Written by Rob Quickenden, Cisilion’s Chief Strategy Officer
Just a week after the start of #Inspire2018, I’m now sat back in my London office in a slightly more pleasant 31°C temperature (though I do wish I was still wearing shorts). It was hot in Vegas. Too hot. The slightly cooler office has given me a chance to reflect on last week’s key announcements in Las Vegas.
Essentially, the five core messages from Microsoft Inspire can be summarised as:
We are at the dawn own real Artificial Intelligence
• We need to develop rules and ethics about how AI is used.
Surface is one of the most desirable brands
• Established in the commercial and enterprise space with Surface Go, Microsoft expect Education to be next.
Azure is going nowhere
• Growing numbers of customers are moving their entire business to Azure – because there is no workload that Azure cannot deal with.
Security is a growing concern
• Microsoft are better placed than many to help customers protect their users, their customers and their data from Cyber Attacks and Malicious attacks/theft – with huge updates to Microsoft EM+S, Office 365 Advanced Security and Azure Advanced Threat Protection.
Augmentation and Virtual Reality is really starting to take shape:
• Microsoft are improving safety through technologies like Remote Assist in Microsoft Teams.
With more than 18,000 attendees from 132 countries, this was the biggest Microsoft event ever. Located in a very, very hot Las Vegas, we endured three very long days of conferences, one-to-ones, and valuable networking. Inspire covered everything Microsoft and its partners are doing – from Intelligent apps and AI, to Azure, IOT and Stack, through to its vision for truly modernising.
Headline and Keynotes
The “core notes”, as Microsoft call them, were delivery each day and the basis of the messaging and headlines from these core notes, which is typical now that Microsoft is under CEO Satya Nadella’s lead, was focused around making the world we live in a better place, which as always wraps solidly around Microsoft’s mission statement.
It is incredible to see how under Satya’s lead; the whole organisation really does seem to believe in this mission. This is reflected in most of their customer testimonials and case studies – from how Azure IOT helps farmers cultivate crops more efficiently to how Microsoft Teams connects the NHS to improve collaboration between health units and clinicians to save lives. Is this mission important? I think it is.
I truly believe businesses buy into the culture and vision of a company. For Microsoft, their vision of improving life chances, empathy, artificial intelligence (AI), ubiquitous computing, creative expressions, barrier free global communications, and making the world a better place is a strong one – and it’s tough to simply shrug off. Their customers are genuinely proud to work with Microsoft, their partners (I think I speak for everyone at #MSInspire2018) are proud to be partners, and of course their staff genuinely seem to share the same passions at their leader.
1) A Digital Geneva Convention
The other core focus themes that came out of the four days, were the need for a “Digital Geneva Convention” and deep discussions and a sense of perusal for driving a Hippocratic Oath for those developing AI solutions. Ethical AI, essentially.
There was an interesting array of case studies as usual – including Carlsberg, who is using Microsoft Cloud and Azure Machine Learning to innovate their business by leveraging AI to predict flavour outcomes from subtle ingredient changes in brewing recipes to perfect their beer. They also moved all of their on-premises SAP to Azure saving them millions and increasing business performance.
Then there was Heathrow Airport, who have moved fully to Microsoft 365 and are using PowerApps to simplify and improve business workflow across each and every part of the operation. And finally, an oil company using Dynamics 365, Microsoft HoloLens with Remote Assist in Microsoft Teams to improve safety whilst speeding up maintenance operations.
2) Technology – What’s new to be excited about?
There was really nothing super new as a whole this year – as with any cloud-based organisation, most of the innovation comes monthly, even daily, so waiting for an annual event each year goes against this “agile” nature I suppose. Instead this year, the technical themes were just further developed and supported with more real-world use cases from major enterprise and SMB customers.
For me it’s simple, and why I’m so excited for both the opportunity for Cisilion but for all our customers and future customers that are looking to embrace a device than enables this new work culture to succeed. It’s through this lens that Microsoft have built and continue to refine their Surface Line up in conjunction with the Microsoft 365 Teams – bringing together first-party hardware and the world’s best Productivity software, through Windows 10 and Office Pro Plus, to empower people in this new culture of work. To help people be more creative and more productive, from anywhere.
3) A growing focus on Azure
There was a growing focus on Azure with some deep developments in Intelligent edge, IOT, and ubiquitous computing from Microsoft – which I think we will hear far more about in the coming months. A solid focus this year is clearly Azure Stack which is all about enabling and driving the intelligent edge – bring AI and ML to the disconnected (or sometimes connected) edge.
With leading partnerships with the likes of Cisco, HP and Dell EMC, the context of high-power, intelligent local compute for processing data and making decisions quickly is incredible – the power of Azure and Azure ML in a box – cloud connected when needed. It’s an amazing concept that is now becoming real. Azure Sphere was also covered in detail and something I definitely want to read more on.
4) Windows and SQL – Meet Azure
Two things that are very dear to Microsoft, they are pretty aggressive in terms of focus on making sure it still ‘owns’ these workloads and more importantly that they are moved into its Azure Cloud.
Microsoft announced a number of programmes designed to make it significantly cheaper to run these workloads in Azure than on any other platform (even on-premises). They announced free security patching for an extended three years (for unsupported version) if they are run in Azure and promised savings in excess of 10-times against running elsewhere. There was also a healthy appetite for continuing to beat the competition – AWS, GCP and Oracle in the database world.
Perhaps my favourite demo revolved around the use of HoloLens for augmented reality. HoloLens Remote Assist (with Microsoft Teams) looks genuinely interesting for the medium term once the technology becomes a bit cheaper and more widespread (it feels a bit “trapped” at the moment and needs a louder voice).
In the arena of service/maintenance industries and in training scenarios (Roll Royce are always a great refence here). Microsoft also spoke a lot about a partner-developed solution called HoloBeam – which is basically like Star Wars type holograms that can join your remote meetings – worth a “bing”!
Now it’s back to reality, to soak in the messages and share them with our customers in a way that makes sense, a way that drives innovation and way that enables them to do things, well, better. If you’d like to see how Cisilion can transform your business, get in touch with our experts and book your Innovation Centre Experience today.
Written by Rob Quickenden, Cisilion’s Chief Strategy Officer