Top Announcements From Microsoft Ignite 2020 Conference

Microsoft kicked off its latest edition of Ignite conference. Held virtually, the three-day conference started with CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote speech. At Ignite 2020, Microsoft announced a flurry of updates targeting their Azure cloud services. Here we take a look at key announcements from the conference:

Azure Cognitive Services

Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services introduced a series of new capabilities — spanning Decision, Vision and Speech:

  • The Metrics Advisor Preview is a new service that proactively monitors metrics and diagnoses issues. Built on Anomaly Detector, Metrics Advisor monitors the performance of organisation’s growth engines, from sales revenue to manufacturing operations in near-real-time. Further, it can adapt models to any scenario, offering granular analysis with diagnostics and alerting. 
  • Spatial Analysis, a feature of Computer Vision, helps organisations maximise the value of their physical spaces by understanding people’s movements and presence in near-real-time to create apps that can count people in a room, measure distances between customers, aggregate footfall in a store, and more. Microsoft also claims that this feature is developed with strict ethical standards and guidance on how to implement responsibly.

Azure Bot Service

An open-source tool for visual bot development available on GitHub, it will now make it easier to build skills for use within the Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator. Additionally, developers now can use this tool directly within Power Virtual Agents to quickly build skill and extend a Power Virtual Agent bot.​ Within Azure Bot Service, the Alexa channel is now generally available, making it even simpler for developers to build one bot and deploy it across popular channels.


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Azure Cosmos DB

Azure Cosmos DB now offers a serverless option for database operations. This new consumption-based model gives app developers a way to build and scale smaller apps and run tests without the commitment and cost of provisional throughput, making it ideal for small workloads with occasional traffic bursts and moderate performance requirements.

Azure For Edge

Azure SQL Edge, designed to bring Microsoft SQL data engine to the Internet of Things (IoT) gateways and edge devices, is now made available. Optimised for IoT workloads, SQL Edge supports built-in data streaming, storage and artificial intelligence packed into a small footprint container that works in connected or disconnected environments.

It is built on the same code base as Microsoft SQL Server and Azure SQL, Azure SQL Edge provides the same industry-leading security. Other updates on EDGE include:

  • Azure SQL Edge is a small-footprint container — less than 500 MB — running in ARM- and x64-based devices in connected, disconnected or semi-connected environments.
  • Two new Azure Stack Edge appliances are now generally available, designed to operate in remote areas and run powerful analytics at the edge for quick results.
  • The Azure Stack Edge Mini R is a lightweight, portable device designed to operate in the harshest conditions and can be easily carried in a backpack.
  • The Azure Stack Edge Pro R is designed for remote areas, delivering intelligence at the edge and is available with NVIDIA’s T4 GPU.

Azure Orbital 

Azure Orbital is a new managed service that provides access to physical satellite communication capabilities to process and analyse data in Microsoft Azure. Users can leverage Orbital for a low-latency global fibre network while working with large satellite datasets. 

Cloud Migration

Migrating data centres to the cloud is more simplified than ever with new Azure Migrate features generally available now. Customers can perform a comprehensive discovery and assessment of their estate, including agentless software inventory and dependency mapping.

For Healthcare

Microsoft has announced that the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare will be generally available at the end of October 2020. With the Cloud for Healthcare, organisations can engage with patients in more proactive ways with patients.

This new industry-specific cloud computing platform will enable healthcare organisations to tailor applications to support their existing processes and investments. The Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare’s architecture scales to meet current and future needs, while also supporting compliance with GDPR and other regulatory frameworks via built-in data governance and privacy capabilities. This is Microsoft’s first industry-specific cloud to be made generally available. 

Project Cortex

Last year Microsoft announced Project Cortex, a Microsoft 365 initiative to assist people with knowledge and expertise in the apps they use every day using advanced AI. Now, these AI-powered capabilities are being made available to customers as a set of unique innovations.

The first product in the lineup is SharePoint Syntex for AI-powered content understanding.  SharePoint uses advanced AI to automate the capture, ingestion and categorisation of content to accelerate processes, improve compliance and facilitate knowledge discovery and reuse. 

With this tool, AI can be trained to read a document and extract information as one would with no-code AI models. It then uses the models to process content automatically, extracts information and applies metadata. SharePoint Syntex will be available to purchase for Microsoft 365 commercial customers on Oct 1. 

Multi-Cloud security

Microsoft announced that Azure Security Center security, now rebranded as Azure Defender, would now be extended to Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services as well. Users can now have a preview of unified, multi-cloud cloud security posture from Azure Security Center.

Customers can quickly see which Azure resources are protected and upgrade protection to ensure all cloud resources are protected. Azure Defender also now supports on-premises and multi-cloud protection for SQL Server, in addition to the support for virtual machines using Azure Arc for simplified onboarding and management. Users can view the protection of all their SQL databases and virtual machines regardless of where they are located.

Quantum Computing

Microsoft announced that Toshiba would be joining their Microsoft Quantum Network and will be offering their Simulated Bifurcation Machine (SBM) to obtain highly accurate solutions for large-scale combinatorial optimisation problems. Some examples of combinatorial optimisation problems include dynamic portfolio management, risk management, high-frequency trading, traffic incidents, and more. Toshiba joins existing partners 1Qbit, Honeywell, IonQ and QCI in providing services to the growing quantum ecosystem. 

Workplace Analytics

Wellbeing features and productivity insights powered by MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics are coming to Microsoft Teams starting in October. Individuals, managers and business leaders will get insights personalised to their role with recommended actions to improve productivity, and wellbeing, among others. New personal wellbeing features like a virtual commute, integration with apps like Headspace and an emotional check-in experience will be available next year.

For a full list of announcements, check this.

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Ram Sagar
I have a master's degree in Robotics and I write about machine learning advancements.

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