Last week Microsoft Ignite 2020 virtual conference provided a lot of announcements about new products and services.
This year pushed an unprecedented number of people and organizations into a remote working situation, and triggered IT departments to quickly act and adapt to maintaining their platforms and computing environments to ensure they are secure and productive, no matter where the end user is.
With this article, we want to provide you with a digested version of our view on some of the key business user, IT admin and developer related updates out of Microsoft Ignite 2020, which we think bring significant improvements on Microsoft 365, Power Platform, Azure and security compliance.
Microsoft teams usage and adoption has been exploding this year and we all know why. Get ready for many new updates coming for meetings and workspaces to unlock new forms of collaboration, help people and teams stay connected and engaged, and ensure a fluid communication across organizations. Here’s what’s coming:
2) Custom layouts, that will allow presenters to customize how content shows up for participants during the meeting. Like when a presenter is showing slides, attendees will see the presenter’s video feed transposed directly.
3) Breakout rooms, one of the most requested Teams features, will be available next month. Meeting organizers will be able to split up participants into smaller groups to facilitate brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions.
4) The new home site app brings the power of your SharePoint home site, along with the rest of your intranet, directly into Teams. This gives employees an easy gateway to their organization’s intranet, with customizable naming, branding, and multi-level navigation to teams, communities, and resources. It also shows that Microsoft is clearly showing organizations that MS Teams is a hub, and not the only solution that should be looked at.
There are many other new features that we did not talk about. You can take a look at them here.
Last year Microsoft announced project Cortex, a suite of cloud-based AI services, aiming at understanding content and automating processes.
SharePoint Syntex is the first product to emerge from Project Cortex. Syntex applies AI to amplify individual human expertise to convert content into knowledge at scale for the entire organization.
We recommend you to have a closer look at Cortana today, now available as an integral part of Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and Windows 10. We like particularly the daily briefing email from Cortana to help us plan effectively our weeks and days, by blocking focusing time. New updates are coming by the end of the year such as the Briefing email which will streamline meeting preparation. Actionable reminders will make it easy to add an agenda or a Teams link for an upcoming meeting (in case you forget), and to spot if a meeting is missing quorum. Integration with Microsoft To Do will make it seamless to follow up on suggested tasks.
Insights and wellbeing
Another feature that complements Cortana, is the introduction of Insights directly in MS Teams.
Cortana enhances wellbeing and productivity, and helps us to plan our professional and private life which, with remote work, sometimes have blurry boundaries.
Power Automate comes with a new RPA desktop solution
A few months ago Microsoft announced the acquisition of Softomotive, aiming at becoming a serious player in the RPA (Robotic Process Automation) domain. At Ignite, they have announced a new solution (available now in preview), Power Automate Desktop. It enables citizen developer to automate processes and tasks across desktop and web applications, bringing the value of Softomotive solutions directly into Microsoft Power Automate. There is a dedicated webinar to discover all the Power Automate latest updates and announcements that you can check.
Power Platform integration with Azure
Power Apps and Azure API Management now seamlessly work together to allow us to scale Power Apps solutions with custom connectors hosted in Azure.
And Power Platform is now integrated directly into GitHub, which allows developers to create their own software development lifecycle, with GitHub Actions to develop, test, and deliver Power Platform solutions.
Power Virtual Agents and Azure Bot Framework.
Bot makers will be able to use Azure development tools like Bot Framework Composer to code up custom dialogues and directly add them to Power Virtual Agents bots. These dialogues can be saved, hosted and executed together with the rest of Power Virtual Agents’ content, which provides a simpler way to extend bot capabilities with custom code and won’t require additional Azure hosting, deployment or billing complexities. Microsoft Power Virtual Agents and Azure Bot Framework integration allows enterprises to build and distribute bots as low code solutions in Teams.
Our name Stellium and our brand are deeply related to our universe and a passion for exploration, so, when we heard about Azure Orbital, it clearly caught our attention, even if we’re not yet working with NASA or SpaceX, yet… 🚀
Azure Orbital is a Ground Station as a Service that provides communication and control of your satellite. Orbital enables easy and integrated data processing and scale for your operations directly from Azure. Leverage familiar Azure services to process and store your data at scale. Learn more.
Run Azure services on any infrastructure with Azure Arc-enabled servers and Azure Arc-enabled data services
Azure Arc has been announced back in November 2019 as a single control plane for workloads distributed across different data centers, including the capability of running Azure Data Services on-premise. At Ignite, Microsoft announced the addition of two key features:
> Azure Arc enabled data services
Azure SQL Managed Instance and Azure PostgreSQL can now run across on-premises data centers, multi-cloud and edge, with the benefit of a unified data management experience, working both in connected and disconnected mode.
> Azure Arc enabled servers
Seamlessly manage Windows and Linux physical and virtual machines across on-premises data centers, multi-cloud and edge environments. The Azure management platform can now be leveraged to provide a unified experience for operational aspects such as monitoring, updating, security controls configurations, and auditing. RBAC configurations can be also standardized to meet compliance requirements. Learn more.
Azure Migrate announces new agentless software inventory and dependency mapping to simplify your migration
Azure Migrate, a central hub for Azure cloud migration services, expands its capabilities with two features: the app discovery process, which discovers applications, roles and features on on-premise servers, is now agentless using machine guest credentials and accessing remotely VMs through secure WMI and SSH calls, supporting up to 10.000 VMs on VMWare; dependency analysis, which identifies dependencies between discovered on-premise machines, is now also agentless, polling data directly from VMWare VMs using the VSphere API. Learn more.
