Inspire 2017


Author: Tangent Solutions

Published: 26 October 2021

Hi All,

First and foremost, I’m a lot more excited for Inspire this year than I was last year, back when it was WPC. Maybe its the catchy name, maybe its because I know what to expect or maybe it is because I’m better prepared. Regardless, I’m really looking forward to next week, the sessions, the networking and the parties.

I do think a strong contributing factor to this is the spirit and moral of the South African contingent this year. Last year it felt very much that South Africa was lost in the MEA mix. But over the last year the local DX and Partner Team has done an amazing job in building the partner base and as well as the passion and interest of the partner base in engaging with each other and Microsoft. This is definitely reflected in the number of South Africans going this year, the organization of the local South African Microsoft Partner Team in assisting the South African partners and the tangible camaraderie and feeling of pride in the South African contingent. Well done Team Microsoft SA!!

From my side, I’m better prepared. I’ve got a number of meetings lined up. Some of them are wild shots in the dark, others I’m hoping will yield tangible value. I’ve sorted out my personal schedule in advance (as opposed to on the plane) and know this time to not try to do everything. I’m bringing along one of my superstars, Rey de Beer, in recognition of his stellar efforts over the last 12 months as well as to provide extra bandwidth at the conference. I’m looking forward to the networking opportunities presented by the various dinners and am feeling quite honoured to be invited to an event hosted by Dux Raymond Sy, a fellow RD and winner of the Partner of the Year Award for Public Sector.

I’m not looking forward to having sore feet, of the chaos of trying to do too much, not looking forward to being away from my beautiful family (really not looking forward to that), not looking forward to the long flight, not looking forward to lugging my luggage to my accommodation.

But, for those partners that haven’t attended WPC / Inspire before, I really can’t emphasize how much value this event has. Yes, a lot of it will be marketing brouhaha, some sessions will not be valuable, and you won’t see everything you wanted to see. But Inspire really performs an amazing role in educating partners about Microsoft’s strategy for the upcoming FY, the notable innovations and directions of technology, highlighting whats happening in other parts of the world and provides an amazing opportunity to network with other partners (even if it is only within your local region).

From a personal perspective WPC 2016 acted as a platform for amazing personal growth for me as a business man and a technologist over the last year. Maybe in a few years time, I’ll be “blah, blah, fish paste”, but as things stand, I cannot highly recommend this event enough.

Day 0 of Microsoft Inspire 2017

After a long flight we landed in Washington D.C in the morning at 06:00 feeling surprisingly fresh after an 18 hour flight.

Disappointingly we weren’t greeted by a Microsoft Inspire check-in desk after coming out of immigration like we were last year. This lack of airport check-in led to issues at the event Welcoming Reception which I’ll get to a bit later. I’d like to say we took the day easy, but the day was packed, with us running pretty much from the moment we landed, and in true South African fashion, ended far later than it should have.

As we could only check-in to our accommodation in the afternoon we were kindly assisted by Morgan Webb, a South Africa DX ISV Partner Lead, who volunteered his hotel room. This gave us a place to drop our bags and freshen up after the flight. Morgan, really appreciated the assistance, just a heads-up, please expect a bill from your mini-bar when you checkout. Thereafter we headed to the hop-on/hop off bus which by some strange coincidence ended up being half full of South African Microsoft employees and Partners. The networking which Inspire is famous for had begun.

The day was spent musueming, though admittedly by early afternoon due to a bit of jet-lag, Rey and I were walking zombies. After dropping our bags at our real accommodation and freshening up, we headed off to our first official activity of the conference, being the Inspire Welcoming Reception. While some old hands generally skip this, I found it really useful last year to wander around, learn the lay of the land and start meeting some of the sponsors and other Partners.

As we hadn’t had an opportunity to check-in we had to do so at the conference center. To our horror a massive queue had built up which was moving slowly. We spotted some South African Partners and had a quick chat to them. They’d been in the queue for 30 min and were only half-way. Unfortunately we only managed to hit the conference center floor at 18:00.

We had another event at 19:00, a drinks and networking session organized by the DevOps and Xamarin team so we only had an hour to play with. Despite the limited time we had a really good time on the Commons floor. I enjoyed the Welcome Reception last year and did so equally this time around. There is an energy and excitement to the interactions on the floor prior to the event. 

No one has their guard up too heavily with conversations being slightly more open than when the event kicks off formally on Monday. This may be assisted by the bars and the drinks being handed out liberally across the floor. We had some good chats with a couple of Microsoft teams about the upcoming Partner management and sales go-to-market strategy and how this would influence us as an ISV.

Besides for the obligatory collection of pamphlets and brochures we were given free swag by a number of stands, entered ourselves into a couple of competitions/raffles and did some pricing of items at the Microsoft Store. Honorary mention to Madison at the Dell EMC stand. He is quite the entertaining presenter and is well worth listening to for 10 minutes.

