Ignite 2017 Roundup

As the title says – this is my shortlist of the important stuff discussed and announced at Ignite. I hope to follow up on some of these subjects with a deep dive.

Unfortunately, this year I wasn’t able to attend Ignite in person, so I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with the Microsoft representatives on the Expo floor, nor did I have the opportunity to attend talks. One of the best things about being physically present is the after-talk discussion/Q&A, particularly in small sessions where there isn’t a microphone used.

  • The biggest thing, as far as Microsoft being a visionary, is the Quantum Computing announcements during Satya’s keynote. Quantum Computing relies on some pretty opaque math which I don’t pretend to understand, but it does appear the Microsoft has made some advancements here. The stand-out piece is the quantum programming language that was announced. Traditional computing is binary, and quantum computing isn’t. So you need new ways of working with quantum computers when they become more available.¬†Ars Technica has an excellent write-up on the subject here.
  • Azure Migrate is a new service in preview that helps organisations assess workloads for migration to Azure. This is a big deal – for many customers, lift and shift is the best way to get into cloud computing, and this is going to make it easier. Application dependency mapping¬†makes it a lot easier to get started in the cloud, and with direct pricing integration and right-sizing recommendations, you can get a pretty good estimate of the actual cost right away. It even integrates with Database Management Service to investigate compatibility with a managed database offering.
  • ClouDyn integration – Microsoft has integrated the Cloudyn cost management dashboard into Azure with a light rebrand with minimal changes to the underlying product. However, it is now free for Azure use. AWS and Google Cloud remain priced at 1% of total spend. My employer, Softchoice, offers a competing product to our customers (and I believe it’s free if you use our Managed Services). Understanding where the budget is disappearing to is really critical for customers, and I’m excited to see it available as a first-party offering. I believe Azure is the only cloud to offer this. I’m hoping this will also introduce some streamlining in the billing reports as teams work to make the data more useful.
  • Azure Security Center has combined with OMS and now supports on-premises VMs. SQL Vulnerability assessment was added as well. This is one of the things that organisations should take a look at, along with ATA, to implement simple security configuration updates in their organisation. Security Center is under continuous development and I’m definitely excited to see what’s coming over the next year for it.
  • The Standard Load Balancer SKU adds a whole bunch of long awaited functionality to the lowly Azure Load Balancer. Up to 1000 VMs, region-wide load balancing (Availability Zones need this), and, the two big features: better monitoring, and the ability to balance all traffic, regardless of ports. This last feature is critical for proper function of a Network Virtual Appliance in Azure – there were some really janky workarounds to make it work, but now it’s native. I can’t wait for this to come out of preview.
  • Application Security Groups – you can create a tag with a number of VMs (e.g. AD VMs) and then allow traffic to/from that tag with a NSG – this is a great improvement.
  • Network Watcher has been enhanced with a connectivity check that allows administrators to identify hop-by-hop communication issues between VMs. In Azure, this information has traditionally been opaque, so this is a big improvement for management.
  • Virtual Network Peering has been extended to allow peering globally. This dramatically simplifies the effort involved in connecting networks across different regions – where once a VPN was required, you can now simply peer.
  • Azure DNS service is a great place to host your public DNS, and it has now been enabled for private DNS service within virtual networks. Like Active Directory, hostnames for your VMs will be automatically managed.
  • Licensing-friendly VM Sizes. Better memory to CPU ratio, for those per-core licensing models that everyone loves to hate.

I’m still working my way through the announcements, and there’s probably some things that weren’t well-publicised that are worth discussing. Last year, there were a few announcements made in talks that were pretty big news in my world.

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