It's hard to describe the heat unless you've been to a desert before, but it's 40-plus degrees in the summer, all day. Weather aside, it has been a great week and I thought it worth sharing a few thoughts on the conference overall.
Microsoft calls keynote speeches "corenotes" and the messaging was, as is typical for the firm under CEO Satya Nadella's leadership, focused on making the world a better place. This perhaps sounds a little cheesy, but you can see the company believes it and is putting its words into action globally.
If you've read Hit Refresh (or my blog post here) you'll be familiar with Nadella's message of empathy. This permeates the whole business and leads to a pitch style which is very much atypical of a large technology company. I'm often asked about the differences between major cloud providers, and I sometimes reply that customers buy into the vision of a company - and the Microsoft vision of empathy, artificial intelligence (AI), ubiquitous computing, and making the world a better place is a strong one.
There were other repeated themes for those familiar with the "new" Microsoft - such as the need for a digital Geneva Convention, and discussion on the possibilities of a Hippocratic Oath for those developing AI solutions.
There was an interesting set of case studies with Carlsberg which is using a host of Microsoft tech to innovate in the business. This included both the enterprise (a migration of SAP to Azure), and the innovative (Azure ML [machine learning] for predicting flavour outcomes from subtle ingredient changes in brewing recipes).
FY2019 for Microsoft appears more focused on tuning than on major change, which is sensible following a few years of more radical adjustment. Major themes are targeting enterprise accounts, customer retention and diversity. That final point is worth a note.
Diversity, you say?
Stereotypically, this was a pretty male event in terms of attendees. I attended several smaller breakout sessions, and one thing really stood out: the number of women who work for Microsoft in a broad range of roles. The firm puts most people to shame, and must be congratulated for its efforts in this space.
What about the tech?
The technical themes pushed were perhaps not new, but were now supported with more real-world use cases. You can expect to hear lots more about the intelligent edge, Internet of Things, and ubiquitous computing from Microsoft in the coming months. I think the intelligent edge may be where Azure Stack comes into its own. As a technology for private cloud, I'm not excited by it in the context of Cloudreach, but in the context of local compute where needed for processing data and making decisions swiftly, I'm sold. If you're not familiar with Azure Sphere, it's definitely worth a look too in the same realm.
Microsoft was pretty aggressive in terms of focus on making sure it 'owns' Windows and SQL workloads in the cloud. A number of programmes are now in place, basically designed to make Microsoft workloads much cheaper when running on Azure - and some cunning marketing around offering (for free) longer security patch coverage for older software when running in Azure, which is a great idea. As per a few tech conferences I have attended, there was also a healthy appetite for beating Oracle in the database game - "this will be 10 times cheaper" being one of the lines I could quote.
My favourite demos once again revolved around the use of HoloLens for augmented reality. Hololens Remote Assist looks genuinely interesting for the medium term if the technology becomes more widespread, especially in the service/maintenance industries. It's also worth looking at the partner-developed solution HoloBeam, which may remind you of Star Trek.
Vegas, baby! Must have been crazy!
Not this year, for me at least. A total of zero dollars gambled. I'm told it will be here again next year, so perhaps I'll warm up my blackjack skills for next summer.
The final corenote on Wednesday included an entire stadium of people on their feet singing With a Little Help From My Friends - and indeed a standing ovation for Satya when he came on later (not singing!). Were the audience Inspired? I think it's fair to say they were.
This blog first appeared on LinkedIn
Chris Bunch is head of Europe at Cloudreach
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