Tag Archives: developers

In 2018, a better, faster, more accessible cloud emerges

Here’s what’s new in the Microsoft Cloud: Microsoft is making it easier for developers to build great apps that take advantage of the latest analytics capabilities with free developer tools and languages, best-practice guidance, price reductions, and new features.

Better decisions through better analytics

Knowing how users interact with your apps is a critical first step in managing product strategy and development pipeline. Using robust analytics, you can get the immediate feedback you need to determine how to engage users and make better decisions to improve your apps. With Visual Studio App Center, you can access App Center Analytics completely free. Now you can use this tool with Azure Application Insights to improve your business. Get started today.

New tools speed app development using time series data

Integrating IoT with other real-time applications can be a complex challenge. With Time Series Insights (TSI), developers can build applications that give valuable insights to customers, take fine-grain control over time series data, and easily plug TSI into a broader workflow or technology stack. To help developers get started and shorten development cycles, Microsoft has released new Azure Time Series Insights developer tools. With these tools, developers can more easily embed TSI’s platform into apps to power charts and graphs, compare data from different points in time, and dynamically explore data trends and correlations.

Faster feedback drives better apps

Good intuition is important, but without user input and insights you are playing a potentially costly guessing game. Gathering feedback fast from beta users who are invested in your product’s success lets you learn and adapt quickly before getting too deep into code that’s expensive to correct later. Using this step-by-step guide from one of our Visual Studio App Center customers, you will learn how to swiftly gather quantitative and qualitative user feedback to build apps your customers love, anticipate and correct problems, and ultimately win customers’ loyalty.

Empowering data scientists with R updates

R, an open-source statistical programming language, empowers data scientists to drive insightful analytics, statistics, and visualizations for mapping social and marketing trends, developing scientific and financial models, and anticipating consumer behavior. Recently we’ve released Microsoft R Open 3.4.3, the latest version of Microsoft’s enhanced distribution of R. This free download includes the latest R language engine, compatibility, and additional capabilities for performance, reproducibility, and platform support.

New open-source analytics capabilities at a lower cost

Microsoft recently announced significant price reductions, along with new abilities for Azure HDInsight, the open-source analytics cloud service that developers can implement in a wide range of mission-critical applications, including machine learning, IoT, and more. This includes capabilities like Apache Kafka on Azure HDInsight and Azure Log Analytics integration, previews for Enterprise Security Package for Azure HDInsight, and integration with Power BI direct query.

We are constantly creating new tools and features that reduce time-to-market and allow developers to do their best work. To stay up to date on Microsoft’s work in the cloud, visit https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com.

IT monitoring, org discipline polish Nasdaq DevOps incident response

Modern IT monitoring can bring together developers and IT ops pros for DevOps incident response, but tools can’t substitute for a disciplined team approach to problems.

Dev and ops teams at Nasdaq Corporate Solutions LLC adopted a common language for troubleshooting with AppDynamics’ App iQ platform. But effective DevOps incident response also demanded focus on the fundamentals of team building and a systematic process for following up on incidents to ensure they don’t recur.

“We had some notion of incident management, but there was no real disciplined way for following up,” said Heather Abbott, senior vice president of corporate solutions technology, who joined the New York-based subsidiary of Nasdaq Inc. in 2014. “AppDynamics has [affected] how teams work together to resolve incidents … but we’ve had other housekeeping to do.”

Shared IT monitoring tools renew focus on incident resolution

Heather Abbott, NasdaqHeather Abbott

Nasdaq Corporate Solutions manages SaaS offerings for customers as they shift from private to public operations. Its products include public relations, investor relations, and board and leadership software managed with a combination of Amazon Web Services and on-premises data center infrastructure, though the on-premises infrastructure will soon be phased out.

In the past, Nasdaq’s dev and ops teams used separate IT monitoring tools, and teams dedicated to different parts of the infrastructure also had individualized dashboard views. The company’s shift to cross-functional teams, focused on products and user experience as part of a DevOps transformation, required a unified view into system performance. Now, all stakeholders share the AppDynamics App iQ interface when they respond to an incident.

