AI/Big Data/IoT | 5 min read

    Microsoft Ignite 2019: Azure Announcements, Quantum Upgrades, And More

    Microsoft Ignite 2019 Overview

    This year’s Microsoft Ignite event in Orlando, Florida, attracted over 26,000 attendees and generated a lot of buzz about the new products and projects announced by Satya Nadella, President and CEO of Microsoft, during the event’s opening keynote speech.

    Those products and projects were presented as examples of Tech Intensity, itself a product of the mathematical variety:

    Tech Intensity = (Tech Adoption x Tech Capability)TRUST

    Tech Intensity, a concept introduced last year by Microsoft, is calculated by multiplying Tech Adoption and Tech Capability, and then raising that value to the power of Trust.

    Microsoft’s goal is to help all organizations become digital organizations by providing the tools they need to achieve Tech Intensity. Microsoft wants to help organizations adopt new technologies faster, build their own digital capabilities, and maintain security and privacy.

    “Our mission is, simply put, to empower you to build that tech capability. We want every organization to be a digital software company,” explained Nadella. “And that means you need to have the capabilities to be able to turn every organization into a digital company.”

    Microsoft is doing this by commoditizing digital tools and building Azure into a “distributed computing fabric” that can become “the world’s computer”, distributing powerful digital capabilities to everyone.

    To achieve this, Microsoft is developing several exciting products that help grow Azure into a full-stack platform of the future.

    [CTA: Here’s how workload automation delivers Tech Intensity, TechQuilibrium, and everything in between]

    Azure Edge

    “When we talk about the cloud, it doesn’t end in the cloud. In fact, the cloud and edge form that distributed computing fabric,” explained Nadella. “The first thing we’re doing is extending the Azure Edge family with some tremendous new innovations.”

    Those innovations include:

    • Azure Stack Hub. Brings applications and Azure services into the on-premises datacenter, providing a full hybrid cloud that can be fully air-gapped from the public network.
    • Azure Stack HCI. Deploy high-performance virtual machines in your data center and connect to Azure for cloud services
    • Azure Stack Edge Commercial Series. Azure-managed appliance supports compute, storage, and intelligence for edge devices.
    • Azure Stack Edge Rugged Series. Offers the same services and capabilities as the commercial series but is partially enclosed in a hard case that makes it portable and able to withstand harsh(er) conditions.
    • Azure Data Box Edge. A smaller, 10lb version of the other rugged version, allowing users to carry it in a backpack, for example, if they’re entering a disaster zone or remote area.

    Azure Arc

    Azure Arc enables users to manage, provision, and deploy Azure solutions across on-premises, multi-cloud, or hybrid-cloud environments, including accessing managed data services. Azure Arc also supports tools for building cloud-native distributed applications.

    Azure Synapse

    “We want to bring together what have, until today, been two separate categories: data warehousing and big data,” said Nadella. “That means your structured and unstructured data can be brought together with unprecedented scale.”

    Azure Synapse allows users to quickly build end-to-end analytics solutions. It is the next generation of the Azure SQL Data Warehouse. Synapse is no-code and can handle petabytes of data from disparate sources in a matter of seconds, running queries that bring in both relational and non-relational data.

    Nadella’s keynote included a live demonstration of Synapse. A query was run using the new Azure solution and then the same query was run on Google’s BigQuery. The result? The query ran 75% faster on Synapse.

    Synapse then successfully ran 10000 concurrent queries, live onstage, while the audience watched AWS Redshift and GCP BigQuery queue and then fail when trying to run 150 queries.


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    Project Silica

    During his keynote, Nadella delivered an anecdote about Warner Brothers: Warner Brothers stores thousands of original movies on tapes that are kept in a secure, temperature-controlled environment.

    “If there was any kind of drop in temperature or any kind of issue, you’d lose in fact the originals of Superman. Now that would be a tragedy,” said Nadella.

    Project Silica used a femto laser to etch the entire Superman movie into a thin piece of quartz glass approximately two inches squared. The piece of glass is extremely durable, can withstand high temperatures, microwaves, and water, keeping the data intact.

    Nadella did not mention if Microsoft had tried to shatter the glass.

    Azure Quantum

    The Azure Quantum platform offers general purpose quantum computing. Azure Quantum uses open hardware built in partnership with Honeywell, IonQ and Quantum Circuits, Inc.

    Open software will be available on top of the open hardware, including Q# and QDK, both of which are open-sourced. Nadella also announced during Ignite that 1QBit had joined Microsoft’s open software “ecosystem”, bringing 1QBit’s simulation capabilities to Azure.

    With Azure Quantum, Microsoft is looking to “build a complete toolkit for software developers to get started on building quantum computers and quantum algorithms,” said Nadella, adding that developers can also build quantum algorithms on traditional compute resources using Microsoft’s simulation capabilities.

    Trust

    Trust and security were given prominent stage time during the keynote, for a second year in a row. Nadella segued into security by mentioning that the annual cost of cybercrime in 2018 was over $1 trillion. A surprising and horrifying figure.

    “And so therefor it is our collective responsibility to do our best work to ensure the most vulnerable of these populations are protected and that’s why we have focused on this end-to-end security architecture,” explained Nadella.

    If there’s a TL;DR version of Nadella’s entire keynote, it’s this: Azure is an end-to-end tech stack from on-premises, to the cloud, to the edge, with the right security architecture to tie everything together.

    [CTA: Get the benefits of end-to-end security with enterprise workload automation]

    Additional Announcements from Ignite
    • Visual Studio is now available online and has Intellicode which uses AI to complete lines of code for you, much in the way that Bing will finish your search query for you
    • 500 million new applications will be developed by 2023, the majority of which will be created by citizen developers using low-code/no-code app development platforms such as… Microsoft Power Platform
    • Microsoft Flow has been rebranded as Power Automate, a process automation tool that provides robotic process automation to Power Platform users
    • Power Virtual Agents “brings language understanding and conversational capabilities to the Power Platform” so that citizen developers can build their own agents
    • Dynamics 365’s customer data and customer insights platform was built on top of Azure Synapse, making it easier for users to pull data from anywhere
    • Project Cortex, “an interactive knowledge repository”, uses AI to provide organizational knowledge in response to queries from 365 users
    • Eye-gaze correction, background generation, and transparency options for Surface Hub
    • Fluid Frameworks allows 365 users to break documents into component pieces that can be collaboratively worked on in real-time across different applications
    • Edge has been separated from the Windows OS so that Edge is updated faster and more frequently, plus Edge is now built on Chromium and can now run on any OS —also, performance upgrades, security and privacy updates, and… drum roll… Edge can be used to search and navigate the intranet alongside the internet
    • Minecraft Earth is a cloud-based, augmented reality game that uses Azure spatial anchors to create Minecraft adventures in geographic locations

     

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    AI/Big Data/IoT

    Brian McHugh

    Brian is a staff writer for the IT Automation without Boundaries blog, where he covers IT news, events, and thought leadership. He has written for several publications around the New York City-metro area, both in print and online, and received his B.A. in journalism from Rowan University. When he’s not writing about IT orchestration and modernization, he’s nose-deep in a good book or building Lego spaceships with his kids.

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