This week, Microsoft Ignite 2021 virtual conference provided a lot of announcements about new products and services.
If 2020 was the year of big, emergency changes – often relying on IT to make it happen – due to the unique health situation; this year if the one of consolidation in the hybrid workplace trend. Not only the productivity and security have to be addressed, but now are considered the well-being of workers and employee experience as well.
In this article, we highlight updates out of Microsoft Ignite 2021, which we think will bring significant improvements on Microsoft 365, Power Platform, Azure and security solutions. We provide you with a selection of digested topics with our objective thoughts, so you can instantly know what will be the upcoming updates of 2021 and why it could matter for your organization.
From the Keynote, we can tell that Microsoft Ignite 2021 is definitely oriented towards connecting people through technology.
Big changes occurred in our world recently, and therefore we have to find new ways not only of working, but also socializing with other people. That’s the reason why Microsoft introduced numerous news towards the hybrid workplace, but also a brand new product using HoloLens 2 and mixed reality called Microsoft Mesh. Microsoft Mesh
Mesh is Microsoft’s answer to the social distancing everyone had to endure during 2020. Using Hololens 2 and leveraging 3D technology to create a mixed reality, Mesh enables to feel presence, engage, experience, collaborate and design together from remote location. During the Keynote, the Mixed reality offered by Mesh produced more of a mixed result in the community feedback. Still, it’s a new technology, so definitely something to keep an eye on for further development, and figure out what would be the concrete use cases for our clients.
Solutions for the hybrid workers
Microsoft announced VIVA, a new employee experience platform built to empower people and teams to be their best from anywhere. Viva is powered by 4 modules : Viva Connections. Viva Insights, Viva Learning, and Viva Topics
Viva Connections is a portal to a modern employee experience. It is personalized and appears in the apps and devices your employees already use every day, such as Microsoft Teams. Viva Connections gives people a curated, company-branded experience that brings together relevant news, conversations, and other resources.
Viva Insights, now in preview, gives a privacy-protected insights for individuals, managers, and leaders. Starting next month, the virtual commute experience will begin rolling out as part of the Microsoft Viva Insights app to help get a mindfull wrap up users workdays.
Viva Learning provides a central hub in Microsoft Teams where people can discover, share, recommend, and learn from content libraries across the organization, including LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party content providers, and an organization’s own custom content. Viva Topics enables to harness the knowledge of the organization, and connects people to that knowledge, in the apps they use every day. Viva Topics is like a “Wikipedia” with AI superpowers. It uses AI to automatically organize company-wide content and expertise into relevant categories like “projects,” “products,” “processes,” and “customers.”
Meetings dynamic view allows to automatically adapt the view based on attendees and content, with the option to always choose the layout according to the situation.
Enhanced presenter mode brings the presenter on top of the slides to create a more interactive setup, enhancing the remote work experience in general, enabling us to build custom presentations with different format, adapted to different audience sizes and messages.
Now available, Interactive webinars with Teams for people inside and outside of an organization with up to 1,000 attendees. Business can now leverage their Teams investment to conduct professional virtual events and continue providing a great experience with remote communities. Microsoft Teams Connect will allow users to share channels with anyone, internal or external to the organization. In the shared workspace, employees can leverage Microsoft Teams rich collaboration capabilities: chat, meet, collaborate on apps, share, and co-author documents in real-time
Now available a seamless integration of Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365 that includes embedded Teams collaboration experiences in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service; enhanced digital selling tools in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales; and the ability for individuals to set up, promote, and report on events hosted on Teams directly from Dynamics 365 Marketing
Microsoft PowerPoint Live in Teams. Presenters will now be able to lead meetings more confidently with notes, slides, meeting chat, and participants all in a single view. Attendees can personalize their experience by privately navigating the content at their own pace or using the screen reader to make content accessible.
With the increasing interest from our customers to enable a low-code development culture in their organization, we’ve spent the last months helping them to build a governance strategy for large scale roll-out.
