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Azure Search: Scoring Profiles

Introduction

When a search query is submitted to the index, each document that is returned has a search scoreazuresearch_configure1_5_searchtile which is an indicator of its relevance in the current search query and context. The higher the score, the more relevant the item and therefore, the higher it is ranked on a scale of high to low.

In Azure Search, you can tweak the calculation of a search score through an index modification called a scoring profile. A common usage of scoring profiles is Geo-search, which allows you to automatically boost items which are closer to the location of the user. You can also simply boost by pushing newer documents to the top of your search results, or in some cases boost some older documents. It all depends on what your business needs are.

You can configure as many scoring profiles as you would like in your search index, but you can only specify one profile at a time when running a query.

Scoring Profiles vs. Managed Property Weighting and XRANK

For the SharePoint Devs out there getting into Azure Search, Scoring Profiles is a lot like Managed Property Weighting combined with XRANK in SharePoint. However, I find that Azure Search gives you control that allows you too really customize your boosting in ways that SharePoint cannot. Most of your boosting control comes in how you define your scoring profiles in your index, which allows you to really clean up your query on the front end without having to use XRANK. For example, to achieve a simple Geo-search, you would only need to provide the scoring profile and the current location as parameters in your search query.

As a further bonus, you can configure as many different scoring profiles as you would like, giving you full control of how your query gets processed. While in SharePoint, you can only configure a single set of relevancy rules without using XRANK, in Azure Search you can configure as many as you would like and specify which one you would like to use at the time. This way you can specify different weights for different fields (managed properties) when your business needs change without having to completely clobber the back-end index.  Read the rest of this post »

Four Microsoft Platforms and Products for Digital Transformation

When we talk about Digital Transformation, the first thing most people tend to think about is digital marketing—and that means consumer-facing technology. Your public website, how it’s delivered to various form factors, how you integrate an app strategy for B2C commerce or the engine driving your B2B transactions, how you track consumers’ interaction with you and interact with them, serving recommendations based on that tracking data… it’s all about the outside.

A lot of readers will ask why we’d talk about these topics on a Microsoft blog. It’s a darn good question—after all, Microsoft’s focus these past few years has, as ever, been firmly behind the proverbial firewall. Productivity and (and in) the enterprise is Microsoft’s sweet spot—not consumers—and that assessment remains true. Sort of. In point of fact, Microsoft technologies do a lot of heavy lifting in that space, even if Microsoft’s products there are less obvious.

Meanwhile, Digital Transformation taken as a whole is about more than just outreach and interaction. It’s about embracing new ways of working—working social, working mobile, powered by the cloud and not inhibited by archaic notions of a firewall—that’s how you enable your own users to move faster, work smarter, and just be more effective versions of themselves. And Microsoft is all about that. Let’s take a quick look at four key planks in the Microsoft stack that have a lot to say about how Redmond gets involved in the Digital Transformation conversation.

Azure

It all begins from the ground up, with the baseline infrastructure. Azure is Microsoft’s infrastructure in the cloud, allowing you to build server farms, develop and host business applications, and even migrate entire datacenters into a highly-available infrastructure living within Microsoft’s cloud. Whether you want to enable mobility and a broader reach, become more flexible and scalable in how you respond to business needs, or simply operationalize your hardware expenses, getting your servers out from behind your own firewall and into the Microsoft cloud is a good start.

Office 365 and Yammer

Enabling your own users to work faster and more effectively, communicating and collaborating across boundaries on devices as diverse as old Windows PCs and the latest version of iOS? That’s a concept at the core of Digital Transformation, and that’s what Office 365 and Yammer are all about.

Dynamics CRM

I read somewhere that another CRM-focused software company has “defined the customer journey”. I’d like to call shenanigans on that. Software doesn’t define anything; it supports and enables it. Dynamics CRM—integrated as it is with Yammer and Office 365, and far less expensive to license than its primary competition—can do a surprisingly thorough job of supporting and enabling how you interact with your customers. If you haven’t given it a hard look before, you might want to think about it now.

Sitecore

It’s not a Microsoft product, but Sitecore’s CMS, DMS and Customer Experience Platform are built on the .NET Framework, run on Microsoft infrastructure and are produced by last year’s Microsoft ISV Partner of the Year, so they’re about as close as you get without being shipped from Redmond. I’ve avoided writing about this in other outlets lately because third-party publishers always ask me to be objective, but the bottom line is, there’s not much point to doing a public-facing website on Microsoft’s platform with the likes of Ektron or Umbraco when Sitecore is available. Their many integrations—including with Dynamics AX, Microsoft’s ERP platform—and incredibly rich platform for digital marketing and customer experience (which enables things like email marketing, persona development and personalized content, and more) make them a no-brainer in reaching consumers in the digital age.

These four pillars are just the foundation of how Microsoft contributes to what we’re calling Digital Transformation. As ever, what you can build with .NET and Windows is only limited by your imagination—but now, both for your own internal users and your external consumers—they’ve got the goods to really go digital. If you should decide you want to move into that space with confidence, check out my colleague Michael Porter’s webinar on Wednesday, February 11.

Anglebrackets Conference – Day 4

Keynote – ASP.NET vNext and you
Speaker: Scott Hanselman

ASP.NET will run anywhere (Mac and Linux). Web server will be included.

New free SKU of Visual Studio. Community edition will replace Express.

image_dbbecd7b-9298-4dde-993a-acd9d9461515ASP.NET and modern web

  • Totally modular (dependency injection built in)
  • Faster development cycle
  • Seamless transition from on-premises to cloud
  • Choose your editors and tools
  • Open source with contribution
  • Cross-platform
  • FAST

Framework (CoreCLR) is packaged together with application, not shared, safe to deploy.

Split between .NET Framework (Full CLR) and .NET Core (Core CLR). Core CLR is open sourced and cross-platform.

Project file (project.json) is replacing both web.config and nuget package file).

It’s possible to reference ASP.NET is source form and debug it.

VS supports Bower (client-side package manager) and Grunt (client side build tool).

Read the rest of this post »

Anglebrackets Conference – Day 3

I have been fortunate to attend this year’s Anglebrackets conference in Las Vegas. (See my coverage of Day 1 here and Day 2 here.)

The following are my notes from the Day 3 keynote, “Conversations with Microsoft.”

image_dbbecd7b-9298-4dde-993a-acd9d9461515The speaker: Steve Guggenheimer, corporate VP and chief evangelist.

A lot of changes at Microsoft over last year. New CEO, Satya Nadella

Not changed: We always be partner-led

Our Core – productivity platform for mobile-first, cloud-first world

4 engineering units at MS

  1. Devices platform.

Converging Xbox, Windows , WP and RT into single platform. Universal apps and One Windows.

VS 2015 preview is out. Demo: creating universal app from template.

  1. First-party devices (Surface, Lumia phones, Band, etc).
  2. First-party services (Office 365, Bing, Yammer, Skype, et). Cross-platform APIs and SDKs.
  3. Azure 

Microsoft Developer approach:

  • Innovation
  • Agility
  • Openness

Demo: VS2015 – targeting multiple devices with Apache Cordova plugin for VS. Using Android emulator for VS.

Demo: using remote IE (Azure service for testing on IE) on Mac, iPad and Android tablet.

http://remote.modern.ie

Announcement: Open sourcing .NET Core Runtime and Framework. .NET running on Linux and Mac. Free VS 2013 Community edition.

Read the rest of this post »

.NET 2015 is coming! And then some

Yesterday in New York at Microsoft’s Connect(), a virtual event for developers focused on current and future technologies, Microsoft did what a lot of us in the developer community have been waiting for and  [finally] announced that the next .NET release is coming!

But wait, as the late night TV pitchman says, there’s more. There was an announcement from Microsoft Corporate VP of the Developer Division, Soma Somasegar and Miguel de Icaza of the Mono Project that the “open sourcing the full server-side .NET Core stack, from ASP.NET 5 down to the Core Runtime and Framework”. Visual Studio will be opened to all developers including those developing on Linux and OS X platforms with Visual Studio Community 2013,  a new, free and fully featured edition of Visual Studio. Both the open source .NET project and Visual Studio Community are available for download today.

Just think, it’s now possible to write apps that have a Windows UI, but run on a Mac natively .  >)  (Yes, that is an evil smiley).

Here  is the announcement on  Soma Somasegar’s blog.

 

Anglebrackets Conference – Day 2

I have been fortunate to attend this year’s Anglebrackets conference in Las Vegas. (See my coverage of Day 1 here.)

The following are my notes from the Day 2 keynote, The Integration of Technologies with Office 365. The speaker: Rob Leffers, the director of program management for the Office 365 apps team.

image_dbbecd7b-9298-4dde-993a-acd9d9461515Agenda
– Our vision
– What’s next
– Futures
– Calls to action

Intersections
– Office
– Visual Studio
– Azure

Connect to Office 365 services
– Users and groups
– Files
– Mail
– Calendar
– Contacts

Build using an open platform
– Azure
– .Net
– Android
– iOS
– Html5
– Xamarin

Robust Office 365 APIs
– designed for openness and flexibility
– Consistent development platform
– Powering a world of devices

Read the rest of this post »

Anglebrackets Conference – Day 1 Keynote

I’m lucky to be able to attend this year’s Anglebrackets conference in Las Vegas and I’ll try to cover the conference in this Perficient blog as much as I can. Today was the opening day of the conference, which actually consisted only of the opening keynote. The speaker was Scott Guthrie, Executive VP of Cloud and Enterprise group at Microsoft. He was wearing his signature red shirt. His keynote was titled, “The Cloud For Modern Business.”

image_dbbecd7b-9298-4dde-993a-acd9d9461515The following are my notes from his keynote:

Mobile first, cloud first.

