Mark Skelton

Key Takeaways from Microsoft Inspire 2017. Microsoft Inspire (or WPC as it was previously known) has always been the conference to attend. And this year’s newly rebranded Inspire event didn’t disappoint. It was packed full of interesting insights and announcements. Having been lucky enough to attend the event in Washington D.C, here’s my 5 key Key Takeaways from Microsoft Inspire 2017.

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Microsoft Inspire: What's new for 2017?

At the event lots of changes were announced.   New focus areas, new sector targeting, and new products & services.   Given that Microsoft is seen as one of the most successful global brands on the planet, this highlights the pressure all modern organisations face. Namely the need to constantly adapt, regardless of how well you’re currently performing. 

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is aligning their organisation towards cloud computing. More and more, their focus is on key areas. 

The focus areas are:

  • Modern Workplace
  • Business Applications
  • Application and Infrastructure
  • Data and Artificial Intelligence

All Microsoft’s solutions now fit into one of these four areas with sales and technical teams aligned beneath them.

Interestingly, Microsoft are also aligning messaging around vertical specific solutions.  So, for sectors like health or education we’ll start to see more sector relevant solutions with specialist sales teams focussed on particular sectors.

The opportunity: where will IT budgets be spent?

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, put inspiration and forward-focus at the centre of his key note speech on day 1.

This highlighted the real scale of the opportunity that lies ahead.  The slide below illustrates where Microsoft believes future focus will lie. It will move from mobile & cloud solutions and towards the intelligent cloud & edge computing. Spend in IoT and edge computing is estimated to be in the region of $4.5Trillion. 

Source: Microsoft Inspire Keynote 2017

This graphic, for me, accurately sums up exactly where budget will be spent over the coming years.  The focus and challenge will be about harnessing the power of data and getting computer systems to start making intelligent business decisions. Then it’s about putting computing into edge scenarios. For example, IoT.

Microsoft 365 - The new modern desktop

The next big announcement in Satya's keynote was the launch of Microsoft 365. This will come in two “flavours”:  Microsoft 365 Enterprise and Microsoft 365 Business. 

This is not a new product. It is, in fact ,an amalgamation of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 Enterprise and the Enterprise Mobility & Security Suite. 

The Enterprise variant is a direct replacement for what Microsoft previously called Secure Productive Enterprise.   The Business variant is slightly different. This version is driven through a single portal controlling all Windows 10 deployments and Office deployments.  It can also control mobile devices & security settings. 

This is designed as a one-stop-shop for smaller organisations.  It will offer a single toolset to manage desktop infrastructure and drive up productivity in the workplace.

Security - Microsoft is ready to go to battle

In the last 12 months we’ve all seen the rise in cyberattacks on different organisations. None more so than the recent "WannaCry" attack on the NHS. 

And Microsoft are taking these type of  threats very seriously. Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, talked about this area being the new “global battle ground.” 

Microsoft are continuously striving to stay ahead of the game.  They provided further details of the security team and services they have in place.  This included their Intelligent Security Graph. This is a system that is constantly listening & reporting on what is going on and applying AI to potential problems. It can help predict threats before an attack actually happens. 

But in spite of considerable advancements being made in this area, one sentence from his keynote really stuck in my mind:

"Every company has at least one employee who will click on ANYTHING"

So true. This highlights what we’re up against. The weakest link (as with all the technology) in our infrastructure is, usually the human element. 

My 5 Key Takeaways from Microsoft Inspire 2017

So after a very inspirational but exhausting week, here’s a quick summary of my Key Takeaways from Microsoft Inspire 2017.

  1. The new Microsoft structure will change how we work with Microsoft and customers will get better vertical specific solutions
  2. Microsoft 365 is bringing modern workplace computing to the masses by focusing more on the SMB market
  3. Microsoft is taking security and world politics very seriously and will always be on the side of the customer, not the governments
  4. Microsoft is levelling the playing field for Cloud Solution Providers so that customers can get the same license price for Azure on a traditional enterprise agreement and CSP
  5. Azure Stack release - Microsoft finally announced the general release of Azure Stack with the hardware providers like HPE committing to being able to deliver the solution to its customers in September 2017. 

I came away from Inspire feeling that Microsoft are an organisation very much on the front foot.  It's moving in a fast, competitive market to become a leader in Cloud. 

OCSL are hosting a number of breakfast briefings and events over the coming months. These provide the perfect opportunity to drill down in more detail into some of these announcements and learn more about our Azure Fast Start solution.

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