Keeping in line with Microsoft’s shift from developers of on-prem software to providers of cloud and XaaS solutions, much of the company’s attention has been centering around digital transformation and Microsoft Azure. In deep-dive sessions and workshops at this year’s Ignite conference, attendees learned how organizations can harness emerging technologies, especially IoT and AI, to improve productivity and better connect with their customers, and they were introduced to cybersecurity solutions to keep enterprise systems and data safe from hackers.
Here’s a roundup of some of the most important and recent announcements from Microsoft:
A Partnership of Productivity: Microsoft, Adobe, & SAP
The unveiling of the Open Data Initiative, a partnership between Microsoft, Adobe, and SAP, is perhaps the most significant news to come from Microsoft recently. Data is an organization’s most valuable resource, but different vendors’ applications and systems store data in different places and in formats that are incompatible across systems and applications, creating internal and external data “silos.” Extracting, reformatting, and combining this data to glean actionable intelligence is difficult, time-consuming, and costly. Siloed, incompatible data also causes problems with data governance, compliance with privacy regulations such as the EU GDPR, and cybersecurity.
The goals of the Open Data Initiative are to break down these silos and make accessing and combining enterprise data easier by adopting a standardized data model and utilizing a common data lake in Microsoft Azure. The Open Data Initiative is guided by three principles:
- Every organization owns and maintains complete, direct control of all their data
- Customers can enable AI-driven business processes to derive insights and intelligence from unified behavioral and operational data
- A broad partner ecosystem should be able to easily leverage an open and extensible data model to extend the solution
Users will be able to exchange and enrich transactional, operational, customer, and IoT data bidirectionally between the Azure data lake and Microsoft, Adobe, and SAP applications and platforms. This will allow them to:
- Build intelligent applications using their choice of development tools, either individually or in partnership with other organizations, on an open and extensible platform
- Gain a comprehensive view of their enterprise data that will help them discover real-time insights to improve efficiency, drive organizational initiatives, and enhance the customer experience
- Support their data governance, privacy, compliance, and security initiatives
Stronger Security Improves Microsoft Azure
Cloud migration has opened up a world of possibilities for business but has also created a new set of cybersecurity issues that can be quite different from what organizations face on-prem. Hardly a day goes by without news of yet another massive enterprise cloud breach, so security issues in cloud computing are top of mind in the C-suite. Among the many Azure updates announced recently are new cloud security tools.
The new Azure Security Center provides unified security management and advanced threat protection for both Azure and non-Azure workloads. Features include centralized security policy and compliance management; continuous security assessment; and a built-in dashboard that provides instant insights into security alerts and vulnerabilities, allowing organizations to identify and mitigate risks.
Microsoft is also planning to boost its Azure Cloud security to secure data in use in the cloud. Azure confidential computing, which is now available in public preview, is the cornerstone of Microsoft’s “Confidential Cloud” vision. By deploying a DC-series VM through Azure Marketplace, users can build, deploy, and run applications that protect the confidentiality and integrity of data in the cloud.
Cut Costs with Better Cloud Management
Easy scalability, pay-for-what-you-use, as-you-go pricing, and myriad options and upgrades are among the many benefits of cloud computing. However, cost management is a challenge. Charges can add up quickly, and complicated invoices make it difficult to track where the money is being spent. To help organizations rein in costs and maximize their cloud investments, Microsoft has introduced reserved instances and integrated the Cloudyn cost management tool into Azure. Among Cloudyn’s features:
Usage and Spending Reports
Cloudyn’s Over Time reports allow users to monitor cloud usage, costs, and trends and detect anomalies, while optimization reports and cost analysis reports uncover inefficiencies in the cloud deployment.
Cost Management Tools
Cloudyn’s cost management tools include:
- Historical data that can be used to identify trends over time and project future costs
- Cost allocation tools that analyze costs based on users’ tagging policy; allow users to organize tags for additional governance; and identify resource utilization and associated costs
- Access control to ensure that users and teams access only the cost management data that they need
- The ability to set up alerts for instances of unusual spending or overspending
Unused or underutilized VMs can bloat a cloud bill. Cloudyn makes it easy to determine optimal VM usage, locate idle or underutilized VMs, and downsize or remove them.
Azure Takes on New (Digital) Territory
Azure Digital Twins will allow developers to create virtual replicas of physical environments that integrate data from different sources, generating invaluable spatial intelligence that can be used to create smarter devices and spaces. Digital twins are already used to build industrial equipment, but Microsoft sees the potential of this technology to create next-generation solutions for all environments, including office buildings, homes, public spaces, hospitals, streets and intersections, and even entire cities.
Spatial intelligence data is at the heart of Azure Digital Twins. In addition to modeling physical environments, Azure Digital Twins will model the relationships between the people, places, and devices in those spaces, allowing developers to create optimal solutions to optimize energy consumption and space usage, enhance the occupant experience, and much more. Azure Digital Twins’ spatial intelligence graph will also allow developers to attach and store maps, documents, manuals, pictures, and other information as metadata to the spaces, people, and devices in the digital model.
Other features of Azure Digital Twins include twin object models; advanced compute capabilities; data isolation via multi- and nested-tenancy capabilities; security through access control and Azure Active Directory (AAD); and integration with other Microsoft services, including Azure Maps, Azure High-Performance Computing, Microsoft Mixed Reality, Dynamics 365, and Office 365.