Leave a comment

A new chapter: You can go home again

8 years ago Jill and I moved from Austin, TX to New England as newlyweds to start our new life together. I had just accepted a new job with Raytheon to work on a technology that was completely foreign to me. I had spent the previous 10 years of my career focused on relatively known commodities, but when I jumped into SharePoint it was a total unknown to me. Little did we know then the amazing road that was ahead of us. Every year has been another milestone:

2007: married & moved to Massachusetts
2008: Max was born
2009: bought our home and moved to New Hampshire
2010: Sam was born
2011: Left Raytheon for Sentri
2012: Sentri acquired KMA
2013: Polycom acquired Sentri and I left Polycom for Atrion
2014: Awarded SharePoint MVP
2015: …

heading to Texas

This week I accepted an offer to be the Office 365 Advisory Services Manager for Rackspace , a position that is moving us back home to Texas. I am thrilled to take on a new challenge that is focused completely on Office 365 and couldn’t be happier to be joining the amazing team at Rackspace and get to partner with the ever amazing Jennifer Mason Roth on our Office 365 offering.

For our family this change is semi-sweet as we truly love our life in New Hampshire, our friends, and the family that we have built over the past 8 years. We have built & strengthened bonds here that will last our lifetime and we will be back regularly to visit. I cannot imagine a morning during baseball season that Sam won’t be waking up and asking “Did the Red Sox win last night?” before he even says good morning to us. He has told me that he is excited that we are moving to where the Texas Longhorns play though. Max is excited to learn to play “Deep in the Heart of Texas” now in addition to “Yankee Doodle”.

I will miss the amazing people that I have been lucky enough to work with for the past 2 years at Atrion . The team there continues to be strong & growing. I know that they are going to keep doing amazing things for our customers. The opportunities that I have had during my time at Atrion have allowed me to grow both personally & professionally. I look forward to continuing the relationships that I have developed over the past 2 years.

I will also miss the New England family of SharePoint communities that have embraced me so thoroughly over these past 5 years. I am excited that part of my world at Rackspace includes getting to continue my dedication to the community and I will be back for SPSBoston, helping to run the 5th annual SPSNH, and speaking at SPTechCon during the rest of the year and hopefully for many years to come.

The next few months are going to be crazy as I dive head first into my new world at Rackspace and we relocate the family to Texas. I will be at Ignite working the Office 365 Developer booth for Microsoft during my first official week at Rackspace. Be sure to stop by and visit me to hear about all of the great stuff that Microsoft is doing to enable Devs in the Office 365 world.

Leave a comment

Ignite is sold out?!? Now what?

For the past 2 years I have been honored to be the Speaker co-chair for the SharePoint Intersections Conference with Dan Holme. This year SharePoint Intersections is in Scottsdale, Arizona, May 18-21and the line up is epic. We have Ruven Gotz, Asif Rehmani, Scott Hillier, Mike Fitzmaurice, Brian Alderman, Mark Rackley, Michelle Caldwell, and Andrew Connell to name a few.

DevIntersection is co-located with SharePoint Intersection. This means that developers can take advantage of sessions not only about SharePoint, but also about Visual Studio, ASP.NET, HTML, SQL and open web standards like angular, from the absolute best speakers on those topics.

SharePoint Intersection features great content for Developers, IT Pros, and business owners of SharePoint and Office 365. We’ll be covering hybrid, security, governance, workflow and business process automation, and much, much more.

There will be dozens of awesome presenters including Microsoft’s own Jeremy Thake, Scott Hanselman, Scott Guthrie and Steve Guggenheimer so you’ll get to hear both the “Microsoft” and the “independent” perspective on todays’ and tomorrow’s technologies, including all of the big news from Ignite.

And a Surface for Free…

SharePoint Intersection just announced a ridiculously cool package. If you register for the Complete Package, which includes the event and 2 workshops, you will get the recently-announced Surface 3, for free!

