Microsoft hosted 23,000 IT professionals in Chicago May 4th – 8th, and imason sent 9 people.
According to my Microsoft Band, I walked 37km in five days! Here is a summary of the key themes I saw.
The amount of new content at Ignite is staggering. Each product featured at least a dozen sessions. Microsoft is pushing forward on so many fronts simultaneously – Windows 10, Windows Server, Azure, Dynamics CRM, Dynamics ERP, SQL Server, SharePoint, Office 365, Intune, Power BI, Management and Operations to list a few. The amount of innovation and the pace of change is relentless. I lost track of the number of “Wow!” moments I had. More than ever, I took away that each enterprise needs a clear and specific plan to keep up. Microsoft did a great job of hosting 23,000 people together, but can we really wait an entire year for it to happen again? Takeaway: divide the responsibility for keeping up among your IT team and do not wait for a yearly conference.
Microsoft is getting Windows 10 right. Which is good news, considering that it will be the last major operating system release. I am running build 10122 on my production Surface 3, and while it isn’t perfect, the build is very stable. Microsoft is changing how the OS will update moving forward, and there is a huge push for plans to have more than a billion devices running Windows 10 in 3 years. While there are many intriguing new features, it is worth calling out one: Cortana integration is beautiful. It seamlessly connects to your data, on premise and in the cloud. Connected to Power BI? Ask her how much you sold last month, compared to a year earlier, without touching your device, and watch the answer appear from either Salesforce or Dynamics CRM. Takeaway: dig in for one last upgrade, and then switch to managing the update stream. Start running Windows 10 now.
I recommend you watch (skip to the 12min mark) Microsoft Research EVP Harry Shum’s presentation on the hard problems Microsoft is focused on solving. He quoted Arthur C. Clarke: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. He also made a point that I am increasingly passionate about. Today we focus on innovation of Things. Which product is better? Who has the better watch? The best phone? Future innovation will be largely invisible and driven based on who can deliver the best insight from a “looming datapocalypse”. Delve, built on Microsoft’s Office Graph, will help deliver that insight based on the knowledge we create and how our network interacts with it. Microsoft’s new Power BI service revolutionizes data analysis. The vision to put these tools into everyone’s hands has been clear, but there has always been a lot of heavy lifting to make it possible. SharePoint, SQL Server, data cubes, MDX – a long list of expensive hardware, software, and skills to acquire. Now? Publish your Power BI Designer file to powerbi.com and Microsoft takes care of the rest for you. All of that infrastructure heavy lifting is done for you. If you want to report in real time, Power BI supports live feeds. You can push data in and watch your dashboard change. Power BI’s name hasn’t changed, but it should have – it is that revolutionary. Do you want to run Azure in your own data centre? Microsoft is committed to making that happen, with their announcement of Azure Stack – the ability to move PaaS and IaaS workloads into your own copy of Azure, plus a commitment to add more Azure capability over time. Run your own copy of Azure? My mind blows, again.
Commitment to Hybrid
Microsoft clearly communicated that their investment for on premises capabilities will continue far into the future. SharePoint 2016 is on the way, and it will include as much innovation created in SharePoint Online as possible. There will be another version of SharePoint after that. Hybrid is not a transition strategy for Microsoft, but a long term commitment.
Here are four key thoughts to leave you with:
- Start the plumbing work to federate identity with Azure Active Directory. Nothing works properly and securely in the cloud without identity management. Even if your organization is dead-set against cloud today, start the plumbing now to be prepared for tomorrow.
- Prepare your company to deliver insight by implementing systems that allow their data to federate. Consider that Microsoft Office 365 puts email, calendar, notes, documents, social, messaging, chat, video, meetings and more all together to drive insight through tools like Delve. If you choose other vendors for some of these pieces, make sure the data can be accessed freely and securely.
- Log into powerbi.microsoft.com and give it a try. Connect to Google Analytics, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Marketo and more. It may have the same name as the last version, but it is a revolutionary new product.
- Microsoft’s drive to innovate quickly across so many products means there will be some gaps and overlaps to contend with. The pieces of the puzzle won’t all snap together completely, right away. Choose the components that work best for your use cases and roll them out. Add capability iteratively as it becomes available and fits into place. Don’t wait for perfection or 100% clarity, because that day will never come.
Let’s make some magic!