Microsoft Debuts New, Enhanced Emerging Tech Services at Ignite
MICROSOFT IGNITE — Attendees at this week’s Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, Florida, are hearing about the myriad of new products and enhancements that fall into three buckets – security; AI and data; and IoT and edge computing – all of which are core to the future of IT and Microsoft’s role in its customers’ digital transformation.
As Microsoft partners and customers absorb all the new functionality the company is adding to these technologies, achieving more in the modern workplace is the core of the company’s mission. Microsoft’s wants the workplace to be secure, responsive, collaborative and, increasingly, seamless.
Here are many, but not all, of the new products, services and functionality enhancements announced Monday at Ignite.
Microsoft’s cybersecurity posture is comprised of three fundamental components: operations, enterprise technology and partnerships.
While the company boasts security operations with more than 3,500 full-time security professionals, AI tools, a Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) that hacks its own defenses while hunting down attackers and blocks more than 5 billion distinct malware threats each month, the big news falls in the enterprise-technology column.
- Microsoft on Monday declared an end to the era of passwords. The vendor will support password-less login via the Microsoft Authenticator app for hundreds of thousands of Azure Active Directory (AD) connected apps that businesses use day in and day out.
- Microsoft also announced that Microsoft Secure Score, an enterprise-grade dynamic report card for cybersecurity that measures an organization’s security posture and provides assessments and recommendations, now includes EMS and Azure Security Center. Other enhancements include a broader set of controls from products such as Microsoft Cloud App Security and Azure Active Directory.
- The vendor contends that Microsoft Secure Score is able to reduce the chance of a security breach by 30-fold by securing both administrator and end-user accounts with multifactor authentication, and, on the user side, also turning off client-side email forwarding rules.
- Microsoft Threat Protection brings together threat-protection solutions, such as advanced threat protection and auto-remediation, across email, PCs, documents, identities and infrastructure into a single integrated experience in Microsoft 365. Microsoft notes that the service uses AI and human research to speed up investigations and eliminate threats.
- Azure Confidential Computing, a cloud service to provide a secure platform for protecting the confidentiality and integrity of data in use, is now available in public preview.
When it comes to security and partnerships, Microsoft is driving a broad set of technology, industry and policy partnerships for a heterogeneous world, and is tackling new ecosystem challenges such as security for MCU-powered devices and IoT, with innovations such as Azure Sphere, which is available for preview.
The company also noted that it works with groups such as the FIDO Alliance, an global organization that promotes open and scalable standards that enable simpler and more secure user authentication across websites and mobile services, and security vendors for tool integration among mutual customers through the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association. The vendor also announced general availability of the Microsoft Graph Security API to help technology partners deliver better threat detection and faster incident response.
AI and Data
Microsoft continues to incorporate AI into products and services, most recently in last week’s announcement about new AI applications for the Microsoft Dynamics 365 portfolio. Today, there’s more news about AI and services designed to help companies get more value from their data.
- Some updates to Azure Machine Learning (AML), which helps data scientists and developers build and train AI models faster, include automated machine learning to identify the most efficient algorithms and optimize model performance, additional hardware-accelerated models for FPGAs, and a Python SDK that makes AML services accessible from popular IDEs and notebooks.
- SQL Server 2019 preview offering new big-data capabilities that enable users to take on any data project, from OLTP, data warehousing and business intelligence to AI and advanced analytics.
- Azure SQL DB hyperscale is a new service tier that’s adaptable to workload needs up to 100 TB per database — available Oct. 1.
- Azure Data Explorer public preview is designed to accelerate discovery and insight from large volumes of event data.
- Updates to Azure Cosmos DB Multi-master help customers build mission-critical, globally distributed apps such as the Cassandra API and Reserved Capacity.
Microsoft 365 also got some AI love with new capabilities and enhancements that make it easier for users to find information, create content, analyze data and collaborate with others.
- Microsoft Search makes it easier to find documents and data from both inside and outside the organization without leaving the flow of work. How it works? The vendor says it pulls together the power of the Microsoft Graph and AI technology from Bing to make it more relevant to what users are working on. The new capability can be previewed today as it’s rolled out on Bing.com and Office.com, including app start pages in the SharePoint mobile app, with more endpoints to come, including Microsoft Edge, Windows and Office.
- Ideas in Office uses AI to offer intelligent recommendations for Office applications. It will be rolled out first for Excel and PowerPoint.
- General availability begins today for new intelligent enhancements in Excel that turn data into insights for users. There’s also a new feature – Insert Data from Picture – that allows users to take a picture of a table from their phones and convert those pictures into an Excel file that be edited, analyzed and shared. A public preview is available on Android. Other major enhancements include performance improvements to existing Excel functionality.
- Users will be able to connect Office 365 and Linkedin accounts, which means they can send emails and share documents with first-degree connections on LinkedIn directly from Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. There’s more Office 365 and LinkedIn integration coming later this year, such as users being able to see LinkedIn information about the people they’re meeting directly in meeting invites.
- Microsoft Teams AI capabilities are now generally available. The new capabilities target business meetings, for example. Background blur uses facial detection to blur your background during a video meeting, and users can get speech-to-text transcriptions via meeting recording — the transcripts are searchable and automatically apply captions to the recording. And one more: Users are now able to create and stream live on-demand events in Microsoft 365.
- Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise allows enterprises to build custom skills ad agents, test them with users and fully manage deployment within their organization. For now, this solution is available by invitation; however, companies and developers will be able to request an invitation in the near future.
Also on the AI front, Microsoft announced AI for Humanitarian Action, the third program in the company’s AI for Good initiative that kicked off last year. The other two programs are AI for Accessibility and AI for Earth.
AI for Humanitarian Action is a five-year, $40 million program that uses artificial intelligence to aid efforts such as disaster recovery, protecting children, refugees and displaced people, and promoting respect for human rights.
IoT and Edge Computing
Microsoft announced three new solutions that it says unlock new opportunities for customers to bring cloud intelligence to new scenarios and to areas where connectivity is unreliable.
Azure Digital Twins is a new offering in Microsoft’s IoT platform that enables users and partners to create a comprehensive digital model of any physical environment. It provides a complete picture of the relationships and processes that connect people, places and devices. Azure Digital Twins leverages the power of the Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge to provide a foundation for partners to build custom digital solutions that stay up to date with the physical world, and use analytics to understand the past and predict future states for scenarios such as predictive maintenance and energy management.
And, finally, a public view of Azure Data Box Edge is now available. Azure Data Box Edge is a physical network appliance, shipped by Microsoft, that sends data in and out of Azure with AI-enabled edge capabilities. Microsoft continues to add products to the Azure Data Box family to help businesses analyze, process and transform data before uploading it to the cloud.