I am pleased to announce my latest Pluralsight course on PowerApps (Well…such is the nature of change in the cloud that there has already been a name change since I submitted this course for publication, only a few weeks back. The aspect of PowerApps covered in my course is now referred to as Canvas Apps.)

This course is designed for developers (both citizen and professional developers) interested in a low-code approach for building mobile applications.

Here’s some background on PowerApps, if you haven’t had a chance to play with it yet:

PowerApps is a productive low-code development platform. It allows you to very quickly build business applications that can run inside a web browser, on a phone or a tablet. PowerApps includes a web-based IDE (PowerApps Studio, a set of built-in cross-platform controls), an Excel-like expression language that also includes imperative constructs like variables and loops, and over 130 connectors to talk to any number of data sources — including SQL Server, Office 365, Salesforce, Twitter, etc. You can also use custom connectors to talk to your domain-specific data source.

Beyond the controls, language expression and connectors, PowerApps provides ALM support in the form of app versioning, app publication to various app stores, swim-lanes for development environments, authentication and authorization (via Azure AD), RBAC controls, and security polices like data loss prevention (DLP).  All in all, the PowerApps service seeks to significantly lower the bar for building and distributing cross-platform mobile applications within your enterprise.

For a concrete example of our use of PowerApps, please read how we built a cross-platform event app in less than a week. Also please check out a recent episode of DotNetRocks where we talk about PowerApps.

Finally, as part of the latest spring update, PowerApps is combining with Dynamics 365 for Sales, Marketing, and Talent applications to offer an enterprise high-productivity application platform as a service (known as Microsoft Business Applications platform). What this means for PowerApps developers is that:

  1. They can now take advantage of server-side logic
  2. They have access to a data-centric way of building declarative apps, known as model-driven apps (in contrast to canvas apps, which are built by dragging and dropping controls to a canvas).

For more information on the spring update, please refer to this blog post by Frank Weigel.

I hope you will find this course useful. Please reach out to me via this blog or Twitter if you have any questions or comments.

The Microsoft Government Tech Summit – a free, technical learning event for IT professionals and developers – is coming to Washington D.C., March 5-6, 2018! This two-day event will be packed with technical content, and this year Microsoft is showcasing Azure Government and Microsoft 365 for US Government.

Our Cloud Application Development Director, Brent Wodicka, is presenting this year on “A PaaS-First Approach to DoD Mission Apps” on March 5th at 1 p.m.  He will be co-presenting with Microsoft’s Derek Strausbaugh, and showcasing how Azure simplifies and re-imagines legacy mission applications. Registration is now open, and we’re hoping you can join us!

As the expectations of citizens increase, the need for technology innovation in government intensifies. Learn how cloud innovation can help meet the needs of the nation. Whether you’re interested in learning about security approaches or attracting and retaining talent with a more flexible and modern workstyle, Microsoft Government Tech Summit can help you evolve your skills and deepen your expertise to lead your agency through digital transformation.

What to expect:

  • Connect with experts from Microsoft and the community, and learn how to get the most from the cloud. Ask your toughest questions, learn best practices, and share strategies.
  • Choose from a variety of learning opportunities to deepen your cloud expertise, from keynotes and breakout sessions, to hands-on labs and a hackathon.
  • Customize your learning – whether you’re already cloud-savvy or just getting started – Microsoft Government Tech Summit has something for everyone.
  • Discover the latest trends, tools, and product roadmaps at more than 60 sessions covering a range of topics, including over 40 sessions focused on the needs of government agencies.

The cloud is changing expectations – and transforming the way we live and work. Join us at the Microsoft Government Tech Summit and learn how Microsoft’s cloud platform can help you lead your agency through digital transformation – and make the cloud part of your mission success.

REGISTER NOW

2017 was another great year overall here at AIS, and also marked the fifth anniversary of our blog! We hope you enjoyed reading and found our posts helpful and interesting. We’re all pretty passionate about what we do here, and look forward to sharing more thoughts, insights and solutions in 2018 and beyond!

As we close out the year, here are the top 10 most read and shared blog posts of 2017:

1) Office 365 Groups vs. Microsoft Teams by Jason Storch

2) Lift & Shift: Migrating Legacy Applications to Azure Cloud by Nasir Mirza

3) Dockerization of Azure PaaS (Beyond Azure Container) by Vishwas Lele

4) Managed Images in Azure (Create & Deploy) by Justin Baca

5) Building Stateless Microservice Using Microsoft Service Fabric Series by Kasi Srinivasan

6) Azure PaaS Options: When to Use What? by Vishwas Lele

7) A three-way tie (!) for Parts One, Two & Three of Automated Deployments with Azure Resource Manager Templates, Azure Automation, & Octopus Deploy by Harun Davood

8) It’s Time to Review the Failure Modes of Your #cloud App(s) by Vishwas Lele

9) Pattern Matching vs. Deep Learning by Vishwas Lele

10) A Fix for the SharePoint Search Query/Result Mismatch by Clint Richardson

Happy New Year to all our readers and bloggers! Be sure to follow AIS on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn so you’ll never miss a post.

