3 Key Takeaways from Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference


by Rachel Dines and Melodye Mueller

“We are the only organization that cares deeply about both people and the organizations people build”

This quote from Satya Nadella sums up perfectly our experience attending Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this year. The theme was Digital Transformation, something that 86% of CEOs say is their top priority this year. But the focus of the conference extended far beyond technologies. The real story was about businesses, partnerships and people and the outcomes they were able to achieve with technology. This was the common theme throughout each day of the conference, which was oriented around Microsoft’s “three bold ambitions:” create more personal computing, reinvent productivity and business process, and build the intelligent cloud platform.

Microsoft's Digital Transformation and 3 bold ambitions

While it’s nearly impossible to succinctly summarize all of the things we learned at this packed event, here are a few of the big takeaways.


WPC 2016

The conference was oriented around Microsoft’s “three bold ambitions:” create more personal computing, reinvent productivity and business process, and build the intelligent cloud platform.

Microsoft is poised to take major steps forward in the cloud computing market

CEOs Immelt and Nadella discuss GE and Microsoft partnership on Predix

Microsoft has been a strong number two in cloud computing for several years, although according to analysts, they trail significantly behind Amazon Web Services. At WPC, Microsoft showed strong signs of narrowing that gap:

  • Partner engagement. As a result of their partner engagement and the fact that they work with every Fortune 1000 enterprise around the world the digital transformation market opportunity in front of them is as follows, according to IDC: IT total addressable market (TAM) for Microsoft alone =  $500B, IT TAM for Microsoft + Partner Ecosystem = $2.5T. But when you look at the Digital Transformation opportunity the TAM for Microsoft + Partner Ecosystem is more than $4.6T
  • New customers with big names. During the day one keynote, Satya Nadella was joined by a guest — the CEO of GE. He was there to announce that GE is bringing their Predix service to Azure. This is going to give Predix customers access to many Azure services, including the Cortana Intelligence Suite (more on that later). It’s interesting to see this partnership, given that GE Oil and Gas has been a poster child for AWS adoption. Further proof that the future is multi-cloud. Oh, and Facebook is rolling out Office 365. Big win for Microsoft!
  • Global reach. Microsoft was quick to point out that Azure is now in 34 regions around the world, more than AWS and Google. Azure is also the only hyperscale public cloud licensed to operate in China (AliCloud doesn’t count, I guess?) and the only hyperscale public cloud to offer a full guarantee of sovereignty in Germany. Azure also offers a GovCloud that is one of the fastest growing areas of the Azure ecosystem.

Microsoft is engaged in social action worldwide

Nadella: We need to esnure the public cloud serves the public good

As with many conferences, the keynotes were peppered with examples of how Microsoft was helping real-world customers and partners. However, one major difference is that the majority of these examples were focused on social justice and global action. This ties in seamlessly with Microsoft’s new mission statement: "to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more." The company is certainly putting its money where its mouth is in terms of social change — they plan to donate $1 Billion in cloud services to non-profits this fiscal year. A few examples from the conference include:

  • TV whitespaces program. How do you connect people, information and ideas in the middle of rural Kenya, a place where internet access is scarce, if not impossible to come by? You need a technology that can transmit a wireless signal using the underutilized broadcast bandwidth that is abundant in most countries. A Kenyan startup, Mawingu, partnered with Microsoft to do just that. They leverage TV whitespaces — frequencies allocated to a broadcasting service but not used locally — coupled with solar power to bring Internet access to schools, the local government, the Red Cross and a health care clinic; effectively connecting this remote area to the rest of the world.
  • Tacoma public schools. Here’s a really interesting use case for predictive analytics and machine learning — using these tools (in Azure) to help improve graduation rates. School in Tacoma are tracking metrics like attendance, performance, grades, and credits to help identify high risk students and get them extra assistance. This has enabled them to raise their graduation rate from 55% to 82.5%.
  • Dravet Syndrome Foundation. This medical research organization located in Spain does genetic sequencing to try and discover the cause of rare genetic disorders. Before using Azure, genetic testing would take up to a year, but after uploading their 40TB of genetic data into the cloud and using on-demand compute and database resources for concurrent testing of genes, patients can get their results within 1 month.

Microsoft plans to make hybrid cloud easy with Azure Stack

Microsoft's Hybrid Cloud Platform: Azure Stack

Hybrid cloud has been an industry buzzword for several years now, but if you’re looking for a company that has implemented a TRUE hybrid cloud, it may take you a while. The biggest barrier to building a hybrid cloud — where services and information can seamlessly flow back and forth from public to private and back again — is that public and private clouds largely use different platforms and formats. That’s why when Microsoft announced Azure Stack — the ability to deploy an Azure private cloud in your own data center — many customers and partners saw the opportunity to easily build and deploy a hybrid cloud. In tech preview today, Azure Stack is “most hyped tech preview ever,” according to Julia White, General Manager, Cloud Platform. The solution is deployed as an integrated system of software, hardware, services, and support that can be easily linked to Azure public cloud. The use cases for Azure Stack are numerous, a few that jump out at me include:

  • Hybrid disaster recovery. One of the top workloads for public cloud for a long time has been disaster recovery in the cloud. In this scenario, production workloads are primarily run on-premises, with the ability to failover to a public cloud during testing or a disaster. Many of the challenges with implementing a hybrid cloud have plagued those trying to set up a do-it-yourself cloud-based DR program, but Azure Stack could be the not-so-secret weapon to help make this easy.
  • Dynamic workloads. For organizations with seasonal or highly variable workloads, a solution like Azure Stack is promising for seamless cloud bursting. For example, you could keep a baseline of capacity in your own datacenter and then easily expand into Azure on-demand as needed. This can help prevent what I like to call the “too much of a good thing” disaster.
  • Regulations and compliance. Even though the public cloud is arguably more secure than a private data center, there may still be some workloads for regulatory or compliance reasons that you simply cannot locate in a public cloud. Or, in a scenario that Microsoft described with an Australian customer, you may need to be able to prove that you can evacuate workloads from the public cloud if need be. Azure Stack can help with both of these scenarios, giving you the ability to keep sensitive workloads on-premises with the rest of the infrastructure deployed in the cloud.

That’s the good news about Azure Stack. The bad news? The general release was delayed until the mid CY17.


That’s just a drop in the bucket of all the news and happenings at WPC this year, what were the highlights of the show for you?