Azure, Microsoft 365, GitHub: New services unveiled at Build 2019

Microsoft used the opening day to both reveal new services and talk about its long-term vision.

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At this year's Build 2019 Developer Conference, Microsoft unveiled a host of new features for its Azure cloud platform and Office 365 suite.

Microsoft used the opening day to both reveal new services and to talk about its long-term vision for reinventing work using conversational agents and its new Fluid Framework content creation platform.

In his opening keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spelled out the importance of developers to realizing the company's vision.

"As computing becomes embedded in every aspect of our lives, the choices developers make will define the world we live in," he said.

"Microsoft is committed to providing developers with trusted tools and platforms spanning every layer of the modern technology stack to build magical experiences that create new opportunity for everyone."

Here are the big announcements from the conference:

Microsoft Graph data connect general availability

Microsoft announced it was making it easier for companies to use information captured by the Microsoft Graph, which aims to provide comprehensive graphs of organizational activity, mapping the relationships between people, information and activities inside an organization. It does so by linking data captured by Microsoft services and products, in everything from the Office 365 through to Windows 10.

SEE: Microsoft Build 2019: What to expect (ZDNet)

At Build, Microsoft announced the general availability of Microsoft Graph data connect, a service that allows developers to take data captured within Office 365 and process it using big data services available under the Azure cloud platform, such as Azure Data Factory and Azure Data Lake. Microsoft says the service will allow organizations to securely capture and analyse productivity data at scale.

Microsoft Graph data connect is now generally available as a feature in Microsoft's Workplace Analytics add-on for Office 365 and as a standalone SKU for independent software vendors.

New Fluid Framework

Microsoft also announced its new Fluid Framework, which is designed to blur the lines between documents, spreadsheets, and presentations to create a richer way of presenting content.

Microsoft says the Fluid Framework offers "a new web-based platform and componentized document model for shared interactive experiences".

The framework will allow components of documents to be broken into modular components that can be pieced together "so people can more easily create together", with the aim of increasing the productivity when collaborating with others.

Microsoft also suggests the framework will make it easier to use "intelligent" software agents when creating content, with these agents fetching relevant text, providing photo suggestions, identifying experts, translating data and more.

Microsoft's corporate VP of communications Frank Shaw gives the example of a HR manager who is creating a global HR manager with authors from across the world who speak different languages, who could use real-time translation to help translate that manual for a global audience.

The Fluid Framework is expected to be available to developers later this year through a software development kit, alongside the first Microsoft 365 experiences powered by the Fluid Framework.

Conversational agents

Microsoft used the Build conference to set out its vision for creating "powerful conversational interfaces from data and machine learning instead of from rules, intent and code".

As it has at previous conferences, the company pushed the idea that intelligent agents that can engage in naturalistic conversations will become as widespread as websites are today.

Far from the tightly constrained conversations possible with virtual assistants today, Microsoft predicted the experience would be "completely natural", broad-reaching, and with agents able to pick up where another agent left off.

SEE: Microsoft Build 2019: The biggest takeaways (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

To this end, Microsoft said it is integrating technology from its Semantic Machines team into its Cortana virtual assistant and would also make it available to developers via the Microsoft Bot Framework and Azure Bot Service.

Azure Kubernetes Service improvements

The event was also used to announce several new offerings for Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), which Microsoft says is one of the fastest-growing services in Azure, used by global companies like ASOS to manage container infrastructure at scale.

Now available in public preview, Kubernetes Event-driven Autoscaling (KEDA) is an open-source component that supports deployment of serverless event-driven containers on Kubernetes. The service can be used to host Azure Functions, the basic components in Microsoft's serverless computing service, allowing them to be deployed as a container in Kubernetes clusters.

Microsoft says KEDA brings "the Azure Functions programming model and scale controller to any Kubernetes implementation, both in the cloud or on-premises with OpenShift".

Meanwhile, Azure Policy for AKS applies at-scale enforcements and helps safeguard AKS clusters in a centralized, consistent manner. Azure Policy also blocks any violations happening at runtime and performs compliance assessments on all existing clusters for up-to-date visibility across the AKS environment.

There is also a new Hyperscale option -- which offers highly scalable compute, storage and memory for databases -- in Azure Database for PostgreSQL.

On a slightly more futuristic note, Microsoft also revealed it has open-sourced compilers and simulators for Q#, its domain-specific language for writing quantum algorithms.

Azure Active Directory for GitHub

Microsoft has introduced its Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) identity management system for the code repository service GitHub Enterprise.

Developers will also be able to use their existing GitHub account, including Azure Portal and Azure DevOps, to sign in to Azure. Microsoft says this update "enables GitHub developers to go from repository to deployment with just their GitHub account".

Securing elections

Microsoft also detailed various technologies it has developed to secure elections, including the open source ElecionGuard software development kit and Microsoft 365 for Campaigns.

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