This article is republished from my original 'Day 2 of Microsoft Ignite NZ' post in LinkedIn and follows on from my post yesterday First day of Microsoft Ignite NZ.
The hardest thing about a conference like Ignite is choosing which of the sessions to attend in each block. I'm interested in so many different things, from IoT to mobile, web apps and development, and every session I went to today involved a hard choice.
First up was "Building on the Microsoft Graph API" by Gavin Barron which to be honest I didn't really know existed until last week. The idea of an API that can access a user's email, contacts, calendar and OneDrive, all using Active Directory for security is pretty powerful. I could see this connecting Office apps together in a portal to automate workflows. One of my previous clients used Sugar CRM tasks to build a process for staff. With the API, Azure Logic apps and Office 365 we could certainly achieve this, without making the user leave Outlook at all. I want to set this up and see what I can make with it.
My next two sessions were on DevOps. First came James Carpinter relating a project he'd just finished, and how they evolved their processes along the way to increase the team's velocity. James showed off Visual Studio Team Services, and how the tool could be used for work item tracking, Kanban boards, code reviews and automated deployment. It's actually free for teams of up to 5 users, so you should try it out at Visual Studio.com. It works with any IDE as well, not just for .Net.
Next up was Donovan Brown, Microsoft senior programme manager for DevOps. He set out to prove Microsoft's "Any Developer, Any App, Any Platform" mantra by generating and deploying code from a Linux box and Mac. The code was NodeJS and .Net Core, and Donovan showed off a Yeoman template that could build, compile and deploy from his machines to the cloud. He also provided a definition of DevOps he'd come up with: "DevOps is the union of People, Process, and Products to enable the Continuous Delivery of Value to our End Users".
I have been writing C# a bit the past year in Unity3D, but now with .Net Core I can write and run Asp.Net code on my Mac or PC. I actually really like how it plays with Docker too. Not that I am giving up Java completely, mind!
In the lunch break I was lucky to get some time on the Surface Hub, an 80" display built with conferencing in mind. It featured at the Keynote yesterday, and I got to try out the whiteboard, webcams and Skype calling features. You can see the Maps app on screen in the photo, and it lets you draw a route and estimate the length of it - really very neat. Using multi-touch you can drag, zoom in, skew and rotate the map, then cut a snippet and drag it into OneNote.
This device seem to combine bits from Skype, XBox Kinect, the Surface Tablet and PCs into one awesome machine. They are unfortunately priced well out of my league but I expect this sort of gear will make it to board rooms and remote offices sooner rather than later. I have used a Chrome Box for this type of activity in the past and while they are good, the Surface Hub is a long way ahead.
My afternoon sessions started with a look at Azure Active Directory, OpenID Connect and OAuth2. Microsoft has made a huge investment in Active Directory, and it was cool to see how it could be used to secure other applications and web sites. OAuth isn't an easy security pattern to implement but this session showed templates and helpers for authorizing access to resources from an AD account.
The final session of the day was a look at Power BI. This tool is like a report builder or graphing tool. When I first saw it I thought "Huh, report dashboards" but it's much much more. It can import, process and join together data from many different sources including files, CSVs, databases and web services. You can then filter and process the data, and display it in a wide variety of ways.
The session showed mapping, graphs and tables but check out the Power BI web site for more examples. It's a great way of exposing trends, and drilling down graphically into large data sets. Graphing the data makes it much easier to show trends and understand what's happening. Mastering this tool would let you interactively explore and expose a data set in a visually compelling way. Definitely on my list of tools to learn.
Looking forward to more sessions tomorrow!
Adam Knight is a Senior Solution Architect based in Equinox IT's Auckland, New Zealand office.