Inspire 2020 is Microsoft’s global partner conference held in July and this year I attended the event which was hosted online. Here are my four highlights:

1. Azure Lighthouse

Azure Lighthouse is an ideal tool to help manage your Azure stack at scale. It offers centralised monitoring, governance and security. This is especially useful for managing cloud migrations, for example. Lighthouse was the winner of the 2019 CRN Tech Innovator Award which is a reflection of the advanced features of the app. To win the Tech Innovator Award Lighthouse came up on top when compared to dozens of other products across 34 technology categories. At Softwerx we have been using Azure lighthouse and are reaping the benefits in our SOC. 

2. COVID-19 contingency plans

With the COVID-19 onset, many companies are struggling with VPN issues, data access, infrastructure bottlenecks, and bad actors exploiting VPN vulnerabilities.  

One excellent solution to address these COVID-related issues is Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). There’s no hosting required and it’s relatively easy to manage. It gives end users immediate access to their systems remotely and securely. Since it is hosted on the cloud, it’s also flexible. One of Softwerx’s Microsoft Solutions Architects – Matt Smith – recently presented a webinar on the subjectWe’ve already had loads of interest in this efficient, versatile technology. 

Inspire also had lots of discussion around Azure Active Directory – an ideal way to secure cloud access via enterprise identity SSO and multi-factor authentication.

3. ‘Zero Trust’ is mature security best-practice 

‘Zero Trust’ is more than an information security buzzword – it describes the latest best practice for mature identity and access management. The Zero Trust model is very strict and therefore, secure. It ‘assumes breach and requires separate verification for each access request. In other words, every access request, regardless of where it is coming from, is fully authenticated, authorized, and encrypted before granting the user the requested access. This is why the catch-phrase of Zero Trust is “never trust, always verify.”  

This approach can lead to more security notifications, which can be better managed with an integrated Microsoft approach, i.e. through use of the Microsoft SIEM solution Azure Sentinel, which uses AI to bring your Azure security analytics together into a single pane of glass. Sentinel also sorts through security alerts from across your business to help you gain actionable insights and prioritise responses. This drastically reduces the stress and workload on your information security team.  

4. New Microsoft Teams features  

My final highlight is the exciting updates about Microsoft Teams presented at Inspire, which you might not yet be aware of. I recently wrote about how to optimise Teams configuration in a previous blog. Some of the latest innovations in Teams announced include Project Cortex. This is a tool to help individuals get up to speed with workflows, for example, by providing information related to new team members roles. Teams is also rolling out a number of improvements to the video-conferencing function. 49 people can now fit into Teams gallery mode view for large meetings. What’s more, Microsoft have introduced background noise dampening and are launching Together Mode which will digitally place participants of Teams meetings into the same virtual room in order to re-create the feeling of proximity. Recent studies show that Together mode can significantly reduce fatigue experienced on video calls. 


Overall, Inspire provided an excellent high-level view of the latest Microsoft updates for security, productivity and compliance, but I’m looking forward to the annual Microsoft Ignite global conference happening later in the year to engage more with Microsoft’s technical inner workings. The team at Softwerx and I were really impressed with how Microsoft curated the event digitally and this is a sign of more good things to come. 

About the author:

Adriaan Bekker is Technical Director of Softwerx. He has worked with Microsoft and at corporate ‘C-level’ clients for over 10 years. This extensive experience, combined with his IT and business degree qualifications, means he is well placed to bridge the gap between technical, commercial and compliance requirements.



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