Blog

What to watch at Microsoft Ignite

Telcos, Microsoft Azure wants your business and it’s working hard to get it. If you haven’t chosen a hyperscaler or are just getting started with Azure, a great way to understand its ecosystem is to attend the company’s annual Ignite event to see what’s on offer. Lucky for you, I’ve sifted through more than 500 (!) sessions happening November 14-17 in Seattle, and November 15-16 online, to pick the most relevant for telcos. Check out my curated list below!

How hard is Azure going after our industry? It’s been recruiting telco tech talent for years. Faithful readers will remember how it purchased Affirmed and Metaswitch in 2020, then acquired AT&T’s Network Cloud in 2021. After refactoring it to run natively on Azure, it announced the public preview of the resulting Azure Operator Nexus product (along with a bunch of other stuff) at Mobile World Congress 2023, where it had a huge presence. Now, Azure Operator Nexus is generally available as of August. And you know it’s carrier-grade because U.S. telecom AT&T is using it. For more info on Azure’s vision for telco, I highly recommend listening to my recent podcast episode with Rick Lievano, Microsoft’s CTO for Worldwide Telecommunications Industry.

But the HUGE news of the year is how Microsoft has jumped into artificial intelligence (AI) via its $13 billion investment in OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT. The hyperscaler has been busy integrating the AI chatbot into every product it can, from GitHub to Office—and it’s ready to show it ALL off at Ignite. There’s going to be so much on AI that we actually counted the sessions: more than 40% mention AI in the session title and/or description, and no doubt many more will touch on the topic.

So, check out my watchlist below. I’ve divided things up into keynotes, how to get started with AI, using AI for customer service (the no-brainer AI-application jumping off point), and then my “other” category of sessions that are great for telcos starting with the public cloud and Azure.

Can’t make the live sessions? Each one listed here should be available on-demand during or shortly after the show. So, it’s easy to watch them at home!


Keynotes

Setting the tone for the conference, these high-level, splashy presentations from Satya Nadella and crew always spotlight the most exciting and newsworthy technology advances, product launches, and updates to existing products. Last year, they were all about the Metaverse. (Remember that?) This year’s focus will certainly be AI.

Microsoft Ignite Opening

CEO Satya Nadella will kick off the event, introducing the main themes and no doubt making all kinds of announcements.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 9:00-9:30 AM Pacific Standard Time (PST)
  • Wednesday, November 15, 5:00-5:30 PM Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
  • Thursday, November 16, 1:00-1:30 AM Singapore Time (SGT)
Becoming an AI-Powered Organization with Microsoft Copilot

Microsoft has been talking up Copilot, the $30/user AI-powered add-on to its Office applications. Check out this session to see it in action—and to get a sense of how AI can help employees boost productivity in their day-to-day activities.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 9:30-10:15 AM PST
  • Wednesday, November 15, 5:30-6:15 PM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 1:30-2:15 AM SGT
The Future of Security with AI

AI is generating a lot of excitement about new opportunities and a lot of fear about all the unknowns. Hear from two company leaders about how Microsoft is handling the security side of things.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 10:15-10:45 AM PST
  • Wednesday, November 15, 6:15-6:45 PM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 2:15-2:45 AM SGT
AI transformation for your organization with the Microsoft Cloud

Here’s another one on Copilot that appears to be more focused on how your company can use it to build your own AI solutions.

Session time:

  • Thursday, November 16, 9:00-10:30 AM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, 5:00-6:30 PM GMT
  • Friday, November 17, 1:00-2:30 AM SGT
Inside Microsoft AI innovations with Mark Russinovich

CTOs and other techies can get a look under the hood of Microsoft’s AI architecture in this session led by Azure CTO and Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich.

Session time:

  • Friday, November 17, 12:45-1:45 PM PST
  • Friday, November 17, 8:45-9:45 PM GMT
  • Saturday, November 18, 4:45-5:45 AM SGT

Getting started with AI

AI is a huge focus of this year’s event. Here are some sessions that will help you learn how it works, how you can start using it, how you can build with it, and how you can change the culture of your organization to start putting this exciting new tool to work.

Nurturing a Learning Culture in the Age of AI Transformation

People will resist change unless they understand what’s in it for them. With my background in human resources, I’ve blogged about the change management aspect of moving to the public cloud. Here’s a session about the same topic—but with AI. Create a “learning culture” to help your workforce confidently prepare for, and embrace, the future.

Session time:

  • Thursday, November 16, 4:00-4:45 PM PST
  • Friday, November 17, Midnight-12:45 AM GMT
  • Friday, November 17, 8:00-8:45 AM SGT
Vector Search: Retrieval Augmented Generation and Generative AI Apps

Vector search is a key component of generative AI (GenAI) applications. Drop in here if you’re interested in implementing GenAI in search, chat, or anywhere else. Ask questions or just listen in, as Microsoft experts share knowledge about “all things vectors, Retrieval-Augmented Generation, Semantic search, and more.” This is really where you start to see the value of AI take off, so this session is high on my list to listen in on.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 2:45-3:30 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 15, 10:45-11:30 PM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 6:45-7:30 AM SGT
Unlock AI innovation with Azure AI Infrastructure​

AI is a huge reason you need to be using the public cloud. The infrastructure and easy-to-access compute are big reasons to move your AI workloads to the cloud. But don’t be surprised if one of the big announcements of the show is Microsoft’s answer to AI chips. This is one area where it’s behind Google and AWS, but rumors in the industry are that something is coming soon. Surely, it’ll be announced during Ignite.

