Microsoft today kicked off the Ignite conference for IT professionals in Chicago with several new announcements that the company says will help businesses better adapt to today's cloud- and mobile-enabled business processes.
Taking the place of Microsoft's Management Summit, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project and TechEd conferences, Ignite reflects the Redmond, Wash., software giant's own reorganization, according to Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO. On stage during his keynote address, he said his company "felt in this time of change and opportunity, it was very important to bring all our IT communities together."
In addition to streamlining Microsoft's event calendar—and by extension those of conference-goers—Ignite is a showcase for technology and tools that take advantage of the "collective skills and ingenuity" of IT practitioners, according to Nadella. "Every business out there now is a software company, is a digital company," he said, emphasizing the value of integrated solutions and services that help businesses manage their data, applications and users.
Today's announcements revolved around three themes: personal computing, reinventing productivity and intelligent cloud services, Nadella said.
To help administrators deliver more user-centric IT services, Microsoft unveiled Windows Update for Business, a new management option for the company's upcoming Windows 10 operating system. The offering ensures that Windows 10 devices are always kept up to date and current with Microsoft's latest security fixes, but in a manner that the company claims will reduce management costs while enabling administrators to have the last say on when updates are deployed.
The company also announced a technical preview of System Center Configuration Manager for managing Windows 10 devices. Next week, Microsoft will release updates for Configuration Manager 2012 and 2012 R2 and Intune that will include support for Windows 10.
On the productivity front, Microsoft announced the public preview of Office 2016, which contains new data loss prevention (DLS), multifactor authentication (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and information rights management features aimed at helping organizations protect sensitive information. "IT admins can centrally create, manage and enforce policies for content authoring and document sharing. End users will see policy tips or sharing restrictions when the apps detect a potential policy violation," said Jared Spataro, general manager for Office marketing, in a statement.
Other business-themed software announcements included the unveiling of Skype for Business Broadcasting for meetings with up to 10,000 attendees and new organizational analytics capabilities in Office Delve that allow businesses to glean insights about their workforces, including employee engagement, reach and even work-life balance. Previews of SharePoint Server 2016 and Exchange Server 2016 are also slated for release later this year.
In another "cloud-first" move, Microsoft revealed Azure Stack, which brings the core services and user experience that power the company's own cloud to customer data centers, enabling Azure-backed hybrid cloud deployments of enterprise applications. Based on Microsoft's acquisition of Active Directory security specialist Aorato, the company announced that its cloud-based Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) service is now available in preview.