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Microsoft Ignite 2021: 6 Places to Pay Attention

Microsoft Ignite 2021 officially launches today with 48 hours of livestreamed events and six major trends — from industry-specific clouds to boosted security technologies to hybrid workplaces — that attendees will want to absorb.

Microsoft Ignite 2021’s spring event is a 48-hour livestreaming event, and although viewing from home offices means no travel or weird hotel set-ups, attendees would still do well to pay attention to the key areas Microsoft will zero in on during this event.

According to Microsoft communications VP Frank X. Shaw, there are six subject areas to pay attention to during Microsoft Ignite 2021. Since Ignite is historically Microsoft’s way of alerting its userbase where the company’s priorities are headed, these six key subject areas are the ones to try and check out over today and tomorrow.

Number One: Continued Cloud Innovation and Control

Microsoft Azure provides an entire range of companies, from startups to enterprises, with the cloud services they need to run their companies. Shaw says this includes cloud services and developer tools at the scale and security necessary to support their work at any stage of working within the cloud.

The following products and services are being announced at Ignite 2021 to support these types of customers:

  • Azure Percept: A tool which will assist customers with building and maintaining their own Edge AI solutions.
  • Azure Data: Azure Synapse Pathway will assist customers in migrating their data workloads from legacy or cloud data warehouses. Azure Purview will provide more options for the scanning and classification of customer data to identify data, map it, and then understand how it can be used.
  • Azure Arc Hybrid Cloud: Updates will enable customers to manage and run their applications across on-premises data centers, multiple clouds, and on edge devices consistently.
  • Azure Communications Services: Updates will introduce new integrations with Microsoft Teams.

Number Two: Security Is Everyone’s Priority

“As recent attacks have proven, security is more critical than ever,” Shaw said. He says the company’s one-two punch of an integrated end-to-end approach and AI and automation lets it offer solutions that combine security, compliance, identity and management “as an interdependent whole so that everything can be protected.”

Shaw said, “with these we tackle security from all angles, at scale, so you can protect everything across the platforms you use.”

For Microsoft, this approach incorporates security, compliance, identity, and management to protect everything in one package within Microsoft and to other systems outside of the company.

At Microsoft Ignite 2021, key announcements around security include:

  • Passwordless authentication in Azure Active Directory has entered general availability. This service allows passwords to be replaced by biometric logins using Windows Hello, authentication apps, and FIDO2 based physical security keys.
  • Threat Analytics in Microsoft Defender now provides reports from Microsoft security researchers to assist customers in understanding, preventing, and mitigating active threats to their systems with Microsoft Defender.
  • Windows Server and edge devices are getting Secured-core updates to deal with risks associated with firmware updates, malware in IoT devices, and hybrid cloud setups.
  • Microsoft Teams gaining support for end-to-end encryption for organizations to protect sensitive files and chats.

Number Three: Solutions for the Hybrid Working World

As companies and organizations begin planning to transition their workforces to a post-pandemic working environment, hybrid work solutions will become more critical to successful business processes.

“We make think of 2020 as the year work moved home, but in reality, it’s the year work moved to the cloud,” Shaw said, paraphrasing Microsoft 365 vice president Jared Spataro. Microsoft Teams is the signature product demonstrating this.

During Microsoft Ignite 2021, Teams innovation will include announcements around these areas:

  • There will be presenter layouts and audience views in Teams meetings. This will include PowerPoint Live in Teams, Presenter Mode, and Dynamic View to freshen up meetings and keep participants connected to the content.
  • The ability to conduct webinars and broadcasts to 1,000 member audiences will become generally available later this month. This includes key elements such as registration, enhanced presentation options, controls to disable attendee chat and video plus reporting to summarize the entire event. An option to scale broadcasts to 20,000 people in a view-only mode will also be available.
  • Microsoft Teams Connect, which will be available in a private preview, makes it easier to connect with external organizations in a shared Teams channel for collaboration.
  • Microsoft Viva, which was announced a couple of weeks ago and will integrate with Teams, will also be detailed in multiple in-depth sessions. This new employee experience platform will focus on four key areas: Connections, Insights, Learning, and Topics.

Number Four: Help Businesses Adapt and Innovate for a Great Customer Experience

Dynamics 365, Microsoft’s business processes product, will be integrated into Teams to bring together these two services for collaboration across business processes right inside of Teams.

This new relationship between the two platforms will enable the use of Teams-specific features such as webinars and all their related data to be accessed by sales, marketing, customer service to build and maintain customer relationships.

According to Shaw, these new integrations will improve workflows across an organization and allow employees to stay focused within their workflow whether inside of Dynamics 365 or Teams.

  • Dynamics 365 Marketing will see a new customer journey orchestration which will enable a company to completely personalize the customer experience at any point in the process.
  • Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management is a new application to assist companies with order fulfillment including new Pandemic related delivery methods like curbside pickup.

Number Five: Connecting Low-Code Experiences Across the Business

During Microsoft Ignite 2021, two new Power Platform updates will be announced to continue the development of this platform for professional and citizen developers:

  • Microsoft Power Automate Desktop will offer robotics process automation capabilities and will run on Windows 10. This service will be available at no extra cost to customers.
  • Microsoft Power Fx is a new open-source low-code programming language and is based on the language used by customers to build solutions within Microsoft Excel. Microsoft plans to eventually make this programming language the consistent language across the Power Platform.

“We’ve seen amazing adoption among citizen developers creating low-code apps and automations without having to wring any code,” Shaw said. “In addition, there’s growing interest from professional developers who use low-code alongside professional developer tools to get straightforward projects done quickly so they can focus on more demanding projects.”

Note: We have covered the low-code-no-code platforms currently provided by Google, Amazon, and Microsoft over the last several months.

Number Six: Three New Industry Clouds

Last week, Microsoft announced three new industry clouds for organizations in manufacturing, financial services, and for nonprofits. These now join existing industry clouds provided by Microsoft for healthcare and retail.

The idea, according to Shaw, is that each of these unique industry focused cloud solutions provide a seamless environment to conduct their specific cross-industry workflows.

Shaw described them as clouds that can speak an industry’s language.

“Microsoft industry clouds bring together the breadth of our offerings across Microsoft 365 and teams, Azure, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Security and are underpinned by a common data model, new capabilities, customizations, and standards unique to each industry.” he added.

Ultimately, the goal with these new industry-related clouds is to help organizations in these areas more efficiently adopt the cloud to improve overall business and productivity inside and outside of their company.

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