Green House Data was onsite last week at Microsoft Ignite. We had some incredible conversations at our booth about Azure, PowerApps, application modernization, DevOps, Windows Server end of support, and more. Of course, while we were working the floor, Microsoft made a bevy of product announcements around core products and services that are sure to shake up your IT world! I’m super excited about these new developments, so here are my top takeaways from the show.
You’ve likely already seen the news about Azure Arc, which extends Azure management tools to practically any infrastructure. With Arc agents installed you can use Azure Resource Manager, Azure APIs, Cloud Shell, Marketplace, and Azure Policy within on-prem data centers, VMware virtual environments, and even AWS and Google Cloud hosts.
Azure Arc promises to be a true “single pane of glass” for managing hybrid infrastructure across a wide array of hosting providers and data center environments. It can be used with Windows or Linux servers and Kubernetes clusters for container orchestration. One of the first Arc services made available is an Azure SQL database intended for PostgreSQL Hyperscale Kubernetes. Arc basically functions via a lightweight agent that reports back to the Azure dashboard, for which you will of course need a subscription.
Arc could be a huge disruptor in the cloud and container resource management field, as a host of third parties have been competing to emerge as the de facto market leader. Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are the industry norm and will likely remain a management challenge for years to come. By offering a cloud-native management suite within the Azure ecosystem that can also function on-prem and within competing clouds, Microsoft has a significant leg up, especially as many cloud administrators and architects are already familiar with many of the tools at hand.
Microsoft’s hybrid approach was further extended with the newly announced Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM), a component of Microsoft 365 that simplifies the branding and licensing around device management. Endpoint Manager is intended to alleviate the previously segregated and complicated use of System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) and Intune separately.
Essentially, Endpoint Manager will serve as an umbrella for new co-management features in 365 that enable unified management of end user devices, with one license now granting access to both tools. Microsoft suggests that you enable co-management today for new features coming down the pipeline, such as AI-driven intelligence features and desktop analytics that help you determine user behavior and act accordingly.
Microsoft CVP Brad Anderson helped put the move into context this week, stating:
“Modern management does not mean cloud-only. It does not mean a migration away from ConfigMgr, or a migration to Intune. Modern management puts the cloud intelligence that comes from organizations like Microsoft to work to automate tasks, prioritize your efforts, connect the IT and Security teams, and continually improve the user experience. We do believe the destination many organizations will arrive at over time will be a cloud-only management solution with Intune and Microsoft 365 at the center, but we want to enable you to take advantage of our cloud capabilities incrementally at your own pace – without replacing infrastructure as some of you may not be ready for a full cloud migration. This enables you to get cloud value along with your on-prem deployments, on the road to full cloud/modern transformation.”
Microsoft is clearly designing their offerings “as a Service” to align with their revenue model and transition customers away from perpetually licensed software. This is a refreshing statement as it helps provide a product roadmap and allows us to help customers make strategic decisions and investments around change and configuration management tool choice. Endpoint Manager will be a clear trajectory for SCCM users looking to move towards cloud-based management platforms.
Even though ConfigMgr will have a new name, it is still the great systems, security, change, and configuration management tool so many of us use today in our organizations. We will be able to manage on-prem, mobile, and cloud resources all from a single portal once things are fully up and running.
For developers, one big announcement is Visual Studio Online, which offers a true SaaS portal for VS coding. While this was originally announced back in May, it was made available for public preview during Ignite. Everyone has their preferred configuration for their dev tools and with VS Online, Microsoft promises you’ll be able to login online using any box and instantly have access to your familiar environment, complete with the plugins and extensions you need.
Visual Studio Online supports VS Code and VS IDE, so you can work locally or via browser-based code editor. It plugs into GitHub repositories and currently runs on Linux with Windows support coming a later date.
The advantages of VS Online are primarily collaboration focused, making it easy to work together with shared profiles, dotfiles, extensions, and more. The deep integration with GitHub means changes to Git-hosted code are simple to make even if you don’t have your complete IDE setup on hand. Experimentation is another perk, as you can easily mess with a new disposable environment using a different stack without adjusting your local configuration.
There were many other exciting news items from the show, like Project Cortex, which will help organize and surface your various pieces of business content and collateral using machine learning. AI in general was a big theme, as was the evergreen topic of cybersecurity. Announcements around AD and identity management will no doubt affect our workflow here at Green House Data. But the big three above we found to be the most relevant to our services and product offerings.
If you have questions around Microsoft Azure, desktop modernization, or enterprise apps, we’re here to help. Let’s talk about how we can help modernize your legacy applications and infrastructure or innovate your IT stack and processes. We are here to help you navigate these ever changing technology landscapes and figure out the best solutions to empower your organizations.