Oct 12 2016

System Center 2016 RTM available on MSDN

You can now download the RTM version of the System Center 2016 Suite on MSDN.

Oct 12 2016

Windows Server 2016 RTM available on MSDN

You can now download the RTM version of the Windows Server 2016 on MSDN.

Aug 02 2016

Windows 10, Version 1607 (Updated Jul 2016) available

you can now download the newest Version of Windows 10 at MSDN.

Jun 03 2016

SQL and SharePoint Server 2016 available for download

with today SharePoint Sever 2016 and SQL Server 2016 are available for download from MSDN and other known Microsoft sources.

So what’s new with SQL 2016?

Query Store
One common problem many organizations face when upgrading versions of SQL Server is changes in the query optimizer (which happen from version to version) negatively impacting performance. Without comprehensive testing, this has traditionally been a hard problem to identify and then resolve. The Query Store feature maintains a history of query execution plans with their performance data, and quickly identifies queries that have gotten slower recently, allowing administrators or developers to force the use of an older, better plan if needed. The Query Store is configured at the individual database level.

Hadoop and Big Data have been all the rage in the last several years. I think some of that was industry hype, but Hadoop is a scalable, cost-effective way to store large amounts of data. Microsoft had introduced Polybase, a SQL Server connector to Hadoop (and Azure Blob Storage) to its data warehouse appliance Analytics Platform System in 2015. But now Microsoft has incorporated that functionality into the regular on-premises product. This feature will benefit you if your regular data processing involves dealing with a lot of large text files — they can be stored in Azure Blob Storage or Hadoop, and queried as if they were database tables. A common scenario where you might use this would be an extract, transform and load (ETL) process, where you were taking a subset of the text file to load into your database.

Stretch Database
One common idiom in recent years, is how cheap storage is. While it may be cheap to buy a 3TB drive from Amazon, if you are buying enterprise-class SAN storage or enterprise SSDs, you will know that storage is still very expensive. Microsoft is trying to help reduce your storage (and processing costs) with a hybrid feature called “Stretch Database.” The basics of Stretch Database are that some part of your tables (configurable or automated) will be moved into an Azure SQL Database in the cloud in a secure fashion. When you query those tables, the query optimizer knows which rows are on your server and which rows are in Azure, and divides the workload accordingly. The query processing on the Azure rows takes place in Azure so the only latency is for the return of the rows over the network. As an additional enhancement, you are only charged for the SQL Database in Azure when it is used for queries. You do, however, pay for the Azure Blob storage, which, generally speaking, is much cheaper than enterprise storage.

JSON Support
In addition to supporting direct querying to Hadoop, SQL Server 2016 adds support for the lingua franca of Web applications: Java Script Object Notation (JSON). Several other large databases have added this support in recent years as the trend towards Web APIs using JSON has increased. The way this is implemented in SQL 2016 is very similar to the way XML support is built in with FOR JSON and OPENJSON — providing the ability to quickly move JSON data into tables.

Row Level Security
A feature that other databases have had for many years, and SQL Server has lacked natively is the ability to provide row-level security (RLS). This restricts which users can view what data in a table, based on a function. SQL Server 2016 introduces this feature, which is very useful in multi-tenant environments where you may want to limit data access based on customer ID. I’ve seen some customized implementations of RLS at clients in the past, and they weren’t pretty. It is hard to execute at scale. The implementation of RLS in SQL 2016 still has it limits (updates and inserts are not covered), but it is good start on a much-needed feature.

Always Encrypted
It seems like every month, we hear about some company having a major data breach. Encryption works, but many companies do not or cannot implement it all the way through the stack, leaving some layer data available for the taking as plain text. SQL Server has long supported both column-level encryption, encryption at rest, and encryption in transit. However these all had to be configured independently and were frequently misconfigured. Always Encrypted is new functionality through the use of an enhanced client library at the application so the data stays encrypted in transit, at rest and while it is alive in the database. Also given Microsoft’s push towards the use of Azure, easy encryption makes for a much better security story.

In-Memory Enhancements
SQL Server 2014 introduced the concept of in-memory tables. These were optimally designed for high-speed loading of data with no locking issues or high-volume session state issues. While this feature sounded great on paper, there were a lot of limitations particularly around constraints and procedures. In SQL Server 2016, this feature is vastly improved, supporting foreign keys, check and unique constraints and parallelism. Additionally, tables up to 2TB are now supported (up from 256GB). Another part of in-memory is column store indexes, which are commonly used in data warehouse workloads. This feature was introduced in SQL 2012 and has been enhanced in each version since. In 2016 it receives some enhancements around sorting and better support with AlwaysOn Availability Groups.

Apr 27 2016

Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 5

Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 5 is available for download on MSDN and the other know Microsoft sources.

Im Addition Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2016 Technical Preview 5 is also available.



Mar 07 2016

Windows 10, Version 1511 (Updated Feb 2016) available

An updated image of the Windows 10 Build 1511 is available for download on MSDN.

Windows 10, Version 1511 (Updated Feb 2016) includes all updates released for Windows 10 since Version 1511 (Released Nov 2015) including security and non-security updates.

Nov 12 2015

Windows 10 – Build 1511 – available for Download

Microsoft has been testing a fresh update to Windows 10 for the past few months, and now it’s ready to release it to everyone. More than 110 million machines are now running Windows 10, and they’ll all be offered the update today. The update includes a number of fixes and UI changes that were originally planned for the final version of Windows 10.

