MS Build 2019: The Highlights

Our team just got back from Seattle and Microsoft’s annual Build conference—and what a trip it was. Aside from connecting with the developer community at our booth (more on that later), we listened in on some pretty substantial announcements made by Mister Softee (that’s MSFT’s nickname, for the uninitiated).  Important developments for .NET, Azure Machine Learning, WSL, and Azure AKS were just a few of the fascinating news items discussed at the conference. In addition, we met and schmoozed with some of the most brilliant minds at Microsoft, an opportunity that itself made the trip worthwhile.

A Makeover for .NET Core

First of all, .NET Core is getting a significant upgrade as .NET 5, a unified framework for writing applications for desktop, web, mobile, IOT, cloud, and more. Until now, the .NET landscape was fragmented and used various frameworks, each of which required specific knowledge. But .NET Core has developed to the point where it is as complete as it will get in regards to feature parity against the full .NET framework, so Microsoft has announced .NET 5. Now, developers only need to deal with one code instead of all kinds of versions of different platforms. This is also easier for Microsoft to maintain, and we think .NET 5 will lead to a greater pace of innovation.

AI That Builds AI

Secondly, Microsoft presented Azure Automated Machine Learning, a fascinating technology that, simply put, uses AI to build AI applications. Let’s say you want to optimize laptop sales based on multiple inputs, and you’ve got 13-inch and 15-inch models. Solving this manually requires you to understand all the various algorithms and, for every input, choose the correct algorithm to get the result. With Azure Auto ML, you just input your data, give it a few parameters, and then watch as it determines which algorithms fit your problem.

Cool Fixes to Old Problems

We were also really impressed by Microsoft’s announcement about a new version of Windows Subsystem for Linux. WSL 2 has a brand-new architecture that is supposed to deliver a big performance improvement over WSL 1, which wasn’t fully compatible and made running some applications difficult. But now, for example, you can run Linux Docker containers on top of the Linux subsystem on Windows and debug it using Visual Studio Code.

Looking to the Year Ahead

A real item of interest is the Azure Kubernetes Service, or AKS. Kubernetes is an open source technology, originally from Google, which Microsoft adopted along with Docker. Until now, Kubernetes only allowed scaling by amount of memory or amount of CPU used by the pod. But with KEDA, a new open source project announced by Microsoft, scale can be based on various additional metrics. So once available, you’ll be able to run the function that you wrote with your server-less style on Kubernetes and scale it practically anywhere, such as on-premises or through competing cloud services. It really feels like Microsoft is putting a lot of effort into making Kubernetes a first-class citizen of Azure.

Moves like .NET Core, WSL 2 and AKS seem to symbolize the change that Microsoft has made over the past couple of years. They have gone from being more or less a closed-source company with only Windows and .NET to actually organizing open-source development.

Why MS Build Was Awesome

Just like drinking a Starbucks coffee, you don’t need to go to Seattle if all you want to do is watch MS Build sessions. That content is available for free on YouTube. But what you can’t get at home is the phenomenal opportunity to meet with the people behind Microsoft technology. This is the only opportunity where you can find all of the important Microsoft developers in one place, get to know them a bit, ask some questions, and even tell them about some of your issues. We’ve actually been fortunate enough over the years to continue some of our networking post-conference, and let them know about some stories from the trenches. No invitations to Bill Gates’ house yet, but there’s always next year.  

#DebuggingSucks

And by the way, we also had a fun (and successful) time at our booth. Almost 800 attendees watched our demo, and we gave away 1,000 “#DebuggingSucks” T-shirts!