This step is the foundation to document and implement a blueprint to:
- Define the positioning of the platform
- Identify the needed roles and competencies for a Center of Excellence
- Plan an environment strategy
- Build a set of security and compliance policies
- Implement a streamlined apps’ lifecycle management
- Monitor the overall usage and adoption of the platform
“Governance strategy” is now buzzing in every organization that tested and validated their interest in the Power Platform and wants to go further. We can only be happy to notice that Microsoft in releasing new features to better administer and govern their products thanks to new granular control capabilities.
Power Automate Desktop
Power Automate Desktop, which offers RPA capabilities that easily automate time-consuming manual work, will be available to Windows 10 users at no additional cost. Windows 10 users can harness the power of low-code RPA by downloading Power Automate Desktop today, and it will be included in Windows Insider Preview builds in the coming weeks.
Microsoft announced Power Fx, an open-source language based on Microsoft Excel for expressing logic in low code. Power Fx brings the familiarity of Microsoft Excel functions—used by hundreds of millions of information workers—to low-code app development and workflow automation. Developers will have the ability to enhance these functions and create new ones, allowing power users to leverage new features and interact with business data with new capabilities coming from the community.
Microsoft Power Fx will expand across Dataverse, Power Virtual Agents, and Power Automate to bring even more consistency to the Power Platform experience.
Enhanced manageability and governance for IT pros
Microsoft announced new and enhanced governance and administration capabilities to enable IT professionals to manage and scale the growth of low-code solutions within the organization.
Connectors endpoint filtering
Enable to restrict connectors to specific endpoints. It limits the usage of a specific SQL server when using the SQL Connector in PowerApps and Automate. Therefore, it will prevent unattended use of business data when democratizing apps development with power users or when including partners in development process.
Connector actions control
Building granular data loss prevention policies by limiting allowed connector actions in an environment. This allows app makers to leverage the Salesforce connector for read operations only. It will enforce data loss prevention policies without completely removing access to business data by controlling the type of authorized operations.
Control access to SaaS cloud applications, based on the Azure AD tenant the applications use for single sign-on. Enabling only specific partner’s tenant to build apps remotely with your tenant’s data It allows remote apps development and help keep control on data access in multi-tenants scenarios within large organizations or when working with partners.
Full set of analytics reports on the tenant-wide Power Platform deployments. Scenario: access reports showing your overall Power Platform usage with flows, apps, bots, connectors usage, risks, etc. It enables admins to better monitor and control their tenant and environments to take remediating actions.
Improvements including AI-driven NL learning that allows the bot to automatically learn from user conversations and improve its natural language. Understanding AI-driven personalization, it is capable of seamlessly use the details the system already has in future chats with the same user to automatically personalize the conversation. Additionally, a new topic suggestion feature is added to help bots authors to discover new topics based on the conversations users are having with the bot. Finally, Microsoft added an AI-driven topic tuning capabilities that helps bots authors to improve topic triggering and help the bot ask fewer clarifying questions.
Azure Percept extends AI capabilities with a single end-to-end platform. Microsoft integrates hardware accelerators with Azure AI and Azure IoT services and designed them to be simple to use and ready to go with minimal setup. Azure Percept was designed in accordance with Microsoft responsible AI principles to help ensure all of these services are streamlined to create edge AI solutions that can adapt to customers’ needs—while helping ensure customers’ trust as the edge evolves. Azure Purview was introduced in December as a unified and comprehensible data governance service. Now, users can leverage Azure Purview to scan Azure Synapse workspaces across serverless and dedicated SQL pools. Synapse users can now also break down operational siloes more effectively than ever before, with the ability to natively discover data with a Purview-powered search within their Synapse workspaces. Azure Arc extends Azure management and services anywhere, in any Kubernetes environment, whether it’s on-premises, multicloud, or at the edge.
Now you can run machine learning, build cloud-native applications anywhere, at scale with Azure Arc.
