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Cloud, Nov 08, 2021

Satya Nadella’s Ignite 2021 keynote speech

Calvyn Tan

In November 2021, our cloud technology team attended this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference. In this blog, we summarise the key takeaways from the ground.

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The theme for this year’s Ignite was hybrid work. The past year and a half has been a catalyst for change throughout every industry, from adoption of telehealth in healthcare and digital wallet in financial services to contactless shopping in retail. As a result, digital transformation has never been more pertinent as an increasing number of organisations are beginning to move from a cloud and mobile to ubiquitous computing era.

The focus of this year’s keynote was Microsoft Cloud. It touched on four key trends that will guide how organisations prepare themselves now and in the next 3-5 years:

A series of new products and updates were revealed in relation to these trends:

  • Microsoft Loop: A new canvas application that moves freely across applications, enabling teams to think, plan, and create together. Employees can organise everything that they might need for a project, including files, links, and data from other applications into a single workspace. It is easy to use portable components to complete work in chat, meetings, or documents, with the knowledge that the content always stays in sync.

  • Microsoft Customer Experience Platform: A marketing solution that puts organisations in control of their customer data to personalise, automate, and orchestrate customer journeys.

  • Context IQ: A set of capabilities that will further integrate collaboration, sharing, and communication in the flow of work across Dynamics 365, Office 365, and Teams. It helps organisations build a hyperconnected business that empowers people to collaborate as one business across various locations.

  • Azure Arc: This offering has some major updates, particularly around how Microsoft is helping customers manage data and applications across hybrid and multi-cloud environments. The updates cover support for VMware vSphere, new integrations with Azure Stack HCI, and Arc-enabled data services enhancement.

  • Defender for Business: A new endpoint security solution specially built to bring enterprise-grade endpoint security to businesses with up to 300 employees in a solution that is both easy to use and cost-effective.
This year’s Ignite has introduced more than 90 new services and updates to address the prevailing trends and explore breakthrough ways of connecting people, organisations, and insights. During the conference, there were three emerging areas highlighted:

Artificial Intelligence continues to breakthrough for organisations

Large scale AI models are now becoming platforms in creating ambient intelligence – whether this is deploying intelligent agents for customer service or extracting insights from volumes of unstructured data. Microsoft is continuing to expand the possibilities of what AI can do. More than 95% of Fortune 500 use Azure to enhance their most critical workflows.

Azure has partnered with OpenAI to build the fundamental capabilities needed to create and train large scale models. OpenAI has used supercomputer to train GPT-3 models - a breakthrough natural language understanding generation model. We have taken the power of these models and made them available across our products. This provides domain expert access to GPT-3 models through Power Platform and assists pro-developers with coding through GitHub co-pilot, powered by OpenAI Code X.

Another service that was announced at the conference was Azure OpenAI Service. This will give customers access to OpenAI’s powerful models in addition to the security, reliability, compliance, data privacy, and other enterprise grade capabilities built into Microsoft Azure.

Building trust fabric in the identity ecosystem

Microsoft is building the identity system of the future for customers needing to collaborate digitally through hybrid work and hyperconnected business change. Azure Active Directory has expanded beyond simply securing and managing access to now assisting with customer processes across external collaboration methods.

Microsoft Teams Connect is built on this trust fabric to establish seamless security identity for every user and access request through the identity platform. Secure and trusted collaboration across organisations and boundaries can be established in a matter of minutes.

Two new updates to Microsoft Teams Connect were announced to create a boundary-less ecosystem and remove additional barriers for employees across multiple companies to collaborate as one extended team. The first is Teams Shared Channels, which allows users to invite an external team to join a channel, schedule a shared channel meeting, and collaborate on files. The second is Chat with Teams, allowing users to chat seamlessly with people outside of a work network. Teams users at work are now able to chat with any Teams user with a Microsoft personal email address or phone number and remain within the security and compliance protocols of their organisation.

Metaverse: The new platform layer for the digital world

The metaverse is an entirely new platform to bring people, places, and additional things together and enables shared experience across both the physical and digital worlds. The platform allows people to meet up in a digital environment and makes meetings feel more ‘personable’ with the use of avatars and the facilitation of creative collaboration anywhere.

Across the Microsoft Cloud - from Azure IoT and Azure digital twins, to connected spaces and Microsoft Mesh - the metaverse platform is built for organisations to build upon. It enables organisations to embed computing into the real world by bringing real presence to any digital space.

This year’s Ignite also saw two new announcements which continue the evolution of the metaverse - Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces and Mesh for Microsoft Teams. Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces (which is now in preview) provides a new perspective on the way people move and interact within nearly any space, from the retail store to the factory floor, and how they manage health and safety in a hybrid work environment. Mesh for Microsoft Teams provides an immersive experience for people to communicate as though they are in a physical face-to-face meeting. Everyone in a meeting can be present without being physically present, using personalised avatars and immersive spaces that can be accessed from any device, with no special equipment required.

In a nutshell

We are seeing increasing numbers of our clients looking to augment the power of their data with AI and ML, whilst embracing the hybrid working patterns the pandemic has necessitated. We look forward to further assisting our clients on their AI and ML journey in light of these new announcements.

Satya ended his keynote by stating that the topics addressed are only the beginning of a sea of change for organisations embarking on a digital transformation journey across every industry, sector, and country. This is something that we are witnessing first-hand amongst our clients. We look forward to helping them leverage Microsoft Cloud and accelerate the way they transform their businesses and societies.

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