Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 – Part 3   Recently updated !

Following on from Part 2.

Editorial note: These keynotes started around 8:45am and ran non-stop until 10:45am, but sometimes went over.  As a result, it’s a lot of content to cover, hence why I’ve been splitting them out into separate articles.  By the time we returned to the MTCC, it was easily 11am, and with lunch, half the day was virtually gone!

The second day of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Convention (WPC16) formally began with a second vision keynote in the same location as the previous day’s keynote – at the Air Canada Centre.  Owing in part to my late night, I arrived a little later than the previous day, and was therefore (rightly) relegated to the bleachers.

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Vision Keynote Kick-off

Vision Keynote 2 – Innovation

The keynote kicked off with another musical number by Canadian acapella stars Eh440, complete with delegate participation.  Once the music died down, Microsoft Executive Vice President (Cloud + Enterprise) Scott Guthrie (a.k.a Scott Gu) took to the stage to welcome the assembled partners.

Microsoft Azure

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Scott Guthrie/Introduces Azure Datacentres

Scott starts off by talking about Microsoft Azure, and how Microsoft has deployed Azure datacentres throughout the world, even eclipsing the competition.  There are still more plans to continue building new datacentres to satisfy growing demand.  The trusted cloud is a strong theme here, as the various security classifications and certifications are displayed across the big screen.  Microsoft has been committed to lowering the common barriers to cloud adoption – security, sovereignty and reliability.

Microsoft AppSource

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Next up is the new Microsoft AppSource, which provides an app store to Businesses and Government.

The main benefits that AppSource offers include:

  • AppSource connects users to partners
  • Partners can showcase their craft by adding them to AppSource
  • Business users can find and use apps specific to their business or industry domain
  • Provides an opportunity for users to easily sample AppSource applications

AppSource neatly underpins functionality within the Azure fabric, can be used to augment business capability, workflow and productivity gains.

Productivity

As highlighted in the previous day’s keynote, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 combine to present real productivity gains and transformation opportunities.  Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President, Office 365 Client Apps and Services Team takes to the stage to discuss the evolution of the modern workforce.

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Kirk Koenigsbauer talks Office 365 adoption

There’s a healthy analysis of the need for further multitasking support, particularly as Millennials start to enter the workforce.  The next generation of workers will be even more technically savvy and adept at multitasking, and office tools and software need to be adaptive.  The roadmap for Office 365 has four distinct arms:

1. Collaboration:  Better support for more teams working together,

2. Mobility: The modern worker is not always office bound, applications need to be able to work on many different devices,

3. Intelligence: The underpinning of the fabric will be smarter, can learn

4. Trust: Confidence in the security and reliability of the platform is paramount

Facebook Adopts Office 365

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Who saw that coming?

After a short video introduction, the newest corporate adopter of Office 365 is revealed – and with some surprise, it’s Internet behemoth Facebook.  The crowd welcomes Facebook CIO Tim Campos to the stage.  Tim talks about the Facebook company ethos, and its focus on connecting people.  Office 365 seems a logical fit for their organisation.  The ease of collaboration and the removal of constraints helps their business flow and function.

New Security Controls/Windows 10 Anniversary Edition

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We take a short detour through some of the new security features which are coming for Windows 10.  A live demonstration compares two live attack scenarios and illustrates how the new changes will better prevent users from potential threats.

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We’ll see some of these new controls in the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition.  Next up, we’re shown some new augmented reality capability which enables users to interact with their environment.  The demonstration sees the use of a large tyre, and for comic relief, we’re shown the destruction of the tyre for use in demonstrating how damage to the tyre can be marked up on a Surface device.