With a single source of information about infrastructure performance, there’s less finger-pointing among team members during DevOps incident response, which speeds up problem resolution.

“You can’t argue with the data, and people have a better ongoing understanding of the system,” Abbott said. “So, you’re not going in and hunting and pecking every time there’s a complaint or we’re trying to improve something.”

DevOps incident response requires team vigilance

Since Abbott joined Nasdaq, incidents are down more than 35%. She cited the IT monitoring tool in part, but also pointed to changes the company made to the DevOps incident response process. The company moved from an ad hoc process of incident response divided among different departments to a companywide, systematic cycle of regular incident review meetings. Her team conducts weekly incident review meetings and tracks action items from previous incident reviews to prevent incidents from recurring. Higher levels of the organization have a monthly incident review call to review quality issues, and some of these incidents are further reviewed by Nasdaq’s board of directors.

We always need to focus on blocking and tackling … but as we move toward more complex microservices-based architectures, we’ll be building things into the platform like Chaos Monkey.
Heather Abbottsenior vice president of corporate solutions technology, Nasdaq

And there’s still room to improve the DevOps incident response process, Abbott said.

“We always need to focus on blocking and tackling,” she said. “We don’t have the scale within my line of business of Amazon or Netflix, but as we move toward more complex microservices-based architectures, we’ll be building things into the platform like Chaos Monkey.”

Like many companies, Nasdaq plans to tie DevOps teams with business leaders, so the whole organization can work together to improve customer experiences. In the past, Nasdaq has generated application log reports with homegrown tools. But this year, it will roll out AppDynamics’ Business iQ software, first with its investor-relations SaaS products, to make that data more accessible to business leaders, Abbott said.

AppDynamics App iQ will also expand to monitor releases through test, development and production deployment phases. Abbott said Nasdaq has worked with AppDynamics to create intelligent release dashboards to provide better automation and performance trends. “That will make it easy to see how system performance is trending over time, as we introduce change,” he said.

While Nasdaq mainly uses AppDynamics App iQ, the exchange also uses Datadog, because it offers event correlation and automated root cause analysis. AppDynamics has previewed automated root cause analysis based on machine learning techniques. Abbott said she looks forward to the addition of that feature, perhaps this year.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget’s Cloud and DevOps Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Want to make software developer hiring easier? Be flexible

Forget what you think you know about software developers — at least when it comes to hiring. They’re not financially motivated, they’re largely self-taught, and one in four of them learned how to code before they could drive a car.

And here’s one more surprise: Their potential employers aren’t looking for prospective developers’ degrees; rather, they’re looking at their latest GitHub project.

Those insights, from a just-released survey of over 39,000 development professionals by technical hiring platform HackerRank, offer a unique view at both sides of the often-fraught software developer hiring process. Coders remain in very short supply around the world, and it’s tempting to think salary and tech tools lure developers, while employers prioritize a top-notch college degree. Apparently, it’s not nearly that simple.

Survey respondents ranked compensation as only the third most important factor when choosing a new job, after work-life balance (56.5%) and professional growth and learning (55.1%). But only 27.4% said a company’s technology stack was vital — a finding so unexpected, according to HackerRank’s co-founder and CEO Vivek Ravisankar, that the company did a follow-up survey and found developers really want employers to support them to work on side tech projects or coding-related hobbies. They also were clear about their work-life balance goals: 89.4% of developers want flexible working hours, and just over 80% want to work from home.

That flextime helps self-taught developers — 73.7% of survey respondents identified themselves as such — to continue their learning journey, which is vital for software developer hiring. According to the HackerRank survey, they’d rather go online to Stack Overflow (88.4%) or YouTube (63.8%) than learn from books. Nearly 40% want to learn Go, followed by Python, Scala, Kotlin and Ruby.

