Microsoft Partner Conference Recap

Microsoft Partner Conference Recap

By: Jim Higgins, IT Solutions

In anticipation of one of Microsoft’s most ambitious release cycles in the company’s history, members of the IT Solutions team traveled to Toronto in early July to find out what benefits these new and improved Microsoft products could offer our clients. As part of a Partner Conference record turnout of 16,000 representing 65 different countries, ITS was given every opportunity to learn about new features of products we’ve worked with for years - such as Office, Windows, and Server - along with new offerings and a glimpse into what the future holds for Microsoft and cutting-edge technology. Although in recent years Microsoft has been overshadowed in the media by companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook courtesy of the "consumerization" of IT, the message at WPC was that the tech giant is now embracing this theme and tailoring its vast array of products to meet the overlapping home and office computing needs of users. In keeping, it seems there wasn’t a session held or message delivered that didn’t include mention of the new Windows 8 touch screen user experience or the cloud, and its productivity value for both partners and clients. The week-long conference was comprised of keynote speeches by Microsoft executives and lead architects, as well as hundreds of breakout sessions providing partners of all sizes and competencies important insight on topics most relevant to their businesses.

Server, Data, and Cloud

Every software company has a cloud strategy and most of Microsoft’s premier business products are now completely cloud-compatible. For companies that no longer want to purchase, power, and maintain servers in their office, Microsoft, through its hosting partners, is offering every opportunity to move more safely and securely to the cloud than ever before. Two of IT Solutions’ most commonly deployed products: Windows Server and SQL Server - are both getting overhauls and the "2012" moniker, and promise to offer improved security and processing power for clients in the cloud. Windows Server 2012 is due to be released to manufacturing this month and generally available to customers worldwide in September. With Windows Server at its core, the cloud operating system offers partners like ITS and their clients a modern, yet familiar, platform for the world’s applications.

Windows Server 2012 features include:

  • User Interface (UI): Extensively redesigned user interface incorporating its Metro design language optimized for touchscreens as well as mice and keyboards. A new "Start Screen" will replace the Start Menu and the new UI includes live application tiles.
  • Task Manager: An overhauled version with many changes.
  • Installation options (with new easy restore): Recovery functions making a complete restore easier than a re-installation
  • IP address management (IPAM): Windows Server 2012 has an IPAM role for discovering, monitoring, auditing, and managing the IP address space used on a corporate network. Increased storage spaces & advanced storage enhancement are present.
  • Active Directory: The Active Directory Domain Services installation wizard has been replaced by a new section in Server Manager, and the Active Directory Administrative Center has been enhanced.
  • ReFS (Resilient File System): A new file system with many new features such as improved reliability for on-disk structures, built in resilience and compatibility with existing APIs and technologies.
  • Hyper-V: New features have been added to Hyper-V, including network virtualization, multi-tenancy, storage resource pools, cross-premise connectivity, and cloud backup. Additionally, many of the former restrictions on resource consumption have been greatly lifted.

SQL Server features include:

  • AlwaysOn Availability Groups
  • User-Defined Server Roles
  • Columnstore Indexes
  • Windows Server Core Support
  • Enhanced Auditing Features
  • Sequence Objects
  • BI Semantic Model

Windows 8

Demos of the new Microsoft operating system, due to go on sale in October, took center stage on Day 1, with a detailed overview of the slick, touch metro user interface on a variety of devices – from laptops, to tablets of different sizes, to the new Windows phone and XBox. While the interface took the majority of the spotlight, partners were also intrigued by practical new features, such as a pre-loaded Messenger app which allows you to sync various instant messaging services into one hub. For a full release preview and info on downloading a preview of the prerelease product visit this link.

Office 13

The latest version of the productivity suite offers many of the same features as its predecessors (Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Outlook) along with other programs. And of course is 100% accessible online via Office 365. There are pros and cons to both the traditional on-premise version and Office 365 so be sure to speak with an IT Solutions representative before making a decision to go in one direction or the other. As for general features, here are a few worth mentioning:

  • Revised Metro-based user interface with touch controls
  • Skype is now built-in and offered as part of the suite
  • Integration with SkyDrive for syncing files in the cloud
  • Ability to view YouTube videos directly in Word
  • ‘Inline replies’ in Outlook
  • More templates and transitioning effects in PowerPoint

Over the next year you will see a new direction from Microsoft with unified communications, SharePoint, Dynamics, including the ever-growing CRM product, and more. As a certified Gold Partner of Microsoft, IT Solutions has access to products well before they are released. We have already begun vigorously testing these products and will continue to recommend, deploy and support them for our clients’ success. Stay tuned to the newsletter for more details on specific product releases and updates in the months ahead. And if you’re interested in a demo or discussion about one or more of the new releases, don’t hesitate to contact us to set up a complimentary session.

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