Recapping Microsoft Ignite 2017 Conference, Orlando, FL

I had a privilege to attend Microsoft Ignite and Envision conference, the third year in a row from Sep 25-29th, 2017 in Orlando, FL. This is Microsoft’s signature conference focuses on innovations in all three Microsoft cloud platforms (Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365/Office 365, and Dynamics 365) in addition to products like Bing for Business, LinkedIn, and Windows.

Ignite image

Keynote Highlights

Microsoft Day 1 & Day 2 usually focuses on the main keynote, sub keynotes, and product keynotes. This year conference started with Satya Nadella’s vision keynote. This year’s main theme was digital transformation and how Microsoft like to achieve that using modern technologies like AI, IoT, HoloLens. Keynote started with digital transformation and ended with something obscure like Quantum computing. I love attending and listening to Satya’s vision.  If you haven’t seen Satya’s keynote, I would highly recommend checking it out on the MS Ignite site.

After the main keynote, I have attended sub keynote to focus on creating a modern workplace with Microsoft 365. One of the first thing I noticed after this keynote was Microsoft started marketing Microsoft 365 suite, and Office 365 is just one of the offerings of that service. I have also noticed Office 365 word or brand isn’t on a billboard anymore and Microsoft is pushing Microsoft 365 offering, which includes their Office, Windows, Mobility, and Security offering in the cloud.

Day 1 was great, but if you are a longtime SharePointer like me, your conference can’t start until you listen to Jeff Teper’s keynote. Day 2 started with Jeff Teper’s SharePoint and OneDrive for Business keynote focusing on product announcements and roadmaps. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, but Jeff exceeded everyone’s expectations. Jeff blew everyone’s mind, and he kept dropping new features among lots of loud cheers. Jeff’s commitment to the product and easy to digest materials stands out. There were lots of innovations announced in the SharePoint Online – lot more out of box communication sites features, new SharePoint hub sites, deeper PowerApps and Flow integration, first party SharePoint migration tool, and a new version of SharePoint Server 2019.

Conference Announcements

I have attended only eight sessions in person this year and caught up on few more online after the conference. My primary focus was Office 365, SharePoint Online, and Power Apps/Microsoft Flow. I wanted to see if SharePoint communication sites and SharePoint framework is ready for the enterprises. Even though with limited attendance, it’s incredible how much my mind exploded with so many announcements throughout the conference.

My most significant takeaway and announcements from the conference are:

  • Microsoft’s forward-looking, innovative focus – Artificial Intelligence, Mixed Reality, IoT, bots, etc. Microsoft will build devices and developer tools to support these technologies. AI and bots were present everywhere across all the products at the conference.
  • Microsoft 365 for Digital workplace – Microsoft has expanded & rebranded their digital workplace story from Office 365, I was surprised, but you could see Microsoft 365 billboards everywhere.
  • Huge innovations on Office 365 Analytics and Windows Upgrade Analytics, In-session control compliance feature to lockdown forward, print, sync, or download features both in Office 365 suites and consumer emails like Gmail.
  • Dynamics 365, LinkedIn, and Office 365 Integration to reimagine tenant recruiting and sales enablement process.
  • Microsoft’s Power Platform – PowerApps, Power BI, and Microsoft Flow. Amazing benefits of these tools is you have access to Microsoft’s common data service (Microsoft graph with access to Dynamics 365, LinkedIn, and Office 365 data) and it’s open to third-parties to build complex integrated systems with Microsoft data.
  • Office 365 Analytics – Content packs will be renamed to Office 365 Usage Analytics, new reader role in Office 365 for Analytics, usage reporting API goes to GA.
  • Fantastic set of innovations in Azure Portal – In-browser PowerShell to run PowerShell commands from your mobile phone, New disaster recovery preview, log analytics preview, OS update management preview from portal directly, and files and registry change tracking preview from the portal directly.
  • Azure Improvements – Azure availability zones (power, networking, cooling redundant), Azure reserved instances, Azure file sync etc. Also,  Azure has a new look & a logo.
  • LinkedIn for Business integration in the first party applications like Outlook, Office 365, and SharePoint – LinkedIn powered profiles, huge story around merging internal & external contacts in your communication platform.
  • Bing for business integration – Integration with Microsoft Graph for people, docs, it will be available as GA next year, this is a game changer.
  • Microsoft Teams is becoming modern intelligent communication tool, will adopt features of Skype for Business, a single client for chat, video, and voice calls.
  • Office 209, SharePoint 2019, and Skype of Business 2019 on-premises servers announced for next year.
  • SQL 2017 in GA
  • Microsoft Graph innovations – Investments in SharePoint lists APIs, Azure functions as web hooks
  • Microsoft 365 F1 – New license for the front-line workers.
  • Multi-Geo preview for Office 365 & SharePoint Online. This is an excellent win for organizations with multi-national footprint.
  • Hundreds of innovations in SharePoint online – PowerApps for list forms, new PowerApps web part, real-time collaboration in excel client (much-awaited feature), folder path display in a document library search, multi-geo search capabilities, new SharePoint Online search center, personalized search results on SharePoint home, voice-enabled accessibility feature.
  • SharePoint Online Hub Sites – Ability to associate/disassociate sites to the hub sites. This is a game changer as it solves the dynamic nature of site taxonomy and how sites are organized, rolled up, grouped, and branded.
  • Search visual content intelligence – Scan image & video contents to display search results.
  • Yammer – Improved integration SharePoint document preview, new modern Yammer web part for SharePoint Online.
  • SharePoint Framework v1.3 in GA with modern extensions.
  • SPFx Investments – Tenant level properties to customize your deployment pattern, support for Office UI Fabric core, investments in the ALM API (Install, upgrade, delete), ability to have a site collection app catalog rather than tenant level, automatically distribute packaged assets to Office 365 CDN, Web API Support to access Microsoft Graph info, Reusable PnP SPFx placeholder, and property pane controls.
  • ALM story around Power Apps and Microsoft Flow – Admin UI to import and export Power Apps and Flow from one tenant to another, PowerShell to automate the import/export, Power BI usage analytics reports for PowerApps.

