Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2015 Review, Part One

chris-strongMicrosoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2015 in Orlando, Florida gave both Microsoft’s partners and their own team a great opportunity to come together and discuss the year ahead, find out about new products and services in their pipeline, and reassess how we can continue driving greater value for our shared customers. The executive keynotes and “rah-rah” speeches are always interesting in their own right, but I think many would agree that the biggest value from these events are the opportunity to network with other partners and the Microsoft folks. Through these discussions, it’s possible to piece together a patchwork set of ideas around what’s succeeding, what’s failing, and what sort of technologies and techniques are having industry-wide impacts on businesses using Microsoft’s platforms. For this first entry, I wanted to call out two of the larger themes I felt were highly impactful at the conference. In my upcoming entry, I’ll focus on another large topic at WPC that also spurred much discussion.

Cloud First

It’s no secret that Microsoft has been focusing more and more on developing their cloud solutions (like Office365 and Azure) and pushing the message that these platforms are their future. This year, however, seemed like more of a turning point as Microsoft acknowledged that it not only continues to invest heavily in its hosted platforms, but that it’s gotten to the point that they now have a truly “cloud-first” development cycle. The result is that their traditional on-premises products, while continuing to remain available and updated, will derive much of their new features and functionality directly from the advances made on their cloud-based counterparts. Almost like a “trickle-down” style of development.

Additional announcements were made around some new and upcoming enterprise services that are new paradigms for many: the Cortana Analytics Suite – a PaaS platform that enables speech recognition for querying and gaining quick analysis of big data pools to make it more accessible to the average user – looked and performed much like the Cortana feature currently on consumer mobile devices; Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities expanding the ability to connect and analyze just about anything with a chip and WiFi; and real-world examples of organizations that have already begun utilizing IoT via Azure services to improve their operational efficiency and business intelligence capabilities.

In general, it’s simply more apparent than ever before that Microsoft is “all in” with the cloud, and will continue to make advances in that area beyond any other products they offer. As a company, we’ve already done quite a bit of work with Microsoft’s cloud services (Office365 in particular, and now also Azure to a significant degree in the past couple of years) and are excited about this renewed emphasis from Microsoft, as it ensures that the overall experience and satisfaction level for our customers will continue expanding.

Security

A significant amount of time and emphasis was also placed on security at WPC, with Microsoft extolling the heavy amount of investment they’ve made to gain additional compliance certifications for their hosted platforms and for Windows 10. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is now basically becoming a mainstream functionality in all of their newest versions of Windows, it seems, which is absolutely a positive trend. The expanded factor capabilities within MFA input methods was also encouraging, with things like Windows Hello (think facial recognition) giving users more simple and efficient means of logging into their endpoints without feeling like they have to spend five minutes trying to jump through hoops just to log in. This sort of user-friendly approach to security will hopefully have the effect of making it more approachable for IT organizations to implement inside of their enterprises. Whenever Virteva has implemented MFA for our customers’ environments, the user experience often comes up as a primary concern. These improvements should help ease that concern and make it that much easier for enterprises to give it the green light.

Additional security apparatuses Microsoft is building into Windows such as Secure Boot, Virtual Secure Mode, and Device Guard also aim to greatly improve security capabilities for all user endpoints. They add up to what I think will be a far more secure Windows platform, that helps reduce the amount of security-related issues that IT departments have to address. The same goes for the new Windows Update methods that are coming with Windows 10, in that a lot of attention seems to have been paid to improving the overall experience for both the end user and the IT staff supporting them. Between SCCM, InTune, and the newly introduced Windows Update for Business, there is a lot of nuances involved in endpoint management and security. For our purposes, I know that we’ll be hard at work keeping pace with these changes, as they should have a direct impact on our management practices and how we conduct administration.

For those of us from Virteva who attended the conference, it was heartening to witness these types of announcements and improvements coming this year, as they were frequently focused around areas in which we encounter customer concerns and feedback.

Read Part II…

Chris Strong, Virteva Sales Engineer

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