This article was written by Abe Kifle, a WatServ Cloud Solutions Architect.

For over 10 years, I’ve been attending Microsoft Ignite, and its predecessor TechEd, and every year I come back inspired by the plethora of announcements and advancements made by Microsoft. 

This year was no different, with more than 150 announcements made at Ignite 2019 over the course of 5 days. 

Looking back at the announcements, here are my top 5 picks:

1. Azure Arc

Out of the many announcements Satya Nadella made during his Vision keynote speech, the one that drew the loudest applause by far was Azure Arc – and for good reason. 

Imagine deploying Azure services and management anywhere – on-prem, Edge, or other Cloud – just as you would do inside Azure to Azure resources. Thats what Azure Arc does. Not only can you deploy services anywhere, but you can also manage, apply policiesand leverage services like Azure Security Center, Azure Sentinel, etc. With Azure Arc, enterprises will have a single glass pane to simplify the management of their complex and distributed environments. 

Microsoft’s Hybrid strategy (Azure Stack, ExpressRoute, AADConnect) was already well ahead of its competitors. With the addition of Azure Arc, as well as the new Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack HCI and Azure Stack Edge, Microsoft is solidifying its leadership in the hybrid space. In fact, in several sessions I attended, I kept hearing from Microsoft: Unlike others, we believe hybrid is a permanent, not temporary, state.” 

WatServ will be testing Azure Arc in our environment and then helping our customers implement and take advantage of it. 

2. Azure Synapse

Another crowd-pleaser was the announcement of Azure Synapse. 

Azure Synapse is the next evolution of Azure SQL Data Warehouse. Azure Synapse brings together enterprise data warehousing and Big Data analytics. It gives customers the freedom to query data on their terms, using serverless on-demand or provisioned resources by combining data warehouses, data lakes and pipelines. 

Adding to the buzz, Microsoft showed a demo of Azure Synapse and it was able to query Petabyte scale dataset in less than 10 seconds.  

3. Project Silica

Microsoft also showcased a new media-storage medium that can survive for hundreds of years with its data intact.  

In an announcement that caught everyone by surprise, Microsoft revealed that it had collaborated with Warner Brothers to store and retrieve the entire 1978 Superman movie on a piece of glass. 

This is a proof of concept for “Project Silica,” a project at Microsoft that aims to use laser optics and AI to store data in quartz glass. 

Microsoft sees this solution as a way to drive down storage costs in the future. “One big thing we wanted to eliminate is this expensive cycle of moving and rewriting data to the next generation,” said a Microsoft lab director. “We really want something you can put on the shelf for 50 or 100 or 1,000 years and forget about until you need it.” 

4. Project Cortex

My next pick is Project Cortex. Project Cortex utilizes the Microsoft graph and various MS machine learning/AI models to help users understand organizational content. The content can be structured or unstructured, and Cortex tries to understand it and put it into context. This enables users to click deeper into the content type and ecosystem – whether it’s conversations, tables or documents – and benefit from deeper context applied to the content. 

The intent is to allow employees to quickly find information that’s spread across documents in Microsoft’s various services and make it available both through searches and algorithms in the form of hover-links inside Microsoft products like Office apps, Outlook and Teams. 

Project Cortex not only aims to make connections within MS systems, but also offers connectors using “Microsoft search” to use third-party repositories. 

Three high-level areas of focus include: 

  • Availability of knowledge and expertise for users 
  • Collection and organization of knowledge in a meaningful and contextual way 
  • Classification, protection and management of content 

5. Azure Stack, Rebranded

Azure Stack, which was announced three years ago, is a product that extends Azure services and capabilities on-premise. Microsoft has since evolved it, and Azure Stack has become a portfolio of services and capabilities of choice—from the datacenter to edge locations and remote offices.

a) Azure Stack Edge:
This is a cloud-managed appliance for edge compute, ML at the edge, IoT and network bursting to the cloud. At Ignite 2019, Microsoft announced and showcased a small, backpack-sized, batteryoperated edge device that could be used to process data and drone video.

b) Azure Stack HCI:
Here we see Microsoft getting into Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI), scalable virtualization and storage, which is useful in modernizing branch office computing. 

c) Azure Stack Hub:
This is the classic Azure Stack – fully-integrated, cloud-native applications using consistent Azure Services on-premise to meet regulatory or technical requirements. 

Conclusion:
While Microsoft Ignite may be over for another year, the excitement that began on November 3-8, 2019 will continue for months to come. At WatServ, we’re looking forward to implementing many of these great Microsoft technologies in our environment first, and then in many of our enterprise customers’ environments. 

Have a question or want to chat about my top picks? Get in touch!

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through demonstrated technology success and customer commitment.

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.