Saturday, February 15, 2014

Office 365 Power BI is now Generally Available

If you did not hear this week, there was a big announcement that Power BI has now moved into General Availability for Office 365. Please read this announcement -

Now you may be wondering, what is this actually mean if you actually own Office 365 or SharePoint Online Plan 2? I actually found this table right here gave the exact answer I was looking for -

The core features of Power BI for Office 365 you get:

  • BI Sites
  • Scheduled Data Refresh
  • Enterprise Data Search
  • Data Stewardship
  • Mobile BI
  • Natural Language Query

So if you are an existing E3/E4 customer, you get those features.

Remember with SharePoint Online Plan 2 you already get BI solutions such as Excel Services, Power View and Power Pivot reporting through the browser, etc. For more information read the Service Description here -

Additionally with Office ProPlus and Excel you get Data Discovery & Access, Data Modeling & Analysis and Visualization which equates to Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Map.

So you may be asking, what are these new features. I have pulled together some quick references for you to read:

Frankly I need to spin up on this a little bit more, but wanted to get some quick information out to folks…

Office 365 and Third-Party STS Providers

I have been asked a lot lately how other STS providers could be used to federate authentication with Office 365 instead of using ADFS.

Additionally there was an announcement about a new program to get third-party identity providers (STS providers) tested and approved with Office 365 quicker. If you want to get one that you are working approved, recommend to them to read this -

New Office 265 Multi-Factor Authentication and Roadmap Announcement

There as a big announcement that was publically disclosed recently that Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) was added to the Office 365 service - Here is a detailed article about it - This is a really exciting announcement about for MFA, two-factor authentication, 2FA, etc.

However I like to make clear that Office 365 has always been able to support 2FA and this was achievable through configuration of federation with ADFS (or other STS servers). So it is possible to integrated RSA, smart cards, etc. but the policy for third-party 2FA is managed by the customer and enforced through ADFS (or other STS servers). The new Office 365 MFA offering discussed here will be immensely valuable to customers who do not have federated authentication and are using Cloud Based IDs. If you do not know much about Office 365 authentication, I recommend you start with the Service Description and read some of the linked articles -

Another important announcement discussed is that Office 2013 client applications “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 will work with this new solution Office 365 MFA as well as third-party 2FA solutions that have been implemented on-premise (i.e. RSA, smart cards, etc.).

Directory Based Edge Blocking added to Exchange Online Protection

Another new feature of Exchange Online Protection (EOP) was recently added called Directory Based Edge Blocking (DBEB). With this, all messages directed for email addresses that do not exist in your organization will be blocked on the edge. The message will be blocked and it will not be processed. Otherwise if the message is bound for a valid email address in your organization, the message will continue through connection and content filtering (anti-spam, etc.) policies you have configured in EOP. This allows for more efficiency.

For Exchange Online customers using EOP apparently the change will not be too noticeable. Messages bound for invalid email address was being blocked in Transport rules. With the introduction of DBEB, the block is moved forward in the filtering process. This will be reflected in reporting and there is some planned additional reporting that will be released in the future to differentiate between DBEB and SMTP blocking.

For information about the announcement, please review this -

Exchange Online Log Retention Period Increased

The application logging for Exchange Online has been increased from what was once a week out to 90 days. The first announcement was for Message Trace capability was announce going up to 90 days. The announcement was here - Additional information is here -

Along with that I noticed that the Audit Logging reports have as well been increased to 90 days as well. Read here -

Information in general is available in the Reporting Features and Troubleshooting Tools Service Description for Exchange Online located here -

Remember if you need the data for even more than 90 days, there are reporting APIs available that can allow you to get access to all of this data and store it locally -

Saturday, February 1, 2014

InfoPath Being Retired

Announcement: Well there was a big announcement in the SharePoint world that hit me personally – InfoPath is being retired -

Reflection: I had been waiting for public announcement and it was pretty obvious it was coming down when we saw that no new additions or investments (of any importance) we made into InfoPath 2013 and InfoPath Form Services.

Now InfoPath has a special place in my heart and I will say that my love for InfoPath put me where I am today. Really. When I first started at RDA Corp back in 2005 I was just a .NET engineer. My first project I was thrown into an engagement where I had to learn InfoPath 2003, 2003, BizTalk 2004 and SharePoint 2003 in a week and make them work. That project change my life. I built this solution (with some smart people) which eventually was the finalist for solution of the year at the Microsoft World Wide Partner conference. It had tons of InfoPath components which were hooked on top of a VAX mainframe. I subsequently got hooked into the developer community in ways I had not done before. I starting doing more and more InfoPath and K2 projects and then I got really hooked into SharePoint; the rest is history. I was able to get a job as a SharePoint TSP at Microsoft which has transcended into a career doing Office 365. I can say, it was InfoPath that sparked my love for the Microsoft productivity stack to build business solutions. I started saying “why do I need to build solutions from scratch when I can take all the Microsoft solutions together and build something”.

Over the years on this blog I had wrote extensively on how to do development, best practices and build solutions for InfoPath - My first blogs in September 2007 were focused on InfoPath. I thought it was a great solution with SharePoint to build business forms and automate them using simple or complex business processes. Reflecting back, I found that InfoPath did a lot of great things for standard to moderately complex forms but when you brush up against the edges (which is what I had to do a lot as a consultant) you found tough things you would be able to resolve with a custom web form. I would always be put into these debates with colleagues on this topic.

Where Do We Go From Here: I believe Microsoft product team is making the right decision. InfoPath had its day, it is a great concept behind it to create forms quickly, extract the XML, shred it and sent it to a database. However today there are so many development frameworks for rapid development and Microsoft is going to continue to create new solutions that will help customers build forms and process automated solutions. Support for InfoPath is not going away anytime soon, they are keeping support through April 2023 (not a typo) and I still say InfoPath is a great solution, just nothing new is being introduced. They noted they plan to create some migration scenarios in Q4 of CY2014, so I will be keeping an eye out for that.