SharePoint Online Communication Sites, SharePoint Framework, Power Apps, and Microsoft Flow Readiness for Enterprises

With all the innovations with modern pages and modern document libraries, integration with Microsoft Flow/Power Apps, and customization story around SharePoint Framework, one of the burning question I had was, are SharePoint Online modern pages & SharePoint framework ready for the enterprises?

After attending several SPO sessions, one of most important takeaway for me was both SharePoint Online communication sites and SPFx are NOT ready for the enterprises as of now. This is great for small organizations. They are fully committed to both communication and platform development stories. There are lots of innovations coming up, but until we have good customizations and ALM/automation story, I wouldn’t recommend to enterprise customers.

I was also disappointed with the SharePoint Online branding session as I was looking forward to seeing great story around branding communication sites and better ALM story for the deployment automation. The only thing this session delivered was a theming option and design packages for a repeatable branding. I believe this is great, but I was looking for a more robust platform from the Microsoft.  Overall, I still feel communication sites branding story is incomplete.

On the other hand, with the concrete ALM story around the Power Apps and Microsoft Flow, I felt like Microsoft Flow and Power Apps are ready for the enterprises. It has a excellent deployment ALM story with both UI and PowerShell scripts. It also has a great usage analytics, debugging, and performance monitoring reporting.

Conference Activities and Logistics

The second year in a row, I am impressed with how Microsoft runs their conferences. You will never run out of choices in the midst of the hundreds of activities – 75 minutes breakout sessions, 45 minutes of short breakout sessions, theatre sessions, expo & evening happy hours, after-event parties, Microsoft product engineering booths, Microsoft mechanics & podcast area, HOLs (Hands-on Labs), Immersion Labs (private 6-8 people, case study focus scenarios) and list goes on. This year, I had decided to try out little bit everything. I was very picky with my sessions but didn’t want to miss out the expo, product team booths, HOLs, and Immersion labs.

My expo visits included talking to various vendors like Sharegate (SP migration), Metalogix (SP migration), Nintex (SP Workflows/forms), Rencore (SP customization), Hyperfish (Profile Completeness), and LiveTiles (SP Intranet & AI with modern experiences). These are good vendors to partner with. Speaking to product engineering group especially Teams, SharePoint, and Azure, one thing stands out that they are listening to user’s voice very closely. They are committed to bridging any gaps there are from previous API/toolset/scenarios and support in the new toolset.

My favorite activities of the Microsoft Ignite is lounging in the lounge viewing area. Not only it allows you to switch to another session if you think you are in the wrong session but it allows you to relax and switch off both technology & conference stress. Having ESPN and CNN as one of the channels along with key sessions was a huge help. I must say though lounge viewing area can be a huge distraction if you want to attend a focused session. You will be tempted to flip channels to attend various sessions, and it may mentally exhaust you (how many you flip channels on Netflix for more than half an hour before deciding to stop watching altogether, the same principle applies here).

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Every year, I try my best to analyze conference location, logistics, and food. I must say – Orange County Convention center in Orlando is huge and arguably my favorite location. I loved the way venue had various seating areas (benches, couches, bean bags, etc.) sprinkled throughout the conference building (both indoor & outdoor).

Microsoft rented both North/South & West buildings. One of the worst parts was a mile-long bridge walk between North/South and West building in a toasty Orlando weather. Good luck if you wanted to make up this distance in 30 minutes in-between sessions. I realized very quickly that I needed to drink a lot more water than Chicago to cope Orlando weather to avoid any headaches. Also – The long queues, hundreds of people have become a norm for the Microsoft Ignite so, either you get used to it but try to stay away from attending the conference.

I must say – Food at the Orlando Convention center probably best among last three conferences. I hated Atlanta’s large sandwiches, and I don’t even recall how bad Chicago food was. Although it’s not great, I loved the balanced food options (carbs, protein, salad, fruits, desert) as a container. There were also lots of self-paid food options throughout the convention center.

Just like Atlanta last year, Microsoft reserved lodging space in three major areas – Convention Center, Universal Studio, and Disney Springs. Microsoft had daily shuttles to transport conference attendees from these remote locations. Since I am not a morning guy, one of my favorite habits was to live stream first session while commuting to the conference on shuttles. That allowed attendees to have best of both – attend session & have relaxed time while commuting to the conference location for the 2nd session of the day.

Last but not the least, I can’t praise enough Microsoft Ignite Mobile App and WIFI throughout the conference center. I simply loved way finder in the App from one location to another location in addition to schedule builder/my conference calendar. Microsoft started live-streaming sessions on the Ignite App since last year, which not only helped session overflow situation but it also greatly helps if you want to relax in the quiet area and enjoy the session from a distance.

