved digital dashboard capability through PowerView
  • Cloud integration including seamless integration with Windows Azure and Office 365
  • Improved e-discovery and matter management via better centralized and aggregated records management

This seminar will highlight the many reasons to aggressively migrate to SharePoint 2013 by reviewing the many new and enhanced features, while providing context and insight into the new generation of application they enable.

AIS bloggers and team members Vishwas Lele, Jason Storch and Chris Miller will be presenting. For more background, you can read our full SharePoint 2013 blog coverage by clicking here. In particular, be sure not to miss Vishwas Lele’s entry on the SharePoint App Dev Platform: The Journey So Far & the Road Ahead.

When: March 20, 2013, 9:30 am to noon
Where: Microsoft Corporation, 5404 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase MD (map)

Please click here to register for this event, or feel free to email me directly. We hope to see you there!

ASP.NET 4.5 has introduced some cool new features and enhancements for web developers using Visual Studio 2012. One of the new features introduced deals with the framework’s Web Forms technology. In previous versions of ASP.NET, if you wanted to display data-bound values in a control, you needed to use a data-binding expression with an Eval statement, e.g. <%# Eval(“Data”) %>.

Using an Eval Statement to display data-bound items

This approach works, but it introduces a few problems. In my experience, the Eval statement approach is prone to developer error. If you are like me, then you have undoubtedly misspelled a member name or tried to bind to a  nonexistent member. These mistakes, while trivial, tend to make themselves known only at run-time thus making them more difficult to track. Due to the Eval statement being dynamic in nature, it is impossible to enforce compile time error checking.

With ASP.NET 4.5, we can now take advantage of Strongly Typed Data Controls. These controls allow us to specify the type of data the control is to be bound to, providing us with IntelliSense (which solves another problem for me: remembering which members belong to the DataSource) and compile time error checking. Adding a strongly typed data control requires minimal effort!

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This week, many AIS team members are attending the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. We’ll be posting blog posts from each of them as they learn what’s new and what’s exciting during sessions, demonstrations and other conference highlights.

We’re out at the SharePoint Conference 2012 this week and learning a ton about the new features of SharePoint 2013. One of particular interest to the IT pros should be the introduction of PowerShell 3.0. There are a number of new features available in PowerShell 3.0 not to mention the cmdlets!

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At AIS, we are often asked by our customers to put together a quick prototype very early in the envisioning phase of a project. The main objective is to determine if the proposed set of technologies will address the key requirements. Having a “working” piece of software this early (despite all the scaffolding needed to make the prototype work) helps the stakeholders make a decision whether to go with a certain technology set or not.  This is especially true if a number of competing solutions are being considered.

In the following video, we talk about one such prototype that we put together quickly for a customer of ours. The requirements are typical of a large-scale document (correspondence) generation system: large-scale generation of documents, ability to author dozens of templates, ability to generate documents by binding the templates to data from business systems, ability to support multiple document formats and ability to create workflows to support the business processes.

Here we describe a solution for automated document generation using the Microsoft Office system. Combining out-of-the-box functionality like Content Controls and Open Office XML SDK with a little customization to your business rules, you can automate template creation, document generation, document conversion and (using SharePoint) allow for Web-based document management.

Read on for more about this solution…

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If you have found yourself thinking…

“We want the cloud to be a seamless extension of our data center, not a walled garden. We want to use our existing IT setup and tools (AD, SCOM etc.) to manage the on-premises and cloud-based applications.”

“We want seamlessly move virtual machines from on-premises to the cloud and back.”

“We want to start out by moving existing applications to the cloud without the need to change the applications in any way.”

…then our upcoming Introduction to Windows Azure IaaS session is for you.

Read More…