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SharePoint On-Premises Server Goes Into Preview, Facebook Outlines ‘Metaverse’ & More News

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Sometimes, with all the talk of Office 365 and other online digital tools, especially in the Microsoft ecosystem, it is easy to forget that there is still a thriving market in on-premises tech. SharePoint is one such case. While Microsoft talks up SharePoint Online just about every occasion it gets, there are still a large number of enterprises, particularly those treating sensitive information, that just want to keep everything on-premises.

This resulted, last year, in Microsoft having to promise a new edition of SharePoint Server. That server has now entered public preview in the shape of SharePoint Server Subscription Edition. This means that enterprises have to pay a subscription fee which, Microsoft explained, will ensure it will be always up-to-date and secure with continuous updates.

Later this year, users will be able to upgrade to Subscription Edition directly from SharePoint Server 2016 without having to first upgrade to SharePoint Server 2019.

A blog post by Bill Baer explained that the idea behind the new edition is to ensure reliability and security, and that because of the emphasis on compliance, it will follow the regulatory standards in whatever jurisdiction it is operating in and prevent unauthorized access to business critical and personal data, which in the current climate is a priority for organizations and corporate IT.

To ensure security, the new edition adds support for the OpenID Connect (OIDC) 1.0 authentication protocol. OIDC is a modern authentication protocol that makes it easy to integrate applications and devices with your organization’s identity and authentication management solutions to better meet your evolving security and compliance needs.

There will be more about this in the coming months as Microsoft gears up for the release. It is clear, however, that despite the ongoing and continuous development of the online edition, Microsoft will need to take on-premises along for the ride. “SharePoint has been a key accelerator for collaboration and productivity for decades, from the business value for organizations looking to modernize their workplace and infrastructure to the technical value it delivers to IT professionals and developers, Baer wrote. However, it is clear that it is not following and entirely separate to the online edition as Baer added that this will also be suitable for new hybrid investments and for those customers looking to enrich their existing investments with cloud innovation.

The only thing that remains to be seen is the cost and that probably won’t be known until the run up to the general release. More to come.

Teams Hits 250 Million Monthly Active Users

But that wasn’t all from Microsoft this week. Like many of the big tech companies, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft released its financial results for the previous quarter, in the case of Microsoft Q4. The figures were impressive with Microsoft reporting revenues $46.2 billion, up 21% on the same period last year. Net profits were $16.5 billion, up 47%.

One other noteworthy take-away was that Microsoft’s cloud services revenue and its growth prospects. Microsoft reported “Intelligent Cloud” revenue of $17.4 billion for the quarter, up 30% versus the last Q4 result.

However, there were some performance figures that are worth a look, not least of which is the figures for daily active users of Teams.  On the earnings call with investors, it emerged that the Teams collaboration platform has hit the 250 million monthly active users, up from the 145 million daily active user total it hit in April this year.

It also has nearly 80 million active Teams phone users while 124 organizations now have more than 100,000 users of Teams and close to 3,000 organizations have more than 10,000 users.

In terms of revenues, the commercial cloud revenues part of the business which includes Teams and Office 365 as well as Azure and a number of other products rose to $19.5 billion in Q4, compared to $14.3 billion a year ago.

This is the not end of it for this year though. Teams as we have seen will become a core element of the Windows 11 operating system when it is released later this year which will expose a lot more people to it and will likely push it into business areas where it still doesn’t have a hold. It’s hard to know how this will impact Teams, but it is just about certain that the figures are all going in the same direction, notably up.

Facebook Outlines ‘Metaverse’ Plans

Facebook was one of the other big tech companies that reported its results this week and although its figures were impressive too, there was another issue that received a lot of attention and one that points to where Mark Zuckerberg sees the future of the company.

For the record, the reported revenue of nearly $29.1 billion for the three months ended June 30, a 56% jump from the same period last year when online advertising took a hit as businesses grappled with COVID-19. The company also more than doubled its quarterly profit to almost $10.4 billion.

But back to the real talking point. During the CFO’s call with financial analysts after the results were released, Zuckerberg took a few minutes to talk about his ambitions to bring Facebook from being a social media company at heart, to being a “a metaverse” company.

Metaverse, as Zuckerberg understands it, is a virtual environment where “you can be present with people in digital spaces. You can kind of think of this as an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at.” If it sounds a big like extended virtual reality, it is a bit of that, but VR and a lot more. Zuckerberg explained in a little bit more detail in a podcast for the Verge last week.

“The metaverse isn’t just virtual reality. It’s going to be accessible across all of our different computing platforms; VR and AR, but also PC, and also mobile devices and game consoles”, Zuckerberg said. “…it is a persistent, synchronous environment where we can be together, which I think is probably going to resemble some kind of a hybrid between the social platforms that we see today, but an environment where you’re embodied in it.”

The enterprise use of it is clear especially given the growing use of VR in the enterprise in the past couple of years. Zuckerberg is vague about the timeline here but it’s not just up to Zuckerberg as this is something that is likely to reach across the entire industry.

Google and Facebook Insisting on Vaccinations

This week we also saw more discussion about the workplace and the return to work of workers after the pandemic. The latest salvo comes from Google and Facebook who are now looking at ways to make it possible for the most numbers of workers to return to the physical workplace.

Both companies now say that they will require workers to be vaccinated before they can return to the company’s campuses. According to a report on CNN, in an email to staff, CEO Sundar Pichai said the policy would roll out in the United States in the coming weeks, and in other regions in the following months as vaccines become more widely available. “Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai reportedly wrote.

Later last week, Facebook (FB) vice president of People Lori Goler said that any employees coming to work at the company’s U.S. campuses must be vaccinated, according to a statement posted on Twitter (TWTR) by a Facebook spokesperson.

Facebook plans to have a “process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves,” Goler wrote. Many companies are still trying to figure out exactly when and how to bring employees back to the office safely after nearly 16 months of having them work from home. And with the rapid spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant, vaccinations are an important part of the equation.

It is unclear how any of this will move forward, particularly as it is not clear as to what the workplace will look like with the increasing spread of the new COVID variants and the fact that the number of cases is rising again.

OpenText Launches Advisory Services

Finally, this week, Canada-based OpenText has announced the launch of OpenText Advisory Services, a new strategic professional service offering for their information management investments.

OpenText Advisory Services is a strategic consultation offering that enables customers to turn their digital transformation needs into an executable dynamic strategy. They can be tailored to suit an organization’s unique needs and cover a range of information management disciplines, from strategy, governance, and adoption to security management, AI, and operational optimization. Using the services, users will be able to develop:

  • A clear information management vision to optimize alignment with strategic business initiatives
  • A dynamic information management roadmap to establish an agile transformation strategy
  • A best-practice solution architecture to support roadmap initiatives, help ensure governance, and guide future investments.

OpenText claims it has 3000 experienced information management professionals ready to support companies that need to use these services.

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