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Microsoft Ignites IT - Innovation and Transformation. Are You Ready?

  • September 29, 2016
  • By Bradley Jones
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Microsoft Ignite is happening this week. If you are a developer, you are likely thinking that this is not the show for you. After all, Microsoft does a Build conference that is aimed squarely at developers. Although Microsoft Ignite is aimed primarily at IT Pros, there is a lot that developers can learn or gain from the show. This is even more true when you toss in a Machine Learning and Data Science Summit at the same time and at locations that overlap. Starting considering the evolution of DevOps for many developers, and there is plenty to keep a developer-centric person occupied!

In the keynote introduction, Julia White, Microsoft Corporate Vice-President, indicated that for this IT-focused show, IT should be viewed at as Innovation and Transformation. Specifically, “digital transformation.” By using the vast amounts of data, along with the intelligence that can be gained from it, what business can do is being transformed.

This short article isn’t going to cover on the plethora of things announced at Microsoft Ignite. Rather, it is just a sampling of some of the keynote highlights from Microsoft. Many of the key things discussed center on Azure services, Office 365, Cortana, and many IT products. In addition to the continued discussion of the cloud, the big hot topics were security and intelligence.

IT Journey

The Cloud and Microsoft Azure

Microsoft is claiming the industry’s richest hybrid Cloud portfolio. If you are a developer using the Microsoft stack, chances are you have already looked at or even used Azure. Today’s world is no longer questioning whether the Cloud is or should be used. The Cloud is here, and it is being used. To that end, Microsoft made a number of comments related to updates or general announcements on products they have in the Cloud space.

I’m not sure about caps in “cloud.” I could be wrong about changing to caps.

Microsoft released Windows Server 2016 as well as System Center 2016. General availability of both will be in October of this year. Related to this, Microsoft also announced that the Docker Engine will be supported in Windows Server 2016 at no additional cost.

With Microsoft having earmarked $1 billion for Cloud projects, it is no surprise that a few Azure-related announcements were also made. Microsoft also announced that the next (second) Technical Preview of the Azure Stack will also be available. The Azure Stack helps solidify Microsoft’s position in the hybrid Cloud space. Microsoft stated that they are the only company that offers true hybrid abilities. This includes providing a hybrid Cloud offering with “binary compatibility with the Cloud.” Other announcements included Azure Monitoring, which allows you to monitor your apps no matter where they are. It can provide alerts to you. Tools such as Log Search let you find the data you need regardless of whether it is on premises or in the Cloud.

If you are wondering about support for Azure, Microsoft stated that 85% of Fortune 500 companies have at least one Cloud service from Microsoft. 75% of Fortune 500 companies use more than one. One of the biggest announcements at the show was that Adobe has made Microsoft Azure their preferred Cloud platform. Adobe is one of the largest software companies in the world. They do 23 trillion transactions a quarter.

Adobe and Microsoft

Figure: Adobe Loves Azure

Security

In the area of security, Microsoft is working to address a number of issues. Several product enhancements have been announced this week. One of the more interesting changes coming will be Windows Defender Application Guard, which will bring added protection to Microsoft Edge. Application Guard will run Edge in isolated containers that are built into the hardware. This will help safeguard against malicious code.

There are also security features coming to Office 365, Windows 10, and elsewhere, such as Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, Office 365 Threat Protection, and Enterprise Mobility + Security E5. We’ll leave coverage of these to the IT Pro sites, such as our own eWeek.com.

Threat

Figure: Security Built into Microsoft Products

Intelligence

An area that developers should be watching as well is the area of Intelligence. At Microsoft Build earlier this year, Microsoft was promoting many of the foundational topics around building intelligence and intelligent systems. This includes topics such as bots, cognitive services, and more. This theme continues at Ignite with interesting results on the Microsoft side starting to roll out.

It was clearly stated that intelligence needs to be built into the Cloud and into other applications. As such, pervasive intelligence is being added to Microsoft Office 365. This can be seen in areas such as Tap for Word and Outlook, Quick Starter for Power Point and Sway, and more. There was also an announcement that Microsoft Delve Analytics would include new insights and would be renamed to Microsoft MyAnalytics. This provides Cloud-powered features to help users save time and produce better results by providing things such as personal analytics for Office 365.

Cortana Intelligence is also driving a lot of the AI changes at Microsoft. Microsoft showed how the Cortana Intelligence Engine is being used to help drive smarter, more contextual results. When used along with the Recommend API, Azure, the Bing Speech API, Text Analytics, and other tool and services, the opportunities for robust bots and applications is nearly unlimited. One application demonstrated using this intelligence was a new sales tool created by Lowe’s. Although this used a HoloLens and 3D effects, the overall app and intelligences were independent of the VR aspects. The impact of adding this intelligence truly has the potential when combined with data and other resources to create a transformation in the types of solutions (and apps) that developers will be able to deliver. For that reason, you can expect to see more coverage on these topics going forward.

Lowes

Figure: Building Intelligence into Apps (Lowe’s)

First Hand Look

If you’d like to see a firsthand look at the initial keynote at Microsoft Ignite, I’ve embedded it here. You’ll be able to hear what Julia White, Satya Nadella, Scott Guthrie, and others have to say about what is coming. The demonstration of the Lowe’s HoloLens application is worth a look to see how they are using intelligence as well as behavior analytics to help drive their business. Again, even though they are doing this in a 3D-style application, many of the same concepts, especially around intelligence, could apply to standard applications.

There is a lot of innovation happening on the IT side. This change is opening up additional opportunities for developers as well. It is clear that the learning cycles for developers are not going to be ending any time soon! It is time to continue the innovation and do our part in the transformation of businesses.

Of course, if you want to see Scott Guthrie’s keynote, I’ll make it simple. Here it is:

UPDATE:  Microsoft pulled the YouTube version of the video. At this time it is available at the following link:  https://ignite.microsoft.com/

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Tags: Microsoft Ignite 2016




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