Here’s some other neat things coming in the Anniversary Update (source: theverge.com):

  • Windows Ink: Windows Ink is without a doubt the best part of the Anniversary Update. It’s essentially a central location to find built-in or third-party apps that work with your stylus. You can use the new sticky notes to note down reminders, and they’ll even transform into true reminders as Cortana understands what you write.
  • Microsoft Edge extensions: If you’re a fan of Chrome extensions, then you’ll be glad to hear that they’re heading to Microsoft’s Edge browser. The Anniversary Update brings support for extensions, and it’s now up to third-party developers to fill the Windows Store with their add-ons.
  • Cortana improvements: Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, debuted on Windows 10 last year, and the software maker is bringing it to the lock screen with the Anniversary Update. You’ll be able to ask it to make a note, play music, set a reminder, and lots more without ever logging in. Cortana is also getting a little more intelligent, with the ability to schedule appointments in Outlook or options to send friends a document you were working on a week ago.
  • Dark theme and UI tweaks: You can switch on what I call even darker mode in settings, and it will switch built-in apps that typically use a white background over to black.
  • Windows Hello: Windows Hello is a new feature that Microsoft has added to Windows 10. It uses a special camera (usually found on the latest PCs and laptops) to scan your face and let you log into Windows without using a password.
  • Windows 10 apps on Xbox One: Seems like a bit of a no-brainer, you’ll soon be able to run Windows 10 apps on the Xbox One

For the Enterprise

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Windows as a service and Surface as a service

The next big announcement is Windows 10 Enterprise E3 which provides “Windows as a Service” for as little as $7 (USD?) per user per month.  There’s also “Surface as a Service” where users can lease a Surface from Microsoft on a per monthly basis.

HoloLens

We’re getting close to wrapping up the second Vision Keynote, and what better way to finish things by revisiting Microsoft HoloLens?  This time it is the US PGA Golf, and the augmented reality demonstration gives us a look at how visual immersion, coupled with the power of statistics creates a brand new way of navigating a golf course.

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In this demonstration, the course is zoomed in, and we’re shown different holes and the shots made by players competing in a tournament at the venue.  Overlaid into the render are player shots, their distances and where the ball ended up.  Players can be compared side-by-side.  It’s quite impressive.

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Summary

That, in a nutshell, is the second Vision Keynote.  I omitted a few names and some bits I found less interesting, but most of  the big announcements have been covered off (but let me know if I missed anything).  From my point of view, some highlights:

  • Microsoft’s really backing this cloud thing!
  • Breaking down the barrier to cloud adoption has been a major focus,
  • Real cost and productivity savings are on offer,
  • The widely anticipated “Windows as a Service” (hinted in 2015 and earlier) is soon to be a reality,
  • AppSource is being backed hard,
  • HoloLens just keeps getting more impressive

We returned to the sunny Toronto summer, to start the rest of day 2.  This will be covered in the next article.


Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 – Part 2

Following on from Part 1

I left off just after the first vision keynote on the first day of the conference.  After the keynote finished, thousands of delegates started walking back to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC).  The initial push seemed to be towards the lowest level of MTCC South (800) – a huge open expanse of stands called ‘The Commons’ which was well stocked with Microsoft and other partner stalls.

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The Commons at the Worldwide Partner Convention 2016

The Commons

The keynote had featured a woman named Ariela Suster, Founder and Creative Director of Sequence, a company based in El Salvador.  At the Commons, I collected a bracelet which had featured in the keynote, made by Sequence, which is a company operating despite the challenges of being located within the realm of multiple street gangs.  Their coverage at the keynote included details of how they had incorporated the use of technologies like Skype to stay connected to their workforce across multiple locations.

I moved around the Commons before bumping into a fellow Aussie who I’d met at the FTA session the day before.  We hunted the cognitive bots stand within the Microsoft cloud area, and got a few demos of the new ML bots, including the caption bot and the text to speech bot.  Little did I know that some of this technology would be featured in the next keynote.  We split up, and I wound my way over to look at a assisted driving car which had been built to utilize data fed from IoT style devices.

I attempted to join the 12pm session in the Commons (CE008t-R1 – Blockchain basics, the Microsoft offering and what you can do to get started) but the session was crammed in the relatively small Cloud + Enterprise theatre.  I had difficulty viewing the presentation deck and hearing, so I ended up moving along.

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Lunch

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Before my first session, I made my way up and over to MTCC North, to the gargantuan dining hall which served most of the convention’s meals.  The quality of the food served was really second to none.  I made a point of ensuring that I either sat in, or grabbed takeaway on each of the conference days.

CE181w – Partner Opportunities for sales analytics solutions with Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

The new Power BI solution template for sales analytics lets you stand up a scalable, secure, and extensible Power BI dashboard for your Microsoft Dynamics CRM instance in a few hours. The system includes the ETL, the data warehouse running on Microsoft Azure, and the set of Power BI reports and dashboards to customize to your customer’s unique needs. Join this session to learn more about our strategy, how you can win customers, drive differentiation, and provide feedback to shape our program.

