AI wave helps Cisco deliver beyond expectations despite Q3 revenue drop.

Last week, Cisco reported its Q3 fiscal results which beat market in terms of both top and bottom-line.

Cisco achieved this despite a continued decline in overall revenue, showing that like many of the US tech giants, Cisco have become leaner and more cost effective as an entity. It is also recognition of their shift to a software organisation (that also sells hardware).

As a Cisco partner, we understand why Cisco have attributed the majority of their sales revenue decline being due to their customers still deploying data centre and networking equipment purchased late last year due to shifting busienss priorities and re alignment over hybrid work practices. This is certainly something we have seen some still an overspill from the huge chip and stock shortages we saw in COVID-19…

Cisco remain confident that Q4 will see a turn around. Personally, we (Cisilion) have already seen a great Cisco Q3 personally and expect a great Cisco Q4 with some large networking and data centre refreshes.

Riding the AI Wave

Cisco are also making big step forward in the new AI powered world in two parts.

Aquisitions and Parnering

Firstly, Cisco have recently closed the $28 billion acquisition of security and observability software Splunk. Whilst not yet assimilated and incorporated into Cisco’s mainstream portfolio (this won’t likely happen until mid to late FY25) the aquisition will boost their cybersecurity and AI goals. With Splunk, Cisco is gaining a tool to better compete with their competition such as  Palo Alto and Crowd Strike and ensures they remain relevant. 

I covered the Cisco / Splunk aquisition in a recent fireside chat and blog.

Cisco is also well-aware that in order to grow, they need to join forces and work with the other tech giants that dominate the cloud and modern workplace technologies. Their partnership with Microsoft in the modern work space and alignment with building more services for Azure as well as supporting their digitial market place for software and service sales will also boost their reach.

Last month, Cisco have announced a new partnership with NVIDIA to enable enterprises to quickly deploy and manage secure AI infrastructure with new hardware being announced.

As a Cisco and Microsoft Partner, it is great to see the partnership paying off, and our customers live the choice, flexibility and sustainability offerings possible through the deep integration of Cisco meeting room technology on Teams, their integration with Microsoft Sentinel and the work they have done with Cisco Webex Contact Centre which now offers one of the most feature rich and mature customer experience platforms on both Cisco Webex and for Microsoft Teams.

Through these partnerships and aquisitions, Cisco seemed well placed to help organisations build, power, support, and secure AI

Partnership is great for our customers and for us (Cisilion) as a partner.

The Network: Powering the AI Wave

In a recent interview and video we did to celebrate the opening of our new Customer Experience Centre in London, Chintan Patel (Cisco UK CTO) said that “there is no AI without the network“.

This statement, made by Cisco CTO, underscores the critical role that networks play in the functioning and advancement of AI.

Cisco and Cisilion talking AI with Cisco UK CTO

AI rely heavily on data – they need to ingest, process, and learn from vast amounts of information to function effectively. This data needs to be transported, often across great distances, and this is where the network comes in. Without a robust and reliable network, data cannot be moved efficiently, and AI systems cannot operate at their full potential.

Cisco, with its extensive experience in network provision, is uniquely positioned to provide the high-speed, reliable network infrastructure that AI systems require. Their networks are designed to handle the high data volumes and fast data speeds that AI applications demand.

AI is fuelled by the Data Centre.

The Data Centre is the heart of any AI operation. They house the servers that store and process the data AI systems use and are vital for any organisation or service provider building out training their own AI models.

Having been along time leader in the data centre space, offers state-of-the-art technology, from a a compute and networking stack that help organisations design and build through their partners, modern environments that can handle the intensive computational needs of AI, providing a stable and efficient environment for AI operations.

When we come back to partnership and alliance, some of the largest AI service providers, including Microsoft and Adobe use data centres powered by Cisco (amongst others) and rely on their network and data centre (Azure) to power their AI services like Copilot and Azure AI. Cisco’s advanced network solutions and data centres provide the necessary infrastructure for these companies to run their AI applications effectively.

As we see more organisations look to build their own large and small language models, Machine Learning and AI computational and generative AI, Cisco will be helping to power this AI revolution.

As such their technology infrastructure will plays a crucial role in enabling AI service providers to deliver innovative solutions that drive business growth and societal advancement.

I’m confident this will re innovate the infrastructure market across both businesses and service providers.  In conclusion, Cisco’s statement that “there is no AI without the network” rings true. As AI continues to evolve and become more integrated into our daily lives, the role of network and data centre providers like Cisco will only become more critical.

Of course Cisco aren’t the only provider in this space, but I’m impressed with shift and direction Cisco are moving to stay relevant and partner with the other AI giants. As a Cisco partner this is great to see.


To read more about Cisco technology, data centre, observability and network, you can check out their pages below.

https://www.cisco.com/site/us/en/solutions/artificial-intelligence/infrastructure/index.html

New Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop 7 | Copilot+PCs

Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop 7

After unveiling the next generation of Windows and Windows hardware (the PC), Microsoft also launched (available to order today), the first of their flagship Copilot+ PCs – the new Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop 7 – both powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite and Snapdragon X Plus Chipsets.

Surface Pro and Surface Laptop start from £1049 and are available on pre-order today!

Key themes are improved environmentals (more than 72% recycled components), repairability, ARM (Qualcomm Snapdragon powered), upgraded screens and cameras.

New Surface Laptop

The latest Surface Laptop offers a modern design with ultra-thin bezels, a vibrant touchscreen, an AI-powered camera, superior audio quality, and a new haptic touchpad. This comes in both 13.8” or 15” screen options and are available in four different colours – Platinum, Black, Dune and Sapphire .

Surface Laptop 15″ version provides up to 22 hours of video playback, while the 13.8” version offers around 20 hours – a staggering increase over previous iterations of the device making them perfect for hybrid, remote work and education. These both deliver exceptional performance and cutting-edge AI features.

Microsoft say it is 86% faster than Surface Laptop 5 and can power up to three external 4K monitors. As a Copilot+PC it’s new NPU delivers a staggering 45 TOPS NPU unlocks new AI experiences and delivers industry-leading performance for seamless productivity. It includes a large variety of ports and features Wi-Fi 7 technology. .

This has been redesigned from the inside out and is sleeker than ever before. It also has a brand new PixelSense touchscreen display with razor-thin bezels and 120Hz refresh rate, HDR technology, Dolby Vision IQ™vii and Adaptive colour technology which adapts perfectly to light for indoor or outdoor use. This generation, while including super responsive multi-touch, does not support use of Surface Pen and neither will Surface Laptop moving forward.

New Surface Pro

The newest Surface Pro builds on what has always been great with Surface, providing a versatile 2-in-1 laptop device redesigned for increased speed and longer battery life and to enable groundbreaking AI capabilities.

Powered by Snapdragon® X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus processors, Microsoft say these deliver performance that is 90% faster than Surface Pro 9. They support up to three external 4K displays, with two USB 4 ports, and a new 13” display (with optional OLED with HDR technology). Surface Pro comes with Wi-Fi 7 and optional 5G to keep you connected where ever you are.

Camera’s get an upgrade too, with ultra-wide, quad-HD front-facing camera – the best Surface camera ever. This makes the new Windows 11 AI-powered Windows Studio Effects like Automatic Framing, keep you in focus, even as you move around your space. The upgraded 10MP Ultra HD rear-facing autofocus camera also supports 4K video.

The new innovative Surface Pro Flex Keyboard, usable both attached and detached, offers improved stability, integrated storage and charging for the Surface Slim Pen. It also has a quiet haptic touch pad. Microsoft say that Surface Slim Pen also gets better – ink  flows which feels more natural with Zero Force inking, ultra-precise shading, 4,096 points of pressure sensitivity and a built-in haptic engine for a more natural writing experience… These are also backward compatible with previous Surface Pro models!

The Surface Pro incorporates a higher percentage of recycled materials compared to the Surface Pro 9, featuring 72% recycled content within its enclosure. It is also designed to be serviceable, with an increased number of replaceable components, such as the motherboard, battery, and cameras, among others..


It’s great to see Microsoft offering their customers more choice in this new realm of AI PCs with both Intel and Qualcomm options.

What do you think about new line up?

Copilot+PC – Fastest, most AI-ready Windows PCs ever built.

Today (20th May 2024), Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled a new category of PC that features the latest generative AI tools built directly into Windows and powered by the latest generation of AI computing hardware. Microsoft say this is “the most significant change to the Window platform in decades“.

Microsoft said this entirely new class of Windows PC is engineered to unleash the power of distributed AI in conjunction with the latest generation of AI-Powered chip sets from Qualcomm which bring new AI hardware which will power these new AI features which will be “part of” the Windows OS.

Microsoft call this new category ‘Copilot Plus’… which will see the creation of the latest, fastest, most AI-ready Windows PCs ever built. Copilot+ PCs represent a significant advancement in computing, offering powerful performance and pioneering AI capabilities. Equipped with Snapdragon® X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus processors, these PCs are engineered to provide peak processing efficiency and swift response times.

