Microsoft Connect(); Any Developer, Any App, Any Platform

As Operations Director at TEKenable I’m responsible for making sure that the software we create for our clients is delivered on time, within budget and using the best tools available.

That’s an exciting role and one that requires constantly keeping on top of the latest software development trends. So, if you combine this with our status as a ‘Gold’ Microsoft application development partner it’s only natural that I’m a big fan of Microsoft Connect ()

Microsoft Connect () (and yes, it’s written with a bracket, developers love brackets!) is the company’s biggest annual event for the developer community and it’s where we normally get to hear about the latest demos, technical sessions and developments tools.

It’s also an important event for Microsoft as it allows the company to present its vision for the year ahead and share the latest ‘stuff’ with developers.

This year was no exception. I’ve recently been looking at videos from the 2017 Connect () event held in New York on November 15-17 and as usual there’s lots to learn.

I’ve summarised some of the key points as I see them below – with an emphasis on new features that will make life easier for developers! and bear in mind it’s not an exhaustive list, but first a quick look at the overarching theme of Connect () 2017. This year’s event was entitled ‘Any Developer, Any App, Any Platform’ and to me it’s clear why.

Any Developer, Any App, Any Platform

Having invested massively in cloud infrastructure over the last few years, Microsoft is now keen to get developers consuming its cloud based services.  And Microsoft doesn’t mind where these customers come from, provided they use a Microsoft service at some point.

This is a big change. In the past Microsoft was largely focused on selling the Microsoft stack, today the company is happy to collaborate with communities using other approaches.

To my mind, this is a big move in the right direction. It’s great to see the possibilities for collaboration between development communities continuing to grow (i.e. Objective-C, .NET, Java, and Python)

That’s because I strongly believe that Digital Transformation for any organisation should not be constrained by technology. Instead, it should be technology agnostic.

To take one example – Do I as a customer care what technology platform mytaxi runs off? I only really care that the application works the way I need it to and that my data is secure. So if a .NET application does the job, fine, but if a Java application works, that’s fine too.

New tools for Microsoft Developers

That said, Microsoft has a strong offering for the developer community and it’s getting even better. In his keynote address, Scott Guthrie focused on the Microsoft developer toolset and showed how it can be used to build truly powerful applications, in industries ranging from Healthcare (Siemens Healthcare) to Clothing (Columbia Sportswear)

Scott’s emphasised how Microsoft is well positioned for today’s hyper-connected world – with developers leveraging the so called ‘intelligent edge’ (ranging from your PC to your smart phone or even the IoT) and with applications deployed to the ‘intelligent cloud’.

Scott’s keynote also touched on the new tools and features that Microsoft will soon make available to developers. Here’s just a few announced and launched during Connect () that I believe will be very beneficial for the developer community over the coming months.

Live Share (Preview) – https://code.visualstudio.com/blogs/2017/11/15/live-share

This is a new feature, currently in preview, allowing collaborative developer interaction, – its effectively paired programming in the digital age! Specifically, it allows for real time collaboration between developers in Visual Studio or VS Code IDE’s, allowing for shared debugging and independent views. I think this builds nicely on the Microsoft strategy for team working and collaboration tools (e.g. Teams & SharePoint), bringing a similar level of employee empowerment to the developer community.

Visual Studio App Center – https://www.visualstudio.com/app-center/

This provides a platform to build, test and deploy your apps, capture analytics and feedback and build quality apps with speed and innovation. It builds upon Xamarin Test Cloud with code running and tested on real devices and analytics on crash reports easily tracked and reported. It really will help to complete the feedback loop from development to deployment and customer engagement.

VSCode – https://code.visualstudio.com/

VSCode is a free lightweight source code development IDE that allows developer to write their applications through several languages (Node.js, PHP, Java, C#, Python, etc). It also runs on Windows, macOS and Linux. It has a rich market place as well and with available extensions continuing to grow via the community of users.

SQL Operations Studio (Currently Preview) – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/sql-operations-studio/what-is

Similar to VSCode this is free lightweight SQL development and operations tool that runs on Windows, macOS and Linux works with SQL Server (Windows, Docker and Linux) and Azure SQL Database. It’s great to see this free tool supporting the many developers working on SQL databases in a non-Windows environment.

App Service Diagnostics – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/announcing-the-general-availability-of-azure-app-service-diagnostics/

This is a really helpful feature for App Services, allowing you to monitor and diagnose issues with your web apps – anything from the app being down to poor performance. It helps to identify specific app specific issues but also help to identify an app that is showing poor performance within your App Service environment. It also includes intelligent app healing features based on the state of web apps from within Azure.

Connect ():2017 – great new ‘stuff’ for developers

‘Digital Transformation’ has been a mantra at Microsoft for some time now and one of the four ‘pillars’ of Digital Transformation, according by Microsoft is ‘Employees’. Watching Connect () last week, it’s clear to me that Microsoft have taken Digital Transformation for employees to heart – focusing not just on non-IT staff but also focusing on the Technical staff who develop the code and deliver technology behind the scenes.

That’s my kind of digital transformation and I’m looking forward to using the new Microsoft developer tools launched at Connect () during the months to come.