On Wednesday I got the chance to join Microsoft Build (which is Microsoft’s annual innovation conference) at their UK headquarters in Reading.
I gained some useful insights into what productivity / development features Microsoft are releasing in 2022 and how this can be applied to our business, and will share some of these below.
Tony at Microsoft Build in UK HQ
Earlier this year we took out the Microsoft for Startups package which gives us a year-long period with which to experiment with MS365, Azure, Github Enterprise and other Microsoft products for free, without worrying about the cost of getting things wrong to start with. As we had started hosting our products in Azure and were using Github anyway, this was a big help.
That programme has also given us access to events like this one.
This year was reportedly deeper than previous Build events, and in the backdrop of a post-pandemic / climate catastrophe / fuel poverty / high inflation / quickly evolving hybrid world we find ourselves in, some parallels were drawn with both the challenges and exciting opportunities that also defined the times when MS founded in 1975.
Many of the key themes were focused on enabling businesses to efficiently tackle the big issues of today- and focused heavily on setting the right team cultures + building the right skills mix, resource efficiency in deployment, integrating security and governance into development processes, and carbon impact of cloud computing. Key phrases I picked up that were repeated around various sessions include:
7 tonnes CO2e is a modest amount for a company to offset. There are a bewildering array of offsetting schemes, platforms and apps in existence, and we chose to use Ecologi on the strength of their scheme flexibility, industry-verified credentials and customer feedback.
Offsetting 7 tonnes CO2e (via investment into new wind generation capacity in Mexico and Honduras) and planting 250 trees (mainly in various African countries and Peru) cost all of £126. The offsetting comes from the renewable project contribution only – and planting the trees does not contribute to any offsetting, but does contribute to biodiversity improvement schemes and provides job in developing communities. View Olwg’s Ecologi profile here.
I thought Ecologi’s setup and schemes are very clever as well as great value – and further info on the offsetting aspects and where the money goes etc can be found in Ecologi’s FAQs.
Comparison of published levelised cost of hydrogen
Some other stats I picked up include:
- There are 1.35 M developers
- 50% of developers self taught
- Diverse & inclusive make the most productive teams
- Almost half of business are recruiting for hard data skills, and half have struggled over last 2 years. It’s a massive learning curve for businesses.
- There are 500,000 job openings for software engineers at any point in time (may go to 1 million this year!). Universities produce 50,000 computer science students a year, so at current rate are not near being able to keep up!
AI for Environmental Sustainability
This was an innovation conference, and it started with CEO Satya Nadella’s Keynote speech where he summarised Microsoft’s 10 new technologies released this year – worth a watch:
I won’t attempt to repeat/ paraphrase Satya’s talk, but have included some rough notes I picked up:
GitHub Copilot has been developed to auto-fill / suggest code blocks whilst coding.
MS Teams co-innovate features will allow code editing within a meeting.
There are now lots more plug ins/ apps within Teams – and trying to integrate within the greater suite of MS365. There is a plan for getting metaverse into Teams..
Power Apps is becoming more powerful – can now (or soon?) ‘auto-make’ apps from a hand drawn sketch! No Code / Low Code is offering big opportunity to co-create, speed up creation & development so that coders can concentrate on what is really needed to code (like scripting for automating common manual processes). Low Code is a team sport; also Low Code can help get people into coding so they can gain development skills. Fusion teams with Low Code / Citizen developers can make it easier to work.
Cloud-powered development including Azure Devbox can provide quick access to tools for prototyping & deployment.
MS Intelligent Data Platform has been developed to help integrate & spend less time stitching together various data architectures. Fastest data service considered to be SQL server. Azure Storage Explorer app is helpful. “Power BI is great” [for visualising data].. even with SQL. “You just can’t get away from Excel” [eg for integrating / importing external data]: Still needs more automation.
Microsoft Graph can now connect data too.
Teams Toolkit & SDK allows new apps to be created + integrated into Teams environment.
Security & Governance
Security is complex, and protecting the business is key. Adopt a ‘Zero trust’ policy. Use Industry standards around identity. For security responses – make sure everything is scripted, and automate as much as possible. DevOps -> DevSecOps.
GitHub has a role to play in defending against attack: Automating code reviewing/ scanning. Do not store tokens etc in code, as it is in Git forever. Tools include GitHub Code Scanning & Secret Scanning. Credentials are one of most common ways to get exploited. Code QL is a key tool.
Microsoft Purview has been introduced to automatically manage governance & privacy.
Azure ML includes a ‘Responsible AI’ toolkit.
Green Software Engineering
Microsoft has green software principles which is based around using less data, moving to on-demand etc. Moving to the cloud is more energy-efficient due to hardware optimisation & clean power, but machine learning uses a lot of energy (and therefore carbon). Data centres are responsible for ~1% of emissions, comparable to aviation. Moving to server-less / on-demand computing helps; there is also a correlation between reducing cost and reducing carbon. Datacenter Map shows the locations of data centres.
There are a multitude of open / cloud tools for measuring carbon impact, including Microsoft Cloud Emission tools. The Green Software Foundation has repos on GitHub for software carbon intensity. There is a desire to see more output to recommend decisions (rather than just measurement) based on carbon – ie to move workloads to different times or locations with cleaner power sources. At some point there should be convergence / standardisation in calculation methods and tools, as currently a bit of a free-for-all.
These are my summary notes as written by someone that doesn’t have a coding / software development background, so please let me know if I got any of it is wrong so I can correct.
For anyone wishing to start learning how to use these tools, the Microsoft Learn site has a variety of free learning modules that cover the Power Platform (including Power BI, Power Apps and Power Automate), Azure and other products.
We also got some good ideas for upgrades to the office (which mainly revolved around food and play!).
Olwg part of MS for Startups Founders Hub