As we expected, the Day 2 Keynote at Microsoft’s Build 2016 conference was full of Microsoft Azure and developer news from the Redmond company.

These days, with the investments Microsoft has made in tying together Azure and developer services/solutions, the two are practically inseparable.

Common theme throughout was the cross platform ability of the new tools so that developers can produce apps for Windows, iOS, Android and Mac without needing to leave the Microsoft development software stack.

Scott Guthrie, the Red Shirt wearing Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group at Microsoft, started things off by sharing some key stats Microsoft Azure:

  • More than 120,000 new Azure customer subscriptions each month
  • More than 1.4 million SQL databases in Azure
  • 2 trillion messages per week processed by Azure IoT
  • 5 million organizations using Azure Active directory
  • More than 4 million developers registered with Visual Studio Team Services
  • More than 40% of Azure revenue is from start-ups and ISV's

He also mentioned that more than 85% of Fortune 500 companies use some part of the Microsoft Cloud.

After all of the momentum was discussed he jumped into the meat and potatoes of the keynote - new stuff for developers.

Web and Mobile

Azure App Service delivers capabilities that support creating dynamic websites and native apps on Windows, iOS and Android devices. The big news shared today in the cross platform mobile development capabilities arena is the availability of Xamarin, acquired recently by Microsoft, at no cost for MSDN subscribers and users of Visual Studio Enterprise, Visual Studio Professional and the Visual Studio Community Edition. A Community Edition license of Xamarin Studio for OS X is also being provided at no cost.

Previously I was that an annual subscription to the Xamarin tools cost a single developer $2,000 so this is big news and removes cost as a barrier for developers who want to use the Xamarin tools.

It was also announced that the Xamarin runtime is being open sourced – a very common theme within Microsoft these days.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT based devices are all around us in our daily life and more businesses are introducing all kinds of creative uses for these devices.

Azure IoT provides multiple solutions that can expand and contract based on the demand for them and give you all the data you need to collect for analysis.

Three new Azure IoT products were discussed during today’s keynote:

  • Azure IoT Starter Kits are now available for purchase from partners. Five new kits – each of which include Azure Certified for IoT development boards, actuators, sensors and simple, and user-friendly tutorials – enable anyone with Windows or Linux experience to quickly and inexpensively build IoT prototypes.
  • Azure IoT Hub device management, available later in Q2, makes it easier and more cost-effective for medium and large, global businesses to remotely maintain, interact with and manage IoT devices at scale from the cloud.
  • Azure IoT Gateway SDK preview, available later in Q2, to enables legacy devices and sensors to connect to the Azure cloud without having to replace existing infrastructure.

Microservices on Azure allow a developer to create apps that scale quickly, easily and provide around the clock availability.  During today’s keynote one of those microservices reached General Availability and another one began its public preview.

  • Azure Service Fabric general availability is a microservices application platform for building always-on apps and services at cloud scale. Service Fabric is the foundation of Microsoft cloud services such as Azure SQL Database, Cortana and Skype for Business, and seamlessly handles application lifecycle management. We also announced previews for Service Fabric for Windows Server, for deploying on-premises and other clouds, and Service Fabric for Linux with Java APIs to broaden the number of developers who can take advantage of Service Fabric and enhance application portability.
  • Azure Functions preview extends Azure’s market-leading application platform by offering serverless compute for an event-driven approaches common in web and mobile applications, IoT and big data solutions. Functions works with Azure and third party services, automatically scales out to meet demand and only charges for the time your function runs.

Data and data intelligence also had its spot on the keynote stage as Microsoft discussed the Cortana Intelligence Suite, the service formerly known as Cortana Analytics.

The two new services announced under the Cortana Intelligence Suite include:

  • Microsoft Bot Framework enables organizations to build intelligent agents (Bots) that allow your users to interact with your intelligent solutions in more contextual and natural ways, from text/sms, to Office365 mail, to Skype, Slack, and Twitter.
  • Microsoft Cognitive Services preview enables organizations to build intelligent solutions that can see, hear, interpret and understand the world around you. The Cognitive Services preview expands the existing perceptual intelligence capabilities like vision, speech, text and face detection to include new cognitive capabilities such as emotion and customized language understanding.

While everyone was looking for the big whiz bang product announcement at Build these are the areas that need your attention. All the other companies who use intelligence services such as Apple, Google and Amazon keep their services behind a wall but Microsoft is making these services available across all platforms.

Power BI Embedded also entered preview and will let developers embed reports that customers can interact with in their apps without all the ground work to build those tools. Developers can use the default reports or build their own customized visuals.

DocumentDB protocol for MongoDB also entered preview and will allow apps to communicate with a DocumentDB databases across existing APIs and drivers.

As Microsoft Azure continues to grow and develop the team is constantly working to improve the existing tools that are already available:

  • Azure Developer Tools updates speed up your application development with a broad set of cloud-first development tools that make it easier to configure, build, debug, package, and deploy applications and services that scale on Azure.
  • Virtual Machine Scale Sets general availability makes it easy for you to deploy and manage identical virtual machines as a set with true autoscale.
  • Storage Service Encryption preview ensures security and privacy by encrypting data In Azure Blob storage using the industry leading encryption algorithm.

You can check out an on demand replay of the Day 2 keynote along with sessions (eventually they will be uploaded) that expand on all of these new changes and announcements on the Build website.

But, wait...there's more to come so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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