I was fortunate enough to attend the Microsoft BUILD 2019 Conference in Seattle this year – the company’s annual developer conference. There was a lot of excitement and a TON of great information to consume; from both the scheduled sessions and one-on-one conversations with product team representatives. So I’m wrapping up BUILD 2019 with some of my highlights below.

(Admittedly, these highlights skew towards technologies I’m currently using most frequently – I’ve grouped some of these into related categories. Also I’m sure I’ve left out some highpoints, so I’ll plan to update this post as needed.)

AIS at BUILD 2019

However, before describing announcements or specific technology updates I noted, my number one highpoint of the week was the session that Vishwas Lele (AIS CTO and MS Azure MVP) gave on Tuesday: “Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB.” This year was the first year that Microsoft allowed a few select partners to lead sessions at BUILD, so I consider his inclusion recognition of the great work he is doing to advance cloud-native technologies on Azure. His session was packed, and attendees got their money’s worth of content related to AKS, Cosmos DB, and strategies for using cloud-native conventions for the consumption of PaaS services to build resilient, globally scalable applications.

AIS Team at Microsoft Build 2019

Kubernetes and AKS

Most of the discussion about compute on Azure included at least one point related to AKS (Azure Kubernetes Service). AKS was everywhere, and one consistent theme seems to be AKS as a significant portion of the Azure “compute” offering in the future. So, there were many exciting K8s-related announcements and demonstrations which I had not previously heard, a few that stood out to me:

Azure AI

The company’s vision related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning offerings is stronger than it’s ever been. This story’s been developing for the past few years, and the vision hasn’t always been crystal clear. Over the past two years, I’ve often asked the question “If I were going to start a new custom machine learning project in Azure, what services would I start with?” Usually, that answer has been “Azure Databricks” by default, but I’m now coming around to the idea that there is now a viable alternative – or at least additional tools to consider.

The BUILD 2019 conference included great sessions and content focused on Azure AI, segmented into three high-level areas:

  • Knowledge Mining: This is concerned with using Azure services to help discover hidden insights from your content – including docs, images, and other media. Sessions and announcements in this area focused on enhancements to two key services; Azure Search and a new “Form Recognizer” service.
  • Azure (Cognitive) Search is now generally available: This service uses built-in AI capabilities to discover patterns and relationships, understand the sentiment, extract key phrases, etc. without the need for specific data science expertise. Additionally, Azure allows consumers to customize results by applying custom-tuned ranking models.
  • Forms Recognizer: A new service announced in public preview. This service exposes a REST API that accepts document content (PDF, images, etc.) and extracts text, key/value pairs, and tables. The idea is that “usable data” can be gleaned from content that has been hard to unlock in the past.

Machine Learning: A set of services that enable building and deploying custom machine learning models. This area represents many capabilities on the Azure platform; I found that at this year’s conference some great new additions and enhancements were highlighted that help to answer that first “where do I start?” question. Some highlights:

  • AutoML is in public preview: This service allows a consumer to choose the “best” machine learning algorithm for a provided data set and the desired outcome. It does this by accepting the data set from the user (in preview it accepts files stored in blob storage exclusively), automatically training several different models based on this data, comparing performance, and reporting the performance to the end user.
  • Visual Interface for Azure Machine Learning Service is in public preview: This service enables consumers to build ML models using a drag and drop interface, with the ability to drop down into Python code when needed for specific activities. In many ways, this is a reincarnation of the “Azure ML Studio” service of the past, without some of the limitations that held this service back (data size restrictions, etc.).
  • Choose your underlying compute: Choose where your models are trained and run, including the Machine Learning Services managed compute environment, AKS, Virtual Machines, Azure Databricks, HDInsight clusters, or in Azure Data Lake Analytics.

AI apps and agents: This area includes Azure Cognitive Services and Azure Bot Service. Azure Cognitive Services is a set of APIs that allow developers to call pre-built AI models to enhance their applications in the areas of computer vision, speech-to-text, and language. A few data points that stuck out to me:

  • A new Cognitive Services category – “Decision”: This category will initially include three services: 1) Content Moderator, 2) Anomaly Detector (currently in preview), and 3) Personalizer (also currently in Preview). Personalizer is a service to help promote relevant content and experiences for users.
  • “Conversation Transcription”: An advanced speech to text capability.
  • Container Support Expansion: The portfolio of Cognitive Services that can be run in locally in a Docker container now includes Anomaly Detector, Speech-to-Text, and Text-to-Speech in addition to the existing text analytics and vision containers.

