Welcome back from a great Ignite Conference! By now, I hope everyone knows that the conference recordings are posted to channel9, a section of MSDN. Microsoft does a great job of recording and publishing all of this content quickly, its pretty awesome.
One of my biggest challenges at the conference was knowing which session to pick. There were 3-6 sessions at any given time that I wanted to go to. All week it was like that, crazy.
This year, Microsoft added “foundational keynote” sessions. Sadly, most of them were on Monday and over-lapped each other. I went back and downloaded the videos and they are all amazing, filled with product name changes, roadmap discussions, and a very transparent look at Microsoft’s Cloud Strategy.
Also, Microsoft’s top talent gave the various presentations – Julia White, Seth Patton, Bill Baer, Brian Harry, Robert Lefferts, Sam George, etc…
DevOps as a Strategy for Business Agility
This was my first session of the conference I saw live, and it was awesome! I’ve already blogged here with a thorough review. Everyone interested in Visual Studio Online, TFS, and Agile tools, watch this replay!
It’s also a great look at how Microsoft is now deploying code to the cloud every 3 weeks.
Since I saw this live, I’m cheating and not counting it on my replay list. So, here are my picks for top 3 replays of the conference:
1. Office Development Matters, and Here’s Why…
Microsoft wants people using Office, and being productive while using Office 365 in the cloud. And I think Microsoft finally understands the success of their platform should be about the ecosystem of developers who build solutions.
The facts show that people are using Office, and a good amount of that content is being generated on Office 365
Why is all this important? Office Add-Ins.
What used to called Office Apps is now being called Add-ins. User feedback was that the term App in this context was confusing. In addition, Microsoft is expanding development tools, methodologies, and patterns for developing solutions in Office.
For any of you in the SharePoint world, this means that Provider Hosted Apps are now Provider Hosted Add-ins. Kind of weird for SharePoint, but I get the reasoning with iOS and Android App inside an App terminology problem.
In addition to the name change, Microsoft is pouring resources into Office development capabilities. Users are getting work done in Office, so why not surface solutions in those same experiences. This means as a developer I can write an add-in for Word, Excel, or Outlook and surface that add-in through the mobile, tablet, desktop, or browser version of Office that user is operating.
If you think about that for a moment, that’s kind of a big deal. Instead of writing a completely custom web-based app with native or responsive mobile experiences that does all of your desired functionality, why not break up some of that into various Office add-ins and leverage the UI capabilities in those experiences. Huge.
Access to your data is also a key focus for development. Microsoft will be supporting a rich set of REST API’s that will allow your add-in to access every bit of information about your user, content, or application. This will allow anyone to build Enterprise Office add-ins for almost any scenario.
Moving on to SharePoint Add-Ins, the focus shifted to the Office 365 Patterns and Practices. If you haven’t heard about PnP yet, I encourage you to check it out. Its a bunch of folks from MSFT and the community coming together on a code repository in GitHub. This sample code pack helps to define how we create server side code solutions and integrate them with Office 365. Currently it is SharePoint focused, but will soon be expanding further into Office add-ins.
Another way to think about this new concept is to think about your app being a service. Your service displays information to the user via many endpoints – web browser, mobile browser, native mobile app, SharePoint, or Office. In order to unlock your app as an Office or SharePoint add-in, just connect to Azure Active Directory.
By connecting to Azure Active Directory you get:
- Single Sign On
- App Launcher Integration
- Ability to call Microsoft API’s
So this is a really easy way to light up any existing web app into Office 365. There are a number of demo’s in this session I encourage you to watch them. Microsoft is partnering with a wide range of 3rd party vendors to help ensure the marketplace supports as many data sources, storage locations, platforms, frameworks, and vendors as possible.
Great session and I look forward to exploring new Office and SharePoint Add-in solutions.
2. The Evolution of SharePoint: Overview and Roadmap
Although I wasn’t there, I’m guessing this was the most attended session during its time slot. You can hear the crowd on a number of occasions in the replay.