Keep learning to stay relevant

Most developers’ drive to learn is simply a built-in preference, but other factors may be at play. A survey by worldwide placement firm Harvey Nash showed close to 40% of developers feel they’re under pressure from automation, low code/no code tools and AI. The antidote to this, according to Alex Robbins, software development hiring recruiter at Harvey Nash, is learning.

One in four developers learned how to code before they could drive a car.

“Skills learned five years ago are often no longer relevant today,” he said. “[Our survey] revealed that 95% of tech experts are spending time developing their skills, and four in 10 are actually paying for training out of their own pocket.”

That should pay off, Ravisankar said, because employers want to see a prospective employee’s experience and what they’ve done. When executives hire software developers, the vast majority (84.1%) look at a developer’s portfolio, which in most cases means GitHub. Just over 71% consider previous experience, but only 35.4% take education into account.

When looking at GitHub, employers evaluate problem-solving skills, rather than programming language fluency. Over 94% of companies of all sizes indicated problem-solving skills were their top priority in software developer hiring, while less than 60% emphasized programming languages or debugging.

The focus on problem-solving has been a long time in coming, but fits with the software development market today, said Robert Stroud, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “There’s a worldwide shortage of developers still, but we need the developers we have to focus on learning the business,” he said. Coders, too, must avoid distraction with the shiny new toy of a hot language, he said.

Ultimately, it helps to know what motivates coders, but software developer hiring is still a battle, said Ernest Mueller, longtime developer and now director of engineering operations at AlienVault, headquartered in San Mateo, Calif.

“There’s more supply now than there’s been of developers, but demand is not going away,” he said. The work needs to be interesting, and employers must be prepared to pay for them — particularly if they have experience. Amounts vary, but a software engineer’s median base pay was $85,651 in December 2017, an increase of 1.6% year over year, according to data from job and recruiting site Glassdoor.

AWS Cloud9 IDE threatens Microsoft developer base

As cloud platform providers battle for supremacy, they’ve trained their sights on developers to expand adoption of their services.

A top issue now for leading cloud platforms is to make them as developer-friendly as possible to attract new developers, as both Microsoft and Amazon Web Services have done. For instance, at its re:Invent 2017 conference last month, the company launched AWS Cloud9 IDE, a cloud-based integrated development environment that can be accessed through any web browser. That fills in a key missing piece for AWS as it competes with other cloud providers — an integrated environment to write, run and debug code.

“AWS finally has provided a ‘living room’ for developers with its Cloud9 IDE,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in San Francisco. That fills a void for AWS as it competes with other cloud providers — especially Microsoft, which continues to extend its longtime strengths of developer tools and relationships with the developer community into the cloud era.

Indeed, for developers that have grown up in the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE ecosystem, Microsoft Azure is a logical choice as the two have been optimized for one another. However, not all developers use Visual Studio, so cloud providers must deliver an open set of services to attract developers. Now, having integrated the Cloud9 technology it acquired last year as the Cloud9 IDE, AWS has an optimized developer platform of its own.

AWS Cloud9 IDE adoption 

“There is no doubt we will use it,” said Chris Wegmann, managing director of the Accenture AWS Business Group at Accenture. “We’ve used lots of native tooling. There have been gaps in the app dev tooling for a while, but some third parties, like Cloud9, have filled those gaps in the past. Now it is part of the mothership.”

Forrester analyst Michael FacemireMichael Facemire

With the Cloud9 IDE, AWS offers developers an IDE experience focused on their cloud versus having them use their top competitor’s IDE with an AWS-focused toolkit, said Rhett Dillingham, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas.

“[They] are now providing an IDE with strong AWS service integration, for example, for building serverless apps with Lambda, as they build out its feature set with real-time paired-programming and direct terminal access for AWS CLI [command-line interface] use,” he said.

That integration is key to lure developers away from their familiar development environments.

“When I saw the news about the Cloud9 IDE I said that’s great, there’s another competitor in this market,” said Justin Rupp, systems and cloud architect at GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding organization in Washington, D.C. Rupp uses Microsoft’s popular Visual Studio Code tool, also known as VS Code, a lightweight code editor for Windows, Linux and macOS.

