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What You Missed at Microsoft Ignite 2018

Last week was the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, with over 30,000 members from the global Microsoft community in attendance. The conference agenda was a bit different this year, with separate vision and technology keynotes, as well as general sessions. We think Microsoft decided to split up the keynotes in order to give us time to digest all of the exciting announcements that they had to share!

Building upon the theme of digital transformation, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, shared how Microsoft wants to empower the world with ‘Tech Intensity.’ Tech Intensity, he described as building and adapting to technology as companies transform themselves and their industries.

Here are a few highlights from the week:


Artificial Intelligence Makes an Impact

Artificial intelligence and mixed reality are becoming more prevalent in society. Nadella shared how several well-known companies like Coca-Cola, BMW, H&M, Shell, ZF, and more, are focusing on multi-experiences to help transform their businesses. One of our favorite examples was Buhler, a technology company that processes foods, who is leveraging AI, blockchain, and Azure, to identify toxins in grains and remove affected grains from the food flow. This is a great innovation for improving food safety.

With all of this technology at our fingertips, Nadella used the keynote as a reminder that we all can make an impact on the world. He said, “we have an opportunity to ensure that the surplus created by digital technology is equitably distributed throughout our society.” Nadella then introduced AI for Humanitarian Action, a Microsoft program dedicated to disaster response, the needs of children, protecting refugees and displaced people, and human rights.

Security is a Top Priority

In this day and age, everyone is talking about security in one form or another, whether it is operational security, security of technology, or partnerships. It should be no surprise that security was highlighted as a top priority at Microsoft Ignite. Nadella shared that Microsoft processes 6.5 trillion security signals everyday, emphasizing that we have a heterogeneous world that needs to be protected. The security announcement that garnered a lot of buzz was support for passwordless authentication. Microsoft claimed that this is the end of the era of passwords, with applications using Azure Active Directory now able to sign-in via the Microsoft Authenticator app.

Develop Strategic Partnerships to Drive Success

Nadella also highlighted the need to be strategic when selecting partners. Nadella brought Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe, and Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, to the main stage to unveil an alliance known as the Open Data Initiative. The Open Data Initiative focuses on the customer-driven growth revolution. The three companies share a vision to unify data across platforms to drive a greater business impact.

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Cloud Wars: Azure Makes Power Moves

There were so many announcements throughout the week that it was easy to miss one, but there were a few Azure related ones that caught our attention. First, Azure Cosmos DB reserved capacity is now generally available! This is the latest addition to the reservation portfolio for Azure, having released Reserved Virtual Machine Instances at Ignite last year, followed (more recently) by SQL Database reserved capacity, and now Cosmos DB, all designed to help Azure customers optimize their costs. For cloud users who are unaware, purchasing reservations are one of the best ways to save money in the cloud. Cosmos DB reserved capacity helps users save up to 65% compared to pay-as-you-go prices.

Microsoft also announced the preview of GPU-enabled and High-Performance Computing Virtual Machines (VMs). The new VMs include NVv2 VMs for graphic-intensive applications, NDv2 VMs which can be used for machine learning, HB VMs which have the highest memory bandwidth available in the cloud, and lastly, HC VMs which are for high-performance computing such as risk analysis. The final power move from Microsoft is that the event has been moved to November 4-8th in 2019, which places it in the same month as AWS re:Invent.