What is the cloud?

Everyone’s heard of it. We all use it in some way. But how do you define it?

Many think of “the cloud” as an abstract invisible place up in the sky – but in reality it is just a type of computing where individuals and devices rely on a third party to manage their data and computer processing through the internet. Instead of all the computer hardware and software sitting on your desktop or somewhere inside your company’s network, this is now provided as a service over the internet.

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Microsoft Azure: What You Need to Know

Microsoft Azure’s rebranding in March 2014 represented a new strategic approach for Microsoft – it vigorously embraced the cloud and publicly proclaimed that the cloud was the future of computing. Since then, Azure has continued to gain attention in the media and amongst analysts.

What makes Azure stand out? Read on to learn about its features and what differentiates it from the competition.

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The Evolution of Managed Services

When it comes to managing IT for your business, you can never have too much help.

The shift to the cloud and outsourced IT functions (and even entire IT departments) has massively increased over the past several years. Executives now expect even higher productivity – at lower costs – from their IT investments. They are determined to find ways that will enable the organization to get out of the Data Center business and instead focus on their core competencies and strategic goals.

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Webinar: Trusting the Microsoft Cloud

For you to realize the benefits of the cloud, you must be willing to entrust your cloud provider with one of your most valuable assets – your data.

If you’re considering moving your business systems to the cloud, then you’re invited to join this webinar as Pham Nguyen of Microsoft discusses Microsoft Azure.

Thursday, June 29
4pm EST / 1pm PST

Register Now!

This webinar will explore:

  • Security – How we keep your data safe.
  • Privacy – How you own and control your data.
  • Transparency – How your data is stored and accessed.
  • Compliance – How we conform to global standards.
  • Protection – How we backup and restore your instances.

If you invest in a cloud service, you must be able to trust that your data is safe, that the privacy of your data is protected, and that you retain ownership of and control over your data – that it will only be used in a way that is consistent with your expectations.

Join us and learn why Azure should be your trusted cloud.


Intro To (Azure) Machine Learning – Part 1


You don’t have to be working in the IT/CS these days in order for your ears (or eyes) to pick up the term Machine Learning (ML) or Data Science, since these are among the biggest tech trends nowadays. Machine Learning, being the subset of Artificial Intelligence (some of you might disagree with this) is a concept ubiquitous in our daily lives.

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Remotely controlled nightly memory cleanup on Android devices

Imagine you have an enterprise application running on hundreds or thousands of mobile devices in field. Your application is being used every day, and it is rarely being restarted (users prefer leaving the application in the foreground all the time).

While we all tend to create applications that are memory responsible, the reality is that there would be memory leaks. With intensive usage of the application described in the example above, even small memory leaks would eventually cause the issues (application malfunctions or breaks).

Our Android application is developed using Xamarin.Forms. Our server runs on Azure and exposes REST API developed using ASP.NET Web API. Server communicates with the mobile devices by sending messages through Azure Notification Hub and Google Cloud Messaging (GCM).

When we experienced memory related issues on devices, we started brainstorming for possible solutions. Besides fixing all noticeable memory leaks, the best way to make sure that memory is in a good state is to restart the device. This method is intrusive, not easy to implement on Android and is discouraged. But it turns out that there are a lot of applications on Google Play Store which perform “fast rebooting”. We chose FastReboot, which is lightweight and “simulates a reboot by closing/restarting all core and user processes and thus frees up memory”.

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The Microsoft Cloud

Empower Your Business with the Microsoft Cloud

Technology is transforming our personal lives with apps and services that are simple and intuitive, and deliver helpful assistance to improve our lives.

In contrast the apps and services we use to drive business process are often difficult to use, try and deploy. Some even make you pay extra for capabilities like visualization, workflow automation and predictive insights.

We imagine a better world for business users everywhere. One where there is no artificial divide between CRM, ERP, BI, or Quality – where you have integrated solutions so you can track leads, automate field service, drive sales and improve operations using modern, mobile, enterprise-ready intelligent business apps from the cloud that are as easy to use as the consumer apps that help us all get rides, book rooms, listen to music and take actions to improve our health.

Your Digital Transformation Starts with Merit Solutions

Azure / Cloud

Azure can run all of your business applications while providing global scale, consistency, and seamless integration with third party tools.

BI and Data Intelligence

Collect data from every source, external and on-premises, and use drag-and-drop visualization tools to quickly analyze and explore your insights.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

With intelligent business applications across CRM and ERP, Microsoft Dynamics 365 gives you choice. Start with just what you need to run your business – and delight your customers.


Provide employees, customers, and partners the ability to pick up any device and have instant access to all of the data, tools, interfaces, and controls they want.


Pre-configured, best practices approach to Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects that dramatically speeds deployments, reduces costs, and has a faster time-to-value.


Better manage quality and compliance requirements in Microsoft Dynamics 365 when operating in heavily regulated industries like biotech, pharma, and med device.

Free White Papers

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics AX vs SAP

Microsoft Dynamics AX vs SAP

Enterprise Transformation Best Practices

Enterprise Transformation
Best Practices

Using Enterprise Mobility to Bring Value to Your Business

Using Enterprise Mobility to Bring
Value to Your Business

Contact Us Today

Whether you are evaluating new ERP systems, considering embracing mobile and cloud technology, or trying to get more value from your current investments - a discussion with one or more of Merit Solutions' experts can help.