The challenge for AWS is to attract developers that already like the tool they’re using, and that’ll be a tall order, said Michael Facemire, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. “I’m a developer myself and I’m not giving up VS Code,” he said.

That’s been the knock against AWS, that they provide lots of cool functionality, but no tooling. This starts to address that big knock.
Michael Facemireanalyst, Forrester Research

For now, Cloud9 IDE is a “beachhead” for AWS to present something for developers today, and build it up over time, Facemire said. For example, to tweak a Lambda function, a developer could just pull up the cloud editor that Amazon provides right there live, he said.

“That’s been the knock against AWS, that they provide lots of cool functionality, but no tooling,” Facemire said. “This starts to address that big knock.”

Who is more developer-friendly?

AWS’ reputation is that it’s not the most developer-friendly cloud platform from a tooling perspective, which hardcore, professional developers don’t require. But as AWS has grown and expanded, it’s become friendlier to the rest of the developer community because of its sheer volume and consumability. And the AWS Cloud9 IDE appeals to developers that fit in between the low-code set and the hardcore pros, said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at Dallas-based Trend Micro.

“The Cloud9 tool set is firmly in the middle, where you’ve got some great visualization, you’ve got some great collaboration features, and it’s really going to open it up for more people to be able to build on the AWS cloud platform,” he said.

Despite providing a new IDE to its developer base, AWS must do more to win their complete loyalty.

AWS Cloud9 IDE supports JavaScript, Python, PHP and more, but does not have first-class Java support, which is surprising given how many developers use Java. Secondly, Amazon chose to not use the open source Language Server Protocol (LSP), said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, which has provided the Eclipse Che web-based development environment since 2014. Eclipse Che supports Java and has provided containerized developer workspaces for almost two years.

AWS will eventually implement Java support, but it will have to do it themselves from scratch, he said. Instead, if they had participated in the LSP ecosystem, they could have had Java support today based on the Eclipse LSP4J project, the same codebase with which Microsoft provides Java support for VS Code, he said.

This proprietary approach to developer tools is out of touch with industry best practices, Milinkovich said. “Cloud9 may provide a productivity boost for AWS developers, but it will not be the open source solution that the industry is looking for,” he said.

Constellation Research’s Mueller agreed, and noted that in some ways AWS is trying to out-Microsoft Microsoft.

“It’s very early days for AWS Cloud9 IDE, and AWS has to work on the value proposition,” he said. “But, like you have to use Visual Studio for Azure to be fully productive, the same story will repeat for Cloud9 in a few years.”

Ionic Pro embodies mobile app dev tools’ DevOps embrace

Driven by a need for speedy app development amid broad digital transformation directives, developers of all skill levels must collaborate to feed an insatiable user base of enterprises and their customers. And software development toolmakers are answering the call with low-code, easy-to-use mobile app dev tools to build enterprise applications.

There are actually two converging forces at work right now, said Joe McKendrick, an analyst at Unisphere Research. Developers increasingly must understand and align with lines of business and take on a more active role in business process management and optimization, user experience and customer experience (UX/CX) design, and DevOps.

Indeed, one in five executives indicate that most applications are developed outside of their IT departments, and 76%said that’s true for at least a portion of their apps, according to a recent survey from Unisphere Research and app dev toolkit maker Kintone. San Francisco based Kintone makes low-code development tools that enable line of business managers to build software that automate workflows, develop shared document repositories, construct reporting dashboards and process data without writing a single line of code.

At the same time, a new generation of business professionals with more tech-savvy employees of all ages, understand how computing can improve their work lives. These nonprofessional developers have begun to pick up low-code tools and have started to help create applications.

“Professional developers and non-developers increasingly see eye to eye on the things that need to be done,” McKendrick said.

Rub a little DevOps on it

As these lines blur, it forces tools and technology providers to address these different ends of the developer spectrum, and still provide tools for teams. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the mobile market.