After the Welcome Reception we jumped on a bus from the conference center and headed to the Xamarin and DevOps drinks and networking session hosted at the W. Washington Hotel. This event presented an ideal situation to speak to the guys on the ground about the initiatives and strategic direction of technologies that we at Tangent are very passionate about. Had some really good chats with the Xamarin guys and with a number of other partners from across the globe. Heard some good news about some gripes I had which are being effectively handled. Honorary mention to the guys from Sapient Razor Fish for having what is undoubtedly the coolest company name I’ve seen to date at Inspire.

Other South African Partners we were met up with at the Reception went to a drinks, networking and information session organized by Westcon-Comstor regarding CSP, the business model and the general benefits. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to this event as well but I believe it was well organized, informative and fun. Well done to Weston-Comstor for their initiative and thanks for hosting.

Again, I’d like to say we headed off to bed for an early night but unfortunately good food, wine and conversation prohibited that. It is with bleary and coffee propped up eyes that I’m posting this just before we head to the opening ceremony.

I’ll send my next post same time tomorrow, looking back at the first day of Inspire, the announcements and my thoughts on them as well as feedback on my day in general. Of note, I’ve got connect sessions lined up today as well the MEA region dinner at 19:00 tonight.

Feeling excited and energized and ready to get as much out of Inspire as possible.

Day 1 of Inspire 2017

Apologies for the slight delay in posting today. We were pretty much flat out from the moment of waking up yesterday.

Feeling as fresh as daisies we headed off to the Verizon Center where the keynote addresses occur. For those not at Inspire or not in the know, due to the number of people attending, the keynote addresses are not held at the conference center but at a stadium within close proximity to the conference center. Just to give you an idea of numbers, there are just shy of 18000 people at Inspire this year.

Due to security measures the entrance to the Verizon Center was a major bottleneck for everyone trying to get in. The queues were long and tempers definitely frayed a little. While the security measures are definitely understandable one can’t help but think it could have better managed. We got in just in time for the opening address to start, so no harm, no foul.

The opening address was kicked off by Ron Huddleston introducing Microsoft’s new One Commercial Partner strategy for the new FY. The motion will focus on three areas, Build With, Go-To-Market and Sell With. Besides for sounding like it is going to remove a lot of the fragmentation that one does encounter when working with Microsoft it also adds another acronym to the Microsoft vocabulary (which I’m sure they are super stoked about). Customers are rated on their cloud revenue/consumption and divided in enterprise and small, medium and corporate (SMC). Sales teams will focus on driving usage and consumption of products and services which is a much needed change for the Microsoft Sales teams. I’ve chatted about the OCP motion with a number of other Partners. We’re all tentatively optimistic, but I suppose the proof will be in the pudding. Execution is going to be king here.

Next up was Satya’s address. As always Satya does not disappoint. First off, Satya reiterated Microsoft’s strategy of being partner-led. This message and execution in my opinion has never been stronger. This is unique in the world and one of the strongest motivations for Tangent having a relationship with Microsoft.

Azure is very obviously central to Microsoft’s strategy going forward with the massive $4.5T cloud opportunity on the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge being highlighted. To condense Satya’s address into this blog would do it a disservice and I would strongly encourage anyone who didn’t watch it to do so as soon as possible. However in order to contextualise the announcements that occurred on Day 1 and the announcements through out the conference its important to highlight Microsoft’s strategy on digital transformation. Digital transformation will focus on four pillars being: modern workplace, business applications, applications & infrastructure and lastly Data and AI. All the announcements and all of the products highlighted and partner solutions demoed during the keynotes focus in varying ways on achieving these ends.

The first announcement of the day was Microsoft 365. How Microsoft 365 is going to be executed commercially and when the SKU will be available at this point is a little vague. Those things aside, the potential and value being offered by the ecosystem that Microsoft 365 represents is extremely impressive and in my view, a game changer for ERP/CRM and the traditional Office offering. It is very obvious that the cloud is permeating Microsoft’s entire GTM strategy across their product range.

The second, though strangely muted announcement was the upcoming GA of Azure Stack, Microsoft’s powerful competitive push for the hybrid cloud. Azure Stack allows a company to deploy Azure into their own data center, leveraging the same tools and APIs that are available on the public cloud. Azure Stack does not have all the capabilities of Azure public cloud, which is understandable, given the compute requirement of features like AI and ML. The PaaS and IaaS offerings are largely all available so 85% of cloud workloads can now be deployed locally with the same level of agility as the public cloud. Disappointedly ACS is not packaged in Stack when it goes GA which for me is a missed opportunity as microservices and containerization has become an essential part of digital transformation.

After the keynote addresses we headed off the to conference center. We managed to have a couple of meetings with other partners during the day and one or two impromptu meetings in the MEA lounge. All were positive and we’ll be looking to deepen those new relationships in coming weeks. We managed to make it to a few sessions, with the App Innovation session presented by the Xamarin and DevOps team being the highlight. In the session they demoed a broad range of app modernization technologies ranging from PaaS through to Bot Framework. Very cool stuff.