Session time:

  • Thursday, November 16, 5:15-6:00 PM PST
  • Friday, November 17, 1:15-2:00 AM GMT
  • Friday, November 17, 9:15-10:00 AM SGT
Implement a Generative AI Solution with Azure OpenAI Service

Azure OpenAI Service allows you to build GenAI into your own applications: natural language, code, image generation. This is a lab that shows you how to provision OpenAI Service, deploy models, test models, and integrate them into your apps. Send your hands-on techies to this session and get them to try it out. Very cool!

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 1:30-2:30 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 15, 9:30-10:30 PM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 5:30-6:30 AM SGT
Creating your own ChatGPT experience with enterprise data: Q&A

After you learn about OpenAI Service in the session listed above, learn about a real deployment. Drop in on this session to hear from professional services firm KPMG Australia about how it built KymChat, a digital assistant for employees, and the KymChat Accelerator for customers using Azure Cosmos DB and Azure OpenAI Service. I’m doing this internally with our teams on things like HR to help set performance standards and career planning.

Session time:

  • Thursday, November 16, 11:45 AM-12:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, 7:45-8:30 PM GMT
  • Friday, November 17, 3:45-4:30 AM SGT
What’s New in Generative AI?

It’s been less than a year since ChatGPT launched, but this technology is moving so fast that it’s hard to keep up. This session sounds like an overview that’ll bring viewers up to speed on the latest and greatest in Azure AI products. Sometimes I want to be like Christopher Reeve’s Superman and fly backwards around the world and reverse time so I can keep up!

Session time:

  • Thursday, November 16, 4:00-4:45 PM PST
  • Friday, November 17, Midnight-12:45 AM GMT
  • Friday, November 17, 8:00-8:45 AM SGT
Applying AI with Microsoft Azure

A little less talk, a little more action: this 15-minute session will give an overview of how you can move from discussion of how you might use AI in your organization to actually using it!

If I’ve learned anything this year, it is that everyone on your org has to use AI, not just your worker bees. Execs need to be building prompts, too. So, fire up a chat window and start converting your tasks to use it on a daily basis.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 5:15-5:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, 1:15-1:30 AM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 9:15-9:30 AM SGT
GitHub Copilot and AI for Developers: Potential and Pitfalls with Scott Hanselman

Developer and podcaster Scott Hanselman and product manager Mark Downie talk shop around using AI to write code. They’ll cover the ethics, rules, and techniques, and then shift to talking about GitHub Copilot in Visual Studio. Should be a good way for techies to learn about actually using AI in development, so send your trusted techies to this session and get the rundown.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 5:15-6:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, 1:15-2:00 AM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 9:15-10:00 AM SGT
Boost Productivity with Bing Chat Enterprise and Edge for Business

Another session on using AI for workforce productivity, this one focuses on starting your AI journey with chat—specifically Bing Chat Enterprise and Edge for Business. I’m going to beat a dead horse on this: start with your internal applications and get the org used to working with this kind of technology. It should be pervasive.

Session time:

  • Pre-recorded. Online Only.
Use cases for confidential ML including those using Azure Confidential VMs with NVIDIA H100 GPUs

What are the rules and guidelines about using confidential information in machine learning (ML) models and AI? How do you protect the intellectual property (IP) within the models and the models themselves? Attend this session to learn how you can use Azure confidential virtual machines with NVIDIA H100 confidential chips for these kinds of workloads. I’m sure this is what everyone is worried about when it comes to using AI, so I expect this session to be well attended.

Session time:

  • Thursday, November 16, 11:45 AM-12:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, 7:45-8:30 PM GMT
  • Friday, November 17, 3:45-4:30 AM SGT

AI for customer service

Rick Lievano described customer care as “the front door for GenAI” on my podcast a few weeks back. Use cases include call summarization, reasoning, resolution, and categorization, as well as sentiment ratings. If you haven’t started implementing AI in your call center yet, do it now. It’s the easiest and biggest impact place to start.

Transform customer experiences with AI-assisted voice, video and chat

Not convinced you need AI in your support organization? Watch this pre-recorded session to be persuaded. Technology can do a lot of heavy lifting, freeing your agents to work faster and more effectively. Tell your leader to set a goal of at least 50% productivity improvement in a year, if not more. That can mean resolving 2x the tickets in the same amount of time, or doing the same amount of work with half the headcount cost. Whatever the approach, attack it with a BHAG.