For instance, Ionic has tuned its open source Ionic Framework to build cross-platform mobile and progressive web applications to woo enterprises with support for teams of developers along with more aspects of the application development lifecycle, including testing.

The Ionic Framework enables developers to target native mobile apps and progressive web apps from the same code base using familiar languages and tools. Earlier this month, Ionic Pro updated its set of cloud-based services and tools introduced in August. It now supports teams to design, build, test and deliver mobile and progressive web apps across the development lifecycle — from design and testing, to tracking errors and shipping hot code updates. The pro version includes collaborative tools to facilitate team development.

In essence, Ionic Pro overlays a DevOps veneer onto the Ionic Framework, although users who are typically front-end developers likely won’t think of it in that way, said Max Lynch, CEO of Ionic. The tool lets developers collaborate on projects via a shared database, remain aware of all build activity and coding changes, build apps using a drag-and-drop design, test different versions of apps with users, deliver different releases to different user segments, track and analyze coding errors, and ship hotfixes and live updates in real time without going through app stores.

Brian Aguilar, director of product at MarketWatch, which uses the older version of Ionic’s tool set, said his team has tested the recent product version, particularly features such as Ionic View, for remote testing and to allow external users to look at the app without installing it.

“That’s beneficial to us because we have a small QA team,” he said.

MarketWatch has considered the Ionic Pro Live Deploy feature for live updating apps. “I’m also intrigued by the Ionic Creator rapid prototyping tool,” Aguilar said.

Ionic Pro fosters developer collaboration
Ionic Pro screenshot displaying some of its collaborative development capabilities.

Low-code to the rescue

Ionic competes with Microsoft’s Xamarin unit and Progress Software’s Telerik, among others. At the recent Microsoft Connect, Xamarin introduced Visual Studio App Center, the next generation of Xamarin Test Center, which enables developers to build, distribute, monitor and integrate push notifications. Xamarin also introduced .NET Embedding, tooling with which developers can integrate .NET libraries and user interfaces written in C# into existing iOS, Android and macOS apps written in Objective-C, Swift and Java.

Also last month, Progress Software introduced tooling for its NativeScript open source framework to build native cross-platform mobile apps. NativeScript Sidekick provides starter templates, plug-ins, cloud builds, augmented reality support and more for building mobile apps.

“Low-code development platforms such as these, increase the range of people from all professions who now engage in some form of application development,” according to Unisphere’s McKendrick.

[Application development] is now a part of many job descriptions or daily routines, formally and informally. … Many people [are building] apps on company time, and that’s OK.
Joe McKendrickanalyst, Unisphere Research

“[Application development] is now a part of many job descriptions or daily routines, formally and informally,” he said. “Our survey found many people build apps on company time, and that’s OK.”

Mobile apps are the perfect target for low-code platforms, McKendrick said, because they are well-governed templates, and have set the standard and represent a huge breakthrough in low-code development. In addition, they have firm guardrails to ensure versioning, compatibility and security. Moreover, low-code tools have become much easier to use than the old power user tools including PowerBuilder and the older Visual Basic versions like VB6.

“Along with graphics, today’s tools have a lot of intelligence embedded within them that address all the protocols and dependencies behind the scenes,” he said.

This all comes full circle back to Ionic and its Creator tool. “I wouldn’t call it a ‘low-code’ tool, because most low-code tools are there to broaden the reach of creators, to give tolling to nonprofessional developers to create something,” said Michael Facemire, an analyst at Forrester Research. However, Ionic Creator helps to fast forward all the stages of the software development lifecycle to get a professional developer a head start, he said.

For his part, Mike Sigle, senior vice president of product development at New York City-based Napa Group, said the new Ionic View feature allows them to instantly share their latest codebase both internally and externally with just a few mouse clicks.

“We’ve established several channels, including Lab, where we try out fresh ideas that need instant feedback from our clients; Development, a stable branch of our latest code; Staging, where we smoke-test an app against a production API endpoint; and Production, the version users currently have,” he said.

