Microsoft Ignite 2020: Key Learnings

01 Oct 2020, MOQdigital

Microsoft, Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Ignite has come and gone. Yet another Microsoft event where they continue to surprise with a litany of new announcements and a proverbial push of boundaries. Among those in attendance was Piers Matthews, Chief Technology Officer for MOQdigital. He and the MOQdigital team have reviewed these and singled out a few which we are sure will have a fundamental impact moving forwards.

Azure Communication Services: Microsoft has made the ‘back end’ capabilities of the Teams platform open for use by developers. This does not predicate the direct use of a Teams deployment, but rather uses the assets that Microsoft has built behind the scenes that power Teams today. It essentially provides a set of API’s that will easily enable pro developers to build out complex omni-channel, highly scalable scenarios directly into their Applications. More specifically, Azure Communication Services enables developers to rapidly build and integrate Voice & Video Calling over IP; Chat and SMSs. While Microsoft takes care of the connectivity and scaffolding, with a few well-placed lines of code, it’s now easy for a developer to add a two-way video capability (for example) directly into their modern web or mobile app.

Dynamics & Collaboration: The lines between traditional Collaboration workloads and the Business Applications continue to blur as Microsoft drives the Power Platform forward. In the Business Applications arena – notably, D365 Microsoft came out in full force with an impressive overlay of new features both those that have been forecast on roadmaps for a while and a few surprises.

Omnichannel: Extending on the ACS capability, Microsoft has now added a new Voice Channel to the Dynamics 365 Customer Service Omnichannel experience. In the past, the typical approach was to integrate standalone telephony solutions. This created silo data and introduced unnecessary complexity. The solution provides an “All in one” offering for Customer Servicing with advanced analytics across all channels to enable your Agents to provide better than ever service across channels from a single pane.

Oakdale & Power Apps for Teams: Our popular blog about Project Oakdale back in August noted the capabilities, limitations and value proposition, and now it’s here putting App creation directly in the hands of Makers (and Pro developers) inside of Teams. As per our original assertion – Teams is now the new App Ecosystem. With Oakdale providing a relational datastore that doesn’t require a premium licence, Microsoft has massively simplified the way we can enable complex business flows and Apps – directly inside of Teams. This further drives the messaging from Microsoft that Teams is the single pane of glass for collaboration. Already, we have our Developers and Makers building out new scenarios for our customers. We will be running an Extending Teams Webinar series soon, so watch this space for more information.

Azure APIM Simplifies the ProDev and Maker conversation: Microsoft has extended Azure API Management capabilities to directly Publish APIs into the Power Platform at large. This massively simplifies any hand off between Pro-Developers and Low Code Power App Makers. Your professional developers and integrators will build out their domain-specific microservices and integrations, publish these through Azure API Manger and they will immediately be consumable within the Power Platform, which reduces the time to market.

RPA: Lastly in this area, Power Automate Desktop makes good on the Microsoft acquisition of Softomotive a few months prior by providing enhanced RPA capabilities on the already mature workflow (Power Automate) and Forms (Power Apps) solutions. The new Desktop capability much improves the v1 RPA capabilities and when combined with the AI embedded cognitive services provides a compelling story that challenges current leaders in the RPA arena.

Microsoft Stream finally got a much-anticipated uplift, and possibly the most requested feature “external and anonymous sharing” was well received by most.

Teams & Wellbeing: Teams has a host of new features that our specialists will write in detail about in an upcoming blog. In addition to Project Oakdale (a clear highlight) we found the new wellbeing additions will be a welcome addition. As the success of our own Check-in app indicated that Wellbeing in the new ways of working is a paramount concern. The Microsoft upcoming features integrating MyAnalytics, powered by Microsoft Graph and features such as emotional check-in and virtual commute time will help people and culture teams ensure the workforce remains well.

Security: A host of enhancements into Microsoft’s maturing platform, the addition of User and Entity Behavioural Analytics into Azure Sentinel (cloud-native Security Information and Event Management platform) now helps protect against insider threats, indenturing anomalies in the behaviour of users. We have seen a steady adoption of Sentinel and the expansion of the overall Microsoft Security ecosystem has been landing well with our clients.

iPaaS & IOT: Hidden away with little fanfare were enhancements made around the Microsoft Logic Apps runtime and its developer toolchain. Logic Apps is an integral part of the Microsoft Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS). It offers integration orchestration (integration workflows) that enable the implementation of many common integration patterns. MOQdigital is a leader in the iPaaS space for Microsoft and our teams readily cheered on these new capabilities. In particular – new ways to isolate Logic App workloads with connectivity in Azure and more importantly – the realisation of a fully containerised offering (to augment Azure Functions and Azure APIM containerisation already in play) will allow for a fully managed on-premise deployment of Logic Apps is huge. As this matures, it will ensure that Microsoft has near feature parity with integrations running natively in Azure as well as locally at the Edge – ultimately managed by Azure ARC and AKS.

Azure SQL Edge going GA is a win for our IoT and Edge development scenarios. Running the Microsoft SQL engine on Edge devices supports localised data streaming and AI workloads in a containerised footprint. When combined with the expansion of the fleet of ready to go, connected IoT Edge Stack devices including a Mini and Ruggedized device, enabling complex IoT and processing scenarios at the Edge and into Azure can now be a full end to end story with hardware, analytics messaging and upstream integrations all forming part of the story.

Data & AI: In the Data and AI space, many new announcements were made (which our Data teams will be writing about over the coming weeks). We found the new Spatial Analysis functions added to the Cognitive Vision Service very impressive. It provides capabilities for current topical use cases such as counting people within an area or measuring distances between them right from a video stream. Combined with Azure Stack edge (mentioned above), we can see immediate real world applications.

In addition to the Azure SQL Edge being GA, the announcement of a fully serverless option for Azure Cosmos DB at a price fraction brings this highly valuable Document Style DB platform to more applications and services we create.

In all, we think Microsoft has pulled off yet another exciting event, with many new capabilities discussed and the direction of the Microsoft cloud clearly on the rise. If you would like to see Microsoft’s full synopsis of the event check out the Book of News.