What we learned from the Microsoft Inspire conference

Posted by Videsh Juggernarth on 25 Sep 2019 3:40:07 PM

Nashua Communications was at Microsoft Inspire 2019, here is what got us excited.

Microsoft held its annual conference in Nevada this year - Microsoft Inspire, where new products and innovations are presented along with Microsoft's roadmap into the future. As a global partner, we always enjoy this event with its training programmes and networking events - where global Microsoft partners can meet and connect.

"The real opportunity for us is to bring knowledge workers and first-line workers together to empower companies and people. That's what we're doing with Microsoft 365 and we say we want to build out the world's productivity Cloud, it's about bringing that knowledge worker and first-line workers and empowering them" said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during his Microsoft Inspire keynote speech.

This year, Microsoft presented new initiatives and programmes that would empower us, as a partner, to serve you better. Microsoft also announced new products and services that would propel end users into the future. Here’s a breakdown of what was introduced at the conference.

1. Microsoft Azure Lighthouse

The first exciting update we were introduced to was Microsoft’s Azure Lighthouse, a control panel that will enable Nashua Communications, as a Microsoft partner, to help you handle cross-customer management at scale. Meaning you’ll be able to manage your Azure resources and subscriptions from a single panel. This control panel will come with automation and efficiencies, at minimum or no cost (dependent on the product) to us and you.

2. Microsoft Azure Migration Programme

The Azure Migration Programme is Microsoft's way of making the move to cloud easier, more cost efficient, and more secure. The programme offers advice and tools that will reduce the common risks and concerns associated with moving workloads to the Azure Cloud. Microsoft will, through partners like Nashua Communications,  provide the following;

  • Curated, step-by-step guidance 
  • Technical skill building
  • Free Azure migration tools and
  • Offers to reduce migration costs 

3. AI Accelerate Programme 

Microsoft is keen to help its developers get their AI-based tech to consumers faster. They want developers to be able to build and deploy AI tech using Microsoft tools and services from start to finish.

“Microsoft currently has a billion Windows users, furthermore Microsoft believes that there will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2030 (the Internet of Things, IoT).  It further explains that 90% of the data that we have today was created in the last two years. That's a huge growth in computing and data. The huge global demand for computing power and data is the driving force behind Azure. To this end, Microsoft has invested in 54 data centre regions, including building a data centre right here is South Africa.” - Microsoft

Microsoft's investments in data centres is part of the strategy of building its limitless data estate. Data workloads have increased exponentially in the last few years and organisations will need; 

  • Capacity from an operational store perspective
  • Move petabytes of data, and
  • The capacity to run analytics, in real time, of that data

Microsoft noted that, “it's inescapable, every workload, every application is going to be fuelled by data and you need that scale.” And are determined to get you there and announced five advanced specialisations;

  1. Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Microsoft Azure 
  2. Linux and Open Source Databases Migration to Microsoft Azure
  3. Data Warehouse Migration to Microsoft Azure
  4. Modernisation of Web Applications in Microsoft Azure
  5. Kubernetes on Microsoft Azure

4. Microsoft Teams 

Teams has been Microsoft's star product of late. It was revealed at Inspire that Microsoft Teams now has 13 million daily users and 19 million weekly users.

Microsoft has designed Teams to go beyond being a conventional unified communications platform tool. During the Inspire Conference, they announced new Microsoft Teams features such as;

  • Using the AI to collect data from images. For example you can use Office to take a picture of data on paper and it will be intelligently converted into tabled data on Excel, after which you can share and work on it with colleagues as any other Office document. There won't be any need to enter data line-by-line.
  • PowerPoint's Presenter Coach, an AI assistant that helps you rehearse presentations and gives real feedback in real time and in a summary report.
  • Using a dedicated whiteboard camera and the AI - the physical whiteboard will stay in focus for those who are not in the room. Should anyone move in front of the whiteboard, for example to write something on it, the AI will make that person transparent to online viewers and ensure that the whiteboard is always in clear view.

The most versatile use of Microsoft Teams displayed at Inspire must have been from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, which can have up to 500 students in a single class. To educate properly, the professor realised that he had to do more than just broadcast his lectures - students needed to participate and fully engage in the classes. Considering the number of students this could have been a daunting task, but using Microsoft Teams they found an incredible solution. Listen to how they built an AI bot, that evolved from responding to queries into something more.

 

Microsoft will also be working with industry partners to bring more functions to Teams. They announced that; 

  • With the help of Five9, Genesys, and NICE inContact they will bring contact centre solutions to Teams.
  • Regulation and compliance are an emerging concern for a lot of organisations, so Microsoft will launch call recording for meetings and calls. They are working on this with compliance recording partners, including ASC, NICE, and Verint to add this capability to Teams.
  • Teams will also get a workforce management solution. It's working on this with retail IT solutions provider REPL to develop an integration between Teams and JDA’s workforce management solution. The integration will enable workers to access and request shift changes through the Teams Shifts module. 
  • Microsoft also announced that it will let its partners, like Nashua Communications, provide a six month trial of Microsoft Teams for clients who are on Office 365. This will be the perfect opportunity to experience what Teams can do for your organisation.