Moreover, “Ionic Pro provides us huge technology benefits, as well as business benefits,” said Peter Chatzky, president and CEO of Napa Group. “We can streamline staff by having a single, smaller team develop for both iOS and Android platforms, thereby developing complex apps faster and at reduced cost. As we bring new ideas to market, Ionic allowed us to create modern apps without favoring a specific mobile platform or limiting our initial user base.”

AWS SageMaker brings machine learning to developers

LAS VEGAS — Amazon Web Services released a tool this week to empower developers to build smarter, artificial intelligence-driven applications like the AI experts.

Among the deluge of technologies introduced here at AWS re:Invent 2017, the company’s annual customer and partner event, is a tool called SageMaker. Its function is to help developers add machine learning services to applications.

Machine learning is an artificial intelligence technology that enables applications to learn without being explicitly programmed, and become smarter based on the frequency and volume of new data they ingest and analyze. Few developers are experts in machine learning, however.

SageMaker is geared to that audience. It’s a fully managed service for developers and data scientists who wish to build, train and manage their own machine learning models. Developers can choose among ten of the most common deep learning algorithms, specify their data source, and the tool installs and configures the underlying drivers and frameworks. It natively integrates with machine language frameworks such as TensorFlow and Apache MXNet and will support other frameworks as well.

Alternatively, developers can specify their own algorithm and framework.

The National Football League said it will use SageMaker to extend its next-generation stats initiative to add visualizations, stats and experiences for fans, as well as provide up-to-date information about players on the field, said Michelle McKenna-Doyle, the NFL’s senior vice president and CIO, here this week.

To supplement SageMaker, AWS created DeepLens, a wireless, deep-learning-enabled, programmable video camera for developers to hone their skills with machine learning. One example of DeepLens cited by AWS included recognizing the numbers on a license plate to trigger a home automation system and open a garage door.

AWS’ goal is to democratize access to machine learning technology for developers anywhere, so that individual developers could have access to the same technology as large enterprises, said Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of machine learning at AWS.

SageMaker is one example of this, said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at Dallas-based Trend Micro.

“I’ve worked with those technology stacks quite a lot over the last decade and there’s so much complexity …, but now any user doesn’t have to care about it,” he said. “They can do really advanced machine learning very, very easily.”

AWS ups the ante for AI

The general pattern in the market for AI application development has been twofold, said Rob Koplowitz, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. There are AI frameworks for data scientists that are extremely flexible but require special skills, and higher-level APIs that are accessible to programmers — and in some cases even non-programmers.

“Amazon wants to provide a middle ground with more flexibility,” Koplowitz said. “It’s an interesting approach and we’re looking forward to getting real work feedback from developers.”

AWS has to play catch-up here with other cloud platform companies that wish to bring machine learning to mainstream programmers. IBM provides developers access to its Watson AI services, and Microsoft has its Cognitive Services and Azure Machine Learning Workbench tools. Reducing the complexity of building machine learning models is among the more difficult areas for businesses, so this is a step in the right direction for AWS, said Judith Hurwitz, founder and CEO at Hurwitz & Associates in Needham, Mass.

Computational intelligence in general, and AI and deep learning in particular, is a hot market with a small community of experts among the biggest tech companies from Facebook to IBM.

“They all have a lot of the same core competencies, but they’re distributing them in different ways,” said Trend Micro’s Nunnikhoven.

Google tends to be more technical, while AWS now wants to make AI more accessible. Microsoft targets specific business analytics uses for AI, IBM wants to show more real-world use cases in areas such as healthcare and financial services, and Apple is looking at AI for privacy and devices. But they’re all contributing back to the same projects, such as Apache Mahout and Spark MLlib, Google’s TensorFlow, Microsoft’s Cognitive Toolkit, and others.

SageMaker should help alleviate developers’ fears that data scientists will make them into second-class citizens, but AWS may have aimed too low with SageMaker, said Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research in San Francisco. He said he believes it’s more of a kit to empower business users to create machine learning applications.

