In early March, Microsoft Ignite 2021 kicks off with three days of virtual keynotes, product/service deep dives and opportunities to connect with Microsoft engineers and fellow IT pros from around the world.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft shifted last year’s Microsoft Ignite to a virtual event with nearly 270,000 attendees (this compares with approximately 35,000 who usually attend the in-person conference). Registration for this year’s event is open, and similar virtual attendee numbers are expected once again.
Microsoft will broadcast live keynotes, follow-on technical keynotes and other related sessions during daylight hours in Redmond, Washington, where the company’s headquarters is located. During Redmond’s overnight hours, those sessions will be rebroadcast to accommodate the global audience. Each of these segments will be hosted live and include additional live segments from Microsoft engineers around the globe.
Dux Raymond Sy, AvePoint Chief Brand Officer, Microsoft Regional Director and longtime Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, weighed in on the areas Microsoft will focus on during Microsoft Ignite 2021.
“I believe there are three key areas that will be highlighted and emphasized during this event,” Sy said. “The first will be around remote work and the transformation companies have undertaken over the course of this past year with an emphasis on the employee experience.”
Microsoft’s recently announced employee experience platform, Microsoft Viva, has generated some recent media buzz. It brings together multiple modules into a single portal and is being heralded as a stake in the ground of remote work. The platform, which is integrated with Microsoft Teams, is split into four distinct modules focused on communications, knowledge, learning and employee analytics. The modules will be shipped throughout 2021.
Sy also pointed to artificial intelligence (AI) and specifically Microsoft Research’s AI at Scale initiative as an area of focus at Ignite. AI at Scale is aimed at building large, centralized AI models using natural language generation (NLG). The models can be built once using high-powered infrastructure and then reused in multiple scenarios to improve AI within Microsoft products.
“Many companies have massive amounts of knowledge documented and stored across their organizations, but it is challenging to constructively and easily use that data,” Sy said. More sophisticated AI will drive greater use of that data.
Sy also suggested Microsoft will home in on security at Ignite, pointing to the recent SolarWinds cyberattack, in which a hacker group believed to be affiliated with the Russian government gained access to U.S. government and other computer systems using software updates from SolarWinds. Microsoft is a SolarWinds customer and has been pulled into the SolarWinds investigation because of potential involvement of Microsoft 365 and Azure Active Directory.
Other areas that will undoubtedly be covered during Microsoft Ignite 2021 will include the latest on products and services like Windows 10, the new Microsoft Edge, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams and the PowerApps low-code/no-code platform.
Microsoft will use a variety of virtual methods to connect attendees with Microsoft engineers, subject matter experts and other presenters during Microsoft Ignite 2021:
- Connection Zone: This virtual meeting space will enable attendees to meet to discuss various topics, Humans of IT community sessions and local connection sessions with nearby Microsoft offices.
- Learning Zone: The Learning Zone delivers sessions that walk through various Microsoft Learn courses.
- Cloud Skills Challenge: This contest encourages attendees to build skills around cloud technologies to reinforce session learning and understanding.
- Ask-the-expert sessions: In these sessions, attendees can interact with engineers and partners who build Microsoft development tools.
- Product roundtables: These are opportunities to give Microsoft feedback on its products and services.
- One-on-one consultations: Attendees can participate in 45-minute sessions with a Microsoft engineer to discuss the design and migration of projects.