Just prior to final wrap, I wanted to share an amazing map of the twitter cloud with various attendees & Ignite products relationship. It’s no coincident that I was situated as a small town at the crossroads of SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, and Yammer. These are the areas I had tweeted/retweeted most often and it’s great to have a validation.

DK15BKzXkAEHahL

 

Conclusion

This year’s Microsoft Ignite is probably one of the best conferences I have attended. I still have few reservations about the venue especially that dreaded bridge walk, but overall, I would rate this Ignite had much better location/venue, attendee party, content, and list of activities. I would like to extend my thanks to two wonderful consulting companies – my former employer (Slalom for initiating registration) and current employer (West Monroe Partners for picking up the expenses) to allow me to attend this conference and making this happen.

References

 

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Current state of Microsoft Azure App Services Platform

It’s been close to a year, I have started playing with Azure Functions and Azure Logic Apps. With the growing demand for Azure Serverless architecture, Azure App Services platform is becoming more mature than ever. In this article, I am posting my notes on the current state of the Azure App Services platform. For the most recent information, please review here – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/app-service/

Key Info

Benefits

  • Focus more on delivering business value, rather than focusing on building and maintaining plumbing of apps.
  • Ease of use, no need to worry about infrastructure plumbing.
  • Scalability – scale up or down as needed.
  • Pay for what you use – cost effective.

Azure PaaS and Azure App Services Overview

  • It mainly focuses on an application platform, integration, and business process management.
  • It includes Azure App Services or SQL Azure.
  • Azure Service Fabric – Abstraction the underlying VM resources, fabric provides additional features like authentication/authorization, hybrid connectivity, support & troubleshooting, analytics etc.
  • Major App Services
    • Web Apps – to host web applications with ease.
    • Mobile Apps – to host backend for mobile devices, e.g. mobile clients offline & sync when it’s back up, push notifications.
    • API Apps  – to expose web APIs.
    • Logic Apps – for complex workflows and automate business processes, to orchestrate APIs & data into business processes.
    • Function Apps – an independent server-less piece of code to respond to events, it intercept event, process them and output somewhere.

Azure Web Apps

  • A website-as-a-service, traditional Web Apps hosting environment minus – abstraction of infrastructure plumbing (servers, VMs, IIS server installation), OS update, firewall & network setting etc. This allows us to focus more on delivering business value, rather than focusing on building and maintaining plumbing of apps.
  • Major Features
    • Host web apps – .NET, Java, Node.js, Python, PHP
    • SLA – 99.95%
    • Custom domains and SSL certs.
    • Deployment slots for pre-production testing.
    • Easy to setup continuous deployment.
    • Auto or Manual scaling
    • OOB Authentication and Authorization with default providers like Azure AD.
    • Load balance apps with traffic management.
    • Hybrid connections with on-premises data.
    • Visual Studio and VSTS integration – allows you to publish to specific App service from VS

Azure Mobile Apps

  • It’s a service or a backend for your mobile apps, provide mobile capabilities to the mobile client.
  • Mobile App is a cross-platform and supports default authentication providers like Azure AD.
    • Mobile App backend – .NET and Node.js, it looks much similar to Azure API project.
    • Mobile Client Application – SDK available for – iOS, Android, Windows, Xamarin, Cordova, used on Visual Studio mobile apps like Windows 8 App.
  • Major Features
    • Offline Sync – It’s using SQLite OOB, you can choose your own SQL provider.
    • Push Notifications – It’s using Notification Hubs, abstracts platform complexities, sends notifications to individual platform (iOs, Android, Windows etc.) services, allows scale to send multiple notifications, also provides telemetry.

Azure API Apps

  • Allows you to host and expose your APIs for a distributed architecture.
  • Major Features
    • It supports default authentication providers like Azure AD & social providers.
    • Can host existing APIs (.NET, Java, PHP, Node.js, and Python).
    • Exposes API definition in the form of metadata in JSON format (using Swagger 2.0), enables client applications to know which operations to call and how to call them, it makes API discoverable, NET API uses Swashbuckle library to generate Swagger API definition, also have Swagger UI to test APIs, supports consumption of APIs in VS or command line to generate code for client applications (.NET, Node.js, Java, JavaScript).
    • Supports CORS (Cross Origin Resource Sharing) for cross-domain client-side AJAX (XMLHttpRequest) call. Configure allowed origins on Azure Portal.
    • Integrates nicely with Azure Logic Apps.
    • Integrates with API management & telemetry.
    • Also supports all App services features like scalability, redundancy or deployment slots.

