"We want every company out there to be a tech company in its own right and you are the community that's going to make it happen and our mission is to empower you to do that," was Satya Nadella's core message to the audience at his keynote at Microsoft's recent Ignite event.
The annual event plays host to thousands of IT professionals and decision makers and this year saw a raft of product and feature updates and launches.
This included Project Cortana - marking the vendor's first addition to Office 365 since Teams - which uses machine learning to analyse all of a company's documents and contracts to classify them into topic "wikis".
It also introduced Endpoint Manager, which will give businesses a single view of the deployments of the devices they hand out to employees, as well as launching a number of tools and recommendations to aid companies in modernising their deployment strategies.
Most intriguing from a channel perspective, however, were the announcements of Azure Arc and Azure Synapse, according to Dan Scarfe, founder of Microsoft partner New Signature UK.
Azure Arc was hailed by Nadella (pictured) as the "next big step forward in hybrid computing".
It will allow Azure services to run in environments built by other cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud, and manage them from Azure.
Scarfe called Azure Arc a "game-changer" for partners.
"Microsoft has fundamentally changed the rule book now about how organisations think about actual, true multi-cloud and hybrid," he explained .
"One of my bugbears with hybrid and multi-cloud is that it's difficult to achieve because you've got different tooling, different governance and different everything in each one of these clouds.
"But Microsoft has now said, ‘We think there's an opportunity to own that central control pane effectively and have that in a single governance model and now apply that to different clouds'.
"It's not a million miles away from what Google did with Anthos, but that was purely focused around Kubernetes, whereas Microsoft's vision is much grander and they want to provide that same kind of idea but across dozens of different services."
Scarfe said that something like Azure Arc was badly needed by partners because the problem with hybrid cloud and multi-cloud is the complexity involved in building, managing and running numerous environments.
"Everybody thinks that multi-cloud is a good idea, but the problem was, trying to do it for real was phenomenally difficult because you had to do everything for each cloud - you have to build separate governance models and you have to build separate management and monitoring modules," he elaborated.
"Multi-cloud was a theory rather than something that you could very easily do in practice. But now with Arc, we've got the centralised governance and management platform that means we can actually now do multi-cloud and hybrid without it taking years and years to build out these operating models."
Nadella declared that Azure Synapse will "redefine the rules" around analytic workloads to his Ignite audience.
Synapse combines data warehousing with big data, allowing structured and unstructured analytics to be brought together with "unprecedented scale", the CEO added.
It aims to bridge the gap between data warehouses and data lakes, as well as tapping into a variety of other Microsoft services including Power BI and Azure Machine Learning.
"Microsoft has done huge amounts of engineering work behind the scenes to get all these platforms to co-operate and work more effectively together," noted Scarfe.
"The level of performance [displayed during a demo] that they were getting in terms of querying that data was way quicker than anything you could do with Google or AWS.
"With Synapse we've now got this amazing capability that we can use to create these new data platforms for customers, so it's a huge opportunity for us."
The features and updates announced at Ignite are indicative of a company willing to look outside itself and collaborate for the benefit of partners and customers, unlike some of its competitors, Scarfe added.
"AWS continues to get more and more introverted, in terms of how their stuff works brilliantly in their little world, but anybody who would want to run something outside AWS is still a bit of an enigma to them," he stated.
"Its view of the world is ‘everyone will run everything in AWS, so why do we need to even think about other cloud providers?' Amazon is becoming more and more like Microsoft was 10 years ago - arrogant and not prepared to accept that there is a world outside AWS.
"Google is doing a decent job in this way with Anthos; they've understood that there is a world outside Google Cloud.
"But Microsoft just continues to lead with that open, extensible view of the world that says to customers ‘We want to own the management plane, but in terms of where you actually run your workloads, it's up to you'.
"It's a really nice story, which helps us appeal to our customers more effectively."
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