As I sit here, at the airport waiting for my 2 hour delayed flight home, I finally have time to gather my thoughts on the day 2 keynote. I will withhold my overall judgment for the rest of the conference until another post. The first half of the keynote was all about Azure and web. There were plenty of demo’s and a lot of content. You can watch the keynote on Channel 9.
Where Windows has recently started ramping up rapid release cycles, Azure has been doing it for a while. They have released 100+ major service in the last few years. Not only have they released these services they have moved more of their applications to Azure. Xbox live, Office 365, and Team Foundation Server are all dog fooding Azure. Microsoft thinks that there are three areas that need to be address when talking about the cloud for modern business. The cloud needs to be:
- Web centric
- Mobile Centric
- Cloud Scale & Enterprise Grade
They then spent the rest of the time showing how Azure is currently addressing some of these needs and previewed some services that will address more of them.
They announced the general availability of Azure Websites. Azure Websites is an Azure service that provides free websites to users. This allows originations to publish sites without having to worry about maintaining infrastructure. They can then scale up to one of the paid tiers, relatively easily, as traffic to their site increases. Previously this service was in preview. There are 130,000+ active Azure Websites. They did not define active but that is an impressive number.
Scott Hanselman then got up to discuss what’s new in .Net 4.5.1 (another announcement) in the ASP.Net space. There is now one ASP.Net to rule them. It does not matter if you want to do ASP Web Forms (yes you still can), ASP MVC, ASP Web API or any combination thereof. There is only one project template for web. Once you select it, you then choose which components you want. In continuing their push into the open source space then next version of Visual Studio will include Twitter Bootstrap. They also announced that Entity Framework is now async capable. This means you can now create asynchronous application from top to bottom.
With Visual studio 2013, you now have Azure integration that manages the deployment of your site. I haven’t done web development in a while but some of these new features may get me to take another look. If you have never seen Scott present a talk then you don’t know what you are missing.
About six months ago, Microsoft announced a new Azure service that made building out backend systems for mobile devices easy. As with Azure Websites, you get 10 Azure Mobile Services for “free”. These services are not limited to Windows devices, any device that can connect to a REST based service can take advantage of Azure Mobile Services. There is a rich set of features in this service:
- Basic CRUD database operations.
- Authentication using a Microsoft Account, Facebook Account, or Twitter Account
- Push Notifications to Windows devices, Android devices, and iOS devices
- Custom APIs
- Scheduler for scheduling tasks
- Many more
After six months they have announced the General Availability of Azure Mobile Services. If you are interested I building mobile application, I suggest you check this out.
Cloud Scale & Enterprise Grade
Scott Gu came up to talk about Azure Preview that will make Azure scale easily and become more enterprise ready. First a new Auto Scale feature is coming that will allow you to set some thresholds that will trigger you service to either scale up or down without intervention. Some new identity service are coming to allow your Azure Active Directory to be used for single sign-on to third party service like ADP. This should help streamline user management. If you terminate an employee and deactivate their account, you can be assured that their access to those third party sites is deactivated as well. Finally, Microsoft is providing BizTalk as services to allow enterprises to easily enable B2B scenarios. From everything I have heard, easy is not a word used to describe BizTalk so we will have to see how well this preview goes.
This concluded the Azure portion of the keynote. It seems that anything that was in preview before //Build/ went GA and new services were brought into preview. They have committed to continue their rapid release cycle. If you believe that there is a piece of functionality missing, keep an eye out and you may see that feature previewed. Also, if you have evaluated Azure in the past and found it wanting, I would take another look.
When everyone thought the keynote was over Steve “Guggs” Guggenheimer, came out to talk about some general stuff that did not fit into any other part of the keynote. He highlighted so developer opportunities on Microsoft platforms. The first thing he pointed out was that most devices in the Microsoft ecosystem contains software built using a common core. Even though you are not currently able to build once and run on all these device, the reuse story has gotten better and will continue to improve.
It was highly anticipated that Microsoft would make some Xbox announcements at Build. Game dev? App dev? Everyone was disappointed. Xbox did make an appearance in the second keynote. They remote debugged an “Xbox.js” on an Xbox One. They weren’t ready to make any announcements but Guggs did say that if you want to get a jump on developing Xbox apps, you should build Windows 8.1 applications. There is no promise that they will run on an Xbox but with a common core it is not hard to believe that the dev story will be similar. Still no indie game dev story for the new Xbox. This did not make some people happy. If Microsoft wants Xbox One to be a success they better start being a little more open about what’s to come.
Overall I thought the second keynote was better than the first. There was more tech content and less marketing speak. This is a necessity for a developer conference. There were some things missing from both, indie game story, Windows Phone Blue, Office vNext, to name a few. In my next post I will give you my overall opinion of the conference. Until then I encourage you to go out watch the keynotes and all sessions that interest you.
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