Last month, I was once again fortunate enough to attend Microsoft’s biggest partner and customer event of the year in the UK – Microsoft Future Decoded. Hosted at ExCel London, tens of thousands joined me in hearing Microsoft’s thoughts and predictions about how the future of our industry is evolving and what we can do to make the most of the ground-breaking technologies shaping it. This year’s line-up of keynote speakers and sponsors was particularly impressive, from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, to Microsoft UK CEO Cindy Rose, and even a visit from Sir Michael Caine CBE.
A key theme that ran throughout the future-focused event was the idea that we are now in what is being deemed the 4th industrial revolution. Where previous revolutions have occurred due to breakthroughs in manufacturing, the introduction of electricity, and the birth and application of IT systems and automation, this current revolution is seeing the growth of intelligence in its many forms – artificial intelligence (AI), business intelligence (BI), and cloud technology.
Where AI was once a far-off concept more befitting the likes of Star Trek and Spielberg sci-fi flicks than real life, it’s now the pie that everyone wants a piece of. This demand for AI and its place within the corporate world was more than apparent at Future Decoded, but the talk about the extremely hot topic was less about the hype and more about the practicalities of how best to take advantage of it. With many businesses now recognising the true value of AI, a vast percentage of the event’s agenda explored how infusing the technology into organisations can help to accelerate critical processes and streamline operations thanks to intelligent automation. The integration of AI into your IT environment is something that we’ve had our eye on for a number of years, and as such offer a whole host of AI-based solutions, including the auto-provisioning of servers for virtual networks, all done in real-time.
Although AI is still very much stealing the limelight at the moment and in its infancy, business intelligence is a much more mature and established concept businesses are actively harnessing. Where AI is all about getting the best out of your business’ processes and automating your systems, BI is more focused on the management and analysis of the data your business generates, and how to extract value from it, informing your decision-making and empowering your workforce to innovate. Microsoft’s own business analytics service, Power BI, helps businesses capture powerful insights from their data and turn this into action. There’s no denying the benefits made possible by BI, and these can either be achieved by proactively utilising the intelligence gained from your existing apps, or by investing in new technology such as Power BI that does everything for you.
To properly capitalise on the possibilities presented by AI and BI, businesses need to look carefully at the infrastructures driving the apps that generate the data and the tools that add the intelligence. Accordingly, Future Decoded looked closely at the centralisation of applications and how the process can support the demands to develop critical infrastructure. This involves a 4-stage process that Microsoft has dubbed the four ‘Rs’ – rehost, rearchitect, rebuild, and retire – and essentially attempts to identify the stage an application has reached to assess whether it’s still fit for purpose, can be improved, or needs to be replaced.
In addition to the four ‘Rs’, a key message also surfaced with regards to the part that the cloud plays when it comes to applications, and how cloud-based apps can be utilised to help your business run even more smoothly.
Finally, many of the event’s sessions were centred around the cloud and the part it should play in your IT strategy. More specifically, they addressed the journey to the cloud and what this can look like for different businesses, whether that’s private, public, or hybrid. The main focus was how to successfully manage multi-cloud or mixed cloud environments and the innovative tools that are available to help you achieve this. As cloud is everywhere, and the adoption of it is only growing, it’s really important that you establish the best approach to your own unique cloud environment. At Highlander, we believe that no “one cloud fits all”, so do everything we can to help you arrive at a cloud that’s right for you.
Underpinning all of this speculation about the application of intelligence within your infrastructure is the age-old question of how best to store your data. Data, as we know all too well, is constantly growing at a phenomenal rate, and this will only continue to expand so long as more technologies keep adding to the pile. The simple truth is that the more we do with AI, BI, and business apps, the more capacity we need to maintain the resulting data. Is cloud the answer? Or do we need to be looking at more radical storage options that may not even exist as of this moment in time?
Speak to us to find out more about Microsoft Future Decoded, and to hear our thoughts about what we believe the future holds for intelligence in IT.