Microsoft have also announced today, their first Copilot+ PCs, in both the new Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop 7 – both powered by these new AI Chipsets. They are also working with Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung who will also be bringing their Copilot+ PCs to market.

Here’s the Sizzle Video.

Copilot+PC – Microsoft (c)

As Microsoft took to the stage in front of the world’s tech press, they said that they estimate more than fifty million “AI PCs” will be sold over the next 12 months, given the appetite for devices powered by ChatGPT-style technology.

“…more than 50 million AI PCs will be sold over the next 12 months”

Satya Nadella | Microsoft.

The Copilot+ PC is here

The concept of Copilot+ PC is not merely to offer a handful of AI features. Instead, it is about having a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) on a Copilot+ PC that continuously runs multiple language models in the background of Windows 11. These models will monitor all your activities on your PC to provide contextual information whenever you need to prompt Copilot effectively. Microsoft refers to this functionality as Recall, describing it as a “sensor for AI.”

Satya Nadella announcing the Copilot+PC
Satya Nadella announcing the Copilot+PC

As suggested in the sizzle video above, this implies that a Copilot+ PC can retrieve a line from a document you write or reviewed days earlier, remind you of a commitment or action you made in an email last week, or monitor your web browsing to suggest frequently visited websites and services based on your current activity or “intent”. Whilst there are clear privacy concerns, Microsoft claims that Copilot+ becomes an AI superpower when fully operational and respects your privacy at all times – helping you to do more.

Constant monitoring will be at the heart of a Copilot+ PC, but Microsoft say that it’s substantial AI computing power can do much much more. For example, there will be many creative tools that leverage AI, ranging from Photoshop’s generative AI fill to Microsoft’s AI image generation, to AI video and voice effects in meetings. With a Copilot+ PC, these functions are executed locally on the device – saving time, reducing the need to rely in cloud services and reducing CPU workload and power consumption.

Microsoft have said that users will always be in control and will have the option to disable the always-on AI tracking and to be able to review and delete these AI snapshots individually.

To be classed as Copilot+ status, PCs must be able to deliver at least 40 Tera Operations Per Second (TOPS) of AI processing power from the Neural Processing Unit (NPU). This represents a significant increase from previous offerings, such as Intel’s Meteor Lake, which provided only 10 TOPS from the NPU.

Under the Hood of a Copilot + PC

So, what is powering these new Copilot+ PCs? Despite Microsoft announcing the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 for business earlier this year, the new Copilot+ PCs are not powered Intel or AMD chips.

“Over the past year, we have seen an incredible pace of innovation of AI in the cloud with Copilot allowing us to do things that we never dreamed possible…..

Now, we begin a new chapter with AI innovation on the device…..

We have completely reimagined the entirety of the PC, from silicon to the operating system, the application layer to the cloud, with AI at the center, marking the most significant change to the Window platform in decades”

Microsoft (May 2024)

Instead, the initial series exclusively features the Snapdragon X Elite or Snapdragon X Plus chips, each boasting more than 40 TOPS of AI power. According to Qualcomm, these chips provide over four times the AI power of their competitors‘ chips and have more than enough power to run the latest AI infused games.

The Copilot+PC also include the dedicated button to prompt the Copilot AI assistant at any time.

Security is also AI Powered

Microsoft focussed heavily on Security. As with the current ARM powered devices such as the Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 9 5G, every Copilot+ PC comes secured out of the box.

The Microsoft Pluton Security processor (which goes way beyond TPM) is activated by default on all Copilot+ PCs, and they are introducing several new features, updates, and defaults in Windows 11 24H2 that will simplify, yet enhance user security. Additionally, Microsoft are integrated additional personalised privacy controls to safeguard personal and sensitive data.


Microsoft’s vision is to ensure this new AI standards for PCs will enable the next generation of AI development which is timely given their annual Build Conference runs this week in which they will be driving new development capability to develops eager to ride the AI gravy train for Windows system and application development.

As the primary investor in OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, Microsoft also confirmed that the newly announced GPT-4o model, which powers the chatbot, will also be integrated into Copilot+ PCs “soon”. GPT-4o is currently available in preview in Azure AI.

Microsoft Surface – Are you ready for what m”ai” be next?

Next week is Microsoft Build, and the day before (that’s Monday 20th May), Microsoft is set to host a significant event in-person in Seattle about the the future and of Windows, Surface and Copilot.

The event (which is not being live streamed unfortunatley) takes place at 17:00 UK Time (10:00am Pacific Time) and will showcase (I hope filled with the famous Microsoft sizzle videos) the next wave of innovation for Surface, Windows and Copilot powered by new AI powered chipsets…

As usual Microsoft has not disclosed specific details about what is being announced, but there have been many “suggestive” leaks, predications and teases about what is coming. What we do know is that this will be a big and “special” announcement.

This year, Microsoft have already launched the first generation of new AI PC with the release of the Surface Pro 10 and The Surface Laptop 6 which were built on the new Intel AI Boost technology – which you can read more about here.

So what is being announced?

We know this is a pretty big annoucement and we do know that this is the year of AI and the year of the AI PC, so we can expect some pretty exciting annoucements. Despite the various leaks, we wont know until monday what is actually coming, but we do know that Microsoft’s previous product updates were only around the Intel based devices and their ARM powered devices haven’t yet received an update.

Windows Insiders will be well aware of the all the AI innovating coming to the next generation of Windows 11 so we can expect some new AI wow to be announced for Windows 11 as Microsoft gear up for the 24H2 update coming later this year.

Next Generation of Windows and Surface (and Copilot)

Given the new Qualcomm chipsets such as the Snapdragon Elite X, it would make sense for this to feature in the announcements. These new chipsets (which I discussed here) provide huge NPU capabilities which are needed to process AI workloads efficiently without sloooooooowing down the device so it will be exciting to see if these feature in the future of Surface and Windows!

Will Copilot work “locally/Offline?

What? Well today, all the AI and Copilot experiences we have seen with Windows 11 (and Microsoft 365 Copilot) take place in the cloud, but I also wonder if Microsoft will discuss their plans and advancements around local/on-device Generative AI experiences. With the newer AI Boost PCs from Intel, what is now available with Qualcomm and what Microsoft have in their arsenal with Copilot and OpenAI, it will be interesting to see what Microsoft can tell us about how they could de-couple the AI experiences, providing the ability to run local LLMs “on chip”. This of course is as much about the software (Windows OS) as it is the hardware that powers it.

What about Windows 365?

I hope so – since Windows 365 is very much part of the Windows story and I’m hoping we will hear some updates about what is coming to Windows 365. We have seen huge performance and boot time increases this year, new innovation with Windows 365 Boot and Windows 365 Switch (i have covered this in another blog) so be great to see what is next for Windows 365. There were also many things annouced over the past 12 months such as offline mode that haven’t yet made it to market – could this be finally coming?

Will 2024 be the year of Windows 11 on ARM?

We are not even six months into 2024, yet we have already seen some of the most exciting innovation to hit the PC in a decade.

Earlier this year we saw the birth of the “AI-PC” which saw Intel ship their new Core Ultra chipset which includes their AI Boost technology (essentially an NPU) along with the much improved Intel Arc graphics chips which brought performance increases far beyond the i5 and i7 chipsets we have been using for years.


Why do we need NPUs again?

As we use increasingly more AI services, whether that is image blurring, sound enhancement or running a local LLMs on your device, Neural Processing Units (NPUs) are much much faster at processing these workloads locally and because they do all the hard work, the CPU doesn’t need too, also freeing up CPU time increasing overall performance. . This therefore also leads to more efficient processing and less battery use.


I remember back (too many) years ago, when the chipset battle was between Intel and AMD. This has moved on significantly of late though with Qualcomm now a real contender in realm of AI workloads, portability and battery/eco performance. Qualcomms new Snapdragon chipsets are built on what was previously called “Oryon” which was designed by NUVIA (which QualComm brought for $1.4 Billion in 2021).

Interesting fact: Nuvia was founded by a group of ex-Apple engineers who were responsible for the original Apple M1 + chipset architecture.

This Oryon chipset (known now as the Snapdragon X series) has been the result of that acquisition and ongoing investment. These ARM chip brings an amazing addition to lower power usage and energy consumption, mobile connectivity, longer battery life and amazing performance (especially with AI workloads) and will soon be running the current and next generation of Windows 11 on ARM technology.

Is Surface RT – Back from the Dead?

Well, yes and no – more sort of.

If you have been using Microsoft hardware (and Surface in particular for while, you may remember the Infamous Surface RT device that Microsoft launched in 2012 along side the Intel Powered Surface Pro (v1). Whilst not a success at the time (and laughed at by many), this was the real exploration of using ARM architecture in mainstream computing running a desktop Operating System (Windows 8.1 back then). Windows 8.1 RT was based on Windows 8 at the time but compiled specifically for the ARM chipset that drove the Surface RT.