Azure Logic Apps

  • Allows you to create functional/business logic workflows by orchestrating software as service components (like API or data).
  • Allows you to visually compose the workflows on Azure Portal logic apps designer or Visual Studio (with logic apps extensions). Alternatively, you can use code view in logic apps definition language in JSON format.
  • Major features
    • Connectors – basic components powers logic apps, exposes functionalities, allows you to easily connect with other logic apps or third party apps.
      • Your Connectors (e.g. Azure API Apps, Azure Logic Apps, Azure Functions), hosted in Azure in your region.
      • Microsoft Managed APIs (e.g. Office 365, Azure Blob, Dropbox, GitHub, Facebook, FTP etc.), hosted and managed centrally by Microsoft available as part of Azure.
      • Marketplace Connectors from third-party companies (e.g. SAP, Oracle, DB2 etc.), hosted in Azure in the same region, you pay per use.
    • Triggers – kick off logic apps manually, scheduled, or by events (by email or updating SP list), connectors can be triggers, poll triggers (logic app polls the connectors when the event is fired) or push triggers (logic apps notified by connectors when the event is fired).
    • Actions and Conditions – triggers kick off actions when some conditions are met, connectors can be actions, actions can be sending an email, posting messages to slack etc.
    • It uses logics apps definition language (in JSON format), create in the Azure portal or Visual Studio.
    • Lots of out of box templates available.
    • Robust and reliable – supports retry

Azure Function Apps

  • Allows you to respond to events and run worker processes by intercepting or triggered by external events.
  • They are an evolution of Azure WebJobs and executes a piece of code. It’s a piece of code that we can call anytime, it will scale automatically, and you can pay when you use it without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.
  • Major Features
    • You can write (C#, Node.js, Python, PHP, bash, Java, PowerShell and lot more) and run code (any executables) in Azure functions.
    • Triggers – Can be triggered by many various concepts (e.g. Event Hubs, Service Bus, Timer, HTTP request, Blob Storage, Azure Storage Queues etc.), when Azure function triggers, it runs the application in it.
    • Serverless architecture – Allows you to specify how much memory needed to run functions. Functions can scale and create as many as instances until it reaches memory usage.
    • Bindings – Allows you to input and output values to/from functions.
    • Templates – Predefined trigger templates for all kind of languages and scenarios.
    • Parallel Execution – Runs as many as instances until available resources (e.g. memory) caps.
    • Azure Portal support – Allows you have a code editor, log console, and ability to run/test.

Additional Features

  • Azure WebJobs
    • Allows you to run background processes or a batch job in the context of the azure app, it’s a background service as a service, think of it as a windows service in a cloud without worrying about underlying platform.
    • Web App can have one or more WebJobs, both web apps and web jobs can share same resources, the performance of one may affect others if web jobs are hosted on the same web app, it is best practice to host web jobs on the separate web app.
    • It is supported for Web Apps, Mobile Apps, and API Apps.
    • It supports azure web jobs or .exe, .cmd, .bat. .sh, .php, .py, .js, .jar, and ps1
    • Same SLA as the main service.
    • Can be triggered by outside sources like Azure Storage Queue, Storage blob, web hooks etc.
    • They are reliable if they fail – it will try again.
    • Can be triggered manually or scheduled.
    • Can process triggers in parallel.
  • Azure Deployment Slots
    • Ability to run multiple versions of your apps. Allows you to test in both production and pre-production environment. Also, allows you to route some of the production users to the pre-production environment for testing.
    • Supported for Web Apps, Mobile Apps, and API Apps.
    • Deploy it with no downtime by swapping production and pre-production environment. Azure swaps VIPs behind the scene.
    • Depending on your pricing tier, you can create up to 19 deployment slots, it can host web app and will incur cost just like any other production app. You can’t scale deployment slots. May not be the best environment for the performance test.
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Future of Agile and Social Collaboration – Yammer redefines Enterprise Social as Digital Workspace by integration with Office 365 Groups

Ever since Microsoft had acquired Yammer just before SharePoint 2013 release in July 2012, there has been love and hate relationship with Yammer as Enterprise Social solution in organizations adopting Microsoft technologies. Let’s face it, there are many reasons for this. Enterprise social is no longer a shiny kid in the industry, and there are still growing concerns sharing information freely in the major monolithic organizations. Besides Microsoft has also thrown lots of hurdles by sending mixed messages and taking forever to realize their vision.

Despite all these, here we are, after Ignite 2016 in Oct 2016. It’s impressive to see Yammer is not only still going strong but becoming a core service of the Office 365 suite, just like Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype. After taking painfully slow time of 3-4 years to move Yammer into Microsoft cloud infrastructure including Office 365 identities, Yammer has positioned itself as core Digital Workspace tool by integrating itself with One Drive for Business, Delve, Office 365 Video and other essential services.

Ever since Microsoft announced Office 365 Groups as future of collaboration platform last year at Ignite 2015, many experts predicted Yammer being going away (including myself) and probably replaced by Office 365 Groups. But, this year at Ignite 2016, Yammer further strengthened its position as workplace collaboration tool with announcements of Yammer’s integration with Office 365 Groups. Many ways this completes Yammer’s journey from standalone service to the core family of Office 365.

yammer-in-office-365

Based on the Yammer investments announced at Microsoft Ignite 2016, it is clear that Microsoft doesn’t think Yammer as only Enterprise Social Platform. With its tight integration with other Office 365 services including Office365 Groups, its proper part of core Digital Workspace offering of Microsoft. Documents, conversations, notes, messaging was always part of Yammer offering. Rather than managing and enhancing these features as fractional silos, Office 365 integration will be able to offer stronger offerings like Skype, One Note, and SharePoint for Yammer features. Yammer is indeed becoming a core feature of Digital Workspace vision.

yammer-investments

Here is the list of some of the key Ignite 2016 announcements, innovations, and upcoming features planned for Yammer. This indeed makes Yammer as a core service of the Office 365 suite, just like Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype.

