Going to Las Vegas is always an exciting proposition, made even more so with Microsoft’s annual Inspire conference. With this event specifically for partners, it’s an opportunity to see what solution providers from around the world are capable of doing with the vendor’s technology…and it doesn’t disappoint. The key themes this year were infrastructure migration to the Azure cloud and data, data and more data.
Data, of course, is one thing, so it isn’t perhaps accurate to say the focus was on data. Instead, it’s really more about what data can do. When in the cloud and in Azure, data is essentially ‘liberated’ and made ready for action. And that action is – you probably guessed it – centered on Artificial Intelligence.
AI is a catchall term for highly functional software (that’s really all it is, at its core). By highly functional, that means software capable of handling enormous amounts of input/output, generally backed by massive quantities of information.
Calling it ‘intelligent’ is perhaps a reach, but there is a parallel of sorts with how the human brain works: we are able to function in a highly complex society largely on the basis of the massive amount of information we store in our heads.
Intelligence is the ability to apply that information in context. Doing that means we cross a street safely – a seemingly simple action, but which depends on a surprisingly sophisticated set of rules and factors.
Powering it up
Back to Vegas, so to speak, and Inspire, and indeed to ‘highly functional software’. It’s no secret that we’re surrounded by data these days. It’s our bread and butter at NOW Consulting, and masses of data is the norm for all our clients. Our task is to help you use that data effectively to achieve your transformation goals.
Fig.1 The above image is a transcript of one of the slides from Inspire that shows where Microsoft see the opportunity in AI and some of the products and capabilities they have to help customers develop solutions in this space.
As I’ve already mentioned, putting data into the cloud means it becomes workable. Power Platform enables businesses to drive insights using their data without any complexity.
It equips data engineers, data scientists, analysts and even business users to focus on value delivery with the ready to use tools - Flow, Power Apps and Power BI.
The real advantage here is that these tools are made accessible to business-people, letting programmers and data scientists focus elsewhere. This is significant, because it moves ‘data usability’ deeper into your organisation, allowing those who know what answers they seek, to get on and find them independently.
Democratisation of data is a term that springs to mind. Putting the power of AI into everyone’s hands is how it will transform businesses (and this was a common theme in every booth and in every corner at Inspire).
Now, for some time, Microsoft has had rumblings around its increased embrace of open source software. This has taken further steps with the focus on collaboration (which, as hinted at above, is what Power Platform enables) with Teams, a solution getting plenty of attention locally and around the world.
Then there’s the acquisition of the GitHub development platform/repository, completed in late 2018. Used by 36 million developers, GitHub is practically synonymous with ‘open source’ (itself built on free and open source Git software). This signals Microsoft’s ever-warmer embrace of two things: the cloud and, of course, open source. That’s matched by Azure’s indifference to your stack when migrating to the cloud – doesn’t matter if it is Oracle or Java or some other operating system, bring it and it will work just fine.
Takeaways for NOW Consulting (and our clients)
We’re a data centric company and we believe firmly in the direction Microsoft is moving. The cloud is the present and it is the future. Open source systems deliver fantastic value (Microsoft paid US$7.5 billion for GitHub).
Analytics tools that harness data and turn it into intelligence are increasingly the norm in businesses of all kinds. Smart applications (that is, those that appear to think and do some of the work for you) are the future, because they make humans like us more effective and more productive.
Fig.2 The above image is a transcript of one of the slides from Inspire. As a long time believer in data automation it’s good to see Microsoft singing the same tune.
But there’s a lot of work to do. Inertia is real, with some 75 percent of all data still locked into on-premise infrastructure, with half on legacy platforms (that data is ‘dead’). There’s still an absolute ton of ancient (in industry terms!) database technology out there, which cannot meet the demands of modern, intelligent applications.
That’s what Inspire has confirmed for us. It’s what a large proportion of the information technology industry is working towards, hammer and tongs, and it’s what will drive success today and into the future.
Check out the highlights from Inspire here.
SIDEBAR: Key takeaways from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
- 14 trillion dollars will be spent on tech by 2030
- You can’t claim trust; you have to earn it each day
- Hiring of software engineers is growing 11% faster in non-tech than in tech
- GitHub is now a way of life with 36 million developers calling it home
- 90% of all data in the world has been created in the last two years
- Azure is the world’s computer, with 54 Azure regions worldwide
- 500 million apps will be created in the next five years however 73% of data is not being analysed
- Data will fuel everything going forward, and Microsoft is building a limitless data estate.