Surface RT was a hybrid tablet developed by Microsoft. It was the first personal computer designed in-house by Microsoft and was released in October 2012. It ran on Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 optimised for ARM processors. It has a quad-core Nvidia Tegra processor, 2GB of memory, a 10.6-inch display, a USB 2.0 port, HDMI-out, and a magnesium chassis.

But it failed right? It did – but the failing (in part) was not really down to the ARM technology itself, it was more because the mainstream computing world only really knew the world of Win32 or x64 applications which were built on a totally different architecture and could not run on ARM. There were a number of Win32 applications that were recompiled for ARM and made available via the (then limited) App Store, but these were few and far between (a bit like Windows Phone) which meant that Surface RT was a good good for web browsing and web apps, plus the stock apps and re-compiled Office Applications which worked quite well.

ARM – “I’ll be back”

With the “fail” of Windows RT, ARM was pretty much a thing of the past until 2019, when Microsoft released the Surface Pro X, which I still love and use today. This was the start of a new era for Windows on ARM (some seven years later) which saw Windows 10 (WoA) running on a Microsoft customised Qualcomm which Microsoft called the SQ1.

The SQ1 was based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx laptop chip but with some customization.
It combined Snapdragon hardware with AI capabilities, resulting in a powerful chipset, which gave impressive battery life (well more than in the intel version), and quick charging (to 80% in just an hour). It also featured 4G connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi. Graphics are powered by the Adreno 685 GPU

Microsoft did a brilliant job of this. They produced a super sleek and super thin, fanless Surface Pro device which ran full Windows 10 on ARM. Unlike the Surface RT, whist it could of course run native ARM apps, it was also able to run x64 apps through x64 emulation. These apps did ran slower than they would on their intel counterparts, but and ability to run these apps without recompiling the code removed (mostly) the “app gap”. With devices now going to market (other vendors followed), it also saw software giants like Adobe, beginning to develop their own apps compiled for ARM to run natively. Looking ahead to today, there’s a good steady (and growing) number of apps that are natively compiled for ARM.

As Windows 11 was released in October 2021, we saw a new and refreshed experience for fans of ARM devices with the the support to run Win32 and x64 apps through emulation as well as native ARM apps of course. Microsoft have recently released updated to their ARM powered Surface Pro devices (only Surface Pro devices currently ship with an ARM option), the latest being the Surface Pro 9 5G which features the Microsoft SQ3 processor.

The SQ3 was built on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. This is an 8-core processor with 8 threads and is based on the second generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon chips. Graphics are powered by the Adreno 690 GPU. This also features 5G connectivity.

The Future of AI Powered PCs

There is no doubt we are witnessing a seismic shift in the market as devices are next generation devices are being primed for AI capabilities, and it’s nothing short of revolutionary. With Intel shipping their new AI powered chipsets in the fist part of 2024 and with what is coming from Qualcomm in the second half, 2024 looks to be the year for Windows 11 on ARM with new devices coming soon from leading PC/Laptop manufacturers, including new Microsoft Surface devices based on the rumours! Apple of course have also announced the M4 for their newest devices.

Intel Ultra with AI Boost

Earlier this year, Microsoft led the charge with the Surface Pro 10 for Business, armed with the Intel Core Ultra processor. What makes this processor different to the previous Intel generations is what they call their integrated AI Boost! This cutting-edge feature turbocharges performance by processing AI tasks locally. This results in a significant reduction in reliance on the CPU and, in some fortunate cases, even the GPU. This means faster, more efficient processing that’s sure to supercharge your productivity, powered by the Intel NPU.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite

But that’s not all! Qualcomm has also thrown its hat into the ring with the Snapdragon X1E Elite and Plus chipsets. This comes hot on the heels of their acquisition of Nuvia, marking a bold new chapter in their AI journey which we are about to start seeing hit the market.

Qualcomm AI Engine, Snapdragon X Elite can run generative AI models with over 13 billion parameters on-device. Qualcomm claims it has 4.5 times faster AI processing than its competitors. Qualcomm has called Snapdragon X Elite the “most powerful, intelligent, and efficient processor in its class for Windows,”

Apple M4

Yes so Apple have recently announced their new M4 Processor which will power the new iPad Pro. Apple say that the M4 promises 50% faster CPU performance than Apple’s M2 and is four times faster than the M2 in GPU performance.

Intel vs Qualcomm vs Apple

While benchmarking processor performance can sometimes be influenced by the manufacturer or even be misleading to the end user, the numbers below are really interesting to see.

The new Intel Core Ultra 5 chipset has also shown significant improvement, boasting a score of 2,150 and 10,450 for single core and multicore respectively. These numbers highlight the rapid advancements in AI capabilities and the potential they hold for our work.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite made a grand entrance with a single core score of 2,574 and a multicore score of 12,562. This immediately positions it as a formidable contender, outperforming the Ryzen 9 7940HS.

Qualcomm has added an AI engine to the X Elite too, which they say is capable of 75 TOPS (trillion operations per second) — that’s a huge increase over the roughly 34 TOPS the Intel Core 7 165H chip is capable of.

There are not yet scores for the Apple M4 to compare against the Snapdragon X Elite since the benchmarks for the M4 are not out yet.

Conclusion

With the latest iterations of Windows 11, we have a mature and stable build of ARM on Windows, that can run Intel apps in both Win32 and x64 mode, as well as native ARM applications. There are more apps than ever that run native ARM in Windows – and even Google have now launched an ARM version of their Chrome Browser.

The marked performance of the Snapdragon shows that will accelerate both the performance and advancements of AI edge compute in Windows 11, along with the efficiency and battery life expected. With this, the next generation of Qualcomm AI PCs on Windows 11 looks extremely exciting.

As we move into the second half of 2024, I think business, consumers, education and more are going to be super excited about the ability to get a new range of super quiet, super fast, super efficient devices with a real stonker of battery life that is able to run AI and traditional workloads with a breeze. All powered by Windows 11 on ARM and Snapdragon X Elite at the core.

So is 2024 the year for Windows 11 on ARM ?

Interview: Mark Brown – VP Solutions Engineering at Splunk

This week, I had the pleasure of running a Fireside Chat with Mark Brown, who leads the engineering team at Splunk. The chat was streamed live on Linked In and YouTube as part of Cisilion’s monthly technology chat show which has been running for more than three years.

This month, we took to the virtual stage to discuss the acquisition of Splunk by Cisco, the history and innovation that Splunk brings across security and data analytics and observability, and some of the huge success stories and customers of Splunk since the company’s founding in 2003.

Cisilion and Spunk – May Fireside Chat

In this month’s show, we delved into Splunk’s history and capabilities, its evolution over the last 20 years, and its role as a data analytics platform. We talked about Splunk’s diverse customer base, including huge “high street” brands like Siemens and Gatwick Airport, where we discussed how Splunk’s data analytics is helping to enhance operational efficiency and security at the airport and how by processing local traffic and weather data along with real time people traffic in the airport, they help to ensure that LGW meet their people flow SLAs of getting people from check-in and through security.

Finally we talked about why Cisco have acquired Splunk, the market opportuntiy it creates and how partners like Cisilion will be able to leverage this aquisition into the Cisco portfolio over time. Mark talks about this being a strategic move to integrate Splunk’s data analytics with Cisco’s network and security solutions, offering a comprehensive approach to observability and security and giving them a real competitive edge whilst, increasing their market share and making the solutions simpler for their customers.

Using the power of AI, I have used Microsoft Copilot to breakdown the key sections of the video and help you to navigate to areas you think might be useful to you.

(I have a video on how to do this which you can access -> here -<

Cisilion and Splunk Fireside Chat – Key Coversations

  • [00:01:18] Introduction of Mark Brown from Splunk
    • Leads the UK solution engineering team
    • Discusses Splunk’s recent acquisition by Cisco
    • Highlights the value Splunk brings to businesses
  • [00:03:00] Explanation of what Splunk is
    • Describes Splunk as a platform for searching logs in data centers
    • Evolved into a leader in security and observability
    • Known as the “Google for the data center”
  • [00:18:09] Cisco’s acquisition of Splunk
    • Seen as a natural fit with little overlap in technology offerings
    • Expected to enhance both Cisco’s and Splunk’s product portfolios
    • Acquisition aligns with Cisco’s strategy to expand software offerings
  • [00:08:14] Reference customers of Splunk
    • Splunk’s reference customers span 110 countries and includes major brands across various industries
    • Talking through examples including Siemens, Singapore Airlines, and Gatwick Airport
    • Talking about wider use cases that demonstrate Splunk’s adaptability and impact
  • [00:14:22] Splunk’s competition in the market
    • How and where Splunk competes with and partners with various tech companies such as Data Dog and Relic
    • How Microsoft Sentinel have also become a leader in the SIEM space in just two years and how Microsoft and Splunk are working together to deliver Splunk Solutions to customers in Azure.
    • How Splunk have been leaders for more than 10 years.
  • [00:17:46] Cisilion’s perspective on the acquisition
    • How Cisilion are excited about the integration and potential for new market opportunities and the alignment between Cisco and Microsoft, Cisilion’s two strategic partners.
    • How we see the acquisition as a way to complete the technology journey for clients bringing together multiple technnologies and creating a single pane of glass for security logs and observability.
    • Our forward looking view on the game-changing advancements in observability and security this aquisition could bring to Cisco.
  • 00:25:23] The chat continues around use cases, market trends and the future of security and observability

Welcome your views on the video and the discussion as always.