SharePoint Online and Office 365 are growing FAST! In the past, Office 365 seats grew through email workloads. However, in the last 18-24 months the demand has shifted towards SharePoint workloads and mobile apps, both in users and content growth. 38% of all SharePoint’s seats are Online. However, this means that a significant number of customers are still using SharePoint Server on-premises.
Next, Seth does a good job of explaining the evolution of SharePoint, specifically defining Microsoft’s three key components of Experiences, Extensibility, and Management. As these services move more to the cloud, Microsoft is able to break down walls of product specific barriers.
The cloud allows for rapid deployment of new features and services. As Seth describes more about the vision for these new experiences, it’s clear that Microsoft is de-emphasizing the products themselves. Focusing instead on enabling hybrid solutions, increasing security, and connecting on-premises solutions to online experiences.
What does this really mean? From my interpretation, SharePoint Server 2016 will not implement many new features, certainly not as was the case with previous server versions. The base workloads of Team Sites, Search, Enterprise Content Management, BI, Portals, and others will remain largely untouched. New experiences will be built in the cloud and enabled back to on-premises users.
If you think about what those experiences are, it makes sense. For instance, Delve. How could you possibly deploy that on-premises? It’s natively based in the cloud on top of SharePoint Online Search and Azure Machine Learning. But, you can now connect up your hybrid environment, which now creates a single search index, and Delve will surface both online and on-premises content. Pretty cool!
In addition to focusing on enabling hybrid scenario’s, new targeted experiences will be introduced. Some of these experiences are available in the cloud today, such as: Power BI, Delve, Yammer, OneDrive and NextGen Portals.
Digging into the above statements is tough. I have a lot of open questions. What level of security exists on a search index in O365? If I’m a customer who is cloud averse, will I be able to use these new targeted experiences?
Management has also been updated. They’ve added a new unified service and compliance layer for management of all Office 365. Microsoft will also keep open configuration and customizations options by maintaining API’s, SharePoint Add-ins, and leveraging Azure.
After a demo from Bill, Seth emphasizes a key point for customers and developers – These new experiences are meant to be additive, and not meant to replace existing SharePoint workloads. He states they will continue to invest in improving the core features. (as I mentioned above)
What is the release cadence for Office 365 and On-premises?
Monthly updates to Office 365! This isn’t your father’s Microsoft. It’s really neat to see how they’ve adapted such an agile development methodology that delivers value at such short time intervals. Of course, the cloud enables that speed. If you remain on-premises, you will be on a much slower cycle.
Its very clear throughout this presentation that Microsoft wants to enable customers to move to the cloud on their own terms. This is a stark contrast from a few short years ago when the direction was moving full steam ahead towards the cloud. Bill discussed this history in his presentation.
In the past, Microsoft viewed hybrid as a way to rationalize getting to the cloud, with that being the sole premise. I’m glad to see that Microsoft has embraced the reality that many of us in the field have experienced for years – not all workloads are ready for the cloud. The new investments in hybrid scenarios will ensure a much more consistent and robust experience, enabling on-premises customers to subscribe to cloud innovation.
With a focus towards Files, there were also some hints in the presentation about improvements to OneDrive. There will be a new sync client tool that will separate your OneDrive personal from your OneDrive for Business. You will be able to do selective sync. And there will be new integration into Outlook called Modern Attachments – anytime you drag a file into a message, you will be prompted to instead upload that file to OneDrive, Outlook will create a link instead of the attachment, and everyone on the To or CC line will get access to that document. Awesome!
Finally, for all you IT Pro’s, Microsoft has changed the SharePoint Installation options for the first time since 2010. You now have the option at time of install to specify what SP role that server will be assuming – WFE, App, Search, Cache, or Custom. In the past, SharePoint installed all components to every server and you configured which services you wanted to run on each particular server. Now you can install only those specific services, reducing the overhead required on each server. Lastly, there is now the ability to update the servers in production, with no downtime. I’m curious to see the details behind this, but if it works, it will be amazing!