.NET Platform

It’s amazing for me to consider that .NET is now 17 years old – the official release of .NET 1.0 was in February 2002! And, although .NET is now on the “mature” end of the spectrum compared to many other active programming frameworks, it’s also true that there are many new .NET developers still adding C#, VB.NET, F#, or CLR-based languages to their repertoire. In fact, at BUILD 2019 the company quoted the fact that “a million new active .NET developers” were added last year alone.

One of the reasons for this is that the .NET team continues to innovate with offerings like .NET core – which it released in 2014. .NET Core is the cross-platform development stack which runs across operating systems and has been the “future” of .NET for some time.

One of the major announcements that will affect .NET developers in the future is that the next “release” of .NET core will be “.NET 5”. Yes, this means there will be one unified platform that includes legacy .NET framework components, .NET Core, and Mono. After the .NET 5 release in 2020, there will be one annual release of .NET.

.NET Schedule

A few other .NET related data points that stuck out to me as items to investigate in more detail:

  • “Blazor” got a lot of session time and seems to be a real project now. For some people, the idea of running C# in the browser can devolve into a philosophical debate. However, it’s clear that Microsoft sees enough upside that it has moved the technology beyond an “experimental” phase into a fully-supported preview.
  • .NET for Spark was released (open source) aimed to provide access to Apache Spark for .NET developers.
  • Frequent mentions of gRPC support in .NET Core. gRPC is the language agnostic remote procedure call framework published by Google.
  • NET 1.0: A cross-platform (.NET core) framework for creating custom ML models using C# or F# – without having to leave the .NET ecosystem.

Cosmos DB

BUILD 2019 also had a few great sessions and announcements related to Cosmos DB, Microsoft’s fully managed, global, multi-modal database service. My highlights:

  • Best practices for Azure Cosmos DB: Data modeling, Partitioning, and RUs: A great session given by Deborah Chen and Thomas Weiss (program managers on the Cosmos DB team). Practical, actionable examples related to how to partition, how to minimize request units (RUs) for common database calls, etc.
  • Etcd API: In Kubernetes, etcd is used to store the state and the configuration of clusters. Ensuring availability, reliability, and performance of etcd is crucial to the overall cluster health, scalability, elasticity availability, and performance of a Kubernetes cluster. The etcd API in Azure Cosmos DB allows you to use Azure Cosmos DB as the backend store for Azure Kubernete
  • Spark API: New (preview) native support for Spark through the Cosmos DB Spark API. This one is interesting to me because it has the potential to enable a “serverless experience for Apache Spark” – where the “cluster” is Cosmos DB.  I would pay close attention to the consumed RUs though!
  • Cosmos DB will support multi-model access in the future: Cosmos DB is a multi-model database, meaning you can access the data using many different APIs. However, until now this has been a choice that is made up front on the creation of the database.  In his “Inside Datacenter Architecture” session, Mark Russinovich announced that in the future, Cosmos DB would support multi-model access to the same data.
  • Jupyter notebooks running inside Azure Cosmos DB: announced in preview. A native notebook experience that supports all the Cosmos DB APIs and is accessed directly in the Azure Portal.

Other Announcements

Below are some other BUILD 2019 announcements, highlights, and data points I’m investigating in the coming weeks:

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @Bwodicka or contact the AIS team online.

I just returned from Microsoft BUILD 2019 where I presented a session on Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS) and Cosmos. Thanks to everyone who attended. We had excellent attendance – the room was full! I like to think that the audience was there for the speaker 😊 but I’m sure the audience interest is a clear reflection of how popular AKS and Cosmos DB are becoming.

