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#MSIgnite keynote recap: The future of work is in the cloud

Stephen Sennett
Stephen Sennett

CEO Satya Nadella unveils “mixed reality”, gets mixed reactions in a strange, compelling Day 1 keynote at Microsoft Ignite

When Microsoft Ignite kicks off, IT professionals around the world listen with bated breath on the keynote of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The indefatigable former leader of Microsoft’s cloud division brings forth the goods, and lays out the state of the tech world, and how Microsoft plans to lead the way through it into the following year.

The rapid digital and societal transformation spurred by the global COVID-19 pandemic is at the very forefront this year, and frames a lot of major initiatives, all driven by the power of the cloud. Here are some of our top takeaways from today’s Day 1 keynote at Ignite 2021.

Tech Intensity Returns

In November 2019, Satya Nadella led his keynote with a concept that he called “Tech Intensity”. This year, it’s made a return. Looking forward to the next decade, he shared five attributes that Microsoft believes will drive innovation in the cloud

  1. Ubiquitous and decentralized computing
    Everyone everywhere is going to need the power of cloud computing. We have hit the peak of centralization in computing. The only way to move forward with continuing exponential growth is for the power of computing to be spread out. Architectures are going to evolve back towards the edge.
  2. Sovereign data and ambient intelligence
    The more decentralized our computing, we’re going to end up with more data, faster than ever before. Nadella perfectually summarized the future of business logic moving from being “code that is written, to code that is learned from data”. But it must be well controlled and governed to ensure privacy at the same time.
  3. Empowered creators and communities everywhere
    It’s not enough just to have lots of powerful tech if nobody can use it. Democratizing creation is a big message from Satya, both in enabling access to platforms, but also skills to enable people to take advantage of them, and connections between individuals to leverage it all. This is how innovation will be further driven and amplified.
  4. Expanded economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce
    The global workforce has changed so much over the last 12 months, with changes in when, where, and how people are working. The more things change, the more we need to adapt. This isn’t just for knowledge workers, but also for graduates, and also frontline workers. Emphasis of “every” and “global” in this statement is so clear.
  5. Trust by design
    By building systems upon which we can trust, building on ethical principles around privacy, use of AI, and even care for the environment, we build systems that support the world around us. By implementing zero trust and security by design, we build that trust in our solutions from the ground up.

All of these principles are solid in their theory, and while many may not associate them with the words “security” and “privacy”, that’s why it’s so critical to build around those principles; both for Microsoft, and other companies building for their own customers.

Workforce Experience

Before I came to ACG, I worked as a Virtual Desktop Engineer. Every year from every vendor, you’d hear the refrain “The way we work has changed forever!” Well… at least this year it’s not hyperbole. And Microsoft has been busy.

Microsoft Teams remains at the center of all workforce experience, no matter where people are working, and whether they’re home-based knowledge workers, or front-line workers keeping our society running during COVID-19.

Microsoft Viva was announced last month as Microsoft’s new “employee experience” platform to bring together everything needed to support employees through their lifecycle with an organization. While it does bring so much power into one product, it remains one of those “let’s amalgamate a bunch of existing stuff and call it a unifying experience” services. But there are plenty of very targeted new interesting experiences too.

Co-authoring documents with Microsoft Information Protection solves a frustrating problem users have had for years. Historically when working on these secured documents, you’d be very limited in collaboration options due to the security limiting the fancy features. Here, Microsoft recognized a major roadblock in productivity being hampered by security and made some major changes to solve it. Exceptional work!

Azure Active Directory’s Passwordless Authentication has also hit General Availability today, ushering in new options for companies looking to revolutionize their security posture. With hundreds of millions of people around the world already moving away from passwords, this gives new options to enterprises using the existing power of Azure AD.

Mixed Reality in 2021

The mainstay of the first keynote was Alex Kipman’s presentation on Microsoft’s new charge into the world of Mixed Reality. Through a presentation that falls as one of the strangest I’ve ever seen in a major tech conference, the newest addition to Microsoft’s ambitious technology bets was announced: Microsoft Mesh.

Microsoft Mesh is a solution to enable mixed reality communication. The description they’re very keen on using is “merging the physical and virtual worlds”. Rather than simply relying on talking to people on a 2D screen, it opens up opportunities to interact with people holographically in a physical space with a variety of devices.

It wouldn’t be a major Microsoft product launch if they didn’t sell it as something to revolutionize the world and the way we all live. They really sell this as being an important part both of working more effectively in the new world of modern work, but also as an important tool for social connections which is exceptionally timely in the world of social distancing and COVID-19.

Microsoft isn’t new to the playground of Mixed Reality technology, with the first Hololens being released five years ago, and many of the stories and opportunities being the same back then as they are now. And while meetings between holographic Xbox avatars aren’t absolutely riveting, the continuing possibilities as the technology matures is very interesting.

Special credit to the guest appearance of augmented reality Pokemon, continuing to tease us just like they did years ago with the first trailers of Pokemon GO. Microsoft knows how to wind us up…

Skilling up for the future

When Satya Nadella mentioned democratizing creation, he emphasized that development of skills is critical. Whether it’s to empower our own growth as individuals, or to build the capability within our organizations, knowledge is key to success in technology. The more technology changes, the more demand for knowledge there is; both for technical professionals, and decision makers.

Part of our purpose here at A Cloud Guru is to enable anyone, anywhere to achieve a brighter future through education; something we truly believe. Whether you’re a developer looking to change the world with your idea, a business leader looking to understand this “cloud” thing, or an experienced engineer keeping up on the latest technology, education is at the core of it all.

Microsoft has also recently announced a new round of security-focused certifications as part of their drive to fill the security skills gap, which they estimate will have a shortage of 3.5 million professionals this year. These new certifications include:

  • Microsoft Certified: Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamental (SC-900)
  • Microsoft Certified: Security Operations Analyst (SC-200)
  • Microsoft Certified: Identity and Access Administrator Associate (SC-300)
  • Microsoft Certified: Information Protection Administrator Associate (SC-400)

Staying on top of Azure

The first day of Ignite wraps up with a lot of fantastic sessions, and even more hosted on-demand – including multiple sessions with ACG’s own Lars Klint. If you’re involved in Azure or Microsoft in general, we definitely recommend you check them out.

For all the biggest Microsoft Azure updates, check out A Cloud Guru’s Azure This Week series, and don’t forget to check out our lineup of more than 60 Azure courses and hundreds of Hands-on Labs.

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