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Food, travel and tech are three of my favourite things so to say I was lucky enough to attend the Microsoft Ignite London Tour last week is a bit of an understatement. I hit my first hurdle almost instantly. With so many sessions on offer, and my FOMO (fear of missing out) coming out in full force, I had a tough time deciding which sessions to attend. The solution was simple – be selective, adopt the mind-set of a sponge, fill up on coffee, and go in full throttle.

Your data is YOUR data

During the entire event one thing was clear – Microsoft Azure provides you with a cloud framework that can manage, optimise, and govern your estate but at the end of the day it is still YOUR data and YOUR environment, and it is still down to you and your business to look after it.

In life, you feed and water a plant if you want it to grow, but you also prune it to ensure it doesn’t become wild and uncontrollable. A pruned plant is an easy-to-manage plant, and therefore you’ll get the most out of it. The same concept applies to Azure.

A big point to make here is that you shouldn’t assume that your problems will just go away if you move your data to Azure. Your data is the same as it was before, but now you have a portfolio of endless tools and capabilities at your fingertips. You, and only you, must learn how to use and harness this feature-rich ecosystem to enhance your data, and your business.

 

 

Identity is key

Microsoft has dominated the market for many years with identity management through Active Directory (AD). Now they have taken that identity to a whole new level – enter Azure AD, which allows users to consolidate identification from the traditional sporadically fragmented setups.

Azure AD allows for advanced integration with other services (like SaaS) allowing true Single Sign On (SSO) throughout the users’ experience. A feature that a lot of people, including me, desire!

With the above in mind, Azure AD means you have to protect those identities more than ever. This can be done using many of the Azure technologies such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for advanced security. It’s worth noting that Microsoft have advanced this further with the ability to use “password-less” logons, advanced conditional access and dynamic groups to help protect your environment.

 

Azure AD Identity

 

The Art of the Possible

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Today with an ever changing landscape it is now possible to build and create solutions never thought possible using Azure tools and services. What’s more impressive is that this can all be done at the touch of a button with no upfront capital expenditure.

At Microsoft Ignite I attended an AI session called Zerto to AI in 15 minutes which demonstrated setting up an AI environment for scanning images and applying AI to that service to help optimise a user’s experiences using image recognition.

The presenter told us she liked online shopping (don’t we all!) and wanted a similar experience when she went shopping in person. When we shop online we find the items we like, and often we’ll put them in our basket and come back to them later when we’ve been paid, got a second opinion from a friend, or triple checked the specifications. So, the presenter took it into her own hands…

 
Requirements

Create an app that would allow her to take a photo of an outfit instore and add it to an online wish list.

 
How did she do it?
  • Start with Microsoft Custom Vision
  • Give it image training
  • Transfer learning (train the system)
  • Precision and recall and retrain the image to improve performance
 
So, how does it work?

The app takes a photo and stores it in Azure blob storage. LogicApps then triggers an event and pushes the photo to Microsoft PowerApps to compile front-end emailing and add the photo to the wish list.

 
End result

A simple AI app which allows you to take photos and add items to your wish list for you to review and purchase at a later date.

All the sessions at Microsoft Ignite were interesting, informative and engaging. The biggest takeaway from the event for me is that Microsoft are pumping in endless resources to Azure to ensure users have countless services, resources and tools offering the greatest flexibility, security, and reliability in a single framework. This is helping to fulfil the requirements of today as well as shaping the solutions of tomorrow. One thing’s for sure… I’m glad to be in the IT industry during these exciting times!

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