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Microsoft Ignite 2019: Top announcements and product unveilings

Microsoft Ignite is one of the company’s largest events in the roadmap for IT professionals. This year’s event took place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. Microsoft uses the Ignite platform to share their latest updates on products and services. This year’s event had plenty of announcements along with new information about the company’s product and service portfolio. Microsoft also shared insights on their various upcoming plans and pipelined services.

While there were more than 150 announcements announced at the event, here are the most interesting and most important.

Azure Arc: A game-changer?

Microsoft Azure is, of course, one of the world’s leading cloud platforms. The company at the event announced Azure Arc, an answer to AWS Outposts and Google Anthos. Azure Arc is the company’s attempt to overcome the shortcomings of hybrid cloud architectures. Azure Arc will allow enterprises to use Azure to manage their cloud instances and resources across different cloud platforms including Amazon’s AWS and Google Cloud. Azure Arc will work on various platforms including Windows and Linux servers, Hadoop and Kubernetes clusters, and more.

Microsoft has already managed to attract a huge audience with its Azure Stack, which allowed companies to bring various Azure’s capabilities into their own datacenters and local infrastructure. However, there are restrictions concerning the hardware that supports Azure Stack. While Azure Arc doesn’t include all the features of Azure Stack, it does allow enterprises to have a single platform to manage all their cloud resources across different cloud providers and their own datacenters. In short, Azure Arc is a central system to manage multiple clouds and one of Microsoft’s most important releases in years.

Visual Studio Online: Web version

Microsoft Visual Studio, arguably one of the best available IDEs out there, is now available on the web. Microsoft, earlier this year at its Build show, announced that it would soon launch the web version of Visual Studio. Now, at Ignite 2019, the company released the preview version of the cloud-powered dev environment, the Visual Studio Online.

Visual Studio Online can help developers to work on projects both small or large on any system. It provides developers with a fully configured development environment in minutes. Visual Studio Online allows developers to have an easy and convenient way of working on their projects residing on GitHub, saving a lot of time, effort, and thus increasing productivity and convenience.

Visual Studio Online Supports Git repos, extensions, built-in command-line interfaces, terminal view, debug mode, and more from any device.

Project Cortex: Newest service in Microsoft 365

Microsoft unveiled its all-new service to Microsoft 365 in the form of Project Cortex. Project Cortex uses advanced machine learning and AI algorithms and techniques to deliver business insights and productivity across enterprises.

Project Cortex scans and analyzes all documents, contracts, and various other informational files across various repositories in the enterprise and makes it easier for employees to find what they are looking for. According to Microsoft, Project Cortex can also scan for files in third-party partners. “The whole idea here is that it’s kind of a spelunker that’s going down into all your content repositories, whether they’re in Microsoft 365, on-prem and file shares and other systems,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Microsoft 365.

Project Cortex is built on the intelligence of Microsoft Graph, which houses a variety of Microsoft AI technologies. It can also automate content capturing, categorization, data management, and various other services.

Cortana: With a punch of AI

Microsoft’s Cortana now also has a male voice. But there was more announced about Cortana at Microsoft Ignite. Microsoft announced that Cortana on iOS can now read out a summary of Outlook to its users. Cortana can now read out the emails, help users flag emails, write emails based on voice inputs, and more.

Cortana can also send the daily agenda to users based on calendar appointments, bookings, reminders, and events. The company has launched it on the iOS platform and confirmed that an Android version will be coming later. While Cortana was not a huge success in the general audience like the Google Assistant or Siri are, it still is a very able and enterprise-focused voice assistant. The company also confirmed that they are working on getting Cortana on Microsoft Teams and said that they are also continuing work on the natural conversational features of Cortana.

HoloLens 2

Microsoft HoloLens 2 is the company’s second iteration of the mixed-reality headset. For the uninitiated, Microsoft HoloLens project aims at utilizing mixed-reality in various domains such as healthcare, engineering, manufacturing, industries, and more to offer various real-time benefits.

HoloLens 2 is the upgraded version of the initially launched HoloLens and was announced in February this year. At Ignite 2019, Microsoft began the sale of these devices. While there are multimedia and gaming-related use-cases for mixed-reality, Microsoft is positioning the device as a core business and work-related tool and not as a multimedia or entertainment product.

The device is now available to buy in three different variants, a developer edition at $3,500, a device-only SKU for $3,500, or bundled with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist for $125 per user per month.

Project Silica

Project Silica is Microsoft’s ongoing program to build large-scale storage systems to store data in quartz glass using advanced fiber-optics. Microsoft shared more information about Project Silica and as proof of its work, they have partnered with Warner Bros. Microsoft stored the entire “Superman” movie (75.6GB) in a glass panel measuring 75mm x 75mm with a thickness of 2mm. The company also demonstrated and read back the data from the piece of glass after it was stored, marking a milestone in storage spaces.

It works by using advanced laser optics to encode data in layers of 3D nanoscale gratings on the glass. For reading the data, a microscopic light is targeted on the glass which reads the data through these gratings and deformities made on the glass.

On top of these announcements, Microsoft also revealed several other updates at Ignite 2019. The company said that Microsoft Whiteboard will now be available for the web and Microsoft Teams. The company also demonstrated its new way of handling endpoint security without the need for overwhelming expertise and information. And the company relaunched its Edge browser and Bing search engine for business. To know more about the event and more information on all the announcements made, you can visit Microsoft Ignite’s page here.

Images: Microsoft

Sukesh Mudrakola

Sukesh is a computer science graduate by profession and an IT enterprise and tech enthusiast by passion. He holds an expertise in mobile and wearable technologies and is an avid Android fan.

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