Azure Announcements from Ignite Fall

What You Missed at Microsoft Ignite 2021

Ignite is Microsoft’s annual conference for developers and IT professionals, where the company unveils new and improved capabilities. This year’s enterprise-focused virtual conference offered an opportunity to not only hear about Microsoft’s updates but to understand key trends that are shaping the future. There wasn’t a huge amount of consumer-centric news, but the tech giant did deliver major announcements around its cloud platform, tools and services, as well as its focus on collaboration, artificial intelligence and security. 

The Top Trends Transforming Every Company

The keynote at November’s Ignite conference focused on how the past year and a half has been a catalyst for change within our businesses. Regardless of industry, we have all needed to transform and digital has been at the heart of that. Digital technology can enable us to improve productivity and the affordability of our products and services. This surge for change is transforming the mobile and cloud era into a universal world of computing and cloud intelligence. With more digitalisation due over the next ten years than the last forty, there are huge opportunities for every business. 

The top trends highlighted within the keynote included:

  • Hybrid Working – the way we work is changing immensely in terms of how, when and where. Employees are looking for more flexibility but also for more personal connections and they want to be able to focus regardless of their location. To support this, businesses need a digital fabric for collaboration that can bring together digital and physical spaces, strengthen connections and empower people to succeed. 
  • Hyperconnectivity – we need to look to create hyper-connected businesses that can handle sweeping process transformation, pivoting sales processes and remote and flexible working. Rather than being reactive, this needs to be built in by design. Supply chain resilience and omnichannel reach will be fundamental. This means building real-time hyperconnectivity where data and information can flow freely to tackle these business challenges. Every business process will be collaborative, powered by data and AI to bring together the digital and physical world. 
  • Digitalisation – every business is becoming a digital business, which means digital capability is critical. Computing is becoming distributed and embedded within the real world, with application models working on the edge with new ambient intelligence capabilities. To thrive, businesses need more distributed and autonomous intelligence so that they can rapidly use this knowledge to deploy applications and processes. And, to do this, they will need new tools that are able to bring developers and domain experts together. 
  • Security – the biggest threat to digital transformation and, therefore, the number one risk facing every organisation is cybersecurity. The cost of cybercrime is enormous and has a huge impact on every economy. As businesses continue to transform and more processes become remote, this complexity will only increase. To manage this, organisations need to find a way to protect everything. This means implementing comprehensive tools across identity, security, compliance and privacy. 

Main Announcements at Ignite 2021

There were no shortage of announcements at Ignite, with over ninety new services and updates. However, they all came together to address the top trends and focused on connecting people, organisations and ideas. Some of the most noteworthy announcements included:

  • Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces – this product is now in preview and aims to deliver a new perspective on how people move and interact within a space. No longer confined to retail environments, observational data can be easily used and combined with AI models to unlock insights and respond in real-time. It is a great tool to help manage health and safety in the work environment. 
  • Mesh for Microsoft Teams – Mesh is an extension to Microsoft Teams that aims to integrate mixed-reality capabilities. People will be able to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences from different physical locations. People can use personalised avatars and immersive spaces accessed from any device without the need for any special equipment. 
  • Azure OpenAI Service – Microsoft is bringing the world’s most powerful language model, GPT- 3, to the Power Platform. The autoregressive language model produces human-like text by leveraging deep learning. Microsoft is giving customers access to OpenAI’s powerful models alongside the security, reliability, compliance and data privacy capabilities built into Microsoft Azure. 
  • Chat with Teams – users can chat seamlessly with people outside of their work network as long as they have a Microsoft personal email address or phone number. However, while outside of their network, the chat will remain within the security and compliance protocols of their organisation. 
  • Microsoft Loop – the biggest change to Microsoft’s Office documents, Loop creates blocks of collaborative Office content that can live independently and be copied and shared with others. The new app, previously Microsoft Fluid, enables teams to organise everything they need into a single workspace and use portable components to work collaboratively. 
  • Azure Updates – there were several major updates announced across Azure. These included expanded security features in Azure Active Directory, more ways to use Azure Arc to build applications and improved tools for Azure-related migration and data analytics. The result is faster and bigger data, more storage throughout and better network management. 
  • Defender for Business – Microsoft has rebranded its Azure Security Centre and enhanced its support for multi-cloud. The endpoint security solution has been specially built to deliver enterprise-grade endpoint security to smaller businesses in a solution that is both easy to use and cost-effective. 

The Future with Microsoft Cloud

Data is generated by every business process, every connected device and every individual on the planet, which has fundamentally changed the way we all work and live. In a world of data, intelligence is everything and Microsoft Cloud aims to help businesses to leverage this. The Azure Cloud Platform is trusted by organisations of all shapes and sizes to deliver a cross-platform, multi-cloud, zero-trust architecture that can navigate today’s emerging trends. Through its end-to-end data capabilities, cloud-native applications and cross-functional collaboration, Microsoft cloud helps customers deliver solutions and services faster to meet their own customers’ rapidly changing needs. 

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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