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This year’s digital edition of Microsoft Ignite has now wrapped up, but don’t worry if you missed it! The high-quality sessions and keynotes from across the three days are available to watch on-demand from the Session Catalogue on the official Ignite website.

2021’s instalment has brought us plenty of news and reveals, so just in case you missed it, let’s walk through a selection of the announcements. If you’re looking for absolutely everything, you can check the Microsoft Ignite 2021 Book of News, which details everything from across the three-day stream.

 

Azure AI

  • A new AI-powered cloud search service for mobile and web app development is now available in preview in Azure Cognitive Search. This capability enables developers to deliver results based on user intent, rather than a keyword-based search.
  • A new SharePoint connector makes it easier to ingest and explore SharePoint content within Azure Cognitive Search.
  • Form Recognizer is introducing support for pre-built IDs and invoice extraction, plus the ability to read data in 64 additional languages. This will will enable the automated extraction of data from worldwide passports and driver’s licenses, avoiding manual data entry and improving services like online form-based services. ​
  • Large-scale, interactive data preparation in Azure ML, backed by Azure Synapse Spark, is now available in preview. Data scientists can now prepare data and work on big data directly from Azure ML notebooks, saving time and optimising workflows.

 

Azure Data

  • With Azure Synapse Pathway, you can simplify and accelerate migrating from a legacy or cloud data warehouse to Azure Synapse Analytics by providing automated translation of existing business logic. This allows for the automatic translation of more than 100,000 lines of SQL code in minutes, eliminating one of the main hurdles in migration.
  • Azure Stream Analytics has been updated to provide support for single tenant dedicated clusters. ​Customer resources are “isolated” and perform better during bursts in traffic.
  • Azure Synapse Link for Azure Cosmos DB is now generally available. This enables cloud-native and near-real-time analytics to be run over the NoSQL data in Azure Cosmos DB, including MongoDB.
  • Mongo v4.0 server support in Azure Cosmos DB API for Mongo DB is now generally available. This makes it simple for developers to leverage the database for error handling with multi-document transaction support and retriable writes.
  • Azure Cosmos DB Continuous Backup and Point-in-Time is now available in preview. This provides ongoing backups and enables you to recover and restore data from any point within the past 30 days.
  • Azure Cosmos DB role-based access control (RBAC), now available in preview, provides you with enhanced security for data in Azure.
  • Azure Managed Instance for Apache Cassandra, a new semi-managed service offering, is now available in preview. This service will enable organisations to run more of their Cassandra NoSQL data on Azure, removing the need for database administrators and developers to manage infrastructure or manage and update their version of Cassandra. ​

 

Azure Dev and Ecosystem

  • Azure Communication Services, the first fully managed communication platform offering from a major cloud provider, will become generally available in the next few weeks. Azure Communication Services is also now interoperable with Microsoft Teams in preview, enabling you to leverage a unified offering for both internal and external communication experiences.
  • Two related Azure Spring Cloud features — Managed Virtual Network and Autoscale — are now generally available. Azure Spring Cloud is a fully managed service for Spring Boot apps that helps you focus on building apps to run your businesses without the hassle of managing infrastructure.
  • A new report containing in-depth industry findings to help accelerate software transformation is now available. The report is based on a study conducted in 2020 in partnership with McKinsey & Co. and includes eight key learnings for organisations. It is derived from in-depth research with three financial companies and two retailers.
  • New solutions for running Java Enterprise Edition applications on Azure are now available in the Azure Marketplace and on Microsoft Docs. You will now have greater choice and flexibility to migrate their Java EE apps to the cloud with offers jointly supported by Microsoft, Oracle and IBM.
  • The .NET Upgrade Assistant is now available in preview. The .NET Upgrade Assistant unifies previously disjointed porting tools and provides step-by-step instructions to help developers upgrade confidently. It has been released as an open-source project as well as a .NET global tool NuGet package.
  • Private Azure Marketplace, a service that enables administrators to govern which third-party solutions their users can access in Azure marketplace, is now generally available. Organisations can use this service to ensure that only offers that comply with their policies and regulations are deployed and used by the organisation’s users.
  • Visual Studio 2019 version 16.9, now generally available, comes with new enhancements for C++ development, .NET productivity, Git tooling, web tooling and XAML productivity.

 

