Azure Weekly

Your weekly Azure news fix

Azure Weekly is a summary of the week's top news to help you build on the Microsoft Azure Platform.

From AI to Availability Zones, it aims to keep you on top of the latest Azure developments.

Issue 411: 26th March 2023

As you can probably guess it's an "AI all the things" week, with lots of announcements about GPT4 / OpenAI / Copilot. But there are a couple of interesting announcements. First off is the announcement of Data Wrangler for Visual Studio Code: A Power Query-Like Experience For Python People. This will be a boon for anyone do data wrangling for analytics or Machine Learning. Next is the announcement of Semantic Kernel. I dismissed this at first until I saw the article was written by Dr. John Maeda who wrote one of my favourite books: The Laws of Simplicity. There's a follow up article by Lee Stott: Unlock the Potential of AI in Your Apps with Semantic Kernel: A Lightweight SDK for LLMs. There's also a post about Upgrading from IntelliCode custom team completions models to deep learning (we have IntelliCode set up for each of our OSS projects), and of course introducing GPT-4 in Azure OpenAI Service.

Another interesting post is: How Microsoft uses Azure Maps Creator, which shows how you can map out your office space, and the potential to overlay this with real time data show where people are - which could be very using in the new hybrid working / hot desk world that lots of people are dealing with. Another big announcement is of Microsoft Loop, which requires a new M365 policy to be created in order to enable it: Learn how to enable the Microsoft Loop app, now in Public Preview. There is also an interesting post highlighting what's new in Speech Studio: Upload Your Own Videos and Audio for Captioning and Call Center Transcription. We've made use of some of these features to do transcript analysis of customer workshops and it's incredibly useful.

Three highlights of this edition are: Azure Policy for Azure Container Apps? Yes, please!, following on from my post last week about using Playwright to automate 2FA authentication, John Reilly writes Playwright, GitHub Actions and Azure Static Web Apps staging environments and there's a Building Static Web Apps with database connections: Best Practices.

Finally Barry Smart shares a write-up about the excellent SQLBits Conference that happened earlier this month, and includes a great summary of the sessions he attended.

Issue 410: 19th March 2023

I'm going to keep it brief as there are quite a lot of updates in this edition, and you're probably all getting rather sick of GPT4 or Microsoft Copilot announcements swamping every social media channel! Two updates of note that got my attention: Public preview: Data API builder instantly creates modern REST and GraphQL endpoints for modern databases, this could be a boon for developers creating simple, modern web apps. It's also good to see Public preview: Azure Static Web Apps support for A Record.

Another interesting article from Sam Cogan - Azure Spring Clean: Compliance for Bicep with Checkov, and from Leo Visser about using Traffic Analytics and Network watcher to spot misconfigurations in your Azure Networks.

Finally, a shameless plug from me. It's quite rare these days that I get a chance to blog, but I had to enter 100+ community activities for the MVP Renewal process, and I used that as an excuse to use Playwright to see if I could automate the process. The only problem is that all my identities have 2FA enabled. This was my solution & I wanted to share it: Using the Playwright C# SDK to automate 2FA authentication for AAD and MSA. Hopefully this will be useful for anyone who wants to automate UI tests on a site protected by AAD / AAD B2C.

Issue 409: 12th March 2023

The big announcement this week is that ChatGPT is now available in Azure OpenAI Service. There are number of posts exploring this announcement with some example use cases, for example, Revolutionize your Enterprise Data with ChatGPT: Next-gen Apps w/ Azure OpenAI and Cognitive Search. Another article in this area is about a renaissance in computer vision AI with Microsoft's Florence foundation model.

Two other noteworthy announcements this week: Cost saving with Standard SSD Billing Caps which limits the number of transactions you're charged for, per hour, and the General Availability of Azure Virtual Desktop Insights at Scale. Sam Cogan delves deeper into an announcement I highlighted last week in 'WTH is Pod Sandboxing for AKS?'.

Two interesting posts from endjin folks this week; the first providing scripts to show How to setup Python, PyEnv & Poetry on Windows as a non-system-wide installation. This is an often painful and error prone process for anyone developing local Python code to be packaged / pushed up into Azure. There's also a deep dive into Data validation in Python: a look into Pandera and Great Expectations.

One of my focuses over the last 6 months has been working with the .NET Foundation to enable endjin to become the core maintainer of System.Reactive AKA Rx AKA Reactive Extensions, as the open source project has become moribund (as the previous maintainers either lack time to invest in the project, or have moved out of the .NET Ecosystem) and the last release was ~2.5 years ago. Thanks to the .NET Foundation's project continuity processes, we were made maintainers in January and since then we've created a high level roadmap and have been delivering against it. This week we published the first preview of v6 on NuGet and we'd appreciate if anyone in the community who uses System.Reactive as part of their cloud application stack, test out the preview and report any issues. Thanks!

Issue 408: 5th March 2023

We're starting to see the confidential computing hardware efforts appear in more "higher level" services. My hope is that these are all steps towards providing hard multi-tenancy across all PaaS offerings in Azure, meaning that it's possible to create high-density, cost-effective, secure multi-tenant SaaS applications (even for regulated industries), so that orgs don't have to struggle with "environment per tenant" type scenarios (which don't scale up from an operational or cost perspective). Two interesting posts are: Serverless meets confidential computing with confidential containers on Azure Container Instances and the more detailed: public preview of confidential containers on Azure Container Instances which highlights an AI workload usecase.

If your organisation is managing hybrid working, this episode of Microsoft Mechanics is very much worth watching. I've forwarded it to a number of customers this week; New Microsoft Intune Suite with Privilege Management, Advanced Analytics, Remote Help & App VPN.

Two interesting DevOps posts - if you are looking to migrate from Azure DevOps, CircleCI, GitLab, Jenkins, and Travis CI to GitHub Actions, this is worth a read: GitHub Actions Importer is now generally available. If you want to move your load testing into Azure, this is a good getting started guide: Putting Your Application to the Test with Azure Load Test.

Finally three articles I enjoyed reading this week: Onboarding users in ASP.NET Core using Azure AD Temporary Access Pass and Microsoft Graph, a Serverless URL Shortener (which I think could be simplified by using Azure Container Apps + YARP), and What is MQTT?.

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