For those looking for a 2-minute overview, here it is:

In a nutshell, the focus was to discuss the combining Cloud-Native Service (like AKS) and a Managed Database

Microsoft Build Session Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB Slide Deck

We started with a discussion of Cloud-Native Apps, along with a quick introduction to AKS and Cosmos. We quickly transitioned into stateful app considerations and talked about new stateful capabilities in Kubernetes including PV, PVC, Stateful Sets, CSI, and Operators. While these capabilities represent significant progress, they don’t match up with external services like Cosmos DB.

Microsoft Build Session Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB Slide Deck

Microsoft Build Session Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB Slide Deck Cloud Native Tooling

One option is to use Open Service Broker – It allows Kubernetes hosted services to talk to external services using cloud-native tooling like svcat (Service Catalog).

Microsoft Build Session Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB Slide Deck svcat

Microsoft Build Session Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB Slide Deck SRE

External services like Cosmos DB can go beyond cluster SRE and offer “turn-key” SRE in essence – Specifically, geo-replication, API-based scaling, and even multi-master writes (eliminating the need to failover).

Microsoft Build Session Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB Slide Deck Mutli Master Support

Microsoft Build Session Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB Slide Deck Configure Regions

Microsoft Build Session Architecting Cloud-Native Apps with AKS and Cosmos DB Slide Deck Portability

Since the Open Service Broker is an open specification, your app remains mostly portable even when you move to one cloud provider to another. OpenService Broker does not deal with syntactic differences, say connection string prefix difference between cloud providers.  One way to handle these differences is to use Helm.

Learn more about my BUILD session:

Here you can find the complete recording of the session and slide deck: https://mybuild.techcommunity.microsoft.com/sessions/77138?source=sessions#top-anchor

Additionally, you can find the code for the sample I used here: https://github.com/vlele/build2019 

WORK WITH THE BRIGHTEST LEADERS IN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

In support of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, you’re invited to join us for a very special edition of the Microsoft Azure Government Meetup!

On October 24th, the Women Leading Government Cybersecurity Meetup will feature an exciting panel of experienced government cybersecurity professionals. ALL are welcome to attend this FREE event for networking, refreshments and fascinating insights and discussions on:

  • Today’s cybersecurity landscape in government and top priorities
  • Best practices in cybersecurity along with challenges and lessons learned
  • Future of cybersecurity in government and the cyber workforce

The evening will wrap up with a security demo along with Q&A.

This Meetup is presented in partnership with the Women in Technology D.C. Chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners, a community of local professionals that believe in making it easier for women to imagine, begin and develop a career in IT. We’re very excited about this one, so check out the full agenda, speaker bios and RSVP here!

If you’re not in the D.C. metro area, you can join us via livestream on Oct. 24 starting at 6:35 p.m. at aka.ms/azuregovmeetuplive. And be sure to join our conversation on Twitter using #AzureGovMeetup.

FREE ONE-HOUR RISK CONSULTATION
If disaster strikes, would your organization survive? Let AIS help you plan for the unknown.

Calling all SharePoint users and Office 365 developers! AIS is hosting this month’s Meetup for the Triangle SharePoint User Group in Morrisville, North Carolina. The Meetup is this Thursday at AIS’ North Carolina office. There are still a few spots left so be sure to RVSP today.

About the Session:

In this session we’ll walk through building a client-side web part with the SharePoint framework. By using generic components, we can build web parts that can be reused across an entire organization or multiple clients. Time permitting, we will walk through several examples and possibly some framework extensions.

Event Agenda:

5:45 p.m.  Doors Open
5:45 to 6:15 p.m.  Networking & Dinner
6:15 p.m.  Announcements & Introductions
6:20 to 7:40 p.m. Presentation

The TriSPUG Meetups are a fantastic way for developers, IT, and business users to learn, share, and grow their knowledge in Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365. Attendance is always free and informal. All interest levels and experience levels are welcome!

RSVP Here!

The President’s Management Agenda (PMA) called on all government agencies to accelerate their IT modernization efforts with a continued focus on security. So…now what?

At this month’s #AzureGov meetup, our panel of speakers discussed exactly how agencies can navigate the world of automated ATOs, revamped TIC compliance and beyond.  And at the same time, fully realize the benefits of the cloud and achieve greater agility while strengthening their security posture.