We also used some time to chat to various people at the Microsoft stands. We’re very excited about the opportunity on Open Source and Azure, tried to do some horse trading with the Partner Incentives team (which didn’t work) and tried to get more clarity on One Commercial Partner and piece a bit more of the puzzle together of the current re-organization within Microsoft.

It was a long day, especially given some lingering jet lag, but we freshened up with a quick shower, put on our big boy pants and headed off to the MEA dinner, hosted at Toro Toro. The dinner was a great success. Again, a big shout out to the Microsoft SA Team for the spirit and energy in the camp this year. The engagement across MEA between partners has also seemed vastly improved. Lets try keep it going into the new financial year and continue to pull together as a partners within the country and the MEA region!

I would like to say I headed home for a good sleep and a book after the dinner, but networking at Inspire is hard work and a 24 hour effort and unfortunately I only crawled into bed at 01:30.

On a side note, posting this during the keynote address on day 2. Felt extremely humbled and proud of South African ISV BroadReach for presenting their solution during the keynote. They are making an amazingly positive impact on the fight against HIV/Aids. This is also a first time for any South Africa Microsoft Partner! Amazing achievement.

Looking forward to Day 2.

Day 2 of Inspire 2017

Errrgghh. Feeling the conference a bit this morning. I put a lot of focus on ‘networking’ last night. Met some great people and have been quite inspired to push myself a little harder in terms of getting to know more people, their businesses and also getting them to know me and Tangent. Honorary mentions to the Hawley brothers, Robert and Alasdair, from SIS Global and the Karabina team. Robert told us about his amazing adventures in the Cape to Rio yacht race, which can one can read at @Samanatha from Karabina, sincere apologies about Rey 🙂

Back to the conference, Day 2 of Inspire. As happens everyday of the Inspire conference, each day starts with a keynote address. Effort was very obviously put into ensuring the issues of Day 1 in terms of access and security were sorted out. It was a completely painless process and we got to our seats quickly and easily. Thank you to the MS Partner team and the event organizers for recognizing and reacting decisively. The theme of Day 2’s keynote address was ‘Be inspired’, with the keynote highlighting and demoing award winning partner’s solutions that are pushing the boundaries of technology and truly creating digital transformation. No major announcements today, though again the One Commercial Partner motion and opportunity of the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge was highlighted.

Of great note and pride to Team South Africa was ISV partner BroadReach showcasing their Vantage solution on stage. This was the first time that a South African Partner has presented at a keynote at Inspire/WPC. A large problem within the battle against HIV/Aids is accessing patients, giving them effective treatment and then ensuring that their treatment continues. BroadReach’s solution provides governments, NGOs and health organizations granular visibility on treatment success and failures across the monitored and managed regions. To date their solution has saved the lives of close to 90000 people in Kwa-Zulu Natal. An amazing achievement. Also, congratulations to Morgan Webb, BroadReach’s partner manager, for helping them on their journey. You must have been extremely proud. Nice one mate!

After the keynote we again headed back to the conference center. Disappointedly our scheduled connect meetings weren’t fruitful but impromptu meetings in the Commons area were very effective. I had a great chat with the Red Hat team about the Open Source opportunity on Azure. We are a open source company with all our workloads running on Azure.

The synergies of working with RedHat and Microsoft are obvious and we’re definitely going to be putting energy into this relationship. Also had a great session with the Hands on Labs team. The Azure Hands On Labs effectively provides a mechanism for you to fast track your sales with your customers through the use of pre-built and targeted content. Hands on Labs besides for helping close sales quicker are also an amazing tool for your business development managers to educate themselves on the technologies of the cloud which in turn will also assist sales.

Rey was completely blown away by the DevOps session hosted by Donovan Brown. VSTS has really stepped up to the plate as a end-to-end project delivery management environment. Of note to Tangent was the cross-platform and multiple language support. Might be time to relook at our Jenkins infrastructure.

The first networking event of the evening was a drinks reception hosted by AvePoint, an award winning partner for their CityNext solution. This was my first opportunity as a Regional Director to meet other Regional Directors which was quite exciting. The reception and celebration was hosted by Dux Raymond Suy, a prominent United States based RD. It was great meeting you Dux, and congratulations again on the award!

After the AvePoint reception we headed to the South African dinner at the Sixth Engine. It was great spending the evening chatting to other South African Partners and finding out about their businesses. The evening was a major success. Many thanks to Danie Gordon for organizing!

Today is the last day of Inspire. Its been an amazing experience so far. I’m feeling like I haven’t had a chance to do as much as I should. Going to push it quite hard today.

Dave Nel,

Managing Partner, Tangent Solutions

Microsoft Regional Director

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