Ignite 2022: Microsoft accelerates on low code and MDM

At its Ignite 2022 customer conference, Microsoft unveiled a host of innovations. Themes nevertheless stand out, such as low code around the Power Platform and mobility management with Intune.

When CIOs talk about using low-code tools to facilitate multi-user development, a recurring theme is how to ensure proper management of the applications produced. Microsoft heard them loud and clear, and at its Ignite 2022 event in Seattle this week, it showed off a number of additional management features and other enhancements to its Power automation platform.

The vendor also previewed management capabilities for automated workloads in its Entra Identity management solution, compliance reporting tools to monitor the deployment of Windows updates to workstations, and a number of updates to its Azure cloud computing platform.

Power Automate at the service of employees

Microsoft has therefore experimented with ways to generate workflows with Power Automate, by describing in natural language what users want to achieve and letting an AI build the corresponding flow. This feature, currently in preview, will still require staff to establish connectors to automated workflow inputs and outputs and modify them to ensure it behaves as expected.

Given the possibility of ambiguity in natural language, CIOs may want to tighten the governance of applications built this way – and with the latest managed environments for Power Platform, Microsoft will help them. Previewed in July, it’s now available to everyone.

Provide control and balance

A feature is emerging, Weekly Digest, to help admins see the usage level of each Power app, drawing attention to the most used and removing resources from unused apps. There are also tools to limit app sharing by security group or number of users, so apps don’t go viral in the company until they’ve been thoroughly tested and channels are put in place to communicate the changes. These features will be important to CIOs, according to Kyle Davis, vice president and analyst at Garner, which focuses on low-code adoption. “When it comes to novice and low-code development, governance is top of mind,” he said.

For his part, Managed Environments is more of an evolution than a revolution, he added, saying: “There’s really nothing there that someone couldn’t build for themselves if they wanted to”. In fact, Managed Environments has its origins in Microsoft’s Automation Center of Excellence starter kit intended for enterprises to define their own best practices for managing Power applications. But as the editor himself admits, customers have experienced that it requires a lot of manual work and expertise. According to Davis, CIOs seeking the simplicity of low-code development often want similar simplicity in governance. The ability of managed environments to deploy controls with just a few clicks will be enticing. “It’s easier to do things on a large scale,” he said. “What Microsoft offers with Managed Environments is something you don’t really get from other low-code software vendors in a similar space,” he added.

“Managed Environments add value to existing Power Platform Premium features,” the company said. (Credit: Microsoft)

Environmental awareness requires solutions

Not all of the announcements from Ignite were about Power Platform, however. The publisher also had plenty to say about updates to its Azure cloud infrastructure and an update to Syntex, its AI content management tool. But CIOs will certainly be aware of other innovations that can help them reduce management budgets or redeploy staff to free them from routine tasks. In this sense, features have been added to Microsoft Sustainability Manager, an environmental reporting tool for companies, including an extended data model that helps them estimate greenhouse gas emissions called “Scope 3” of their entire supply chain, and an emissions impact dashboard for Microsoft 365 shows greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the use of Microsoft’s SaaS productivity suite.

Azure Deployment Environments, previewed at the event, give companies a way to apply project-based patterns to any development environment they create. Similar to the managed environments Microsoft builds for low-code applications, these templates will help development teams consistently maintain best practices from project to project with minimal disruption, the company said.

Cost reduction, another concern for CIOs

Another management feature, Azure Automanage, is now available for Azure VMs and provides additional capabilities, including the ability to remediate VMs without restarting them, reducing downtime costs. For variable workloads in the Azure cloud, the company is introducing the ability to mix standard and Spot VMs in the same scale set, giving CIOs deep discounts available for Spot VMs as their computing needs vary.

With Azure Automanage, the company wants to ensure the automation of operations in complete security. (Credit: Microsoft)

But Microsoft also wants customers to see Azure as a cost-effective solution for basic workloads. The Azure IT Savings Plan, available in late October, provides a discount to customers who commit to spending a minimum hourly amount on computing resources for one to three years; consumption in excess of the minimum obligation is invoiced at usual rates.

Intune takes the lead

Microsoft is revamping its endpoint management brand image: Previously part of its Mobile Device Management (MDM) offering, Intune is now the umbrella brand for its entire line of endpoint management products, such as Configuration Manager, with the promise of more products to come . At Ignite, the company is previewing features for managing endpoint privileges, such as the ability to temporarily grant users limited administrative permissions, as well as automated patching on the go that combines Intune and Defender.

Intune offers management of on-premises, cloud, mobile, desktop and virtualized endpoints across platforms including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux operating systems. (Credit: Microsoft)

In January 2023, it will add Tunnel so employees can securely access company resources from their own devices without having to sign up first. Finally, in March 2023, a premium endpoint management service suite called Advanced Management Suite will be launched.

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