Artificial Intelligence and cognitive technologies are already transforming the way government agencies work. From predicting fraudulent transactions and detecting criminal suspects via vision APIs, to speech recognition and language translation, cognitive capabilities are a way to “augment/assist” government workers and complement their skills.

I had the opportunity to record a video on Azure Custom Speech Service with Steve Michelotti from the AzureGov team. Steve and I talked about how Azure Custom Speech Service can overcome most common challenges in speech recognition, including speaking style, technical vocabulary, and background noise.

Please take a listen and let us know your thoughts. We strongly believe that the innovative capabilities like Azure Custom Speech Service are a real differentiator when it comes to selecting a cloud provider.

I am pleased to announce my latest Pluralsight course on PowerApps (Well…such is the nature of change in the cloud that there has already been a name change since I submitted this course for publication, only a few weeks back. The aspect of PowerApps covered in my course is now referred to as Canvas Apps.)

This course is designed for developers (both citizen and professional developers) interested in a low-code approach for building mobile applications.

Here’s some background on PowerApps, if you haven’t had a chance to play with it yet:

PowerApps is a productive low-code development platform. It allows you to very quickly build business applications that can run inside a web browser, on a phone or a tablet. PowerApps includes a web-based IDE (PowerApps Studio, a set of built-in cross-platform controls), an Excel-like expression language that also includes imperative constructs like variables and loops, and over 130 connectors to talk to any number of data sources — including SQL Server, Office 365, Salesforce, Twitter, etc. You can also use custom connectors to talk to your domain-specific data source.

Beyond the controls, language expression and connectors, PowerApps provides ALM support in the form of app versioning, app publication to various app stores, swim-lanes for development environments, authentication and authorization (via Azure AD), RBAC controls, and security polices like data loss prevention (DLP).  All in all, the PowerApps service seeks to significantly lower the bar for building and distributing cross-platform mobile applications within your enterprise.

For a concrete example of our use of PowerApps, please read how we built a cross-platform event app in less than a week. Also please check out a recent episode of DotNetRocks where we talk about PowerApps.

Finally, as part of the latest spring update, PowerApps is combining with Dynamics 365 for Sales, Marketing, and Talent applications to offer an enterprise high-productivity application platform as a service (known as Microsoft Business Applications platform). What this means for PowerApps developers is that:

  1. They can now take advantage of server-side logic
  2. They have access to a data-centric way of building declarative apps, known as model-driven apps (in contrast to canvas apps, which are built by dragging and dropping controls to a canvas).

For more information on the spring update, please refer to this blog post by Frank Weigel.

I hope you will find this course useful. Please reach out to me via this blog or Twitter if you have any questions or comments.

Virtual Service Endpoints is a new feature for securing Azure Services (like Storage and Azure SQL Database) to your VNET. In other words, traffic to these services remains limited to the Azure backbone. Before the advent of this feature, clients could access these services via the Internet (as long as they were part of the IP address range specified using the firewall rules).

However, Virtual Service Endpoints is only available to resources connected to Resource Manager VNETs. This means that classic compute resources like VMs and Cloud Services cannot take advantage of these features out of the box.  This blog post describes an approach to overcome this limitation.

As shown in the diagram below, we have a classic VM (Vnet1-VM1) connected to a classic VNET (Vnet1-ASM). We want to take advantage of Virtual Service Endpoints for Storage. More specifically, we want a program executing on Vnet1-VM1 to access the storage in a manner that the traffic is completely limited to the Azure backbone.

A diagram of a classic VM connected to a classic VNET
Read More…

Last week, I had the pleasure to be a guest on the .NET Rock podcast. I talked to Carl and Richard about the Microsoft Business Application Platform, which organizes the huge suite of tools available in Azure, along with PowerApps and PowerBI, to create a great place to build applications that run on Windows, iOS and Android.

I also talked about moving up into a higher layer of coding using Logic Apps and Azure Flow to pull together the various sources of data that already exist in your organization, including Office, SharePoint, SalesForce and so on. You already have the data, so how do you surface it in an app that your users actually like to use?

And finally, we discussed the PowerApps spring update that brings both server-side logic and model-driven apps.

Listen to the full podcast here!

For the last few years, I have enjoyed participating in HOUR OF CODE – a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. In 2017, 154,012 Hour Of Code events were registered worldwide.

To show how much fun (and useful) coding is, I wanted the kids to build something real,  vs. simply making their favorite character walk left or right.  I decided to use the MIT App Inventor tool for my Hour of Code sessions. App Inventor is a browser-based tool that allows you to build your own apps.  We built a simple Android app to help parents reduce distractions while driving. Even though the app is super simple, the results are cool enough for kids to proudly show the app to their parents.

Here is a 10-minute video of the steps we followed to build and test the app: Read More…

As 2017 ends, it’s clear that while the enterprises (public sector and commercial) are increasingly moving to the public cloud, they face significant challenges. Earlier in the year, I wrote about bridging the chasm between the expectations from an enterprise regarding cloud capabilities and the actual out-of-the box features offered by cloud providers. Additional challenges include the foundational culture shift to cloud governance, DevOps and automation, security and compliance, and mapping an enterprise’s application portfolio to a complex array of cloud service options.

Here are five things you can do next year to better assist enterprises adopt the public cloud: Read More…

Microsoft AppSource is a great destination for discovering line-of-business SaaS offerings, ISV apps and services offered by SIs. Today, we are proud to announce that the AIS Service Catalog (ASC) is now available in AppSource.

You can now get started with ASC in just minutes by clicking here – simply login to AppSource and then onboard your Azure subscription to ASC. You can leverage ASC as a SaaS or deploy a dedicated instance of ASC inside your subscription. Please feel free to contact us for more information.

We believe that Service Catalog is an important part of any Enterprise DevOps Toolchain. This is why, after years of guiding enterprises and government agencies through their journey to Enterprise Cloud DevOps, we built ASC as a Service Catalog for Azure.

In a nutshell, ASC allows developers to quickly provision enterprise-approved resources in Azure. ASC’s features and key benefits can be broken into two high-level areas: Read More…