As with almost every event over the past year, this year’s Microsoft Ignite Conference has started online. There were several new features for the event, starting with the expansion of Azure AI features, but of course the Teams, which was a huge success last year, remained intact – the company even announced a VR collaboration platform.
NOT JUST IN MICROSOFT CLOUD
With Azure’s machine learning capabilities, the manufacturer would venture outside its own ranks: Azure Machine Learning is now available as a multi-cloud service with Azure Arc support (preview tag for now) so it can be deployed on other cloud providers or even on customers’ own infrastructure with a Kubernetes cluster . In this way, companies can save themselves the often costly and resource-intensive data migration if the data needed to teach machine learning models is not stored in the Microsoft cloud.
Meanwhile, the Power BI PPU (Premium Per User) design drops the preview signal – and says goodbye to the free use that comes with it. Introduced last fall, the solution made the Power BI Premium feature palette available to individual users without the need to purchase a company-wide license. Starting April 2, the design will now be available in a stable version for $ 20 per user per month.
The Azure Purview data asset management solution, which also appeared at the end of last year and has a preview version, will be updated, and new data sources can be added in addition to the Azure services, Power BI and on-premise SQL Server and Teradata available at the start. The list is now being expanded with Azure Synapse Analytics, Amazon Webs Services S3, and on-premise versions of Oracle Database and SAP ERP.
DEDICATED EDGE HARDWARE
The Redmond giant would make Azure AI services more accessible on edge devices as well, for which it also flashed dedicated hardware and services. The Azure Percept development kit, also launched as a preview, includes a camera called Azure Percept Vision for machine vision tasks, and a separate Azure Percept Audio add-on for AI speech recognition and similar functionality. Azure Percept devices connect to the Azure IoT Hub, which provides communication with a cloudy background.
With this product, Microsoft aims to offer a comprehensive solution that covers customer needs from AI to hardware that can be deployed without extensive technical knowledge. Azure Percept Studio, also included with this package, guides users through the architecture of various AI solutions, from development to training to deployment. In addition, the list of supported hardware is expected to expand in the near future, as the company is currently working with several external manufacturing partners to create an extensive hardware ecosystem.
Of course, Teams also got the news announced on Ignite. Thanks to the pandemic, the collaboration service, which gathered a huge user base around last year, will be expanded with a channel sharing feature called Teams Connect – a private preview version that allows you to share individual channels from outside your organization, which the parties can access from their own Teams environments el. The construction can be especially useful if two companies are working on a joint project – we have already seen a similar one from rival Slack.
The service also adds webinar functionality: users can organize interactive online seminars for viewers inside or outside the organization, with individual registration, presentation solutions, and event-retrievable statistics for the event. The maximum number of Teams webinars will be increased by the manufacturer to thousands – the feature will be available at no extra cost with business Microsoft 365 subscriptions. It’s also worth mentioning that the company promises to end-to-end encryption support for two-person Teams calls later this year.
VIRTUAL MEETING ROOM
However, the announcements of collaboration solutions did not end with Teams, Microsoft also announced a new MR (Mixed Reality) platform called Mesh. Users of the Azure-based platform can work with content displayed in VR in a common physical or virtual space. Ideally, you will need a VR or MR headset, but the system can also be used from a HoloLens 2, smartphone, tablet and PC. Initially, Mesh will display users who log in remotely as virtual avatars in the common workspace, but later switched to lifelike virtual models with Microsoft’s Holoportation feature, developed over several years – although it is not known exactly when the latter feature is expected.
Mesh promises to receive a number of AI-supported development tools in the coming months to develop a variety of VR and MR applications. As ZDNet points out, two solutions are already available for the platform, one is AltspaceVR, which takes corporate meetings into a VR environment, and the other is Mesh, an application for HoloLens that Microsoft can use enterprise enterprise glasses to work with on different projects.