With Microsoft Ignite 2021 wrapping up last week, a lot of new features are currently being discussed and evaluated by customers all across the Azure and M365 ecosystem. For those of you who haven’t yet had a chance to dive in, here’s six of our crewies favourite Microsoft Ignite announcements!
Tim – Azure AD Password-less is now General Availability
A lot of time at Ignite this year was dedicated to Security, Compliance and Identity and it’s very easy to get lost in all the announcements. With consistent investment in this space, organisations are really starting to see Microsoft as a security powerhouse.
Easily the biggest announcement for Security and Identity enthusiasts is the announcement of password-less as a General Availability feature. While this has been available for while in preview, moving to GA will enable a large number of organisations to accelerate their Zero Trust deployments. With Identity as the foundation of any modern security strategy, this is a great method to get rid of horrible passwords.
Password-less currently supports sign in with Windows Hello for Business, Microsoft Authenticator app or compatible FIDO2 security keys from Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA) partners (Yubico, Feitian, AuthenTrend and more). To enhance password-less capability, Microsoft has announced the preview feature: “Temporary Access Pass”. A single use token which can be used to reset existing password-less accounts or onboard users to Azure AD.
Matthew – PowerBI Premium Gen2 upgrades and a price drop
Microsoft made several key updates for their Data offerings.The most impactful for clients is probably the general availability of PowerBI Premium Per User.
PowerBI Premium enables a significant increase in BI Capability including the ability to publish large dataset, increased numbers of dataset refreshes and features like paginated reports.
This all came at a cost that was out of reach for many smaller organisations, however Microsoft has announced that the new Power BI Premium Per User offering is available in April, offering PBI Premium features for a flat $27.50 per User per month cost. This is a huge reduction from the current licensing cost of almost $6000 per annum.
Premium Per User is actually the first Power BI Premium Gen2 feature to become General Availability. PBI Premium Gen2 is currently in Public Preview and dramatically simplifies the Per Capacity Premium offering. Increased capacity to scale (including fewer memory restrictions, separation of report and dataset refresh functions and the capability to auto-scale your dedicated PBI capacity) will help organisations better leverage their data assets with fewer constraints and operational overheads.
James – Azure Arc receives some new functionality, with multiple services moving to GA
Arinco makes no secret of our love for Azure Arc solutions, so we’re all glad to see more investment in this space. As a solution, Azure Arc focuses on extending Azure capability into Hybrid and public cloud environments.
Azure Arc was already general availablity for IaaS and Data capabilities, with Kubernetes moving to GA. Arc has been touted to now support any Kubernetes deployment which is CNCF compliant. This change allows organisations to manage kubernetes resources in AWS, GCP and private ecosystems, utilising important Azure capability such as Defender Policy (Gatekeeper), Infrastructure as Code (Flux enabling GitOps) and Azure logging & monitoring solutions.
Azure Arc also received a two new key preview features at Ignite. First, customers are now enabled to run Azure Machine Learning workloads on Arc enabled Kubernetes clusters. Secondly, Azure Stack HCI receives a welcome boost with Arc integration for AKS, further enabling organisations with robust hybrid cloud solutions.
Clancy – Cognitive Search now supports semantic search in preview
Having seen the massive benefits that Cognitive Search has for cloud native organisations, we’re extremely passionate about Cognitive services at Arinco. Focused on document content, Cognitive Search enables organisations to leverage built in AI to parse and extract relevant information (image or text) from long and complex business documents.
The new semantic search capability uses advanced machine learning techniques to understand user intent and contextually rank the most relevant search results. This allows teams to move away from static content searches, spend more time innovating and less time maintaining a complex cloud search solutions.
Martin – Power Automate RPA is now free for Windows 10 users
As more and more organisations apply an automation first approach to business process, Power Automate is becoming the de-facto platform which organisations begin to eliminate menial tasks. Robotic Process Automation takes this one step further, providing organisations a the ability to “record” the manual actions taken by an employee, replay them later. RPA is a great method for low-code solutions, or scenarios where API integration is not available to the business.
RPA was previously a licensed feature, with the $54 monthly cost per user being prohibitive for a lot of smaller organisations. This update enables organisations to adopt modern cloud solutions without the financial burden. A win for all!
Owen – Azure Migrate receives new functionality
Moving to the cloud at scale is one of the most challenging tasks that any organisation will undertake in their modernisation journey. Azure Migrate has received leaps and bounds improvements at the last few Ignite events, and this year was no different. For the un-initiated, Azure Migrate assists teams with the planning, assessing and moving of applications to Azure. Migrate has inbuilt support for Virtual Machines, Database servers, .Net and Java applications, VDI infrastructure and legacy storage.
This year, Microsoft announced further support for containerisation of applications, which will be a welcome update for any organisation moving to cloud native services such as Azure Kubernetes service or Azure Container Instances. The Migrate portal also received some big changes, with support for SQL discovery across windows & linux servers, without leaving the Azure Portal. Finally, a new PowerShell module has been released, enabling administrators to automate tedious tasks such as onboarding servers or completing test migrations.