Being a proud Microsoft Gold partner has always been very important to us and our clients at Infinity Group. So, it stands to reason that we look forward to participating in the annual Microsoft conference where partners can network, discuss industry challenges, gain information on future technology updates and even dare we say, investigate what gives the Microsoft award winners their ‘special sauce’.
Microsoft Inspire is the conference where partners from all over the world, willingly pay in time and money to travel to be part of the prestigious global Microsoft community for two days.
Due to the COVID-19 travel and social distancing restrictions, this year Microsoft threw their first ever digital-only Microsoft Inspire event. What it lacked in networking opportunities, was more than made up for in exciting revelations and promising new releases. There were updates for almost all Microsoft products from Azure and Teams to Microsoft’s Sustainability Initiatives.
With so many releases it can be hard to know where to start, so we’ll try to break down the key updates you need to know about. We’ll look at updates to the Microsoft 365 stack, including the host of changes Teams is expecting and the work thats being done on Dynamics 365 and Azure. We’ll also explain the changes being made to Business Applications and Security and Compliance. Finally, we’ll look at the great things Microsoft is doing to become more sustainable, with the view of being carbon negative by 2030.
Microsoft have made several exciting new announcements about the roll out of new Microsoft apps and updates for existing apps. Microsoft Lists will begin rolling out in late July 2020: it is designed to track information and organise work and may prove to be an incredibly useful part of the Microsoft stack. They’ve also announced a new simple print experience in the form of Universal Print.
Yammer has been redesigned in a total reimagination of the product with new features and integrations for a community and experience enhancement. Microsoft explains that it will now be able to connect entire organisations across critical apps. This follows exciting developments earlier in the year with the launch of Microsoft Business Voice, which builds on an enhanced version of MS Forms Pro.
As Microsoft’s new crowning glory, it is no wonder that Teams has been the focus of so many exciting updates. The advent of a new Teams Admin Center and Teams Room Premium simplify the management of Microsoft Teams Rooms and allow businesses to keep the process in-house or to outsource the work to Microsoft, making the lives of IT professionals much simpler.
Available from August, the new Power BI personal app for Teams offers a streamlined hub for data visualisations and insights. Also in the data field, the new built-in DataFlex will allow users to create, deploy and manage apps without ever leaving Teams.
New capabilities have also been made available for Firstline workers with the new Realwear head-mounted devices. These will give users hands-free access to information and the ability to call experts from their job sites without having to use their hands. Microsoft have also announced several apps which aim to keep first line workers connected with their teams with Communities, Walkie Talkie and new features for the Shifts scheduling module.
The main change for Dynamics 365 is the creation of Customer Voice, an out-of-the-box real-time feedback tool which aims to help organisations listen and respond to the customer needs at the right time and in the right place. Also new to Dynamics 365 is the Connected Store; now available in preview, the Connected Store is an AI tool which will make retail spaces more efficient and increase shopper safety. Safety is a theme within the Dynamics 365 updates with the concurrent release of Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection, which adds loss prevention and account protection capabilities to the Dynamics service provision.
Also new to Dynamics 365 is the Connected Store; now available in preview, the Connected Store is an AI tool which will make retail spaces more efficient and increase shopper safety. Safety is a theme within the Dynamics 365 updates with the concurrent release of Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection, which adds loss prevention and account protection capabilities to the Dynamics service provision.
As Microsoft’s prime cloud product, Azure is home to a whole host of new updates. Microsoft have been focusing on customer-centric updates. They’ve announced a streamlined process for customers’ first move to the cloud with the Azure Stack HCI; as well as new support features to ensure a smooth migration.
For the Azure data services Microsoft have announced supported distribution of Apache Hadoop, the framework for distributed processing and analysis of big data sets on cluster and last access for the Azure Blob Storage. All of this comes with the promise to boost security and limit internet exposure with the preview of Managed VNet Support.
There are also updates for Azure Developers with the new HashiCorp Consul service (HCS). HCS is a fully managed service which will provide a simple and secure service-networking solution for customers.
One of the most topical announcements has been the release of a pre-built Power Platform solution which will help customers to return to the workplace with confidence. Microsoft aim to provide location readiness, employee health and safety management and workplace care management tools to ensure that customers can priorities health, safety and security in the process of returning to work.
This Inspire also marks the first anniversary of the launch of the ISV Connect programme for partners. After a year the platform is flourishing with a strong growth in ISV enrolment and app certification.
Security and Compliance
Security has been a big theme at this year’s Microsoft Inspire; Microsoft have set out to simplify data collection and threat detection with new connectors for security solutions.
There are also new Communication Compliance features in public preview which promise to intelligently detect regulatory compliance and code of conduct violations; this should make workplaces safer and make compliance easier to regulate. It is particularly important now that nearly all workplace communication takes place online, creating more opportunities for work related harassment or discrimination.
The new Endpoint Data Loss Prevention marks the end of missing compliance requirements with its new data-centric protection for sensitive information. Insider Risk Management takes this even further with its enhanced threat detection and remediation with the power of cloud scale.
Last but not least Microsoft have announced a new Double Key Encryption to help you protect your organisations most confidential data whilst maintaining full control of your encryption key.
Microsoft have proven their dedication to the climate with an announcement of five important new steps they will be taking towards carbon negative in 2030.
They have announced a new coalition, Transform to Net Zero. This promises to accelerate business action towards the net zero carbon economy by sharing information regarding carbon-related business transformations to inspire and aid other businesses in their journeys. They are aiming to grow membership continuously.
Microsoft Sustainability Calculator is the second feature to be launched, aiming to give cloud customers full transparency into the carbon emissions of their Cloud usage so that people can fully understand their carbon impact.
Third, Microsoft have announced a new supplier code of conduct specifying conduct sustainability requirements. This has the admirable purpose of reducing carbon emissions in Microsoft’s supply change. They will even work with their suppliers to help them reach the level of sustainability that Microsoft require of them.
One of the most bold announcements of the whole of Inspire is that Microsoft’s data centres will be diesel-free by 2030. Currently cloud providers rely on diesel powered generators for backup power, but Microsoft have pledged to end this.
The final sustainability announcement is the first investment of the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund into the Energy Impact Partner’s global platform for the innovation of new technologies for the world’s energy and transportation systems.
It’s been a big year for Microsoft, despite global upheaval they’ve managed to throw a successful Inspire and announce changes that will revolutionise nearly every aspect of the Microsoft stack. From new security to partner enablement, new apps to increased sustainability, Microsoft have shown why they are leading the field.
As with all conferences, you get out what you put in. We certainly missed the networking opportunities and the chance to swap our industry experiences amongst partners – many of these relationships have been built up over the years. But kudos to Microsoft because despite global upheaval, they managed to throw a successful Inspire and announce changes that will revolutionise nearly every aspect of the Microsoft stack. From new security to partner enablement, new apps to increased sustainability, Microsoft have shown why they are leading the field.
A major benefit to this virtual event was the sessions that aligned with three different time zones. This enabled our teams to participate in getting access to content while still performing their operational duties throughout the day. The effort that Microsoft put into drawing their audiences into the sessions with graphics and participatory sessions really worked for us. And of course, everyone could attend because there was zero travel costs.
Well done to Microsoft for a really good event!