By David Rosenthal
Microsoft Ignite, the Redmond-based software giant’s annual conference for developers and IT professionals, was back for 2022 and it was filled with big announcements that will impact digitally-connected businesses in the year ahead. New developments affecting Azure, AI, Business Applications, Industry Cloud, Microsoft 365, Power Platform, Security, Windows, and more were revealed.
All told, over 200,000 people attended the event virtually, with 7,500 joining from global satellite locations, to tap into world-class training sessions designed to help them maximize the return on their investment in Microsoft’s technologies. Plus, they got an early look at the new products and services Microsoft plans to rollout in the coming months.
Here are all the major announcements made at Ignite 2022:
For the last decade at least and across its tech stack, Microsoft has steadily been integrating more artificial intelligence and machine learning-based solutions. That trend continues in 2022:
- Azure OpenAI Service: In a limited preview, users can access the DALLE2 text-to-image transformer based on OpenAI’s GPT-3 pretrained model
- Azure Cognitive Service for Language: Automated summarization services with integrated Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Natural Language Generation (NLG)
- Computer Vision: Two new services, Image Analysis 4.0 and Spatial Analysis on the Edge, improve the extraction of visual features from images for better digital asset management and automated security camera footage analysis
- Azure Cognitive Service for Speech: More lifelike text-to-speech output for enhanced and more scalable accessibility options
- Azure Machine Learning Registries: Smarter tracking and easier sharing of ML models, pipelines and environments throughout an organization
- Azure Container for PyTorch: Curated environments and custom images to accelerate training in PyTorch machine learning frameworks
- Responsible AI Dashboard: Debug ML, analyze your AI blackboxes, and implement truly Responsible AI
Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform is the second largest in the world, and it continues to grow and gain ground on its chief rival AWS. The big Azure announcement at Ignite 2022 described changes to the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform, which has added the Partner Ecosystem, a customizable selection of cloud-based solutions for collecting, analyzing, and managing data. New solutions will be released in waves and the first round includes:
- Databases: Cloud native NoSQL and NewSQL databases from MongoDB and YugabyteDB
- Analytics: Low-code/no-code data integration and transformation solutions from Informatica, Confluent, dbt Labs, Fivetran, Qlik, and Striim
- Governance: Master Data Management, compliance, and security solutions from Profisee, CluedIn, Delphix, and OneTrust
Azure is also rolling out new tools for migrating from competing clouds, including Database Migration Assessment for Oracle which includes exhaustive recommendations for a smooth transition from Oracle Database to Azure Database for PostgreSQL and Azure SQL, including Azure SQL Database Hyperscale.
Azure Synapse for big data analytics is also getting an upgrade and will now add support for R language, the industry standard for ML.
Microsoft announced at Ignite 2022 that they are still believers in the power of the metaverse model to reshape how business is done. They showcased a partnership with CBRE Group, a commercial real estate firm, that implemented Microsoft’s Industrial Metaverse technology for a mixed reality and machine learning enhanced facility management platform built on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service that enables managing physical locations from a virtual overview.
Microsoft also announced several new features that would be available at no extra cost to current business application users. For example, Teams users will now have access to Business Central data even if they don’t have a Dynamics 365 license.
Additionally, Conversation Intelligence, AI-powered chatbots that can replace human roles in some cases, is now available at no extra charge in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise and the newly released Microsoft Viva Sales. Conversation Intelligence can generate real-time guidance for sellers (e.g. product info, pricing details), suggest helpful resources (e.g. talking points, testimonials), and help optimize conversions via email outreach.
On the cloud front, Microsoft touted new improvements to its Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability initiative and specifically its Sustainability Manager. Organizations can now easily track the environmental impact of their operations and more effectively develop strategies to reduce their emissions and carbon footprint.
Microsoft also expanded its cloud offering on its platform built just for healthcare. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is intended to address staffing shortages in the healthcare industry by simplifying complex workflow management and automating routine tasks. The latest update will add improved patient indicators visualizations, new Patient Journey templates, and new standards in the Provider Data Model.
The big change coming to Microsoft 365 will be the release of an entirely new app for the web, windows, and mobile that unifies access and user experiences for commercial and consumer users, creating a single place to create, share, comment, analyze, collaborate, and access files and documents securely.
Within Microsoft 365, Teams will be getting the most updates. Mesh avatars are now available and can be generated within the Avatars app in the Microsoft Teams App Store. Microsoft also announced Excel Live, a new tool enabling synchronous co-authorizing of spreadsheets across any device or platform (including Windows, iOS, and Android).
Teams Premium is launching by the end of 2022 and will include: meeting guides, the ability to brand meeting experiences, AI-powered recaps and personalized insights, and live translations for captions.
Microsoft announced the new app to join the Microsoft 365 ecosystem at Ignite 2022: Microsoft Places. This workplace app is designed to optimize hybrid working environments and serve as a bridge between remote and in-office teams. The preview edition launches soon and includes tools for scheduling, wayfinding and navigation, commute management, and guidance on the smart use of physical spaces.
Microsoft’s productivity and wellbeing enhancing platform, Viva Insights is getting several new updates, including: meeting effectiveness surveys, Quiet Time settings, and a new Focus mode experience that blocks out time for distraction-free work.
Many of Microsoft’s business intelligence and app development applications are now based on its Power Fx low-code language, including Power BI, Power Apps, and Power Automate, and they make up the Power Platform.
At Ignite 2022, Microsoft announced new AI features for Power Automate that enable the use of natural language instructions by users, as well as new tools for deploying Robotic Process Automation (RPA). In other announcements, Microsoft revealed that Power BI will now be a default option for Office installations and user and Power BI reports can now be viewed and edited directly from OneDrive and SharePoint.
Across industries, Microsoft is respected as a global leader in digital security solutions. That reputation will likely not change any time soon. At Ignite 2022, the company stressed the importance of staying ahead of cyber threats and its intention to leverage next-generation, behavior-based, Zero Trust security to keep their partner organizations safe. They announced several big security updates, including:
- Microsoft Defender for DevOps: centralized management of DevOps security across multi-pipeline and multicloud environments
- Microsoft Defender Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM): Integrated insights on DevOps, runtime infrastructure, and external attack surfaces
- Microsoft Cloud Security Benchmark: Multicloud security analysis (freely available as part of CSPM)
- Expanded Workload Protection: Agentless scanning of VMs in Microsoft Defender for Servers
- Microsoft Tunnel for Mobile App Management (MAM): Secured access to sensitive development resources without requiring device enrollment
- Certificate-based Authentication (CBA): Now in preview, an MFA framework promoted by the U.S. Executive Order on Cybersecurity
Last but not least, Microsoft announced new changes and additions coming to Windows, such as Windows 365 Government, which enables U.S. government contractors to stream their Windows apps from the Microsoft Cloud to any device, and Citrix HDX Plus for Windows 365, for improved security and range of acceptable endpoint devices in low-bandwidth environments.
Responding to Disruption Confidently
Global economic headwinds were a consistent topic of discussion at Ignite 2022. It’s still unclear just how much disruption businesses, which have already had to weather the worst of the pandemic, can expect to face as inflation, supply chains issues, and geopolitical conflict remain pressing concerns.
Microsoft, for its part, has pledged to leverage its Cloud services and full tech stack to help customers do more with less, optimize their resources and control costs, and develop the flexibility and resilience they need to respond effectively to changing market forces.
Above all, however, Microsoft indicated that its core objectives remain unchanged: their mission is to give organizations trusted technologies, backed by data insights that are tied to key strategic objectives, that help them outperform their rivals and grow their businesses.
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