Microsoft Inspire 2020: Azure Notes

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In the aftermath of Microsoft’s 2020 Inspire conference, held remotely for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, partners took stock of revelations on product strategy and channel opportunities. Commercial cloud services remain a large and growing element of Microsoft’s overall strategy, and officials at Inspire made the case for how different segments of the platform will continue to improve and offer partners new opportunities. 

Microsoft emphasized remote work and the larger impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their own product strategy, and that reached business applications, their industry planning for the channel, and specific cloud services. Among the important Azure sessions were insights on building solutions and driving revenue with Azure AI, the broadening role of Azure Lighthouse, fresh opportunities with Azure IoT, and observations about infrastructure and data migration to the cloud.

Boosting business with AI

Azure AI director Bharat Sandhu took a look at the rapidly growing role of AI. Currently, over 9,000 partners are using Azure AI in building solutions for clients, with a three-fold growth in revenue since last year. In fact, there are over 22,000 active customers, including the majority of Fortune 500 organizations. Looking ahead, Microsoft foresees extensive growth opportunities for partners, citing IDC data suggesting that 50 percent of organizations are planning to use—or already using—AI.

Sandhu noted Microsoft’s eight research centers for AI around the world and noted the widespread usage of AI in Microsoft services, for instance transcribing up to 1.8 million hours of Teams conversations. He told attendees:

Microsoft has the most compliance offerings of any cloud, 61 regions, Azure AI benefits from all [that reach]. Azure Machine Learning can help with ML models, offering drag and drop for every experience level… Great investments in MLOps help power a lot of machine learning in Microsoft. Cognitive Services for Vision, Language Understanding, Translation [are just part of the] most comprehensive set of Cognitive Services available in the market today and can be containerized. It’s really easy to call Cognitive Services through APIs even deployed on-prem as containers, in a modular fashion.

Microsoft envisions several key scenarios for Azure AI such as creating AI-based apps, knowledge mining unstructured documents, powering chat bots, or augmenting analytics. PwC is has developed a solution to help customers spot regulatory risks, while Tech Mahindra has deployed Bot Framework to manage up to 11,000 requests coming into its virtual office.

Azure Lighthouse: A new beacon

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