How Cloud Based ERP Solutions Benefit You

Statistics show that majority of businesses have saved money by moving to the cloud. Once thought to be a huge security risk, businesses now welcome the cloud with open arms because they see the many benefits that Software as a Solution (SaaS) has to offer as far as:

  • Scalability
  • Reduced management costs
  • Reduced training costs
  • Lower infrastructure costs
  • Disaster recovery
  • Accessibility

These benefits apply to ERP solutions that are hosted in the cloud as well. Companies that choose to implement cloud based enterprise resource planning such as Microsoft Dynamics have seen these benefits almost immediately, and those who are looking to upgrade to the new AX7 release should feel comfortable knowing that this recent version is moving to a cloud first approach with this solution.

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Windows Azure Access Control Service – Improve User Authentication

Access Control Service is a Windows Azure service that provides an easy way of authenticating users who need to access your web applications and services without having to factor complex authentication logic into your code.

The following features are available in ACS:

  • Integration with Windows Identity Foundation (WIF),
  • Support for popular web identity providers (IPs) including Windows Live ID, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook,
  • Support for Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) 2.0,
  • An Open Data Protocol (OData)-based management service that provides programmatic access to ACS settings,
  • A Management Portal that allows administrative access to the ACS settings.


Windows Azure ACS is built on the principals of claims-based identity – a consistent approach to creating authentication mechanisms for applications running on-premises or in the cloud. Claims-based identity provides a common way for applications and services to acquire the identity information they need about users inside their organization, in other organizations, and on the Internet.

To complete the tasks in this guide, you should understand the following concepts:

Client – In the context of this how-to guide, this is a browser that is attempting to gain access to your web application.

Relying party (RP) application – An RP application is a web site or service that outsources authentication to one external authority. In identity jargon, we say that the RP trusts that authority. This guide explains how to configure your application to trust ACS.

Token – A token is a collection of security data that is usually issued upon successful authentication of a user. It contains a set of claims, attributes of the authenticated user. A claim can represent a user’s name, an identifier for a role a user belongs to, a user’s age, and so on. A token is usually digitally signed, which means it can always be sourced back to its issuer, and its content cannot be tampered with. A user gains access to a RP application by presenting a valid token issued by an authority that the RP application trusts.

Identity Provider (IP) – An IP is an authority that authenticates user identities and issues security tokens. The actual work of issuing tokens is implemented though a special service called Security Token Service (STS). Typical examples of IPs include Windows Live ID, Facebook, business user repositories (like Active Directory), and so on. When ACS is configured to trust an IP, the system will accept and validate tokens issued by that IP. ACS can trust multiple IPs at once, which means that when your application trusts ACS, you can instantly offer your application to all the authenticated users from all the IPs that ACS trusts on your behalf.

Federation Provider (FP) – IPs have direct knowledge of users, authenticate them using their credentials and issue claims about what they know about them. A Federation Provider (FP) is a different kind of authority: rather than authenticating users directly, it acts as an intermediary and brokers authentication between one RP and one or more IPs. Both IPs and FPs issue security tokens, hence they both use Security Token Services (STS). ACS is one FP.

ACS Rule Engine – The logic used to transform incoming tokens from trusted IPs to tokens meant to be consumed by the RP is codified in form of simple claims transformation rules. ACS features a rule engine that takes care of applying whatever transformation logic you specified for your RP.

Access Control Namespace – A namespace is a top level partition of ACS that you use to organize your settings. A namespace holds a list of IPs you trust, the RP applications you want to serve, the rules that you expect the rule engine to process incoming tokens with, and so on. A namespace exposes various endpoints that will be used by the application and the developer to get ACS to perform its function.

How does it work?

1. The client (in this case a browser) requests a page from the RP.

2. Since the request is not yet authenticated, the RP redirects the user to the authority that it trusts, which is ACS. The ACS presents the user with the choice of IPs that were specified for this RP. The user selects the appropriate IP.

3. The client browses to the IP’s authentication page, and prompts the user to log on.

4. After the client is authenticated (for example, the identity credentials are entered), the IP issues a security token.

5. After issuing a security token, the IP redirects the client to ACS and the client sends the security token issued by the IP to ACS.

6. ACS validates the security token issued by the IP, inputs the identity claims in this token into the ACS rules engine, calculates the output identity claims, and issues a new security token that contains these output claims.

7. ACS redirects the client to the RP. The client sends the new security token issued by ACS to the RP. The RP validates the signature on the security token issued by ACS, validates the claims in this token, and returns the page that was originally requested.

What do you need to get it running?

  • An active Windows Azure account:
    If you don’t have Windows Azure account, you could obtain free trial.

  • Visual Studio 2012:
    If you want to use latest feature of ACS 2.0 it is recommended using VS2012, but VS2010 could also work with little bit of work.
  • Identity and Access tool:
    This tool is great add-on for VS2012 which significantly ease connecting ACS with your application.

After few simple steps you should be ready to authenticate users to your application using Windows Azure ACS with identity providers like Microsoft, Google, Facebook etc.