Azure Hybrid, Azure Infra and Azure Migrate

  • Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes is now generally available. Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes allows organisations to connect, manage and govern any Kubernetes cluster across datacenters, multicloud and edge from Azure.
  • Azure Arc-enabled machine learning is now in preview, meaning you can innovate with Azure Machine Learning to target any Kubernetes cluster for model training, on-premises, in multicloud and at the edge.
  • New capabilities have been added to Azure Automanage to simplify operations for Windows Server virtual machines. Azure Automanage helps you reduce day-to-day management tasks with automated operations across the entire lifecycle of VMs in Azure.
  • Updates for Azure Backup, which provides data protection capabilities for business-critical workloads in a simple, secure and cost-effective manner, are now available.
  • On-demand capacity reservations for Azure Virtual Machines will be available in preview in April. On-demand capacity reservations for Azure Virtual Machines enable you to access virtual machines in advance with SLA guarantees.
  • New Mv2 Azure Virtual Machines for memory intensive workloads are now available in preview, giving you a 20% increase in CPU performance plus access to more VM sizes.
  • Azure Premium SSD and Standard SSD, which offer zone-redundant storage support to protect data in the event of a zone failure, a key feature to provide you with high availability for mission-critical workloads.
  • Performance tiers on Azure Premium SSD, which provide sustained higher performance for a planned event like a seasonal sales promotion, giving you the flexibility to scale performance without increasing the disk size by selecting a higher performance tier.
  • Auto-key rotation of customer-managed keys, which gives you the option to automatically update all their disks, snapshots and images using the same encryption key when a new version of a key is generated.
  • Azure Migration Program, which provides expert assistance to simplify cloud migration, will offer expanded support for application modernisation scenarios in the coming weeks. AMP will support modernisation of popular web apps, including .NET, Java and LAMP apps.
  • Azure Migrate, the central hub of Azure cloud migration services and tools, offers three new capabilities, now in preview. These new capabilities allow you to discover and assess your SQL servers and databases for migration to Azure from within the Azure Migrate portal.
  • The new Azure Migrate Azure PowerShell module is now available in preview. Azure Migrate Azure PowerShell has added support for the Server Migration tool’s agentless method of migrating VMware VMs to Azure.
  • Azure Front Door is now available in preview. Azure Front Door has been upgraded to provide secure cloud content delivery network service with integrated intelligent security capabilities enabling cybersecurity teams to protect and accelerate apps, APIs, websites and content delivery in just a few clicks.
  • Azure Firewall Premium has been upgraded with next-generation firewall, now available in preview, which provides enhanced security with intrusion, detection and prevention system capabilities​ required for highly sensitive and regulated environments.
  • AWS Single Sign-On app is now pre-integrated with Azure Active Directory and available in the app gallery. This integration lets you connect Azure AD to AWS SSO, a cloud-based service that simplifies SSO access across multiple AWS accounts and resources.
  • Windows Server 2022, now available in preview, enables you to run existing and new business-critical applications with confidence on Azure, on-premises and at the edge.

 

Azure IoT

  • Azure Percept is now available in preview. Azure Percept powers real-time insights at the edge through hardware accelerators integrated with Azure ML and Azure Cognitive Services.
  • Device Update for Azure IoT Hub, now available in preview, enables automatic updates to help keep your IoT devices current and secure.

 

Azure Mixed Reality

  • Azure Remote Rendering, now generally available, renders complex models in the cloud and streams them in real time to devices.
  • Azure Object Anchors is now available in preview. Azure Object Anchors leverages 3D models of objects, trains in the cloud using AI and uses the trained model to enable holographic alignment to physical objects.
  • New mixed-reality platform Microsoft Mesh powers collaborative experiences with a feeling of presence, meaning users feel like they are physically present with one another even when they are not. People can interact with 3D content or engage with one another through Mesh-enabled apps across any platform or device – including Microsoft HoloLens, VR headsets, smartphones, tablets or PCs.

 

Power Platform

  • Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, which offers robotic process automation capabilities that easily automate time-consuming manual work, will be available to Windows 10 users at no additional cost.
  • The latest update to Power BI Premium is now available in preview. This includes architectural updates for across-the-board improvements to performance, stability and security.
  • Microsoft has published the first low-code programming language, Microsoft Power Fx, for logic customisation across the Power Platform. This language is available now, with implementation being open sourced on GitHub later this year.
  • Power Platform is introducing features that enable IT pros to implement enhanced governance and security for low-code tools and automation. The features include a new Power Platform admin center and capabilities, security improvements and reporting enhancements.
  • New AI capabilities within Power Virtual Agents have been released in preview. These new AI-infused features enable chatbots to engage more naturally and more accurately.

 

Skilling and Certifications

  • Two new fundamentals certifications for Microsoft Dynamics 365 were announced in December 2020, and the corresponding beta exams were made available in February 2021.
  • Microsoft Certifications renewal is now available for free on Microsoft Learn to support individuals who want to keep their technical skills up to date.
  • A new certification for developers and IT administrators working on Windows Virtual Desktop is launching this month. The beta exam for the Microsoft Certified: Windows Virtual Desktop Specialty will be available to the public at the end of this month at a discounted rate.

 

…and more!

There were so many announcements during Microsoft Ignite 2021 that we can’t do justice to all of them here. If you want to see the full list of announcements, you can do so by visiting the Microsoft Ignite 2021 Book of News. This handy website contains everything you need to know from the event, on topics from Microsoft 365 to Security and Windows. Be sure to make use of the contents page, as there’s a lot to go through!

If you’re looking for Microsoft Teams news in particular, there’s a dedicated blog post that runs through all of the upcoming changes and features. It covers everything from meeting recaps to breakout rooms, and much more.

In case you missed it, there’s also a blog post written by Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, introducing this year’s Microsoft Ignite. It contains a lot of interesting information about what topic areas Ignite covers, so it’s a great starting point if you’re looking at exploring particular areas of the Microsoft ecosystem.

 

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