Following my own advice from my last blog, our intrepid team arrived in Orlando few days before the event to get used to the surroundings and to get our bearings. This also allowed us to enjoy a few sights and the over 30 °C weather that struck like a ton of bricks since Helsinki was already in middle of autumn with around 10-degree weather when we left.
Checking out the attractions of Orlando
Cybercom team ready for conference
Full Force Ahead
Ignite kicked off full force on Monday morning with the Vision Keynote of CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella. And like expected the main hall filled quickly and many had to follow the event from the overflow areas. The keynote this year was a bit shorter than anticipated and somewhat lackluster without any ground shaking announcements. The only major bit of news was the new Open Data Initiative by Microsoft with Adobe and SAP, clearly a strategy to try to take on Salesforce.
The main hall during Vision Keynote
After the Vision Keynote were the different technology keynotes which focused on Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power platform, and of course Azure which we were following. The keynote was presented by Julia White, Corporate Vice President of Azure, and Scott Guthrie in this traditional red shirt. This time there were plenty of announcements made (more on these later), but the keynote left me with a feeling that these were very much evolutionary instead of revolutionary. And don't get me wrong, many of the features were very welcome and expected by us and our customers but maybe the cloud is reaching true maturity and now instead of getting totally new features we start to see the old services get proper updates and features.
Azure keynote announcements
Speaking of updates, any conference is busy, hectic, and has too many sessions or announcements to follow. Ignite is no different and Microsoft clearly knows this. That is why they released Book of News, containing all major releases and updates from Ignite. On the Azure side their Updates webpage contains all news and highlights from Ignite. Here I have collected some highlights of the announcements in no particular order.
Azure Blueprints and Azure Policies
Even though I said these were not in any particular order I had to start with these since I think this is so important. Service governance is critical to maintain a working and secure environment especially if cloud usage is growing. If you do not have any management, you will end up with environments that you have no idea what is happening to them. To that end Microsoft published Azure Blueprints so that your subscriptions can be easily provisioned and maintained. Azure Policies were released earlier but gained more features and are even more utilized with blueprints. These are free features so there is no reason not to use them.
More information: Azure Blueprints and Azure Policies
Azure Confidential Computing
Security is essential, and we all know about encryption in transit and encryption at rest. Azure confidential computing is the answer to security while data is in use. For example, Trusted execution environments utilize Intel SGX capable hardware to create secure environments to run your critical data. This has been in private preview but will become public during October.
More information: Azure confidential computing
Azure Monitor as full stack solution
Knowing what is going in your cloud services is critical to operations and Azure Monitor is being finally transformed into a service to cover all your monitoring needs. You can collect metrics and logs from your applications, all Azure resources, and even custom sources and analyze and respond to them as needed.
More information: Azure Monitor as a Full Stack Solution
Azure Data Explorer
This very interesting PaaS service allows for lightning fast exploration of structured or unstructured data. The feature was created internally at Microsoft to analyze massive amounts of data coming in from Microsoft services and now this feature is in preview for all to make customs solutions for near real time analytics.
More information: Azure Data Explorer
Azure Front Door
Another service that started as Microsoft's own service allows you to securely publish highly available applications. If it's good enough for Skype or Office 365, it's probably good enough for your application.
More information: Azure Front Door
Azure SQL Database Managed Instance
This near-full compatible feature went Generally Available on October 1st so now there is absolutely no reason to migrate since you only need minimal changes to the workloads. Also, Azure Hybrid Benefit allows you to save plenty on the cost of it.
More information: Azure SQL Database Managed Instance
Serial console for Azure VM
All of us admins like to think that we are perfect and don't make any mistakes. For those exceptions that prove the rule, serial console for Azure VMs is finally Generally Available. If you have trouble with your machine you can directly connect to it and troubleshoot your problems away.
More information: Serial Console for Azure VM.
The blog post is a good example of how many announcements there are related to a single feature of Azure and they also show what I stated earlier about features being evolutionary and adding to existing features. Out of these of note are General Availability of Azure Firewall, a scalable first party firewall solution to complement your NSGs if you need more control. Also interesting is that they will later allow control of said firewall with third party central management tools. Hidden between all bigger announcements is the gem of Public IP Prefix, a contiguous range of IPs for your Azure services. This will allow companies to allow for example whole ranges in their on-premises firewalls easing management greatly.
More information: Azure Networking.
Windows Virtual Desktop
Previously called RDmi this is a service to bring Windows 7, Windows 10 and Windows Server 2012 R2 or later desktops onto Azure. The service to allow for example your legacy software to be published or give external consultants access to your environment securely. The service is entering preview towards the end of the year and promises to look very interesting.
In addition to these, like I predicted, plenty of Artificial Intelligence technologies were presented and AI was one of the cornerstones of many presentations and where Microsoft thinks that the world is heading. The many IoT features also received plenty of love with Azure Digital Twins, IoT platform updates and Azure Sphere going into public preview. On the non-Azure side of things, the biggest announcement was the General Availability of Window Server 2019 and SQL Server 2019 public preview that is aimed at big data. And on a less serious side of releases I personally got the biggest laugh of the conference out of the release of Azure Data Box Heavy. It is a cart that you can push around and that can be used to transfer one petabyte of data into the cloud.
More information about can be found Virtual Desktop.
Azure Data Box heavy in all its glory
This list was obviously just a scratch at everything that was released so I urge you to look at the Book of News for more complete list.
The over 1500+ sessions were of course the main feature of Ignite and we also attended many of these and missed even more. Luckily Microsoft will publish these on Microsoft YouTube Channel, so anything interesting can be seen later.
Jax making sure we were all secure during the conference
Somehow this year’s trip across the Atlantic was harder than ever before with more sleep lost and a more horrible jet lag. The pace of the convention and happenings surrounding it also seemed more hectic than before. Or maybe age is finally beginning to show, or the sheer number of announcements was too huge to grasp. Despite this big thanks to all our partners and customers that we met at our various events during the week.
We continue our Azure event attendance this week in Helsinki with PolarConf the biggest and most northern Azure conference for IT Pros. The two-day conference promises exiting presentations by many excellent speakers. Hope to see many of you there!