Azure Functions LogoThe trend of making applications serverless is on fire! And it’s not just hype…going serverless makes the administration, monitoring and debugging of code so much easier that developers all around are flocking to use it in one way or the other.

If you don’t know what serverless means, I would suggest you start here. In a nutshell, it basically abstracts the underlying platform and allows the developers just to run a piece of code without worrying about servers and their maintenance. Also, it gets the usual benefits of the cloud like auto-scale, pay-per-use, etc.

The Background

At AIS IDC, we have a separate timesheet system to keep track of records internally. This system comprises of various features like Leave Requests, Time Logs, Work-From-Home Requests, etc. We deployed the system a couple of years ago, and it’s comprised of an Azure SQL instance, Azure Web App on Windows, and an Azure Classic Cloud Service. The Azure Classic Cloud Service was deployed with a separate application written in C# to keep track of overtime hours, update leaves, figure out timesheet defaulters, send out email notifications, etc. Since this was a classic Cloud Service, we had little visibility into what was going on while it was running.

Furthermore, just to do these basic tasks every five minutes, the classic cloud service was costing us $60 per month on an average. Read More…

Best of Texas AwardTwo years ago, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) came to AIS with an outdated online budgeting tool called the “Texas Reality Check” for middle and high school students. The application, designed to give students a clear sense of how much their desired future lifestyle will cost and what education and career choices will support it, was plagued by performance and accessibility issues…and its young target demographic was simply tuning it out.

AIS modernized the site for teen sensibilities, streamlined the underlying information architecture for easier use, overhauled the content strategy and user experience, and made it fully compliant with the latest accessibility guidelines.  You can read more about our work on this project here.

The new and improved Texas Reality Check has since gone on to become the most popular application of the Labor Market and Career Information Department (LMCI) of the Texas Workforce Commission. And now it’s been honored with a 2018 “Best of Texas” Award for Best Application Serving the Public. The awards highlight the Texas state government’s top creative tech implementations of the year, for both internal improvements and public-facing services like TRC.

“Governmental and educational leaders in Texas are leveraging technology to improve cybersecurity, enhance citizen service and advance emergency response, among many other things,” said Teri Takai, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. “Congratulations to this year’s Best of Texas winners for the vital role they are playing in advancing information technology in Texas.”

We’re really proud of our work on this project and thrilled that school students all across Texas have responded to the site in such a positive and engaged way. We hope the application continues to inspire them to dream big…while also equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve their goals.

Calling all SharePoint users and Office 365 developers! Once again, we invite you to attend this month’s Meetup for the Triangle SharePoint User Group in Morrisville, North Carolina. The Meetup is TOMORROW and space in limited, so RSVP today to claim your spot.

About the Session: 

Many traditional SharePoint developers have been caught off guard with the fast pace of changes to the SharePoint ecosystem in recent years. Whether it’s the rapid adoption of Office 365 or the growing investment in cloud-based infrastructure and services, it can all feel very foreign to anyone still using some of the same development approaches and tools first pioneered in SharePoint 2007.

This month’s session will break down traditional SharePoint solutions (such as features, webparts, workflows, event receivers, and timer jobs) and discuss how they translate to modern equivalents in Office 365 and the cloud. We’ll touch on popular topics like the role of SPFX, PowerApps, and Flow, and also other key Azure Services such as Logic Apps, Azure Functions, and Hybrid Data Connections.

You’ll gain an understanding for the growing role of new APIs such as Microsoft Graph, various nuances with authentication, and the importance of hybrid environments and accessing on-premises data. Along the way you’ll discover some of the tools, techniques, and approaches that will be invaluable as you decide what part of your toolbelt will be the most important to upgrade!

About the Speaker: 

Josh Carlisle is a full stack software developer based out of Raleigh, North Carolina working as a Senior Solution Architect at B&R Business Solutions. He has 20 years of development experience from the early days of VB5, COM, ASP, and the birth of .Net to his first adventures with SharePoint development in 2004. His current focus is on architecting, designing, and developing solutions for Azure, Office 365, and SharePoint using the latest front end JavaScript frameworks such as Angular and React alongside service side solutions based on ASP.NET Core and Node.js. Josh also enjoys sharing is knowledge and experience at regional user groups and community events.

Come join your peers and fellow developers for a great session of networking and learning. As always, this event is free but space in limited. RSVP here!

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.

Another new year, another Codemash in the books. Codemash is a fantastic family-friendly developer conference that brings in speakers and attendees from all over the world, with a wonderfully diverse range of topics and expertise. If there’s a hot new language or technology, it’ll be discussed here, in the sessions or in the hallways. Despite being held in Sandusky, OH in the middle of winter, it’s a blast for the whole family since it’s hosted at the Kalahari indoor waterpark resort.

