In September, Orlando was home to the biggest information technology event hosted by Microsoft: Microsoft Ignite. Twenty-three thousand people were estimated to attend five days of information-packed keynotes, announcements, and sessions, and the event shared so much news that Microsoft offered attendees and those who missed out a book—yes, a book—of news and announcements. Twenty-seven pages detail the latest updates on security, AI and data analytics, IoT and edge computing, Azure, and Microsoft 365.
Out of hundreds of new products, features, and previews, what should the average business owner focus on? We’ll share the top Microsoft offerings most interesting and relevant to today’s small-to-medium-sized and enterprise-sized business owners, whether you speak “IT” or not. Then you can start to think about which tools and technology updates to look out for in the year ahead and what trending ideas and strategies you should keep in mind to stay competitive and support steady business growth.
1. The Open Data Initiative
Perhaps the most important news to take in, the Open Data Initiative (ODI) announced by Microsoft, Adobe, and SAP is all about creating a single model to represent customer data that customers can use to move between systems. This makes it easier for data to move between areas like commerce, operations, and finance. Between these three tech giants, that pretty much has the industry covered. Adobe and SAP have also chosen Azure as their platform for data and have endorsed it for cloud services, among competition between Google and Amazon for the public cloud
2. Smarter & Better Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office is improving with added AI (artificial intelligence) tools like a new unified search tool, suggested PowerPoint layouts, new Excel features and more. The Office 2019 retail product was announced, and the company is building hundreds of updates for Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, Excel and the suite’s other applications – our marketing manager is especially excited for a smarter PowerPoint experience!
3. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is the fastest growing product launch in the company’s history. Teams is a collaborative meeting, file sharing and chat tool that’s competing against many different products, such as Slack, Cisco Webex/Teams, and Facebook. This also accompanied more announcements about machine learning, integration, voice, and security.
4. Goodbye to Passwords
Did you hear the news? We’re ditching passwords, and in their place, Azure’s active directory and the Microsoft authenticator app are taking over. This was a key theme from Ignite 2018, which also played a part in the broader theme of security and identity enhancements across all products and services.
Co-authoring Office 365 documents with LinkedIn connections is one of biggest integrations announcements with LinkedIn as of date; the social media platform was recently purchased by Microsoft. If you have LinkedIn contacts, you can quickly learn details about them and enable real-time collaboration on important documents. I am still picking up my jaw from the floor!
6. Windows Virtual Desktop
Microsoft announced a new Windows virtual desktop, which is essentially a full, integrated Windows 10 desktop available in the Azure cloud through a subscription. Microsoft is taking on other complex solutions with this move, and it’s a good one; as employees become more mobile, they need the flexibility of working on multiple devices, and this offers access to all Windows applications at a lower cost than current solutions on the market.
7. Azure Announcements
We won’t go into full detail about the slew of Azure announcements—because there are literally hundreds—but the main themes surrounding them were:
- Infrastructure improvements, like the new Azure firewall service, disk storage, high-performance computing virtual machines, and hybrid capabilities
- Extensive security and management, like improved threat protection and Azure blueprints, which makes it easier to deploy repeatable architectures
- A new migration methodology, which makes it very easy to assess and migrate to the Azure cloud
8. Cognitive & AI Space
Making AI real for your business is allowing cloud data and AI to come together with accelerated innovation. One thing to put on your to-do list is learning more about how to get the most out of AI for your business—realizing the potential of data and AI to create insights and business opportunities. Microsoft announced the new SQL server and the new Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Cosmos Database, and Azure Databricks. Hyperscaling and high-performance is shooting through the roof with speeds that weren’t available before. Business owners can now spend half as much on tools that easily integrate into their data estate.
9. IoT & Digital Twins
New advances in IoT (Internet of Things) was a big focus of this year’s event. Here’s a few takeaways:
- Azure IoT Central is a fast offering that lets you provision in seconds and go hyperscale, providing the blueprint to start an IoT project immediately.
- Digital Twins lets you model a real-world scenarios and conduct testing and alerting.
- The Azure Sphere is a new generation of highly secure IoT devices that includes the operating system and multiple layers of security to talk to the cloud and enable a whole new range of development and device capabilities.
This list is as condensed as it can be, but there’s still many more solutions available - the key is finding which ones work best for your business and not just adding technology for technology's sake. Security, collaboration, productivity, AI, and staying relevant in the world of digital transformation were key talking points at this year's Microsoft Ignite and something that business owners of all sizes should start thinking about. The opportunities to advance your business are astounding, and those not paying attention will be left behind. The economic and ROI model is being turned upside down, but there’s a way for businesses of every size and type to keep up. Speak to Razor Technology to find out what updates are most relevant to you and what solutions you should consider in 2019.