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Top Announcements from Microsoft Ignite 2020

We’re always here to give you timely highlights of conference events. This week is Microsoft Ignite 2020, the tech giant’s annual gathering for technology leaders. A day into the event, here’s a recap of some of the most important news.

Satya Nadella’s Keynote: Building Digital Resiliency

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella emphasized building digital resiliency and consumer trust in his keynote speech. The tech community is an important part of what keeps society moving forward during challenging times such as these, he said—a reality that’s sometimes now termed “tech intensity.” It’s more crucial than ever to make sure the industry is providing security, privacy, transparency and responsible use of AI. In doing this, it must support fundamental rights and democracy, while working to overcome racial inequity. “We have an enormous responsibility to ensure that the technology we build benefits everyone on the planet, including the planet itself. Our purpose and actions must always be aligned to help solve the world’s challenges, not create new ones,” Nadella said.

Azure Automanage and New Availability Zones

If your MSP is still charging you $200/mo to manage your Azure VMs, get ready to fire them. Azure Automanage will apply predefined security and compliance baselines to your VMs, configure Recovery Services Vault backups, and automatically patch the machines. As an MSP ourselves, we’re excited about this product going GA so that we can lower our already competitive server management fees.

This month two new Azure Availability Zones (AZs) will be added, Canada Central and Australia East. Microsoft also plans to expand Availability Zone options to every country that it operates datacenters in within the next 24 months. These AZs provide high-performance architecture, flexible support, and disaster-recovery strategies.

Cisco SD-WAN Native Support in Azure Networking

Azure Networking now has Cisco Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) native support within the Azure Virtual WAN hubs, available in preview. This combination is in line with current networking trends and helps eliminate traditional backhauls in networking. It sends traffic directly from the branch to the cloud, giving you choices in policy management and vendor’s path selection.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager adds Windows Virtual Desktop and ADMX Import Support

Microsoft Endpoint Manager, also known as Intune, will receive Windows 10 multisession support in Windows Virtual Desktop by the end of the year. This will allow IT administrators to manage and secure virtual desktops just as they would with physical devices. WVD also now has a simpler deployment and additional support in Microsoft Teams.

The other huge announcement for Microsoft Endpoint Manager is that any ADMX file can be imported into Intune now! That means that Group Policy is (almost) officially dead. Anything your compliance department insists on using a GPO for enforcement can now be seamlessly migrated to the cloud. Happy day!

Microsoft Tunnel

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Microsoft Endpoint Manager also has new features in public preview, including Microsoft Tunnel. This is a remote access service that enables iOS and Android devices to connect to on-premises apps and resources. You could be on a bus in a tunnel and working on your on-prem projects! Microsoft Tunnel also ties into Conditional Access which helps ensure compliance before allowing access to the network.

Productivity Score Generally Available on October 29th

Productivity Score will be generally available by the end of October, with three new added categories. Two of them will be focused on Meetings and Teamwork. Understanding best practices and technologies in this area brings helpful improvement to the digital teamwork that has recently increased across companies. The third category is Microsoft 365 Apps Health. This makes sure that critical apps are up-to-date, secure, and supported.

Endpoint Analytics is Generally Available today, so go enable Tenant Attach if you haven’t yet!

Azure Security Center Integration with Google and Amazon Services

Graphic shows integration of Google Cloud, Azure, and Amazon Web Services.

Azure Security Center now offers management beyond just Azure itself—you can track the security posture of Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services from there as well. This allows for a simplified and unified multicloud analysis. What a view! Combine this with the new Azure Lighthouse portals and multi-workspace Sentinel views, and you’ve get single pane of glass management for all your security tools.

Project Natick Undersea Datacenter

Image of Microsoft's Project Natick, a submersible datacenter, being cleaned off after two years of being submerged in the ocean.

A fun note about an interesting project: Microsoft submerged a datacenter on the ocean floor for two years, and it had less hardware failure and better energy efficiency than traditional datacenters. Part of this was likely due to the lack of human intervention with the hardware during the test. This was Project Natick, an experiment that tested the viability of underwater datacenters for logistical, environmental, and economic reasons. Mark Russinovich, CTO of Azure, discussed key findings from Project Natick during his Microsoft Ignite 2020 sessions.

Quest Acquires Binary Tree

Another topic that came up at Ignite was Quest Software’s recent acquisition of Binary Tree. These are two major companies with decades of experience helping customers perform complex migrations within Microsoft environments, usually associated with mergers & acquisitions or divestitures. Quest will continue to sell and support Binary Tree products.

Surface Hub 2S 85″ Model Shipping in January

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Photo source: cybertechbiz.com

In case you need a really big monitor, the new Surface Hub 2S provides 85 inches of digital viewing. This way, employees can even social distance while sharing a workspace onsite. The Surfact Hub 2S 85″ begins shipping to commercial customers in select markets in January 2021, and some resellers are already taking preorder reservations.

New IT Pro Training Center with Virtual Hub

Microsoft’s got a new site for online learning for IT pros, developers, and community enthusiasts. It’s called Virtual Hub. This is a place where information across several focus areas has been gathered for you to learn and explore. You can look for particular keywords or services, or peruse the broader areas. Check it out!

Microsoft Defender Rebranded. Again.

Illustration of Microsoft Defender XDR covering Microsoft ATP and Azure ATP services.

Windows Defender ATP died when macOS support was added last year. And Microsoft Defender ATP is dead now too. The new name is Microsoft Defender for Endpoints. But that’s not all. The entire Advanced Threat Protection is getting rebranded too.

  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoints replaces MD ATP
  • Microsoft Defender for Office 365 replaces Office 365 ATP
  • Microsoft Defender for Identity replaces Azure ATP
  • Microsoft 365 Defender replaces Microsoft Threat Protection
  • Azure Defender for Servers replaces Azure Security Center Standard
  • Azure Defender for IoT replaces ASC for IoT
  • Azure Defender for SQL replaces ATP for SQL

Microsoft Defender is now being called an XDR solution, which stands for eXtended Detection and Response. Somehow, Azure Sentinel managed to survive the security product rebranding without a name change.

New Cross Tenant Capabilities

Azure Lighthouse provides a great way to manage separate Azure Tenants. Earlier this year, Azure Sentinel added a multi-workspace view. But there are three HUGE cross tenant announcements at Ignite this year:

  • Cross tenant domain sharing. So one email domain can be used in multiple tenants. This is great for mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures.
  • Cross tenant mailbox migrations is in preview. No more BitTitan.
  • Cross tenant SharePoint / OneDrive migrations is in private preview.

Even More from Microsoft Ignite 2020

Does it seem like we left out AI announcements at Ignite? That’s because they were so exciting, they merited an article of their own! To learn about Microsoft’s latest AI advancements, see our sister post on AI announcements at Ignite 2020.

We also didn’t have space here for some of the other exciting topics like Azure ARC for free, Azure Orbital for managing satellites, SMB over QUIC, and Azure SQL Edge. (Is that just SQL Server 2020?) For every announcement at Ignite, check out the book of news.

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