The enduring mission at Microsoft is to "empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more," said CEO Satya Nadella during his Ignite conference keynote on May 4.
However, the means of doing that go far beyond technology.
"It is how we partner," said Nadella, "and how we create the flexibility that speaks to the real-world needs of our customers." Unlike last week's Build conference, which catered to a developer audience, Ignite aims to help IT pros transition from delivering technology to driving business transformation.
In doing this, Microsoft has three ambitions: To drive an era of more personal computing, reinvent the nature of work by bringing together technology and business processes, and build an intelligent cloud backend for global applications.
About 23,000 people attended the Ignite opening presentations given by Microsoft execs, including Nadella; Joe Belfiore, VP operating systems; Terry Myerson, EVP operating systems; Julia White, general manager of marketing, Microsoft Office; and Brad Anderson, VP, enterprise client and mobility.
The lengthy keynote touched on updates across Microsoft's product line, from improved Cortana functionality to a new Microsoft Azure Stack.
Here's a rundown of what we learned at Ignite today:
Windows Update For Business
A key takeaway from today's keynote is that Windows 10 will enable IT professionals to manage service and updates. Windows Update for Business addresses end-user devices within the enterprise.
It will enable IT pros to choose which devices first receive updates, the timeframes in which the updates should or should not occur, where they should be delivered and integrated with existing tools like System Center and Enterprise Mobility Suite. The goal is to cut management costs while providing greater control and faster access to security updates throughout the process.
IT pros can better deploy Windows 10 updates with the System Center Configuration Manager, which will be integrated with Windows Update for Business and help with updating and securing the new OS.
In its efforts to drive productivity, Microsoft is focusing on five tenets of the workplace experience: Teams, human mobility, meetings, content co-creation, and intelligence. The most recent set of Office updates addresses each of these.
First up is Office 365 Groups, a capability designed to foster greater collaboration among team members via email, note taking, video, IM, and meetings. In the future, meetings will automatically be conducted on Skype for Business so as to better include virtual attendees. Skype for Business broadcast, announced today, will include up to 10,000 people in real time.
In other new product updates, Microsoft announced the public preview of Office 2016 and the upcoming launch of Sway for consumers. Sway, which has been in preview since last October, will be available to business and education subscribers in Office 365 later this month.
We also learned about Microsoft's efforts to improve transparency and information control within Office 365. This included file-level encryption across content and email, in addition to a Customer Lockbox that gives customers control over whether Microsoft can access their personal information.
This update will bring IaaS and PaaS capabilities, along with the Azure user experience (it's built with the same core technology), to existing customer data centers. The Azure Stack contains Microsoft's Azure Service Fabric, Azure Portal, and Azure Resource Manager. It enables IT pros to maintain centralized oversight while combining enterprise applications like SharePoint, SQL Server, and Exchange with distributed apps. Azure Stack will be available in preview later this summer.
SQL Server 2016
In another update on mobile-first, cloud-first innovation, Microsoft is announcing SQL Server 2016. New updates for the database and analytics platform include Always Encrypted, which protects data; Stretch Database, which lets users bring transactional data to Azure; improvements to in-memory technologies for real-time analytics; and new in-database analytics with R integration. SQL Server 2016 will be available in preview later this summer.
Operations Management Suite
The Microsoft OMS is a new management solution that helps employees better manage their work regardless of its physical or virtual location, including Azure, Windows Server, AWS, Linux, VMWare, and OpenStack. It tracks and manages data regarding log analytics, security, and automation, and has one consistent IT control panel for management. Throughout the next year, Microsoft promises more updates on cloud-based patching, alerting, inventory, and container management.
Advanced Threat Analytics
Microsoft is using the technology it acquired in Aorato to help IT pros improve security by analyzing authentication logs and detecting advanced persistent threats. With more detailed information, employees can take action to isolate threats and protect themselves.