Shirley Brothers and her team work tirelessly to ensure a great event experience, with delicious food and a gorgeous venue–the five-star Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort. All that, with a price tag lower than Ignite and a Surface on your desk to build your next SharePoint or Office 365 project!

Register today at http://www.spintersection.com/Sharepoint-Office365-Conference/!

Leave a comment

Announcing the new PowerBI

Over the course the past few years, Microsoft has slowly been upping its game with regard to business intelligence. In February 2014 Microsoft announced PowerBI for Office 365 and has slowly but surely been improving the offering over the course the passing year. With yesterday’s announcements Microsoft firmly planted its flag in the business intelligence space.

Previously the offering was an add-on to Office 365 E3 License ($20 per user per month) that cost an additional $20 per user per license. The new PowerBI has been stated to be a 75% percent reduction in price which suggests that PowerBI licensing will be stand-alone from Office 365.

In addition to the dramatic change of decoupling PowerBI from Office 365, Microsoft has also rolled out to flow will also be rolling out two flavors of the service called PowerBI & PowerBI Pro. The base version will be free general availability while the Pro version will cost $10 per month.

1

The major differences between the two offerings is in exist in the premium features such as live interactive connectivity to data sources, ability to leverage the data management gateway, and the collaboration features. Both plans have data capacity limits, quantity of streaming data, and frequency of scheduled data refresh however there different tiers of access to those features.

There are lots of exciting new features that come to the new PowerBI is a part of this new release such as mobile apps for both iOS and Windows content pack services for dynamic, sales force, and send grid as well as the ability to explore data with natural language queries.

Having played with the iOS app for iPad over the past several months I can say that the improvements to the mobile experience is dramatic. The new graphs and charts the Microsoft has been working on bring the data to life and give you a true dashboard like experience. One of the awesome features of the mobile app is the ability to share snapshot right from the app.

2

Uploading an existing workbook with Power Views makes them rapidly available and even indexes them to be available in Power Q&A, referred to as Dashboards, in a matter of minutes. Prebuilt Power Views pop in under Reports and are easily viewed right on the web and in the mobile app.

3

4

More to come on the creating PowerBI models using the new PowerBI Designer, which as of this post is currently working however the upload function is disabled, and connecting to data sources Analysis Services using the new PowerBI Analysis Services Connector.

Leave a comment

Major announcements coming out of TechEd Europe & AzureConf14

Exciting updates to Microsoft Azure at TechEd Europe, enabling simplicity, scale and innovation
http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/10/28/exciting-updates-to-microsoft-azure-at-teched-europe-enabling-simplicity-scale-and-innovation/

Office 365-Our latest innovations in security and compliance
http://blogs.office.com/2014/10/28/office-365-latest-innovations-security-compliance/

OneNote gets even better on Mac and iOS
http://blogs.office.com/2014/10/28/onenote-gets-even-better-mac-ios/

Announcing the Azure Marketplace
http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/10/28/announcing-the-azure-marketplace/

TechEd Europe 2014 News: Developer Tools
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/bharry/archive/2014/10/28/teched-europe-2014-news.aspx

Enterprise Mobility Game-Changing Announcement #1
http://blogs.technet.com/b/in_the_cloud/archive/2014/10/28/emm-game-changing-announcement-1.aspx

Azure AD Support for JavaScript Single Page Apps using OAuth2 implicit grant now in preview!
http://blogs.technet.com/b/ad/archive/2014/10/28/azure-ad-support-for-javascript-single-page-apps-using-oauth2-implicit-grant-now-in-preview.aspx

…and from AzureConf14 last week:
Azure’s getting bigger, faster and more open
http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/10/20/azures-getting-bigger-faster-and-more-open/

