SharePoint/Office 365 at Build 2014

I’m heading to the Build conference next week in San Francisco, YAY my first //build ever.  We have a bunch of great developer related content for SharePoint and Office 365 there.  Don’t worry if you have not developed for SharePoint or 365 before, there is content to get you up to speed!

Here are the sessions:

Building Connected Productivity Apps Brian Jones
Office Power Hour – New developer APIs and features for Apps for Office Rolando Jimenez Salgado
SharePoint Power Hour – New developer APIs and features for Apps for SharePoint Rob Howard
SharePoint 2013 Apps with AngularJS Jeremy Thake
Building Enterprise Social Apps with Yammer Jose Juarez Comboni
The brand new OneNote service – reach the massive user base with your apps. Gareth Jones
Developing Office 365 Cloud Business Apps Dan Fernandez
Deep Dive into Mail Compose Apps APIs Andrew Salamatov

Also Office 365 will have a booth so come and visit the booth and connect with the speakers and the team from Redmond.

SharePint @ //build, Wed at 7pm @ Chieftain Irish Pub

see you there!

-CJ

Interesting links – Multilingual Office 365, Android, Ruby and OneNote

Only a few this week.  Sorry, buts its been a crazy busy week #2 at MS.

Happy Friday!

Interesting links – Part 1

Every week I come across a bunch of things I find interesting on the internet; as I am sure many other do.  I usually tweet these out, or post on LinkedIn etc… However, I often loose the link shortly after and inevitably someone will ask about a topic and I remember reading something about it but cant remember where to find it.  I’m terrible at keeping bookmarks/favorites sorted etc… 

So what I thought I would do instead is post an interesting links post once a week (or whenever I have a decent set) so not only I have a reference, but you do to.

Mostly these will be work related, SharePoint, Office 365, Azure, Development etc… But from time to time will include personal interest links too.

Here goes for this week:

-CJ

Hola Microsoft

Back in November 2011 I said “Adios Microsoft” and left to start the US office for Provoke Solutions. I can’t believe it has been over two years since then.  Time has flown by!

Well all things come to and end and on the 10th of March I will rejoin Microsoft.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Provoke.  On Nov 1 2011 I literally unloaded a car full of things and set up myself in an office in Bellevue as employee #1.  We have achieved some amazing things since then and I am personally very proud what we accomplished. It’s been very personally rewarding, challenging and character building. Running a small business is hard, but a lot of fun all at the same time. I was fortunate enough of having the backing from our New Zealand based team so I never felt like it was just me.

But now I am ready for my next chapter.

I am heading back to a familiar but different team from my last stint at Microsoft, the Office 365 team. I will be leading a team to help to make Office 365 a great place for developers, software vendors (ISVs), development houses (“System Integrators”) and others to customize, extend and build software for Office 365 and constituent products on-premises.

MSBadge

This opportunity was too good to pass up.  The chance to work on the worlds #1 leading productivity software and to help take developers and ISVs along for the ride! Couple that with a unique time in computing history as the paradigm shift of cloud computing takes hold and it makes for a very unique opportunity that I couldn’t resist.

They had me at “helping developers”.

The current story for developers building for the cloud in 365 is only in its infancy and I am very much looking forward to being involved and helping as much as I can.

I know lots of people out in the community, the SharePoint community especially, who are very passionate and vocal about the issues they are facing with development for Office 365 today.  I know fully well what many of the issues are, however, as always, I look forward to talking with as many people as I can and working on these issues together.  It needs to be a collaborative effort and it wont happen over night.  But it will happen.

I am really looking forward to the SharePoint Conference in Vegas next week!

-Chris.

Sandbox code is “deprecated”, long live the Sandbox

we have deprecated the use of custom managed code within the sandboxed solution – Brian Jones, Principal Program Manager, Apps for SharePoint

It’s been a long time coming and widely anticipated that this announcement would come at some point.  It’s great to see the announcement and the clarity many have been asking for.

