If you weren’t aware Microsoft is hosting its Ignite conference this week in Chicago (May 4th-8th).
Microsoft Ignite is the convergence of several Microsoft conferences into one mammoth event. And, it makes sense. With so much cross-product integration there was a growing amount of duplicate content. To quote the Microsoft Blog;
So how popular is Ignite? Joe Belfiore (@joebelfiore) revealed during the Cortana Power BI demo that over 23,000 people were in attendance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make this conference. But luckily Microsoft has not forgotten us. You can watch the on-demand recording of the keynote here. Furthermore, Channel 9 is live streaming several of the sessions at http://channel9.msdn.com/. Their featured session guide is on the front page.
Your 2016 may have just gotten a little busier
If you saw the keynote then you know there was a slew of product announcements made. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella (@satyanadella), announced several new product releases. Many of which are already available for preview, or, will be second half 2015.
- Windows Server 10
- Exchange 2016
- System Center 2016
- SQL Server 2016
- Windows 10
- Office 2016
Also highlighted were:
- Azure for your Datacenter
- Skype for Business Broadcast
- Windows Update for Business
- Cortana improvements
- Continuum for Windows Phone
- Hello feature
- Skype for HoloLens
- Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics
- Operations Management Suite
- Device Guard
- Azure Rights Management and Data Loss Prevention
One message from Satya’s presentation was very clear.
Julia White (@julwhite) reinforced this point in the post-show. She explained that cloud technologies allow an administrator to unload the mundane maintenance tasks. In turn, it allows the administrator to bring more exciting projects to the forefront. This was a similar message Julia drove home at the Microsoft Exchange Conference in 2014.
In the first demo, Joe showed us the latest build of Windows 10. Joe explained that what we see here is very close to the final design.
Windows 10 is a fusion of the very best of Windows 7 and Windows 8. In fact, we covered the new Start Menu, and how this switches between laptop and tablet mode, in our article on the Windows 10 keynote. I recommend checking it out.
Joe announced several improvements they have made to Cortana. Not only does Cortana search for content on your PC, in your OneDrive, or, on the web, but she also can help you with using your PC. Joe demonstrated this by asking Cortana how to connect a projector to his PC.
Continuum for Windows Phone
The continuum feature for 2-in-1 devices, such as the Microsoft Surface, was demoed at the Windows 10 keynote. It detects when a 2-in-1 device switches from a laptop mode to a tablet mode. Then reconfigures the Windows user experience accordingly.
Similarly, the Continuum feature will also be available for Windows Phone 10. When a monitor is connected to the phone a traditional desktop and Start Menu is displayed. This allows the phone to act like a PC. The phone can then be used as a keyboard and mouse. For a fuller PC experience, Joe connected a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to the phone.
Another great feature is multiple desktops. This allows you to separate workloads. On one desktop you may have all your apps open for a PowerPoint presentation you are working on. Your other desktop could be dedicated to completing your Expense Reports. Joe demonstrated how easy it is to switch between desktops by using CTRL+Windows+Arrow keyboard combinations. The extra gravy was when Joe dragged applications between desktops. This is an amazing feature for power users.
Hello is a new biometric feature on Windows 10 devices. Using the camera on your Windows 10 device, Hello searches for your face and automatically logs you in. This can replace your password. I particularly enjoyed MVP Bhargav Shukla’s twitter comment on Microsoft Hello.
— Bhargav Shukla (@bhargavs) May 4, 2015
Simon May (@), in the Channel 9 post-show, later covered some of the security concerns surrounding Hello. Namely, whether a photograph could be used to fool the new security feature. The answer was ‘No’. Simply put Hello requires a special camera that can detect depth and therefore get a proper three-dimensional representation of the user. Further, it is reported this functionality will also work in low light. The Channel 9 team report that Intel already have these cameras and its expected that more devices will ship with this camera technology soon.
Joe covered universal apps in more detail during the Windows 10 keynote in January. For Ignite he demoed the Outlook App across two devices. From the picture below you can see they are strikingly similar. Joe states that the experience is the same regardless of screen size. Why? Because the code is the same across all devices.
Skype and HoloLens
We didn’t get too many details. But Gurdeep Singh Pall (@GurdeepSkype) teased us that Skype for Business would be coming to HoloLens. In fact, since the holographic code is embedded in every Windows 10 device, it’s conceivable all Universal Apps will make it to HoloLens.
