Monday, May 7, 2018

Microsoft Build 2018 brings new capabilities to Azure and the Intelligent Edge

Azure and the intelligent edge are two big themes at Microsoft's Build 2018 developer conference in Seattle this week. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it was betting $5 billion over several years to cement its presence in IoT. The company is already known to be investing billions in CAPEX for its Azure data centre rollout, where it now leads the other public cloud providers in the number of cloud data centres already online -- although, in terms of market share, the other big public cloud player based in the Seattle region remains dominant. This week's Build conference offers the chance to differentiate by tying together its data centre footprint, its IoT ambitions, and its deep presence on enterprise desktops and office suites into a coherent strategy.

"We're focused on two massive platform opportunities, one, Microsoft Azure, the other Microsoft 365.  And both these platform opportunities are being shaped by one major shift in the technology paradigm, the shift to the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge," Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO.

Nadella said Microsoft is focused on building out Azure, Azure Stack, Azure IoT Edge and Azure Sphere as the one computing fabric to support this paradigm shift.

Announcements at the event spanned developer tools, DevOps, containers, serverless, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Here is a synopsis of key items from the keynotes given by Nadella and Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's Executive VP of cloud and Enterprise.

Azure is now in 50-plus regions and has 70-plus certifications -- more regions and more certifications than any other public cloud.

90% of companies are running Microsoft Cloud to some degree

Azure added 130 new capabilities in the past year and the company is introducing 70 further capabilities at this week's Build conference.

Azure Stack is now a year old and is supporting multiple scenarios.  For example, Chevron is using it so that they can essentially have Azure in a disconnected way at their oil rigs.

Azure IoT Edge, which now runs both on Linux and Windows, enables Azure Services as well as private code to escape the cloud and be deployed directly down onto devices and managed remotely

Windows ML can now serve as an inference engine with the IoT runtime and it will be hardware accelerated.

Microsoft plans to open source Azure IoT Edge so developers can modify, debug and have more transparency and control for edge applications.

Microsoft is working with DJI to integrate Azure IoT Edge right into drones, enabling AI models that have been trained in the cloud to the edge right on the drone.

Microsoft announced a joint effort with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. to create a vision AI developer kit running Azure IoT Edge

Azure Sphere, which was announced at RSA last month, brings together secure silicon design, a secure operating system, as well as a security and a management service, for microcontrollers.

Microsoft also announced AI for Accessibility, a new $25 million, five-year program aimed at harnessing the power of AI to amplify human capabilities for more than 1 billion people around the world with disabilities.

Microsoft announced Project Brainwave, an architecture for deep neural net processing that leverages Azure and the edge. Project Brainwave is fully integrated with Azure Machine Learning. It also supports Intel FPGA hardware and ResNet50-based neural networks.

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), which allows developers to build and run container-based solutions, will be commercially available in the coming weeks. AKS integrates with developer tools and workspaces, DevOps capabilities, networking, monitoring tools, and more in the Azure portal, so developers can write code, not stitch services together. In addition, Microsoft is now offering Kubernetes support for Azure IoT Edge devices.

A new Microsoft Azure Blockchain Workbench helps developers to stitch together an Azure-supported blockchain network with cloud services like Azure Active Directory, Key Vault and SQL Database.

Microsoft announced the general availability of Azure Database Migration Service, which has already migrated almost ten thousands databases to Azure. The Azure Database Migration Service moves on-premises databases to Azure, including SQL Server to Azure SQL Database.