Microsoft just concluded its partner conference. Due to the pandemic, it was a huge virtual event with 80K attendees, and sessions around the clock to cover every time zone on the planet. As is usual, besides the oft-recited mantra of how “Microsoft is a partner first company”, we also got a slew of announcements leading up to Inspire, and during the Inspire week.
Here are some of those announcements:
Teams has seen astonishing usage and growth due to the pandemic. Zoom’s security woes caused enterprises concerned about security to use alternatives like Teams. And credit goes to Microsoft for developing new functionalities in Teams at a fast pace.
Management of Teams is now controllable centrally and can even be delegated or outsourced to Microsoft partners. Team Rooms is a new addition. You will soon have a new way to see participants in an auditorium style view called Together Mode. Power BI is now accessible within Teams. And finally, a walkie-talkie function is in public preview and many hardware manufacturers are racing to create devices to take advantage of this for frontline workers.
Azure HCI Stack
Microsoft announced the next iteration of Azure hyper-converged architecture (HCI). Besides improvements for security and performance, Azure HCI runs virtualized workloads on-premises. Azure HCI can be used in a variety of use cases to modernize data centers with high-density virtualization.
Security, Identity, and Compliance
Microsoft expanded the cybersecurity model to now include identity and compliance, in addition to security. Zero-trust models are the foundational bricks in this model. Microsoft 365 now had a new Endpoint Data Loss Protection element and the Edge browser gets new security features.
Microsoft Universal Print
This tool will enter public preview soon and can be used to print to any remote authorized printer, and do so securely. Central management makes the need for installing individual printer drivers obsolete.
Azure Lighthouse Enhancements
Azure Lighthouse has been out for about a year and allows partners to be able to manage multiple Azure customers with automation, compliance requirements, and different management requirements. Microsoft has enhanced the product with role-based-access-control (RBAC).
This is a new workflow tool, which will integrate with Microsoft Teams, and will begin to roll out soon. The biggest advantage of Lists is the ability to use built-in templates to chat and collaborate on issues, processes, assets, etc. – all in customizable views.
Microsoft also announced an expanded partnership with the digital supply chain offerings from the German giant SAP. SAP will now work seamlessly in Microsoft Azure and customers should be able to use the Microsoft infrastructure of Azure to scale globally.
This is an enhancement whereby low code relational database management is now brought into Teams. The product allows users to leverage and use Power Apps, chatbots, etc. with a drag and drop interface to build solutions in short order.
Windows Virtual Desktop
With the emphasis on remote work, Microsoft is focusing on making it easier to deploy virtual workstations at scale. Many companies are looking to accentuate and maintain their remote working environments, and Microsoft wants to make this easier by using Azure to deploy workstations in minutes. Managing the workstations can be part of a managed service component that Microsoft is strongly encouraging partners to offer to clients.
Azure Sentinel Connectors
Security has taken on a new urgency in the all-remote workforce deployments, with users accessing highly sensitive enterprise data on home equipment. To help with this rapid transformation, Microsoft unveiled several third-party connectors for popular security products so that they could be used within Azure Sentinel.
Return to the Workplace Solution
As companies are planning to bring some number of employees back to work, Microsoft is using its preeminent position in the corporate world, to help allay the angst of business leaders by offering a Power Platform. The return-to-work or RWT solution in the Power Platform is a pre-built template of apps to ensure the safety and health of returning employees. A timely addition.
Microsoft also made announcements on accelerating its business towards a net zero carbon neutral posture. Apple already made a similar pledge recently.
Finally, Microsoft rightly points out that due to the Covid-19 fallout, companies have seen technology and many years of digital transformation programs being deployed in months, if not weeks. Tech Intensity, as Microsoft names this change, is now the benchmark for reliance, transformation, and the ability to stay market relevant. A way to not just survive, but thrive, in this new world we find ourselves in.
Microsoft will play a pivotal role in this new normal.