Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Microsoft Build announcements at a glance: Azure, Power platform get major updates

When Microsoft was founded more than 45 years ago, it was a developer tools company, and its first product was a programming language. During his keynote at the virtual Microsoft Build developer’s conference, Scott Guthrie, executive vice-president of cloud and AI group, said developers and the platforms they use have been “core to Microsoft’s DNA ever since.”

photo of scott guthrie
Scott Guthrie, EVP, cloud and AI group, Microsoft

And it has never been a better time to be a developer.

“Digital transformation that was projected to happen over the next 10 years is happening today,” Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella said during his keynote. “As computing becomes embedded in every aspect of our lives, there will no longer be such a thing as the tech sector. The world will be transformed through tech intensity at scale. Every organization will not only need to adopt the latest technology, but more importantly build their own unique digital technology or be left behind. Over the past two years, the number of developers at non-tech companies has grown faster than at tech companies.

“This conference is not about setting new rules or constraints that dictate how or what you should build.”

photo of satya nadella
Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

At the conference, Microsoft made more than 100 announcements, including new features and functions aimed at providing that help to developers. Here are some highlights:

Azure

Given Microsoft’s focus on cloud, Azure received the most love at Build, with 24 specific announcements and a few more for services or products related to it.

Azure AI contains three new components to help developers modernize common business processes. Azure Bot Service now contains a visual authoring canvas with extensible open-source tools allowing the addition of speech and telephony capabilities. Azure Metrics Advisor, now generally available, uses machine learning to find and provide insights on anomalies in telemetry from sensors, products, and business metrics. Azure Video Analyzer, now in preview, combines Live Video Analytics and Video Indexer into a single service.

Two components of Azure Cognitive Services, Document Translator and Text Analytics for Health, have emerged from preview and are now generally available.

Azure Machine Learning managed endpoints, which help developers build and deploy models quickly, is now in preview. It includes infrastructure monitoring and log analytics.

PyTorch Enterprise has been introduced on Microsoft Azure. Microsoft is working with PyTorch to create the PyTorch Enterprise Support Program to provide users with a more reliable production experience.

Azure App Services are now in preview as Azure Arc enabled, letting them run on Kubernetes clusters anywhere.

Native support for WebSocket APIs in Azure API Management is now in preview.

Azure Communication Services will receive multiple new intelligent features. Now in preview: a UI library to allow developers to build custom experiences, Traversal Using Relays around NAT (TURN) protocol support to allow voice and video between web or mobile apps, and Azure Communication Services Calling SDK for Windows Universal Platform to allow developers to add voice and video calling to native Windows apps. Entering preview sometime in June are Call recording for Azure Communication Services and Direct Routing for Azure Communication Services.

Azure Logic Apps now offer new hosting options, plus better integration with Visual Studio Code. Microsoft has also announced a new standard pricing tier, as well as 4000 additional actions in the pay-per-use consumption tier.

Two new Azure Marketplace offers make it easier for customers to move their Java apps to Azure. Offers for Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform are jointly supported by Red Hat and Microsoft and offers for WebSphere Application Server receive joint support from Microsoft and IBM.

The Microsoft build of OpenJDK is a free long-term support version of OpenJDK, a reference implementation of the Java SE platform. It is now generally available.

Durable Functions, an extension to Azure Functions for the creation of serverless workflows, now supports PowerShell, and is generally available.

Microsoft is previewing a series of updates to its Azure analytics tools. Azure Synapse Link for Dataverse lets developers working in Power Apps or Dynamics 365 bring their Dataverse environment to Azure Synapse. Azure Synapse support for Spark 3.0 and Synapse Apache Spark Hardware will improve the performance of Apache Spark workloads. Azure Purview, a data classification and governance service, now supports Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL.

Azure Cosmos DB received a herd of updates, including an expanded free tier giving 1,000 request units provisioned throughput and 25 GB storage per month for the lifetime of one Azure Cosmos DB account per Azure subscription. New features in preview are: Azure Cosmos DB Linux emulator, partial document update, Cosmos DB integrated cache, and Always Encrypted for Azure Cosmos DB. Azure Cosmos DB serverless and Azure Cosmos DB role-based access control are now generally available.

Two new pricing tiers for Azure Databases for PostgreSQL and Azure Database for MySQL Flexible Server include a soon-to-be-available 12-month offer for customers signing up for a free Azure account that provides up to 750 hours free. Additionally, Azure Database for PostgreSQL – Hyperscale now has a single node basic tier, available in preview in the eastern United States (more regions coming soon).

Azure SQL Database offers ledger capabilities to provide cryptographic verification for enterprise customers with sensitive data. It is now in preview.

.NET 6 Preview 4 is available, with a slew of new features including Visual Studio support for its multi-platform app UI that lets developers build apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android with a single codebase, ASP.NET Blazor hybrid apps, and more device targets including Apple silicon and ARM64. It also includes performance improvements.

Azure Security Center now includes container scan results found by a GitHub Action.

Visual Studio 2019 16.10, with productivity enhancements and enhanced Docker and Azure tooling, is now generally available.

Azure app services are now Arc-enabled, allowing them to be used on-premises or on other cloud services through Azure Arc.

Azure Arc-enabled Open Service Mesh (OSM), which simplified integration between OSM and Arc-enabled Kubernetes clusters, is now in preview.

Azure Kubernetes Services on Azure Stack HCI is now generally available. Azure Stack HCI, a cloud-connected hyperconverged infrastructure operating system delivered as an Azure service, also received new multicluster monitoring in the Azure Portal.

