The Microsoft Ignite Conference, held last week, was attended by about 23,000 IT professionals wanting to learn and network. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the keynote address; I can't remember the last time I saw a CEO kick off this type of event. Nadella initially focused on the mobile-first, cloud-first theme that has been Microsoft's mantra since he took office.
What really stood out were the slew of on-premises server versions coming up, including Exchange 2016, Windows Server 2016 and SharePoint 2016, just to name a few. While Microsoft may be cloud first, on-premises isn't necessarily last or lost. Although the previews of Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016 are already available, we were told to expect more in the near future.
Our first look at Exchange 2016
The keynote at the Microsoft Ignite Conference didn't offer up anything substantial for Exchange or Office 365 admins. However, there were sessions on what's new with Exchange 2016 on-premises that offered some noteworthy points.
Exchange 2016 was pitched as a rock-solid release because it was built in the cloud first. That's a good tip-off for admins who want to learn more about the differences between Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2016 -- all they have to do is look to see what has been going on with Office 365. This isn't to say that it will be a one-to-one catch-up when Exchange 2016 is released; there will certainly be missing features between the two options, such as Clutter, which requires Office Graph to work.
But it's obvious Microsoft is developing in the cloud first to test and tweak before passing features and capabilities down to its on-premises options. From an architectural perspective, the company is going back to a multi-role deployment, meaning the CAS and Mailbox roles are combined in one server and can't be installed separately as was possible in Exchange 2007.
Some other new features include Exchange database divergence checks, which finds and fixes databases that aren't working well and fixes them. There was also more of an end-user focus with Outlook and Outlook Web App, which will be addressed as the release date gets closer.
Developments with the cloud and hybrid options
Hybrid offerings for Azure, improvements to Office and Windows as well as the new possibilities with HoloLens VR were also prominent announcements at Ignite. I was impressed by Microsoft's focus on cloud and hybrid features that would enable private cloud development for better integration with Azure.
Azure Stack will bring Azure to any private data center. This will be a good option for private or hybrid clouds that allows for better self-service provisioning of VMs and server applications within on-premises data centers. The idea is that Azure Stack will help organizations transition from providing traditional IT control toward a services-based approach.
Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) is a new feature that allows admins to identify suspicious end user or device network activity and see the results in an easy graph style. ATA detects abnormal behavior, malicious attacks or security issues and risks. ATA uses what Microsoft calls deep-packet inspection technology and information from a number of other data sources to build an attack timeline.
Exchange Server 2016 follows MS cloud-first, mobile-first strategy