Microsoft Inspire 2019: Achieving More for Our Customers

A Groupware team made the trek to Vegas this past week for Microsoft Inspire, the yearly partner conference. Partners from 130+ countries came together for a great week of networking, learning and collaborating, all in the interest of better serving their customers in an ever-evolving world of technological transformation.

With its mission of empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, Microsoft announced a huge array of products news and programs to support the growing needs and goals of partners and customers.

Azure, Azure, Azure

Chief among our Inspire 2019 highlights were the numerous Azure-related launches and updates that aim for an end goal of benefitting our customers. They included:

  • Azure Lighthouse. Microsoft officially launched Azure Lighthouse a couple of days before Inspire, but Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster alluded to it in her keynote at the conference. Lighthouse will help Microsoft partners such as Groupware better deliver differentiated managed services to customers. It is essentially a control panel that integrates with portals, IT service management as well as monitoring tools to enable Microsoft partners (service providers) to view and manage customers’ Azure deployments. According to Schuster: “Azure Lighthouse builds partners in by design into Azure, by enabling multi-customer, multi-tenant management at scale in a secure environment with automation.”
  • Azure Migration Program (AMP). This program is designed for partners to accelerate their customers’ migration to Azure with proactive advice and tools. The goal of AMP is to provide assistance and mitigate common risks and issues involved in migrating workloads to Azure cloud. This is a much needed and much welcome program, which can help partners encourage their customers to take that Azure journey, because alarmingly, the majority of them have not. As noted by Gavriella Schuster in her keynote, “60 percent of our server installed base is still on Windows Server and SQL Server 2008….those customers are vulnerable and exposed. They are on server technology from 2008.”
  • Azure Data Box Heavy. Microsoft announced an update to Data Box, its cloud solution for moving large data volumes to Azure when a network capacity is insufficient and can’t be utilized, in a quick, inexpensive and reliable manner. Whereas each storage device on Data Box had a maximum usable storage capacity of 80 terabytes, Data Box Heavy has a storage capacity of 1,000 terabytes (1 petabyte.)  The users fill the device with their data and send back to Microsoft. Data Box Heavy devices have a casing that securely protects data during the transit time.

Other highlights for us were:

Teams Update

Microsoft’s Teams workplace collaboration app now has 13 million daily active users. Given its growing popularity, Microsoft announced several new features, including:

  • Priority notifications—which will alert recipients to time-sensitive material
  • Channel cross-posting—enabling the posting of messages into multiple channels and different teams at the same time
  • Announcements—bringing attention to important news in a channel

According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in his keynote: “The one product that has had an absolute breakout year is Teams. Teams is the hub for teamwork. It’s really four things in one. It has chat. It has meetings. It brings together collaboration, using all the richness of Office tools, within that same scaffolding. It’s the business process workflow. That’s what Teams is about. It defies even the category definitions that are there out in the marketplace. And that’s what’s driving this tremendous momentum.”

Microsoft Security Competency

As cloud technologies advance, partner capabilities need to keep pace to align with customer demands. With the announcement of its new Microsoft Security Competency, the company is enabling a way for its partners to be recognized for their knowledge and ability to deliver Microsoft 365 and Azure security services which will protect customers data, apps, identities and endpoints from cyber threats. The new security competency will cover a critical area of customer needs.

AI Accelerate Program

This is a new program launched by Microsoft which will help partners build and deploy AI offerings to customers faster. With AI touted as the most disruptive technology of our time, many organizations still have a fear of testing the AI waters, even with the promise of it being transformational to their businesses.

According to a MIT Sloan Management Review study, one trillion dollars of new profit will be created from artificial intelligence technologies by 2030, roughly 10% of all total profits projected for that time. And yet, according to various other studies, as many as 70%-80% of all businesses have yet to begin any AI implementation whatsoever, making a program like the AI Accelerate Program a relevant one to hopefully encourage customers to begin the AI journey.

Just for the Wow Factor

And speaking of AI, the future of AI is definitely here in the now with never-would-have-imagined-it-possible technology being unveiled. Augmented reality was in full display with Microsoft’s demo of a new capability of HoloLens, its mixed reality headset that projects 3D holograms. The latest innovation replicates a person into a hologram speaking another language in their own voice, even if the actual live person does not speak that language themselves. Microsoft scanned one of its Azure executives in mixed reality capture studio to transform her into a hologram replica. The digital version of her then appeared onstage at Ignite to translate her keynote speech into Japanese.

Made possible with Microsoft’s Azure AI technology and Neural Text-to-Speech, which takes recordings of a person’s voices to then speak a language that has been machine-translated, this innovation offers the future possibility of a keynote to be pre-recorded and then simultaneously broadcast in 30 different languages, for example. Given our increasingly global business environment, this is an innovation with lots of potential to communicate messaging expediently across the world.

Satya Nadella Keynote  

The Microsoft CEO never disappoints in his ambitious keynotes and this year was no exception. He covered a lot of technology ground in Microsoft land from Azure to Microsoft 365 to Dynamics 365 to Power Apps, intelligent edge and mixed reality, conveying the message that Microsoft continues to innovate across a wide technology landscape for partners to meet the increasing demands of customers. The domination of Microsoft in certain categories is staggering. An estimated 95% of the Fortune 500 are currently using Microsoft 365 and Nadella noted also that there are 1 billion Windows users.

Satya’s presentations all eventually connect back to a bigger theme of the responsibilities we all share as evolving technologies continue to revolutionize the world and now technology and partnership come together to improve the way we all work and interact. Our team always comes away from this yearly conference feeling, as the title suggests, inspired by Satya’s words. Inspired to learn and achieve more to meet the needs of our customers in a responsible manner. And as we are every year, we are already looking forward to next year’s conference.

The Groupware Team