Leave a comment

Another #SPC14 check list… with a different spin

logo

Flying at 34k feet over the midwest on my way to #SPC14 and I realized that I had not stopped to enjoy the moment.  We are once again about to dive head long into a week filled with the greatest technical community around.  This is my 4th SharePoint Conference, but the first time that I will be presenting.  Over the past 3 years as a speaker in the SharePoint Community I have found my way to Las Vegas about a dozen times now, not including my regular enjoyment trips for March Madness, the occasional bachelor party, and what used to be a semi-annual gambling trip.  While there are several blogs out there talking about what not to miss while you are in town for the conference, I hope to throw a different spin on the conversation.  Here goes:

1.)    Speed walking the trade show floor

Personally I like to do a full lap of the floor before walking up to any of the booths.  Just from perusing the floor you can get a sense of where you will want to spend your time.  If you just start at the entrance and dive in you may miss out on some of the hidden jems of the floor.

2.)    Pick up a carry around bag

You are going to get some form of bag from the conference itself, but more than likely this is going to be a backpack or a messenger style bag.  I am talking about an open top two handled bag.  Lots of vendors have them at their booth and they come in very handy.  If you are carrying your laptop\tablet around in your backpack you don’t want to have to rip it off your back every time an exhibitor gives you a piece of swag or collateral.  It is much easier to drop it in your bag and move on.  Sort through it all later.

3.)    HYDRATE

I am not just talking about drinking water, which you should do at every opportunity.  Most of us do not come from the very dry climate that Las Vegas features.  Couple with that the recirculated air of the conference center and double that up with the open smoking indoors that you find on the casino floor and you have a nasal nightmare.  Get some saline spray and keep your nose moisture laden or you will regret it.  Also, utilize the lotion from your hotel room to keep from turning into a dry scaly mess.

4.)    Note taking in your sessions

This year with the second screen experience you are getting the slide deck directly from Yammer.  Rather than trying to take notes in OneNote and correlating that to a slide that the speaker is talking about, simply use the notes field in PowerPoint and take notes directly in your copy of the deck.  This will make for a more cohesive recollection after the conference.  I tend to insert a slide where the presenter is doing their demos and take notes directly on that blank slide for the demos.  Remember that you are going to get access to the recordings of the sessions afterwards.

5.)    Pay attention

I have been very guilty of this at some conferences and missed out as a result.  You are immersing yourself in the largest collection of SharePoint talent gathered in one place.  What do you think is going to get talked about in the hallways between sessions?  At dinner? Over drinks? If you haven’t been paying attention during the day, how are you going to keep up with the conversations?  Take the time to listen and learn in the sessions and then continue the learning with your peers after.

6.)    People

The best part about being in the SharePoint Community is the people.  This is the best networking opportunity you will have all year to meet people and grow your network.  Whether you are looking to meet someone who you respect from reading the blogs, books and watching the PluralSite course or if you are just trying to meet likeminded people who are just getting started, don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect and make new connections.  Be sure that you have a Twitter & LinkedIn account so that you can expand your network and connect with the people you meet.

7.)    Enjoy yourself

If you cannot find fun at SPC, then you are doing something wrong.  There are always multiple somethings going on every night.  Keep an eye on the Yammer network, #SPC14 on Twitter, and FourSquare to find the open invites all over the place.  Can’t get in to a vendor’s party because the line is too long?  MAKE YOUR OWN PARTY.  There is a bar every 22.7” feet in Las Vegas.  We did this at SPC in Anaheim because we weren’t willing to wait on a 2h line to get into a club.  While the club party was amazing from what I heard, I wouldn’t change a thing about the night that we had.

…and on lucky #7 I will leave you.  I hope that these tips are useful to you and I look forward to seeing you throughout the course of the conference.  I will be hanging around playing Xbox One between sessions at the Atrion booth #2140, so please stop by and say hi.

Please join me for “Achieving better business productivity through Apps for Office” on Tuesday morning at 9a.  I am very excited to present this awesome topic on the first Executive track at SPC!

Leave a comment

MVP Award – My new year’s day suprise

MVP

With my vacation coming to a close I opted to spend one last morning with the boys and let Jill sleep in this morning. The day started like any other, Sam (age 3) came into my room and immediately started talking while Max (age 5) was hunkered down in his bed surrounded his books. We went downstairs to start the day and have breakfast, for which they had requested my special chocolate chip pancakes.