Session time:

  • Pre-recorded. Online Only.
Transforming service organizations with generative AI

This is another general info session on using GenAI in your service organization, but with a specific focus on Dynamics 365 solutions. Great place to start if you use Dynamics 365.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 4:00-4:45 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, Midnight-12:45 AM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 8:00-8:45 AM SGT
Discover how Dynamics 365 Copilot empowers service teams

At 15 minutes, this quick demo of Copilot in Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Field Service shows GenAI in action, making summaries, enabling faster responses, and more. Same things the previous session, but probably more advanced. So, if you’re doing the basics, maybe go to this session to get more advanced ideas to take it to the next level.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 12:30-12:45 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 15, 8:30-8:45 AM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 4:30-4:45 AM SGT
Learn how Dynamics 365 Copilot unlocks modern service experiences

Sufficiently impressed with the Copilot AI capabilities in Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Field Service? Join this session to hear about real-world deployments from product experts and ask all your burning questions.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 5:15-6:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, 1:15-2:00 AM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 9:15-10:00 AM SGT
Learn Live: Use Copilot in Power Virtual Agents to Build Next-Gen Bots

Having a good online-chat service option can improve your customer satisfaction scores without live agents having to lift a finger. Attend this session to learn how to build a chatbot using Microsoft’s Power Virtual Agents. Chatbots are going to be everywhere, and given that customer support has been one of the first pervasive applications for this technology, you might want to attend to get ideas on how to build chatbots in other areas of your business.

Session time:

  • Thursday, November 16, 1:30-2:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, 9:30-10:30 PM GMT
  • Friday, November 17, 5:30-6:30 AM SGT

Other telco topics

Hopefully, you’ve been all aboard the public cloud train and you’re starting to move into advanced topics like applying the public cloud AND AI. But if you’re looking to catch up quickly, I found some other sessions about migrating to the cloud, including getting off Oracle and ensuring data sovereignty. If you’re in this boat, I gotta tell you (like I’ve said a million times before): get moving, you’re falling waaaaaay behind!

Migrate to Innovate: Be AI-ready, secure, and optimize operations

If you’re planning your move to the public cloud or are in the process, here’s a session for IT pros on the nuts and bolts of migrating to Azure. It’ll be practical steps, demos, and how-tos, with a focus on becoming ready for AI.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 4:00-4:45 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 16, Midnight-12:45 AM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 8:00-8:45 AM SGT
Enabling Sovereignty with Microsoft Azure

Sovereignty requirements don’t have to keep you from moving to the public cloud. Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty can help you work within existing laws and ensure you maintain control over data, access, encryption, and resilience. Every year Microsoft (and the other hyperscalers) keep eliminating the objections for moving to the public cloud. What’s stopping you?

Session time:

  • Friday, November 17, 9:00-9:45 AM PST
  • Friday, November 17, 5:00-5:45 PM GMT
  • Saturday, November 18, 1:00-1:45 AM SGT
Migrating Oracle to Tessell for Azure DBaaS

Still on Oracle? You’re not alone! Here’s a session just for you about moving your Oracle Exadata and Oracle eBusiness Suite workloads to Azure. Tessell is a cloud-native Azure database service that helps you quit the Big O! This is a great first step, but don’t stop here. Your ultimate goal should be to get off Oracle completely (so you can save a bunch of money and not compromise on tech capability). Who doesn’t want to save on their Oracle bills?

Session time:

  • Pre-recorded. Online Only.
Ask our migration experts about migrating data to Azure Storage

To take advantage of all the fancy AI that’s now available, you need to get your data into the public cloud (and now, even more so because of AI). That’s what this session is about. It’ll cover Azure’s Storage Migration Service, as well as other tools to help you assess your on-prem situation, choose the best migration tools, automate the move itself, and manage your data in its new home.

Session time:

  • Wednesday, November 15, 1:30-2:15 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 15, 9:30-10:15 AM GMT
  • Thursday, November 16, 5:30-6:15 AM SGT

Recent Posts

  1. Telco’s shift to the public cloud gets real
  2. Why AI’s future might depend on nuclear energy
  3. The public cloud is PERFECT for Africa
  4. Cloud burst for disaster recovery
  5. How to transform your customer support with AI

Telco in 20 Podcast - Tune in

Get my FREE insider newsletter, delivered every two weeks, with curated content to help telco execs across the globe move to the public cloud.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Listen

Ep 76 – Into the Nexus of GenAI with Microsoft

Rick Lievano, Microsoft CTO for Worldwide Telecommunications Industry, talks about telco and the public cloud, Azure Operator Nexus, and how GenAI is changing everything.

Watch

Using AIOps for operational efficiencies

AIOps is an established concept in the IT industry but a relatively new one to telcos. Deployed correctly, ‘AI operations’ can facilitate end-to-end network automation and zero-touch operations.

Read

For Cloud AI, it’s all about the chips

Cloud AI stands ready to transform telcos, but they will need the hyperscalers’ purpose-built chips to unlock its power.