Developments in cloud computing and business mobility were among the key talking points discussed at the Microsoft Cloud and Mobility Summit, held at the Allstream Centre on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto.
The first day of the event kicked off with a keynote address from Jason Zander, corporate vice president for Microsoft Azure. Zander began by stating that if he were to look into the bags and purses of everyone in the room, at least one mobile or wearable device would be found inside.
Zander continued his address by stating that the integration of mobile elements into their daily functions is helping businesses to achieve new highs in productivity through improved connectivity and collaboration opportunities through the convergence of Microsoft’s family of digital resources.
“As a company, we’re all about platforms and productivity,” he said. “In this environment, we want to enable individuals and teams to have their business processes come together, and we want to make sure that all of these things light up. On the productivity side, this is going to include Office 365 and our ability to collaborate with the cloud, IT, the system centre, and portals.”
One area Microsoft has focused on lately is the continued development of Azure, their cloud platform. Azure provides enterprises with several tools, which include computing, storage, networking capabilities, and app deployment and management. It also features IaaS and PaaS capabilities, and is hybrid-ready for businesses wishing to explore hybrid cloud options.
Azure is built on an open-sourced system that is compatible across numerous operating systems, programming languages and frameworks, which makes for easier implementation and manipulation in the business atmosphere. Additionally, Azure is scalable, which provides enterprises with cost savings.
“One of the best things about these sorts of environments is the fact that you can actually go in and reduce the cost of running the environment,” Zander said. “If I was to go back and look at an A versus B test, how much does it cost for me to set it up, allocate capital expenditures, buy equipment, and get it in (place)? We’ve found cases where people can save 35 to 40 per cent on the amount they were paying from before because they can turn on that environment.”
Zander added that these costs savings provide companies with additional capital which can be allocated towards other projects.
“You can do two things with those savings,” he explained. “I’ve seen groups who take those savings and (further) bring down their costs. They are being pushed to reduce their costs while at the same time saving more (money). I’ve seen others that take the savings and apply them towards new projects that they otherwise could not have funded.”
With cloud serving as the primary focus of the first day of the event, developments in business mobility and Microsoft’s Office suite took centre stage during day two. Julia White, general manager of Microsoft Office, opened her keynote address with a short, but polarizing statement.
“The world is now a giant network,” White said.
“The idea that we sit in our offices and do individual work is becoming an increasingly small part of how any of us spend our time,” she continued. “Today, it’s all about collaborating and getting work done in any location, as well as with a variety of people.”
White indicated that the tools people use to help manage their personal lives and remain connected to friends, family and contacts are now becoming a crucial part of their professional lives. Businesses are using that to create a culture where information can be shared freely between employees in order to complete tasks.
“The same principles that have revolutionized our personal lives have that same potential in our work lives,” she said. “It’s not about sharing the latest news; it’s about the openness and the social connection. It’s about the idea that communication is shared openly by default within an organization, which can be very revolutionary.”
Microsoft Office has seen significant changes and expansion over the years, designed to provide users with a simplified structure that is easy to use and understand. Recent developments have turned the Office suite into what White describes as a “more intelligent product” that really gets to know its users and their specific preferences.
“We used to give (users) lots of manual tools, which, at the time, was the best thing to do,” she said. “But now, that’s changed. We have introduced machine guarding with intelligent technology, which can actually learn what matters to you as an individual. It’s all about relevancy and personalized information based on machine learning.”
Microsoft’s desire to create a more personalized experience for users of the Office 365 environment led to the creation of the Intelligence Graph, which White explains is centered on actions and attitudes of the individual. Every time the user executes an action, the graph learns more about him or her, and subsequently recalibrates itself accordingly. It analyzes everything done by the user, right down to how they manage their Outlook inbox.
“This graph, in particular, is a lot about the individual,” she said. “It asks users, ‘What matters to you, and how can I bring that to you in a proactive way?’ We’ve built a new experience on top of the graph called Clutter, which is a new folder in the Outlook inbox. It places emails that are not being read into a special folder, and if you move anything from there back into your inbox, the graph learns about that. In terms of finding the information you were looking for and getting to the things that matter most, it immediately helps each individual, which therefore helps business decisions.”
The entire business mobility space is in a constant state of evolution, and going forward, Microsoft hopes to stay two steps ahead of that progression with continued expansion and product development.
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