Microsoft automates cloud access management for engineers

Powered by SC Magazine
 

Office 365 support 'democratised'.

View larger image View larger image View larger image

See all pictures here »

Microsoft has deployed a new rights management system to improve the way the company handles access to the on-call engineers dealing with cloud outages.

Lockbox began development in 2010 to automate rights management for engineering, allowing them temporary access to higher-tier privileges to fix outages more quickly without exposure to customer data.

It was the brainchild of Raj Rajagopalan and a couple of developers, a then greenhorn Office 365 engineer who, like many others starting out, was lobbed with the on-call graveyard shift for the cloud software as a service during his first week in early 2010.

The idea was born sometime after his alarm blared around 3am. A customers’ Office 365 installation had a bug and Rajagopalan needed to reboot the systems.

But he lacked the authorisation for the disruptive fix, so he phoned on-call operations asking for a reboot.

They too lacked the privileges to do so without the approval of the incident manager.

Operations were eventually granted the right to reboot the systems, and services were quickly restored.

But the sluggish incident response process meant the performance benchmark by which incidents are measured — mean time to recovery (MTTR) — had blown out.

Project Lockbox, built by Rajagopalan and core developers Andrey Lukyanov and Shane Brady over weekends in Microsoft’s Garage prototype lab, slashed the measurement within Microsoft’s Office team.

It was showcased in September last year as a prototype at one of the lab’s eight annual science fairs, winning approval for development and staff resources.

Lockbox went live internally across Microsoft’s Office engineering team in January this year.

“MTTR of issues is much faster now because we empower the engineers with Lockbox based recovery actions without elevating their permissions,” Rajagopalan said.

Department staff were stripped of access rights and given base-level access, with temporary elevated privileges afforded on-demand through Lockbox.

Requests for elevated access deemed to be abnormal by the automated systems are flagged by Lockbox and sent to a manager for manual approval.

“It could be said we democratised the permissions model,” Rajagopalan said.

Minimum privileges mean engineers can only have exposure to customer data when they request access through Lockbox, which is logged.

A mobile phone app was also built for speedy Lockbox approvals.

Prototyping the future

Many more projects have born and died in Microsoft’s Garage, but its manager Quinn Hawkins doesn’t shed any tears.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the execution that’s hard,” he said.

Engineers use the Garage in and out of work hours and pitch their projects to department heads on science fair days.

Good projects, Hawkins said, came from prototypes and not brain-storming maps or voting polls.

“You get whims, not innovation; for instance you could have a great idea for the Windows kernel, but only a few people get what that is, so it doesn’t get the votes. Idea sites are where ideas go to die.”

About 50 tools are produced in the Garage every month, collectively used by approximately 40,000 Microsoft employees.

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia


 
 
 
Top Stories
Myer CIO named retailer's new chief executive
Richard Umbers to lead data-driven retail strategy.
 
Empty terminals and mountains of data
Qantas CIO Luc Hennekens says no-one is safe from digital disruption.
 
BoQ takes $10m hit on Salesforce CRM
Regulatory hurdles end cloud pilot.
 
 
Sign up to receive iTnews email bulletins
   FOLLOW US...
Latest articles on BIT Latest Articles from BIT
Microsoft is offering Azure for Disaster Recovery to Australian SMBs
Feb 10, 2015
If you haven't talked to your IT provider about disaster recovery, it might be worth discussing ...
The 2015 Xero Roadshow is on: here are the locations and dates
Feb 6, 2015
The 2015 Xero Roadshow kicked off this week - see where you can attend at locations around ...
Microsoft Outlook is now on iPhone and iPad: why could this be useful?
Jan 30, 2015
Microsoft today released Office for Android and Outlook for iOS - complementing the other Office ...
Franchisees, here's something you should know about
Jan 23, 2015
You need to know the Code if you are a franchisee or franchisor as the penalties are significant.
Xero users rejoice! Quoting has finally arrived
Jan 23, 2015
It has taken years, but Xero has at last added integrated quoting to its online accounting software.
Latest Comments
Polls
Who do you trust most to protect your private data?







   |   View results
Your bank
  35%
 
Your insurance company
  5%
 
A technology company (Google, Facebook et al)
  9%
 
Your telco, ISP or utility
  8%
 
A retailer (Coles, Woolworths et al)
  4%
 
A Federal Government agency (ATO, Centrelink etc)
  18%
 
An Australian law enforcement agency (AFP, ASIO et al)
  15%
 
A State Government agency (Health dept, etc)
  7%
TOTAL VOTES: 4064

Vote
Do you support the abolition of the Office of the Information Commissioner?

   |   View results
I support shutting down the OAIC.
  27%
 
I DON'T support shutting the OAIC.
  73%
TOTAL VOTES: 1390

Vote