Ignite 2022: Microsoft Low-Code Power Products Get GitHub Copilot 'AI Pair Programmer' Tech

This week's big Ignite 2022 tech conference served as an opportunity for Microsoft to further tout its low-code development offerings, most centered around the Azure cloud and some augmented by artificial intelligence (AI).

AI was pervasive throughout the show, including the keynote address (see "AI Takes Center Stage in Microsoft Ignite Keynote").

It's being put to use in many ways, especially for automation.

For example, AI is infused throughout the company's Power Platform, the home of low-code products like Power Apps and Power Pages. The platform also includes Power Automate, which automates organizational processes. It now uses AI natural language processing capabilities to accelerate automation by enabling users to describe what they want to automate, after which AI will build the flow in seconds without searching or guesswork, according to Microsoft. It's based on the tech that powers GitHub Copilot, described as an "AI pair programmer" that lets developers type in natural language commands to do many programming tasks, including generating whole projects.

Now, Power Automate can operate the same way, letting users "describe it and let AI build it," as Microsoft says.

Power Automate Describe It to Design It (Preview)
[Click on image for larger view.] Power Automate Describe It to Design It (Preview) (source: Microsoft).

"Creating flows is the foundation of Power Automate, and now you can describe what you want to automate in a sentence, and an AI-based copilot will build your flow in seconds," Microsoft said in an Oct. 12 blog post. "No searching or guesswork, just describe it and let the copilot work its magic.

"This new way to create flows runs on OpenAI Codex, an AI model descendant of GPT-3 that can translate natural language to code, in this case, Power Automate cloud flows. This is the same technology behind GitHub Copilot and Power Apps Ideas (preview). At launch, we're supporting key Microsoft 365 connectors and in the coming months, we'll expand to include more."

AI also allows for automation through conversation in another Power Platform product, Power Virtual Agents. "Earlier this year we announced a new intelligent bot authoring experience was coming soon for Power Virtual Agents," Microsoft said. "Starting Nov. 10, 2022, this new experience will automatically turn on in preview for users. This new experience unifies the sophistication of low-code and pro-code capabilities, which is a fusion of the Microsoft Azure Bot Framework Composer and Power Virtual Agents' bot building experience. Pro-code and low-code users can build together with multi-authoring and commenting capabilities, while taking advantage of the latest functionalities, such as Power Fx and code views."

Microsoft said the Power Automate copilot also lets users format data by examples. "Writing expressions to utilize data when automating workflows can be daunting," the company said. "Power Automate now simplifies this process by leveraging AI to reshape data for more straightforward expression authoring by use of examples.

"To access this feature in Power Automate cloud flow designer, users can select any action and use the new option 'format data by examples.' By feeding the designer examples of the desired output format to produce, Power Automate will automatically generate the expression formula to use."

Other highlights of the Power Platform as detailed by Microsoft during Ignite 2022 include:

  • General Availability of Managed Environments: Managed Environments offer a set of enhanced out-of-the-box governance capabilities that simplify, automate, and streamline IT administration of Microsoft Power Platform at scale.
  • ALM pipeline automation: Built-in application lifecycle management in Microsoft Power Platform to improve security and governance for solutions with less effort.
  • Coauthoring in Power Apps: Makers can work together in real-time with coauthoring in the modern app designer to accelerate development with collaboration.
  • General availability of Power Pages: The newest Microsoft Power Platform product for creating modern, secure, responsive business websites is now generally available and includes pay-as-you-go meters and capacity-based subscriptions.
  • Interactive Power BI charts shared directly from OneDrive and SharePoint: Users can now share and interact with reports directly from OneDrive or SharePoint.
  • Cross-tenant dataset sharing: Cross-tenant dataset sharing enables users to share datasets with external organizations in an easy, quick, and secure manner.
  • Advancements in AI Builder: Increase document processing accuracy and the number of supported document types.

Some other low-code developments highlighted at Ignite 2022 include:

  • In Azure Machine Learning, a Responsible AI dashboard will be generally available soon, helping users easily implement Responsible AI by debugging machine learning models and making informed data-driven decisions. "The Responsible AI scorecard introduces an on-demand UI experience for generating PDF scorecards, making it possible for no-code/low-code customers to create reports for their models," Microsoft said.
  • Microsoft announced several updates and enhancements for Project Bonsai, "a low-code industrial AI development platform, in preview, where engineers will be able to create AI-powered automation without the need for an extensive background in data science." Companies are using Project Bonsai to help improve product quality and efficiency, Microsoft said.
  • For analytics in the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform, Microsoft said, "Informatica, Confluent, dbt Labs, Fivetran, Qlik and Striim bring low-code/no-code data integration and transformation solutions for analytics to simplify the process of building and operating complex enterprise-grade pipelines to integrate data from a variety of sources and transform pipelines with a single-pane experience in Microsoft Purview.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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