Microsoft Vendor process – some issues and how I resolved them

As you will know, I  have been working extremely hard on the UK Power BI Summit.  One thing to note: If you are thinking of setting up a community event, I would recommend that you engage with Microsoft as a vendor. It will put your conversations on a more equal footing. I am still not a bona fide vendor because some of the Microsoft offices still cannot ‘see’ me, and it will help you to have the vendor status.

I am not a vendor, and this became the equivalent of a ‘mute’ button when i was trying to engage people in my event –  people couldn’t do anything to help, because I was not a vendor. So I was effectively ‘muted’.  I wanted to try and do the best possible for my event, so I decided to go through the process to get past the ‘mute’ button that was pressing down on me.

Becoming a Microsoft vendor is not a quick or easy process and I want to help you, dear Reader, so it is easier for you than it is for me.  The reasons for the complexities in the process are as follows:

Becoming a Microsoft vendor means that you need a Microsoft account, which is fine. Now, there is a well-documented difference between a Microsoft account and an Office 365 account. There is a fantastic blog about it here. Now, the problem occurs if  you have a Microsoft account that has the same name as an Office 365 account. The vendor system will reject you if you have a Microsoft account that has the same name as an office 365 account, and the two are linked together.

When you go through the Microsoft vendor process with an email address that is identical for a Microsoft account and an Office 365 account, then it bounces you out, and your application for becoming a vendor is rejected. The whole Microsoft Office 365 / Microsoft Account issue, differences and distinctions are terribly confusing.

What do you do? You need to restart the vendor process again, but you need to use a Microsoft account that does not have an identical Microsoft Office365 account LINKED to it.

So here is what I did:

I attempted to go through the process by using an email address that was a Microsoft Office 365 account and a Microsoft account. For the purposes of illustration, let’s call it jen@jenstirrup.com which is the login for both Office365 and the Microsoft account.

After a week or so, I got an email to say that my application was rejected.

I spent another few weeks raising it as a support issue, and eventually told that I was to restart the process, and to speak with the Microsoft sponsor to restart the process. Now, I didn’t want to restart the process without understanding WHY it was rejected so I did my own research because I’m a clever girl like that, and I had a hunch that it was due to the login (no evidence, just a thought that I decided to follow up). Here is what I did:

I took my Microsoft Office 365 email address which I will mark in orange so it is less confusing!!! (jen@jenstirrup.com), and de-linked it from the Microsoft Account settings page for jen@jenstirrup.com – I will mark the Microsoft Account in blue.

I then tried to set up a separate Microsoft account with the same e-mail address jen@jenstirrup.com 

This attempt was refused, and I was told to wait 48 hours.

I waited 48 hours, and, after a few attempts of setting up a New Microsoft Account for jen@jenstirrup.com with the same Microsoft Office 365 account(jen@jenstirrup.com), the new Microsoft Account jen@jenstirrup.com was set up. I will set this to be the colour green. There was no magic here; I just kept trying until it worked. This meant I had three accounts now:

  • jen@jenstirrup.com – my Office 365 account
  • jen@jenstirrup.com – the original Microsoft Account which then reverted to an outlook address
  • jen@jenstirrup.com is my new Microsoft account which I set up for the Vendor process, which wasn’t linked to anything.

With my new Microsoft account,  jen@jenstirrup.com, I could then go and restart the Microsoft vendor process again. The confusing thing is that they all have the same name and I have tried to clarify it by giving them different colours to show that they are different accounts, just called the same thing. 

After my new  jen@jenstirrup.com was set up, I then restarted the Microsoft Vendor process again, over at payment central.

Once again – the process failed.

During the Microsoft vendor process, the system asks for your IBAN number, and then it does a lookup to get your details. You will have an IBAN number, but your bank does not always display it for you. Therefore, make sure that you have it.

Unfortunately for me, when I was going through the application service, Microsoft’s IBAN lookup / verification process failed. This produced a ream of error messages about an unrecognised IBAN. I have been through lots of similar vendor processes for other large companies, and I knew for a fact that my IBAN number was correct and confirmed. I didn’t type it in wrong, in case you think I am that dumb 🙂

I waited until the next day and tried again, and this time, the process seemed to work.

I then checked with the Microsoft vendor people, and I was told over the process of a week, that my process hadn’t gone through, and they could not see me set up in the system. To be fair, I had not had an ‘Welcome’ email to indicate that i was a vendor yet.

I double checked the vendor system, which showed success – but nobody at the Microsoft vendor offices, in the US or in Dublin, could find me. Super confused!!

I logged back into the Microsoft payment system, and I noted that I now had a number next to my company name. Rather than ask  the team to search by name, I gave them the number. After another few days delay, someone in the US has come back to tell me that they can see me in their system, and they sent me a screenshot of my details.