Azure Artificial Intelligence
Microsoft Bot Framework
At Stellium building chat bots is not a secret, we have even developed a complete bot building experience leveraging Azure services and the MS bot services. Needless to say, we closely follow any updates from Microsoft in this domain. It is nice to see Microsoft streamlining its approach to bot development:
Bot Framework Composer, an open source tool for visual bot development is now available on GitHub, this makes it easier to build skills and use them within the Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator. And at last, Alexa is now an available channel on the Azure Bot Services. Learn more.
Spatial analysis capability is now available as part of the Azure Computer Vision cognitive service. Its advanced AI models aggregate insights from multiple cameras to count the number of people in the room, measure the social distancing between individuals, and monitor wait and dwell times. Organizations can now leverage this technology to automatically measure space and distances and keep people safe.
News for Azure developers
> .NET Version 5.0 RC
.NET v5.0 includes many improvements, notably for single page applications (SPA), smaller container images, more capable JSON serialization APIs, a complete set of nullable reference type annotations, new target framework names, and much more.
> Azure App Service updates
News on the Azure App Service managed platform for building, deploying and scaling web applications include new price points, an updated Premium offering, support for Windows Containers, a new multinetwork App Service Environment and integration with GitHub Actions. Learn more.
> Azure Communication Services
Azure Communication Services makes it easy to add voice and video calling, chat, and SMS text message capabilities to mobile apps, desktop applications, and websites with just a few lines of code. Learn more.
> Logic Apps
Logic Apps now provides integration with VS Code through a new extension, enabling local development. It’s hosting architecture is now aligned with Azure Functions and Azure App Service enabling us to create Workflows and Functions that interoperate and extend each other’s capabilities in a more seamless way. In addition Logic Apps is integrated with the full developer toolchain, including GitHub Actions and a new deployment model based around a similar grouping concept, such as with Function Apps, enabling multiple workflows to be deployed into a single Logic App resource simplifying automated deployments and CI/CD pipelines. Learn more.
> Private Azure Marketplace
Organizations will soon be able to create a private marketplace of pre-approved solutions for employees with a new service called Azure Private Marketplace. The service will help organizations make sure the available apps comply with the company policies and regulations, which helps employees deploy only the ones that follow company rules. Learn more.
Microsoft has finally unified its protection capabilities across different products in a single-branded package called Microsoft Defender. It includes Microsoft 365 Defender (previously Microsoft Threat Protection) and Azure Defender (previously Azure Security Center). Here is a breakdown of the suite capabilities:
Bring Your Own Key
Want to add an extra layer of encryption in Microsoft Teams? Well, now you can as MSFT is allowing customers to bring their own security keys, bringing it in line with Exchange Online, SharePoint and OneDrive. Customer Key for Teams should be in public preview before the end of 2020.
Azure Active Directory
Following zero-trust principles for identity, Microsoft is rolling out Conditional Access insights in preview, to help you identify gaps in your CA policies. The Conditional Access API is also finally available to help automate and simplify CA policies configuration. Risk-based Conditional Access and risk detection features of Identity Protection are also now finally available in Azure AD B2C and can be integrated into B2C user flows and custom policies. Azure AD External Identities capabilities are now also unified across B2B and B2c tenants, becoming also more affordable based on monthly usage.
Azure Active Directory Verifiable Credentials
Verifiable credentials empower users to own their digital identity by becoming the holders of their credentials, that they store inside a personal digital wallet. Verifiable credentials are released by an issuer and digitally signed to ensure that the issuer is trusted and real. The trust mechanism is backed by blockchain technology so that any verifier can check the issuer public keys to ensure they have not been tampered with.
The Verifiable Credential standard facilitates an open ecosystem of credentials that can be easily verified by any interested party, relying on W3C open standards called Verifiable Credentials and Decentralized Identifiers (DID). Verifiable Credentials is a capability currently in preview in Azure AD, and we at Stellium, are currently looking at it to shape potential use-cases for B2B and B2c scenarios. To learn more check the documentation here.
> Defender for Endpoint
Endpoint protection across all major OS platforms, with proactive scanning of malicious application and files, blocking access to corporate resources to mitigate the impact of breaches, and increased visibility across mobile threats and alerts via the security center. MDE provides also expanded capabilities for iOS, with phishing and web protection.
> Microsoft Defender for O365
Previously known as Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), it is now in public preview with capabilities to prioritize protection for the most visible and targeted individuals, that can be marked as Priority accounts in the organization.
> Microsoft Defender for Identity
Previously known as Azure Advanced Threat Protection, keeping the same capabilities to protect cloud and hybrid customer identities.
> Azure Defender
Azure Defender takes over Azure Security Center (ASC), providing protection capabilities for hybrid resources, including VMs, databases, containers and IoT. Azure Defender supports also the protection of on-premise or multi-cloud deployed workloads leveraging Azure Arc capabilities. It provides also enhanced container protection for Kubernetes with container images scanning. Last but not least, it supports also IoT workloads with agentless security for asset discovery, vulnerability management and threat monitoring for both greenfield and brownfield devices. To learn more: Microsoft 365 Defender, Azure Defender
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