Every year, Microsoft announces the latest advancements in their technology stack at their Ignite event in November, sharing keynote speeches on its technology with a strong focus on AI advancements in this year’s edition.
Given how much was shared (and with over 100 individual product features and new/advanced series’ announced, there is a lot!), we’ve decided to provide an overview of the biggest pieces of news shared by Microsoft.
There are three frontrunners, and you can find many online sources which go into great detail describing their features. These include Microsoft Fabric, which went GA (generally available), and AI, which is the key topic and infuses almost every service.
azure data & ai
Even as an IT IT professional for over 25 years, the advancements in AI are quite mind-blowing. Microsoft has launched a new AI Platform in Azure called Azure AI Studio. It’s a platform that brings together all previous capabilities of Machine Learning, Microsoft numerous pre-built AI models (i.e. the Cognitive Services and the Cognitive Search) and combines with the Azure Open AI service to allow prompt based creation of new and bespoke AI solutions, custom AI applications and new ML models.
In addition, new features for Azure AI Vision, Translation, Voice and Video have been added and existing features improved.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Well, imagine a world where you can use just 60 seconds of a voice sample to re-use and, based on a text prompt, generate speech in the voice. Or create an Avatar with your own voice. That’s the power and capability it has.
Videos and entire video libraries can also be analysed and summarised into text and divided into sections and become searchable through Azure OpenAI. And of course, all of these capabilities are firmly integrated with Microsoft Fabric and the new OneLake.
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Gain an overview of the biggest advances in AI and how they can shape the way your organisation works in this blog.
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MORE AZURE HIGHLIGHTS
Talking about data in Azure, two further highlights from Ignite were the AWS (Amazon Web Services) S3 shortcuts, which allow easy access to data in S3 buckets in Amazon from Microsoft Fabric OneLake. It enables low-latency access to data residing in S3 without the need for the data to be copied into Azure Data Lake (ADLS) first.
Another shortcut capability is the Azure Data Lake Storage (ADLS) shortcut. Similar to the S3 shortcut, it allows access across the entire enterprise data infrastructure pointing to any ADLS from Microsoft Fabric OneLake to provide a unified view of all data.
Elsewhere, the announcement of Oracle Databases natively in Azure was another highlight. This is achieved through direct access to Oracle database services running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) deployed in Microsoft Azure data centres, starting with the Oracle Exadata Database Service.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
With OneLake as part of Microsoft Fabric becoming the central data repository for all corporate data, it was crucial to find a way to reduce and eliminate the need to move and copy data from one place to another. With the technology being able to link and point to data sources as published now for DataLake (ADLS) and for AWS S3 Buckets, this hugely simplifies data processing. Instead, a central data management platform in Azure through OneLake can help.
When it came to infrastructure, Microsoft announced several new capabilities, with my highlight being the reveal of Managed Instance for System Centre Operations Manager (SCOM), which up until now was not able to be run in Azure. Elsewhere, Azure Storage Mover promises to be a great new service to simplify the migration of files and file shares. This Microsoft service enables customers to migrate their on-premises file shares to Azure file shares and Azure Blob Storage. In particular, the SMB share to Azure file share migration path is now generally available, along with a Storage Mover agent image for VMware.
In other areas of Azure, a great highlight is the expanding capabilities of Confidential Computing. This allows for safe and secure processing and handling of PII data or other sensitive data in Azure. The capabilities range from Confidential Containers in AKS, new VM types as well as specific VMs for Databricks. With the expansion of Confidential Computing, Microsoft also launched the Managed Confidential Consortium Framework (CCF) which allows open-source SDK to be used as a managed service. This area will grow enormously as more and more organisations will adopt the cloud and the last frontier that required on-premises data residency was due to lack of capabilities to ensure confidentiality of data which is evidently now achievable.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
With Confidential Computing, Microsoft has created a capability to enable organizations to process any kind of confidential data in Azure while the data is in use. Areas which were prone to require to remain on-premises, such as government data, medical data, PII or HR data – can now be safely and compliantly handled in Azure.