Microsoft steps up IoT credentials

Scott Guthrie, EVP of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft

Scott Guthrie, EVP of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft

Tech giant Microsoft has launched a number of updates and features for both its Azure and Office platforms, in a move to bolster its position in the intelligent apps and IoT space.

Speaking at Build 2016, the company launched the general availability of Azure Service Fabric and new IoT starter kits, as well as previews of new services to serverless compute for event-driven solutions, Azure Functions, and Power BI Embedded, which allows developers to embed reports and visualizations in any application.

“Microsoft is the only cloud vendor that supports the diverse needs of every organization and developer — from core infrastructure services to platform services and tools to software-as-a-service — for any language, across any platform,” said Scott Guthrie, EVP of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft.

“With 30 regions worldwide — more than every major cloud provider combined — Azure’s massive scale means developers and businesses alike can focus on creating the next generation of amazing applications, not their underlying cloud infrastructure. This makes our cloud the de facto choice for enterprises of today and tomorrow — and today, more than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 agree.”

The launch of Azure Service Fabric will allow developers to decompose applications into microservices, for increased availability and scalability. The company claims the offering will handle application lifecycle management for constant uptime and easy application scaling, and builds on the growing popularity of microservices in the industry and is accompanied by the promise of open-source programming frameworks for Linux later in the year. As with a number of Microsoft’s announcements over recent weeks, open-source has been a prominent product position for the company at Build 2016.

The company also highlighted its IoT starter kit would be available for anyone with Windows or Linux experience to build prototypes which use all of Azure’s offerings. Prices for the kit range between $60 and $150, which could potentially open up a new market of students, academics and casual users for the company.

For the more complex IoT projects, the company have also previewed Azure Functions which will enable developers to create apps which will automatically respond to events in virtually any Azure or 3rd party service as well as on-premises systems. The preview is part of the greater trend of automated responses and reactions to events, and appears to be Microsoft’s response to AWS Lambda, which was launched in late 2014.

Qi Lu

Qi Lu, EVP of the Applications and Services Group at Microsoft

Outside of the Azure platform, the company also announced a number of product updates and features for Office. “In terms of reach, Office is one of the few platforms in the world that provides developers with access to over a billion users across a variety of devices,” said Qi Lu, EVP of the Applications and Services Group. “The opportunity to build on the Office platform has never been greater.”

“With new extensions and new connections to the Microsoft Graph — an intelligent fabric that applies machine learning to map the connections between people, content and interactions across Office 365 — developers are empowered to build intelligent apps that can transform the landscape of work,” said Lu.

Alongside Lu, Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger showcased how he has been using the platform to create an add-on which enables customers to send a gift-card through Outlook, and also schedule meetings at the nearest Starbucks. “Building on the Office platform is reaching our customers right on their desktop or device and extending the Starbucks Experience to them in new and compelling ways,” he said.

As part of the announcement, Microsoft previewed six new APIs for the Microsoft Graph which let developers link Office 365 data to third-party solutions. One of which automatically identifies a series of times a predefined group of people are available for a meeting.