I wanted to organize my thoughts while they are fresh in my mind regarding what I have heard the BIILD conference the week of October 28th 2012.

First of all, let me talk about first day keynote. Steve Ballmer talked for quite a while, but other people participated as well. I really liked the energy and confidence of all the speakers, as they were talking about windows 8, new operating system from Microsoft. Ballmer talked about success of Windows 7, expressing his belief that Windows 8 will be even better. New focus on touch undoubtedly will enhance user experiences, given many touch enabled devices that are available to consumers. There were a number of devices showcased, starting with 80” touch enabled PC and ending with Windows RT (ARM based device) tablets that were given to all attendees and many machines in between. Of course, not surprisingly, Windows Azure was mentioned many times, and for a good reason. Cloud is the enabler of connected experiences in Windows 8, starting with Live services and SkyDrive. Cloud is used by Window 8 itself to synchronize user settings between many Windows 8 machines that a single user might have. This concept is just as valid for custom applications that can be written for Windows 8 by individual developers and companies. These applications can be distributed through new Windows store for purchase of free of charge, providing many developers with an unprecedented opportunity to make money by selling their software to millions of Windows users. I really enjoyed the energy level that was palpable during the keynote. I think Microsoft succeeded in expressing their excitement about Windows 8.

Second’s day keynote was all about Azure. There were many existing, upcoming and brand new services available in Windows Azure shown, with most impressive demo included Azure Mobile Services, which is currently in preview, but can already be used in Windows 8 store applications (formerly known as Metro style). Other cool demos included automatic publishing from GIT and TFS service, which hit RTM during the event. Azure now has its own add-on store, for which anybody can right applications that plug into Azure ecosystem. For example, New Relic offers extensive live monitoring on Azure app. Other services include Mongo DB service, My SQL service, and more.

I also attended many sessions, mostly centered around Azure and Web, which is what I am personally concentrating on these days. I also sat in on a few Windows 8 sessions.

Here are in no particular order some facts that I have learned.

Windows Performance Toolkit allows developers to find performance issues in their web applications. These issues can include JavaScript performance, server response time, rendering performance, etc…

If you would like to do testing with different browsers, might be a useful site for you.

There was a cool command line tool shown that has support for many Azure commands, such as publishing.

During TypeScript session I saw a Visual Studio plugin built on top of TypeScript install that makes working with TypeScript easier. If you work with JavaScript, definitely check out TypeScript. Plugin written by Mads Kristensen, who is a Microsoft employees, has a number of features, for example converting an image source from an URL into an embedded byte array.

Another just a cool demo included PDF viewer written entirely in JavaScript.

In general JavaScript tools and capabilities were ever-present at all web sessions. The overwhelming message was that JavaScript enhancements in all browsers make it possible to write highly complex web apps using the speed and power of JavaScript to a larger degree that most of us are comfortable with. Maybe single page web applications will quickly become a norm? We will have to wait and see.

Session on SignalR was very detailed and explained not only speed and scaling of this product when it comes to creating connected experiences in web applications, but also went into typical business use cases where SignalR shines.

I attended a few very cool sessions on data choices and business intelligence on Azure. Here is what I learned there. If you are hosting a lot of data, you can use Azure SQL Database (formerly SQL Azure) to support very large databases using automatic federation of manual federation with little code. When it comes to scaling SQL Azure, you still have a lot of power there as well. Another message I heard loud and clear was the fact that SQL Azure is not the same as SQL server. Microsoft is learning more about database as a service approach every day. You already know that MSDTC is not supported on Azure. As a result, term eventual consistency was mentioned a few times. I think we are in the middle of fundamental shift in thinking when it comes to structured data and traditional RDBMS. Not that SQL Server or Oracle are going away, but the thinking that any business software or business intelligence solution must start with RDBMS is changing. For example Azure table storage can be used as well, which is significantly cheaper and more scalable. I already mentioned Mongo DB and MySQL. The bottom line is that answer to the question of storage for an application is no longer automatic.

As far as data mining and BI(business intelligence) are concerned, the message I got is that Hadoop and big data will revolutionize the field. You can easily store tons of unstructured or semi-structured data anywhere in the cloud, even table storage, and yet provide business insight using HDInsight (Microsoft marketing term for Hadoop on Azure) in a matter of minutes or hours over billions of rows of data. What is also cool is that there is a LINQ provider now available for Hadoop, making it easier to write .NET based code against it, not just JavaScript.

Another important lesson worth mentioning is that Windows 8 and Azure to a much larger degree will and already have democratized software production. In other words, a startup only needs to invest its participants’ time and very little money to provide software to huge audiences, at least to start with. Of course, once you are making money and supporting thousands or millions of users, you will spend a lot more money on Azure, but who would not want to deal with this problem?

We, Microsoft centered developers, are living in very exciting times right now. There is more and more we must know to be proficient every day and we have more and more tools at our disposal. I want to thank Magenic for sending me to BUILD so that I can gain more knowledge first hand.


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