Last night’s speakers included:

Mark Cohn, CTO, Unisys Federal
Greg Elin, CEO, GovReady & Former Chief Data Officer, Federal Communications Commission
• Nate Johnson, Cloud Security & Compliance Director, Microsoft
• Scott Thompson, Cloud Solution Strategist, Microsoft

For a replay of the full Meetup, click here. For past Meetups, visit the Azure Government Meetup YouTube channel here.

The next Meetup is set for Wednesday, September 26. RSVP today to claim your spot and join us for great networking and presentations. We hope to see you there!

One of the biggest roadblocks to government digital transformation is the lack of effective IT governance. Unresolved concerns including privacy, security and organizational silos that limit data sharing and analysis continue to pose hurdles for agencies.

Last night’s Azure Government Meetup in Washington, D.C. featured a stellar lineup of industry-leading experts who shared insights and strategies on achieving effective IT governance in areas including identity, portfolio and records management.

If you missed it, you can catch the replay hereRead More…

Last night’s #AzureGovMeetup challenged government agencies to view the cloud as more than just a technology and software choice, but also as a business strategy to create greater impact for employees and citizens. With its agility, speed and low cost, the cloud is the key to helping agencies test and innovate new solutions faster than ever before.

First up, we heard from Kevin Jackson, a globally-recognized cloud computing expert and founder/author of the award-winning blog, Cloud Musings. Kevin shared his experience and expertise in cloud innovation and the keys to developing a successful cloud business strategy.

Brett & Jim presenting Moving a high-profile application to production Vishwas Lele

Next up was a very special cloud innovation showcase featuring the latest cloud solutions currently advancing agency missions, including:

• AIS’ own Brett Goldsmith and Jim Mullennix presented on a high-profile application they recently helped move to production in Azure Gov.
Carlton Reeves, Forward Deployed Solutions Leader, C3 IoT shared insights on how to innovate in the cloud using Azure.

Keep an eye on the official Azure Government Meetup YouTube channel, where videos of the full presentations will be posted shortly. In the meantime, why not RSVP for the July Meetup and follow the AIS Team on Twitter?

For those who are familiar with Microsoft’s popular Dashboard in a Day workshops for Power BI, App in a Day (AIAD) is very similar. The program is an all-day training designed to accelerate attendees’ PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and CDS for Apps experience. The comprehensive hands-on workshop is led by a certified Microsoft Partner, in this case, your friends at Applied Information Sciences.

The training provides practical experience in a full-day of instructor lead App creation workshops. You learn how to build custom apps that run on mobile devices with which you can share inside your organization securely.

Inside the AIAD Workshop

Full house at the AIAD at Microsoft’s Reston MTC

Trainees at App in a Day

Read More…

AIS was pleased to present our work with the United States Air Force at the annual Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Montgomery IT Summit on May 23.

The Air Force awarded AIS a contract to build out an Azure core infrastructure in the multi-cloud Common Computing Environment (CCE). The infrastructure is capable of supporting the migration of thousands of on-premises and legacy applications to the cloud.  At the same time, the AIS team engaged in a parallel effort to migrate the “lead horse” application into the environment and celebrated the distinction of being the first company to successfully field a production application.

AzureGov May MeetupIt was another packed house last night at our May #AzureGovMeetup in Washington, D.C.! Our topic was “Harnessing Cloud: Accelerate Your Mission Apps.” While I.T. modernization is top of mind for government agencies, many struggle to realize the full value of  the modernization  they can achieve bu moving the majority of their enterprise apps to the cloud and creating new citizen services.

And now, with the latest orders from the White House, there’s an even greater sense of urgency to overcome barriers and accelerate ways to boost cloud adoption and overhaul government IT systems to drive agility, cost savings, innovation and mission delivery. Last night’s experts (including AIS CTO and Microsoft MVP Vishwas Lele) covered a lot of ground, including:

  • A PaaS-first approach to mission apps
  • Achieving TIC compliance
  • Opportunities from recent government IT modernization and cloud initiatives

Check out the photos and some short video clips below from @aisteam, or (if you’ve got some time!) you can watch the ENTIRE meetup at the livestream archive here or on the #AzureGovMeetup YouTube page. Don’t miss out on next month’s June Meetup either — RSVP today to claim your spot.

Read More…