Microsoft Ignite ‘22 kicked off today, both virtually and in-person in Seattle, WA. To start the event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the stage to provide a keynote address. 

He laid out the five core imperatives that Microsoft is focused on, and then provided updates for each of them. They are as follows: 

  1. Enable companies to be data-driven
  2. Deliver efficiency with automation and AI
  3. Enable innovation with a cloud developer platform
  4. Re-energize your workforce with Microsoft 365
  5. Protect everyone, everything, everywhere

Enable companies to be data-driven

According to Nadella, allowing companies to be data-driven starts at the infrastructure level, and moving to the cloud is the best way to scale IT investments with demand. Azure Arc is receiving new updates to provide a more cloud-like experience, including single sign-on that integrates with Azure AD, improved security and monitoring, and new deployment options for Azure Kubernetes Service on Azure Arc. 

In order to help companies modernize their infrastructure from the ground up on the compute side, they are also announcing new VMs that are more cost effective and power efficient, new SSD storage, and a new Elastic SAN.

Nadella explained that the company’s ultimate goal is to provide a complete data platform. He claimed that doing analytics through its platform costs up to 59% less than on other databases.

The company announced support for PostgreSQL in Cosmos DB. This enables developers to build apps using both relational and non-relational data. 

It also is announcing a new pipeline template in Azure Synapse Analytics that provides a one-click experience for setting up Mapping Data Flows, which is another new feature that cleans, normalizes, and flattens data as it is brought in for analysis.

Deliver efficiency with automation and AI

According to Nadella, AI is the ultimate amplifier for doing more with less. The company’s goal on this imperative is to make the promise of AI real and do it responsibly. 

It is announcing several updates to Azure Cognitive Services. Azure OpenAI Service will offer access to DALL-E 2, Azure Cognitive Service for Language expands language support with added natural language understanding and natural language generation capabilities, Computer Vision is getting a an updated Image Analysis model and Spatial Analysis, and new features are being added to Azure Cognitive Service for Speech, which will “transform the way companies deliver media experiences, accessibility, and customer service.” 

The Responsible AI dashboard will soon be available, and it will enable companies to better evaluate the fairness of their models. 

Nadella also shared its work with OpenAI on GPT, DALL-E, and Codex. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman joined Nadella on stage and shared updates to Codex that bring it closer to becoming a pair programmer. He also provided a demo going through an example of Codex reviewing code. 

Nadella went on to explain that new capabilities from Codex are being incorporated into GitHub Copilot. New functionality in GitHub Copilot includes features that provide explanations of what the suggested code does, and an option to translate code. Microsoft will share more details next month at GitHub Universe.

Enable innovation with a cloud developer platform

According to Nadella, 70% of new applications are being built by low-code or no-code. Innovation is no longer just the responsibility of developers and data scientists; low-code and no-code allow everyone in the company to innovate and create applications. 

New innovations are being added to Power Platform, Microsoft’s no-code platform. New natural language and AI features are being added to Power Automate that will allow a user to describe what they want to automate and then that flow will be built for them automatically. 

Updates to AI Builder in the Power Platform include Feedback Loop, which allows quality of outputs from AI models to be continually improved on; support for unstructured documents, such as contracts, statements of work, and letters; support for 164 languages in text recognition; and Multi-Table Extraction. 

Another challenge companies face is how to take a massive amount of content and use AI to bring it into the flow of work, Nadella said. Microsoft Syntex is the company’s new answer to that challenge. Microsoft Syntex is a new set of content apps and services that utilize AI for organizing unstructured content so that it can be easily searched. It can enable automation of workflows, such as contract processing and e-signatures. 

Re-energize your workforce with Microsoft 365

“We’re not going back to 2019,” said Nadella. “We need to accept and find a new path forward.” He said that companies should have these priorities moving forward: 

  1. Get rid of paranoia around productivity 
  2. Embrace AI
  3. Embrace that employees come to the office for each other, not because of corporate policies. 
  4. Enable employees to do meaningful work so that they feel aligned to the company’s mission and priorities. 

All of these things need to work in harmony, which is where Microsoft 365 comes in, said Nadella. 

Microsoft Teams is getting a number of new updates across the Premium offering, such as intelligent recap for meetings, AI-generated tasks, intelligent playback, personalized insights, and more. 

Other updates for Teams include a new “Together mode” to make meeting participants feel more like they are in a virtual room together, live editing of Excel workbooks, and better integration with PowerPoint. 

The company also announced a preview of Mesh Avatars, which is an animated version of yourself that can be used in lieu of turning on your camera for a meeting.

Nadella also revealed Microsoft Places, which is a new connected workplace solution for hybrid work. It will provide a dashboard of which days team members will be in the office, the ability to book workspaces and see where others have booked theirs, insight into hybrid policy sentiments among employees, and insights and guidance on space usage. 

New features are also being added to Microsoft Viva, the company’s employee experience platform for hybrid work. Updates include meeting effectiveness surveys, a new Focus mode, Quiet Time settings, and suggestions that are automatically generated if someone tries to send a chat outside of the recipient’s working hours. 

Edge Workspaces is now in preview, and it enables better collaboration in Microsoft Edge. It provides a shared set of browser tabs, which allows everyone working on a project to see the same pages, links, and files. 

Protect everyone, everything, everywhere

“As the pace of threats accelerates, this is a top priority for every organization,” said Nadella. “Protecting is complex and can get expensive. Every organization experiences this with so many different devices, connections to partners, and an ever shifting cloud resource deployment. The more agile you become, the more your security team struggles to manage the risk and the more connected we become the faster a successful attacker can move laterally through the enterprise to their target.”

According to Nadella, companies are often forced to use multiple disconnected solutions that don’t integrate well. Microsoft Security brings together all the different elements of security under one tool.

Microsoft Entra is focused on identity and access management, Microsoft Purview is used to manage compliance, Microsoft Priva is for managing privacy, Microsoft Intune is for managing endpoints, and then when you add in Microsoft Defender and Microsoft Sentinel, “you get a comprehensive solution that closes gaps and works for you at machine speed,” said Nadella. 

Updates to Microsoft Security include new Identity Governance capabilities, a more unified DevOps security management ecosystem, automatic attack disruption to limit lateral movement and stop ransomware before it can encrypt data, and more.