I noted that the ‘search term’ for my company name was not the same as my actual company name; it was a contracted version. So, instead of ‘Data Relish’ it comes up as ‘DATA RE’. This would explain why the US and Dublin teams could not find me, and I was lucky to spot the number next to my name.

I have sent the screenshot to Microsoft UK who say that they can’t find me, and it may take another few days for the details to come through to them. So, although I still have a wait, I feel I am getting somewhere.

Lessons learned:

The Microsoft Office365 / Microsoft Account setup is confusing. It is affecting all sorts of systems, including the vendor account system.  I really hope it gets sorted.

I now have two Microsoft accounts: jen@jenstirrup.com (the original) has now reverted to an outlook.com address. I have my new shiny Microsoft account   jen@jenstirrup.com  which is completely on its own, and it is not connected to anything – it remains my vendor account address. My office365 address remains unchanged.

Although it’s too late for my current event, I think it is easier to engage as a vendor. I understand that other community bodies do this, and I was not on the same footing as them. I am not sure if I will ever arrange another event again but at least I will have this vendor footing now.

Recommendations:

  • If you are going through the Microsoft vendor process, set up a new Microsoft account dedicate to the vendor process and being a vendor.
  • I should have set up an account such as jen_vendor@jenstirrup.com and this would have been ok.
  • Be prepared for unexpected issues, like the IBAN problem. This means you should get your application done as early as possible.
  • Be patient. Lots of big systems, and some Azure AD issues somewhere.
  • Keep asking for updates. Everyone else is probably confused, too!

I hope that helps and that, you, dear Reader, have a successful experience in the vendor setup process. I’m blogging this in order to save you from some of the issues that I had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Prodigal Developers Return: SQL Server 2016 SP1 brings consistent programming surface to Developers and ISVs

Big news from Microsoft Connect() 2016 online developer conference. SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1 is dropping. Download SQL Server 2016 SP 1 here.

SQL Server 2016 SP1  means lots of wider features for lower editions. Most importantly, developers and partners can now build to a single application programming surface to create or upgrade new intelligent applications and use the edition which scales to the application’s needs.

The long version and my ‘take’ on this news:

I’m incredibly impressed with Microsoft right now. I think it’s incredibly smart, actually, because they are bringing developers and ISVs back into SQL Server Land again. So, developers, ISVs, go and grab yourself a coffee and let’s have a chat.

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Credit: stocksnap.io

SQL Server 2016 SP1 makes leading innovation available to any developer. Microsoft is making it easier for developers to benefit from the industry-leading innovations in SQL Server for more of their applications. With SQL Server 2016 SP1 is making key innovations more accessible to customers across editions. Developers and partners can now build to a single application programming surface to create or upgrade new intelligent applications and use the edition which scales to the application’s needs. SQL Server Enterprise continues to offer the highest levels of scale, performance and availability for enterprise workloads. For more information, please see the full press announcement on the SQL Server Blog. Visual Studio Code extension for SQL and updated connectors and tools are also exciting news, because it means that it’s easier to develop with other languages, in a more streamlined fashion.

What problem are Microsoft trying to fix?

stocksnap_vlhyvv3xu5Previously, the issue with developing applications for SQL Server is that there is a disparity across editions, which can affect how your application runs.  Until now, developers have used the SQL Server development version as it will allows them to develop with features that are available on all of the production versions.

Now, the problem is solved – developers can take advantage of the programmability feature by using the same code base, and things are simpler because the customer chooses which edition they use.

The problem was evident, when you use, say, an enterprise-only feature in development but have only a Standard-edition instance in Production. You can see the full list of features and editions published by Microsoft here ‘Features Supported by the Editions of SQL Server 2016’

If you had an app that can manage Enterprise edition then it can, in principle, also manage every other edition.  However, now the application would scale to the customer’s edition, thereby streamlining the whole process.

New Tools for the Toolbox, No Pricing Changes

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So, developers wouldn’t have to build complexity, but they’d have to create their app the right way. For example, there’s not always a need to scale out. Let’s take Stack Overflow, one of the top 50 busiest sites in the world.  Stack Overflow runs on Microsoft SQL Server.

Not many people know it, but there is a StackOverflow Enterprise Edition. It means that companies like StackOverflow can take advantage of the new programmability features, if they so wished. I wonder what ISVs will do?

Freedom from Constraints

Let’s examine the issue in more detail. Let’s take a look at the SQL Server editions that are available to us:

  • Azure database + Amazon RDS
  • Containerized version of any edition
  • Developer Edition
  • Express Edition
  • Enterprise Edition
  • LocalDb
  • Standard Edition
  • Web Edition

You can see why it starts to get confusing, and developers might start to look at MySQL or Postgres as alternatives.

How can you get SQL Server 2016 SP1?

I believe that this will be a primary driver for SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1, Download SQL Server 2016 SP 1 here.

