Microsoft Touts Azure, Skype, and SharePoint at Annual Ignite Conference
By Jim Lundy
Microsoft is all in with Cloud Computing and that was never more evident than at its annual Ignite Conference that was held in Atlanta. While Azure was not the only story, it was the lead one. This blog recaps some of the key things we observed at Ignite.
Microsoft Swagger Is Back
One of the big things we noticed at Microsoft is that its swagger is back. The turmoil that was apparent at the end of Steve Ballmer’s tenure is gone. Microsoft is confident, in part due to its success the market. The main keynote at Ignite focused only on Azure, a departure from last year each business unit got to speak. To be fair, Ignite is only in its second year. That said, Microsoft could still learn from how Salesforce does Dreamforce.
Microsoft Announces Adobe Is Moving to Azure
Scott Guthrie is the new “Take Out” King at Microsoft. Whenever there is a big win, he is the one to call it a “take out.” He did the same thing when HP announced it was shifting from Salesforce to Microsoft Dynamics. At Ignite, Guthrie announced that Adobe intends to move from Amazon Cloud to running its Services on Microsoft Azure. While he announced it, he brought his boss, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, onstage to share the details with Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen.
The big thunder for Azure was not in the keynote. It was in a private session where Guthrie announced that Microsoft plans to invest a total of $10 Billion in Azure this year. Not to miss out on Apps, Visual Studio is much more mobile friendly, thanks to the Xamarin acquisition.
SharePoint: Office 365 and Yammer Are Better Together
Most of the news about Office 365 was focused on fine tuning the positioning and driving home the message that SharePoint is now mobile friendly, courtesy of the SharePoint Mobile App, which allows access to On-Premise and SharePoint Online Repositories. OneDrive also is improving, but SharePoint was clearly the focus in Jeff Teper’s presentation and live demo.
Jeff also provided more clarity on Office 365 Groups versus Yammer. Groups is the cross application experience for Office 365. Every Office 365 Group gets a SharePoint Teamsite, shared Inbox, Calendar, OneNote, and Planner support. Overall, Yammer is more integrated with Office 365 than it ever has been.
Finally, file sharing is now intuitive via a Yammer “File Picker.” Users can share files from a SharePoint site, OneDrive, or OneDrive for Business collection. Previously, this was a very manual process. The addition of File Picker makes Yammer more of a full class Office 365 application.
Yammer and Office 365 Groups: More Harmony and Clarity
While we don’t thing that Microsoft has totally figured out the user experience for Office 365 Groups, there is better integration with Yammer (which is now integrated more tightly with Office 365 Groups). Admins won’t have to do as much manual deleting since there are common admin functions. The Yammer Integration at the Office 365 Tenant level also means that data is more co-located in the same data center than before.
Skype for Business: Framework, Mac Client, and Improved Skype Rooms
There was lots to discuss about Skype for Business. The biggest non-story was that the new Skype Mac Client should finally be available in October 2016, a year late. While Skype has been getting regular updates on Windows and Mobile, the Mac, which is a dominant device in Silicon Valley, is a second class citizen.
Additional news for Skype:
- Skype Framework that can help enterprises move from on-premise to Skype Online (Office 365 E5 SKU). Partners include Avanade, Unify Square, IR, Polycom, and others.
- Skype Rooms that featured new endpoints from Microsoft, Crestron, Logitech, and Polycom. The Polycom MSR Series feature award winning industrial designs that will delight users.
- Video Interoperability Service: At Ignite, the video interoperability demo featured a preview of the new Polycom RealConnectTM Service for Office 365, which will allow Skype for Business users to host video meetings with non-Skype for Business standards-based endpoints.
Artificial Intelligence Preview Featuring Cortana Intelligence Suite
In the ‘watch this space’ category, the main demo given during Satya Nadella’s keynote was Cortana as an Agent. The demo was similar to what Google Now can do (monitor your activities, make suggestions, etc.). Voice Search and basic recommendations and actions are part of what Aragon Research calls a Level 1 Digital Assistant.
Satya discussed how Office 365 and Dynamics 365 are being infused with machine learning—there was more concrete evidence for Office than Dynamics. The main part of his Speech focused on the Cortana Intelligence Suite, which will feature a Bot Framework, which Satya said would work with Skype and possibly Facebook Messenger.
The last and most significant part of Satya’s speech had to do with Azure and GPUs. He indicated that Microsoft is adding best-in-class GPU virtual machine support in Azure. This subtle infrastructure change positions Azure very well for the future of AI, where GPUs will dominate. Other Cloud Vendors need to take note of this pivot.
Microsoft is back. It’s growing and its products and services are getting better. The one area that continues to haunt the company, however, is Mobile—an area where Apple and Google dominate. Despite that, Microsoft is pushing the envelope and driving forward with innovation.