We finished our breakfast and had some fun play time before the pathetic plea for movies kicked in. I’m a sucker and had some web surfing to do so I caved quickly. When Jill came down stairs she found the 3 of us in the middle of the Lorax.

I popped onto Twitter to see what was doing in the world and saw Marc Anderson‘s tweet stating that he had been renewed for his MVP (and deservedly so). I had been informed that I was under consideration this cycle, but had not put much stock in my chances of being awarded. I was about to tell Jill about Marc and that it looked like I had not gotten it this year when my Outlook dinged and a message titled “Congratulations 2014 Microsoft MVP!” popped up.

I was speechless. Jill & I have been married almost 7 years and I can count on one hand the number of times that she has seen that happen.

I am humbled and honored to have been presented with this award. There are too many people for me to name here to whom I owe a debt of thanks & appreciation, so I will simply say thank you to the SharePoint Community as a whole.  I have to give the credit for this award to the people who have given them most, and that is my amazingly supportive wife and kids without-whom I would not be able to do any of the community work that I do.

I look forward to another great year of blogging, speaking, geeking, and community building. See you all in March at #SPC14 in Las Vegas if not before!

1 Comment

Order is everything when setting up SharePoint on Azure IaaS

I spent a bunch of time with my buddy Kirk Evans while at DevConnections in Las Vegas last month, some drinking and watching football, but mostly learning about running SharePoint on Azure. Azure IaaS has come a long way, but is still confusing & troublesome at times. I have written a few PowerShell tools that help me and I will share them in some future posts.

I started playing with SharePoint on Azure IaaS on my own without doing much reading. My goal in this was to see how intuitive it was to get things setup and going for the average person. Once in the console creating a VM was very quick and simple. I was up and running on a pre-built Windows Server image in no time. This was great.

Then I decided that I wanted to build a SharePoint farm. I deployed out 2 addtional VMs. I built an Active Directory and attempted to join the other 2 servers to the domain. This is where I ran into problems.

There are some building blocks that need to first be put in place before you start building servers if you want them to be able to communicate with one another.

The first is the Affinity Group (AG). An AG is required before you can create a Virtual Network. The way that Kirk explained it, the AG is a container to keep your Virtual Network in a single data center. To create an AG you will either use PowerShell or go to Settings at the bottom of the Management Portal and find Affinity Groups as the fourth of five options.

1-1-2014 10-30-49 PM

Next create the Virtual Network and assign it ot the AG.

2

After the Virtual Network is created you will be able to setup a Cloud Service. The Cloud Service is going to be the container for your VMs.

3

This process sounds uber simple, but the order of things matters here. Now you can create your VMs. Once you have your VMs and your DNS server built you can go in and specify the Domain Controller as a DNS server.

This is where you will hit a snag. In the normal course of events you would be running a domain controller on a static IP address. Unfortunately this is not something that you can do on Azure IaaS. Every time you deprovision a VM, which you have to do unless you want to get charged, your IP address reservation can get taken by another machine.

My solutions to this problem was fairly simple:

1.) Create a virtual network for each of my environments
2.) Always start the VMs in the same order so that they pick up the same IP address each time

The first part was easy, however the second part is difficult when you get beyond one or two people using the same Azure subscription. I needed an easier way to ensure that my VMs would start in a specific order. After a late night with one of my favorite single malts I came up with a fairly simple PowerShell solution.

set-AzureVMs.ps1
As a result of my conversations with Kirk, and some annoyance at the inconsistent nature of shutting down VMs using the Management Portal, I decided to look into how I could shutdown my VMs using PowerShell. There is a nice cmdlet for doing this called stop-AzureVM.

Since I want to do this for a set of VMs I needed to be able to run a for-each loop, so I wrote a start and stop function into the script.

