Engineering

The Top 10 Takeaways from Microsoft Ignite 2016

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Summary
Read more about the Top 10 takeaways from the 2016 Microsoft Ignite conference.

In the old days, before 2012, software engineers would often go to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to catch up on the latest developments in software and hardware. CES tended to be more of a hardware show, however. A few years ago, Microsoft recognized this fact and decided to follow Apple’s lead, saying that CES was not the right place to showcase its best and brightest advances in the software world.

The company announced, “We have decided that this coming January will be our last keynote presentation and booth at CES. We’ll continue to participate in CES as a great place to connect with partners and customers across the PC, phone, and entertainment industries, but we won’t have a keynote or booth after this year because our product news milestones generally don’t align with the show’s January timing.”

Apple has run its own Worldwide Developers Conference for decades, and Google’s I/O grew increasingly friendly to enterprise software. In response, Microsoft announced in the summer of 2014 that it would sponsor the Ignite Conference, which would take the place of scattered events such as the Management Summit, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project and TechEd conferences. Ignite was designed to cover everything related to enterprise software. It would join their other specialized conferences such as Convergence for solution platforms, Build for developers, and Worldwide Partners for the channel.

The first Ignite kicked off in May of 2015 in Chicago, and it sold out its 20,000 tickets in five months. The biggest news coming out of it was related to developments in Advanced Threat Analytics and a preview of Office 2016. This year’s event brought a great deal more.

Quotes from Microsoft Ignite 2016

Microsoft’s sophomore conference this fall was held over four days in Atlanta and brought a slightly larger crowd of 23,000. The keynote was given by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. His main points were centered around channeling the explosive growth of data and democratizing AI. Here are some of the most interesting quotes from Nadella’s keynote:

“In 1450 or so when the printing press came out, the Guttenberg Bible got published, and removable type became prevalent. Before that we had something like 30,000 books in the world. And 50 years after the printing press, we had 12 million books. It changed how humans both created information and used information. You can, in fact, trace back everything in the modern era to our ability to create and diffuse information and learn.”

“We have four core pillars to what we’re going to do. It’s agents, applications, services, and infrastructure.”

“We have 133 million active users each month using Cortana across 116 countries and they’ve already asked 12 billion questions. And that is what’s driving the skills ecosystem of Cortana, the fact that we have these SDKs that allow developers to be able to infuse Cortana with more intelligence is what makes Cortana even more relevant every day for our everyday use.”

“The goal of intelligence is to be able to reason about your sales data model, not inside just your CRM system, but outside. So we are building the relationship assistant that’s going to ship in November as part of Dynamics CRM to truly transform our CRM application from the inside out. So when you login to a CRM system, what you’re going to see are these cards, these cards that allow you to take action inside the system based on activity that is happening outside.”

“In order to build a bot, you need to have these building block services that have conversational understanding, know how to parse natural language, how to have a dialogue. So that’s what we’ve now encapsulated in this Bot Framework so that you can build a bot that is available on Skype, available online, and available on Facebook. So, again, we’re taking an approach where any bot you build is not captive to any one conversational canvas. It is available everywhere. And since Build, which is when we launched it for the first time, we have had 45,000 developers building these bots, Hipmunk in travel, Star Trek, StubHub, Getty Images, so many, many developers taking advantage of the bot framework already.”

“It’s never about our technology. It is really, to me, about your passion, your imagination, and what you can do with technologies that we create. What societal problem, what industry will you reshape? That is what we dream about, what we’re passionate about. We want to pursue democratizing AI just like we pursued information at your fingertips. But this time around, we want to bring intelligence to everything, to everywhere, and for everyone.”

10 Takeaways for Programmers

The event’s most notable offerings were announcements of new features, arguments for the enterprise version of Windows 10, and Microsoft’s answer to Google Drive for Work. Here are the top 10 takeaways related to software-defined capabilities, application development, and emerging technology.

1. The Return of SharePoint

In 2015, people walked out of Ignite wondering about the future of SharePoint. Those concerns were put to rest by a host of sessions on the subject and an announcement of a new Feature Pack for SharePoint. It’s also providing new integrations with mobile apps, improvements to security and a sync/share integration for OneDrive.

2. Office 365 Becomes More Collaborative

Office 365 Groups are now a priority. That’s making it easier for internal and external customers to come together for project management in the cloud. Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection includes dynamic delivery, which lets you read an email while its attachment is in quarantine.

3. Windows Server 2016 Updates

This fall’s upgrade of Windows Server presents additional layers of security and streamlined integrations with Azure for cloud-based apps. The big reveal was a discussion about a collaboration with Docker that will run as native in the new Windows Server.

4. Azure Stack Preview

Many engineers came to the conference with questions about integrating Azure Stack IaaS into the data center. The most common questions centered around a hardware management dashboard and monitoring alerts. The new preview addressed as many of these as it could, with a breakout session on tooling tips and tricks.

5. People Cards Carry Rich Details

As Nataya suggested in his keynote, the next generation of modern document libraries and OneDrive browsers will come with built-in People Cards. These will automatically pull in updated contact info, biographical info on the web, work info from sites such as LinkedIn, and related documentation that could prove useful for CRM.

6. Dynamics 365 and Adobe

Nadella brought Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen on stage to announce that the Adobe Marketing Cloud was being built into Dynamics 365. Narayen said, “Adobe and Microsoft will bring together the cloud horsepower and end-to-end capabilities brands need to design and deliver great digital experiences.”

7. DevOps in the Spotlight

Networking specialists conducted a mini DevOps summit, using Azure Stack to demonstrate why everyone needs DevOps. They covered the rapid deployment and maintenance of apps both on premises and in the cloud.

8. ExpressRoute Connectivity

Everyone wants to get faster at deploying apps for Office 365 that connect to the cloud or the intranet. ExpressRoute lives up to its name by connecting Office 365 subscribers to a Layer 3 MPLS network and, from there, to an internet backbone like Equinix.

9. Microsoft Accepts iOS and Android

Mobile-first makes sense, but until now, everyone assumed Microsoft would still be making a play for Windows phones. Most of Nadella’s demos of mobile apps ran on an Apple device. There were many more examples throughout the week of native iOS and Android integration.

10. AI in 2017

Plans are in the works for the Ignite 2017 in Orlando, FL on September 25 – 29. Engineers are already discussing proposed leaps in AI and chatbot development frameworks at next year’s event.

More Coverage

Every time you look away from the software community for a minute, it expands in one hundred different directions. That’s why you really need to stay informed from conferences like Microsoft Ignite, where all the latest trends are pulled together. If you missed it this year or didn’t plan on shelling out $2,000 or more for an all-access pass, hopefully these vitals brought you up to speed. Continue to watch our blog for more coverage of the latest trends in software and performance.