Product Innovations

  • Great way to stay up to date – unread conversations counters, a message to show once you caught up with new information, workflow to move to next group.
  • You can edit posts (coming soon, probably by early next year)
  • You can create word, excel, and PowerPoint documents directly from Yammer
  • Mark individual or all messages as read/unread in your inbox, shows activities across all groups.
  • Member and Group onboarding feature, group discovery feature is powered by Office 365 Graph
  • Office 365 Integration with Delve, Skype Meeting Broadcast, and Office 365 Video

Office 365 Groups Integration and Roadmap

yammer-integration-in-office-365office-365-groups-and-yammer

  • Creating Yammer group will create AAD object, Office 365 groups including memberships, and trigger requests to create additional Office 365 workloads like SPO, OD4B, EXO, and Planner. It means – every Yammer group will have SharePoint team site, SharePoint document library, OneNote and Planner for Yammer task management.
  • Office 365 groups will have both Outlook and Yammer. You have the option to choose email and shared inbox in Outlook or Yammer messages for your group. Initially, creation location will determine default communication method used in Office 365 groups. e.g. Groups created in Outlook will get an email in the shared inbox, Groups set up in Yammer will get the Yammer group feed, and Groups are created from the Office 365 Admin Portal and other Office 365 workloads will get an Outlook shared inbox. In future, Microsoft will provide flexibility to use either Outlook or Yammer feed regardless of where you creation location.
  • Yammer Group (just like any other Office 365 users or Office 365 Groups) will be available on global address list (Office 365 groups are AAD objects) while sharing files or sending emails. This would allow you to send email from Outlook to Yammer feed as post using Yammer Group global address.
  • OneDrive file picker – You can share files from OneDrive business to Yammer conversations (that includes all your files in Office 365 groups and SharePoint folders) – Yammer files will be moved to OneDrive for Business to in future, start moving your files to SharePoint manually if you want.
  • Yammer notes will be transferred to word documents in SharePoint document libraries. Also – You will have shared team OneNote for Yammer notes.
  • Additional features on the roadmap – Shared Outlook team calendar, Skype directly to user from Yammer feed or conversations, rich preview of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business files in the Yammer feed, Planner tasks or SharePoint document modifications updates in Yammer feed, Support for rich preview of Office 365 video and stream videos in Yammer feed, SharePoint web part, Office 365 profile integration.
  • Office365 Groups connected Yammer Groups – You either get outlook or Yammer feed, not both. You won’t see Outlook in Yammer, and you won’t see Yammer feed in Outlook (as of now, it may change over the time with feedback).
  • If you have Yammer right now and using legacy Yammer credentials, you won’t have Office 365 connected Yammer groups. You can either manually choose to enforce Office 365 identities from Yammer admin center, or Microsoft will roll out a new update as wave 1 (by the end of Q4 2016) to enforce all the network to use Office 365 identities. Once Yammer has Office 365 enforced identities, new Office 365 connected Yammer groups can be provisioned by end users or admins. Microsoft will also backfill all existing public and private groups to become connected Yammer groups in wave 2.
  • It is important to note that as of now, Microsoft’s roadmap includes Yammer groups will be connected to Office 365 groups. You won’t have options to choose classic Yammer group vs. Yammer-Office 365 connected groups. Yammer classic groups are going away once Yammer.com is turned off.

Administration Innovations available as of now

yammer-admin-experience

yammer-user-experience

  • On-by-default – Yammers on by default for all new Office 365 tenants. Yammer is completed moved to the Microsoft Azure data centers. It’s in the process of moving entirely to the Office 365 cloud infrastructure. Encryption at rest and encryption in transit are configured for data security.
  • Network/Domain Lifecycle Management – Yammer network domains can be managed from Office 365 administration page. Yammer no longer requires Yammer DSync for on-premises AD sync. It supports AAD Sync. Yammer SSO and Yammer Dsync will stop working on December 1st, 2016.
  • Users, Groups, and Identity Lifecycle Management – Office 365 admin center also includes Yammer Groups (Office 365 Groups) and manageability of group membership. Managing Yammer groups would be same as any other Office 365 groups.
  • License Management – You can also enable/disable Yammer license from Office 365 administration page.
  • Office 365 SSO and Login Support – Connected Tenants and User Profile Sync – Yammer is in App Launcher by default for all new tenants. If you have users on both yammer.com & Office 365, you can also enforce Office 365 identities in Yammer from Admin settings. You can also enforce all the classic Yammer users to use Office 365 identities from Yammer administration section. Yammer admin console is available from Office 365 administration center.
  • Advanced C-Compliance – Yammer has achieved category C-level compliance in Office 365 suite with ISO 27001, ISO27018, HIPPA, SOX, EUMC and other major compliance categories. It means Yammer is covered by Office 365 Trust (and information protection) center where you can access all third party compliance materials from Office 365 service assurance dashboard. It is important to note that other services like SharePoint Online and Exchange Online are in category D with the highest compliance. It is also important to note that there is no announcements and timeline of Yammer feed availability in an e-discovery center.
  • Mobile App Security – Yammer will be included Intune mobile device management policies. Mobile App Security would work with or without MAM. Supported on both iOS and Android apps. It will support more than 15 policies once it’s applied to your tenant including requiring PIN to access, manage data sharing across apps, restrict copy and paste between apps, encrypt app data, prevent save as, and block running on jailbroken devices, etc.

