Starting his Microsoft Ignite 2021 virtual keynote with words of thanks to IT professionals, developers, system administrators, data analyst, and other professionals Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the two-day event focused on the challenges of the past year.
“In this unprecedented and very hard year you have helped the world overcome the most unimaginable constraints,” he said. “Your hard work combined with today’s digital technology is helping fuel our global economy and society in one of its greatest moments of need.”
The allusion to societal disruption provided Nadella with the opportunity to transition into the main point of his agenda-setting Microsoft Ignite 2021 keynote: The world experienced a second wave of digital transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year and cloud services led that new digital adoption.
“The true test of technology has always been whether it can help organizations improve their time to value, increase agility and reduce costs.” Nadella added.
As companies begin to move forward with these changes, it will need to be sustained. Nadella and Microsoft believe it is now time to focus on a cloud that is built for the innovations of the next decade.
According to Nadella, there are five key attributes that will drive this new work in the cloud.
Ubiquitous and Decentralized Computing
Every company of any size, in any industry, and in any country will require access to the cloud and related services no matter where they are and across a variety of platforms. Accessing that compute power at all levels of the product and services chain will be key to this innovation.
“We are at peak centralization right now. As computing becomes more embedded in our world, transforming how we interact with people, places and things – and as physical and digital worlds converge – we will require more sovereignty and decentralized control,” Nadella said.
Sovereign Data and Ambient Intelligence
“The volume, variety and velocity of data will go through explosive growth in the cloud, and in particularly at the edge,” Nadella said at Microsoft Ignite 2021. As a result, data provenance and governance will take on new importance to the enterprise, creating the need for a new category of tools to provide personalized and privacy-preserving data services.
All of this data will enable AI and ML models to create an ambient intelligence as it learns that data and how it can be used to improve business processes. “Business logic will move from being code that is written to code that is being learned from data, creating a complete new generation of processes and business systems,” Nadella said. This new approach is going to be a foundational technology in tackling complex, data-driven challenges like personalized medicine or carbon capture.
Nadella said Microsoft will be looking at this cloud-located intelligence to demonstrate predictive and analytical power, common sense reasoning, alignment with human preferences and augmenting human capability.
Empowered Creators and Communities Everywhere
“Our economy will find a new balance between consumption and creation,” Nadella said.
Behind every piece of data we consume, there are creators building it whether it is for web browsing, shopping, binge watching, or any other digital content consumption activity. After a decade of consumption growth, the company wants to democratize the process of creation.
“We believe the next decade will require technology advances that radically democratize creation," he said. "We will need to expand access to skills, tools and platforms, as well as expand connections and collaboration across communities so that everyone can create, whether it’s building a virtual world, students working on an assignment with short-form videos, knowledge workers creating short-form videos and spreadsheets, pro developers writing code, or domain experts using local tools to build applications.”
Nadella also predicted that this democratization will affect all aspect of computing from end user experience to the computing stack.
Economic Opportunity for the Global Workforce
Nadella emphasized the importance of building a system that enables individuals looking for work or advancement to gain skills, learning and credentials.
“We need to create these feedback loops between the work, skills, learning and credentials required, both for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Nadella said.
Helping this happen will be enabled by expanding the definition of productivity to include collaboration, learning and well-being – traditionally dismissed as “soft skills.” Flexibility in the where, when and how these new skills are obtained is also key.
Trust By Design
“Fundamentally, a technology provider should succeed only when it helps the world around it succeed,” Nadella said. “No customer wants to be dependent on a vendor who sells them technology on one end and competes with them on the other.”
This means ethical principles need to be a core element of products and services as they are designed, developed, and deployed – and this includes AI. Products and services need to be secure by design and built with to protect the fundamental rights of users including privacy.
Nadella said at Day 1 of Microsoft Ignite 2021, “This is what the Microsoft cloud delivers, and it underlies everything we will show you this week.”
The CEO's Microsoft Ignite keynote is always worth paying attention to because it provides a high-level look at where the company’s products and services are heading in the coming months. Nadella’s emphasis on the interleaved nature of societal transformations and technological solutions indicates that while Microsoft remains a huge player in enterprise computing, it’s getting ambitious about how it defines “the enterprise” and it’s setting itself up as the foundational technological player outside of office settings.