November 2015 saw the return of Microsoft’s Future Decoded event to the ExCel Center in London. I didn’t make it last year (it was a week after TechEd Europe and I was all Microsofted out!) so I’ve been looking forward to the Tech Day of this event since the registration notice back in May. This is my summary of the day.
Following a set from DJ Yoda, the day kicked off with a morning full of Keynotes. Yesterday, at the “Business Day”, we heard that Microsoft is opening a datacentre in the UK in 2016 and this was repeated in todays’ opening video. Yesterday this sparked a flurry of comments as to the reasoning “To protect other countries against the UK Investigatory Powers legislation”, or “In preparation for the UK leaving the EU”. Personally I believe this is part of a long-term strategy to get as many data centres in as many places as possible thus increasing flexibility, resilience, speed (even at the speed of light, being closer to the end device is faster) and customer choice.
— Microsoft UK (@MicrosoftUK) November 10, 2015
After Andrew Spooner’s introduction, his Microsoft colleague Scott Guthrie stepped up to talk about software and data joining to create intelligent apps. He talked about Gyuho– a “Fitbit for Cows” that is increasing calf production for dairy farmers by 31% and helping to spot previously uncaught diseases. Scott followed this up with a live demo where he provisioned an SQL Data Warehouse in minutes in Azure and went on to demonstrate PowerBI pulling in data from Azure ITO suite and providing dashboards and reports. Next up was Chris Bishop from Microsoft Research who gave us a glimpse into the future of Artificial Intelligence, Deep Neural Networks, and Deep Learning. He demonstrated this through some of their image processing applications- recognising facial expressions and body and hand poses.
— Microsoft TechNet UK (@TechNetUK) November 11, 2015
Kevin Ashton- the “Inventor of the Internet of Things”- followed this up with a series of predictions of the future. An intriguing talk full of headline predictions which worked round to how the IoT is key to the future. He summed up the IoT in a great way- Something happens in the world, a sensor detects this and converts it to data which is sent to the network. A decision is made based on this data, which in turn causes something to be changed in the world.
The first of the final two keynotes were from Graham Cluley, who told us how we can’t trust the internet. Yet. And how we need to secure things better so we can trust them better in the future. This idea was taken further by David Chappell in the final talk- our data is moving into the public cloud via all sorts of methods, Azure, SaaS, OneDrive etc and trust is again key when our default platform changes in this way.
BASIC: then, now & forever
As I’ve been programming in BASIC from my days on the ZX81, through a range of Commodores, the BBC Micro’s at School, QuickBasic on the PC, Visual BASIC, and these days .NET, this was a Grok talk I couldn’t turn down.
Mark Rendle (@markrendle) gave this entertaining short session, taking us through the highlights of the last 51 years of BASIC from it’s origins in Dartmouth in 1964 (some of which followed my own journey) and hinting at the future (VB for HoloLens?)
In this constantly changing landscape that is IT it’s always nice to see that some of my skills will still be useful tomorrow, and if you ever bump into Mark, ask him what happened to his ZX81.
Changes in Virtualisation and Clustering – Azure Stack
MVP Aidan Finn (@joe_elway) from MicroWarehouse (Ireland) was our host for this session. He introduced some new features coming in the Server 2016 stack including Shielded Virtual Machines, taking advantage of TPM2 chips appearing in new server hardware to hide your servers from your hosting company and their other tenants, and Switch Embedded Teaming to allow for network convergence on Hyper-V servers.
Hyper-V now (in 2016 Technical Preview 3 at least) offers a path to Hyperconvergence by bringing Storage Spaces Direct into the fold and providing the Hypervisor within the Scale Out Server Cluster. There’s also improvements in the ability to hot-add virtual hardware such as NICs and Static Memory to running VMs.
Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility
I’ve met Microsoft Evangelist Simon May (@simonster) a couple of times – at a Windows 8 event and more recently at TechEd. He’s always an enthusiastic presenter which is just what we needed at this point in the day.
I’ve written before about Hybrid Identity Management, and how it is key to the whole Enterprise Mobility offering. It was mentioned briefly in the Keynote earlier, and Simon took this a stage further. He demoed using Azure AD credentials to Single-sign on (not just “Same Sign On”) into Outlook Web Access and Twitter, and use the account to sync settings across Windows 10 devices.
Azure Active Directory also offers self-service password resets- no need for helpdesk staff to get tied up doing this, or purchasing of third-party apps. It includes Multi-Factor Authentication, and the ability to allow users to register their own devices. As of today there are 2519 SaaS apps that can make use of AAD authentication, plus the ability to add custom apps.
Watching @simonster demo Azure AD and using it for authentication with 3rd party SaaS apps. Login to Facebook via my corporate AD creds.
— Chris Bradshaw (@aldershotchris) November 11, 2015
A whole bunch of stuff was squeezed into this session- not least a demonstration of Simon using Windows Hello to login to a computer with his face. Hopefully a video recording will show up online soon.
Now I’m off to the closing Keynote where Brian Cox is going to talk Quantum Computing and tell me that 1 is 0. Sometimes.
UPDATE 27/11/2015: Videos of many of the sessions are now available on Channel9