Administration Innovations Coming Soon and Roadmap

  • Yammer Audit Reports – There are more than 25+ yammer operations are available for audit activities. Also – Yammer will be integrated with Office 365 Management Activity API.
  • Yammer Usage Analytics and Power BI Reports – Yammer activities are included in usage reporting dashboard in admin center – both network & user levels – posts, likes and reads.  Available for global admins only as of now. This can be exported for community managers or champions and visualize using Power BI content pack. There are also plans to deliver usage reports for group level and client access (the web vs. mobile) reports.
  • AAD Conditional Access and Dynamic groups will be supported – You can create Yammer groups with membership based on rules. e.g. create the group for anyone who reports to Kristian. This would work as long as this hierarchy is defined and managed in AAD. Dynamic group membership is based on AAD properties and may require additional licensing or AAD Premium
  • Yammer Connected Groups membership – You can’t assign AAD group, but you can assign group membership based on AAD properties (dynamic membership)
  • Naming collisions – AAD supports the same name but enforces uniqueness in an email. Multiple Outlook groups can be with same named, but Yammer enforces unique name due to discovery. You can end up with 1 Yammer group name but many office 365 groups with the same name.
  • Groups naming conventions, soft delete (life cycle) and customization of all company groups (e.g. change avatar or name, etc.) are on roadmap too. Since both Yammer connected groups and Office 365 groups would be managed as the same entity, all the innovations in Office 365 life cycle and governance would apply to Yammer connected groups as well.
  • Mapping of existing SharePoint sites to either Outlook or Yammer groups not in a roadmap but something can be looked at.
  • Migrating Outlook groups to Yammer groups and vice a verse is not in scope. e.g. if your users start with Outlook group and change mind to have Yammer group, it’s not possible due to various content requires a mapping from message to social.

Here are key Yammer slides from Ignite 2016 to showcase Microsoft’s current philosophy, few investments done last year, and future investments.

yammer-investments-now

yammer-investments-future

References

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Recapping Microsoft Ignite 2016 Conference, Atlanta, GA

I had the privilege to attend Microsoft Ignite 2016 at Atlanta on Sep 26th-30th this year. This is Microsoft’s signature technology conference which is in the 2nd year after combining all the Office and TechEd conferences last year. If you have read my previous year’s Ignite recap, I wasn’t happy with how it turned out in Chicago especially with logistics issues, and I wasn’t excited this year either being Atlanta as host. As it turned out, I really enjoyed the conference especially technical content and roadmap delivered at the conference, and I must say – Microsoft has earned my faith in Microsoft Ignite event and can’t wait for more for of it next year.

microsoft-ignite-logo

Keynotes

Day 1 of Microsoft Ignite was divided into multiple keynotes – starting with Scott Guthrie lead main conference keynote, followed by sub keynotes from each area (Office, Infrastructure, Security, Communication, etc.), culminating in grand Innovation keynote by Satya Nadella.

I personally didn’t enjoy the main conference keynote. I felt it was Azure heavy with lots of Windows 2016, Visual Studio, and Xamarin updates. My takeaway here was it was mostly boring, nothing new because most of the announcements were already made. There was hardly anything mentioned for Office innovations. My personal favorite from the morning keynote was a huge announcement of Microsoft joining hands with Adobe and Adobe hosting their all clouds including Marketing cloud in Azure. Apart from that, I was disappointed with this keynote.

What morning keynote couldn’t deliver, delivered by Innovation keynote by Satya in the late afternoon. I had an enormous fun listening to Satya and Microsoft’s vision of how Office, Azure, and Windows can deliver innovations in IoT, Analytics, and Cloud computes automation. This is must watch for anyone in technology field despite your interests in Microsoft technologies.

Technology Updates

I was excited with what and how Microsoft delivered Technology updates at Ignite. My interest this year was Office 365, Azure, SharePoint, Power BI, and related technologies. Day 1 and Day 2 was kind of boring with most of the roadmap updates which I had already learned in regular Microsoft Office updates. As I dived into more deep dive sessions on Day 3 and Day 4, I was impressed with all the new technology innovations Microsoft has made in Office 365.

One of the key things stood out for me was Level 100-200 sessions and how Microsoft delivered their roadmaps for 2016-17. They were honest in their delivery. There weren’t afraid of sharing what’s coming and what’s in design. Everyone was graceful in their delivery without any arrogance. It was refreshing to see this new Microsoft which has Satya’s stamp all over it. I personally think Microsoft Ignite still missed out many in-depth Level 300-400 sessions.

As far as technologies update, I loved many announcements including Office 365 Groups, Yammer Integration, OneDrive for Business Sync client, PowerApps, Flow, MyAnalytics, Microsoft Word TAP, SharePoint 2016 Feature Pack 1, and SharePoint Hybrid innovations, especially Hybrid Taxonomies. I can’t wait to deep dive into all of these technologies and master them.

If you are Microsoft especially Office 365/SharePoint professional, you would require learning Microsoft Graph, SharePoint Framework, React JS, TypeScript, Office UI Fabric, Windows 2016 Docker containers. Attending deep dive Level 200 sessions on Day 3 and Day 4 for these technologies was conference highlights for me as a technologist.

Conference Logistics

Anytime you need to host 25-30K IT professionals under one roof, it would become logistically tricky. Microsoft Ignite will face common challenges like lodging, transportation, food, session rooms layout regardless of wherever they plan (except Las Vegas) to host this event. Last year at Chicago, one of the biggest challenges they faced off the isolated location of conference center from the world. This year at Atlanta, they faced another challenge and mostly focused on transportation and lodging.

