Posey's Tips & Tricks

Microsoft Ignite 2018: Expect Lots of Cloud, Little of Windows

A grab-bag of predictions for Microsoft's upcoming IT event. Also in the cards: open source getting short shrift.

In recent years, it has become something of a tradition for me to share my thoughts and predictions on the Microsoft Ignite conference. Some of those predictions have been spot-on, while others...well, let's just say that they were a bit misguided.

I have so many thoughts on this year's conference, which takes place next week in Orlando, Fla., that I almost don't know where to begin. However, I wanted to talk about at least a few of the things that have been on my mind.

Before I get started, I want to quickly mention that I will be speaking at this year's Ignite conference. Alongside fellow commercial scientist, astronaut candidate and crew mate Heidi Hammerstein, I will be presenting a session on commercial spaceflight training at the Microsoft Certified Trainer event on Sept. 22. If you're an MCT, please come to the session and say hello.

With that said, I think that the biggest story surrounding Ignite isn't what you are going to hear from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the keynote, but rather what you won't hear from him. Now, keep in mind that I have not yet received a pre-briefing, so I have absolutely no knowledge at this point of the actual contents of the keynote.

Even so, I definitely have some expectations. My guess is that the main things that Microsoft will want to talk about at Ignite are Office 2019/Office 365, Azure and, as Steve Ballmer used to say, "Developers, developers, developers."

You might notice that even though Windows Server 2019 is slated to be released soon, I didn't include Windows on the list. I'm sure that Microsoft will spend a bit of time talking about Windows, but I doubt that it will be a major area of focus. Although Windows remains a necessity for Microsoft, Windows is no longer the flagship product that it once was. Today, Microsoft has gone all-in on cloud services such as Office 365 and Azure. Windows is little more than a required infrastructure product.

I have long wondered if Microsoft might eventually make Windows open source. I even briefly pondered whether such an announcement might be made at Ignite. However, I don't expect that to happen. Here's why.

As previously mentioned, Microsoft has gone all-in on its cloud services platforms. There are two things that are the kiss of death for a cloud provider: a major outage (in the magnitude of a day or more) and a massive security breach.

Both the Azure cloud and the Office 365 cloud run on Windows. There are also numerous other cloud services such as Bing and Cortana that also run on Windows. If Microsoft were to turn Windows into an open source platform, then it risks previously undiscovered security vulnerabilities being found and exploited in a way that impacts its cloud services. I think that Microsoft's security needs absolutely demand that Windows code be kept internal to Microsoft.

So with that said, what can we expect from Ignite? As I said earlier, I expect Microsoft to focus heavily on Azure and Office 365. Even so, I have been to enough Ignite (and TechEd before that) events to know that Microsoft always tries to show something new in an effort to wow its business customers.

I have no idea what that new thing will be, but given the way that the IT industry seems to be so focused on machine learning right now, my guess is that we will see some sort of demo in which machine learning and Power BI are used to derive hidden insight from Office 365 and possibly Azure SQL data. I would further speculate that much of the data will have been created by Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

I also expect Microsoft to do some kind of cool mixed reality or augmented reality demo during one of the Ignite keynotes. Microsoft has invested heavily in mixed and augmented reality, and has been trying to find a compelling use case that will drive adoption in the enterprise. What better place to present such a use case than at Ignite, since many of Microsoft's enterprise customers will be in the audience?

On a completely different and somewhat off-topic note, I want to wrap up this column by stressing the importance of exercising moderation at Ignite (no, I'm not talking about pub crawls). Anyone who has ever been to Ignite can tell you that it's a huge and exhausting conference.

Last year at Ignite, my schedule spiraled completely out of control. I was running on about two hours of sleep each night and missed most meals because I had made so many commitments during the conference. I will spare you the details, but it all caught up to me in a bad way the day after the conference ended.

This year, one of my goals for Ignite will be to practice a bit of restraint with regard to scheduling, and I would encourage my readers to do the same. As important as it may be to take full advantage of Ignite, it is not worth pushing yourself to the breaking point.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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