Great session and roadmap discussion f0r SharePoint. I encourage you to watch the session for full commentary and to see the demo’s!
3. Create the Internet of Your Things: The Microsoft Vision for IoT
The Internet of Things is here and it’s powered by Microsoft Azure! IoT has been around for a long time. So why is the demand just now picking up?
It’s important to understand how IoT has changed in just the last 5 years. Traditional IoT workloads were things like: alarm clock’s, refridgerator, car, security, television, coffee makers and HVAC. Those workloads are still around, but new and innovative workloads are now being developed cheaper and easier than ever:
Health monitoring, behavior modification, pet tracking, information capture, new devices and sensors, lawn care, sleep tracking, leak detection, medication adherence, sports and fitness, environmental sensors, smart vending machines, and many others.
Sam George, Microsoft Director of IoT, presents a maturity model for how organizations are progressing through IoT. Stage 1, is operational efficiency. Customers are primarily connecting devices and collecting basic information about them.
Example is given of a fleet management company. They need to monitor where their trucks are and basic information about their health, location, and state. Then the ability to set rules and alerts to improve operational efficiency.
Stage 2 of the IoT Business Maturity Model is Business Intelligence. Analyzing and visualizing all of that data. Using predictive analysis to discover patterns in your data. Finally, take those insights and do something with them. For the fleet management company, predicting traffic patterns based on time of day and making sure the truck takes the quickest route.
In another session, this example is taken further with that truck carrying seafood. The sensors on the truck monitor temperature, operational status of cooling fans and air conditioning units. In addition, weather information is being tracked for the route of the truck to its destination. By feeding all of that data into an Azure Machine Learning algorithm, predictive analysis can tell you if the fish will spoil before it reaches the restaurant.
Stage 3 of the model is Business Transformation. Combining IoT & other data with advanced analytics to power new services and revenue streams, expand into new adjacent businesses, and create new partnership opportunities.
Here Seth discussed ThyssenKrupp Elevator and how they are using IoT to change the way they think about maintenance schedules. Its a fascinating use case, and I’ll let you read all about it here.
So what is Microsoft specifically doing for IoT development?
Currently, Event Hubs can be used for IoT ingestion services. They support HTTP/AMQP protocols and can handle 1 million publishers and 1 GB/s ingress. Event Hubs are available worldwide today and process 18 billion messages and 60+ TB of data is ingested each day.
The IoT Suite will encompass technologies like Azure HD Insight Storm, Azure Machine Learning, PowerBI, Azure Data Factory, Azure HBase NoSQL, and Azure Service Fabric. Presentation and connectivity can be provided to desktop and mobile devices through App Services, Azure BizTalk Services, Notification Hubs, and Microsoft Dynamics.
Really what the IoT Suite is doing in the background is provisioning a set of Azure Services. It creates the IoT Hub, sets up Steam Analytics or Storm, provisions a storage account. According to the presentation, this will all be configurable. With the point of making the IoT provisioning process and easy as possible.
Microsoft’s vision for IoT is not limited to only Azure. Windows 10 will also ship with a rich set of features for IoT that will provide a single OS, universal Windows drivers, security, industry peripheral support, interoperability and will be Azure IoT ready.
There will be 3 Windows IoT editions, details in the graphic on the right.
Also announced, Windows 10 IoT Core preview is now available for Minnowboard Max and Raspberry Pi 2!
For more information visit www.windowsondevices.com
Well that wraps up my list of the Top 3 Replays for Ignite 2015. I hope you enjoyed the review. And since I’m a sucker for knowing when to end my lists, here’s a few more sessions you should watch:
4. An Overview of the Microsoft Application Platform for Developers
5. Next generation Office 365 Controls, Extensibility and Team Productivity
6. Windows Server & System Center Futures—Bring Azure to your Datacenter (Platform Vision & Strategy)