Microsoft and Splunk Lead in Gartner 2024 MQ for SIEM

The digital security landscape is constantly challenged by sophisticated threats, making the role of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems more critical than ever. In the 2024 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for SIEM, Microsoft and Splunk have been recognised as leaders, demonstrating excellence in vision and execution in the SIEM space.

Gartner said in their 2024 report that “The SIEM market grew from $5.03 billion in 2022 to $5.7 billion in 2023 (see Market Share: All Software Markets, Worldwide, 2023), a 13% annual growth rate compared to a 22% increase the previous year. The primary drivers of a SIEM purchase are threat detection, response, exposure management and compliance. Buyers are seeking a SIEM ecosystem with broad and deep capabilities to satisfy multiple security and business use cases with capabilities to support a diverse environment.”

Image (c) Gartner 2024

The Significance of SIEM in Cybersecurity

SIEM technology is essential for organisations to effectively manage security events and information. It provides real-time visibility across an organisation’s information security systems (multi vendor), providing single pane of glass event log management, compliance reporting, and incident response capabilities. The ability to swiftly detect, analyse, and respond to security incidents is what makes SIEM a cornerstone of enterprise security strategies.

Friends and Foes?

In 2023, Splunk and Microsoft agreed to partnering to help build Splunk’s enterprise security and observability offerings on Microsoft Azure. This means that Splunk solutions are now available for purchase on the Microsoft Azure Marketplace as well as AWS Market place. This is great for both parties and Microsoft Partners who sell and deploy Azure Services to their clients.

Microsoft’s Leadership with Sentinel

Microsoft has been acknowledged as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for SIEM for its comprehensive, cloud-native solution, Microsoft Sentinel1. According to Gartner, Microsoft Sentinel stands out with its unified security operations platform, blending SIEM, XDR, AI, Threat Intelligence, and extended posture management into a single experience. This platform is powered by generative AI, offering end-to-end protection and consolidating various security operations tools into a coherent experience.

Strengths:

Best Fit for Sentinel:

Gartner cite Microsoft Sentinel as being best for organisations that require or demand a cloud-native SIEM solution with advanced AI capabilities and integration with other Microsoft security products will find Microsoft Sentinel to be an ideal fit. Sentinel works with a huge number of external cloud and on-premises data connectors (including Splunk).

Splunk’s Data-Centric Excellence in SIEM

Splunk remains a joint leader in the SIEM market, praised as always for their data-centric security analytics solution, The Enterprise Security application from Splunk is available both on-premises and as SaaS. Splunk provides pricing flexibility, which can be based on daily data ingestion or cloud workloads, referred to as Splunk Virtual Compute. Splunk primarily serves large enterprise organizations in North USA

Splunk have said they are launching a new AI Assistant for Security, which will be integrated with Enterprise Security to enhance detection and response functions. Cisco finalized the acquisition of Splunk on March 18, 2024 and we expect to see integration and cross pollenisation of their combined portfolio at somepoint in 2025.

Gartner point out that currently Splunk has a significantly higher-than-average cost compared to other vendors in their report, is more complex to deploy and configure (measured in pro services days) and currently low numbers of sales support staff outside the US – though with Cisco’s aquisiton of Splunk this is likely to change over the next 18-24 months.

Strengths:

  • Overall observability: The Splunk platform can integrate security, IT, application and other data sources. This, coupled with its federated search and analytics capabilities across third-party data stores, is a strength for clients seeking to build highly enriched queries and alerts.
  • Extensive integration: Splunk’s integration of SOAR enhances a wide range of common SIEM use cases. Clients wanting quick time to production automation for common SIEM operational functions will find Splunk’s library of playbooks a strength.
  • User interface: Splunk’s UI and dashboard provide significant customization. Clients requiring custom animations and visualization for specialized monitoring, such as OT or financial systems, will find the UI editor an overall strength

Best Fit

Splunk is particularly suited for very large organisations that value a data-driven approach to security and need powerful analytics to manage complex security environments. Microsoft is actually one of Spunk’s largest customers.

Conclusion

Microsoft and Splunk continue to lead the SIEM market with their innovative solutions. Sentinel offers a world-class leading, cloud-native, AI-enriched platform that simplifies operations and accelerates threat resolution.

Splunk provides a robust, data-centric approach to security analytics, enabling organizations to respond to threats with speed and precision and is ideally suited for the largest of enterprises as well as those who remain mainly on-prem and less “all in with cloud”. Splunk also has a strategic alignment and integration with Microsoft Sentinel.

As a Microsoft and Cisco leading UK partner, we are excited to be working with both Cisco and Splunk (Cisco) in this space with the abiluty to guide and consult around customer hosted, Azure hosted and cloud-native SIEM solutions. We also love ther fact that we can now meet customers on their ground with the ability to deploy Splunk on Azure via the market place to our clients.


Microsoft Places now in Public Preview

Microsoft have finally (after a long wait), released the much-anticipated Microsoft Places into Public Preview. When it launches later in 2024, Places will be licensed as part of Microsoft Teams Premium.

What is Microsoft Places?

Microsoft Places, is Microsoft’s “AI-powered” (of course it is), connected workplace app that has been “designed to revitalise flexible work by helping employees coordinate where they work, modernise in-person connections, and provide valuable data for IT, Real Estate and Facilities Management to optimise the workplace.

Microsoft Places Promo (2024)

What’s included in the Places Public Preview

At launch of the public preview, not all features will be available, but more features will roll over time based on feedback on those in the private preview and MVPs. The following is included initially.

  • Location Plan: Allows people to share their proposed location schedule and see who else will be attending in-person – this makes in-person huddles, team lunches and “working together” easier.
  • In-Person Meeting: Sounds like an odd one, but provides updates to meeting invites and calendaring to communicate the organisers “intention” for people to work together with an in-person meeting invite (no Online Meeting) – this is good for team meetings, workshops etc.
  • New Hybrid RSVP: Intended to help us plan better – this shows a collated view of who is coming into the office, allowing people to adjust their location plan directly from their Calendar.
  • Expanded Presence: Provides the ability for people to easily add their location to your presence state, indicating when they are in the office, working at home or from another specific location.

What won’t be available in the preview?

As discussed above, there are some features that Microsoft spoke about when they first announced Places back in 2022. These include:

  • Access to the Places Directory: This will not be available yet as part of the public preview
  • As such the following sub-services that this enables will also not be available including
    • Space Analytics and occupancy data
    • Ability to find rooms by buildings in the Places Finder
    • Ability mention @nearby in Teams

Microsoft have also said that the integration of Places data into Microsoft Copilot will make coordination even easier. Coming in the second half of 2024, you will be able to use Copilot to understand which days are best to come into the office.

To me, personally, we will be playing with this in a demo environment as many of the key benefits I see are in the Places Directory.

Keep an eye on the Places Space to keep up-to-date with updates and changes as the public preview progresses.

Integration with Building and FM Providers

Microsoft are partnering with a wealth of FM and building companies across this market. With Microsoft Places, they have built a ecosystem of partners (listed below) who will build on top of the Places platform with new and existing solutions, leveraging, and enhancing data related to people, location, and space. Microsoft have listed the following launch partners but have said that more are coming rapidly.

  • Avanade
  • AppSpace
  • AVI/SPL
  • CBRE
  • Cisco Spaces
  • Chestron
  • Eptura
  • ISS
  • JLL
  • Service Now
  • Verge Sense

I’m super excited by the integration into App Space and Cisco Spaces 🙂


How do I get on the Microsoft Places Public Preview?

The Microsoft Places public preview is available on request and IT need to sign up using the link below. You can register your primary “live” environment or demo/dev environment (we did both). To sign up follow this link here:

Microsoft are adding a Copilot for Copilot (well sort of).

Yesterday, (8th May, 24) Microsoft released their 2024 Work Trend Index Report which covered the State of AI at Work (you can see this here) as well as announcing some more improvements coming to Copilot for Microsoft 365 in the coming months.

The new features annouced are all aimed at helping to optimise prompt writing, making it easier for people to get a prompt that does what they need first time (a Copilot for Copilot essentially). These updates will include.

  • Auto-complete for prompts
  • Prompt re-write
  • A new catch up feature
  • Copilot Labs upgrade.

Let dive into these quickly. All. Images (c) Microsoft.

Auto Complete for Prompts

Copilot’s new “autocomplete” feature is similar to what you get in a search engine, where it will anticipate (using Machine Learning) what you are writing and help you to complete your prompt when you start typing one out.

Image (c) Microsoft

The aim here to suggesting more details to ensure you get the intended outcome. It will also offer an expanded library of ‘next prompts’.

This means if you start typing “summarise” then Copilot will display options to summarise the last 10 unread emails and chat messages or other tasks that might be related.

