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During the recent Microsoft Ignite gathering, there were some amazing talks and updates through the week. I have put together what I think are the key updates for both Azure and Modern Workspace.
Microsoft is taking hybrid deployment to the next level with Azure Arc, changing the game for SaaS based multi cloud management tools.
Azure Arc is offering a single control plane to manage all cloud resources, as well as on premise Datacentres, AWS and Google. For the first time, Microsoft is allowing you to use the Azure control plane to manage competitors’ products and distributed infrastructure for your environment.
This provides a single pane of glass to manage distributed infrastructure via Azure, which is a huge advantage for staying on top of managing your multi cloud environment. From managing containers, policies, reports and deployment all through the Azure Portal.
Here at Softcat, we see this as a huge update as it’s going to significantly simplify and reduce management of infrastructure for customers in a multi cloud environment.
Azure Arc is currently in preview. However, if you wish to know more please visit Azure.com/hybrid and contact your account manager, we would love to discuss your multi cloud environment and demonstrate the benefits of Azure Arc.
Another big announcement from Ignite is Azure Synapse Analytics. It’s a new way to gather information from big data repositories and deliver a rich business analytical intelligence experience through a single pane.
Synapse enables organisations to centralise their data sources in an optimised way while creating a unique solution to share those analytics and insights to users, customers and partners to allow impactful decision making, based on current and historical data.
I think Synapse is going to have a big focus moving forward as it was demonstrated live to be 75 times quicker than its competitors and easy to get up and running. Getting insights 75 times quicker than previously possible on the market sounds incredible to me and a compelling reason take a look at Synapse, as the potential benefits to the business could be huge.
More information can be found here.
WVD (Windows Virtual Desktop in Azure)
While this is not much of an Ignite announcement, I think it’s worth an update.
There seemed to be a huge focus on this at Ignite, not just from Microsoft but also Citrix, Lake Side, AMD and more. The WVD stand on the Microsoft product section was probably one of the busiest stands for the duration of Ignite.
While the basics of the technology, Windows through a virtual desktop, is old, the new concept and the simplicity of it all is creating a real buzz and interest with customers and vendors. It provides the opportunity to provide VDI in a much more simple, easier to manage and cost-effective way than we have been able to do before.
If you already have M365 E3 or above then you are already licensed to utilise this service, you just need the hosts in Azure with a management overlay. This is great for high end CAD workstations, revitalising old devices into thin clients, and for office-based workforce. This service is also going to be extremely easy to manage via the Azure host through the Azure portal.
You can see my previous blog on this here.
Microsoft Whiteboard is finally coming to Teams. Microsoft has announced that Whiteboard is now available on the Web as well as through the Teams app.
On the web side of Whiteboard, it still lacks all the features of the previous version. However, it's still great for remote working and making changes before meetings etc.
Having Whiteboard integrated into Teams allows Whiteboard users to work in a much more collaborative way; it replaces the video shown on screen, allowing all members to edit and can be shared with people within teams. It will also be available after the meetings for further referencing and collaborating.
If you have not used Microsoft Whiteboard before, I encourage you to do so, and it’s going to be even better to start using it in Teams.
Project Cortex is an information network pulling together all company data repositories that are spread around the organisation (including third parties and partners). Using machine learning, Cortex can analyse documents, orders and contracts and present them in the desired apps such as Teams, Outlook, and the wider Office apps.
With this central indexing, employees working on a project day to day can start writing an email or creating a document, and using the keywords written in the body of that document/email, Cortex will automatically work out if it has any further information in the repositories relating to what is being worked on and create a link to that information automatically.
This provides the user with more information, creating better collaboration and highlighting if anyone in the business is working on something similar, as it shows the data and data owners/creators. This empowers the workforce through machine learning and can save a huge amount of time, day to day, while improving business output.
The ability to quickly identify any data in your organisation that might be relevant to you, your project or your customer is going to be incredibly powerful.
GA for Project Cortex is currently next July. However, it is in closed preview right now.
New iOS and Android office apps
Microsoft has created a new single app to provide Word, Excel and PowerPoint for both IOS and Android. This allows O365 users to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents in this single app on the go without having to download and install three separate applications, reducing space and reducing management/deployment.
Downloading all three apps individually is still an option. However, having the single app that controls all three regularly used applications allows documents to be quickly and easily created and edited.
One feature to mention in the new app is the ability to take physical documents and create editable data documents through the scan feature. This reduces time taking information from sources and transforming them to a digital format - no more recreating Excel tables from printouts you have received, you can just scan the data in then start editing.
This simplifies training for new starters and front-line workers, while also reducing deployment and management for IT staff as it’s one app that needs to be controlled.
Lastly, I have a wider document stating all the updates and info I gathered over the event. This can be found here, please use this alongside the Ignite Session catalog to watch on demand videos from Ignite.
If any of the updates or services are of interest, then I would be more than happy to organise a call or a meeting with you to discuss how these can assist and transform your organisation. You also have your wider account team which can be of assistance.
We would love to hear any comments you have about this article!