Azure Partner Community: Application Platform announcements from Build and Ignite


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by Frank Campise
US Partner Technology Strategist for Microsoft Azure

The Microsoft Azure Partner Community is led by National Partner Technology Strategists from the Microsoft US Partner Team. Partner Community activities include blog posts, discussions on Yammer, newsletters, and community calls.

This is part 4 of our June series for the Azure Partner community about announcements and updates from the Build 2015 and Ignite 2015 conferences. The previous posts in this series focused on: Part 1 (Introduction), Part 2 (Data Platform announcements), and Part 3 (Infrastructure announcements)

Application Platform highlights from Build and Ignite

It is a great time to be a partner that builds applications. The announcements from the past couple of months continue to demonstrate that no matter what language/framework you choose to use; what operating system you target; or what industry patterns you want to follow that Microsoft is there to support your development efforts and provide you with the best tools and services to help you meet your customers’ needs.

In this post, I’ll highlight some of the great sessions delivered at Build and Ignite about building applications on Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft Azure App Service

Although this announcement came out slightly before the Build conference, it is an important offering that every application development partner should be aware of. Azure App Service provides a cloud application platform for delivering modern enterprise apps across both cloud and mobile devices. It is a new integrated offering that delivers features and capabilities from a number of the existing Azure Services – Websites, Mobile Services, API Mgmt. and BizTalk Services.

App Service comprises four integrated services (Web Apps, Mobile Apps, Logic Apps, and API Apps). Those services provide some great benefits to the application developer:

  • Build web and mobile applications fast – Use your existing skills (.NET, Java, NodeJS, PHP, or Python) to quickly build, deploy, and manage web and mobile applications for your customers using a single back-end
  • Automate business process with a visual design experience
  • Build mobile first, cloud first applications in iOS, Android, and Windows
  • Integration with other SaaS services, like Office 365, Salesforce, Dynamics CRM Online, DropBox, Twitter, et.c

Azure App Service announcement

Building upon the initial announcement, the preview of the App Service Environment was announced at Build. .

“An App Service Environment provides a fully isolated and dedicated environment for securely running all of your apps including Web Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps, and Logic Apps.  An App Service Environment is always created inside of a regional virtual network.  This enables apps to securely connect to other endpoints accessible only inside of a virtual network, including endpoints connected via Site-to-Site and ExpressRoute connections.  It also enables an App Service Environment to be secured behind upstream appliances, firewalls and network SaaS providers.”

As an application development partner, the App Service Environment provides an interesting option for your enterprise customers that have requirements which previously prevented them from putting their applications in a multi-tenant environment.

App Service resources:

  • Understanding the Azure App Service Architecture (200 level) – Azure App Service brings together Web Applications, Mobile Applications, and powerful new Logic Apps, all of which communicate with Azure API Apps. We’ll dig into building these systems, how we consume RESTful Web APIs and how platform services can span authentication, implement single sign on, and how automatic client code generation can reduce the amount of manually written code. We’ll also look at how we can publish APIs to the gallery and see how can be distributed to millions of pro developers and business users.
  • Logic Apps (200 level) – Learn how you can use Azure Logic Apps to automate business processes without using code. This course will demonstrate the new graphical designer, speak to the architecture of the underlying system, and how to best take advantage of different Logic App capabilities.
  • Azure API Apps for Web, Mobile and Logic Apps (200 level) – Azure API Apps makes APIs easy, whether they are APIs you author or APIs you use. In this demo-filled talk, we’ll look at building APIs with ASP.NET and open source languages, proxying existing API such as Office 365 and Salesforce, and taking advantage of SaaS connectors for the most popular SaaS services. We’ll consume these APIs from the Azure App Service, exploring authentication, single-sign on, and even the automatic generation of client code, while exploring tactics for scale and versioning. Lastly, we’ll publish APIs to a public gallery and see how millions of professional developers can use your APIs in their own applications.
  • Go Mobile! Login, Sync Data, and Connect to Enterprise APIs with Azure App Service (200 level) – Learn how Azure App Service helps build great connected mobile experiences, including single sign-on, push notifications, offline data sync, and connectivity to on-premise systems. Integrate your enterprise Web and Mobile apps with Azure Active Directory, Microsoft Office 365 and third-party SaaS APIs such as Salesforce. Use Mobile App client SDKs to build a native experience on multiple platforms, including Xamarin, Windows, iOS, and Android. It is now easier than ever to add a mobile app to your existing enterprise apps.
  • What Can Azure Do for Android and iOS (200 level) – In the cloud-first, mobile-first world, people are building Android and iOS applications and need a powerful cloud-powered backend. This session will review all of the ways that Azure can help build amazing applications on top of Microsoft’s cloud platform. This includes options for data storage, push notifications, job processing, media delivery, offline data sync, authentication and more. We’ll review all of these features at a high level and dive into some live coding demos throughout.
  • Azure Partner Readiness Catalog – App Service The Azure Partner Readiness catalog is a great way to find the latest readiness materials on the Azure App Service