4

I started to use a CSV or text file method for loading the VMs that I wanted to start and stop together when I realized that I didn’t want to have to maintain a series of files on every environment that I create and then distribute that to my team. Not to mention that I have multiple Azure subscriptions that I am using for clients and personal use. The management of that would get cumbersome quickly.

Then I remembered that all of the VMs that I will want to use together are going to be a part of the same Azure Cloud Service (ACS) and that each farm or group of servers that I want to use will have their own unique ACS. There is a cmdlet to get all of the ACS in an Azure Subscription called get-AzureService. I have opted to get the Service Name, Affinity Group, and status of the ACS in my script.

5

The status field is not overly useful, but if something other than “Created” is returned it is worth investigating since that is the expected value.

6

Once you have the correct ACS the script will list the VMs that exist within and ask if you want to start or stop them.

The obvious question at this point is “How does this solve the IP address problem that you set out to solve?”

The answer is that the script will always start and stop the VMs in a specific order. Starting the VMs using this script will ensure that the same IP addresses are obtained every time.

The script was originally designed to solve this problem however I have been using it to ensure that my VMs get shutdown cleanly rather than using the Management Portal which, as I mentioned earlier, is inconsiestent at best.

I hope that you find this as useful as I do. I have been using this script since I wrote it Thanksgiving weekend and I stopped tweaking about a week ago. You can find the script here: http://www.jasonhimmelstein.com/scripts/Azure/set-AzureVMs/set-AzureVMs.ps1

Enjoy!

Leave a comment

#SPSRI Wrap up

spsRI-2013

The inaugural #SPSRI is now in the books! When I joined the team putting this event on I had a few goals:

1.) select speakers who would elevate the event & give the attendees an amazing learning experience

2.) follow through on Chris’s goal of running the event on a minimal budget & get just enough sponsors to make the budget doable

3.) provide attendees & speakers with an fun, interactive, lively event that would be worth staying all day

4.) cross the 100 attendee barrier

5.) make the SharePint something that people wouldn’t have to leave the venue to participate in

I am happy to say that most of these goals were met & exceeded. We had a terrfiic panel of speakers (including several first timers), ended up with over 110 people in attendance with more than 70% staying until the closing raffle, and our SharePint was at the restaurant bar directly next to the venue which allowed us to retain the majority of the folks still around at the end of the raffle.

The one goal that was not quite met was the budget goal. Due to some spending choices we made we ended up needing less money than we originally planned. As a result were able to do far more than we expected for both attendees and speakers, including making some pretty awesome shirts with the logo you see above as well as help to seed next year’s event.

Thanks to everyone who put in time to make this event the success that it was.

…oh, and the deck from my session “PowerShell for the Anxious ITPro” can be found here: https://www.slideshare.net/jasonhimmelstein/powershell-for-the-anxious-itpro

Leave a comment

#SPSDFW Wrap up

SPSDFW

Another great community event is in the books! Kudos to the #SPSDFW team for the triumphant return of this keystone event. It has been suggested that I will take any excuse to go back to Texas… guilty as charged… A weekend of BBQ, Shiner & phenomenal SharePoint folks.

You can find the deck for my session Business Intelligence in SharePoint 2013 here: https://www.slideshare.net/jasonhimmelstein/business-intelligence-in-sharepoint-2013-24452549

Next up for me is running #SPSRI this coming weekend with Joshua Cliff & Chris McNulty!

Leave a comment

SharePoint Intersections wrap up

We just closed out the first SharePoint Intersections show in Las Vegas and I am enroute to SPSDFW but wanted to share my decks from the show:

Business Intelligence in SharePoint 2013

SharePoint 2013 Admin in the Hybrid World

This was a very enjoyable show during which I got to sit in on a recording of Andrew Connell (@andrewconnell) & Chris Johnson’s (@LoungeFlyZ) new podcast “MICROSOFT CLOUD SHOW“. I’m not sure when our episode will drop, but it will be worth a listen. Most of the speakers from the show stopped by and we had a bit of fun with the AC & CJ during the show.