Businesses can now use Azure Communication Services to easily connect users of their custom-built app with internal users on Microsoft Teams via voice, video, or chat. This means customers can connect to employees using Teams without any app download or required authentication
Security for all
It is today’s reality that the traditional security architectures and perimeters (firewalls, VPNs) are insufficient to respond to the modern workforce business demands. The shift brought by cloud migrations and modern mobile workforces led to a modernization of security architectures with a new access model called Zero Trust.
Zero Trust implements a least-privilege access model where all the involved components (devices, identities, networks and applications) are at first continuously validated to be proven trustworthy before access is effectively granted. In a second step, once access has been granted, the least-privilege principle ensures that only the minimum set of explicit permissions is assigned, thus limiting the risks of lateral movement (that is the action of moving into an environment in search of increased privileges and high-valued assets).
Four approaches to Zero Trust Security
Identity: The starting point of a Zero Trust approach
Microsoft announced new ways that Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), the cloud identity solution of choice for more than 425 million users, can help you on your Zero Trust journey:
Passwordless authentication, which eliminates one of the weakest links in security today, is now generally available for cloud and hybrid environments.
You can create end-to-end experiences for all employees, so they no longer need passwords to sign in to the network. This feature is coupled to the release of the public preview of Temporary Access Pass, a time-limited code used for setup and recovery of a passwordless credential. Azure AD Conditional Access: the Authentication Context capability is now in public preview to enables customers in configuring their access policies with factors such as user, device, location and real-time risk information to control what a specific user can access. Now you can adopt more granular policies that protect resources with the right level of controls based on user actions or the data they are trying to access.
Azure AD Verifiable Credentials: the verifiable credentials capability in Azure AD enables organizations to issue digital claims about identity attributes based on open standards. Individuals can manage credentials in the Microsoft Authenticator app and developers will be able to request and verify credentials via an application software development kit (SDK).
Security: Simplifying the “assume breach” toolset
- Microsoft Defender for Endpoint and Defender for Office 365 customers can now investigate and remediate threats from the Microsoft 365 Defender portal.
- Incidents, schema, and user experiences are now common between Microsoft 365 Defender and Azure Sentinel.
- The new Threat Analytics provides a set of reports from expert Microsoft security researchers that help you understand, prevent, and mitigate active threats, like the Solorigate attacks, directly within Microsoft 365 Defender.
- We are bringing Secured-core to Windows Server and edge devices to help minimize risk from firmware vulnerabilities and advanced malware in IoT and hybrid cloud environments.
Compliance: Protection from the inside out
- Co-authoring of documents protected with Microsoft Information Protection is now available in preview. This enables multiple users to work simultaneously on MIP-protected documents.
- Microsoft 365 Insider Risk Management Analytics can identify potential insider risk activity within an organization and help inform policy configurations. This feature will start to be rolled out to tenants in public preview this month.
- Microsoft 365 is offering in preview data loss prevention (DLP) for Chrome browsers and on-premises server-based environments (for example, file shares and SharePoint Server 2010/2013/2016).
- Multiple updates are available for Azure Purview, a unified data governance service that facilitates the mapping and control of organizational data no matter where it resides—on-premises, in multicloud or software-as-a-service (SaaS). Azure Purview is integrated with Microsoft Information Protection, enabling you to apply the same sensitivity labels defined in Microsoft 365 Compliance Center to data residing in other clouds or on-premises.
Skilling: Power your future through security skilling
To help address the security skills gap, Microsoft has added four new Security, Compliance and Identity certifications with supporting training and has made several updates to the Microsoft Security Technical Content Library:
- Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals
- Information Protection Administrator Associate
- Security Operations Analyst Associate
- Identity and Access Administrator Associate
Hopefully, that was a digest and useful recap of the ignite announcements.
Would you like some advice to help you with the discovery, design and implementation of the new Microsoft Cloud solutions & features? Go ahead and Set up an appointment for a free consultation conference call when it works best for you.