Our team were very excited to join Microsoft Inspire 2021. Microsoft’s biggest annual partner event, being held in a virtual setting for the second year instead of Las Vegas. Tom Lovell our Chief Technical Officer, shares his highlights.
Microsoft Inspire is a jam packed three day event and is a chance for Microsoft partners like Infinity Group to understand the big changes Microsoft are launching. Whilst I’d much rather collaborate directly with my Microsoft contacts and see the presenters in person, being able to keep up with their announcements and get ready for the year’s new innovations was so easy with today’s technology.
This years’ event was full of rich content across the entire Microsoft ecosystem, but there were a few key announcements this year that were really exciting to hear.
Microsoft Windows 365
Windows 365 is launching and will be available in August 2021. It is a new experience to stream Windows to any device anywhere as a ‘Cloud PC’. This is based upon the existing Azure Virtual Desktop solution which we love, but with a simplified pricing model and more rapid deployment. There’s also an option specifically designed for smaller businesses which is a new trend within Microsoft to provide enterprise grade tools and functionality to small businesses that in the past were needed but unaffordable.
When using Windows 365 users can receive much higher performance than they’re used to on lower-end devices they’ve been using day-to-day. They also have up to 10Gbps connectivity, allowing for collaboration in real-time on large files, which has until now proven challenging in a cloud environment.
Microsoft 365 Lighthouse
This one really is more for us as a service provider rather than businesses that consume Microsoft 365 resources. It allows Infinity Group as a Managed Service Provider to deliver and maintain our best practice, best in class security configurations from a single pane of glass. We can also monitor security and compliance across our entire client base within the same platform. Lighthouse has only just come into preview so there’s still work to be done before it becomes commercially available, and we’re providing our experience and insight to help shape it into the best solution it can be.
The cat got out of the bag a little early with this when a build leaked in the press a few weeks ago. The new version of Windows that was never supposed to launch, but ended up being born as a direct result of the COVID pandemic. It’s designed to combat the hybrid work paradox, in which 73% want more flexibility options whilst 67% also want more in-person work and 80% of managers expect more flexible working policies. It’s clear that hybrid is here to stay and Windows 11 has been designed for just that. Offering, among others, some of these key features:
- Improved security for the hybrid world
- Improved portability, remembering and seamlessly restoring desktop windows as you dock and undock
- Separation of work and personal lives on one device with desktops
- Improvements to Windows Hello with more biometric compatibility, allowing everyone to go password-less
- A UI designed with calmness in mind, allowing users to maintain their flow without interruptions
- More collaborative whilst also being more consistent and offering more choice
Infinity Group are part of the Insider Program for Business so will be trying out Windows 11 over the months running up to the release date at the end of the year so we know how to get the best out of it which we can then pass down to our customers. We know that compatibility won’t stretch down to older devices like it did for Windows 10, mainly because security is at the forefront and if devices are five years old or more, they’ll likely need to be replaced. Microsoft will soon be rolling out a compatibility checker called PC Health check and they guarantee that the apps customers use will work and if anyone finds one that doesn’t, they’ll fix it free of charge!
Azure Virtual Desktop
Ok so, let’s talk Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) this one isn’t new and was until very recently called Windows Virtual Desktop. (watch our recent webinar) However, it’s evolving rapidly and it’s one of our favourite solutions since it moved to Azure Resource Manager last year.
Before AVD existed, building Virtual Desktop solutions for small and medium businesses required complex infrastructure and skills where as AVD requires none of those.
This year AVD has gone through another change, seeing support for Azure AD, meaning that domain controllers aren’t required as part of the solution. There is also now support of Endpoint Manager in Windows 10 Multi-Session, meaning that the configuration of the session host machines can be delivered via Autopilot. These changes will reduce the cost of AVD solutions in addition to simplifying deployment whilst offering more consistency to end users. This is super exciting for us as it makes what is already a great solution even more competitive, meaning that the smallest of businesses can consume their Windows apps from anywhere, on any device with best in class enterprise security.
Outside of these there’s been a lot of talk around security and Microsoft Defender. As a suite of solutions, defender is becoming one of the best performing security products available. Inspire 2021 has really spurred us on to develop Defender for Endpoint into a product we can offer to our clients in place of traditional anti-malware. We’re already testing it and fine-tuning the configuration options to ensure we have it just so, but this has given me even more enthusiasm to push forward with it.
Overall a very enlightening couple of days with some really brilliant, innovative solutions that showcase how Microsoft have embraced the challenges brought about by COVID-19 and turned them into solutions that not only help everyone achieve more, but also do that with renewed balance.
Watch this space for more exciting updates.