"In a world of near infinite computing power and an exponential growth in data, we are focused on empowering every developer to build applications for this new era of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge," Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO said at his opening keynote of their annual developer conference speech to thousands of developers. Pointing out that our world is constantly overloaded with information, it is yet this very information — data — that creates opportunities and insights abound. To help customers realize these opportunities, Microsoft shared an early peek into innovations it is bringing to bear to help every person and organization achieve more.
The cloud for every developer
In support of this vision, Microsoft announced the following:
- A preview of Azure IoT Edge, technology that extends the intelligence of cloud computing to edge devices.
- Extensions to the Microsoft Graph to combine insights from the world of work with device insights and contextual awareness of the physical world.
- Technology that will allow you to search the real world in the same way you search the digital world, helping to keep your data safe and secure while making you more productive.
Tooling to target any platform and device
Furthermore, Microsoft showcased how it is meeting developers where they are, and helping them be more successful, with new Microsoft Azure and Visual Studio services and tools by supporting them to modernize existing applications and quickly build intelligent apps for all major platforms:
- Introducing Azure Cosmos DB, built from the ground up to power planet-scale cloud services and data-intensive applications — from IoT to AI to mobile — with incredible performance, fault tolerance and support for every type of data, including graph. According to Microsoft, it is the industry's first globally distributed, multi-model database service to deliver horizontal scale with guaranteed uptime, throughput, consistency and single-digit millisecond latency at the 99th percentile. Developers get incredible flexibility with the only schema-free database service, with support for popular NoSQL APIs, that also offers five well-defined consistency choices while auto-indexing all your data.
- New MySQL- and PostgreSQL-managed services that join Azure SQL Database to give developers expanded choice and flexibility on a service platform that delivers high availability and scalability, with minimal downtime, data retention and recovery.
- An early preview of Microsoft's new database migration services, which will allow Oracle and SQL Server customers to more easily move their data and quickly modernize their apps.
- Azure SQL Database improvements:
- A new Managed Instance private preview, which offers customers SQL Server instance-level compatibility and makes it even easier for organizations to migrate existing SQL Server apps to Azure SQL Database.
- General availability of Threat Detection and preview of Graph support.
- General availability of Visual Studio 2017 for Mac, which enables developers to work seamlessly across Windows and Mac environments with full support for mobile, web and cloud workloads, and previews of Docker tools, Azure Functions and Xamarin.IoT support.
- Support for containers of nearly every type, on every platform, with the general availability of Windows Server Containers support in Azure Service Fabric, with Visual Studio tooling, and a preview of the ability to use Docker Compose support for Service Fabric to deploy containerized apps to Service Fabric — enabling developers to deliver mission-critical, scalable apps and services.
AI to augment capabilities
Microsoft also highlighted its vision to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology, bringing AI to every developer through the unique combination of the Microsoft cloud and AI. New cognitive services, platform innovations in the Microsoft Bot Framework, advances in deep learning tools, continued infusion of AI into the company's products and services, and intelligent insights offered through the Microsoft Graph unlock this opportunity for developers and new growth scenarios for businesses. New announcements included the following:
- The company added new services to the industry's broadest offering of cognitive services and now 29 services for developers, with unique customization options. That enables developers to infuse off-the-shelf or custom intelligence capabilities such as vision, speech, language, knowledge and search into their app and bot experiences in any scenario. New services include Bing Custom Search, Custom Vision Service, Custom Decision Service and Video Indexer. A new PowerPoint add-in called Presentation Translator, which leverages Microsoft's Translation APIs, was featured, allowing real-time translation to multiple languages during any presentation. The new Cognitive Services Labs were also launched, enabling developers to experiment with new services, such as a Gesture API, still in the early stages of development.
- Using the new adaptive cards supported by the Microsoft Bot Framework, developers can write cards once that look great across multiple apps and platforms. Using the Bot Framework, developers can also now publish to new channels including Bing, Cortana and Skype for Business, and implement Microsoft's payment request API for fast and easy checkout in their bots.
- Azure Batch AI Training is a new Azure offering, available in private preview only, that will allow developers and data scientists to configure an environment with parameters and run their models against multiple CPUs, multiple GPUs and eventually field-programmable gate arrays.
- In addition to Harman Kardon's Invoke intelligent speaker with Cortana, partnerships were also signed with HP on devices and Intel on reference platforms to deliver Cortana-enabled devices.
- The Cortana Skills Kit is now in public preview. Developers can build skills for Cortana by creating a bot and publishing it to the new Cortana channel of the Bot Framework. This is available across Windows 10, Android, iOS and the new Cortana-powered Harman Kardon Invoke speaker. The Cortana Skills kit, however, is currently available in the U.S. only.
- A demonstration was provided on how multiple Microsoft products and services, including Dynamics 365, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Cortana Skills, Microsoft Graph and Sentiment Analysis, will be integrated into Tact, the sales experience platform that turns any connected device into a AI-powered virtual sales assistant, later this year.
Finally, Microsoft announced plans to better connect developers with Office 365 customers around the globe:
- Any developer can now publish for Microsoft Teams, the new chat-based workspace in Office 365. Coming soon, apps in Teams will be more discoverable for end users through a new app experience. Developers can also add new capabilities to Teams apps, including third-party notifications in the activity feed, Compose Extensions and Actionable Messages.
- Microsoft also made new Microsoft Graph APIs available to developers, including APIs from SharePoint and Planner. The Microsoft Graph gives developers access to Office 365 data and intelligence and helps connect the dots between people, conversations, projects, schedules, processes and content. These insights help developers build smarter apps, enabling smarter ways to work.
- Developers and ISVs who host their production SaaS applications on Microsoft Azure and sign up through the Azure website can now have their apps' data and workflow automatically extended to authorized Office 365 customers through standard connectors for PowerApps and Microsoft Flow. To help ISVs expand their business even further, Microsoft is also providing additional incentives to its sales force when they jointly co-sell eligible SaaS apps and services to enterprise customers.
Nadella announced during his keynote speech as well, that Windows had reached 500 million Windows 10 monthly active devices and noted how — together — Windows, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Azure offer developers more than a billion opportunities to connect their innovations with Microsoft customers. The company’s announcements that new Azure data and cloud services will help developers quickly modernize their existing apps, new AI and Azure services allow any developer to more easily build intelligent apps, with understanding and natural user interaction capabilities, and the fact that Microsoft showcased new data, IoT edge and AI services built for a future with an intelligent cloud and intelligent edge, will for sure make quite a stir.