Before we start with what went wrong (we all love negatives), I must say there were lots of positives at this conference. Georgia Conference Center was a great location especially its proximity to Philips Arena and other downtown happening places. The location itself had lots of excellent facilities, and one of them was a patio where you can relax in sunny fall weather with lounge chairs, live music, games, and smoothies center. Ignite Mobile App was another clear winner for me especially scheduling and live streaming of sessions. This is one of the best conference apps at Microsoft events I have seen. I was able to get extra sleep (much needed for conference attendees) because I could live stream first session while commuting to the conference center. Another great idea this year was concurrent 20 minutes, 45 minutes, and 75 minutes’ breakout sessions. This gave attendees ample options of what sessions to attend and what to skip or view the live stream. Also – Microsoft showcase booths at expos were informative. Meeting with product groups was one of my favorite activities in between sessions.

Now, let’s focus on what can be improved. Lots of lines – There were lots of long walk in between buildings (especially if you have sessions in A and C) in addition to a lot of lines everywhere. I am not sure how Microsoft can improve logistically, but I turned away many times from to either attend session or event just because of lines especially it between sessions. After the event, activities was another big issue. If you have been in Atlanta, you know that it isn’t much as far as after event activities except bars, restaurants, and few baseball games in September. Lodging was another big issues. Unlike Chicago, Atlanta doesn’t have a large concentration of hotels in downtown area. Other two major locations were 30 minutes away at Buckhead and Airport. This is where Las Vegas would actually help where lodging, dining, and after event activities are no major concern.

Last but not least, Microsoft needs to stop serving boxed lunch. Even SharePoint Saturdays or conferences don’t have boxed lunch. It was one of the worst (worse than Chicago last year) conference food I ever had. I was done with cold sandwiches after the 2nd day. Luckily there were few other options nearby, but good conference meal should be one of the musts in Microsoft’s checklist. I do understand why Microsoft may have done it due to concurrent sessions but having both boxed and warm buffet meal would cater both audiences.

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Parting Notes

Despite all these hate and love for Microsoft Ignite, I enjoyed this conference and can’t wait to attend future events. I personally would like to thank Slalom for letting me attend this conference and learn Microsoft’s direction for 2016-17.

Posted in Conferences | 1 Comment

Future of SharePoint Keynote Summary and My Key Takeaways

Ever since Microsoft RTMed SharePoint 2016 in March 2016, one event every SharePointers were looking forward to was – “Future of SharePoint” on May 4th, 2016.

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Even though this event was marked as SharePoint 2016 GA availability, how Microsoft used it to instill the confidence in SharePoint community is a masterstroke in my book. Personally, I was looking forward to this event to see where I want to focus shortly as far as technology. As a SharePoint brand, there were few questions and Microsoft needed to answer. I won’t lie if I say I was approaching this event very cautiously but after the event – my faith in SharePoint on both Office 365 and On-premises have been restored.

In a nutshell, this was a vision and roadmap event specifically focused on SharePoint. As expected, the event was well marketed and well attended. There were some bold announcements and demos. Most of them are in the process of being rolled out in the SharePoint Online. This tweet at the end of the event summarizes what I felt of SharePoint shortly at that time.

futuresharepoint-Tweet

Here are my key takeaways:

  • SharePoint is here to stay!! In fact, it’s been revitalized and modernized. The message has been reinforced – Innovations happens in a cloud, and few features will trickle down to the on-premises over the time.
  • “SharePoint” as a brand is brought back in Office 365!! No more, it’s branded as “Sites” app. It’s a small change like this regains confidence from the community.
  • Office 365 Groups are the NEW center of gravity in a cloud product. SharePoint team sites are re-branded with Office 365 Groups UI, but two-way integration will challenge traditional hierarchical information architecture. Documents will flow horizontally across products rather than hierarchical SharePoint team sites in Office 365. Additionally, tight integration of SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Office 365 Groups, and other Office 365 products will reinvent what we think of a modern collaboration on office platforms.
  • Although Microsoft has delivered contextual and relevant SharePoint Online home page (similar to Delve UI) as Intranet in your pocket offering, my take here is that most of the organizations will create their own intranet home pages powered with Office Graph & Delve based UI. Ability to support customized version of Intranet home pages is critical. There will be requirements from customers to support customized version of the home page on “SharePoint” mobile app and browser experiences home page.
  • SharePoint On-premises are here to stay!! SharePoint Online & Office365 will innovate first, and particular features will be pushed down to the On-Premises as feature backs. I won’t be surprised if feature packs replace existing service pack model.
  • SharePoint Hybrid is must have best of both worlds. New SharePoint browser & mobile apps would require hybrid infrastructure to display data from both cloud and on-premises.
  • Office 365 Graph and new SharePoint client side framework are must in developers’ toolkit. Both of them are built on a modern JavaScript and REST-based programming standards. Developers will require learning 6th development/customization model in last 6 iterations of the product. Microsoft continues pushing developing on a platform rather than service based on solutions they must have seen in their customer experience programs. It’s time to learn web stack if you haven’t already – Node.Js, Yeoman, Gulp, TypeScript, Visual Studio Code, etc. It should be noted here is this is one more additional framework, it doesn’t replace Add-ins model released in SharePoint 2013 or Full trust model introduced in SharePoint 2007.
  • SharePoint and Office 365 professionals will have more challenges to architect solutions based on Office 365 only, SharePoint On-Premises only, or hybrid investments. Great SharePoint professional is key to success. The question of what’s supported/not supported, what’s licensed/not licensed, what’s enabled/disabled, architectural trade-offs will factor in how you architect information architecture and business processes. This is not new as of now, but tight integration with Office 365 Groups and SharePoint Online will create many challenges for customers who won’t use capabilities of whole Office 365 suite.

