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Highlights from Microsoft Ignite 2017

Last week I attended the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, with thousands of members from the Microsoft community around the world. The overarching theme for the conference is one you have probably been hearing a lot about: the concept of digital transformation. Many companies are focused on the latest innovations in the public cloud that can improve everyday life — this is where digital transformation comes into play.

This was my first time attending this conference, and needless to say, I was not disappointed. Ignite was jam-packed with announcements! Here are just a few highlights from the week:

Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality are Driving Innovation

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, kicked off the opening general session by sharing how Microsoft provides customers with the power of Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality to take their businesses to the next level. The customer example that stood out was how Ford is using these technologies, specifically the Microsoft HoloLens product to enable their designers to view and create vehicles in a way that a customer would experience it. With HoloLens, Ford is able streamline their design process and boost creativity, thereby providing more appealing vehicles to customers.


Microsoft is Redefining the Workplace

This summer Microsoft announced Microsoft 365, which combines Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility and Security. At Ignite, Microsoft introduced two new editions including Microsoft 365 F1 for firstline workers and Microsoft 365 Education for students and faculty, as well as several new product capabilities.

Li-Chen Miller, Partner Group Program Manager, AI & Research at Microsoft, stole the show with her relatable and comical presentation of Bing for Business, and the Microsoft partnership with LinkedIn. To put it simply, with Bing for Business organizations can see internal information and content appear in Bing search results. This enhancement is powered by the Microsoft Graph. Miller also demonstrated LinkedIn profile integration with Microsoft apps and services. Now users can view information about the people they are working with within Office 365, and as Miller said, “with a simple click of this connect button [right here], we can totally be BFFs.” To wrap up, Miller demonstrated how Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant product, can be used to schedule a vacation, a light-hearted end to a great presentation.

Azure Fights Back in the Cloud Wars — Enter Azure Reserved Instances

I was excited to hear about the Azure announcements as they are the most relevant to my work. Two key announcements were that Azure is extending regions with Availability Zones and that customers can now purchase Azure Reserved VM Instances.

Similarly to Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure Reserved Instances leverage global regions and Availability Zones to provide customers with additional resiliency options. Azure has also decided to jump into the reservations space, joining AWS Reserved Instances and Google Committed Use Discounts, by offering Azure Reserved VM Instances. Azure Reserved Instances will be available for one year or three year commitments, and customers will have the ability to cancel or refund their Azure Reserved Instances at any time. One item to note is that these Azure Reserved Instances are initially only available for reserving virtual machine capacity, but Microsoft indicated that they plan to expand to additional Azure services later on.

Quantum Computing is the Future

To wrap up the general session, Nadella invited a few experts to join him on the stage, including Dr. Michael Freedman who is a Fields Medal Winner in mathematics; two physicists named Dr. Charlie Marcus and Dr. Leo Kouwenhoven; and lastly a computer scientist, Dr. Krysta Svore. Now what do a mathematician, two physicists and a computer scientist have in common? The answer is knowledge about quantum computing.

Nadella announced that Microsoft has been working on quantum computing for twelve years! The result of this time investment is a new programming language for scalable quantum computers, which is integrated into Visual Studio. Now the concept of quantum computing can be hard to understand at first, to put simply, a quantum computer can solve complex problems that cannot be solved in our lifetime with classical computing. Quantum computing can therefore contribute to breakthroughs in key industries such as healthcare and energy.


What Did You Think?

These were just a sampling of the many exciting announcements from Microsoft Ignite. I am interested to hear what your top highlights from the conference were. Hit me up on Twitter to get the conversation going.