Igniting the Future of Tech

September 28, 2018 — This week I was in Orlando, FL for Ignite, Microsoft’s annual gathering of IT Pros, developers and business leaders looking to learn about the latest Microsoft technologies and tools. The theme for this year’s conference is: “Learn. Connect. Explore.”  There were an estimated 30,000 attendees at this year’s sold-out event, all gathered to learn new skills, solve existing problems and share ideas. Kudos to Microsoft for highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in technology and business and for providing sessions, meetups and idea swaps throughout the week.

Big announcements started from the moment attendees stepped into Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center on Day 1, so much so that the company released a 27-page compilation of over 80 features and product announcements aptly named the “Book of News.”

I’ve never seen so many updates and announcements made at one conference. These are my highlights of just a few of the announcements that I found to be quite interesting and worth diving deeper into:

 

Vision Keynote 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the day’s activities with the Vision Keynote where he discussed the role of technology today and how it’s transforming the future of tech. Regardless of what industry you are in, it’s apparent that digital technology is our future. Those organizations that embrace change, build skills and develop new ideas will make the future possible. Every organization is becoming technology driven. Microsoft has lived up to their stated mission: “empowering people and organizations across the globe to achieve more.”

Satya highlighted the opportunity ahead of us around the next generation of AI business driven process that requires “Tech Intensity.” This is a concept where Tech Intensity = Tech Adoption + Tech Capability. This means adopting the latest and greatest technology and building your own digital capability, regardless of industry. Make sure to focus on what makes you unique to others in your industry and pick the right partners.

Companies of all sizes and types are reinventing themselves by adding AI into their products. The intelligent cloud and intelligent edge is driving the next paradigm shift in digital technology.

To drive tech intensity, the power of data needs to be put in the customers’ hands. A partnership between Microsoft, Adobe and SAP is focused on this through the Open Data Initiative. Additionally, security and trust are other key components to help accelerate tech intensity. The number of devices that are being deployed across the globe is growing exponentially. These devices have become attack vectors. Microsoft has developed a solution called Azure Sphere that provides end-to-end security with silicon for IoT devices. These advancements in security will continue to drive growth and help organizations push the next revolution driven by technology.

Technologies are rapidly advancing. Industries are infusing AI into our everyday lives. How can we use AI for good? Microsoft announced the AI for Humanitarian Action program which is a $40 million, 5-year initiative to protect and promote human lives. The four key areas of focus are disaster response, needs for children, refugees and human rights. It’s our responsibility as technologists to help reshape the world and make it a better place for all.

 

What Will You Build Next? 

Executive VP of Cloud Scott Guthrie and Corporate VP Julia White presented some of the latest advancements in Azure. Microsoft Azure allows you to build, deploy and manage cloud native and hybrid applications at scale using your favorite tools. Azure is available in 54 regions around the world today. The cloud allows us to innovate and release new technologies faster than ever. Some of the more notable mentions are listed below.

 

Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure 

Today, the majority of organizations are taking the hybrid cloud approach. Whether it’s for support of legacy apps, concerns over security/control of data or for compliance requirements, it has become the preferred method to gain maximum advantage of both on-premises and cloud environments. With hybrid cloud comes choice. Choice of where you want to run your apps based on organizational needs with the capability to burst to cloud as the business grows. A few updates in support of this include:

Ultra SSD Disks

  • 4GB to 64TB in size
  • 160k IOPs
  • <1ms read/write latency

Networking

  • Support for 100Gb/sec Express Route
  • Azure Front Door (new)
  • Azure Virtual WAN is now GA
  • Azure Firewall is now GA

Azure Data Box

  • Azure Data Box – 100TB is now GA
  • New Data Box Heavy – 1PB (new)
  • New Data Box Edge – 12TB (new)

Hybrid

Windows Server 2019 is now GA

  • Native hybrid cloud
  • Advanced security
  • Extended container support
  • Lower costs with HCI

