What’s new with Microsoft?
Menlo Technologies joined 16,000 Microsoft partners, employees and industry experts for Inspire 2018, Microsoft’s worldwide partner conference which took place last weekin Las Vegas Nevada. The 5-day conference was highlighted by information sessions and keynotes by leading Microsoft executives. It wasn’t until day three that we heard from CEO Satya Nadella, who walked on to the stage to thunderous applause, and for good reason.
Microsoft partners generated nearly $1 trillion in revenue over the past 12 months, thanks to customer demand and satisfaction.
So what’s next for Microsoft?
“A profound shift to a new way of doing things,” said Nadella.
Here are highlights and main points of his Keynote:
Intelligent Cloud, Intelligent Edge
“As we look forward, the opportunity for us to serve our customers in this new era of the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge is far greater,” said Nadella, “I’ve lived through the client-server, the web, mobile, cloud. But what we’re going to see going forward is going to be even more profound.”
The Intelligent Edge bridges the digital and real world—enabling you to deliver a seamless experience and compute capabilities wherever your data exists—in the cloud or offline.
“What is common across all of these solution areas is this profound shift to a new way of doing things, the intelligent cloud, the intelligent edge and ultimately, though, we’ve got to measure ourselves not by technology for technology’s sake, but how are we empowering people? How are we helping organizations with their digital transformational outcome? That’s what this is all about.”
In addition, Nadella stated that Microsoft is going to infuse everything with AI. “It’s going to have perception capability, language capability, and autonomy that’s going to be built into the applications going forward,” Nadella said. “And to power all of this, the one thing that’s needed is a ubiquitous, distributed computing fabric.”
Microsoft’s vision for distributed computing fabric starts with the Azure cloud platform, which now has 54 data center regions, including Project Natick, a years-long research effort to investigate manufacturing and operating environmentally sustainable, pre-packaged datacenter units that can be ordered to size, rapidly deployed and left to operate lights out on the seafloor for years. “We’re very excited about pushing even what is the conventional wisdom of what is a data center,” said Nadella. “Essentially, wherever there is data, compute will migrate to data. And so we are going and taking Azure to Azure Stack, to Azure IoT Edge, to Azure Sphere. This is that one ubiquitous, distributed computing fabric. One programming model that is event-driven, serverless, so you can write an application that truly works across all of this.”
Nadella called recent advances in AI have been “pretty stunning” in terms of how they’re reaching parity with human perception and language capabilities.
“It’s not about celebrating these breakthroughs for Microsoft Research. Our collective objective is to take these breakthroughs and democratize them, with the tooling we create, and with the expertise and the skill set and the services that you provide.”
The potential, he said, is for Microsoft to be able to turn every industry into an AI-first industry — whether it’s retail or health care or agriculture.
“We want to be able to make sure that they can take their data in a secure, privacy-preserving way, convert that into AI capabilities that they get the return on.”
Nadella shared AI use cases, including:
- A project by solution provider BlueMetal to reduce costs at hospital operator Steward Health Care using AI and machine learning
- Their key goal is to make sure that compute is available in the remotest of locations. The manual operations have a digital feedback loop to provide accuracy, so they deploy Azure Stack where the data is being generated– where the AI needs to actually have the reasoning power.
Microsoft is working at “democratizing autonomy into a set of toolkits that everyone here can use,” he said. “Autonomy is not just about a few self-driving projects. This is about autonomy everywhere.”
Nadella showed how his workday revolves around the Microsoft 365 suite, which includes Office 365 productivity apps and Windows 10. Along with using Outlook (which Nadella described as “the best Gmail client”), he emphasized how the Teams app has come to dominate his daily collaboration with his inner circle. Microsoft has been heavily promoting Teams, a competitor to Slack, and launched its first free version of Teams last week in connection with Inspire. Nadella also pointed to his own use of the Cortana virtual assistant — which has a “commitments” feature that reminds him of things he’s committed to doing but hasn’t put into a to-do list. Commitments is “one of the features that saves me every day,” he said.
For partners, Microsoft 365 is a way to help customers transition into a paradigm of “people-centered experiences” rather than device-centered experiences, Nadella said. “The opportunity for everyone here is to take Microsoft 365 and apply it for cultural transformation in large enterprises, for productivity in small businesses, to be able to really do industry-specific workflows in health care, in manufacturing, in financial services. To be able to really do industry-specific workflows in health care, manufacturing, financial services. To be able to take it to first-line workers. To extend to business process with Dynamics 365. That’s the opportunity that everyone in this room has with Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365.”
Dynamics 365 — Microsoft’s combination cloud CRM and ERP system — saw 65 percent growth during the first three quarters of the company’s fiscal 2018 (Microsoft’s fourth-quarter results come out Thursday). That makes it one of Microsoft’s fastest-growing businesses, even faster than Office 365. Microsoft executives this week announced a number of new ways they’re working to assist partners with getting involved with Dynamics 365, as well as with other business applications such as Power BI data visualization. During his Inspire keynote, Nadella said that Power BI is “one tool that’s changed the culture inside the company,” thanks to the way that it helps bring the focus to leading indicators rather than lagging indicators.
“When you think about business process in particular, the one thing that is going to be true is more things are going to be digitized. As we see the power of IoT and other tools that are going to be used, every workflow is going to be automated,” Nadella said. “That means we need to have a set of tools that allow us to reduce the total cost of these customizations and automation. And now we’ve built a complete new app platform, which I think represents a tremendous opportunity for everyone in the room — Power BI, PowerApps and Flow. The combination of it is just going to change how applications are built and deployed.”
Want to read the transcript from Satya Nadella’s keynote? You can read it here.
There was a lot of great information at Inspire 2018, and we’d love to share our experience with you and demonstrate how Microsoft solutions can accelerate your digital transformation.