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Microsoft Checks Off Product Roadmap Milestones at Ignite

Microsoft's inaugural Ignite conference, which kicked off Monday at Chicago, was marked by a barrage of product announcements aimed at helping IT pros secure and manage the new Universal Windows Platform.

CEO Satya Nadella presided over a three-hour keynote, which focused on how Microsoft's new wave of software and cloud services will enable IT and business transformations that are in line with the ways people now work. Nadella talked up Microsoft's focus on "productivity and platforms" and how it's tied with the shift to cloud and mobility. He also highlighted the need for better automation of systems and processes, and better management of the vast amounts of data originating from new sources such as sensors and other Internet-of-Things-type nodes.

Among the new offerings revealed during the keynote presentation were AzureStack, which brings Microsoft's Azure IaaS and PaaS cloud to on-premises datacenters; Microsoft Operations Management Suite to administer multiple server OSes, including Linux, clouds and virtual machines; and Windows Update Service for Business, aimed at enterprise users of Windows 10.

Roadmap Announcements at Microsoft Ignite

Office 2016: Public preview is released.

SQL Server 2016: Public preview coming this summer.

Windows Server 2016: Second technical preview is released.

System Center Configuration Manager: First technical preview is released.

Microsoft Operations Management Suite: Now generally available.

Advanced Threat Analytics tool: Available now in public preview.

"Every layer of the IT stack is going to be profoundly impacted," Nadella said. "This sets up our context. It sets up the tension we have as we set out to manage this IT landscape. We want to enable our IT professionals and end users to make their own choices for their own devices, yet we need to ensure the security, the management. We want to enable our business units to choose the SaaS applications of their choice, yet we want to have the compliance and control of efficiency."

Nadella emphasized three themes: making personal computing more personal and secure, bringing together productivity and process, and providing a more agile back-end infrastructure. Just about everything Microsoft offers will be updated.

SQL Server 2016 -- which will enter the public preview stage sometime this summer -- will be "the biggest breakthrough in database infrastructure" and will feature a technology called Stretch, which would allow a single table to stretch from the datacenter to Azure.

Microsoft also released the second preview of Windows Server 2016 and is readying System Center 2016 "to make it possible for you to have Azure in your datacenter, which is consistent with the public cloud Azure," Nadella said. System Center Configuration Manager is also now available in technical preview.

In addition, the new Microsoft Operations Management Suite will provide what the Enterprise Mobility Suite gives as client device management to datacenter administration, said Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson.

The company also gave major airtime to new security wares, including the preview release of the new Advanced Threat Analytics tool, which, among other things, manages activity in Active Directory logs. The company also is moving from its traditional Patch Tuesday delivery of security updates to "rings" of security releases that will start with the delivery of Windows 10.

For the most part, Microsoft emphasized its new release wave and how it will integrate with key platforms, notably Apple iOS and Google Android. But in a departure, Windows Chief Terry Myerson couldn't resist taking a shot at Google by talking up Microsoft's added security features in Windows, as well as the company's new wares to keep Windows even more secure.

"Google just ships a big pile of [pause for emphasis] ... code, and leaves you exposed with no commitments to update your device," Myerson said.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's operating systems group, showcased the new Windows Hello technology, which is tied to the company's new Passport authentication service, coming to Windows 10. While Windows Hello will support all forms of biometrics, Belfiore showcased Windows 10 using facial recognition to authenticate into Windows10. Belfiore also demonstrated many popular features in Windows 7 that will reemerge in Windows 10, as well as new features like Cortana.

"My mission is to convince you and give you the tools with the belief your end users will love and desire Windows 10," Belfiore said.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.