I feel like I’m in a good position to comment on this and give some background about why I think deprecating code based sandbox solutions is good idea. I was on the SharePoint engineering team when the sandbox was being built and for a period of time I was the Program Manager for the feature.

Background:  Sandbox solutions in SharePoint were introduced in SharePoint 2010.  They allowed a packaged set of assets and code to the uploaded to a SharePoint site.  That can consist of declarative components like XML for adding things like List Templates, as well as compiled code for things like Web Parts or Event Receivers.

When the Sandbox was being designed and built it was about 2 – 3 years prior to SharePoint 2010 being released. Azure, and cloud computing in general, either didn’t exist or was in its infancy. SharePoint needed a way to upload customizations/components to SharePoint sites where the administrators were not comfortable with installing Farm Solutions aka. Full trust solutions. Microsoft itself was a perfect example of this.  If I built a web part I, as a Microsoft employee at the time, couldn’t load that onto our SharePoint sites that MS IT ran.  No 3rd party web parts or products. This was a common problem in many large organizations and we heard about this time and time again with customers.

Sandbox Solutions were the answer. They allowed users to upload a solution and have SharePoint run it while it being controlled, secured and run in a sandboxed process. The main thing this gave SharePoint was the ability to isolate the code in that solution and ensuring that if it crashed or was badly behaved that it didn’t break the rest of the SharePoint environment.

The problem was that Sandbox Solutions was a feature added in Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and that was a different product from SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) that built on top of WSS.  The API set in the Sandbox that was available was limited to WSS APIs and even then only a subset of them. There were good reasons for this, but at the end of the day it was very limiting for people.  Ideally it would have been great to have lots of SPS APIs available too. But that didn’t happen (different story).

So that is the background about how/why Sandbox came about.

… now fast forward to today …

In a nutshell the Sandbox was a good solution to the problem faced when it was designed. However, it’s not a great solution to the problem given the technology we have today.

Why is it no good today you ask?

A lot happened after the Sandbox was designed and built.  Cloud computing took off, new advances in code in all sorts of places got easier e.g. isolated apps on a phone.  A lot was learnt. 

In short its my belief that SharePoint shouldn’t have been trying to replicate an isolated code hosting environment.  That is reinventing the wheel and there are other teams at MS who build products to do this extremely well already.  Namely IIS and Azure.

Think about that for a second.  Imagine being given some arbitrary code and told to run it, but doing it in a way that was safe, secure, manageable and fault tolerant.  It’s actually quite a tough challenge. If you say it’s easy then you should try doing it instead of talking about it :) (tip with wider life applicability too)

So today MS clarified that SharePoint was getting out of the code hosting game.  Why?  Because it was limited and there are better solutions to this problem today. 

The new SharePoint app model is designed to solve this by moving “sandbox” code to an alternative host e.g. IIS or Azure or <insert thing that runs code here>.

Sandbox code might be “dead”, but the new app model IS the new Sandbox!

I see the reasons why the sandbox came about the same as I do for the new app model.  They are solving the same problem.  How do you allow someone to customize, extend and build new things on SharePoint without compromising the integrity of SharePoint itself?  That is the goal.

Today in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 we have the ability to build solutions that use this new app model.  Sure, it’s not perfect in the APIs it provides and there is plenty of scope for adding things.  I am certain it will evolve to cater for more of these things over time.  That said, it is MUCH better suited for the long term.  I for one am loving the ability to use all the latest dev tools and technologies in Azure that were not possible in SharePoint previously.

The app model may not be applicable or possible to be used for everyone today and that is fine. It’s going to develop and that will change over time would be what I bet on.  But it is the right path moving forward.  This might cause some pain for people in the short term and I understand the frustration people have with changes like this. But I would MUCH rather have to deal with this change than be limited to a inferior set of capabilities in the longer term.  This is the right move long term (in my humble opinion).  Short term pain, long term gain.