Prompt Rewrite

The “rewrite” feature is something that many image AI tools have had for a while. The aim is to be able to takes a person’s basic prompt rewrite it to me more thorough, “turning everyone into a prompt engineer,” according to the Microsoft.

Image (c) Microsoft

Also known as “elaborate your prompt”, Microsoft say this will be able to rewrite any prompts people create making it much easier to do more complex tasks especially when working with documents or ‘connected apps’.

Copilot Catch-up

Copilot Catch Up aims to start making Copilot more “proactive”. Here the chat interface will be able to presents people with “responsive recommendations” based on their recent activity. As an example, it will be able to notify you about upcoming meetings and suggest ways to help you prepare for that meeting, by bringing a summary of recent email and chat threads, meetings notes and documents write in the chat thread. This feature is also coming into Copilot in Outlook.

This feature brings Copilot more into the realms of good ol Clippy (ok I’m kidding here) but will enable Copilot to start proactively helping rather than waiting for its pilot to issue a command and bring the genie out of its lamp!

The aim is to further integrate Copilot into the user’s workflows. Imagine for example having a morning prompt that tells you about your day, tickets logged via Service Now, or a project that is over running (via Project or Planner) or has  completed early perhaps!

Updates to Copilot Labs

Similar to Microsoft app Prompt Buddy, Microsoft will also start to allow people to create, publish, and manage prompts in Copilot Lab.

Image (c) Microsoft

This will bring new features that that can be tailored for individual teams within businesses. This is aimed to make it a lot easier to share useful prompts for employees, Teams and departments to use.

Will these help adoption?

What do you think about the new updates, will these help remove the dark art of promoting and make Copilot easier to use and faster to help people get the desired results.?

Let me know on the comments..

“AI at work is here – Now comes the hard part” – Microsoft & Linked In WTI.

Microsoft and Linked In have just released their first joint 2024 Work Trend Index Report, which is titled , “AI at work is here. Now comes the hard part.”

The report is based on a survey of some 31,000 people across 31 countries, global and regional employee and hiring trends on LinkedIn, trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals from the Microsoft Graph, and detailed research across many of the Fortune 500 organisations. 💬I’ve also added my thoughts and experiences at each section.🗨️

“AI is seen as a tool that saves time, boosts creativity, and allows employees to focus on their most important work”.

Microsoft and Linked In – Work Trend Index Report (2024)

The WTI report deep dives into how AI is influencing the way we work, lead, and hire. Here are some key takeaways from the report – I’ve included a link to the whole report and resources at the end of the post too. Here’s the highlights.

AI Adoption and Its Impact

The report states, rather to the point, that “Employees want AI at work — and won’t wait for companies to catch up“. The is backed up by research that reveals that 75% of knowledge workers are now using AI at work.

Image (c) Microsoft May 2024

It says that “AI is seen as a tool that saves time, boosts creativity, and allows employees to focus on their most important work”. It also talks about the fact that there is a disconnect between employees and leaders when it comes to AI adoption. it also reveals that while 79% of leaders agree that AI adoption is critical to remain competitive, 60% express concern about their company’s lack of vision and plan to implement it. This has led to a new trend of Bring Your Own AI (BYOAI), where 78% of AI users are bringing their own tools to work.

💬This is something we / I have seen at Cisilion. When running workshops with customers. many say they are not ready, only to later discover that many many employees are already using BYOAI without the business knowing, in an uncontrolled, non-sanctioned way…

The AI Skills Gap

The use of generative AI at work has nearly doubled in the past six months. This is not surprising given the general availability of Microsoft 365 and the rapid go-to-market of almost every SaaS company offering “new AI expertise”. LinkedIn are seeing a significant increase in professionals adding AI skills to their profiles. However, only 39% of users have received any form of official AI training from their company, and only 25% of companies expect to offer it this year. – This has led to professionals taking the initiative to skill up on their own. As of late last year, there has been a 142x increase in LinkedIn members adding AI skills like Copilot and ChatGPT to their profiles.

💬This is also interesting and in our/my experience, we have seen many organisations “stumble” at the first hurdle of a pilot with tools like Copilot due to not investing in training. Those that have (and Microsoft are helping their customers through partners like Cisilion), get started with tools like Copilot. Working with Gen AI is very very different way of working and training and adoption services make a huge difference to success/failure and business benefits of this technology.

The Emergence of AI Power Users

The report identifies four types of AI users, from sceptics who rarely use AI to power users who use it extensively. The report says that Power users have reoriented their workdays in fundamental ways, saving a minimum of 30 minutes per day. Over 90% of power users say AI makes their overwhelming workload more manageable and their work more enjoyable.

Image (c) Microsoft & Linked In

💬Personally I think this is just the beginning, as more us get used to working with AI tools like Copilot, we will redefine how and what we use it for and this will give us time back to focus on more of the right stuff.

I also see the other side, many that dabble (without training or coaching or time to experiment and test) often turn their noses up as they don’t see the value. It takes time to get the hang of it, get the prompt write (the below will help) and share successes. AI is not perfect either and the experiences are not always “predictable”. Teams need to work together – ideally led by a coach or adoption expert to get over the hurdles, support employees and measure success.

New Capabilities in Copilot for Microsoft 365

Microsoft also used this report to officially announce some new capabilities that are coming to Copilot for Microsoft 365. These include: an auto-complete feature in the prompt box, a new prompt rewrite feature that turns a basic prompt into a rich one, a new chat interface called Catch Up that surfaces personal insights based on recent activity, and new capabilities in Copilot Lab that enable people to create, publish and manage prompts tailored to them, and to their specific team, role and function.

💬We/I have seen the benefits of using Copilot in Microsoft 365 both in internally within Cisilion and with our customers. There is so much value in Copilot “just” in Teams and Outlook alone. This stat from the report definitely resonates with me.

💬It is also worth checking out the official Microsoft 365 Roadmap for all the latest Copilot features – there are a lot of them and they are coming thick and fast!

New AI Tools from LinkedIn

LinkedIn is also providing going to be providing more AI tools to enable employees to stay ahead in their career. LinkedIn Learning offers more than 22,000 courses, including more than 600 AI courses, to build aptitude in generative AI.

These new courses are free and will be available for everyone to use through July 8. Additionally, AI-powered personalised takeaways on LinkedIn Feed can help employees or work seekers daily in their career with personalised, relevant insights and opportunities.


Thanks for reading – if you liked what you read, considering subscribing or leaving me a comment.


Read More

You can read the full posts and reports from Microsoft and Linked In below:

AI at Work Is Here. Now Comes the Hard Part (microsoft.com)

Microsoft and LinkedIn release the 2024 Work Trend Index on the state of AI at work – Stories

Rolling out in Outlook: “Follow a meeting” and keep up to date.

Update: Follow is a new meeting response (RSVP) option that is now rolling out in Teams and Outlook (new and on the web) that goes beyond the traditional Accept, Tentative and Decline choices. This is designed to help people who typically have a high number of meeting requests and those that typically have conflicting meetings each day with lots of “un-decided” or “maybe” meetings.

New: “Follow” a meeting (Outlook)

I personally think this is a really powerful feature and it’s one of the features I have been most excited about since I first saw the Copilot teaser videos last March. When we respond as “maybe”, organisers are left confused as to who is joining their meetings or not making it hard to plan. For everyone else also trying to get your time, it’s hard to see what you meeting you are attending when you have lots of non-RSVP’d or “maybe” meetings.

With this feature, invitees will be able to inform meeting organisers that they are unable to attend the meeting but notifies them that they want to “stay informed” by following. This is major update to the yes (accept), maybe (tentative), and no (decline) responses we have traditional responses like Accept, Tentative, and Decline.

Note: Follow a Meeting will initially be available only for Outlook on the Web, the "new" Outlook and within Teams. It will roll out to other platforms including mobile "later".

How “following a meeting” works

One this feature is available; you’ll see a new meeting response option in meeting invites (and for existing meeting series). There are three stages to this.

  • You choose to follow a meeting you can’t / won’t attend. You see a new meeting RSVP option called Follow and choose this rather than “maybe / tentative”.
  • Informing Organisers – when you receive a meeting invite you are not able to attend but need to keep up to speed on, you will be able to respond with the new “Follow” option. They are also prompted to “record the meeting” in Teams when there are people following a meeting.
Image (c) Microsoft
  • Free up your Time: When you “Follow” a meeting, Outlook updates the entry in your calendar, marking it as free – allowing you (and others) to see the correct entry in your diary without seeing handfuls of meeting clashes or tentative responses. This means you can better prioritise your time, while still retaining access to the meeting(s) you follow.
  • Stay Informed: When you choose to “Follow” a meeting, the meeting organiser receives a notification asking them to record the Teams meeting. When the meeting is over, you (and anyone else following the meeting) automatically receive the “post-meeting recap”.
NOTE: Initially, "Follow" responses are only available in new Outlook for Windows and Outlook on the web. If the meeting organiser is using either of these versions of Outlook, they will see your Follow response. Anyone using the classic Outlook client in Windows, Outlook for Mac, or Outlook on Mobile, will see the "Follow" response as Tentative.

