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Build 2014: the most exciting announcements from Microsoft

Held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, this year’s BUILD conference was a not-to-be-missed event for development folk, with a handful of announcements that caused great excitement.

Build 2014 at Moscone Center

Windows Phone 8.1

Normally I wouldn’t be a fan of any sort of PDA but with the announcement of ‘Cortana’, a Personal Digital Assistant at your fingertips, I may be able to make an exception to this rule.

Cortana works as any personal assistant would, by keeping your schedule, reminding you of important dates/messages, knowing who is in your contact list and answering questions – and that’s just a few of the tasks that can be completed. Cortana has been under development for more than two years and utilises  BING to provide rich data though a single application.

One area which Microsoft addressed with Cortana which competitors have not is to allow third party applications to interact by answering questions and carrying out tasks.

A couple of other great improvements which have been made are the ability to shape write (swipe), pull down action centre for quickly accessing notifications/settings and custom backgrounds.


As a scenario, let’s think of a start-up business selling event tickets through their shiny new website hosted in the cloud. On go-live day we don’t know if that extensive marketing campaign has had any impact, how much traffic is going to be generated or how popular the event being sold is going to be.

If you think of a traditional three-tier architecture (presentation tier, business tier, storage) it is good practice to design your presentation and business tiers in a stateless manner. The main reason for this is so that we can increase throughput and cope with the unknown by throwing more computing resource at it.

Unfortunately the same doesn’t apply to the storage tier. The state has to be stored somewhere right? What happens when we reach our performance or storage limits? All other things being equal this could become a point of contention.

Enter Orleans: a programming model and runtime for building cloud native services build with .net.

So now scalability can be achieved through distribution the same as above.

One of the key benefits I see with Orleans will be that there is less of a hurdle to come up to speed in building a cloud application because Orleans can take care of the plumbing/scaling up, and the developer just concentrates on the required behaviour requested by the business.

Orleans may have only just been released under a public preview but it’s been in use for two years for telemetry data and player statistics for http://halowaypoint.com.

A key stand out for me was the ability to be able to meet with Microsoft staff on the project teams during the breaks, To have informal discussions and ask questions.

It’s was an amazing experience to get an insight into the why and insight into what’s coming.

Build 2014: the swag

Oh, and the attendee giveaway was pretty good, too! 

Posted by: David Shorter, Senior Developer, Enterprise Applications | 08 April 2014

Tags: Build

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