 


Contact us to learn more about Microsoft Teams and to get your organisations communications moved to the cloud.

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5. Azure for everyone

Threaded into every speech was what Microsoft calls, ‘Tech Intensity’. It's the vision of bringing AI technology into every organisation no matter its size or industry. It's not about Microsoft selling you it's products, it's more about you being able to approach and use its products to develop your own software even if you don't have coding experience. It calls these developers with no coding experience, citizen developers. Microsoft wants to democratise technology and envisions a world where every business is a software company able to build its own technology. 

"10% is the percentage of GDP that Tech spend represents by 2030. In fact it's around five percent today. It's going to double by 2030 to 10 percent. $14 trillion is going to be spent in technology. But the real opportunity is that other 90 percent, it's that other 90 percent of the GDP that's all going to be digitally driven, software driven," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

According to Satya, tech hiring in non-tech industries is already growing 11% faster than in the tech industry. He gave an example of the auto industry which will have 3 times the number of software engineers as compared to mechanical engineers as it moves towards smart, autonomous vehicles.

To drive the versatile utility of its cloud,  Microsoft introduced a South African medical company, Philukisa. Philukisa built a Cloud-enabled backpack which tests for 10 common diseases such as, HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes and heart disease. Each backpack carries a solar-powered connected case with a tablet, some Bluetooth-enabled measuring devices, as well as point-of-care blood testing capabilities. The backpack enables health workers to move door-to-door and screen patients in their homes. The data is collected and uploaded to a MySQL database in Azure and the results are delivered immediately on Power BI. The backpack has been deployed in primary health care, mining, and agriculture spaces, and carries modules like HIV, Pregnant Mom, and Mental Health. Read further to know more about Microsoft’s intelligent modules.

6. Microsoft Developers

Software and game development are two areas in which Microsoft excels, and it will now bring the strengths from each field together no matter what you are developing. Microsoft is pushing the democratisation of AI-based apps and giving every developer the capability to build these apps. Microsoft wants to commit to developers by providing infrastructure, training, chain tools, and frameworks by;

  • Continuing to support the GitHub platform for new and experienced coders. Github will continue to be supported by VS code and Visual Studio along with Azure DevOps which enables continuous integration, continuous deployment, integration of AI and machine learning.
  • Launching Azure PlayFab tool with the LiveOps feature.
  • Providing Cognitive Services which is task-specific training, a last layer customisation. Developers will be able to assemble multiple modules by putting speech, computer vision, and machine translation in combinations to suit your needs.
  • Adding AI Builder to the PowerApps platform. The AI Builder uses Cognitive Services capabilities and brings it to any application that you may want to build.

The LiveOps feature comes from the gaming division, it processes data in real time. Microsoft wants developers to have real-time data processing capabilities in every app and website. This will enable devices to process inputs and their environment independently rather than having to connect to the cloud.

Although Microsoft wants developers to move forward with it in serverless app development, it has committed itself to building an open system to all apps. So, Windows, Linux, Java.Net, SQL Server Postgres, Red Hat, VMware and Oracle applications and infrastructure will be first class on Azure.

7. Dynamics 365

All of these services and innovations are also available on Microsoft's enterprise resources planning (ERP) and customer relations management (CRM) product line - Dynamics 365. The AI modules are available for all of the functions, whether it's sales, finance, operations, or support - and they can be deployed at scale - including a new set of Insight modules. Insight modules can use AI to improve customer service, predict sales pipelines, and drive sales efficiency.

The Insight modules can work in any business system, and they are the first of their kind in the market. You can use data in one system to help optimise the outcome of another system. For example you can use Insight Sales, Dynamics Sales, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator to drive relationship selling. 

As a strategic partner, Nashua Communications is qualified to consult and deploy this new innovation, so get in touch. 91% of Fortune 500 companies are already using Dynamics 365, so you will be in good company.

8. Augmented reality, Dynamics 365 and Azure Spatial 

HoloLens 2, which comes with a wider field of view, can be used with applications built into Dynamics 365 which can give you a layout, guides, remote assistance or a product visualiser. These applications come straight from Microsoft itself but there are third party applications from industries such as architecture and industrial automation.

Microsoft also announced a new service called Azure Spatial Anchors, which gives developers the capability to build spatially aware augmented reality applications. You can use the service to view, for example, what furniture from the store would look like in your own home or play video games like Minecraft using your table or the floor  as your playing board. Watch the following video to get a sense of what it can do.

 

We chose to partner with Microsoft because it has a lot to offer to its partners and our clients. And like our goal of moving communications into the future and being forward-thinking, Microsoft continually releases new products and services that move the world into the future of AI. They have also made developing AI applications a simple task for citizen developers. It has placed the future within everyone's reach and Nashua Communications will be there every step of the way.

Find out if your organisation is ready for the future of communications with Microsoft 365. Take our tech audit.

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