Containers and Micro-services

One of the most popular trends in the industry and enterprise space right now is around containers and micro-services. Micro-service based applications provide a number of benefits to the application developer and enterprise IT pro.

Micro-service concepts facilitate:

  • Testing in isolation – by breaking up your application into smaller components and then deploying those components separately allows for a more flexibly testing strategy where each service can be tested independently
  • Update independently – having strong contracts between micro-services allows the developer to update a micro-service without having to completely roll out the entire application
  • Scale independently – Since micro-services are deployed separately, you can decide on how to scale each component independently of the other services within your application
  • Agile development – containers and micro-services are well aligned with Agile development methodologies
  • Ease of deployment – the isolation boundaries defined by containers/micro-services allow these components to be easily deployed without having to deal with huge dependency requirements.

During both the Build conference and the Microsoft Ignite conference, Microsoft made a number of announcements/updates around support of several different forms of containers and micro-services. Here, we’ll look at two container/micro-service architectures.

Containers and Micro-services – Docker

Docker is an open platform for developers and system administrators to build, ship, and run distributed applications. The Docker platform has really exploded over the past two years and Microsoft has announced some great support for Docker in both the Windows Server OS as well as within the Azure platform.

Docker resources

  • Windows Containers: What, Why and How – Discover what the new Windows Server container model is, why it transforms the development process and how to create, use and manage them and integrate with Docker technologies.
  • Microsoft Azure Marketplace: Images, Extensions, Docker and More – Originally launched in July, the Azure Marketplace continues to expand its offerings and solutions. In this session, we will explore how the Azure Marketplace brings the quality, choice, and strength of the Azure partner Ecosystem to customers. A majority of this session will be dedicated to exploring the new Marketplace offerings specifically focusing on VM Images and Extensions. Additionally, we’ll spend time highlighting how to leverage these artifacts using the new ARM template model to demonstrate multi-VM deployments.
  • Azure Partner Readiness Catalog – Docker – The Azure Partner Readiness catalog is a great way to find the latest readiness materials on the Docker integration with the Microsoft Azure Platform.

Containers and Micro-services – Azure Service Fabric

As part of building our own set of scalable and reliable services within Microsoft Azure, the Microsoft product team built a set of technologies to support micro-service based applications. This technology is called the Azure Service Fabric. It is a technology that has been used as the underlying foundation for building some of the most popular Azure services in production today such as the Azure Database, DocumentDB, Azure networking, Event Hubs, as well other services such as Microsoft Intune, Power BI, and Cortana. This is not new technology—it has been in production for over the past 5+ years to support our services. Now, we are making it available to partners and customers.

Watch Mark Russinovich’s presentation for a high-level overview of Azure Service Fabric (watch from 33:14).

Azure Service Fabric resources

  • Microsoft Azure Service Fabric Architecture – Service Fabric is a state-of-the-art distributed system that allows developers to easily build and manage Internet scale services such as Azure DB, Azure Document DB, and Bing Cortana. Gopal Kakivaya will cover the hard distributed systems problems developers encounter when building such services and how the major subsystems of Service Fabric come together to provide effective solutions to those hard problems. If you are interested in understanding how Service Fabric works "under-the-hood" this is the talk to attend.
  • Building Resilient, Scalable Services with Microsoft Azure Service Fabric – Learn about the programming models available in Service Fabric to build highly available, low latency micro-services that can be deployed into Service Fabric clusters running on Microsoft Azure or Windows Server. After this session you will be able to write stateful web and enterprise applications with Reliable Services or Reliable Actor programming models.
  • Deploying and Managing Services with Microsoft Azure Service Fabric (200 level) – Learn about the lifecycle management capabilities of Service Fabric for managing distributed applications at scale. After this session you will learn, how to create Service Fabric clusters and deploy, monitor, troubleshoot, and upgrade applications on those clusters with no downtime. Come and see this live in action.
  • Azure Partner Readiness Catalog – Service Fabric – The Azure Partner Readiness catalog is a great way to find the latest readiness materials on the Azure Service Fabric.

