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5 Key Announcements At Microsoft Ignite 2019

New offerings in Azure, Microsoft 365 and Power Platform are among the major announcements coming out of the conference.

Microsoft is continuing to roll out new capabilities across its major platforms at rapid speed, with a focus on enhanced cloud computing and productivity.

At Ignite 2019, Microsoft is introducing a "broad range of new tools and services to help companies and individuals put their data to work for them, help their employees build expertise quickly, and take advantage of key Azure tools no matter what cloud provider they’re using," the company said in a blog post.

[Related: Microsoft's 'Cloud Party' Continues With Big Growth From Azure, Office 365]

The announcements include a new analytics service, Azure Synapse Analytics, along with other updated capabilities in Azure, Microsoft 365 and Power Platform. Ignite, Microsoft's conference for IT professionals and developers, is being held this week in Orlando.

What follows are five key announcements from Microsoft in connection with Ignite 2019.

Azure Synapse Analytics

Touted by Microsoft as a "limitless" analytics service, Azure Synapse Analytics serves as a combination offering of data warehousing and big-data analytics, the company said.

The service, which can use either serverless or provisioned resources, provides "a unified experience to ingest, prepare, manage, and serve data for immediate BI and machine learning application," Microsoft said.

Users can still run existing data warehousing workloads with Azure Synapse. Examples cited by Microsoft include integrating Apache Spark with SQL.

The service ultimately enables data professionals to "collaborate, manage, and analyze their most important data with ease all within the same service," Microsoft said.

Azure Arc

As mentioned earlier, one area of focus for Microsoft is on making Azure tools available even to users who are on competing cloud platforms.

To that end, Microsoft says it's launching a new solution, Azure Arc, in preview. Azure Arc "offers Azure services and management to customers on other clouds or infrastructure, including those offered by Amazon and Google," Microsoft said.

"Azure Arc extends these proven Azure management capabilities to Linux and Windows servers, as well as Kubernetes clusters on any infrastructure across on-premises, multi-cloud and edge," said Julia White, corporate vice president for Azure, in a blog post.

Additionally, with Azure Arc, "customers now have the flexibility to deploy Azure SQL Database and Azure Database for PostgreSQL Hyperscale where they need it, on any Kubernetes cluster," White said.

Microsoft 365: Project Cortex Alongside updates to Azure, the Microsoft 365 platform is also getting some new additions at Ignite 2019. Project Cortex in Microsoft 365 is a new service that leverages AI to automatically classify all of an organization's content into topics. This forms a network of knowledge that "improves individual productivity and organizational intelligence, helping identify experts on specific topics, and surfacing knowledge through interactive experiences across Microsoft 365," Microsoft said. Project Cortex -- which is the first new service to join Microsoft 365 since Microsoft Teams -- is in private preview and is expected to be generally available during the first half of 2020.

Power Automate

Microsoft has renamed its automated workflow solution, Microsoft Flow, as Power Automate. The Power Automate solution offers API- and UI-based automation for enterprises through a unified platform, and is now getting enhanced with robotic process automation capabilities, Microsoft said.

Dubbed UI flows, the capabilities enable automation of repetitive tasks, as well as legacy applications, in order to simplify workflows, the company said. UI flows are now in public preview.

"Creating a UI flow is a simple and familiar point-and-click / low-code experience that makes it easy for users to turn manual tasks into automated workflows by recording and playing back human- driven interaction with software systems that don’t support API automation," said James Phillips, corporate vice president for business applications, in a blog post.

New Microsoft Edge

Microsoft announced that the next version of the Edge browser is nearly ready for prime time—with general availability planned for Jan. 15, 2020.

The new Microsoft Edge is being built on Chromium OS, the same open-source project that powers Google Chrome.

Key updates in the new Edge browser include an enterprise new tab page, "where you’ll have direct access to your Microsoft 365 files, sites, and intranet search, making every tab you open a portal to productivity," said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, in a blog post.

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