Other AWS AI-based services

Other AI-enabled AWS services unveiled this week include Amazon Comprehend, a managed natural language processing service for documents or other textual data that integrates with other AWS services to provide analytics, and Amazon Rekognition Video, which can track people and recognize faces and objects in videos stored in Amazon S3.

There are two services now in preview — Amazon Transcribe, which lets developers turn audio files into punctuated text, and Amazon Translate, which uses neural machine translation techniques to translate text from one language to another. Translate currently supports English and six other languages — Arabic, French, German, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese and Spanish — with more languages to come in 2018.

Visual Studio Live Share aims to spur developer collaboration

NEW YORK — Developers at Microsoft’s event here last week got a sneak peek at a tool that aims to boost programmer productivity and improve application quality.

Microsoft’s Visual Studio Live Share, displayed at its Connect(); 2017 conference, lets developers work on the same code in real time. It also continues to bolster the company’s credibility in their eyes, delivering tools and services that make their jobs easier.

The software brings the Agile practice of pair programming to a broader set of programmers, except the programmers do not need to be physically together. Developers can remotely access and debug the same code in their respective editor or integrated development environment and share their full project context, rather than just their screens. Visual Studio Live Share works across multiple machines. Interested developers can sign up to join the Visual Studio Live Share preview, set for early 2018. It will be a limited, U.S.-only preview.

“It works not just between Visual Studio Code sessions between two Macs or between two Visual Studio sessions on Windows, but you can, in fact, have teams composed of multiple different parts of the Visual Studio family on multiple different operating systems all developing simultaneously,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president in Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group.

The ability for developers to collaboratively debug and enhance the quality of applications in real time is extremely useful for developers looking for help with coding issues. While the capability has been around in various forms for 20 years, by integrating it into the Visual Studio tool set, Microsoft aims to standardize live sharing of code.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft executive vice president of cloud and enterprise, presenting the keynote at Connect(); 2017.
Scott Guthrie, Microsoft executive vice president of cloud and enterprise, presenting the keynote at Connect(); 2017.

“I will be happy to see full collaboration make it to a shipping product,” said Theresa Lanowitz, an analyst at Voke, a research firm in Minden, Nev. “I had that capability shipping in 1994 at Taligent.”

Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Gartner, said he likes what he has heard about Visual Studio Live Share thus far, but wants to see it firsthand and compare it with pair programming tools such as AtomPair.

“[Microsoft is] doing a great job of being open and participating in open software in a nice incremental fashion,” he said. “But does it bring them new developers? That is a harder question. I think there are still plenty of people that think of Microsoft as the old world, and they are now in the new world.”

General availability of Visual Studio App Center

There are still plenty of [developers] that think of Microsoft as the old world, and they are now in the new world.
Thomas Murphyanalyst, Gartner

Also this week, Microsoft made its Visual Studio App Center generally available. Formerly known as Visual Studio Mobile Center and based on Xamarin Test Cloud, Visual Studio App Center is essentially a mobile backend as a service that provides a DevOps environment to help developers manage the lifecycle of their mobile apps. Objective-C, Swift, Android Java, Xamarin and React Native developers can all use Visual Studio App Center, according to the company.

Once a developer connects a code repository to Visual Studio App Center, the tool automatically creates a release pipeline of automated builds, tests the app in the cloud, manages distribution of the app to beta testers and app stores, and monitors usage of the app with crash analytics data using HockeyApp analytics tool Microsoft acquired in 2014.

“HockeyApp is very useful for telemetry data; that was a good acquisition,” Lanowitz said. Xamarin’s mobile development tools, acquired by Microsoft in 2016, also are strong, she said.

Darryl K. Taft covers DevOps, software development tools and developer-related issues as news writer for TechTarget’s SearchSoftwareQuality, SearchCloudApplications, SearchMicroservices and TheServerSide. Contact him at dtaft@techtarget.com or @darrylktaft on Twitter.

