Microsoft Ignite fall: Cloud and Metaverse take center stage

Microsoft wrapped up its second Ignite conference of the year with announcements of a plethora of new updates, products, and services at the big virtual event last week. Microsoft holds three different types of tech conferences/events every year: one focused on developers (Build), one for channel partners (Inspire), and another for end customers (Ignite). While there weren’t a lot of consumer-centric announcements made at this event, the tech giant did pack in a bunch of major announcements on its cloud platform, tools, and services, along with the focus levied on collaboration, artificial intelligence, security, Metaverse, and more. Here are the top announcements made at the event:

Metaverse

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed Microsoft’s take on the Metaverse, which is shaping up as one of the biggest buzzwords of 2022. “As the ‘digital and physical worlds come together, we are creating an entirely new platform layer, which is the ‘Metaverse,’” Nadella said. However, there is a slight difference in Microsoft’s take on Metaverse compared with that of Facebook’s version. Microsoft plans to develop a Metaverse Platform for enterprises and companies, allowing them to build applications their customers can use in their everyday lives. Microsoft confirmed that they are working on integrating their version of Metaverse across their services, including Azure, IoT, Azure Digital Twins to connected spaces, and Microsoft Mesh.

Microsoft Ignite

Nadella also mentioned that the company has been actively working on building these immersive experiences for their customers for better collaboration and are building their first-party applications like the Microsoft Teams’ Grid Views feature. They also announced that Mesh for Microsoft Teams will allow users to have a shared immersive experience within the Teams platform itself. The company also announced that Accenture is currently building an immersive experience using Microsoft’s Metaverse solution to onboard its new employees during the pandemic.

Project Cortex

Microsoft launched Project Cortex at this year’s fall Ignite event, saying that it creates a knowledge network of the organizations using machine learning to analyze all the internal knowledge bases including documents, repositories, contracts, and more. Project Cortex is also capable of analyzing the information from the organizations’ third-party integrations and partner’s repositories and surface them on Microsoft suite of applications and services such as Office, Outlook, Teams, and more when appropriate.

Web-based version of Visual Studio

As announced earlier this year, Microsoft finally unveiled the web-based version of the Visual Studio development environment at this year’s fall Ignite event. Microsoft also stated that they managed to achieve this through deep integrations of the platform with Microsoft-owned GitHub. While this online version of Visual Studio is not to replace the traditional desktop-based IDE, it allows developers worldwide to better collaborate on projects they’re working on through quick code editing on a browser window.

Microsoft Ignite

Azure updates

Microsoft announced a bunch of new features, security updates, enhancements, and new capabilities to its cloud platform.

Security updates

As a part of security updates and offerings to the Azure, Microsoft expanded Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and cloud workload protection capabilities. Microsoft also announced a bunch of rebranding to its security portfolio of tools and services at this year’s fall Ignite conference. Satya Nadella emphasized that Microsoft’s focus area for the coming years is to strengthen cybersecurity as it is one of the biggest threats to digital transformation in the contemporary IT world.

Azure Arc

Microsoft has always been promoting the hybrid cloud paradigm in the enterprise IT world. With Azure Arc, Microsoft will now allow users to manage their resources across different cloud vendors, including those of the competitors like Google Cloud and AWS. Azure Arc is a centralized management service for hybrid and multicloud resources that provides simplified management and faster app development. Microsoft announced that this service would enable users to control cloud instances and resources for Windows, Linux servers, as well as Kubernetes clusters while allowing them to use some of the Azure data services on these multiple platforms. This allows companies and individuals to borrow a variety of Azure services into their own datacenters and cloud setups.

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Azure AI updates

Microsoft announced updates to its AI-powered Azure Cognitive Services suite, including invitation-only access to OpenAI’s GPT-3 models for security, compliance, and other enterprise capabilities. Microsoft also announced a new commitment pricing tier to provide more predictive costs for high-volume users instead of the current pay-as-you-go model. Microsoft also emphasized their efforts for continuous development of their Cognitive services for language understanding, QnA makers, and textual analysis.

Azure Stack HCI

Microsoft updated its Azure Stack HCI system to offer users new validated solutions from independent software vendors and services from partners. It now allows GPU for AI and machine learning, soft kernel reboots, resource provisioning, and more. Microsoft also launched a preview of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) for Azure Stack HCI along with an all-new autoscale feature for AVD to schedule session host starts and stops.

Microsoft Power Virtual Agents

Power Virtual Agents is Microsoft’s newest low-code/no-code tool for building chatbots. Users can build their bots without having to code through Azure’s machine learning abilities that provide a virtual interface for building a bot. Microsoft announced several new updates to its Power Virtual Agents platform to allow companies to develop AI-powered chatbots that respond to customer needs. The Fusion Bot development program will now allow any bot maker to join in the community, discuss, share, and communicate ideas of bot development inside the authoring experience. The new always-on service now allows the bots to connect to phone calls for interactive voice response (IVR) for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer service. Microsoft announced that these bots can answer the calls autonomously using speech recognition and text-to-speech and then pass along the conversation to live agents to avoid the need for a repeated routine questionnaire to pinpoint and address the issue.

There is more

On top of these major announcements, Microsoft also upgraded its developer and networking tools, Office Suite, and its Analytics and Databases. Both office.com and Office applications are set to receive new pages. PowerPoint, on the other hand, is now bundled with a recording studio feature for users. Moreover, this event also included a bunch of new feature updates and announcements on their thriving collaboration platform — Microsoft Teams, which we will cover in a different post.

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