If you have a Copilot license, you will also be able to use Copilot to recap the meeting you missed, asked questions and more.

The process above is illustrated in diagram below (courtesy of Microsoft).

Follow a Meeting – Illustrated!

Image (c) Microsoft

When will the Follow a Meeting feature be released?

Microsoft has started to roll this out today (May 7th 2024) and expect to complete by late May/June 2024 with General Availability to everyone by late June / July.

Be warned though… as this rolls out, the meeting use of this feature is not consistent or present in all your tools. For example, its currently (8th May 2024), only available on Outlook on the Web and the new Outlook Desktop Client. Not on mobile client, “old Outlook” or Teams.

You can read more by referring to the official Microsoft 365 Roadmap here.

Microsoft have support page about the new feature here.

Introducing the new Surface IT Toolkit

The new Surface IT Toolkit which was officially released on April 25th 2024, promises to be a significant tool to help IT managing and optimise their coporate fleet of Surface devices.

We are excited to announce the Surface IT Toolkit, a modern desktop application that compiles essential commercial tools and streamlines the Surface device management experience for IT admins – all in a single application.

Microsoft.

Replacing an older mixture of admin tools, the refresh and centralising of these essential tools into a one application should simplify the deployment and management process, addressing the common challenge of using disparate tools across various locations and versions. This should greatly enhance efficiency and ease of use for IT admins.

What is in the Surface IT Toolkit?

The Surface Tool kit contains a number of new and updated apps. These are:

  • Data Eraser – Which is a NIST [Special Publication 800-88 Revision 1 NVM Express] compliant data erasure tool that also includes the ability to create certificates of sanitization for compliance and auditing. This is beneficial when repurposing, recycling, or retiring a device to guarantee that no sensitive data is left on it.
  • UEFI Configurator – enables IT to implement Surface Enterprise Management Mode (SEMM) UEFI configurations on Surface devices and peripherals such as Surface docks and other accessories. The UEFI configurator allows IT to efficiently and consistently manage and disable components at the firmware level. This enhances security and compliance by safeguarding against unauthorized modifications to device settings. For example it could be used to prevent the camera being used to comply with privacy in schools, or block USB ports being used to connect to external disks for data compliance.
  • Recovery Tool – This feature enables a full device reset, reverting it to its factory state for troubleshooting and re-building purposes. It also manages previously downloaded factory images for reuse, helping to resolve common issues and restore the device’s original performance. The latest update provides a new guided process and no longer requires the serial number to be entered. It also includes ability to build from new or build from an existing image.
  • Tool Library – The updated Tool Library houses the most recent versions of supplementary tools and installers for deployment to end users, offering IT descriptions of their functions and links to the most up-to-date documentation. This tools here include the Surface Asset Tag Tool, Surface Diagnostic Toolkit for Business, Surface Brightness Control Tool, among others.

Video: Install and using the Surface IT Toolkit

Here’s little video that shows the relevant webpages, installing the toolkit and first run experience and tools available.

Usng the Surface Tool Kit.

For more information from Microsoft on this – use the following link

How do I get the Surface IT Toolkit?

You can grab the IT Toolkit from Microsoft > here <.

Cisco Hyper Shield: Data Centre security redefined.

Cisco has introduced a new product called Hypershield, which they claim is one of the most significant security products in Cisco’s history. It is expected to be generally available starting from July 2024.

What is Hyper Shield?

Hypershield is a cloud-native, AI-powered system designed to enhance the security of AI-scale data centers. Unlike traditional security products, hyper shield is integrated directly into the network’s fabric, offering a revolutionary approach to protecting digital infrastructure services in data centres, protecting applications, devices, and data across public and private data centers, clouds, and physical locations.

This is the Most Consequential security  announcement In Cisco’s 40-Year History

Cisco.

The holistic system promises to bring the security advantages of a hyperscale model to enterprises, allowing security to be embedded in every software component of every application running on the network, on every server, and in both public and private cloud deployments.

How Hyper Shield is different.

Hypershield is different to traditional security “bolt ons” because it not just a new security product or the next version of something that already exists. What makes this different and unique, is that Hyper Shield represents a brand-new security architecture model built from the ground. It uses an open-source technology called eBPF that hyperscalers use to automate patching and other time-consuming jobs. It has the ability to transform every network port into a high-performance security enforcement point and works by blocks application exploits in minutes while preventing  lateral movement of attacks.

Innovation from within

I think Hypershield is exciting because it represents a significant shift in how security is approached within the data centre fabric.

“Why we think this is the most consequential is we’re taking what used to be a firewall, an appliance, and we’re like melting into the network. It’s not a separate thing that you add on. It’s like magic. It writes its own rules, it tests its own rules, it qualifies its own rules, deploys its own rules, and then overnight it upgrades itself”

Tom Gillis | VP Security | Cisco

It is built with technology originally developed for hyperscale public clouds Cisco are making this technology available for enterprise IT teams of all sizes regardless of how big their data centre foot print is. It works by enabling security enforcement to be placed everywhere it needs to be, at the application and data layer, which is a major shift and change in how traditional data centre security works. Cisco say that it’s expected to have a significant impact on how businesses protect their digital assets.

With this innovation … we have actually been able to deliver something that’s unlike anything we’ve done in the last 40 years at Cisco. And I will say that we’re just getting started.

Jeetu Patel | Cisco’s EVP

Rather than relying on traditional network and application level firewalls in the datacentre, Hypershield works by essentially providing security boundaries around every application and service. It naturally uses artificial intelligence to learn and adapt, so it gets better at detecting and understand normal activity from attack attempts. 

I look forward to learning more about this.


Read more from Cisco

Cisco Hypershield: Security reimagined.
Cisco Reimagines Security for Data Centers & Clouds in Era of AI.

CRN Report:

Prompt-a-long with Copilot in Word

Goal: Perfecting Prompting in Word

The goal of this blog post is to provide some field experience tips and coaching to help you get the best out of using Copilot in Word. For this you need to have either a Copilot Pro license or a Copilot for Microsoft 365 license and be signed into Word (or Word Online).

In this example, our Goal is to take a Marketing Analysis document we have been sent, and to draw out key information we can use in a “sales meeting” that we have coming up. The document contains lots of information relevant to different parts of the business.

I have provided a link to the document I used (courtesty of Microsoft) so you can either follow along or reference the videos included in this post. Welcome your comments – so please let me know how you get on.

Scenario: Using Copilot to pull key info from a Marketing Report

Instructions:

To work on this example with me, speak to your marketing team and obtain a Market Analysis Report for other similar document. For this example, I am using a public sample document Microsoft have shared called “Mystic Spice Premium Chai Tea.docx” which you can access here. The password for the link is “Copilot”. Once you have done that, save the file to your OneDrive so you can use it to test out and experiment with these prompts.

  1. Open the document you obtained (or use my link above) in Word and then
  2. Open the Copilot pane by selecting the Copilot icon in the top right of the “ribbon”
  3. Enter the prompts below and follow along.

The Starting Prompt

Enter the Starting prompt Summarise this Word Document” or click the suggested prompt to do the same thing…

In this simple prompt, we have started with what I call the “Alexa Prompt” – we are asking a simple question with a basic goal “to summarise the Word document”.

Using a standard/simple Copilot prompt to Summarise a Doc in Word.

This has done we asked but since we gave no context or information about what we wanted and why we needed it, Copilot has just read throught the document a pilled out key bits of information from each section.


The “better” prompt

To improve on this, we are going to repeat the prompt, but this time, we will add some more context to help Copilot understand the purpose of the summary and tailor the response for us accordingly.

Write a new prompt: “Summarise this document and create a brief overview of the main points to discuss with my team during the tomorrow’s Sales meeting“.

Here we are giving Copilot some more context specific about what information we want. It now knows why we need the information (for a sales meeting) and it knows to keep the ouput brief.

Using a more specific Copilot prompt to Summarise a Doc in Word.

If you run the prompt yourself (or check the video above) you will see that this time Copilot has pulled out specific around Market Trends and Demand inluding stats around CAGR. It has told us about the key competitiors, distribution and sales channels and also Sales Strategy, Outcomes and the Challenges in selling.


The Super Prompt

For the final prompt (I call it the “super prompt”), we are going to be even more specific with the ask to get just the information we need.

Use this prompt “Summarise this word document but focus on the Competitive Analysis section only. Provide a brief overview of the main points to discuss with my team during the tomorrow’s Sales meeting. Please keep the summary to 5 key points and use simple language.”

If you compare the output of this prompt to the previous ones, you will see that since we have been specific about where we want Copilot to focus, the response we get is specific to what we have asked. It’s still a summary, but it is focussed on the just the Competitor Analysis section and we have kept the response concise and in simple language. It knows to keep this simple and make it relevant to sales…

Follow along – or check out the video below where I run the prompt.