Getting SharePoint out of the code hosting solution was the right things to do and I applaud the team for clarifying there position on this.

I look forward to the SharePoint Conference in March where hopefully (fingers crossed) we will hear more about the future of the new app model and how it will address its shortfalls today.

-CJ

Ep 10 of the Microsoft Cloud Show – News on Azure, Google Compute Engine and Amazon and more

I can’t believe we just hit episode 10 of the Microsoft Cloud Show!  It feels like a mini milestone.

Episode 10 is jam packed with news and updates from the Amazon re:Invent conference, as well as news on the newly released Google Compute Engine & , of course, lots of Azure goodies too.

Go get it and let AC and I assault your ear buds.

Episode 010 – Latest news in the cloud from Microsoft, Amazon and Google

Thanks for the amazing support so far with the podcast.  We had > 7000 downloads over the past month or so which is astounding!

-CJ

Managing your Azure cloud costs with Kerrb

One of the big problems developers and organizations have using cloud services like Azure is the potential for the costs to go crazy if you don’t shut your dev, test or temporary Virtual Machines off. Sometime back Andrew Connell and I got talking about and had an idea for an online service that would help you manage those costs.  We talked with some people and found found loads of people that were concerned with using Azure and Amazon Web Services because of these cost overrun type of issues.

KerrbSo we decided to fix it …  Introducing Kerrb.

Kerrb is a SaaS product designed to save you money by automatically turning off Azure VMs that you forget about.  If you forget to turn off a virtual machine Kerrb will make sure it’s turned off on a schedule that you decide on.

Kerrb is still being built, but you can sign up for the launch list and be one of the first to get access when it is ready.  We will send you updates on how development is progressing and finally give those on the launch list the opportunity to sign up and test out the system when it’ ready. Also as an added bonus, if you are on the launch list then we will honor the pricing we have up on the site, even if we decide to tweak it prior to launch.

Kerrb will start small and evolve quickly as demand and feedback drives the product development. The high priority “Pri 0” [1]  feature is to turn off Virtual Machines in Azure if you forget, but we have a lot of other great features on the roadmap including adding Amazon Web Services as well as support for other leading cloud providers.

Keep up to date with developments and help us get the word out by:

  1. Signing up for the launch list
  2. Liking Kerrb on FaceBook
  3. Keeping an eye on the Blog for updates and news
  4. Follow @KerrbApp on Twitter

Have a read of a blog post Andrew wrote on the Kerrb blog here: Using VMs for Dev, Test & Show – Perspectives from an Indie Consultant, Trainer and Presenter

And something I wrote about Managing cloud spend in a development organization

We look forward to hearing your comments and feedback!

-CJ

[1] Pri 0 – Microsoft speak for the highest priority features in product development. You have to have all the Pri 0’s.

Yammer provisioning rolling out in Office 365 admin portal

Previously if you were an Office 365 (E SKU) customer or partner with an Enterprise Agreement (EA) you could ask MS to upgrade your Yammer network to the Enterprise edition for no additional charge.

Starting today MS have added the ability to do this via the Office 365 admin portal directly.

This is a rolling release, and your tenancy might not have got the changes just yet. So hold tight.

Customers with Office 365 E plans, SharePoint Online + Yammer, or existing Enterprise Agreements and qualifying license purchases are eligible to activate Yammer Enterprise via their Office 365 Administrators portal.

You can do this in the Admin portal as shown below:

This should make the process a whole lot smoother and is another (small) step in the right direction for the integration of Yammer and Office 365.

-CJ

SharePoint Saturday Chicago #SPSChicago

Today I presented a 101 session on getting started with the new SharePoint App Model. It’s a lot to get through in 75mins, but hopefully it gave people enough to get started and try out building an app for Office 365 or SharePoint on premises.

Thanks to everyone that came along!  #SPSChicago is a great free event for people with a great lineup of speakers.

Here are the slides: