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Chris Reddington for Cloud with Chris

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My Microsoft //Build 2021 Highlights

This post was originally published on Fri, May, 2021 at

If you follow the news around Microsoft, you've probably found it very hard to miss the fact that the Microsoft /Build conference happened this week. Microsoft /Build is their annual developer-focused conference, where they typically announce new features, updates and share their strategy as they evolve technologies.

In this update, I'll provide a summary of the announcements that particularly stood out to me and give you some context around why. Whether that's announcements that excite me, features that I think are crucial to be adopted, etc. It's worth noting that I'll be focusing primarily on the Microsoft Azure Updates here, as that's my typical area of expertise!

I want to call out a point that was special for me about this /Build conference! I held my first presentation at Microsoft /Build, which means I've now presented at Microsoft Inspire, Ignite and Build - a very pleasing achievement. I had the pleasure of presenting alongside Dean Bryen and Carole Rennie Logan, for the UK Community Session: Create friction-free code across all tools and frameworks.

The conference itself was split into several key pillars -

  • Increase developer velocity with Microsoft's end-to-end developer platform
  • Deliver new intelligent cloud-native apps by harnessing the power of data and AI
  • Build cloud native-apps your way and run them anywhere
  • Build the next generation of collaborative apps for hybrid work
  • Build differentiated SaaS apps with the Microsoft cloud
  • Building digital twins, mixed reality and metaverse apps

As you can likely gauge, there's something for everyone in the above list of topics! Announcements ranged from GitHub integrations with Azure, through to more Azure technologies being available through Azure Arc, and many enhancements to existing services. Let's walk through those areas in some further detail. I've done my best to pull together the Azure Updates, Azure Blog Posts and Microsoft /Build sessions based upon those key pillars.

Build cloud-native applications that run anywhere

Gabe Monroy announces in this blog post that Azure App Service, Azure Functions, Azure Logic Apps, Azure Event Grid and Azure API Management are all capable of running in a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) conformant Kubernetes cluster or Azure Arc deployment.

Why is this important? You now have the ability to use all of the investments that have been made on Azure for your development needs in on-premises or even in AWS or GCP. This gives you the ability to have a consistent target environment across several physical environments, making it easier than ever to operate in a hybrid or multi-cloud environment. Of course, there's still a need for the Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, as you continue to give up a certain level of management responsibility there. As you use Azure Arc / Kubernetes as a deployment target, you'll be picking up some additional management responsibilities in exchange for the ability to run your cloud-native applications anywhere.

This could open up some incredible hybrid scenarios where certain applications are unable to move directly to the cloud. Whether that's for compliance reasons, dependencies or organizational policy - You now have the option to have a consistent development environment on your terms.

Increase Developer Velocity with Microsoft’s end-to-end developer platform

Join Amanda Silver, Donovan Brown and Julie Strauss - as they talk through building productively with tools like Visual Studio, GitHub, Power Apps and Azure.

Build differentiated SaaS apps with the Microsoft Cloud

Charles Lamana and Justin Graham discuss how Power Platform, Dynamics 365, Azure, and Teams, can help developers quickly build modern SaaS apps in the cloud. They also explore how Microsoft's industry-clouds may be able to help accelerate industry-specific components as well.

Build the next generation of collaborative apps for hybrid work

Jeffrey Teper, Yina Arenas, Mary Anne Noskowski and Archana Saseetharan talk through the latest on Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Graph, and Windows and how you can use these new tools and surfaces to build the next generation of productivity and collaboration experiences for hybrid work.

Harness the power of data and AI in your applications with Azure

John 'JG' Chirapurath posted a blog post which summarizes the key announcements, including the General Availability announcement of Azure CosmosDB Serverless and Azure CosmosDB role-based access control, preview announcements of Azure CosmosDB Integrated Cache and Always Encrypted for Azure CosmosDB, the preview announcement of Azure SQL Database's Ledger capability, Azure Synapse Link for Microsoft Dataverse, expanding the Azure CosmosDB Free Tier and several Azure Database for MySQL and PostgreSQL announcements. As well as the data platform announcements, there were interesting announcements in the Artificial Intelligence space, specifically around Azure Applied AI Services. These combine Azure Cognitive Services with task-specific logic, to help accelerate achieving business goals.

Converging the physical and digital with digital twins, mixed reality, and metaverse apps

Sam George discussed the possibilities of connected environments by combining technology with complex environments, such as a retail-store to enhance the shopping experience, converging the physical and digital worlds. Sam discusses that Metaverse apps are the culmination of the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge working in harmony together—at their foundation is digital twins. Key technologies in this category are Digital Twins, Internet of Things (IoT), Azure Maps, Azure Synapse Analytics, Microsoft Power Platform and Microsoft Mesh & Hololens.

By no means am I expecting you to read every single blog article, azure update, or watch the videos end-to-end. I aimed to pull a variety of resources together so that you can go through the list and cherry-pick the areas that are of most interest for you.

For me, the key highlights are the investment in cloud-native running anywhere, as well as the data platform and artificial intelligence enhancements. I'm excited to try deploying App Service onto my own local machine, and to further enhance my usage of Azure CosmosDB (e.g. introducing caching, leveraging data-plane RBAC, trying partial document updates and using the CosmosDB Emulator from my MacBook Pro).

There are plenty of updates, no matter what area you are interested in. I'd love for you to take a look at the session from Dean, Carole and I and for you to get on touch on Twitter, @reddobowen on the topics that most interested you. What will you be learning over the coming weeks?

So that's it for this blog post, and until the next one - Thanks for reading - and bye for now!

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