Toronto, Canada, 9-14 July was the setting for the largest ever Microsoft World Partner Conference (WPC 2016) with over 16,000 participants coming together to listen, learn, be inspired, promote, network and progress. Brennan IT, being a multiple Microsoft Gold competency partner, were represented by Stephen Sims (CEO) and myself, Lyncoln de Mello (Director – Cloud Practice) along with over 250 other Australians.
There was a buzz in the warm summer air as the main streets were decorated with WPC 2016 flags and crowds of conference lanyard sporting folks, laptops and tablets in hand, filled the streets as they descended on Air Canada Centre arena for the opening keynote session by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.
It was a roaring reception inside with all 16,000+ delegates on their feet clapping and cheering as we opened WPC 2016 to the sounds of the next generation. Satya presented a thorough, partner-led vision for Microsoft with a focus on Digital Transformation for business driven by Microsoft’s broad suite of services and products. Digital Transformation would be enabled by Microsoft by focusing on three key ambitions for the company and in turn for partners. These key ambitions to drive Digital Transformation are:
- Create more personal computing
- Build the Intelligent Cloud
- Reinvent productivity and business processes
Satya also reinforced Microsoft’s open platform embracing the likes of Linux based operating systems and open middleware. He also introduced Chairman and CEO of GE (General Electric) Jeffrey Immlet to announce for the first time that GE would migrate its Predix industrial technology platform to Microsoft Azure. The Azure platform itself was announced to now be live in 34 regions around the globe – a scale that surpasses both competitors AWS and Google cloud services combined!
The huge crowd then departed the Air Canada centre and set course, on foot, to the sprawling Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the conference took place over the next 3 days and where we learnt further details about Microsoft services vision, met a range of highly innovative Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), shared stories, challenges with other partners and sought inspiration for the next set of strategic opportunities for our clients and people.
There was a strong focus on information security at WPC 2016 and it was present in several forms and services. Starting from Windows 10, the most secure, enterprise fit operating system from Microsoft ever released to Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), which is tipped to by Microsoft’s fastest adoption service in its history. EMS for those of you who don’t already know, comprises of a set of device, application and corporate content management services all tightly integrated with user identity to enable a workforce flexibility (location and device) whilst effectively controlling corporate content from getting outside of the administrative boundaries. Security was also the key message for the Azure platform with an outline of its various sovereign datacentres, vast range of official security certifications such as ISO27001 and detailed visibility of Microsoft administrative and maintenance tasks. Windows Server 2016, the latest server operating system due for general release later in 2016 was also detailed with a core focus being unparalleled levels of security and interoperability.
We saw the future being a reality with several real world applications of Microsoft HoloLens – world’s first, fully untethered holographic computer that enables 3D design, learning and communications in a way that has only been seen in sci-fi movies until now.
Capturing opportunities on the explosion of IoT with services offered by Azure IoT Hub and the various Independent Software Vendors specialising in this space was hugely popular. For the first time did we see the IoT hype be demonstrated in real, executable business models for Managed Service Providers wanting to develop an IoT practice in their respective markets.
We also received an overview of Microsoft SQL Server 2016, the latest intelligent database and BI platform from Microsoft with innovative features such as always encrypted and Stretch Database function that allows users to store some of their data in a SQL 2016 database on-premises and automatically send infrequently used or compliance retention data to SQL Database in Azure.
Last but not least, the vast range of Microsoft Dynamics applications such as CRM and ERP were collated and rebranded as Dynamics 365, like Office 365, the main software services that reinvent productivity and business processes.