**Editor’s Note: Microsoft is banning trade media and analysts from Inspire 2018, so we will be covering the event remotely via virtual news briefings and collateral material.**
Azure is at the heart of Microsoft’s business strategy. The company on Thursday made several key Azure-related announcements, as well others that focus on the intelligent cloud/intelligent edge and Microsoft’s four solution areas: the modern workplace; business applications; applications and infrastructure; and data and AI.
The goal of these offers is to help customers build the foundations for cloud and AI.
Two new services announced Thursday are the Azure virtual WAN and Azure firewall. The former is a networking service for automated branch-to-branch connectivity to and through Azure. It provides the mechanisms to connect traditional customer routers on premises as well as an expanding ecosystem of new software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), the company said.
Azure firewall is a cloud-native network-security service designed to protect Azure virtual network resources. The firewall as a service has built-in high availability and unrestricted cloud scalability. Customers can centrally create, enforce and log application- and network-connectivity policies, spanning fully qualified domain names (FQDNs), IP addresses, ports and protocols across subscriptions and virtual networks. Azure firewall policies can be fully integrated with customers’ DevOps models while enabling them to manage security risks and achieve compliance requirements for managing resource access and protection in the cloud.
Microsoft introduced the Azure Data Box disk, an SSD-disk based option to move data. The company suggests that It’s ideal for a recurring or one-time data migration of up to 35TBs and is well-suited for data transfer from multiple remote branches or offices.
The company says its next-generation SQL data warehouse, which boasts 2x query performance from workloads, is well-suited for data and analytics. This performance improvement is made possible by new instant data-movement capabilities that allow for efficient movement between data warehouse compute nodes, the company said.
Other cloud news includes new capabilities for Microsoft Power BI. The new capabilities will be in preview beginning in July. They include: Self-service prep expanded to help business analysts extract insights from big data; collaboration across roles by unifying access to data between Power BI and Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2; support for a common data model; third-party BI tool connectivity; enterprise reporting; and multi-geo compliance.
The company also made some Microsoft 365-related announcements:
Beginning today, Microsoft Teams, designed for SMBs, is available in a free version, worldwide. This free version includes several features for up to 300 users — for example: unlimited chat messages and search; built-in audio and video calling for individuals, groups and team meetups; 10 GB of team file storage plus 2 GB per person for personal storage; and integrated real-time content creation. There’s also a new capability to create live and on-demand events in Microsoft 365. Furthermore, the company is previewing a new Workplace Analytics solution, and Microsoft Whiteboard is now generally available for Windows 10.