Last week Microsoft held their annual conference dedicated to digital business. Future Decoded was heavily focused on helping organisations embrace digital transformation and ensuring that they are part of the disruptive movement, being termed the "Fourth Industrial Revolution".
The direction of travel within the Microsoft sphere was clear - out of an impressive 76 breakout sessions available - only one was solely dedicated to Windows Server 2016, the latest operating system. Although the keynote speakers were proud of Microsoft's "legacy" of on-premise solutions, it is clear that Microsoft are laser focused on helping customers move to Azure and their other online services. At times it was truly inspiring to see some of the work being done in this space. For example, using consumer-enabled data analytics available in Power BI, an IOT demo revealed work being done with fitness trackers to help predict major health issues, such as heart attacks or seizures.
One area of great interest, evidenced through the packed breakout room, was Azure Stack. Currently in Technical Preview 2, Azure Stack will allow organisations to bring the power of the Azure Cloud into their own environments. The service is available as an appliance from Tier 1 hardware vendors, including DellEMC, and it is anticipated that the time from on-site delivery to live production will be achieved in a matter of days. Impressive when you consider the range of services offered by the platform.
"Where the move to cloud can often be seen as challenging in these sectors, the Azure Stack provides an ideal fit, allowing organisations to benefit from the flexibility of a self-service private cloud, whilst operating in a dedicated and isolated environment."
Microsoft highlighted a number of areas where they believe Azure Stack will be suited to meet demand. Performance, latency and data sovereignty have already been largely addressed by Microsoft’s new datacentres in the UK, namely in the South East and Wales. The real value can be seen for those organisations in highly regulated sectors. Where the move to cloud can often be seen as challenging in these sectors, the Azure Stack provides an ideal fit, allowing organisations to benefit from the flexibility of a self-service private cloud, whilst operating in a dedicated and isolated environment.
There were times at Future Decoded where some of the services on display appeared highly academic and conceptual, however they are already being used in practical ways by a number of organisations: Cognitive services being used to improve security and safety for Uber passengers through facial recognition; IoT services allowing home boilers or cars to report a potential fault before they break, and machine learning enabling the automatic identification of brain tumours in a fraction of the time it would take the specialists. Through this new wave of connected services, organisations are solving problems, improving efficiencies and unlocking entirely new business models.
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