nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

Microsoft revamps its developer tools with a new cloud focus

Also a flurry of announcements on mobile and open source offerings

By Tim Anderson, 18 Nov 2015

Microsoft has announced new developers tools and services at its Connect event under way in New York. The forked, open source version of the .NET platform, called .NET Core, is now at Release Candidate status, as is ASP.NET 5.0, Microsoft's web application framework.

These are now available under a "Go-Live" licence, which means production use is supported.

.NET Core is only a subset of the full, Windows-only .NET Framework, but has the advantage that it runs cross-platform on Windows, Mac and Linux.

I get the impression that Microsoft itself will use it increasingly for Azure internals, and that .NET development is now happening first on Core, with changes back-ported to the Windows .NET Framework. The announcement of .NET Core as a supported production platform is significant.

Visual Studio Code – a cross-platform programmer's editor with some basic IDE features – is now in beta and being published as open source. The editor is based on Google's Chromium project, as also used in the Chrome browser. Visual Studio Code is also getting extensibility.

Visual Studio Code is going open source

Visual Studio Code is going open source

"Extensions add the ability to expand the capabilities of Visual Studio Code with additional features, themes, and language support," according to Microsoft. The extensibility model is based on JavaScript, as you would expect given the project's core technology.

Initial extensions include support for Google's Go language, Object Pascal, and a spell checker.

Microsoft's relationship with Google seems to be improving, at least on the developer side. Google will be on stage at Connect to talk about its adoption of the Microsoft-originated TypeScript language with its Angular JavaScript framework. Perhaps that is related to there being more news about Android support than for Windows Mobile.

Continuing the cross-platform theme, the Visual Studio emulator for Android is being ported to Mac OS X. On Windows this runs on Hyper-V, but on the Mac it will use the open source Virtual Box.

A new service called CodePush is in beta. This is aimed at developers of mobile apps using the JavaScript-based frameworks Apache Cordova or Facebook React, and lets you push JavaScript or data updates to deployed applications.

Visual Studio Update 1 and new Marketplace

The full Visual Studio IDE on Windows is not neglected. Update 1, the first major update to Visual Studio 2015, is set for release on 30 November.

This update adds debugging for Android Java code, TypeScript 1.7 support, a new hub for pull requests (asking for a code update to be committed to the main code in a repository), Edit and Continue for C++ Universal Windows applications compiled using the /bigobj option, and other improvements.

There is also a public preview of Visual Studio GDB Debugger Extension, for remote Linux debugging, and the full release of updated Node.js tools with support for Node.js 4.x.

Docker Tools for Visual Studio, for working with Docker containers for both Linux and Windows, is now at Release Candidate stage.

Microsoft has also announced a new Visual Studio Marketplace where developers can purchase subscriptions and extensions for Visual Studio, initially from Microsoft, but with third-party extensions to be available at a later date.

One of the products available in this new store will be a new variety of Visual Studio Professional or Enterprise subscription, priced per month or per year. Microsoft already offers Visual Studio subscriptions as part of its MSDN developer network service, but these new subscriptions are "optimised for small and walk-up organisations", according to the company's press briefing, and can be paid for as part of your Azure billing.

Another extension in the Marketplace is HockeyApp, for analytics and crash reports from mobile applications. Microsoft acquired HockeyApp in late 2014.

Goodbye Visual Studio Online – Hello Team Services

Microsoft's Visual Studio Online, for developer collaboration, code and project management, is now renamed to Visual Studio Team Services, avoiding confusion for those who expect it to be a cloud-hosted IDE.

There are new features, including a plug-in for IntelliJ IDEA (a version of which is used by Google for Android Studio), extensions for NuGet package management, code search and release management, and a new build service and dashboard.

Visual Studio Online - now called Visual Studio Team Services

Visual Studio Online ... is now called Visual Studio Team Services

The company has also announced a partnership with MacinCloud which offers users of Visual Studio Team Services an extension for compiling for Apple iOS or OS X using cloud-hosted Mac computers.

The company is wrapping its free developer offerings in a new program called Visual Studio Dev Essentials. This includes access to the Community edition of Visual Studio and the free level of Visual Studio Team Services, Azure credits for test and development, some degree of free usage of HockeyApp analytics, and access to third-party training from Pluralsight, Wintellect and Xamarin.

On the cloud development side, Microsoft has announced the public preview of Azure Service Fabric, a platform for running microservices, which are cloud-hosted components for distributed applications.

Two APIs, called Reliable Actors and Reliable Services, let developers build .NET services with various options for state management, a tricky problem for distributed applications.

Microsoft claims that Azure Service Fabric is based on its own solutions for running high-scale cloud applications for Azure and Office 365.

Talking of Office 365, the company has also announced the general availability of Microsoft Graph, an API for Office 365 services. The Microsoft Graph is not to be confused with the Office Graph. Microsoft Graph is a general API for interacting with Office 365, parts of which are now fully released, and parts of which remain in preview.

The Office Graph analyses Office 365 relationships and content to enable intelligent queries, based on machine learning, and is used by the Office 365 Delve service. There is an API for Office Graph as part of Microsoft Graph, but it is still in preview.

Cloud first, Windows optional

What is notable is how few of Microsoft's announcements relate to Windows development. The focus is on cloud and cross-platform, both on the server side with .NET Core, and on the mobile side with Android and iOS.

Provided you use Microsoft's cloud services, whether Azure or Office 365, the company no longer worries, it seems, about what operating system users are running. This is a reversal of how Microsoft built its business in the past, based on Windows driving adoption of Microsoft's desktop and server applications. The cloud changes everything. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing