Updated Tools for Office 365 and Microsoft Azure Arriving Soon

Microsoft announced a bunch of tooling updates this week for organizations using Office 365 and Azure solutions.

Organizations are getting templates to more easily set up Office 365 end users. There's a new tool for checking Office 365 ProPlus security practices. There's an updated tool for optimizing SharePoint Online pages. Additionally, PowerShell 7 preview version 4 was released.

Microsoft also released an open source font for Windows Terminal. In addition, various Azure Portal updates are available this month.

Microsoft 365 Admin Center Templates
The Microsoft 365 Admin Center management portal now includes savable templates for an easier way to set up Office 365 access for end users, according to a Monday announcement. The templates can be created using the portal's "Active Users" page, or they can be created after an IT pro sets up access for an Office 365 user.

The new templates simplify matters for IT pros because the same settings can be used for certain groups of end users within an organization, which get encapsulated in the template. Office 365 tenancies will start getting access to the templates this month, but the feature will be available more broadly "over the next few months," Microsoft indicated.

Security Policy Advisor for Office 365 ProPlus
Microsoft this month announced that its Security Policy Advisor for managing Office 365 ProPlus clients reached general availability, meaning it was commercially released. This feature previously had been available as a preview release back in April.

Back then, Microsoft had explained that Security Policy Advisor helps IT pros sort through Microsoft's security baseline recommendations for Office 365 ProPlus clients. It'll offer suggestions on the security policies to use. It also has a dashboard showing how existing security policies are affecting users.

Security Policy Advisor is accessed through a portal used to configure Office 365 ProPlus settings. It has a dependency on using the Office Cloud Policy Service for Office 365 ProPlus, which further requires having Azure Active Directory synchronization.

SharePoint Online Page Diagnostics
Microsoft on Wednesday announced the release of version 2.0.1 of its Page Diagnostics Tool for SharePoint Online. Its chief enhancement is its ability to "assess modern and classic SharePoint pages in SharePoint Online," Microsoft indicated. The browser-based tool can identify pages with suboptimal performance, based on Microsoft's best practices guidelines, and it'll offer remediation suggestions.

The Page Diagnostics Tool is just for use with Microsoft's SharePoint Online service. It doesn't work with SharePoint Server installed at an organization's datacenter.

PowerShell 7 Preview 4
Microsoft announced on Thursday that it has updated its PowerShell 7 preview to version 4. The announcement also described some of Microsoft's release plans for the new scripting solution.

The "general availability" commercial release of PowerShell 7 is expected to occur sometime in "January 2020," Microsoft indicated. A release candidate version will appear before that date, perhaps in "December 2019."

This coming PowerShell 7 release will be a so-called "long-term servicing" release, but it'll follow Microsoft's Modern Lifecycle Support policy. What that likely means (based on Microsoft's description for PowerShell 6.x) is that PowerShell 7 users will need to update the product within six months when minor upgrades get released by Microsoft, and they'll need to apply the latest patches within 30 days, too. Future updates stop arriving if the upgrading and patching doesn't keep pace with those cycles.

Microsoft also indicated that it plans to eventually release PowerShell 7 through the Windows Store. It'll get published via an MSIX package, Microsoft's newest software packaging approach. PowerShell 7 preview 4 currently supports the MSIX format.

New features in PowerShell 7 preview 4 include a ternary conditional operator for Boolean expressions and a Start-Job cmdlet, which can be used to "specify the working directory of the new job process before your script block runs." Microsoft also added some Desired State Configuration (DSC) improvements and released a new DSC Resource Kit, which includes 15 DSC PowerShell modules. Organizations typically might use DSC to declare optimal configuration states for their servers, as accessed via the push or pull method.

PowerShell 7 is getting built on .NET Core 3.0. It's conceived as being a replacement for both Windows PowerShell 5.1 and the various PowerShell 6.x scripting solution products.

Windows Terminal and Cascadia Code Font
Microsoft announced on Wednesday that its open source Cascadia Code font was released at the GitHub repository. It's a monospaced font that lets users create "programming ligatures" -- that is, characters can be combined, such as typing the "<" and "=" symbols together to create a less-than-or-equal symbol. The font was designed for the Windows Terminal, Microsoft's new open source command-line console for Windows 10, which is still at an early preview stage after its May debut.

"Cascadia" was actually Microsoft's code name for Windows Terminal, according to the announcement. Windows Terminal users aren't stuck with this font, as other fonts and glyphs can be used, this blog post explained.

Azure Portal Updates
The Azure Portal got updated this month, per a Tuesday announcement.

This update added a new Azure SQL "unified" experience to the Azure Portal, which Microsoft defined as an easier way to "discover, create, and manage your SQL databases, instances, pools and virtual machines" within the portal. For instance, the portal will suggest which resource to use "based on your application's requirements," Microsoft explained.

In addition, Microsoft described improvements to Azure Data Explorer, which is used in the Azure Portal to analyze streaming data from applications and Web sites. Azure Data Explorer now lets IT pros select which Azure Availability Zone to use. Using multiple Azure Availability Zones will help avoid having a single point of failure, Microsoft suggested.

Azure Data Explorer also now uses "optimized autoscale" by default, which will automatically scale out a cluster that's maxing out on its resources. Additionally, Microsoft included an Azure Disk Encryption feature in Azure Data Explorer that adds "volume encryption for the OS and data disks of your cluster virtual machines," Microsoft explained.

Also for Azure Portal users this month, Microsoft included a preview of a "Streaming Ingestion" feature in Azure Data Explorer. The Streaming Ingestion feature typically gets used in scenarios where high data ingestion occurs, but low latency (less than 10 seconds) is required.

The Azure Portal also includes access to Azure Advisor, which checks the use of various Azure services against Microsoft's best practices, offering optimization tips. Microsoft announced this week that Azure Advisor now can send user-configured alerts at the preview stage. These alerts might be used to "right-size or shut down underutilized Virtual Machines," for instance. Microsoft also touted the alerts as potentially being useful for automating actions by working with an organization's ticketing system or runbook assignments, for instance.

Build Your Own Security Apps
Microsoft announced this week that it has published a whitepaper on how to build your own security solutions using the Microsoft Graph Security application programming interface (API). The Microsoft Graph is a "collection of APIs" that can be tapped to gain access to information from Microsoft's online services, such as from various Office 365 solutions.

Examples of apps that can be built, according to the whitepaper, include ones that automate the delivery of security alerts or apps that automate workflow responses. Microsoft's target audience for the whitepaper includes independent software vendors, managed service providers, IT system integrators and enterprise organizations.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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