If you haven’t see the HoloLens demo I highly recommend it for some good geek hyperventilating. Although not demoed during the keynote, here is the demo from January.
So, ready for a HoloMeeting?
Julia White demonstrated the Surface Hub. The Surface Hub is Microsoft’s step into the digital whiteboard arena. The Surface Hub is a 55″ or 84″ inch 4k TV. It has a built-in computer, a sea of sensors and video conferencing technologies.
I was very impressed with the white-boarding demo. Coupled with the formidable conferencing technologies of Skype for Business I think digital whiteboard vendors have a serious contender on their hands. Julia also demonstrated the touch capabilities of a Power BI dashboard. At the end of the meeting, Julia clicked “I’m Done” and it removed all traces of the meeting. Great for confidentiality concerns.
I love the simplicity of the device. To quote Julia;
Gurdeep describes Surface Hub as one-touch conferencing, eliminating the average meeting setup time of 13 minutes.
Device Guard is a new feature in Windows 10 that keeps your devices secure. It allows you to set policies that only permit software from certain vendors. It can block malicious software that could be accidentally installed by your users through a phishing attack. Brad Anderson demonstrates how this malware is blocked on Windows 10 with Device Guard.
Azure Rights Management & Data Loss Prevention
With the proliferation of bring your own device (BYOD), there has been a constant concern over the loss of corporate data on personal devices. Microsoft has a solution for this.
Brad demonstrated how he could cut and paste data on a mobile device between designated corporate apps. He then showed how that same data could not be copied between a corporate app and a personal app. Not only that, but Brad also showed us how you were blocked from copying data between a corporate email account and a personal email account that used the same mail app.
Azure Rights Management takes data loss prevention one step further. In what the Microsoft team describes as ‘self-protecting files’. Not only could Brad be alerted when a file was accessed. But he could also revoke access to that file, regardless of location. Brad best describes this as a ‘Kill Switch’.
He also showed us the reporting capabilities of Azure RMS. Specifically, a map that shows who have been accessing the file, whether they were successful, and where they are in the world. This was released today.
Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics
Brad also introduced us to Advanced Threat Analytics. Threat Analytics identifies devices and documents a user shouldn’t be using or accessing.
It really broke down the anatomy of an attack, in a way a someone with a non-security background could understand. I think Lisa Schmeiser’s tweet said it best.
Cool demo: Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics. It looks like a FB timeline of how an attack on your system unfolds. #MSIgnite
— The Immortal Iron Feminist (@lschmeiser) May 4, 2015
Later on in the demo, Brad showed us how the account had been compromised with a brute force attack. From the screenshot, we can see there were 647 guesses on the user’s password.
SQL Server 2016
Microsoft announced the SQL Server 2016 preview will be available this summer. The big announcement is that this version of SQL Server is the same code used in Azure. That being said, this version will support a hybrid database environment with Azure. Furthermore, you will be able to stretch tables into the cloud. Microsoft described it as shifting cold data into the cloud. Whereas hot data would stay on premise.
Windows Server, System Center & Office 2016
Microsoft also announced that new previews of Windows Server, System Center and Office 2016 had been released today. Links are available below.
Windows Server 10
System Center 2016
System Center Technical Preview 2 Service Manager
System Center Technical Preview 2 Operations Manager
System Center Technical Preview 2 Orchestrator
System Center Technical Preview 2 Data Protection Manager
System Center Technical Preview 2 Virtual Machine Manager
Azure in your datacenter
This one I am very curious about. You can now load the Azure stack into your own datacenter. In a nutshell:
This means that you can get a consistent management experience regardless of whether you are managing servers in your own data center, or, Microsoft’s. Azure Stack’s hybrid functionality will let you create a server in your datacenter, send it up to Azure and, if needed, bring it back.
The Azure stack will run on Nano Server. A foot-print 20 times smaller than Core Server. It’s refactored to make the most efficient use of all system resource and the smallest attack plane possible.
More info on the Azure stack here. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/azure-in-your-datacenter/
Is your 2016 any busier?
Getting back to the original question in this article. With all this technology announced, released to preview today, or, soon to release, how is your 2016 shaping up? Which announcements are you most excited about? What preview will you try first?
A lot was covered in the 3-hour keynote but tomorrow will bring even more (including a look at Exchange 2016.)