Azure Bicep, an open-source language for deploying Azure resources as code, is releasing version 0.4 in June; it adds a new bicep linter, simplified code structures, and code validation.

Azure Monitor‘s latest update adds two features in preview: easy onboarding of Application Insights for Java apps on Azure App Services, and sharable query packs of log analytics.

Elastic and Microsoft are developing a native Azure experience, now in preview. Users can find, deploy, and manage Elastic from within the Azure portal.

Azure IoT has announced that updates are generally available. Azure IoT Edge has been updated to include nesting capabilities, and Azure IoT Edge for Linux on Windows, also known as EFLOW, has been released.

Identity and cloud security

  • The Continuous Access Evaluation feature in Azure Active Directory is now in preview in Microsoft Graph.
  • Azure Active Directory access reviews let customers review assignments of privileged roles to help them better govern access.
  • Azure Confidential Ledger is a new managed Azure service, now in preview, that offers a tamper-proof register for storing sensitive data for record-keeping and auditing. It protects data in use through a Trusted Execution Environment, a secure area of a main processor, and provides write once, read many guarantees to ensure the data can’t be tampered with or erased.
  • Visual Studio 2019.10 offers a new command-line tool, MS Identity App Sync, which makes it simpler for developers to register and configure ASP.NET apps. It is now in preview.

Microsoft 365

In addition to the Teams updates, there were four announcements aimed at Microsoft Graph.

  • Graph Data Connect is now offered on Azure as a metered service rather than being billed per user/per month so developers need only pay for their usage.
  • Microsoft Search Federation, which creates a unified search across Azure Cognitive Search and Dynamics 365, will be generally available later this year.

Related

All the Teams updates announced at Microsoft Build 2021

  • Microsoft is expanding the searchable content sources using Graph connectors. Announced in 2019, connectors are currently available to Microsoft Search in SharePoint, Office.com, and Bing, and are coming soon to Teams and Windows.
  • A new embedded app, Organization Explorer, is coming to Microsoft Outlook this summer to help employees find people within their company with similar skills or to discover teams to collaborate with.

Power Platform

Users of the low code Power Platform received eight new goodies to enjoy:

  • Process Advisor, a new component of Process Automate, recommends processes to automate and enables users without extensive coding ability to automate repetitive tasks. It is available with Attended RPA and per-user plans.
  • Three new professional development tools and certifications: Power Platform integration into the Microsoft 365 Developer plan, a new stand-alone Power Apps Developer plan and a new Power Platform Fusion Development learning path, will help developers build low code solutions.
  • Power BI integration with Jupyter Notebook is now in preview.
  • New capabilities in Power BI Premium include automation APIs, streaming dataflows, and automatic aggregation. The APIs are available now, while the dataflows and aggregation will enter preview in June.
  • New features coming to Power Fx will allow developers to build apps using natural language, powered by the GPT-3 natural language model from OpenAI, running on Azure Machine Learning. For example, typing “show orders with product names starting with kids” would produce a list of the most appropriate formulae for the developer to choose from. Additionally, the PROgram Synthesis using Examples (PROSE) SDK can train models to perform tasks when given a few examples. These capabilities will be in preview in June.
  • Power Fx is being extended from Power Apps canvas apps to Model-Driven Commanding and Dataverse Calculated Columns. These extensions will be in preview in June.
  • Fusion teams – teams including both professional developers and so-called citizen developers – are the target audience for a set of features that Microsoft says are coming “soon”: Native Power Platform integration into Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, command-line interface (CLI) support for source code files and packaging, independent publisher capabilities, and an application lifecycle management accelerator.
  • Power Virtual Agents is now integrated with Bot Composer Framework to help developers and business users build bots together. Users can enhance their bot by developing custom dialogues with the Bot Framework Composer and add them to their Power Virtual Agents bot. Custom dialogues added with Bot Framework Composer are deployed, hosted and executed with the rest of Power Virtual Agents bot content and do not require additional Microsoft Azure hosting.

Windows

Windows components weren’t ignored either.

  • Microsoft Edge 91 now has several performance enhancers, including Sleeping Tabs that put ads to sleep when a tab is in the background, and Startup Boost, which runs core Edge processes in the background even when the browser isn’t active, speeding its launch.
  • Edge WebView2 for Win32 C/C++, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Forms and WinUI 3 aid developers in bringing web-based experiences into their native apps, regardless of the version of Windows. It is now generally available.
  • The preview of Project Reunion lets developers build Windows apps faster by decoupling the UI from the operating system. It offers support for Windows 10 version 1809, the ability to use Project Reunion with a .NET 5 app and Windows UI Library (WinUI) 3, and Microsoft Edge WebView2 for user interaction development. Version 1.0 is scheduled for Q4 of this year.
  • This summer, the Microsoft Store will be selling the Snapdragon Developer Kit, a Windows on ARM reference device that allows developers to build native applications on ARM64.
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) now supports Linux graphical user interface apps.
  • Commercial Windows users will soon be able to search in enterprise tools such as Salesforce and Dynamics 365 from the Windows search bar.
  • Windows Terminal 1.9 preview, now available, has a new Quake Mode that lets users open a new terminal window with a keyboard shortcut. It also has a new settings UI so users no longer have to edit a configuration file.

You’ll find more detail on all of these updates by following the links in the Microsoft Build Book of News.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree.

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