Why are Microsoft doing this?

stocksnap_kikhw5nc6yIt’s a huge benefit for ISVs. It’s my opinion that Microsoft had lost the way with their partners. Customers started to look sideways at other vendors to fulfil their needs, such as Tableau. In response, partners expanded their toolkit in order to include crème de la crème vendors such as Tableau in order to build solutions. I think that this move is a gesture to the ISVs, since it will remove friction when they choose to develop solutions.

Being pals with Open Source but better – you get what you pay for. With the advent of open source, developers have got  more choice than ever before. It’s good to bring them back to SQL Server. Postgres doesn’t have in-memory capability, for example – it has “running with scissors” mode whereby you switch off all the disk storage features. Sound scary? Yes… the clue is in the name. SQL Server brings this feature to the party, and more. ISVs can feel more confident developing on a robust solution.

Increased productivity – it removes an obstacle to development, support and deployment.

The Prodigal Developers Return

This solution means that Microsoft SQL Server is back on the table for many developers, who may have started eyeing MySQL and Postgres for this reason.

To summarise, I think that this is a smart move and I’m excited to see that the ‘voice of the developer’ has come back into SQL Server Land. It’s also a huge benefit for ISV partners, and let’s see how they democratize their data in new and exciting applications. Let’s look for more exciting things coming from Microsoft.

sMy handy toolkit for my Azure IoT Project – how the Microsoft Partner Network can help

In this series, I’m writing a bunch of very practical posts on helping you through an IoT project. There are plenty of other posts about the ‘why’ and the marketing buzz, but this is about the ‘do’.

If you are using Azure, the chances are that you might be a Microsoft Partner already. There are some useful goodies in there, and you may not be aware of these opportunities. The benefits of the Microsoft Partner network can be found here. However, it can be hard to relate the list to actual projects, and this blog is aimed at translating these benefits into something tangible that can help you on your IoT project. Firstly, though, take a look at the Action Pack subscription video in order to get some background:

How can this help you to start on your IoT project? Well, if you are starting out on IoT and Azure, then the first thing you’ll need are some handy free Azure credits. Now, if you have an MSDN subscription, then you will also have free Azure credits. Did you know that you can get free credits as part of your Microsoft Partner Action Pack subscription as well? Members of the Microsoft Action Pack program receive monthly credits of £65 of Azure at no charge, and the terms and conditions can be found here.

In practice, these means that you can set up two subscriptions for your Azure account; one for MSDN, and the other for your Microsoft Partner Azure credits.

To help you start out on your Azure project with IoT, you can get five internal use licenses for Office365. This is extremely useful, because it means you can download the Office software. So, in my projects, I recommend my customers become a partner with the Action Pack subscription since they will get one the following:

  • Microsoft Office 365—either five seats Office on-premises and five Microsoft Office 365, or 10 seats Office on-premises. You can earn more seats of Office 365 after an additional cloud sale.
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM—no Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online licenses are granted at the subscription point. These licenses are granted after you close one Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online deal or at least 50 seats of Office 365 in the previous 12 months.

For your IoT project, the first option is particularly useful in the following scenarios:

If you have taken on new team members to do an AzureML project, then you are going to need Office software such as Excel, in order to view data. If people are choosing a career in AzureML, then you can make a safe bet that these team members will want to use the latest and greatest technology. This means that giving them Excel 2007, for example, isn’t going to work. Happy team members produce better results, and it’s important to empower them with the tools that they need, and *want*, to do the a job that they are proud of doing.

If you have Office365, then you can hook up your data nicely so that you can see and share it in Power BI.

  • What is your call to action?
  • Sign up for the Microsoft Partner, and enrol for the cloud Programs
  • Sign up as an Action Pack Subscriber
  • Make sure to look at your benefits, and you’ll see the Azure subscription credits and your Office365 licence keys. To do this, go to Resources, and then look for ‘Access my software and cloud benefits’.

Using my Partner Azure credits, and my MSDN credits means that I have two separate subscriptions for paying for Azure. In my case, I have a subscription for my own Virtual Machines for development, and then a different Subscription for my Proof of Concept work and the portfolio I’m building for demonstrations. It helps me to keep an eye on how much credit I’m “spending” on development work on Azure VMs for development work. At the moment, I have a few physical servers which I *used* to use for development, but I like the portability of having everything in the cloud. It will mean I don’t have to lug my heavy Dell mobile workstation around with me. For demonstrations, I can video my demos in advance in case I can’t access the cloud for some reason. If I find I’m incurring a lot of Azure credits and paying money, then I need to decide whether to purchase another physical machine, or stick with Azure. So far, Azure is winning on cost, and on factors such as performance and reliability, and ease of use. Running a small business and being on the PASS Board mean that I’m incredibly busy, and I need to be careful how I spend my time and effort. As you can understand, doing a lot of tech support may not be the best use of my time – even though I do enjoy it!

Now, you’re ready to move to the next step! There are a range of choices for architecting an IoT project, and I will talk about some of these issues in my next blog post.