Nadella Highlights Microsoft's Data and AI Advancements at Build Dev Event

Microsoft is a company of software developers that's simply addressing the needs other developers, CEO Satya Nadella indicated in a Tuesday Microsoft Build keynote talk.

Microsoft is delivering its developer improvements with an eye toward the "digital transformations" that organizations will be making over the next 10 years, he contended. The keynote was a sort of visionary pep talk for developers, and Nadella dropped some encouraging job stats along the way.

He predicted that the tech sector as a percentage of total gross domestic product will double from 5 percent to 10 percent by 2030. He credited developers as being "first responders" in supporting vaccine development, and they often worked remotely to provide that support.

"Over the past 12 months, the percentage of developer job postings that were remote increased 8X year over year," Nadella noted.

He also suggested that developer job growth was not a pure software company phenomenon, but has been increasing within companies more generally.

"Over the past two years, the number of developers and nontech companies has grown faster than our tech companies," Nadella said. He cited the automobile industry as one example, claiming that "there were more software engineers than mechanical engineers hired over the last year" in that industry.

Opportunities for developers are happening as "the physical and digital worlds converge." There will be a need for "more ubiquitous and decentralized compute power." Large AI models will be key, but here, Nadella offered a cautionary note.

"The design and development process itself must prioritize privacy, cybersecurity, digital safety and responsible AI across everything we do," he said. "No one will want technology that rapidly scales but breaks the world around us."

Mysterious Windows Talk
Nadella said that "Windows 10 is used by more than 1.3 billion people" and he claimed that it serves as "a dev box" for developers. The next generation of Windows 10 will increase opportunities for developers and it'll be coming "soon," he added.

"Soon we will share one of the most significant updates of Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators," Nadella said. "I've been self-hosting it over the past several months and I've been credibly excited about the next generation of Windows."

No further details were described, so exactly what Nadella meant is a mystery.

Last week, Microsoft announced that its emerging Windows 10X operating system, originally designed for dual-screen devices, wouldn't be released. Instead, parts of it were put into other Windows products. It's not clear if Nadella was referring to this Windows integration or to something else.

Possibly Nadella was referring to advancements with Project Reunion, still at preview. Project Reunion is Microsoft's latest effort at unifying the Windows developer model, which is currently split between Win32 and the Universal Windows Platform approaches.

Build Highlights
Microsoft Build this week will be showcasing "more than 100 new services and important updates" for developers, Nadella indicated.

He pointed to a few highlights, much of which is summarized by Nadella himself in this LinkedIn post.

Power Platform Fusion Teams
For users of the low-code Power Platform, Microsoft has added enhancements for so-called "fusion teams," which was described as consisting of developers, nondevelopers and IT pros. These fusion teams are getting learning tools, a command-line interface (CLI) plus Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code integrations. They'll also be able to add custom code to custom connectors. These enhancements, and more, will preview in June.

Power Apps and OpenAI's GPT-3 Language Model
Also highlighted was the Power Apps integration of OpenAI's GPT-3 natural language model. This integration using OpenAI's solution apparently is Microsoft's first such integrated app and will be available at the preview stage in the North American market by the end of June.

Microsoft is an investor in OpenAI and uses its platform in conjunction with the Azure Machine Learning service. Nadella suggested that the GPT-3 integration will ease coding efforts.

"If you can describe what you want to do in natural language, GPT-3 will generate a list of the most relevant formula for you to choose from," he said. "The code writes itself."

Intelligent Apps Using Azure for Data and AI
Nadella also touted building "new intelligent apps" based on AI and Azure-hosted data via "hyperscale" SQL, Postgres SQL and Cosmos DB, as well as the Microsoft Synapse data warehouse solution.

In that regard, Microsoft announced the following developments:

That last addition, based on Azure Active Directory, gives IT departments security controls over which personnel have Cosmos DB access rights. Microsoft also announced a preview of an Azure SQL Database ledger capability, which "provides cryptographic verification for sensitive records."

Pytorch Enterprise on Azure
Pytorch Enterprise on Azure was highlighted, where Microsoft provides commercial support for users of this deep learning platform.

Microsoft's service is said to provide "a more reliable production experience for organizations using Pytorch for their data science work." Pytorch Enterprise on Azure is "currently available on Azure Machine Learning and Data Science Virtual Machines" and will "soon be available on Azure Synapse Analytics," according to an announcement.

Cloud-Native Apps and Azure Application Services
Nadella noted that with cloud services and edge networks popping up, things are getting complex. However, Microsoft is aiming to simplify things for developers. It's all leading to a so-called "cloud-native apps" future, where apps can be run anywhere.

Microsoft sees Azure Application Services as leading that charge.

"Today we're excited to announce that Azure Application Services will now be able to run on Kubernetes and anywhere with Azure on," Nadella said. "This means you can now run your favorite Azure application services on-premises, on the edge or other clouds."

Azure Application Services is now at the preview stage, and can be run using the Kubernetes container orchestration service. It works across Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, or "any Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)-conformant Kubernetes cluster connected through Azure Arc," Microsoft explained in an announcement. Azure Arc is Microsoft's multicloud management solution.

AKS on Azure Stack HCI General Availability
Azure Application Services also works in on-premises environments. And, to that end, Microsoft also announced the "the general availability of Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) on Azure Stack HCI."

Azure Stack HCI is Microsoft's "Azure in a box" implementation. It lets organizations run Azure services on certified hardware in their own datacenters.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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