As 2017 ends, it’s clear that while the enterprises (public sector and commercial) are increasingly moving to the public cloud, they face significant challenges. Earlier in the year, I wrote about bridging the chasm between the expectations from an enterprise regarding cloud capabilities and the actual out-of-the box features offered by cloud providers. Additional challenges include the foundational culture shift to cloud governance, DevOps and automation, security and compliance, and mapping an enterprise’s application portfolio to a complex array of cloud service options.

Here are five things you can do next year to better assist enterprises adopt the public cloud: Read More…

Recently I had an opportunity to sit down with Steve Michelotti, Program Manager on the AzureGov team and talk about a Machine Learning (ML) application we built for a federal agency. This application is great example of how AIS leverages the latest innovations on the AzureGov platform to build applications that align with agencies’ missions – and go beyond IT support to directly assist in meeting the mission objectives.

Specifically, this application was designed to help analysts get personalized recommendations (based on their own preference settings, ratings provided by their co-workers) for stories they need to analyze as part of their daily work.

Brent Wodicka from AIS described this application in an earlier blog post. Read More…

I had the opportunity to attend the first Azure Government HackFest & Training on June 7 and June 8, 2017 with several of my AIS colleagues (Jonathan Eckman, Nicolas Mark, and Brian Rudolph) and it did not disappoint. This event was a great opportunity for me personally to learn more about Azure and spend some time applying that new information to work on an interesting problem.  I know that many of you might be considering attending another HackFest, so I wanted to take some time to tell you about the event and what I learned.  I also wanted to give you a few tips if you attend one of these in the future.

Day One started off with a number of training/knowledge-sharing sessions with the Microsoft Azure Government Engineering Team, providing an overview of Azure Gov, Security, Lift and Shift, Azure HDInsight, and Cognitive Services. The information provided was detailed enough that it wasn’t marketing material, but not so deep to be too difficult for general IT pros to grasp. Kudos to those that presented from the Microsoft Azure Engineering Team! Read More…

The microservice architecture has been very popular in the industry past few years and we’re learning about the successful adoption of this architecture. The higher rate of architecture style adoption is due to the echo system that’s evolved around this architecture and benefits realized by the organizations. In this blog post, I’ll introduce the microservice, walk through steps to build more of a “Hello World” stateless microservice using the Microsoft Service Fabric, and deploy the microservice to local service fabric environment.

Before we dive in to the building of the stateful microservice let’s look at the basics of the microservice, purpose and types of microservice. Read More…

The central focus of DevOps has been the continuous delivery (CD) pipeline: A single, traceable path for any new or updated version of software to move through lower environments to a higher environment using automated promotion. However, in my recent experience, DevOps is also serving as the bridge between the “expectations chasm” — the gap between the three personas in the above diagram.

Each persona (CIO, Ops and App Teams) have varying expectations for the move to public cloud. For CIO, the motivation to move to the public cloud is based on key selling points — dealing with capacity constraints, mounting on-premises data center costs, reducing the Time to Value (TtV), and increasing innovation. The Ops Team is expecting a tooling maturity on par with on-premises including Capacity Planning, HA, compliance and monitoring. The Apps team is expecting to use the languages, tools, and CI process that they are already using, but in the context of new PaaS services. They also expect the same level of compliance and resilience from the underlying infrastructure services.

Unfortunately, as we will see in a moment, these expectations are hard to meet, despite the rapid innovation and cadence of releases in the cloud.

Consider these examples: Read More…

Companies are adopting Docker containers at a remarkable pace and for a good reason – Docker containers are turning out to be key enablers for a micro-services based architecture.

As a quick recap, Docker containers are:

  • Encapsulated, deployable components that can run as isolated instances
  • Small in size with a fast boot-up time
  • Include tools that enable containerized application images to be easily moved across the public cloud and on-premises
  • Capable of applying limits on physical resources consumed by any given application

Given the popularity of Docker containers, it should come as no surprise that the Azure platform already provides first-class support for a container hosting solution, in the form of Azure Container Service (ACS). ACS makes it simple to create a cluster of Virtual Machines that can run containerized applications. ACS relies on popular open-source tools – with Docker as the container format, and a choice of Marathon, DC/OS, Docker Swarm and Kubernetes for orchestration and scheduling, etc. All this makes it possible to easily run containerized workloads on Azure in a portable manner.

But the Docker containerization story on Azure does not stop here.

It is also being weaved more and more into existing PaaS offerings, including Azure Batch, Azure App Service and Azure Service Fabric. Let’s briefly review the latest developments to see how Docker integrates with Azure PaaS: Read More…