SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

More Government – More Money! TaaS

I recently surveyed our community and discovered something amazing! Over 40 percent of the IT community we speak with has either a relationship or interest in creating an opportunity with local/county/regional governments. Our large response rate to the survey made this esignitstatistically valid (read “not fake news”) and we were pleasantly surprised. Which brings us to the point of this blog. Pursuing more government accounts means more money for MSPs, partners, resellers and consultants. It’s good Azure-based recurring revenue work.

One of the biggest challenges in working with government in the past was the sales cycle. For those

of us who recognize selling into enterprise is a long journey, I can assure you the government sales cycle traditionally has a similar if not greater duration! In the past getting a foot in the door of a governmental entity could easily take a year or more with a combination of budget cycles, fiscal year start dates, political dimensions and more conspiring to lengthen your business development efforts.


Fast Track
There is a new way for MSPs et al to rapidly get a foot in the door. One of my community members, a successful ISV, recently reached out for advice on how he could rapidly ramp and scale his patented government security solutions. I’m happy to help and the good news is that you can too. In general a simple short consulting effort can lead to an “Affordable, Saleable Azure delivered and supported” 50% margin reoccurring Trust as a Service (TaaS) sale.

Here is how it works. Esignit is already in market with a portfolio of government security solutions. This is not a startup with closure risk (and embarrassment to you, the MSP et al). Ranging from the City of San Francisco to several counties in Washington State, Esignit bring the cred factor: referenceable clients.

More specific to you (the MSP et al), you will use the Esignit tools as a foot-in-the-door “door opener” to penetrate the Government veil and secure great recurring predictable new business. And if you already serve governments, this is merely a chance to expand your scope, scale and reach.
What’s the secret sauce? For many of the Esignit solution, there is no cost to the governmental entity. This results in a rapid sales cycle and high conversion rate by legally bypassing procurement procedures.

Learn more
As an MSP et al, I’d encourage you to click HERE and fill out the form to learn more. In future blogs, I’ll explore each product including the patented 256-bit encryption algorithm that is the foundation for the product portfolios success.

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5 reasons why Azure is better than AWS

You would save money if you’re using Microsoft technology. If you want to supply terabytes of space, but you only want to pay for what you use (in a vm), then you are more likely to save money. If you only want a vm, then you'd save money and all this money could be saved if you buy Azure

azure aws

Azure is 4-12% cheaper than AWS, and it also offers some extra properties which makes it better than AWS. It works just fine without learning from cryptic documentation and also by the way, the cli works perfectly, all the time, without any cryptic failures. Azure made earthshaking advancements over these past years. It now offers a whole new set of capabilities and features far more superior than its competitors. The following are some important aspects for why Azure is better than AWS.

PaaS Capabilities:

Both Azure and AWS are similar in offering PaaS capabilities for virtual networking, storage, and machines. However, Azure gives stronger and faster PaaS capabilities which nowadays is more important part of Cloud infrastructure.

Microsoft Azure PaaS provides application developers with the environment, tools, thus giving them building blocks which they need to build and establish new cloud services quickly. It also provides essential ‘dev ops’ connections which are important for managing, monitoring, and continuously fine tuning those apps. With Azure PaaS, much of the infrastructure management is taken care of behind the scenes by Microsoft. Thus, you have 100% focus on innovation if you develop Azure PasS solutions.

Integrated Environment:

Azure now brings to the array an integrated environment for testing, developing, and deploying Cloud apps. The client has the choice of frameworks, and open development languages promotes the flexibility for Azure migration, whereas AWS is widely perceived as being complicated.

Security Offerings:

The new design of Azure is based on Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) which is an industry’s major assurance process. It contains security at its base and private data and all the services stays protected and protected while they are on Azure Cloud.

The first cloud vendor was Microsoft which was approved by the European Union’s data protection authorities and the Working party of Article 29. They also were the first to willingly accept the new international standard for Cloud privacy, ISO 27018. And so, Microsoft is considered the best in terms of safety for all operations and data on the Azure Cloud.

Developer Tools:

Azure and AWS have slightly different approach, when it comes to developer tools. Only based on the processes and tools that is used by Amazon's own internal engineering teams, the AWS suite of Developer Tools mainly focuses on supporting DevOps. The tools include CodeCommit, which is used to stores code in private Git repositories; CodeDeploy, which automates code deployments; and CodePipeline for a Continuous Delivery. In addition to this, AWS also offers a (CLI) Command Line Interface for controlling AWS services and writing automation scripts. Amazon also offers one non-DevOps tool – IDC, there are currently 13 billion connected "things," a number that will likely skyrocket to 30 billion by 2020, generating $1.7 trillion in revenue.

Azure now has an IoT Suite that provides solutions for democratic scenarios like predictive maintenance and remote monitoring. It also offers core for push notifications, monitoring IoT deployments, streaming analytics, and machine learning capabilities that combine with its cloud-based IoT services

The 'Enterprise Agreement' Advantage:

If an organization uses Microsoft software, then it surely has an ‘Enterprise Agreement’ with Microsoft. It is titled to receive discounts on the Microsoft software being used as Microsoft normally squeeze these agreements to lower the pricing of Azure. Thus, with the enterprise agreement, enterprises can typically obtain significant incentives for using Azure.

Choosing the right Cloud vendor is very essential and important decision for enterprises. Azure offers hybrid solution, PaaS, and many other beneficial features, which are very important for any Cloud strategy today. Numerous enterprises have observed steady business growth by moving to Azure. As a result Azure happens to be a better choice compared to AWS.


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Robotic food delivery is rolling into the United States in February

Will the Starship bot be the future of takeout?
By Cici Zhang January 27, 2017



Starship Technologies, co-founded by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis of Skype fame, raised $17.2 million in January to build a fleet of six-wheeled delivery robots. More feasible for large-scale rollouts than drones, these delivery bots are scheduled to have their American debut in Washington, D.C. and Redwood City, California in early February.
On test day, the Starship company will have an employee walking behind the bot—which is basically a secured container box rolling along at 4 mph—to deal with unexpected incidents and too-curious pedestrians, according to CNN Money. For the lucky crowds who are going to live-tweet this scene, the spectacle may bear resemblance to a parent following their toddler as it learns how to walk, the parent ready to save the little tyke from tripping and crying.

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Microsoft shares open source system for training drones, other gadgets to move safely on their own

Microsoft AIRP 01 LR

Microsoft researchers Shital Shah, Ashish Kapoor and Debadeepta Dey are leading development of the Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform. Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures.

Posted February 15, 2017 By Allison Linn

When most people with normal vision walk down the street, they can easily differentiate the things they must avoid – like trees, curbs and glass doors — from the things they don’t, such as shadows, reflections and clouds.

Chances are, most people also can anticipate what obstacles they should expect to encounter next — knowing, for example, that at a street corner they should watch out for cars and prepare to step down off the curb.

The ability to differentiate and anticipate comes easily to humans but it’s still very difficult for artificial intelligence-based systems. That’s one big reason why self-driving cars or autonomous delivery drones are still emerging technologies.

Microsoft researchers are aiming to change that. They are working on a new set of tools that other researchers and developers can use to train and test robots, drones and other gadgets for operating autonomously and safely in the real world. A beta version is available on GitHub via an open source license.

It’s all part of a research project the team dubs Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform. It includes software that allows researchers to quickly write code to control aerial robots and other gadgets and a highly realistic simulator to collect data for training an AI system and testing it in the virtual world before deploying it in the real world.

Ashish Kapoor, a Microsoft researcher who is leading the project, said they hope the tools will spawn major progress in creating artificial intelligence gadgets we can trust to drive our cars, deliver our packages and maybe even do our laundry.

“The aspirational goal is really to build systems that can operate in the real world,” he said.

That’s different from many other artificial intelligence research projects, which have focused on teaching AI systems to be successful in more artificial environments that have well-defined rules, such as playing board games.

Kapoor said this work aims to help researchers develop more practical tools that can safely augment what people are doing in their everyday lives.

“That’s the next leap in AI, really thinking about real-world systems,” Kapoor said.

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The Windows Azure

The Windows Azure public cloud platform is one of the three pillars of Microsoft’s Cloud OS vision that will transform the traditional datacenter environment, help businesses unlock insights in data stored anywhere, enable the development of a wideWindows Azure range of modern business applications, and empower IT to support users who work anywhere on any device while being able to manage these devices in a secure and consistent way. The other two pillars of the Cloud OS are, of course, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2, and Microsoft Press will soon be releasing.

