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Sean Washington for Does Not Compute

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Microsoft Ignite 2019 - Reflection

Microsoft Ignite 2019 is a wrap! Both Rockwell and I had a great time, and we ended up learning quite a bit throughout the week. Ignite is very much an Enterprise focused conference and we're both running small software companies. While we weren't the target audience, this week ended up being very informative for us.

New Perspectives

One of my favorite parts of the week was being able to talk to people with have vastly different experiences and perspectives than me. One specific example of this would be a conversation I had with someone that manages the IT infrastructure for a large wine and spirits company. They have a number of devices and servers on premises at each location (of which they have quite a few) for reading, storing, and analyzing data from their machines. They then use this data to inform them on any adjustments they need to make to ensure the best quality wine. They also have to make sure that this data is pushed to cold storage for historical analysis later.

He mentioned that right now they have a piece-meal setup with hardware from company A and cloud services from company B, and if an on premises node goes down it could take up to a couple days to bring it back up. Note that I'm not talking about network failures or VM issues here, I'm talking physical hardware failures!

He and his team were attending Ignite to see if they could consolidate their piece-meal setup to an all Azure based setup. As he put it, they were looking for an all inclusive solution between hardware, software, and cloud services.

Throughout the conversation I kept thinking about how easy I have it from an IT perspective. Design Kollective is a software based business, and I don't have any sort of on premises requirements. In the case of a hardware related failure, Heroku has my back!

Reality Distortion Field

The reality distortion field was in full effect for most of the week, and I found that I had to keep reminding myself that while things seemed shiny and perfect on the tin, that's almost never the actual case once you get past the surface usage.

VSCode Online

Of all of Microsoft's announcements this year, Visual Studio Online is the service that I'm most excited about. In a nutshell, they've expanded on the already existing Remote Development system such that you can automatically provision a development environment in Azure, and use an in-browser version of VSCode or your local install of VSCode to work. Their goal is to make Visual Studio Online as turn-key as possible by automatically inferring your environment from the cloned repo and auto installing dependencies. That tool is called Oryx, and you can view the source here.

To kick the tires, Rockwell and I decided to deploy some updates to dnc.show using the browser based editor from Rockwell's iPad. The flow went something like this:

  1. We created a new service via the Visual Studio Online dashboard.
  2. We cloned down the repository, and Oryx did it's thing.
  3. The browser editor automatically opened with the cloned repo.
  4. I connected my local VSCode install to the new environment via the Visual Studio Online extension.
  5. I started a liveshare with Rockwell and Rockwell joined it from the web editor on his iPad.
  6. Rockwell made a change and committed it back to the repository.
  7. The updates went live (Thanks Netlify!).

While the service is still at the preview stage and there are some rough edges around browser support outside of Chrome and with Docker in Docker support, the experience was pretty magical. Once things have matured a little, I could imagine using this with Design Kollective so that I don't have to lug my 15 inch laptop around when I'm out and about. Being able to make real changes to my app without having to worry about battery life or even having my personal machine around feels like a literal weight off of my back. Additionally, Visual Studio Online could make bringing in new hires or contracts much easier. They wouldn't need to follow pages of readme instructing them how to install and configure the proper dependencies!

Azure

Microsoft demoed some pretty cool features this year, especially around how easy they're making it to tap into their machine learning and AI services.

One of my goals next year is to bring ML and AI to Design Kollective, and the teams talking about these services on the floor made things feel very approachable. Aside from that, I'm feeling like "If it ain't broke, then don't fix it". For deploying and managing infrastructure for Design Kollective, I'm pretty happy with Heroku.

TypeScript

A big take away for me from the week that I can feel comfortable using right now is TypeScript. For some reason I thought it would be harder to integrate into existing projects, but it turns out that it's pretty easy and unobtrusive. You aren't forced to jump into TypeScript whole hog.

After talking to a few engineers (Shout out to Arjun) I was convinced that it's the easiest way to make my life easier while building and refactoring JavaScript based services for Design Kollective. A good overview of TypeScript can be found here and does a better job for arguing why TypeScript than I could here. Also note that this doesn't mean that Design Kollective is abandoning our use of Elxir! I still love Elixir and all of Design Kollective's API/Backend services will continue to use it.

Additional Takeaways

  • Some people get really excited about Excel, and even more so about pivot tables.
  • While I wish I had more resources at my disposal at Design Kollective, I'm glad I don't have organizational and bureaucracy issues to deal with.
  • Rockwell loves a good roller coaster and is an excellent Universal Studios tour guide.
  • When you boil them down, issues that enterprise companies deal with aren't all that different from issues that Design Kollective deal with.

Upcoming Interviews

With all that being said, we've got some interviews from the conference airing in the next few weeks!


And that's all I've got. Thanks again to Richard from .Net Rocks for making this week happen!

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