MS Ignite the Tour: conference highlights and tech trends to watch out for

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Microsoft conferences came closer to home this year, with MS Ignite The Tour in Sydney plugging a gap in the conference calendar for AU/NZ. Principal Integration Architect Wagner Silveira and Emerging Technologies Architect Jim Taylor share their impressions from the event.

Wagner’s highlights – tech experts, diversity, DevOps and Serverless

The format was different this year, with focused learning paths instead of tracks. So if you were interested in security, DevOps or cloud you could follow the learning path for that, with breakout sessions - ranging from introductory to advanced - providing a natural progression, all centred on a common scenario - "Tailwind Traders".

One of the conference highlights from my point of view, apart from this new and improved way to group and present sessions, was the involvement of the technical community in and around the conference. Microsoft had a large area right in the middle of the conference hub, where Cloud Advocates, Microsoft staff and Microsoft MVPs were always available to have a chat and answer real life questions. I was one of those MVPs and spent an afternoon on the hub, chatting with attendees about Azure Integration Services. I was quite impressed with the types of questions I got - from high level questions, like "what is AIS", to very detailed questions about the product and specific gaps or gotchas encountered. It was a great experience!

Also evident was the effort Microsoft is putting into creating a diverse and inclusive community. At the Diversity in Tech stand you could chat with Diversity Ambassador and choose your own diversity "super power" - to display how you support diversity and inclusion in your environment. 

There were also very engaging sessions on harassment and how to be a better ally in the work place and in the tech community in general.

From a technical point of view, there were some recurring trends worth keeping an eye on, (though no real surprises for anyone working with Microsoft technologies for the last year or so):

Security by design: making sure that security is not just an afterthought of your design, but is embedded in every aspect of it

DevOps practices in general, and Azure DevOps platform in particular. The ability of Azure DevOps to co-exist with and take advantage of existing technologies was a big topic. 

Serverless services as a way to assemble highly scalable solutions that are also cost efficient. On this theme, Troy Hunt's presentation showing how Have I been pwned scaled smoothly to millions of requests using Azure Functions is a must watch when that session is available.

As always, the learning and experiences didn't finish at sunset! After the conference was closed for the day, there were lots of user groups and meetups setup with Microsoft experts from the conference – a great opportunity to discuss, ask questions and chat with the local community.

Jim’s highlights – integration, Teams and Blockchain

I noticed a theme of integration between products and services using the Azure platform. Using Flow, Logic Apps and Azure functions I could see how it's even easier to connect services together, use cognitive services to enhance and augment data and to operate at small and large scale.

Teams features strongly and I was impressed to see it in use in a DevOps pipeline at Andrew Harvey's talk on Responding to and learning from failure. He used Logic Apps to create a new channel in Teams to handle an incident and ensure that all data and actions were recorded in one place. I'll now be thinking more about the opportunities to use Teams as a platform for collaboration.

Also notable was the new Azure Blockchain capability for building Decentralized Applications (DApps). Built using the Ethereum protocol, the Azure Blockchain workbench makes it easier to build DApps on the blockchain and simplifies integration with Active Directory accounts and plugs in to the full Azure stack so developers can use App Services, Cognitive Services, Logic Apps and the wide range of other services.


Catch up on what you missed

If you couldn’t attend live, or didn’t have time to watch everything that you were interested, most of the sessions are now available on-demand.