We recently attended the Microsoft Ignite conference, held at McCormick Place in Chicago. A combination of various Microsoft technical conferences, Ignite was billed as “the largest and most comprehensive Microsoft technology event.” Over the course of a busy week of interacting with clients, multiple keynote addresses, and 24+ hours of technical breakout sessions, we saw several trends prominently mentioned.
Obviously the key trend with Microsoft (and the entire IT industry) is the continuing proliferation of “cloud” services. We believe Microsoft struck the right note on Azure and Office 365, stressing both the adaptation of their cloud offerings, but continuing to highlight their friendliness towards/ease of integration with traditional on-premises IT systems. This hybrid-cloud approach matches that of other vendors, and should be a key to accelerating the uptake of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS solutions. Microsoft in particular through their Azure Stack announcement seems to be making a genuine effort to making the hybrid cloud as seamless as possible.
The amount of new product announcements in virtually every enterprise IT category was impressive. In addition to better defining the scope of Windows Server and System Center 2016, Microsoft announced details of SQL Server 2016 and Exchange Server 2016, and the new Operations Management Suite. All of these new offerings contain extensive integrations with Azure and/or Office 365.
The evolution of Windows Server and System Center as both the core on-premises data center operating environment, and Microsoft’s software defined data center (SDDC) suite continues to be somewhat of an understated but highly important building block. The compute, storage, and network virtualization features of Windows Server, and management functionality of System Center all compete directly against SDDC frameworks from other vendors, and will be a continuing source of new product features in the coming years.
Lastly, the biggest IT meta-takeaway from the show is the acceleration of IT change that Microsoft is going to try to drive, in both large and small enterprises. Clearly Azure and Office 365 change rapidly in response to competitive pressures and customer requests. This mindset of rapid development and upgrade appears to be making itself felt in IT-focused products (Visual Studio), core infrastructure products (new versions of SQL Server each of the past two years), and the client OS (dramatic changes to the Windows updating experience). While the support lifecycle for Microsoft products continues to be well defined, the rapid pace of change combined with cloud-centric approaches to frequent updates will make for an exciting next few years of enterprise IT.