Why cloud? Cloud enables:

1. Quick and easy deployment.
– No need to wait for provisioning. Demo: database deployed in Azure in few clicks. Sharepoint server farm deployed in few seconds.

2. Elastic capacity.
– no need to buy infrastructure
– unexpected load easily managed
– global coverage with unprecedented scale
Example: XBox One game Titanfall is completely cloud powered. 200,000 VMs were spun off on launch day.

3. Pay only for what you use
– no upfront costs
– no long-term commitment
– no wasted capacity
Example: slide with a typical web site usage pattern (a saw) illustrating unused capacity. Azure allows to avoid that by allowing automatic scaleup and down.

4. Enable new business value
– engage customers with web and mobile
– big data analytics
– machine learning Read the rest of this post »

Microsoft Azure updates for October

microsoft-azure-logo_11368901Every month Microsoft is releasing new Azure services and promoting other services from preview state to general availability. In October this year a few news services were released and a few graduated to general availability.

– Azure Automation is now generally available. Azure Automation is essentially a PowerShell scripting in the cloud. Microsoft was recommending to script Azure deployment tasks for a long time, but previously the scripting capabilities were limited by developer’s computer. Now, using  Azure Automation it’s possible to actually run PowerShell scripts in Azure cloud, create jobs and schedule them at given times, create automation workflows. These PowerShell workflows are called “runbooks”. Microsoft is providing a comprehensive catalog of ready to use runbooks made to automate and manage different part of Azure: web site, cloud storage, media service, VMs, etc.

– Azure Service Bus received a new feature – Event Hubs. Event Hubs is hyper-scalable pub/sub event ingestor which can ingest data from millions of telemetry events per second so it could be processed by Azure cloud services. Event Hubs is designed for use with “internet of things” (IoT) – cloud-connected devices with sensors.

– Microsoft Animalware for Cloud Services and VMs graduated to general availability. Microsoft Antimalware is a service and SDK enabling protection of cloud services and VMs from malware.

– Instance-level public IPs are now generally available. It’s now possible to directly assign a public IP to VM or a web or worker role. Limit of two public IPs per subscription was removed.

– Elastic Scale preview is now available for SQL Azure. Elastic Scale is a set of .NET libraries and management tools making horizontal scale-out (sharding) of SQL Azure servers easier. Sharding was a recommended scale-out (and scale-in) pattern for Azure SQL for a while. However, implementation of sharding required custom coding and writing management scripts (or manual management of SQL instances). Now it’s much easier to implement.

– Azure Batch is now in public preview. Azure Batch is new platform which is enabling user to run large scale parallel applications on thousands of virtual machines, auto-scale depending on work in the queue, monitor job progress and stage data and build computing pipelines.

– Stream Analytic is now available in public preview. Stream Analytics is a realtime event processing engine and built to process mullions of telemetric events per seconds when used together with Event Hubs.

– Data Factory is now available in public preview. Azure Data Factory is a framework for creating, managing and orchestration of data pipelines for connecting all kinds of data sources (SQL on premises or Azure, Azure tables or blobetc) to Hadoop cluster .

Clustered Column Chart – WinForms Chart Control

A Clustered column chart is used to compare values across a few categories. Follow the steps below to do this.

Step 1: Create a sample Excel sheet that has data based on group.

Example: Stud.xlsx

clust_chart_excel_data Read the rest of this post »

Posted in .NET, News and Events

Bing Your Way To Success – Tips Every Programmer Should Live By

When I was in school, I remember studying learning styles - “series of theories suggesting systematic differences in individuals’ natural or habitual pattern of acquiring and processing information in learning situations.” I was the always the Converger, very hands-on, figuring out things for myself, testing theories. For me, this started at an early age. I can remember being one of the first students in middle school to harness the power of the internet around 1992 – 1994. I remember discovering Lexus Nexis, Alta Vista, and later Yahoo to read academic papers and abstracts. Writings, facts, opinions, that just weren’t available in my school library, were now available on the computer. I learned how to draw information at my fingertips by using search engines. Even in the early days, this was way more informative than an old encyclopedia and way more fun!bing

Fast forward to my college years, my search engine skills continued to progress. As I learned C++, VB Script, and Java, I relied heavily on the internet for the most up to date information on techniques, theory, and examples. Books simply couldn’t keep up with the power of the internet and its ever growing database of information. It was a great way for me to learn and get through college; and it continues to be a very sharp tool in my tool belt today.

In this post, I’m going to show you a few search engine tricks so you can Bing your way to success!

1. Use Quotes to Find Exact Results

Read the rest of this post »