Microsoft Ignite 2021 is here…and it’s early this year! Generally held in the fall, Microsoft didn’t want to keep developers and other technology followers waiting this time around. As they put it, we need these kinds of conferences now more than ever. And, as CEO Satya Nadella said in his keynote, “When you change the way you see the world, you change the world you see.” We’re not complaining—here are ten announcements from the virtual event that we were excited to hear about.
Microsoft hails its new Microsoft Viva as “the first employee experience platform built for the digital era.” Made with employee productivity and fulfillment in mind, it provides state-of-the-art tools to increase engagement, connections, and knowledge within an organization. Features and availability will be expanding soon, including Viva Connections and parts of Viva Insights for no additional charge to existing Microsoft 365 and Office 365 customers.
Attack Simulation Training
Emergency drills have long been a routine exercise for various kinds of organizations. In today’s digital world, this can be helpful for cyberattacks too. Microsoft Defender for Office 365 now has Attack Simulation Training generally available. It uses neutralized versions of actual attacks to simulate what the experience looks like, helping companies better understand their vulnerabilities and practice detection and response. Providing similar capabilities, this new tool brings some competition to the security awareness training platform from KnowBe4.
Windows Server 2022 & Other News
Windows Server 2019 now has native endpoint detection and response (EDR) support which includes Microsoft Defender for Endpoint (MDE). If you’re ready to look ahead, Windows Server 2022 is available in preview. Its flexible application platform can live in the Azure cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid environment. The improvements that come with it include more efficient containers, faster and more secure connections, and new risk-minimizing technologies. Rebootless patching is also something to look forward to.
Azure Monitor for WVD
Within the next few weeks, Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) will include Azure Monitor, which gives a centralized security view and allows for remediations at scale. New updates include the ability to engage with user feedback and better understandings of resource utilization and scaling & cost management.
The new Azure Percept, available in preview, gives customers the opportunity to build and operate AI models in certain edge cameras and audio devices. Its capabilities can includes things like object and anomaly detection, shelf analytics, and keyword spotting at the edge. Pre-built Azure AI models make it easy for those with low-code or no-code experience, and all of this runs under a Zero Trust security posture. Azure Percept works seamlessly with Azure AI, Azure Machine Learning, Azure Cognitive Services, and Azure Live Video Analytics, and it’s also integrated with Azure internet of things (IoT) services.
There are now multiple updates for Azure Purview, a unified data governance service that allows for mapping and control of organizational data regardless of its location—on-premises, in multi-cloud environments, or in software-as-a-service (SaaS). One of the updates provides the ability to automatically scan and classify data in new on-premises places. Another gives the capability, in preview, to scan Azure Synapse Analytics workspaces. Azure Purview is also integrated with Microsoft Information Protection, so customers can incorporate the same labels and tools from there.
Azure Arc-Enabled Machine Learning & Kubernetes
Azure Arc, which makes for simplified management and faster development from anywhere, is getting big new updates. One of these is generally available Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes. This brings centralized Azure management to any Kubernetes clusters across datacenters, multi-cloud, or edge environments. Those using Arc can set consistent configurations to all their Kubernetes clusters at scale in any location. This also allows for Azure Arc-enabled machine learning, now in preview. Customers can use any Kubernetes cluster to train with Azure Machine Learning. And those who are familiar with Azure Machine Learning (and not so much with Kubernetes) can build models with familiar tools.
Microsoft Teams Connect & Shared Channels
Microsoft Teams Connect makes it easier to collaborate not just within an organization but beyond it too. It has a shared channel feature which is now in private preview and expected to be generally available later this year. Partners, customers, suppliers or any other external individuals can be added to a particular shared channel without needing to be added to the overall team, allowing for convenient external connections.
Microsoft Tunnel Included with Defender for Endpoints Mobile App
No one wants to waste time on their phone downloading both Microsoft Tunnel and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint (MDE). Now both come together in the MDE app, for iOS and Android mobile devices. That means the best of both, consolidated: Tunnel’s virtual private network (VPN) capabilities with MDE’s great mobile threat defense, all in one app.
Unified Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Microsoft 365 now offers, in preview, data loss prevention (DLP) capabilities for Chrome browsers and on-premises file shares. Previously this was only available for Microsoft’s Edge browser. DLP helps the customer identify and prevent unintentional sharing of sensitive data, and its policies can now be applied consistently across all these environments from the Microsoft 365 Compliance Center.
Other Cool Stuff
More notable announcements include new training & certification opportunities for cybersecurity professionals, as well as three new industry-specific clouds for financial services, manufacturing, and nonprofit sectors. And there are new previews available for Sentinel & Microsoft Defender XDR. With all these announcements I’ve run out of space here, but check out our related Ignite blog posts on Defender & Sentinel and the futuristic Microsoft Mesh. And, for more details on any of the announcements above, see Microsoft’s Ignite 2021 Book of News.
Want to compare these announcements to those at last year’s Ignite conference? Refresh your memory on general announcements at Ignite 2020 and Cognitive Services & AI news specifically. Or, check out the news from this year’s Build conference.