Microsoft Build 2017: Evolving the Mobile-First, Cloud-First Message

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella provided the framework of Microsoft's developer tooling and services so far and a nicely detailed glimpse into future direction. Then EVP Scott Guthrie detailed the vast number of new and upcoming offerings as a preview to the sessions taking place the rest of the week.

(Image of Microsoft's Scott Guthrie courtesy Microsoft News Center. Additional reporting from Seattle by Michael Desmond, MSDN Magazine Editor in Chief.)

Microsoft launched its Build 2017 conference in Seattle early this morning, and while, for the most part, we were able to guess what the company would be announcing, there were some interesting and welcoming surprises with specifics during Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's opening keynote: New Cognitive Services offerings, Visual Studio for Mac out of beta, Azure Cosmos DB, Azure Cloud Shell, to name a few. This keynote kept unwrapping one offering after another.

(Disclosure: I'm reporting from my home office, watching the live stream, while colleague and MSDN Magazine Editor in Chief Michael Desmond is on site as well as occasionally tweeting what he hears and sees at

Much of Nadella's opening hour was stage-setting, first restating the mobile-first, cloud-first message that was the signature of his ascent to the CEO spot at the company back in 2014, which is evolving now that the company has a firmer grasp on what their tools and services are capable of providing to the developers into a message that speaks to "an intelligent cloud & an intelligent edge." Nadella and crew then provided lots of proof of concept on the work that's being done with AI and its own Cognitive Services using the complement of developer-enabled Microsoft hardware, services and tooling.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise, and his direct reports took over the rest of the proceedings after the first hour, trotting out much of the news of more practical offerings, with announcements of new products and some early previews of the tools that will be given more dressing down at sessions during the conference. Here are some of the highlights:

Cognitive Services: Four new AI-enabled services will be added to the growing list of services available already: Video Indexer provides indexing of gobs of videos using image recognition. Bing Custom Search uses a bit of AI behind the scenes to figure out the best search sources. Custom Vision Service provides image recognition. Custom Decision Service also uses AI to build decisionmaking into apps. Many of these services can be previewed in a newly launched Cognitive Services Lab. More here.

Azure Batch AI Training: Currently in private preview, it's a new Azure service specifically aimed at data scientists and machine learning experts to provide a managed service for batch training neural networks.

Azure Cloud Shell: A new addition to the Azure Portal that was previewed back in December during an online event, it provides developers with access to a Bash shell via the newly minted Cloud Shell. There's also a PowerShell shell in development.

Azure Cosmos DB: A new service aimed at global enterprises, this one is touted as a globally distributed, multi-model database service that boasts 99-percent uptime with a handful of consistency options. "Customers including are using Azure Cosmos DB to scale to 100 trillion transactions per day and growing, spanning multiple regions," said Guthrie. Also new are two new managed services for Azure SQL Database for MySQL and PostgreSQL, and a private preview of SQL Server- and Oracle-to-Azure SQL Database migration services.

Azure Service Fabric: Support for Windows Server containers in Azure Service Fabric with the 5.6 runtime and 2.6 SDK is now generally available, and in preview is native support for deploying containerized apps using Docker Compose.

Azure Mobile App: Now in beta, developers can view and receive notifications of health data and metrics on a number of app services, as well as start and stop VMs and web apps from it. It's available in beta for iOS and Android, with a UWP version in the works.

Azure IoT Edge: New is this cross-platform runtime that can be installed onto any device, and which uses Azure as the hub for managing and telemetry and analytics.

Visual Studio for Mac: It's now out of beta and generally available and, for the most part, provides a fully Visual Studio-enabled environment for those developing C#, F#, .NET Core, ASP.NET Core, Xamarin or Unity apps from a Mac machine.

PowerShell Extension for Visual Studio Code: With this release, VS Code becomes the de facto shell for creating and editing PowerShell scripts, replacing the PowerShell ISE. (PowerShell ISE will still be available, however, at least for the foreseeable future.)

Visual Studio 2017: Version 15.2 is now available today; a 15.3 Preview is also out that includes NET Core 2.0 preview support, and Live Unit Testing for .NET Core projects, among a slew of other enhancements (click here to find out more about participating in the preview). Also new is a Visual Studio Snapshot Debugger that provides quicker debugging response to apps running on premises or in the cloud.

We'll continue updating this site with news as it becomes available, and will provide more detail on each of these products in the weeks to come.

(Click here to view Nadella's keynote on demand on the Microsoft News Center.)

About the Author

Michael Domingo is a long-time software publishing veteran, having started up and managed several developer publications for the Clipper compiler, Microsoft Access, and Visual Basic. He's also managed IT pubs for 1105 Media, including Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine and Virtualization Review before landing his current gig as Visual Studio Magazine Editor in Chief. Besides his publishing life, he's a professional photographer, whose work can be found by Googling domingophoto.

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