Here are my notes from the keynote:

Announcements

  • SharePoint 2016 On-Premises and Office Online Server (2016 version of Office Web Apps) GA available from today
  • SharePoint 2016 isn’t the last release, but it’s a foundation for future – forged in cloud, first cloud run source code packaged for on-premises, probably enhanced by feature packs rather than service packs

Future of SharePoint

  • Microsoft’s current focus is on 3G’s – Groups, Graph, and Governance (Notice – no SharePoint, rather than focusing on products vertically, Microsoft’s focus is across products and security/compliance).
  • New SharePoint Principles – In Cloud, On your on-premises, and In your Pocket, in other words – cloud first, mobile first but still supported for on-premises.
  • SharePoint is Core of Office 365 productivity suite – No kidding!!!!
  • SharePoint On-Premises Updates – Feature Packs for SharePoint – Subset of features available on top of SP2016, starting from 2017.

Files Access & Sharing Innovations

futuresharepoint-file access and sharing roadmap

  • A simple and powerful file on any device – intuitive browser experience.
  • Selective sync for OD4B & SPO document libraries. Sync shared folders in a roadmap.
  • Move or Copy OD4B files and folders to SharePoint.
  • New activity view pan for files (replacement for versioning?).
  • File Share/Document Analytics in OD4B (Likes and Shares coming in future as well).
  • Mobile app for SharePoint Online (SharePoint On-Premises support in roadmap including SharePoint 2013).

Reinventing SharePoint Intranets and Team Sites

futuresharepoint-intranet roadmap

  • Modern Intranets
    • Next-Gen, Responsive, and Mobile & Touch Friendly Intranets
    • Innovate on all three fronts – communication, collaboration, and custom apps.
    • Intranet on your pocket
      • New SharePoint home page, powered by Office Graph, contextual information, looks much similar to Delve UI. Show frequently visited sites or suggested sites based on your profile activities. It can show sites from both cloud and on-premises (requires hybrid configuration).
      • The intelligent discovery of content based on your activities. It shows pages, libraries, lists, and people. Again, similar to Delve UI.
      • New team and organizational news feature – News feature out of the box, will roll out in H2.
    • Intranet Web Experience
      • Renamed “Sites” tab to “SharePoint” to match mobile app name.
      • Frequent sites, suggested sites, Tiles view.
      • Instant search – people, sites, files, etc.
      • Easy new site creation – simplified and faster, requires you to select collaboration or publishing sites, you can also create Office 365 group in this wizard, will require enforcement of governance.
  • Modern Team Sites
    • Groups Integration – Each Team Site creation will create Office 365 Group and same true on another way around as well. Groups are tightly integrated into Office 365 with SharePoint team sites. Will roll out in H2.
    • Power Apps and Microsoft Flow integrated with SharePoint Online out of the box. This would allow it use SharePoint document libraries and lists as a data source. Possible replacements for workflow & forms workloads. Both products are in preview now. Will roll out in H2 this year.
    • New Home Page experience – Tied to group,  group name & members shows up, left-hand navigation still exists, you can bring in group features on team sites (e.g. conversations, etc.), by default – news & activities are available as tiles view, you can highlight document or blog article in news section, activities are documents with tiles view. It’s rolling out now.
    • New Pages experience – Mobile and touch friendly pages authoring experience, you can add documents, links, medias, etc. You have a gallery of OOB web parts (similar as Adobe AEM). It’s rolling out now.
    • New Document Library experience – looks & feels like OD4B, consistent experience. Quick contextual metadata editing experience, grid/thumbnail view experience, ability to pin feature, everything on your fingertip either via quick action bar or information panel, no more ribbon. It’s rolling out now.
    • New SharePoint Lists experience – Integration of OOB Microsoft flow UX and Power Apps and context are passed to these apps.  It’s rolling out now.
    • Team site activities and analytics – Modern graphical analytics.  It’s rolling out now.

Platform Extensibility

futuresharepoint-openconnected roadmap

futuresharepoint-SPDevTweet

  • Data Layer – Office Graph API – REST based, single end-point – we will have SP REST API available via Office 365 API shortly.
  • UI Layer – New SharePoint Framework – New JavaScript-based client side development layer, it’s backward compatible, it will be open source, client-side web parts & client side page/canvas applications framework – this framework will be released in Q3 for SPO as First Release and for on-premises as features packs hopefully in 2017.
  • SharePoint Bench – A SharePoint particular mock debugging environment to test development without needing of SharePoint in local VM.
  • Microsoft will deliver few responsive experiences based new SharePoint Framework. New SharePoint online document library experiences, Delve UI, & lightweight publishing model (Delve blog) are some of them.

Community and Microsoft Resources

New SharePoint Framework Reactions

Happy SharePointing!!!

Posted in Office 365 | 2 Comments