INTERVIEW: Microsoft’s Brad Anderson tells Silicon why the Azure cloud, machine learning and enterprise mobility make Microsoft 365 businesses more secure
Earlier this year, Microsoft combined its three main services, Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility and Security Suite into a single, all-encompassing service: Microsoft 365.
The idea is that all three would integrate, simplifying matters for It departments who no longer have to worry about keeping everything patched or fixing issues, and that all three could work together, powered by the Azure public cloud.
The arrival of Microsoft 365 is the latest stage of the company’s move towards a service-oriented model. Office 365 launched at the start of the decade and is now the world’s most used cloud application. Windows 10 debuted in 2015 and will receive iterative updates rather than major revisions.
At IP Expo in London, Silicon sat down with Brad Anderson, head of enterprise mobility at Microsoft, to discuss the changes and what they meant for customers, claiming that for the majority of those who already have an enterprise agreement with Redmond, Microsoft 365 is simply a modern version of that.
“It’s the first time in our history that a product is just ‘Microsoft’,” he said. “We’ve put our most valuable brand on it, so it gives an expectation of quality.
“This is not just a branding exercise, there are true integrations. We felt it deserved a name and it’s a genuine product. Microsoft Office redefined what productivity meant and n 3-5 years’ time you’re going to see it in the same way.”
While Office and Windows are household names, synonymous with personal computing, the third component – Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) – is less so. However Anderson said EMS is the fastest selling product in its history, with Microsoft InTune alone having more than 50 million licensees.
Mobility and Teams
And it’s clear from Andersons visit to London that the company is now putting security and ease of use at the core of its sales pitch. It wants to emphasise the sheer number of enterprise users the volume of interactions, as many 15 billion authentications a day, they make with its software.
By collecting this data, analysing it in the cloud and then applying machine learning techniques to take actions, Microsoft believes organisations will be more secure.
“What we’ve been working on over the past few years is bringing all the data we have together … We have lots of data, but also the right data,” he said. “Microsoft 365 services are all architected to work together. They’re not all separate parts of a whole.
“What we see right now is the [increasing] sophistication of the attacks against our customers and Microsoft, and the rates of those attacks mean human hands just can’t keep up. You have to have the power of the cloud backing you up. It’s not just capacity, it’s time sensitivity. These things can spread in an hour.
Intelligent security graph
“By taking advantage of the cloud, we can detect these things in real time and so our customers can block these in time.
“We can see something on identity, or on a device, and we can get this composite view. We call this the intelligent security graph and this gives us the ability to let organisations look at a risk in real time.
“We can see the identity being used, the app and the device they’re using. We will either block or grant access based on the policy depending on the risk they’re willing to tolerate.
“Inside the Intelligent security graph, every single identity has a risk score associated with it – low, medium or high. Then we’re able to watch how it’s used and if we see things abnormal, and we’ll move the risk up.”
Anderson said that CISOs were keen to reduce the number of security tools they were using, not only because they were seemingly inadequate, but because the more complex an IT environment is, the less secure it is.
“Our message is that you’re more secure if you’re using Microsoft Cloud,” he said. “One of the most common vulnerabilities is that people don’t upgrade. If we do it, IT doesn’t have to go through that process.”
In recent years, Microsoft’s mobile strategy has moved away from trying to create its own platform following disappointments with Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile. Whereas Microsoft Office on mobile was a key selling point for Windows Phone, getting its apps on as many devices as possible is the new strategy. This means more endpoints for Microsoft to gather data from.
Our conversation took place before reports that Microsoft had seemingly decided to stop adding new features to Windows 10 Mobile, but Anderson was happy with the situation, noting that just ten percent of the mobile devices it manages are Windows.
“That’s a fairly average number in terms of the west,” he said. “Mobility is about the mobility of the human spirit, not the device they’re working on.”
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