General Availability (GA) of these latest versions of Windows Server and System Center is currently scheduled for October 18, 2013. In sync with these two releases, the Windows Azure platform has also been enhanced in recent months with preview releases of new services like Windows Azure BizTalk Services, Windows Azure Traffic Manager, and Windows Azure HDInsight. And in the same timeframe, services that were previously in preview like Windows Azure Web Sites and Windows Azure Mobile Services have now reached the GA milestone.

At the core of the Windows Azure platform is its ability to execute applications running in the cloud. Windows Azure currently provides four different models for doing this: Web Sites, Virtual Machines, Cloud Services, and Mobile Services. Together these four approaches comprise the compute services portion of the Windows Azure platform, and they can either be used separately or combined together to build more complex solutions that can meet specific business needs.

Windows Azure Web Sites is a scalable, secure, and flexible platform you can use for building web applications that run your business, extend the reach of your brand, and draw in new customers. It has an easy-to-use self-service portal with a gallery of the world’s most popular web solutions including .DotNetNuke, CakePHP, DasBlog, WordPress, and many others. Or you can simply create a new website from scratch and then install a tool like WebMatrix—a free, lightweight web development tool that supports the latest web technologies such as ASP.NET, PHP, HTML5, CSS3, and Node. You can use WebMatrix to create websites and publish applications for Windows Azure. And if you use Microsoft Visual Studio as a development environment, you can download and install a Windows Azure SDK so you can build applications that can take advantage of the scalable cloud computing resources offered by Windows Azure.
When you create a new website you can also have the option to create a database for storing the data for your web application. You can choose to create either a SQL database or a MySQL database for your website. You can also choose to publish your website from source control. This sets up continuous deployment from source control providers like Team Foundation Service, CodePlex, GitHub, or Bitbucket.

The running applications on machines in an Internet-accessible data center can bring plenty of advantages. Yet wherever they run, applications are built on some kind of platform. For on-premises applications, this platform usually includes an operating system, some way to store data, and perhaps more. Applications running in the cloud need a similar foundation. The goal of Microsoft’s Windows Azure is to provide this. Part of the larger Azure Services Platform,Windows Azure is a platform for running Windows applications and storing data in the cloud. The Windows Azure Compute service can run many different kinds of applications.

A primary goal of this platform, however, is to support applications that have a very large number of simultaneous users. (In fact, Microsoft has said that it will build its own SaaS applications on Windows Azure, which sets the bar high.) Reaching this goal by scaling up—running on bigger and bigger machines—isn’t possible. Instead, Windows Azure is designed to support applications that scale out, running multiple copies of the same code across many commodity servers. To allow this, a Windows Azure application can have multiple instances, each executing in its own virtual machine (VM). These VMs run 64-bit Windows Server 2008, and they’re provided by a hypervisor (based on Hyper-V) that’s been modified for use in Microsoft’s cloud. To run an application, a developer accesses the Windows Azure portal through their Web browser, signing in with a Windows Live ID. They then choose
whether to create a hosting account for running applications, a storage account for storing data, or both.

Once the developer has a hosting account, they can upload the application, specifying how many instances the application needs. Windows Azure then creates the necessary VMs and runs the application. It’s important to note that a developer can’t supply their own VM image for Windows Azure to run. Instead, the platform itself provides and maintains its own copy of Windows. Developers focus solely on creating applications that run on Windows Azure.
A developer can use only Web role instances, only Worker role instances, or a combination of the two to create a Windows Azure application. If the application’s load increases, they can use the Windows Azure portal to request more Web role instances, more Worker role instances, or more of both for his application. If the load decreases, he can reduce the number of running instances. To shut down the application completely, the developer can shut down all of the application’s Web role and Worker role instances.

The VMs that run both Web role and Worker role instances also run a Windows Azure agent, as shows. This agent exposes a relatively simple API that lets an instance interact with the Windows Azure fabric. For example, an instance can use the agent to write to a Windows Azure-maintained log, send alerts to its owner via the Windows Azure fabric, and do a few more things.

To create Windows Azure applications, a developer uses the same languages and tools as for any Windows application. They might write a Web role using ASP.NET and Visual Basic, for example, or with WCF and C#. Similarly, they might create a Worker role in one of these .NET languages or directly in C++without the .NET Framework. And while Windows Azure provides add-ins for Visual Studio, using this development environment isn’t required.

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