One of the noticeable differences is a new colored title bar for desktop apps. All apps now feel a little more similar to the ones designed specifically for Windows 10, and Microsoft has also improved the context menus throughout the OS to make them a little bigger and darker to match the general theme. Another big change is the introduction of Skype integration with dedicated Messaging and Skype Video apps. They’re both available from the Windows Store, and they’re designed to offer basic access to messaging, audio, and video calls without having to download the full version of Skype.

Most other changes are fairly minor, including improved system icons. Microsoft is allowing Windows 10 users to now install apps to external storage, and some tablet mode improvements allow you to swipe down to close apps and snap apps more easily. Microsoft is also improving its Edge browser and Cortana in the Windows 10 Fall Update. Edge now syncs favorites, settings, and the reading list, alongside a new tab preview feature. Cortana will now work without a Microsoft Account, and the digital assistant can now understand inked notes in the Windows 10 Fall Update. The update is rolling out today from Windows Update.

You can also download a new ISO image from MSDN now.

Oct 02 2015

Exchange 2016 RTM

Exchange Server 2016 is here and available to download starting today!

Exchange 2016 builds on and improves features introduced in Exchange 2013, including Data Loss Prevention, Managed Availability, automatic recovery from storage failures, and the web-based Exchange admin center. Here are a few of the favorite new capabilities:

  • Better collaboration: Exchange 2016 includes a new approach to attachments that simplifies document sharing and eliminates version control headaches. In Outlook 2016 or Outlook on the web, you can now attach a document as a link to SharePoint 2016 (currently in preview) or OneDrive for Business instead of a traditional attachment, providing the benefits of coauthoring and version control.
  • Improved Outlook web experience: New significant updates to Outlook on the web. New features include: Sweep, Pin, Undo, inline reply, a new single-line inbox view, improved HTML rendering, new themes, emojis, and more.
  • Search: A lightning-fast search architecture delivers more accurate and complete results. Outlook 2016 is optimized to use the power of the Exchange 2016 back end to help you find things faster, across old mail and new. Search also gets more intelligent with Search suggestions, People suggestions, search refiners, and the ability to search for events in your Calendar.
  • Greater extensibility: An expanded Add-In model for Outlook desktop and Outlook on the web allows developers to build features right into the Outlook experience. Add-ins can now integrate with UI components in new ways: as highlighted text in the body of a message or meeting, in the right-hand task pane when composing or reading a message or meeting, and as a button or a dropdown option in the Outlook ribbon.
  • eDiscovery: Exchange 2016 has a revamped eDiscovery pipeline that is significantly faster and more scalable. Reliability is improved due to a new search architecture that is asynchronous and distributes the work across multiple servers with better fault tolerance. You also have the ability to search, hold and export content from public folders.
  • Simplified architecture: Exchange 2016’s architecture reflects the way Exchange is developed in Office 365 and is an evolution and refinement of Exchange 2013. A combined mailbox and client access server role makes it easier to plan and scale your on-premises and hybrid deployments. Coexistence with Exchange 2013 is simplified, and namespace planning is easier.
  • High availability: Automated repair improvements such as database divergence detection make Exchange easier than ever to run in a highly available way. Stability and performance enhancements from Office 365, many of which were so useful that they were shipped in Exchange 2013 Cumulative Updates, are also baked into the product.

Sep 23 2015

Office 2016 available for download

The full Office for Windows 2016 suite includes new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Project, Visio and Access.

There are not a lot of major new features in this release. Microsoft’s main focus with the new version of Office for Windows has been on adding team-collaboration functionality. Among some of the new features in the suite are coauthoring for Word, PowerPoint and OneNote; real-time typing in Word; new integrated Power BI publishing functionality in Excel; and updated search and navigational capabilities in Outlook.

Users who subscribe via Office 365 consumer and/or business plans which include rights to the Office apps also get additional, supplemental services and features, including Microsoft’s Sway digital-storytelling app/service; new Office 365 Groups functionality; and more.

As is the case with Windows 10, Microsoft is planning to fill out some of the partially baked Office 2016 features in the suite with regular updates in the coming months. Microsoft is still working on improving and syncing its OneDrive online-storage service. The promised new sync clients for Windows and Mac are due later this year. Built-in coauthoring for the other Office 2016 apps beyond Word is also still in the works. And Enterprise Data Protection, a security feature that Microsoft has promised for Windows 10, also will be coming for Office 2016 for Windows in early 2016, and the Office Mobile apps later this year, company officials said.

Starting with the Office 2016 for Windows release, Microsoft is moving to a new servicing model for Office 365 which is similar to the one it has put in place for Windows 10, with different servicing “branches” providing users with new Office features and fixes on a regular basis.

While on the subject of dates, here’s what Microsoft officials are saying in terms of availability for Office 2016 for Windows (and other related Office apps and services).

The Office 2016 apps are available in 40 languages starting today. Office 365 subscribers can choose to download manually the new Office 2016 apps as part of their subscription starting today. Automatic updates of the Office 2016 apps will begin rolling out to consumer and small business subscribers in October 2015, and to commercial customers early next year. Office 2016 is also available today as a one-time purchase for both PCs and Macs.

You can download the Office 2016 ISO Image on MSDN right now!

Sep 17 2015

Exchange Server 2013 Cumulative Update 10 available

Exchange 2013 CU 10 can be downloaded here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49044

This update fixes the issues that are described in the following Microsoft Knowledge Base articles:

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