Last week was the second of the huge Microsoft conferences, following quickly on from the developer orientated Build. Ignite combined, for the first time, several slightly smaller conference, including SPC, the SharePoint Conference, providing great reach into the increasingly connected Microsoft technology stack for IT Pros, Developers and Advanced Business Users/Strategists (amongst whom I count myself).
Ignite was a bit of a mixed/ambivalent conference for me.
A key reason for going was to understand the updates etc. to SharePoint. The conference claimed to have 76 sessions on SP, but there were only 2 on SP2016 of any note and it is clear that SP2016 has been both delayed and pushed down the stack (though no one stated that out loud).
On the other hand the reasons for this were clear – the new stuff they are bringing through, especially those based on Office graph (OG) and the Next Gen Portals (NGPs) are very exciting but also not yet ready. Since many of those use SP2016 as the ECM backend it is understandable.
A key concern we have is around how the Microsoft push towards NGPs both impacts our services based business model and fragments the user experience due to poor discoverability to NGPs. The conference helped clarify that for us, especially how we should integrate NGP elements into future intranets and evolve our information architecture to take advantage of what is coming.
The Azure ML stuff is truly exciting and foreshadows a whole host of new features, thinking and possibilities. The power of this is incredible and the ability to extend it using your own R code and models is huge. Of course all this stuff relies on the enormous Microsoft cloud, so hybrid is now the minimum option for clients – something we have started advising. The Azure Stack is a neat way of Microsoft standardising between the cloud and on-premise and making it easy to move from the latter to the former when organisations are ready.
Insights into the various fixes and improvements to the technology are welcome, of course. More impressive is how deeply the cultural change at Microsoft reaches – this is truly a different company to the one partners and clients dealt with 2 year ago, and in good ways. This is evident in so many ways – from the Microsoft staff, to engagement via YamJams and User Voice, through to the products and the way they are releasing them (and keeping them secret!).
Disappointments – I had a few… not being able to get in to a few sessions because of oversubscription, the capricious wifi, the miniscule appearance of Cortana and the complete absence of Hololens and Band.
Upsides… apart from the above was how vibrant the Microsoft community is, how far reaching and audacious the vision for the technology is, how robust the current build of Windows 10 seems (every Microsoft and demo machine was running it – with zero stalled or dead machines) and what a fair city Chicago is in the spring.
About Ignite: https://myignite.microsoft.com/#/home
Watch the sessions: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Ignite/2015