Azure DevOps Projects helps ease release automation

NEW YORK — Microsoft’s new Azure DevOps Projects tool lets developers configure a DevOps pipeline and connect it to the cloud with no prior knowledge of how to do so.

Azure DevOps Projects, released to public preview at the Microsoft Connect(); conference here this week, is a scaffolding system for developers to configure a full DevOps pipeline and connect to Microsoft’s Azure cloud services in less than five minutes.

With digital transformation efforts in full swing across enterprises in nearly every industry, developers are driven harder than ever to speed up application releases. In the process, they also want to ensure quality and security and to manage these apps more efficiently. This is where DevOps becomes critical and where a simplified way to get started with DevOps could be useful.

Abel Wang, a senior cloud developer advocate for DevOps at Microsoft, demonstrated how, with a series of clicks to provide information about the type of application and programming language used, Azure DevOps Projects sets up a Git repository and wires up automated build and release pipelines. Everything is automatic, although developers can customize the configuration.

“We make it ridiculously easy to go to a full DevOps environment,” Wang said.

Azure DevOps Projects comes out of the intersection of Microsoft’s Visual Studio family of tools and services — particularly Video Studio Team Services (VSTS) — and the Azure cloud platform.

It’s hard to set up your DevOps pipeline, because developers often manually integrate a lot of different tools, said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group. However, VSTS is fully integrated with Azure.

“I think this shows that Microsoft now has a good set of tools and a strengthening set of stuff for ops,” said Thomas Murphy, an analyst with Gartner.

Microsoft has historically been weak in areas such as release automation, but a stronger Azure platform, including Azure DevOps, will help Microsoft better compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for enterprise customers. New independent software vendors still target AWS or Cloud Foundry, but in the corporate space — especially retail businesses that view AWS as a competitor — there is a growing business-driven push away from AWS and toward Azure, Murphy said.

Microsoft engineer Donovan Brown previews Azure DevOps Projects at Microsoft Connect(); 2017.
Microsoft engineer Donovan Brown previews Azure DevOps Projects at Microsoft Connect(); 2017.

Microsoft continues to advance cloud for DevOps

Another VSTS capability, release management gates, enables developers to specify conditions necessary to begin or finish a deployment to an environment, automating a process that’s often manual. DevOps pros can configure an environment to deploy and wait a day to ensure there are no blocking work items or monitoring alerts before proceeding with deployment, said Brian Harry, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Visual Studio Team Services and Team Foundation Server (TFS), in a blog post

VSTS also has free, cloud-hosted continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) on macOS, so teams can build and release Apple iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS applications without the need for Mac hardware. This also means the VSTS CI/CD system in the cloud covers the gamut of Linux, macOS and Windows in one offering.

Without security and performance, there are no apps of the future, and moving fast only gives you continuous bugs.
Theresa LanowitzCEO, Voke

Microsoft also made generally available Team Foundation Server 2018 and the TFS Database Import Service. Additionally, it released to preview the company’s open source command-line tools for VSTS and YAML support for VSTS build definitions, so developers can represent their build pipeline as code.

Finally, Microsoft launched a new partnership with GitHub to drive adoption of the Microsoft-developed Git Virtual File System (GVFS) as the industry standard to use Git at scale. Microsoft has become one of the most prolific contributors to open source largely through GitHub, and the two have worked together to bring GVFS to the code repository’s 25 million users on Windows, Mac and Linux clients, said Sam Lambert, senior director of infrastructure at GitHub.

Theresa Lanowitz, founder and CEO of Voke, a market research firm in Minden, Nev., praised Microsoft for its strong release management updates with software such as Azure DevOps Projects, but she expected to hear and see more about security and performance. “Without security and performance, there are no apps of the future, and moving fast only gives you continuous bugs,” she said.

“Our research shows low automation and low adoption of any commercial release management tool for full lifecycle traceability — of all assets,” she said in an interview from Microsoft Connect();, noting that enterprise integration issues may be partly to blame for low adoption of these tools.