Our “Crafted” Super-Prompt in Copilot in Word

So there you go – we have started with a simple prompt and I have hopefully shown you that by thinking about what and why we want the information and also the audience the response is indended for, Copilot can produce information just the way we need it.

Summary and Lesson

So, I am pretty happy with that result. To recap – here is what we did to perfect our prompt…

  1. We started with our Goal (which was to summarise the document)
  2. Added some Context (that we want the information for a sales meeting)
  3. Specified the Source of the information (we asked to focus on competitive analysis), and
  4. Set clear Expectations, (we asked for five key points using simple language).
Our Final Prompt: 

"Summarise this word document but focus on the Competitive Analysis section only. Provide a brief overview of the main points to discuss with my team during the tomorrow's Sales meeting. Please keep the summary to 5 key points and use simple language".

This prompt has all the details it needs to give us the results we need. It has a Goal, Context, Source, and Expectations.

Can you restrict what Copilot can search across for in SharePoint?

Starting later this month (April 2024) , Microsoft will rollout an configuration setting called Restricted SharePoint Search (RSS) that will allow Global/Tenant and SharePoint Admins to disable organisation-wide search and instead select a set of curated/specific  SharePoint sites.

“YES YOU CAN”

This feature will work by allowing admins disable organisation-wide search, and instead to enable/restrict both specific sites impacting the scope of what Enterprise Search and Copilot can seek out and index when using search or Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365.

With this configuration in place, only these specific libraries along with the users’ OneDrive files and content, will be accessible in search and within the Copilot experiences.

This means that whether your organisation has Enterprise Search or Restricted SharePoint Search enabled, users in your organisation will still be able to interact with their OneDrive information in Copilot but there will be more control over excluding old/legacy or restricted SharePoint areas.

Why do we need to Restrict Search?

Is this not against the pricipals of Copilot and Microsoft Search?

Well.. Kinda. Restricted SharePoint Search has been provided to give organisations time to review and audit their data and SharePoint site permissions. Microsoft say that…

It is designed to help you maintain momentum with your Copilot deployment while you implement robust data security solutions from Microsoft Purview and manage content lifecycle with SharePoint Advanced Management. Combined, these two solutions offer a complete solution for data discovery, protection, and governance. “

Restricted SharePoint Search capability

Once Enterprise Search is disabled, Admins are the able be to tune which content will be indexed for search from an allowed list of up to 100 SharePoint sites. This will honor sites’ existing permissions.

Once configured, content from these areas will be searchable and accessible by Copilot as well as…

  • Content stored in the the curated list of SharePoint sites as specific by the admin.
  • Other frequently accessed SharePoint sites that the user accesses.
  • Content from users OneDrive, Teams chat, email, calendars.
  • Files directly shared with the user.

Copilot users in your organisation will see this message in their Copilot experiences.


Your organization’s admin has restricted Copilot from accessing certain SharePoint sites. This limits the content Copilot can search and reference when responding to your prompts

For more information and rollout timeline check out Microsoft 365 Roadmap ID: MC726119

Does this mean Copilot can’t access files outside of the search scope?

No… Users can still directly reference a file in Copilot and access the file via manual search or navigation. This is because, restrictive search does not alter the permissions for user access, it just instead, is designed to help minimise the risk of overexposure of overshared content by reducing what they can discover in search and Copilot.

With Restricted Search configured, search results and Copilot search results will be limited but users will still able to navigate (as before) or directly link to a file to open or to “use Copilot” with.

Configuring Restricted Search

Restricted SharePoint Search is off by default.

Whilst this will be coming to the SharePoint admin pages soon… It will, at release be configurable via Power Shell only and will of course require admin privileges.

There is also an ‘allow’ limit of just 100 sites initially though I hear this will soon be expanded following early feedback from customer… Phew!

More information can be found here.

Microsoft to open new AI Hub in London

Microsoft has announced plans for a new artificial intelligence (AI) hub in London, which will be focused on leading edge product development and research. This will be led Microsoft AI Lead Mustafa Suleyman (confounder of DeepMind) who Microsoft hired last month.

This annoucement comes less than a month since Microsoft unveiled a new consumer AI division.

There is an enormous pool of AI talent and expertise in the UK, and Microsoft AI plans to make a significant, long-term investment in the region. (London).

Mustafa Suleyman

This is great for the UK and for London and will help both Microsoft and the UK become an AI  and technology superpower leveraging the hub of tech talent, access to leading and world class universities and research centres with ability to attract the best talent for the next generation of development of AI.

Microsofts AI Future in the UK

This announcement builds on Microsoft’s recent commitment to invest 2.5 Billion into data centre infrastructure and improving AI skills across the UK.

Microsoft’s AI investment in the UK includes building a major new data centre in West London and installing 20,000 high-powered processors in the UK by 2026.

Microsoft’s new UK hub will be run by Jordan Hoffmann,  (another former employee from DeepMind) and will collaborate closely with OpenAI which powers Microsoft’s AI driven Copilot System framework.

Surface Laptop Go 3 Review – Value, Quality, and Agility

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (released at tail end of 2023) is the latest addition to the Surface Go family, along with its sibling the Surface Go 4 (2-in-1). This gorgeous, light weight device is a testament to Microsoft’s commitment to delivering high-quality, agile, and aesthetically pleasing devices that offer great value for money.

Quality and Looks

Available in a wide choice of colours, Surface Laptop Go 3 sports a sleek and compact design that is both light weight, sturdy yet still premium. It features a premium aluminum chassis on the lid and keyboard deck, giving it a high-end look and feel, along with reposing touch screen (but no pen support), Secure Core Architecture and Windows Hello sign in via Fingerprint Reader. It is worth nothing that the Surface Laptop Go 3 is the only device in the Surface Family that lacks pen support and Windows Hello face recognition sign in.

Surface Laptop Go 3 is available in 4 colours – Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage and Sandstone.

Performance and Agility

The Surface Laptop Go 3 is equipped with an Intel 12th Gen processor, which provides a solid performance for everyday tasks. It’s available with up to 16GB of RAM (the model I have been using has 8GB) making it capable of handling multiple applications simultaneously without slowing down. It is a device capable of anything outside of intense gaming or complex video editing.

Despite its compact and lightweight size, Surface Laptop Go 3 doesn’t compromise on screen quality. It features a 12.4-inch touch screen with a resolution of 1536 by 1024, providing users with a bright and clear display for all their computing needs even outside.

Value for money

The Surface Laptop Go 3 brings, in my opinion, great performance and power in a sleek chassis given its price point. It it not as powerful as its bigger sibling, the Surface Laptop, but at price of around $799 you get a premium device, which is repairable, sustainable, great looking, lightweight, and practical for almost any task (work, school, or home).

Comparisons with Similar devices

When compared to similar devices, the Surface Laptop Go 3 holds its own in terms for premium feel and weight, though the slight price increase over the previous generation, and competitive nature of this market, does finds itself up against some very serious competition including last year’s Surface Laptop Go 2 and the Surface Go 3, which features a smaller chassis and a lower price point.

Using it on the Go

Using Surface Laptop Go 3 is great when on the move. The “almost” full size keyboard, makes it feel like you are working on a much larger device, but it is much lighter to carry around in a bag, use on the train, coffee shop or anywhere. To be honest, it’s a great device for working anywherem with more than enough horse power for work and home use.

Battery life is not as good as devices like the Surface Laptop or Surface Pro and lasted me a full 5 hours of constant use, including being on wireless, working in Outlook and PowerPoint, using Copilot and taking part in Teams Video Calls. I carry a USB charger with me for my phone and it’s great that I can also charge my Surface Laptop Go 3 with the same power-bank which easily gives me a full day’s work in the vent I cant get to a power outlet. For internet, I simply use free wi-fi where I am, or tether to my mobile which works great.

If you do need a device with 4G/5G built in, I’d suggest Surface Go or Surface Pro which provides options for eSIM or physical SIM.

Windows 365 – a great companion.

Using Surface Laptop 3 as a personal device (as I have here) with Windows 365 makes loads of sense here in this scenario, offering a seamless blend of seamless and secure connectivity to work resources without breaching corporate policy or compromising usability. Using Surface Laptop Go with my dedicated Cloud PC through Windows 365 is a game changer.

The video below shows me connecting my new personal Surface Laptop Go 3 to a monitor and keyboard and then using Windows 365 Switch to simply move to my highly available, secure, and persistent Cloud PC.


Moreover, the Single Sign-On (SSO) feature of Windows 365 adds another layer of security with convenience. With SSO, this means I simply launch the Windows App, (which then integrates with the task switcher in Windows 11. I sign-in with my company Entra ID SSO. This means I can simply sign-in to my personal device and then quickly to my company Windows 365 desktop to get access to my corporate desktop, applications, and resources and I don’t need to mix personal and work staff on the same device – meaning no annoying corporate policies on my personal device, no security / compliance risk for my company and only need to carry one device. The USB-C charging of the laptop is also great as I just plug into a monitor, use the keyboard and mouse and I’m off!

