In terms of tech parties, it doesn’t really get much bigger than Microsoft Ignite. 

Sure, there's Oracle’s OpenWorld, which just drew some 60,000 attendees to San Francisco. And Salesforce's Dreamforce, which attracted more than 150,000 to San Francisco last year, is on the way. 

Ignite, which kicks off Monday in Atlanta, is only supposed to draw around 30,000. But you know what they say: Size definitely isn't everything. And for my money, and probably for those who use the tech giant's enterprise tools every day, Ignite just has more to offer.

Ignite: Many Conferences in One

Before anyone picks up a pitchfork, let me be clear: This is an entirely personal opinion. Undoubtedly, there will be some who (incorrectly) disagree.

But let’s face it, Microsoft Ignite is, as the company has persuaded me, "one conference that's really every tech event." Remember, back in late 2014, Microsoft opted to bring all of its enterprise business applications together into one mega conference called Ignite, pulling together what the company described as a the best of the best of best of Microsoft’s enterprise conferences.

And whatever you think about Microsoft, one thing is clear: It's got deep holds on businesses large and small.

No matter what business software your enterprise uses, the chances are Microsoft tools are among them ... whether it's Office 365, Azure or standalone Microsoft Office suites.

Igniting Some Ire

Some 23,000 people attended the inaugural Microsoft Ignite conference at McCormick Place in Chicago early last year. And while the content was good, attendees were less enthusiastic about the logistics, including the food and the distance from the venue to the hotels. 

The complaints were loud enough that Microsoft abruptly scrapped plans to hold the second annual Ignite in Chicago. Microsoft's Chris Capossela, executive vice president and CMO, told CMSWire last October the tech giant has "made the decision to shift Microsoft Ignite from spring to fall" — and relocate the event from Chicago to Atlanta.

So that's where all the action will be next week, at the 3.9 million square foot Georgia World Congress Center.

Microsoft Ignite Agenda

Microsoft has many children. But clearly it doesn't love all of them equally.

In fact, it you look through the number of sessions dedicated to each product, you see where Microsoft’s big concerns are this year: Office 365 will be get the lion’s share of the love, followed closely by Azure, Windows and SharePoint.

All products, or product suites in the case of Office 365, have undergone major upgrades or releases in the past 12 months, and Microsoft is clearly looking to push these upgrades hard.

Planning Your Ignite Agenda

So how do you decide what to attend at Ignite? Well, you’re not going to cover the entire conference and all the sessions so it’s important to go to Ignite with a plan. Here’s what we’ll be looking out for over the week, and the topics that Microsoft is dedicating most time to.

  • Productivity
  • IT and Cloud Infrastructure
  • Application Platform
  • Security
  • Management

These are followed by data and mobility as subject areas.

What's Important to Microsoft

It looks like Microsoft then is pushing everything in the direction of productivity through the cloud, providing adequate security and management for the apps and building its IT and cloud fracture to enable all this.

At the heart of Microsoft’s push to the cloud is the Windows Server 2016, which is likely to be released next week after more than two years of work.  While two years of development is a long time to sustain interest in a product, Microsoft kept the pot boiling with a streamlined version called Nano Server.  The new server is also like to be more tightly integrated with Azure.

Learning Opportunities

Windows 10 will also be getting a lot of love as expected with Rob Lefferts who leads the Enterprise and Security Program Management Team in the Windows and Devices Group talking it up to put Windows 10 at the heart of digital transformation.

Lefferts will also discuss the latest Windows enhancements in management, security, and productivity and how they are changing what is currently possible and how it will be used in the future.

Microsoft's Productivity Push

But productivity, enterprise collaboration and the applications that support that will be highlight of the week.

High on my list of must sees in this respect will be Director of Product Marketing Dan Holme’s take on Microsoft collaboration strategy and how Office 365 will be feeding it not that

He will specifically look at collaboration across communication apps, documents, teamwork and company engagement, built on Office 365 Groups, Office Graph and Trust.

Mobile SharePoint was also one of the big announcements over the year. Mark Kashman, senior product manager on the SharePoint team, will examine mobile intranets, how to find information on them, and what’s coming for the SharePoint mobile app in the coming months.

Finally, Skype for Business will also be high on the agenda with Gurdeep Sing Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, looking at how Skype will be at the core communication application, and the roadmap over the next year as Microsoft continues to push it deeper into the core of Office 365.

Open Day Keynotes

The there will be two keynotes on opening day that should provide a lot of insight into where Microsoft will be going over the next year. 

Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President, Microsoft will focus on how technology enables digital transformation and will be demonstrating new technologies, and CEO Satya Nadella will set the tone for what Microsoft will be focused on over the coming year.

There is little detail on what Nadella is going to talk about except to say that he will focus on next generation innovations and investments that will shape IT in the foreseeable future. He will also discuss how Microsoft will be managing these emerging trend. 

More from Ignite next week, with CMSWire Chief Editor Noreen Seebacher in attendance. Have a story tip from the conference? Tweet her at @writenoreen.

Title image by Joey Kyber

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