My first session was unsurprisingly CRM related.

The thrust of the session was to demonstrate how results could be obtained quickly by merging data from multiple sources together using the power of Microsoft Power BI and with large sets of data obtained from CRM.  The speed to market aspect derives from the use of solution templates designed to be customized and implemented by partners, and naturally there’s an Azure tie-in.

A number of sample templates were shown using the standard Cortoso company data.  The solutions use a service called Scribe which powers a lot of the integration componentry.

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Scribe-PowerBI Roadmap/Sample

There’s clearly some power behind the combination of Power BI and Dynamics CRM and other structured data sources.  Scribe seems to simplify the work of tapping into data sources, but it was unclear to me how the mechanics of orchestrating the management of sourced data works.

After this session, it was coffee time, so I took off with another partner from Canberra and we hunted coffee a few blocks north of the convention centre.

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CE343w – Get started building automated workflows with Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is a service for business users and specialists to work smarter by automating workflow across the growing number of apps and Software as a Service (SaaS) services that are relied on every day. Experience the service and see how partners can use Microsoft Flow to accelerate and automate their customer’s businesses so employees spend less time on mundane, repetitive tasks, and more time on the most important work at hand.

The next session was full!  We ended up being shepherded up to near the express cafe on the floor the dining area was on, where we sat in front of a massive LCD screen and listened to the session via headsets and a wireless receiver.  This way, we were able to follow the session, although it was already under way once we were properly set up.  As a consequence, we probably missed the key introduction.

In any case, from what I could understand, Microsoft Flow presents as a lightweight way of developing system workflow based off easily defined tasks.

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The editor is pretty much just as you’d expect if you’ve ever written any graphical-supported BRE/mapping or flow functionality.  Naturally, there’s tie-ins to some of the more recent announcements, such as AppSource Apps.  It seems to be for cloud use only, such as within Dynamics 365, Office 365 etc. it wasn’t discussed whether there was any on premise support.

Solutions with Microsoft Flow can be saved as templates, templates typically run under the credentials of the executing user identity.  Templates can be shared within or outside an organisation.  You can build custom connectors for use with Microsoft Flow, they need to support HTTP/HTTPS, a standard of authentication (OAuth 2.0, Basic, API key), have a human readable interface.

Flow is built on top of Logic Apps, which is where the Azure underpinning of Microsoft Flow comes into the picture.

Logic Apps provide a way to simplify and implement scalable integrations and workflows in the cloud. It provides a visual designer to model and automate your process as a series of steps known as a workflow.

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Product Roadmap

PS02 – Worldwide public sector executive roundtables

Hear from more than 50 public sector leaders and experts on key top of mind industry topics, with an open forum to ask questions that are specific to your business interests. The format will be 45 tables, 45 hot topics, and you choose which ones have relevance for you. This is a great opportunity for networking during the roundtables and at the happy hour immediately following the session.

The next session was a freeform networking event targeted at partners who work in the public sector, as I do.  The room was split across industry lines, by table, so that participants could select the table which best fit their own business.  I ended up on a table with a bunch of Microsoft folks from a Microsoft subsidiary (US based) called Vexcel.

We talked for about half an hour about Vexcel’s model of engaging multiple partners in what they called a Complex Partner Management engagement model (driven through a Complex Engagement Delivery Office) which allows for entertaining the opportunity to take on programme of work outsourcing arrangements.

Without going into too much detail, it seemed like something worth pursuing further.  This session took us up to (and actually beyond) 5pm.

End of Day 1

At this point, the day wound down.  Although I didn’t get to as many sessions as I’d liked, I felt that I’d managed to accomplish a fair bit on my first full day.  There’s a lot to wade through, and I feel like it is just as important to get out and network as it is to pursue the subject matter specific sessions.

Monday night represented the first (and only) free night of the convention.  I used this as an opportunity to catch up with a former colleague who happened to be in Toronto at the time.  We caught up with some other Canberra partners later that night and ended up winding up a bit after midnight.

The next article will start with the second day’s vision keynote.