Posey's Tips & Tricks

For Nadella, the Ignite 2019 Keynote was Business (Almost) as Usual

In many ways, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivered a very typical Ignite opening keynote -- with a few notable exceptions.

As I write this, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has just wrapped up the Microsoft Ignite 2019 opening keynote in Orlando, Fla.

In many ways, Nadella delivered a very typical Ignite opening keynote. If you have attended Ignite in the past, then you know that there are certain things that show up in the opening keynote year after year, and I'm pretty sure that Nadella checked all of the boxes this time. This isn't to say that they keynote was bad, just that the format was completely predictable. Well, almost.

One thing that was completely unexpected but appreciated was that Nadella seemed to give a nod to the past in his presentation. Those who have been attending Microsoft events for decades will recall that CEOs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer shared a tradition of incorporating comedic videos in their keynotes. Nadella did just that with a "Stranger Things"-style video in which he tried to rescue someone from the Upside Down. There was also another moment in the keynote in which Nadella all but channeled Ballmer's "Developers, developers, developers!" mantra.

As far as the keynote's technical content, Nadella covered a dizzying array of topics ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) to quantum computing. There was also a significant amount of time spent discussing the merits of Microsoft Teams.

Although the keynote seemed almost rushed and disjointed at times, with Nadella and others bouncing around from topic to topic at a frantic pace, I think that Nadella did an amazing job of making a huge number of announcements while keeping the keynote at a reasonable duration. After all, nobody wants a repeat of the infamous three-hour-long Chicago Ignite keynote.

There were so many different topics discussed in the keynote that it is really hard to pick out two or three to write about. Even so, there were definitely some things that caught my attention.

One of the big topics of discussion was the ways that AI is being integrated into Office 365 through an initiative called Project Cortex. Project Cortex is designed to turn all of the disjointed information found in an organization's Office documents and Office services into tangible knowledge. In one demo, for instance, a user hovered their mouse over a word in an e-mail message and Outlook generated a content card containing links to relevant contacts and data. (Read more about Project Cortex here.)

However, what I found to be more even impressive -- and potentially more useful -- was a new feature that will allow you to perform natural language queries against Office documents. If a user is reviewing a contract, for example, they might ask Word when the first payment will be due. An AI engine will then sift through the legalese and give the user the information that they are asking for.

Something else that caught my attention is that while Microsoft continues to fully embrace its Azure cloud, the company continues to acknowledge that on-premises datacenters are not going away, nor are competitors such as VMware, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Red Hat. As such, Microsoft seems to be more committed than ever to cross-platform support and to support for on-premises and hybrid environments.

Microsoft showed how it is now possible to manage on-premises resources from the Azure cloud. The company also showed how it was possible to use Azure resources to geo-replicate an organization's datacenter not just to the Azure cloud, but also to another on-premises datacenter, or even to AWS.

In addition, Microsoft showed off some of its Azure Stack offerings, including a ruggedized Azure Stack appliance for use in extreme environments. Microsoft also made a point of mentioning that its Azure Stack appliance, which it is calling the Azure Stack Hub, can operate in fully disconnected environments if necessary. I found that to be particularly refreshing given that Microsoft tends to focus so heavily on the connected world.

Admittedly, I am still digesting the Ignite Keynote and I am sure that I will be covering several of Microsoft's other Ignite announcements in upcoming columns. If you didn't get a chance to watch the keynote, you can find it here.

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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