Heading To The Clouds With Microsoft Azure Summit 2018


Microsoft Azure What is it? What can one do with it? How can this service be used to improve the quality of your business? Well, that was what we were here to find out. Organized by Microsoft Sri Lanka, the first ever Microsoft Azure Summit was held on the 4th of April 2018 at the Taj Samudra hotel.

Kickstarting the event was Hasitha Abeywardane

Hasitha, the Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives up first. He emphasized that this was the first Azure Summit 2018 to be held in Sri Lanka. Taking a trip down memory lane, Hasitha explained that 21 years ago, Microsoft became the fifth largest company in the world.

Fast forward 10 years and Microsoft was ranked the 3rd largest company in the world. As for 2017, the top 5 companies in the world, are all tech companies, with Microsoft being among them. This, Hasitha said, is not to show that Microsoft as a company is large, but rather to showcase how the company has been evolving over the years.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Hasitha Abeywardane addressing the audience

Hasitha then spoke about the new vision of Microsoft which is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. This is a significant difference over the last vision which was to put a PC on every desk in every home. Taking thing to a local context, Hasitha spoke about the journey of Microsoft in Sri Lanka and what they have done to empower the country and its citizens. This ranged from empowering teachers, students, and even training workers.

Hasitha’s next topic was about the cloud, what it really is and how it would affect our future and how we live. Approximately 60% of APAC GDP will be derived from digital products or services created directly through technologies by 2021. So with all these innovations, you might wonder what would happen to your jobs. Well, the bad news is that 85% of jobs will be transformed. The good news? We are getting ready for it.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
(Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

Hasitha then went on to showcase how Microsoft Azure helped the Hirdaramani Group create a smart quality management system to cut costs and improve quality. In the video that was played on screen, we saw RES.Q. This is a quality management system that uses data analytics to improve production quality, eliminate reporting time lags, enables faster and more accurate decision-making, and reduces wastage.

We learned that Microsoft Azure is a hybrid cloud

Presented by Mike Chan, General Manager, APAC Cloud and Enterprise, the topic was about the transformative power of Azure. Mike spoke about the digital transformation processes that Microsoft is a part of. As such, they empower employees by enabling people to work the way they want, at what time they want on any device that they want.

Technology is global that way, he says. All the processing power and cool things you can do with your phone is made possible by the cloud. If you think about it, turn off the internet on your phone, and you’ll see just how true that statement is.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Mike Chan addressing the audience (Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

Mike then used an example why Microsoft Azure is a hybrid cloud with clients such as Nvidia offering deep learning methods using the power of GPUs in the cloud, rather than relying on CPUs. This allows users to carry out possibly millions of floating point calculations at a much faster rate than before. Mike also spoke about features such as Azure Active Directory, Azure Services, Azure Data Services and Azure Security and Management.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018As an example, he spoke about how he was able to migrate from one device to another, without ever having to step foot into his office. All his settings and files were on his brand new device without him having to configure anything. All this, with the power of Microsoft Azure.

We then took a tour of one of Microsoft’s data centers

Presented by Harsha Randeny, Partner Technology Strategist, the session was about how Microsoft’s data centers operate and how we should build trust in the cloud. Just to put things into perspective, the Azure global footprint has 34 regions online, with a further 8 regions planned.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Harsha Randeny addressing the audience (Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

Harsha then went on to speak about Azure cloud and the hybrid cloud. Hybrid cloud requires a new way of thinking for security. Because data is in the cloud, it goes beyond the traditional firewall. Whereas this may cause distrust amongst users as they are unsure of the protection their data, Harsha went on to explain that Azure is extremely safe and robust.

How McLarens moved to the Cloud

Presented by Umeshi De Fonseka, Chief Information Officer of Mclarens Group, the session was about how McLarens was one of the first customers to embrace the cloud with Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Umeshi De Fonseka addressing the audience (Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

Umeshi was on stage to talk about the challenges that the company faced. Currently using Microsoft Azure for the past 1½ years, Umeshi went on to speak about the advantages that Microsoft Azure gave McLarens and how they were able to streamline their operations as well.

Having an AI Conversation using Microsoft Azure

Carried out by Arijit Roy, Senior Sales Director – Data Platform & AI, the session was about how AI can help build innovative tools and services, all with the aid of Microsoft Azure. AI amplifies human ingenuity. It enables people, has inclusive design and can help companies build trust in technology with their customers.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Arijit Roy speaking to the audience (Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

Available for all developers, Microsoft’s Azure Machine learning or cloud-based AI allows you to carry out both simple and complex data science calculations and also allows you to build sophisticated AI applications from the ground up

Arijit also spoke about how AI can help interpret the world around you. As an example, Arijit spoke about Seeing AI. This is a research project that uses the power of AI to describe people, objects and even text to those who are visually impaired.

Building applications with Microsoft Azure

This was presented by Luka Debeljak. Luka, the Azure Sales Manager at Microsoft APAC spoke about app innovation with Microsoft Azure and cloud. His topic was how to transform enterprise-grade applications to be more modern. For example, aging infrastructure, lack of agility and legacy applications are challenges to a company to embrace digitization and cloud services.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Luka Debelijak addressing the audience (Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

With Microsoft Azure and services such as Azure Container Services, Azure Container Instances, Azure Service Fabric and Azure App service, you can develop your existing apps into the Microsoft Azure framework and then keep your app on the cloud with no problems. Luke then went on to speak about deploying APPS faster using Azure DevOps Suite. These tools allow you to test applications before they go into production.

How John Keells IT used Microsoft Azure

Presented by two members from John Keells IT, the success story was about one of their in-house applications that made use of deep learning using a mixture of Microsoft Azure and Xamarin to identify receipts captured through the camera of a mobile phone.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Members form the John Keells IT team sharing their experience with Microsoft Azure (Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

In the demo, the demonstrator snaps a pic of a bill which is then recognized and added to a petty cash request. As a result of the system, there was a boost to productivity and they also created a paperless automated office. It was also available 24×7.

How MAS Holdings scaled using Microsoft Azure

The last customer story was from MAS Holdings. Managing a 90,000 employee base is a tad challenging. The company realized that they wanted to move to a cloud platform to do away with the on-site platform that was already in place. The new platform had to be a gateway and that has high availability. It also had to have scalability and be cost efficient as well.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Members from MAS Holdinhs sharing their experience with Microsoft Azure (Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

Their solution was to deploy a serverless solution of Microsoft Azure. Why Azure serverless? Because there is no need to provision resources. Since the system is in the Cloud, you have scalability and reliability, allowing them to focus on their business.

Microsoft wants you to trust them

Presented by Rena Chai, Chief marketing, and Operation Officer, SEA New markets, the session was about how Microsoft is doing more to build trust amongst both customers and consumers. With recent breaches of data privacy by companies such as Facebook, it’s important to know that your data is private and safe.

Microsoft Azure Summit 2018
Rena Chai on trusting Microsoft (Image Credits: Microsoft Sri Lanka)

Rena went on to explain the stringent measures that Microsoft deploys to make sure their customer and consumer data is protected. This ranges from perimeter security to biometric authentication, and fire suppression. Rena also spoke about Security, privacy, and compliance. These are 3 important factors that both customers and consumers look at when asked for their private data.

With that, Rena’s session came to an end.

That also brought an end to the morning half of the Microsoft Azure Summit 2018. Following a hearty lunch, the registrant had the chance to choose from one of three tracks revolving around Microsoft Azure. Depending on their background, the participants made their way over to the designated areas to learn more about Microsoft Azure and how it can help their business. Following the breakout sessions, the Microsoft Azure Summit 2018 officially came to an end.