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Microsoft ignites a community in the cloud

Microsoft Ignite is an annual technology event designed for IT decision makers, IT professionals, enterprise developers or anyone who's a techie (or works with technical people). It's an opportunity for tech industry people to find out what the key trends and driving forces are in the tech industry and, in particular, the Microsoft community, products and services.

We sent two of our developers – Phil Todd and David Duncan – up to the Gold Coast for a bit of nerdy nourishment. Here's their take on the week that was Microsoft Ignite 2015.

microsoft Ignite 

MICROSOFT EVOLUTION

As a Microsoft gold development partner, Total Synergy’s development team has to maintain certification in Microsoft best practice and develop software using Microsoft code and platforms.

David and Phil have both worked with Microsoft technologies for a number of years (around 30 years between them, despite their youth!). Their overriding impression from Ignite 2015 was that Microsoft has evolved to become an inclusive open source community.

David said the strong message of open source is something not previously heard from Microsoft. 

“There was a consistent underlying focus on a mindset of working together,” he said.

"All of the major development tools Microsoft provides, all the way down to .Net (development language) are now on GitHub [a code sharing and publishing service and social networking site for programmers].

“Rather than telling developers what to do, and how they must strictly follow the Microsoft way, they're providing useful tools and encouraging us to do what we want with them."

Phil agreed, saying it felt like there had been a huge cultural shift from Microsoft being a closed development space to becoming open source and device agnostic.

"It was really good to see Microsoft being enthusiastic about open source and making the development resources publicly available," Phil said.

"The conference was clearly designed to evangelise everyone who was there... trying to expose the developers and operations people to as many new technologies and platforms as possible and get them excited.

“It’s evidence of Microsoft’s evolution away from “desktop” software and operating systems, to its mobile and cloud first philosophy.”

CLOUD FOCUS

In previous years at the Microsoft developer conferences there has been a consistent focus on Windows and developing applications for a desktop environment. David and Phil said there was still a bit of focus on Windows 10 – particularly in how developing for Windows 10 means one code base will work across all Microsoft platforms and devices, like HoloLens, Microsoft Lumia phones, Band (Microsoft wearable device), and Surface and Surface Hub – but the lion’s share of the conference focused on Microsoft Azure.

“Everything pretty much related back to Azure in some way,” Phil said.

“Microsoft says Azure is competing very well in the cloud development space… Now Visual Studio [Microsoft cloud development application] is open source, it means there’ll be a lot of very clever people out there contributing to the growth of the Azure platform and fixing up annoying bugs because that’s just what happens in open source, community driven development.

“There was also a large focus on Office 365… I don’t think I heard anything about Office on desktop.”

Microsoft Ignite

MICROSOFT FUTURE LOOKS POSITIVE

According to David and Phil, previous Microsoft events they’ve been to have not always been particularly inspiring. This year, both came away with a really positive vibe from Microsoft.

“It seems like the new management has brought very positive change,” Phil said.

“I’ve been working with Microsoft products for a couple of decades and for a long time they’ve been acknowledged as one of the big companies you have to work with, but they’ve not necessarily been very popular with the tech industry because of the rigid way they historically forced people to work.

“There seems to be a lot more integration with the rest of the developer community now… we’re not being pushed to use Microsoft’s own source control, they’ve given us access to the tools in places where the broader development community works, and we’re being encourage to take risks.”

The drive for community is also what resonated with David.

“A lot of the focus was on the development community extending the tools that are available,” he said.

“I went to a session on Power BI [Microsoft business intelligence/data visualization tool] where the presenter was talking about creating your own visuals for Power BI. An illustration of this is where someone in the developer community had created a data visualizer where you can upload any image and turn any part of it into a piece of interactive data. A good example is in using an airline passenger seat map, where each seat can be an interactive data response showing something like profitability of that seat, or total weight of that passenger’s luggage.

“The benefit is that as developers we can do what we want with it without having to follow one very narrowly prescribed way of doing things. Ultimately anyone could work with tools like Power BI as long as they have the resources to design the visuals and technical knowhow to handle data calculations correctly. That said, the community will potentially develop lots of options that will be available in an open source library.”

During Ignite 2015, both David and Phil sat their Microsoft certification exams and many developers were encouraged to do so. It’s evident that Microsoft is keen to maintain its focus on best practice through guidance and certification, but by releasing major products to be open source, it’s letting the broader development community open new pathways and growth in the Azure cloud platform.

 

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