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.

Calling all SharePoint users and Office 365 developers! Once again, we invite you to attend this month’s Meetup for the Triangle SharePoint User Group in Morrisville, North Carolina. The Meetup is TOMORROW and space in limited, so RSVP today to claim your spot.

About the Session: 

Many traditional SharePoint developers have been caught off guard with the fast pace of changes to the SharePoint ecosystem in recent years. Whether it’s the rapid adoption of Office 365 or the growing investment in cloud-based infrastructure and services, it can all feel very foreign to anyone still using some of the same development approaches and tools first pioneered in SharePoint 2007.

This month’s session will break down traditional SharePoint solutions (such as features, webparts, workflows, event receivers, and timer jobs) and discuss how they translate to modern equivalents in Office 365 and the cloud. We’ll touch on popular topics like the role of SPFX, PowerApps, and Flow, and also other key Azure Services such as Logic Apps, Azure Functions, and Hybrid Data Connections.

You’ll gain an understanding for the growing role of new APIs such as Microsoft Graph, various nuances with authentication, and the importance of hybrid environments and accessing on-premises data. Along the way you’ll discover some of the tools, techniques, and approaches that will be invaluable as you decide what part of your toolbelt will be the most important to upgrade!

About the Speaker: 

Josh Carlisle is a full stack software developer based out of Raleigh, North Carolina working as a Senior Solution Architect at B&R Business Solutions. He has 20 years of development experience from the early days of VB5, COM, ASP, and the birth of .Net to his first adventures with SharePoint development in 2004. His current focus is on architecting, designing, and developing solutions for Azure, Office 365, and SharePoint using the latest front end JavaScript frameworks such as Angular and React alongside service side solutions based on ASP.NET Core and Node.js. Josh also enjoys sharing is knowledge and experience at regional user groups and community events.

Come join your peers and fellow developers for a great session of networking and learning. As always, this event is free but space in limited. RSVP here!

First announced as a public preview in September 2017, Global VNet Peering is now generally available in all Azure public regions.

Similar to virtual network peering within the same Azure region, Global VNet Peering now lets you seamlessly connect virtual networks in different Azure regions. The connectivity between the peered virtual networks is routed through the Microsoft backbone infrastructure through private IP addresses. VNet peering provides virtual network connectivity without gateways, additional hops, or transit over the public internet. Global VNet Peering can simplify network designs which have cross-regional scenarios for data replication, disaster recovery, and database failover.

While similar, peering within the same region and peering across regions have unique constraints.  These are clearly identified in the Microsoft documentation, so check that out before you get started. Read More…

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.

brainIf you’ve spent any time here at the AIS Blog, you already know how passionate we are about AI and Machine Learning. (We co-wrote the Playbook on it!) Many believe AI will also advance government; changing the speed, reliability, and ability for agencies to make more informed decisions and better deliver on their missions. The key to unlock the power of AI are the massive amounts of data that flood many agencies…but are often underutilized or even locked up due to lack of resources, knowledge of tools, and compliance.

Fortunately, cloud-based analytics capabilities allow this data to be turned into knowledge that can empower agencies to take advantage of AI capabilities that can help agencies make more informed decisions, drive efficiency and become more citizen friendly. Last night’s #AzureGovMeetup brought in a great lineup of industry experts to cover best practices and challenges for government with AI and analytics, top solutions and hands-on demos, and to contrast how the government is using AI today with their vision for the future.

ICYMI: Watch the full archived livestream here!

This month’s Meetup was standing room only, so be sure to RSVP for the May Meetup ASAP! These free events are open to the public and offer great opportunities for both learning and networking. We hope to see you there!

Follow the @AISTeam on Twitter and join the conversation about the #AzureGovMeetup.

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…

Another new year, another Codemash in the books. Codemash is a fantastic family-friendly developer conference that brings in speakers and attendees from all over the world, with a wonderfully diverse range of topics and expertise. If there’s a hot new language or technology, it’ll be discussed here, in the sessions or in the hallways. Despite being held in Sandusky, OH in the middle of winter, it’s a blast for the whole family since it’s hosted at the Kalahari indoor waterpark resort.

Pro-Tips

This was the fourth Codemash I’ve been able to attend, so I’ve learned a few tricks. The pre-compilers are where you’ll actually learn the most – these are half- or whole-day sessions preceding the main conference, and allow you to deep-dive into a specific subject and get hands-on experience with expert guidance. Bring a laptop with enough power to play – you’ll be spinning up new VMs, IDEs, and hardware.

(Also, bring plenty of hand sanitizer, Emergen-C, and antacids – because The Crud seems to spread very fast at these indoor winter conferences!)

Networking

There are plenty of opportunities to expand your professional network – from the experts teaching the sessions, to fellow session attendees, to your dining table companions, to board-game players. I met a lot of great people doing interesting things from all over the Midwest and my neck of the woods – I even met local developers who had preceded me at my local office! Some were even familiar with AIS and our reputation for doing great work in the .NET/Azure space.

Session Recaps

Next I’ll break down the most memorable sessions that I attended, and the major takeaways from each… Read More…

AIS is excited to offer a truly unique opportunity for software engineers interested in building a career in Azure. In partnership with a long-time client, AIS is building a first-of-its-kind Azure Cloud Academy in Carmel, Indiana.

Together we will hire, train and mentor 400 software engineers in Azure over the next two years.

AIS will place Azure architects, mentors and senior staff to lead the Cloud Academy and follow-on customer projects. We’ll then seek software engineers in more junior trainee roles to go through the academy and learn Azure. We’ll also help our client in the sourcing, assessment, interviewing, and selection process for their additional roles.

Why Azure Cloud Academy? 

As anyone in the IT marketplace knows, there are simply not enough system and software engineers in the world today for all the work that needs to be done! This is especially true for new technology areas such as public cloud infrastructure like Azure, which has seen unprecedented, accelerated growth over the past few years. AIS built up our Azure staff and practice from the ground up as there just weren’t enough candidates in the job marketplace.

As a result, we already have a great deal of experience sourcing the right candidates, and the managing them through training and hands-on mentoring to build their skills so they can contribute to our world-class project teams. Now, with the Azure Cloud Academy, we’re ready to do that on a much larger scale! 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!

Calling all SharePoint users and Office 365 developers! AIS is sponsoring this month’s Meetup for the Triangle SharePoint User Group in Morrisville, North Carolina. It’s shaping up to be a great one, so RSVP today to claim your spot.

About the Session:

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the new buzzwords in the industry. In this session, we will cover Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Services for Office 365 developers.

About the Speaker:

Prashant G. Bhoyar is a Microsoft Office Server & Services MVP and Microsoft Certified Professional. He currently works as a Solution Architect at WithumSmith+Brown, P.C. (formerly Portal Solutions), one of the top 30 accounting and advisory firms in the country. He is a trusted advisor and Subject Matter Expert and specializes in the development and post-implementation adoption of complex custom solutions in Azure, Office 365, and SharePoint. Prashant has supported many government agencies and non-profit organizations in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Prashant was the co-author of the book PowerShell for Office 365 and was the technical reviewer of the book Pro SharePoint 2013 Administration.

He serves on the leadership committee for the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning User Group, and D.C. Metro Office 365 User Group, and SharePoint Saturday Baltimore event and SharePoint Saturday Washington DC event. He actively speaks at technical conferences across the country, most recently in Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, as well as, at many events throughout North America. Prashant is a recipient of the “Antarctic Service Medal of the United States of America” for his outstanding service in Antarctica.

Click here for the event’s agenda, location and to claim your spot! Space is limited so RSVP today!