Recently I had the pleasure of representing Sharing Minds at Microsoft's annual partner conference, Inspire in Las Vegas. Each year the event brings together 20,000 of Microsoft's closest partners to network, learn, share, collaborate and socialise. During the 4 days Microsoft provide high level strategic briefings on various elements of their business along with hundreds of breakout sessions that delve into the depths of technologies, products and approaches. They also provide personal development sessions, leadership and management tips and methods to help market the wide array of technologies that are produced by Microsoft.
Personally, I found the event to be one of the most well run and organised events I have attended in 20+ years of IT. From the helpful staff and volunteers, informative sessions, the technology running the event, the afterhours events, the logistics of catering for and moving such a large amount of people around and even down to the singalong with 20,000 Microsoftie's belting out the Beatles classic "I get by with a little help from my friends".
One of the most empowering things about the event was hearing Satya Nadella speak in person for the first time. His articulate, funny and heart-warming speech gave me a true insight into the character of the man in charge of one of the most successful and powerful companies in the world today. I can confidently say that even after working alongside Microsoft for 20+ years my confidence in the company is at an all-time high. He has managed to turn around a company that was struggling to keep up with its competitors in the cloud race, and in four years launched them into the stratosphere to be a clear leader. He has also spearheaded a massive culture change that is astonishing and has provided diversity, inclusiveness, support, while challenging staff to be innovative and strive to be their best.
Since 2014, Satya's leadership at Microsoft has turned the organisation into a Cloud Juggernaut and leader in numerous areas of technology. The re-orientation of Microsoft to a "Cloud First" strategy and the Azure product line that he pioneered for many years in the Cloud Division has provided customers around the globe with affordable solutions that are transforming the very core of businesses and the way they operate. This change to a Cloud first strategy is also providing financial results that are beating market expectations and the $110 billion dollars of revenue for FY 17/18 has led to its stock price reaching an all-time high.
While Microsoft's financial results are amazing there is also another area in which their approach is amazing, and this is around the new frontier of Cloud and Data. Microsoft have been at the forefront of leading the industry to better regulate and formalise global standards for data security, privacy and retention. This in itself is a massive undertaking to effectively pioneer a new Geneva Convention for the digital age to cover much more than the recently implemented GDPR standard. They have also taken a stand against unethical practices and are active in the fight to protect organisations and peoples data. As evidence of this, Microsoft has taken legal action against the American Government four times to ensure that information isn't used inappropriately or customers are notified when requests for information are received.
6 Solution Areas and the Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge
Microsoft have broken out 6 solution areas where they are concentrating their efforts with technology in all parts of our lives, as per the below graphic. Each of these is in some way powered by the engine that is the Microsoft Azure. In the outer ring of the intelligent cloud is the Intelligent Edge which refers to the multitude of devices, IOT Sensors, VR Headsets, Gateways, Biometric Sensors, Flow Controllers that can all provide or consume data. At the forefront of this is an Empowered experience where someone can seamlessly interact with data and, if required, do so across multiple devices. This processing power and vast array of devices is allowing true digital transformation to occur in all walks of life and across every industry/sector.
The Azure Platform or Intelligent Cloud is made up of 54 DataCentre Regions around the globe, some with multiple Data Centres per region. Microsoft even demonstrated how they have built a fully self-sufficient data centre (Project Natick) and deployed it underwater off the Northern Isles which can operate on the Seafloor and provide compute power through 864 servers… all in less than 90 days!
Microsoft's design principles are to include AI functionality in as many applications and solutions as possible. They demonstrated data models, automatic reminders, predictive analysis, drops in water pressure and even the remaining volumes of beer in a hotel keg as examples of real world AI usage. With the power of the Azure Intelligent Cloud behind it and Microsoft's desire to create people centered experiences, we will have access to AI across each of our devices and they will allow us to seamlessly transition from one device to another, without losing functionality. The best example of this was an AI powered real time voice recognition bot that currently has 500 million people using it.
Another of Microsoft's hot products is Dynamics 365 and several customer use cases where shown how it can transform a variety of industries. The Field Service module was particularly interesting as it allowed a field worker to connect with a supervisor via Dynamics 365 and a HoloLens. This allowed quick fault identification and rectification through the sensors and lens so both parties were in sync and a solution reached in a matter of minutes.
Teams is also another shining light for Microsoft as its 'free form' channel based communication structure is changing the way people share information. Microsoft also demonstrated the future of meetings and showed automatic facial and audio recognition of multiple meeting participants. They were logged into a meeting, all notes were recorded and follow up actions distributed to team members, automatically. They even joined in a remote employee via holobeam (shown below in grey at the top of table) so he could demonstrate the features of a new device in 3D.
In summary, this event showcased the variety of ways technology is being implemented by Microsoft's partners around the globe to improve people's lives at home and at work. Whether it was thwarting a ransomware attack that disrupts public services like hospitals or businesses, or providing access to technology and computing power at scales that previously weren't possible, Microsoft's vision of a Global Cloud Solution is well and truly matured and is going to provide each and every one of us a very exciting future!
If there is a piece of technology, product or process that you would like assistance with, or if you would like to discuss any of the items in this article please feel free to reach out to me on email or via LinkedIn.
(all images copyright of Microsoft)