Identity and Applications

The ability to tie custom line of business (LOB) applications to an enterprise customer’s identity management system tends to be one of the key challenges an application development partner faces when they attempt to move those applications to the cloud. I published a blog post earlier this year on about integration of LOB apps with Azure Active Directory for Office 365 customers. This topic of integrating identity into your applications remains a popular focus area and as such there were a number of sessions delivered at Build and Ignite.

Azure Active Directory resources

  • Develop Modern Native Applications with Azure Active Directory (200 level) – this session you will learn how to easily add enterprise-grade authentication capabilities to your mobile applications. Whether you develop on iOS, Android and Windows natively – or if you target multiple platforms at once using Xamarin or Cordova – Active Directory development libraries make it easy to add authentication logic to your apps to open up access to API such as Office 365, Azure and your very own.
  • Develop Modern Web Applications with Azure Active Directory (200 level) – Come to this session to learn how to integrate your web apps with Azure AD for simplified, enterprise grade single sign on. Discover how the use of open standards such as OAuth2 and OpenId Connect allow you to invoke Office 365 and Azure APIs, no matter what platform and development stack you are targeting.
  • Cloud Identity: Troubleshooting and recipes for devs (200 level) – Learn how to recognize and understand errors related to authentication problems in the cloud. This presentation wraps the most common issues developers typically might face when trying to wire their applications for authentication against Azure Active Directory and shows the paths to understand, diagnose and fix them. We will cover some basic concepts and recipes for enabling different scenarios to work with our cloud identity platform and discuss how to diagnose/fix problems when your application isn’t behaving as expected.
  • Azure Partner Readiness Catalog – Azure Active Directory – The Azure Partner Readiness catalog is a great way to find the latest readiness materials on Azure Active Directory.

Visual Studio – Application Insights

At the Build conference we announced the public preview of Visual Studio Application Insights

“Application Insights provides development teams with a comprehensive 360° view across their live application’s performance, availability and usage. With intuitive views and powerful tools for fast troubleshooting and diagnostics, it helps you analyze user activity and adoption, so that you can prioritize future work accordingly.”

Application Insights provides a number of potential benefits to an application focused system integrator that deploys applications for enterprise customers. One obvious benefit would be to help with troubleshooting the application both while in development or later when the application is deployed in production and you are in a support mode with your customer. A less obvious benefit would be to use this additional usage information to help your customer make informed decisions around which areas of the application they might want to invest in for future versions of the application as most corporate IT environments have limited budgets.

Get 360° Application Insights for Any App or Service

Application Insights resources

  • Developing Universal Windows Apps in Visual Studio 2015 (200 level) – Learn how to build a Universal Window app in Visual Studio 2015. In this session, we will explore creating adaptive apps, building UI for different device families, using platform and 3rd-party extension SDKs, and integrating Application Insights. Also learn a lot more about the developer experience for building a Universal Windows app.
  • Application Insights for Any App: A Must-Have Tool for Understanding Your Customers (300 level) – Are you a product owner working in an agile world and building a modern service, web or mobile application? If so, then you know how critical it is to understand who your customers are and how they are using your product. You want to understand usage trends to better target the right personas and environments, prioritize the right workflows, and invest in the right sets of features. Of course you also want that information in near-real-time to ensure you can quickly respond to changing customer needs. Application Insights with comprehensive 360° views across availability, performance & usage is the perfect tool to help you get all of these answers quickly and easily.
  • Fast and Powerful Diagnostics, and Problem Solving with Application Insights (300 level) – Too many developers and product teams are still running blind. They are either not aware of problems with their apps, or do not have concrete information to fix those problems. Application Insights can help you turn the lights on with quick & proactive 360° information about your apps' availability, performance and usage so you can efficiently solve your problems and improve your customer experience. The list of things that can go wrong with your web/mobile app or service is endless—dependency failures, server downtime, resource crunch, code defect, crashes, etc. Discover how Application Insights with real-time contextual data makes it easy to quickly diagnose and solve a wide range of such issues.
  • Azure Partner Readiness Catalog – Application Insights – The Azure Partner Readiness catalog is a great way to find the latest readiness materials on Application Insights.
   
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