New Windows Virtual Desktop (new)

  • Windows 10 multi-user support
  • Optimized for O365
  • Deploy and scale in mins

Azure Stack

  • Ruggedized Azure Stack prototype bringing the power of AI to the edge with Azure Stack. Used for disaster relief or other locations without connectivity. Currently available through Dell EMC
  • Partnership with Red Hat to offer OpenShift on Azure Stack

 

App Modernization 

To stay relevant in today’s world requires innovation. With innovation brings new opportunities that fuel business growth and provide more value to customers. Maintaining legacy applications is time consuming and resource intensive. Utilizing modern approaches such as container and serverless technologies are fueling today’s innovation. The services listed below enable app modernization.

Serverless:

  • Allows you to build, deploy and scale your apps faster. Services such as App Service, Functions, Logic Apps, Kubernetes Service(AKS) and Service Fabric offer built-in high-availability, secure patching and adoption of containerized serverless based computing architectures that can assist in app modernization.

Azure DevOps:

  • If you haven’t heard, Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) has evolved into Azure DevOps. DevOps has become increasingly more important in the development lifecycle and shipping of software. Azure DevOps is a true end-to-end offering that includes:
  • Azure Pipelines
  • Azure Boards
  • Azure Artifacts
  • Azure Repos
  • Azure Test Plans
  • Azure Lab Services

 

Data & AI

The exponential growth in data over the last few years has brought about some concerns. Where do we store it, how do we move it and most importantly, how can we use it? We need to be able to analyze large amounts of data quickly and transform into actionable insights. However, with all that data comes new possibilities. Being able to use AI with all that data will change the world we live in. Some key announcements were:

SQL Server 2019 in public preview

  • Hardware acceleration
  • Data classification and labeling
  • Data masking and hardware-based encryption
  • Spark integration

New Azure SQL Database Managed Instance will be GA Oct. 1

  • Compatible with full SQL Server SQL feature set

Azure Cosmos DB

  • Azure Cosmos DB API is now GA
  • New multi-master write support is now GA
  • Azure Cosmos DB Reserved Capacity – up to 65% discount

Azure Analytic Data Service

  • Azure Data Explorer (new)
    • Query 1B records
    • Scale from GB to PB
    • Ad-hoc query language

Azure Cognitive Services

  • Build your own AI models
    • Prepare data with Azure Databricks
    • Build & train using Azure Machine Learning
    • Deploy packages with Docker Containers

 

Internet of Things 

It’s anticipated that there will be more than 20 billion connected devices in the world by 2020. There is a need for developers to be able to develop on these devices, but to do it in a secure manner. With so many devices to manage, a better way to program and manage all these hundreds or thousands of devices is needed. Microsoft answers the need with:

Azure IoT Central is now GA

  • Fully managed global IoT SaaS solution
  • Easy to connect, monitor, and manage your IoT assets at scale
  • Scalable and extensible

Azure Digital Twins

  • Virtually represent the physical world across people, places and devices
  • Automate incoming actions based on telemetry
  • Predefined templates based on industry

 

As you can see, Microsoft announced many new services and capabilities to allow all of us to develop and deliver new solutions to consumers. Whether you are building an application infused with AI that can help save lives in a disaster or you are using connected devices to monitor the quality of foods being delivered to our table, the opportunities are limitless.

 

Expand Your Learning 

Microsoft announced their Microsoft Learn platform (free) that provides interactive step-by-step tutorials, hands-on learning and coding environments as well as knowledge checks to validate your learning. For more info visit Microsoft Learn. If you weren’t able to attend Ignite, you can view On Demand sessions here. For quick, 15-minute demos presented at Ignite, check out Microsoft Mechanics Live. For a complete list of releases on Azure go here.

Find your passion, give it your all and go make a difference!

 

Daryl Harrington is Groupware Technology’s Director of Cloud Solutions. 

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