Reflections on Microsoft Inspire 2018

Matt Smith

This year, Microsoft timed their biggest and most important partner event of the year, Inspire, with that of Microsoft Ready, their biggest and most important internal sales kickoff of the year. For the first time, the majority of Microsoft technical sales and service delivery folks joined Microsoft partners for the Corenote sessions of Microsoft Inspire. It was a great way for Microsoft to deliver on its message to align with its partners.

Day 1:
We started with Corenote speakers Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, Commercial Partner Channels & Programs; Judson Althoff, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Commercial Business; and Brad Smith, President and CLO.

Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, Worldwide Partner Group, at Microsoft Inspire 2018.

Gavriella kicked things off and took some time to thank the partners for the phenomenal growth in FY 18, specifically in Dynamics and CSP. She challenged partners to place bets with Microsoft and lead the charge with CSP and Azure.

Judson’s message keyed on Microsoft’s message of ubiquitous computing and AI, intelligent edge, and intelligent cloud with the idea that it’s not something that they are striving for, but something that exists today. They showed us an example of how they are doing this today by inviting Carlsberg Brewery on stage to show how they are using this technology. With centrally managed software they can monitor new kegs and tap lines to ensure freshness and cleanliness to their customers while supporting the proprietors of their products.

Carlsberg demos how AI can help with beer brewing at Microsoft Inspire 2018.

Brad Smith wrapped up the session with a reflection of where Microsoft and the partner community have gone over the last year. He talked about the focus that has been and will continue to be on security, keeping our intellectual property safe as well as being socially responsible on a global scale. It’s clear to me that Microsoft takes security extremely seriously, and they look to lessen the anxiety that people have regarding technology as we move closer to a media-less monetary system with privacy at its core.

Day 2:

Gavriella Schuster took the stage once more to thank the partners and focused her talk on their success with many short videos of partners helping customers. It’s clear that Microsoft will continue to invest in its partners. Gavriella announced an ISV co-sell program, where Microsoft sellers will get 10% revenue recognition of the partner ISV solution that they are able to sell on behalf of partners in their accounts using the apps in the catalog. The catalog is called App Source. This is where partners can publish their apps by category/industry or product they support. This will allow customers to browse by need as well as Microsoft sellers to use specific partner apps to help them sell. Check out Gavriella’s blog post on Microsoft partner center.

Jason Zander, Executive Vice President – Microsoft Azure, spoke about Azure, how it competes, and how much less expensive it is than Amazon’s offering using Reserved Instance and Hybrid Use benefit. He also talked about SQL and the use of SQL as a service within the Azure stack.

Alysa Taylor, Corporate Vice President Applications and Global Industry, and Anand Eswaran, Corporate Vice President of Business Applications and Industry Marketing, wrapped things up with an interactive session where they not only talked about how Teams will enable true collaboration, they actually showed us. The security that is built into the products truly enables customers to have access to their documents and email from any device. Microsoft no longer looks at an Android or Apple device as competition but as an Office 365 enabled device.

Day 3:
Day 3 was all about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and the arena was filled almost to capacity (20,000). Microsoft started the session with a sing-a-long to the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” to highlight the focus on Microsoft’s “partner led” sales philosophy. I think they changed the name of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference to Inspire because of Satya; he is truly an inspirational speaker, and he has a way with connecting to his audience like no other. He not only plays the part, but he acts the part as well. He immediately puts the crowd at ease as he strolls out on stage in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. He starts off by talking about the students that he often engages with. He tells them, “If you want to work for a company that does cool things, go somewhere else, but if you want to work for a company that help other companies to do cool things, you’re in the right spot.” This brought the crowd to their feet with applause.

He went on to talk about the three key pillars in Microsoft: intelligent cloud computing, ubiquitous computing, and AI and people-centric computing. I understood this as Microsoft leading with the concept of enabling the world with the ability to compute anytime anywhere through the cloud, Office 365, and Azure. They are striving to use AI—Microsoft is careful to call this “ethical AI”—to build software that is predictive and to implement machine learning to help with tasks that would otherwise endanger the user. This concept also helps with streamlining process and cutting cost through efficiency. Satya then demonstrated the people-centric concept with the products themselves, using an Android phone, iPhone, and Surface tablet— calling them all Office 365 enabled devices. He showed how the technology helps users remain secure across all platforms while having the same experience. Specifically, he showed us how he uses Outlook to manage his day with the integration of Teams and Yammer.

The session was wrapped up with a demo of HoloLens and Dynamics Field Service to bring a virtual meeting together with 3D modeling. This shows how a virtual meeting with users in different locations can pull together a technical expert with a non-technical user to solve a problem or simply tear down and highlight technical drawings.

I came away from Inspire believing that it’s a safe bet to double down on Microsoft as they continue to lead the way in secure cloud computing. They truly make it easier to do business with the products they deliver, as their mission statement is “to help individuals and businesses realize their full potential.” They truly believe in their vision “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Customers are finding new and better ways to deploy, manage, and secure their information on Microsoft’s cloud every day. Learn more from Inspire sessions or from the experts at Connection’s Microsoft Center of Excellence. We are always happy to help.

Matt is a Customer Success Manager in Connection's Microsoft Center of Excellence with more than 15 years of experience in the areas of Licensing Analytics for Microsoft, VMware, and other software manufactures. Matt is a MCP for Microsoft Licensing as well as a VSP for VMware. In his spare time Matt enjoys gardening, golf, bowling, and spending time with his family.