The latest news from Microsoft sees further collaboration with the open source industry, details of the new on-premise version of Office and two additional security solutions for Azure.
Firstly to Microsoft’s latest move to support the open source world with the announcement that it has joined the Open Source Initiative (OSI) as a premium sponsor.
Why the OSI? Well, it’s a global non-profit body dedicated to promoting and protecting open source software through education, collaboration and infrastructure. In particular it maintains the Open Source Definition which details the criteria for the distribution terms that open source software must comply with.
The timing is obviously right for this move, with Microsoft now a leading contributor to open source software projects on GitHub (also an OSI corporate sponsor) whilst also bringing Bash/Linux to Windows 10 and expanding its support for Linux and open source workloads on Azure. In addition, it works with companies like Canonical, Red Hat and SUSE, meaning open source can now found throughout Microsoft products.
The move was clearly welcomed by Patrick Masson, OSI General Manager and Board Director, who said, “This is a significant milestone for the OSI and the open source software movement more broadly. I don’t think there could be any greater testament to the maturity, viability, interest and success of open source software than not only Microsoft’s recognition, but also their support as a sponsor, as well as their participation as contributors to so many open source projects and communities.”
Elsewhere, the Ignite event in Orlando saw confirmation of Microsoft’s plans to release the next generation of the standalone Office productivity suite, called ‘Office 2019’ in the second half of 2018.
Aimed at organisations that haven’t as yet migrated to the cloud-based Office 365 versions, Office 2019 will include the usual Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook client apps, alongside server versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business.
According to Jared Spataro, Microsoft Office General Manager, there will be a number of new features coming to Office 2019 including:
- Improvements to the inking feature, with pressure sensitivity, tilt effects and ink replay
- Better data analysis capabilities in Excel, such as new charts and formulas
- Added animation features in PowerPoint
- Improvements related to security, IT management, voice recognition and usability in the server products.
Spataro put the new release into context, saying, “Office 2019 will be a valuable upgrade for customers who feel that they need to keep some or all of their apps and servers on-premises, and we look forward to sharing more details about the release in the coming months.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft is looking to beef-up the security capabilities of Azure with preview releases of two new security solutions.
The first of these, known as confidential computing, is aimed at those organisations who are concerned about placing their most sensitive data in the cloud because of fears about attacks against it when it’s in use. The new service, therefore, protects against the following threats:
- Malicious insiders with administrative privilege or direct access to hardware on which the data is being processed
- Hackers and malware that exploit bugs in the operating system, application or hypervisor
It does this through hardware-based encryption, with the data sitting in a secure enclave or Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) which will check code trying to access the data and disable operations if the code is altered or tampered.
The second new solution is Azure Active Directory Managed Service Identity, which is a free resource for developers to use so that they don’t have to manage security credentials when using code with various Azure services.
It creates what is referred to as a ‘bootstrap identity’ which enables developers to bypass the need for directly accessing the credentials stored in the Azure Key Vault or putting credentials in code.
Customers can try out Azure confidential computing through Microsoft’s Early Access program, which includes access to Azure VSM and SGX-enabled virtual machines, as well as tools, SDKs and Windows and Linux support.
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