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Microsoft has announced a number of important new features as part of its Windows Server semi-annual release, together with the ‘Wave 2’ product release plans for its Dynamics 365 enterprise resource planning solutions and Power Platform.

Firstly, we take a look at some of the new features in Windows Server, version 1903, which is a semi-annual channel release that, according to Microsoft, brings enhancements around containers, edge computing and hybrid. These include:

  • Windows Server container support in Kubernetes – Microsoft has worked with the Kubernetes community to enable Windows container support, and the release of Kubernetes v1.14 sees Windows Server node support officially graduate from beta to stable
  • Scalability improvements enhancing overlay networking support for Windows containers – these include integration with Kubernetes through the latest release of Flannel and Kubernetes v1.14
  • GPU acceleration in Windows containers – enabling support for hardware acceleration of DirectX APIs in Windows containers to support scenarios such as machine learning inferencing using local graphical processing unit (GPU) hardware
  • The introduction of two Feature on Demand (FOD) additions – Task Scheduler and Hyper-V Manager that are intended to improve application compatibility with Server Core, which is the recommended Server OS for production
  • Enhancements to Storage Migration Service – this feature makes it easier to migrate servers to a newer version of Windows Server and can now migrate local accounts, clusters and Linux servers
  • Improvements to Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) – these include attack surface area reduction which enables IT administrators to define, allow and deny lists for specific URL’s and IP addresses.

Microsoft has also revealed its ‘Wave 2’ product release plans for its Dynamics 365 enterprise resource planning solutions, as well as enhancements to its Power Platform. The features included in these plans are expected to be released over a period spanning October 2019 to March 2020.

The Dynamics 365 Wave 2 features include “hundreds of new capabilities” across its Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Field Service, Project Service Automation, Finance, HR and Retail applications.

There are also some significant artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities added, including:

  • Customer service insights – providing actionable views into critical performance metrics, operational data and emerging trends 
  • Chatbot integration with customer service – enabling organisations to create AI-powered bots that chat with customers and providing new opportunities for organisations to improve customer service 
  • Market insights – allowing business users to gather actionable insights based on what consumers say, seek and feel about their brands and products
  • Fraud protection – providing tools to enable e-commerce merchants to drive down fraud loss and improve the online shopping experience.

On the Power Platform front, some of the key enhancements and additions include:

  • AI Builder for PowerApps and Flow – this brand-new feature makes common AI scenarios available for app developers, meaning that AI can be added directly into PowerApps and Flow simply and cost effectively
  • PowerApps Portals – another new feature that will let users in organisations create websites using prebuilt customisable templates that can then be accessed by external users such as customers, partners and vendors who can sign-in using a wide variety of identities
  • AI in Power BI – Microsoft’s business intelligence and reporting tool Power BI is getting new AI capabilities, including text and image analysis capabilities using Azure Cognitive Services, the ability to analyse text (including handwriting recognition), and improvements in natural language capabilities that will allow the Q&A feature in Power BI to be trained to understand and adapt to company-specific language.

Last but not least, Microsoft has confirmed plans to make blockchain tools available to both PowerApps and Flow.

Matt Barclay

Solutions Architect

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