Conclusion

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 is a device that offers a blend of value, quality, looks, and agility. While it faces stiff competition from similar devices, it stands out with its sleek design, solid performance, and quality build. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or a casual user, the Surface Laptop Go 3 is a definitely a device worth considering.

Pavan Davuluri now in charge of Windows and Surface.

Surface Under One Roof

Following Panos Panay’s competitor move to Amazon last year, Microsoft split up the Windows and Surface management structure with Pavan Davuluri looking after the Surface division and Mikhail Parakhin leading a new team that looked after Windows and web experiences.

As of this week, these divisions have again been consolidated, like they were under Panos, with both Windows and Surface being run by Pavan Davuluri. Pavan has been with Microsoft for more than twenty-three years and was a huge driver behind the recent custom-designed Surface processors (SQ) developed in collaboration with Qualcomm.

According to a memo obtained by The Verge, Microsoft says merging the two teams will “enable us to take a holistic approach to building silicon, systems, experiences, and devices that span Windows client and cloud for this AI era.”

Pavan Davuluri – Microsoft Surface and Windows Chief 2024

Personally, I think its great to see the reunion of Windows and Surface teams under Pavan which sits within Microsoft’s Engineering and Devices organisation, headed by Rajesh Jha.

This move also comes after Microsoft’s appointment of DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman as CEO of a new dedicated AI division within Microsoft which has presumably prompted a re-evaluation of their team structures as Microsoft look forward to an FY25 fueled by new advances in Copilot, big updates in Windows and Microsoft’s new AI-PCs.

Reflection

This move is welcomed by Windows enthusiasts, as it promises increased collaboration and cohesion between Microsoft’s hardware and software endeavours and just makes sense to see development of the OS that powers Surface (and of course the other OEMs) being overseen by the same person.

Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 – The new AI-PCs from Microsoft

Microsoft has just (21st March 2024) announced their 2024 AI-powered flagship devices – the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6. Both devices are AI-PCs, packed full of the latest AI hardware to designed to deliver the best performance of the next wave of AI powered apps such as Copilot for Windows, Copilot for Microsoft 365 and of course other AI powered applications from other software vendors such as Adobe. These new devices will yet again setting bar of how to make enterprise class devices for Business.

Video (C) Microsoft

Both the Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 also come with a new Copilot key, putting Copilot front and centre and showing that Microsoft means business when it comes to AI PCs and Copilot.

These new AI-PCs are aimed at business users and not consumers……currently!

When are the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 Available?

Both the Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 are available to pre-order now on Microsoft’s website. The devices will be released on April 9.

Introducing Surface Pro 10

Surface Pro 10 yet again improves on the previous version. In the case of Surface Pro 10 we see a huge improvement in power and performance boost over the previous Surface Pro 9 model thanks to the latest Intel Core Ultra processors which boost performance by 53%. As an AI-Powered PC, Surface Pro 10 also features a dedicated neural processing unit (NPU) which does the core Edge processing of AI tasks, reducing load on the CPU and processing AI tasks significantly faster than a CPU does.

Surface Pro 10 | Image (c) Microsoft

The Surface Pro retains the same design and format of its predecessors, but does include a new screen which is now non-reflective and 33% brighter, making it much easier to use outside and when travelling, while also retaining the same battery life. Microsoft also provide more configuration options than ever with options for Intel Core Ultra 5 135U or Intel Core Ultra 7 165U processors and support for RAM configurations from 8GB to 64GB.

Surface Pro 10 also gets a front camera upgrade and comes with a brand new 1440p webcam with a 114-degree field of view. This, combined with the new Windows 11 Studio effects and the Core Ultra’s NPU for AI workloads enables brings new capabilities for video enabled applications and clearer images.

Surface Pro comes with Thunderbolt 4 ports as standard for connectivity and charging but still includes the staple Surface connector port for connections to Surface Docks and Surface Chargers. You also still get USB-A and microphone jack. There is no SD-CARD slot which is something I still think is a poor decision but hey – nothings perfect.

Connectivity and working from anywhere continues to be a big theme for Surface Pro, with Surface Pro 10 being the first Surface device to support 5G.

Introducing Surface Laptop 6

Available in 13.5-inch and 15-inch models, Surface Laptop 6 combines the sleekness and modern design of a premium laptop with the processing power of a desktop, supporting for the first time, Intel’s H-series processors without compromising on weight, thickness or prestige creating a power house of a laptop, second only to the Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop 2.

Surface Laptop 6 | Image (c) Microsoft

During Microsoft’s live event in the US, they showcased the Surface Laptop 6 connected to multiple 4K screens, running video calls, complex graphics apps, Visual Studio and other apps showcasing the sheer grunt work and power of the device. Leveraging options to choose the Intel Core Ultra 5 135H or Core Ultra 7 165H processors means that Surface Laptop 6 can run at twice the performance of the Laptop 5.

The Surface Laptop 6 stands out not only in performance capabilities but also in its range of specifications catering to various user needs. At its base, the device is equipped with 8GB of RAM, which is quite generous for standard tasks, yet it offers scalability up to an extraordinary 64GB of RAM for those requiring intensive computational power for tasks such as data analysis, programming, video editing, and more.

In terms of storage, this now starts at 256GB Gen4 SSD, ensuring quick boot times and efficient data retrieval. For users with higher storage demands, this can be configured all the way up to 1TB of storage capacity, allowing ample space for large files, video, multimedia libraries, and extensive software applications.

Further bolstering Microsoft’s security credentials, Surface Laptop 6 also comes with additional (optional) security features, with options to include a smart card reader (currently available solely in the US) and near-field communication (NFC) technology, which is aimed at bolstering a client’s commitment to zero-trust security principles. These features enable swift and secure sign-in and sign-out processes, particularly vital in high-risk areas where security is paramount.

Surface Laptop 6 still of course includes support for Windows Hello for Business and of course user-specific PINs, again helping to eliminate the need for cumbersome passwords. This approach to dual-factor authentication significantly heightens security, making unauthorised access exceedingly difficult.

Sustainability and Repairability

Finally, I need to mention Microsoft’s on-going commitment to sustainability and reparability. Microsoft design all their products with the circular economy in mind, with “integrity built in across the entire product lifecycle – from design and supply chain through product usage and end-of-life management”.

The new Surface devices are fashioned from recycled aluminium, which not only provides a sleek, modern aesthetic but also reduces the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process. Internally, the device now includes QR code guidance, which simplifies repair processes and effectively reduces the overall maintenance costs, further catering to the needs of businesses conscious of their environmental impact and operating expenses.

This dedication to environmental conscientiousness and user-centric design makes Surface an exemplary devices and the most sustainable devices on the tech market.

Surface for Business… What about Consumer?

Unlike in previous years, Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 are only available for business customers. But don’t worry – Microsoft made it clear that they “absolutely remain committed to consumer devices.” “Building great devices that people love to use aligns closely with our company mission to empower individuals as well as organisations and we are excited to be bringing devices to market that deliver great AI experiences to our customers. Todays commercial announcement is only the first part of this effort.”

Are Microsoft Changing Copilot in Windows?

This week, Microsoft shipped Windows Insider preview build 26080 (in both the Canary and Dev channels), which has introduced a way for users to release the Copilot Window from being attached to the right-hand side of the screen where it has lived since birth!

Previously, the Copilot widget opened on the right of the screen, and whilst in recent preview builds, Microsoft introduced the ability to resize it (make it bigger), it was still attached to the right side of the screen as shown below.

Copilot in Windows (attached to the right of the screen)

Detaching Copilot

With preview build 26080, it is now possible to undock Copilot, so it feels like a traditional app, meaning you can move Copilot to wherever you want to. The Copilot “app” can moved and resized as needed to make it more customisation in how you choose to work in Windows – just like you would with say the Calculator app. Bear in mind this is in preview and subject to user feedback (file in the Feedback Hub), this may not be a permanent change.

Copilot in detached mode (Windows Insiders on Canary Build).

This is rolling out for Windows Insiders on the Canary Build but will make its way to Insiders on the Dev build soon following initial feedback from Canary build testers.

Note: Microsoft use Windows Insider Builds to try new things out, seek feedback from users and to gauge how well innovative ideas and changes are received, as well as to action the feedback from users.

Copilot in Windows is also getting bigger hooks

In this preview build, Windows Insiders are also going to see that Copilot is getting new abilities to act and control the underlying Windows 11 settings. This includes the ability to perform tasks such as emptying the Recycle Bin, toggle Live Captions, toggle Voice Access, and can also ask Copilot more about various system stats such as battery information, system infrormation and also has the ability to enable battery saver.

A note on Build Numbers

Regular Windows Insiders may also notice that both the Canary and Dev Channels are receiving the same build number currently. Microsoft remind users that this does happen sometimes as during the times in which the Canary and Dev Channels are on the same builds (e.g. Build 26080), it provides an opportunity for Insiders in the Canary Channel to switch to the Dev Channel. Once this windows has passed, the Canary Channel will jump to higher build numbers and the window will be closed.

You check out the recent builds and offioial blog from Microsoft here: