Microsoft Ignite 2019: Azure Arc, WinUI 3.0 Alpha, and much more

Microsoft Ignite 2019 was a whirlwind of news, events, and big announcements all wrapped up in huge crowds and unavoidable Orlando humidity. Microsoft made some major announcements and releases including Azure Arc, WinUI 3.0 Alpha, and Office 365 updates affecting Teams, and Microsoft 365 endpoint protection updates. Microsoft also set up a pop up store and conducted demos of their recently released Surface Pro models which we reviewed in a previous blog. SmartDeploy CEO, Aaron Suzuki, attended Microsoft Ignite and in addition to co-hosting this month’s Enterprise Dish in-person with Brad Sams on the tradeshow floor, he briefly popped in for an on-location filming of Tuesday’s First Ring Daily episode with Brad and Paul Thurrott.

Azure Arc: First-time managed data services

Azure Arc was announced in Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella’s, keynote speech calling the app “a control plane built for multicloud, multi-edge, and for the first-time managed data services for where the edge compute is.” Azure Arc will allow private cloud infrastructure on platforms like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services to be managed the same way as they would be on Azure. Azure arc will also extend its capabilities to include Azure’s data services, which allows users to run Azure SQL Database and Azure Database for PostgreSQL Hyperscale on any infrastructure. This product introduction also removes the once required custom code apps with AI models deployed from cloud to edge process to allow deployment of Azure Data Services on Arc within seconds. For customers wanting to use API Management, Azure API Management plan will be added to the software to allow for complete management.

Microsoft Teams: See you in the rearview, Skype for Business

Office 365 also underwent an upgrade which greatly affects how users will interact in Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams made the use of Private Channels immediately available, designed to allow secure access of conversations, documents, and apps. This will be done through a separate SharePoint site which will hold private channel documents. This will restrict other team members from accessing the documents stored in the private channel. Microsoft will also be collaborating with To Do to create a new Tasks app that will compile data from Outlook, To Do, and Teams; so be on the lookout for that releasing within the foreseeable future. Teams will also use Advanced Threat protection safe link processing to avoid user error caused by clicking on contaminated links. Teams is also absorbing Microsoft Kaizala and users will see an integration of polls, surveys, and checklists in the new view. Specifically, for enterprises, the closer connection between Teams and Outlook will allow users to send and reply messages interchangeably between both apps. Aaron and Brad believe Teams is going to behave similarly to Slack but be connected to O365. With these more drastic changes in Microsoft Teams, users may see Skype for Business leave their Start Menu sooner rather than later. In other words, switching to a supported internal communication app should be on your radar.

WinUI 3: Developers, this one’s for you

WinUI 3.0 Alpha was revealed on the first day of Ignite and will be included in the upcoming user interface framework for Windows 10 in an early alpha preview release. During the announcement, Microsoft associated several buzzwords with WinUI 3.0 including calling it a “full-stack UI solution” that “brings native controls and features found in UWP XAML framework for any Windows application.” Essentially, the goal with the update is to allow developers the ability to create Windows 10 apps in any environment and gain access to UI controls that were originally limited to UWP. Some of the changes in this release, in terms of building apps, is its very similar to building a UWP app with Xaml and WinUI 2.x. A big difference in WinUI 3.0 compared to earlier versions is the APIs are in the Microsoft.UI namespace instead of the Windows.UI namespace. If you are migrating from an earlier version, you may need to update namespaces when copying and pasting sample code. Another differential in the newer update is libraries and components using UI controls from Windows.UI.Xaml are not compatible with WinUI 3 and must be updated to Microsoft.UI.Xaml. These minor inconsistencies between older and newer versions of WinUI can play into larger deployment and connectivity problems down the road, so its important to read the footnotes and know the limitations before diving into the product.

Advanced Microsoft 365 parameters: Protect and secure data

That same day, Microsoft announced new innovations in Microsoft 365, introducing advanced data protection parameters in this “risk in the cloud” era. Microsoft is investing in compliance and risk management to help customers avoid a security breech by increasing the ability to protect and govern data. This is done through the expansion of built-in classification, labeling, and protection experiences in Microsoft 365 apps and services. These services are accessible natively through Outlook Mobile on iOS and Android. Automatic classification, based on content inspection, will be available in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook for Office 365 ProPlus customers. Trainable classifiers will also be introduced through the integration of machine learning, information protection, and governance. The trainable classifiers can be used as retention labels for data and policies, expected in preview by the end of 2019. For even more security, protected PDFs will now be viewable directly in Microsoft Edge and PDFs included in email attachments will have applied information protections. To monitor workplace activity, Insider Risk Management was introduced in the private preview. This addition will help identify and remediate insider threats and risks while respecting privacy. Another brand-new addition is Communication Compliance which will assist in organizations addressing code-of-conduct policy violations specific to workplace communications. The tool will detect violations across Microsoft Teams, ExchnageOnline or Bloomberg instant messages through machine learning.

Will we see a new device direction for Microsoft?

At Ignite, it was apparent there was a shift in Microsoft’s devices as we saw a trend in hardware being modeled after special and alternative use cases through more Web App and Workflow driven modifications. These device changes beg the question of why Microsoft is making these adjustments. Brad and Aaron speculated whether it was based customer requests or to stay relevant. Aaron suspects these device changes stem from Microsoft’s fear of missing out on potential product advancements, as other industry competitors lean towards the “modeled after use-case” direction. Regardless of the reasoning behind Microsoft’s a-typical updates and releases, they have successfully maintained consistency, security, and flexibility with each new release; which has been greatly appreciated by end users. Ignite was a hit and it will be exciting to see these new features implemented.