I attended this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, FL and decided i would provide my reflections on the event. The annual conference provides a plethora of sessions on Microsoft technology offerings and solutions related to Microsoft 365, IoT, containers, DevOps, Team collaboration, Azure services and more. Also, there’s an Expo of various IT vendors; panel discussions on Diversity in IT; and hands on labs to provide IT skill development. It’s a huge event with attendees in all walks of IT from around the world.
The conference kicked off with a Keynote address from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. In his opening speech, he outlined Microsoft’s vision of the next generation in IT. This involves solutions which revolve around an Intelligent cloud and edge that transform products (business apps, gaming, infrastructure, etc.) and how IT organizations design their operations. Traditionally, IT has been slow to adopt new technologies due to security concerns and policies. Also, some IT shops are still afraid of the cloud and the perceived risks that it presents to business information. However, this posture is no longer viable as users and business partners must be given the flexibility to be productive from any device and any location.
What’s new at Microsoft? Two new features introduced at Ignite are Ideas and a refined Microsoft Search. Ideas is cool feature that uses AI to predict what a user will do and can offer a set of design suggestions when creating a PowerPoint presentation. For instance, if you are designing a PowerPoint slide, Ideas will suggest a particular graphic image based on the written text in the slide. It can also find content inconsistencies such as a particular word spelled differently and offer to remediate the differences. You must have OfficePro Plus to use this feature since it leverages the AI capabilities in the cloud. It was announced that Microsoft Search has now been expanded to search across all Office products and device types. By using Microsoft Graph and Bing, It intelligently provides customized results based on previous activities and work.
Also, Microsoft 365 now has a new Admin center. As an improvement to the Office 365 Admin Center, it offers a more focused and centralized workplace for managing and securing resources in Microsoft’s cloud ecosystem. If you are a Security Administrator for your organization, the Microsoft 365 Admin Center has an HTTP endpoint called security.microsoft.com that is a custom portal for security related responsibilities such as DLP, document classification and permissions. Also, there’s an endpoint called admin.microsoft.com for managing users, groups and resources. This approach falls in line with the concept of Just Enough Administration (JEA).
Microsoft is clearly implementing a full court press towards a wider adoption of Azure and Office365. A majority of the sessions are related to Azure cloud platform and its myriad of offerings. On-Premise enterprise applications such as Exchange server may not be dead, but they are definitely on the endangered list. At past conferences, there would have been a variety of sessions around On-Premise Exchange and related features, particular in a year which has a new release of Exchange server. Not so this year. There were a couple session devoted towards Exchange 2019, which is currently in Preview. Although, the handwriting has been on the wall for several years that the focal point of messaging is the cloud.
In addition to technical skill development of staff, a very important part of IT is creating a work environment that is free of sexual harassment and racial biases. The IT field is very male dominated and an unspoken reality is that it’s often a toxic world for women. It was good to see in the session lineup several discussions highlighting the challenges that women face in IT; how to overcome biases; or creating a more inclusive workplace.
Microsoft has announced that Ignite will be held in Orlando again in 2019. However, it will be the first week of November as opposed to the last week of September. This will mark the third year in a row that Ignite will be in Orlando. Although it’s nice to be able to visit different cities, Orlando is great location for the conference, which has nearly 30,000 attendees. The weather is great, it’s close to Disney theme parks (the closing celebration was at Universal Studios) and it’s not congested like other major cities.
Those are my thoughts and takeaways. What stood out to you about this year’s Ignite?