Pro-Tips

This was the fourth Codemash I’ve been able to attend, so I’ve learned a few tricks. The pre-compilers are where you’ll actually learn the most – these are half- or whole-day sessions preceding the main conference, and allow you to deep-dive into a specific subject and get hands-on experience with expert guidance. Bring a laptop with enough power to play – you’ll be spinning up new VMs, IDEs, and hardware.

(Also, bring plenty of hand sanitizer, Emergen-C, and antacids – because The Crud seems to spread very fast at these indoor winter conferences!)

Networking

There are plenty of opportunities to expand your professional network – from the experts teaching the sessions, to fellow session attendees, to your dining table companions, to board-game players. I met a lot of great people doing interesting things from all over the Midwest and my neck of the woods – I even met local developers who had preceded me at my local office! Some were even familiar with AIS and our reputation for doing great work in the .NET/Azure space.

Session Recaps

Next I’ll break down the most memorable sessions that I attended, and the major takeaways from each… Read More…

Last week, I had the pleasure to be a guest on the .NET Rock podcast. I talked to Carl and Richard about the Microsoft Business Application Platform, which organizes the huge suite of tools available in Azure, along with PowerApps and PowerBI, to create a great place to build applications that run on Windows, iOS and Android.

I also talked about moving up into a higher layer of coding using Logic Apps and Azure Flow to pull together the various sources of data that already exist in your organization, including Office, SharePoint, SalesForce and so on. You already have the data, so how do you surface it in an app that your users actually like to use?

And finally, we discussed the PowerApps spring update that brings both server-side logic and model-driven apps.

Listen to the full podcast here!

Calling all SharePoint users and Office 365 developers! AIS is sponsoring this month’s Meetup for the Triangle SharePoint User Group in Morrisville, North Carolina. It’s shaping up to be a great one, so RSVP today to claim your spot.

About the Session:

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the new buzzwords in the industry. In this session, we will cover Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Services for Office 365 developers.

About the Speaker:

Prashant G. Bhoyar is a Microsoft Office Server & Services MVP and Microsoft Certified Professional. He currently works as a Solution Architect at WithumSmith+Brown, P.C. (formerly Portal Solutions), one of the top 30 accounting and advisory firms in the country. He is a trusted advisor and Subject Matter Expert and specializes in the development and post-implementation adoption of complex custom solutions in Azure, Office 365, and SharePoint. Prashant has supported many government agencies and non-profit organizations in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Prashant was the co-author of the book PowerShell for Office 365 and was the technical reviewer of the book Pro SharePoint 2013 Administration.

He serves on the leadership committee for the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning User Group, and D.C. Metro Office 365 User Group, and SharePoint Saturday Baltimore event and SharePoint Saturday Washington DC event. He actively speaks at technical conferences across the country, most recently in Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, as well as, at many events throughout North America. Prashant is a recipient of the “Antarctic Service Medal of the United States of America” for his outstanding service in Antarctica.

Click here for the event’s agenda, location and to claim your spot! Space is limited so RSVP today!

ICON & GOLD Teaming Up To Explore Earth’s Interface to SpaceFor years, Federal agencies have struggled to drive efficiencies while addressing the growing volume and increasing size of geospatial data. Legacy stove-pipe connectivity and desktop thick-clients have prevented traditional production environments from achieving the potential of a modern cloud-based architecture. Coupled with responsive web-based components, the cloud offers a seamless framework to automate tasks such as data ingestion, pre-processing and product generation. AIS is proud to be helping our users migrate into these next-generation production environments.

Our Federal team is currently involved with multiple projects that foster the adoption of cloud-based tasking, ingestion, processing and visualization using open-source web technologies. We foster an approach to migrating data processing algorithms from research groups across the Intelligence Community into production environments such as AWS Commercial Cloud Services (C2S).

For instance, the open-sourced NGA Scale framework allows users to customize heavy data processing schedules and tasks, while leveraging and managing a large number of cluster nodes used to process each job.

Right…. So what does that mean, exactly? Read More…

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

We’re fascinated by the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence and the truly transformative opportunities it offers our customers. We’ve been digging deep into machine learning, computer vision and other AI capabilities for quite some time now, and believe they will grow into a significant part of our business. We’re not alone: IDC predicts 75 percent of developer teams will include cognitive and AI functionality in one or more applications this year.

“A lot of the sales process for AI and ML is centered around education…people are not calling asking for either specifically.”
– Vishwas Lele AIS

To assist companies looking to build an AI-focused practice, Microsoft recently released the AI Practice Development Playbook with guidance and resources around developing an AI strategy, gaining the required skills, plus how to market and sell these cutting-edge offerings. AIS is proud to be a contributing expert and co-author of the Playbook, along with our fellow Microsoft partners and other leading AI data scientists.

Get your copy of the AI Playbook right here. We’d love to hear what you think of it!