‘Interactive sessions, expanded collaborative aims, big keyword push’ – a cloud engineer’s take on Microsoft’s Ignite 2019

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Cat Mules

At this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference, industry experts shared the latest and greatest in cloud and business development technology.

I met with Dave Perry, one of Umbrellar’s Enterprise Cloud Services Engineers, who designs, implements and supports our Managed Service Projects through to the end user, to get the lowdown on the Sydney event and what Microsoft’s rolling out at the moment.   


Hi Dave, good to have you back. Tell us about the event.  

Good to be back – and very excited to share news about this year’s Ignite event, it made a real impression on me. After arriving at Sydney’s grand ICT building venue was grand, we had an initial meet and greet breakfast and then got straight into it: quick fire seminars, introductions to what’s hot in the world of Microsoft and tech.  

This year, things were a bit different. The vendor stalls were certainly not your traditional approach of just hearing about products – they were focused on Microsoft’s collaboration suites, mainly across Azure, 365 and security. We had different breakout sessions happening at the same time – so we all had to try to pick the best ones. It was tricky to choose, we were zigzagging through and getting pulled in different directions. The event started small and then whoosh, things went massive. 

One of my favourite sessions was hands-on, the “battle lab” they called it. Sunny, our Enterprise Services Manager, pinged me from our Auckland office saying, “Dave, pick this one!” It was all about understanding Microsoft’s threat protection platform, and how without it a virus could come in and infect systems. We were set up with prebuilt Azure tenancy, servers and Exchange online, and all these privacy breaches were suddenly happening, tasked with answering crucial security questions like, “How did this virus get into this organisation?”, “How might it gain the right credentials?” We’d jump in through one tool, and then pivot to the next and so forth.  

Sounds like a very interactive conference. What kind of people were there? Who did you meet? 

Oh yes, very much. We each used a ticketed app to choose what learning paths you wanted to go down, such as Azure Fundamentals and the Developer’s Guideand it’d take you through a whole bunch of sessions that went all the way through, sometimes overlapping with other learning paths. It gave a brief description of the presenters and what they did, the streams each session played for, as well as a place to give feedback 

The people were all mixed bags, lots from Australia obviously, lots looking to adopt Azure. There was a lot of large vendors obviously, looking to build and expand, but also those starting up – just sucking up as much Microsoft as they could. At an aftermarket gathering on the first day hosted by Rhipe and I met a person there who was all the way from Perth who had a small start-up but was moving into Azure in a big way – it reminded me of Umbrellar’s story.  

I bumped into several of our suppliers and providers during the event who had approached Umbrellar previously. One of our suppliers, Rhipe, saw my tag and dragged me across to see the product suite they were looking at. 

Okay, so, big picture. What were your takeaways from  Ignite?  

Microsoft are pushing ahead hard with security stack platforms and moving rapidly away from individual and siloed infrastructure. No longer is Microsoft stacking individual products on top of each other, now Microsoft is integrating suits. Of course, on their base stack of Azure products, Microsoft can host systems; but other collaborative suites like 365 are also propelling people into the cloud by getting them involved in a more collaborative way. 

Microsoft are building on the same framework, so they can leverage all these different areas on the cloud, to actually benefit all the other parts of their offerings. They are doing this most tightly with their security framework.  

What benefits does Microsoft get from getting others involved in this environment?  

The benefits are two-way. Other vendors coming in bring different features and abilities on board that enables Microsoft’s vision of being open source supportive, and Microsoft enables vendors to work more deeply with Azure IaaS, for example, so that’s their entry point into that environment. It enables them to leverage the platform and populate their own platforms, with a viewpoint that stretches across not only their own product but also across the Microsoft environment with single pane of glass. 

In my view, Microsoft have been the first to create something that’s authentically holistic across their entire environment. As customers are joining them on that journey of integration, they are bringing all of us who are part of the ecosystem along with them.   

Any gamechangers you noticed happening in the wider tech ecosystem?

That’s a tricky question – these are things we are already following closely, so we tend to be across the big developments. I did notice that Microsoft are pushing forward more with the massive adoption of the Keyword Query Language. All machine data is manipulated through KQL, which allows users to collect information from different products and Azure, and how to manipulate and query that data.  

This has clear business benefits because understanding a language allows users to probe and get information about its environment that is tied into Microsoft’s different suites. Once you understand the environment’s language, you need start writing those queries and then combining these and playing around to get new information. Getting enough information on hand to provide us with a picture is usually the biggest problem we have with identification, so by using KQL we can see what is happening in that environment from multiple different layers.  

Who would you recommend the event to and why?  

Before when someone asked me this kind of question about the Ignite conferences, I’d have said anyone in IT – be it distributors, sellers, Managed Service Providers. Now I’d take that even broader and I say Ignite is for anyone who supports IT all the way through to end-users.  

With their collaborative suite things have moved on so much: not only is the IT person a business seller they’re also an end user. Even if I was someone who knows nothing about IT all the IT MSPs uses me as primary content – so I need to get there to see that. People live in that collaboration suite now more than ever. 

Absolutely, and even better when you take a team along. This year, due to other commitments, only I could attend. But to be honest I think you need to team up with others to get a more rounded effect and combine insights, because there is so much value it’s hard to get a full picture sometimes. The streams sometimes feed onto each other. I’m the Eeyore of my team, I’m pessimistic which pays off in my role as Cloud Engineer – we address Tier 2 concerns, which is basically when the going gets tough, it comes to us. Ignite is invaluable from our viewpoint because we managed projects all the way through to the end user. We get our hands dirty in everything.  

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Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.


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Get the Cloud, Done Right. Umbrellar Powered by Pax8 is New Zealand's prime Professional and Managed Cloud Services specialist. Recently acquired by Pax8, we're transitioning into something "harder, better, faster, stronger" (thank you, Daft Punk!). Watch this space!

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