Microsoft Inspire 2021: Key Announcements

Inspire is Microsoft’s annual event for Microsoft partners. It’s a conference where Microsoft announces key product and service updates that allow partners to provide a best-in-class experience for their customers. This year’s conference was anchored in the Microsoft Cloud and the opportunities it provides customers to build powerful solutions to grow their business.

This year Microsoft made some truly exciting announcements that we’ve broken down into 4 key categories:

  1. Digital transformation across industries
  2. The future of work
  3. Security for the new normal
  4. Helping ISVs drive business growth

1. Digital Transformation across industries

Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability: a SaaS offering that enables organisations to more easily and effectively record, report, and reduce their emissions towards net zero, with plans to support water and waste tracking. The packaged offering includes SaaS offerings that connect to real-time data sources, accelerate data integration and reporting, provide accurate carbon accounting, show performance against goals, and provide intelligent insights to enable any organisation to take more effective action on sustainability.

Comment: We’re really excited by Microsoft’s efforts to increase sustainability and understand that it’s a priority for many of our customers. We’re currently looking at how we’re able to introduce Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability to our managed services alongside areas such as cost, security and performance monitoring.

2. The future of work

Since the start of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams has become the new front end for a new world of work. Microsoft has announced some exciting new products and features that are creating new categories and new possibilities for customers:

Windows 365:  Windows 365 is a new way to deliver Windows 10 or Windows 11, streaming your personalised apps, settings, and content from the Microsoft cloud to any device. This allows users to maintain the familiarity of their corporate desktop with settings, applications and data consistently whether logging on from a laptop, a tablet, a Mac or a Linux device. Microsoft have given this new device independent way of working a new name; Windows 365 Cloud PC and it’s scheduled to release on 2nd August 2021.

Because Windows 365 Cloud PC is run from the Microsoft Cloud, you’ll get the all the advantages of reliability, scalability and security we’ve come to expect from Microsoft. Windows 365 makes purchasing Cloud PCs easy with predictable per-user per-month pricing, and is natively integrated across Azure AD, Microsoft Defender, Microsoft 365 applications, and Microsoft Endpoint Manager for Enterprise customers, while Business customers can leverage a simplified self-service experience on the web. Organisations will have two edition options, with multiple Cloud PC configurations based on performance needs: Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise.

Comment: The release of Windows 365 Cloud PC is something we’re incredibly excited about as we believe that it will revolutionise the way organisations go about Hybrid Working due to its simplistic and versatile nature. We’re extremely excited to leverage Windows 365 in helping our customers work more efficiently in the new normal.

Employee Experience: A first-class example of the brand-new collaborative apps you can build in Teams is Microsoft Viva. Viva puts people at the centre, connecting them to company information, workplace insights, knowledge, and learning. Customers value Viva as an open platform that can be easily integrated with existing tools and systems and customised for business needs. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a number of Viva partner integrations, and this week, Microsoft announced the second wave of 21 Viva partnerships and new research from The Bersin Academy.

Comment: As expected, Microsoft unveiled numerous updates around Microsoft Viva – their new employee experience platform that helps you create a work environment that puts people first. Microsoft Viva brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights to help forge better, more inclusive employee experiences. We’re working closely with early adopters of Microsoft Viva to offer this revolutionary solution to our customers. If you’re interested in deploying Microsoft Viva with the support of Cloud Direct and Microsoft, get in touch here.

3. Security for the new normal

The world is changing, and Microsoft Security is rising to the challenges of a new normal. This year Microsoft surpassed $10 billion in security business revenue, representing more than 40 percent year-over-year growth, and were recognized as a leader in 5 Gartner Magic Quadrants and 7 Forrester Waves.

Free extended security updates for 2008/R2 and 2012 servers – only on Azure. Microsoft announced Extended Security Updates for Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2, and SQL Server 2012, free only on Azure. Customers running 2012 releases of Windows Server and SQL Server on-premises will have the option to purchase Extended Security Updates.  In addition, for customers who need more time to upgrade and modernise Windows Server and SQL Server 2008/R2, Microsoft now provide one additional year of free extended security updates only on Azure.

Comment: If you have any of the above listed servers, get in touch with one of our consultants to learn more about your options and how you’re able to take advantage of the free security updates announced by Microsoft.

Microsoft 365 Lighthouse (now in public preview): Microsoft 365 Lighthouse provides managed service providers with one central location and standard security configuration templates to secure devices, data, and users for small and medium business customers that are using Microsoft 365 Business Premium. Specifically, Microsoft 365 Lighthouse empowers partners to quickly identify and act on threats, anomalous sign-in, and device compliance alerts. Reducing management complexity as our partners scale and driving standardization across customers will allow partners to proactively manage risks and improve customers’ security posture.

Comment: As is demonstrated by our Azure Expert MSP status, we’re constantly on the hunt for solutions that allow us to provide better support for our managed service customers. We’re incredibly excited about the Microsoft 365 Lighthouse announcement and look forward to including it in our managed services to help our customers improve their security posture.

4. Helping ISVs drive business growth

Microsoft announced incredible improvements to their value proposition for ISVs, and as one of only three UK partners that are Azure Specialists for ISVs we’ve decided to do a dedicated blog post on those changes which will be available soon.

Want more information?

To get more information about these updates visit Microsoft’s Inspire 2021 Book of News. Alternatively, if you have any questions about how you’re able to leverage the above technologies or any other Microsoft technologies, get in touch with one of our experts here.