UK Dev Briefing Day


In this post, Senior Application Development Manager, Neal Champion shares an overview of the UK Dev Briefing DayThis annual event typically runs in the spring of each year, covering up-to-date presentations on the latest tools and development capabilities for the Microsoft platform.  It is held at the Microsoft UK Campus in Reading, Berkshire.  If you want to be a part of the next event, please contact your ADM or reach out to learn more about Premier Support for Developers.


Building a Mobile App with a Cloud Backend

At Microsoft UK, the Cloud and Developer team of Application Development Managers (ADMs) run an annual event for the customers they support. This event is known as Dev Briefing, and provides a deep dive into a group of related Microsoft development technologies, to an audience of around 200 developers and architects.

For 2016, we focused on how the Microsoft technology stack supports the development and distribution of mobile applications. As we planned this, we decided to take on a new challenge – we would actually build some mobile apps, using the tools we were demonstrating, and distribute them in advance to the audience to use at the event.

Content of the Day

We had a full timetable, and covered the following topics

  • Setting the requirements
    The main requirement was for attendees to be able to submit feedback on the sessions electronically, and also to respond to real-time pulse questions
  • How the team worked
    A quick overview of our use of Visual Studio Team Services and its Kanban support to coordinate a distributed team
  • Responsive Web Applications
    Building a responsive web application using Visual Studio Code and React, Redux and WebPack
  • Hybrid Applications
    Using Cordova to build a hybrid application
  • Native Applications
    Using Xamarin to build cross-platform native applications
  • Using Azure App Service as the Backend
    Using Azure Web API and API Apps to provide persistence and other backend functionality
  • Alternative Azure Backend
    Micro services architecture with Service Fabric and Containers
  • Data Persistence options
    Analysis of the pros and cons of using SQL Azure, Azure Table Storage or Document DB for this application
  • Build and Release
    How Visual Studio Team Services can automate and manage your build and release processes
  • Analyzing the Data
    Using the Power BI suite to provide analysis of the data collected by the application
  • Instrumentation
    How to use Application Insights to instrument and monitor your application
  • Internet of Things Suite

At the end of an intense day, we finished with a little light relief with an Internet of Things demo. This demo used a Raspberry Pi and a video camera, and ran the Face and Emotion APIs to capture data of the emotions of the audience. The demo was technically sound, but also a lot of fun.

As you can see, we packed a lot in. Each of these sessions were 30 ~ 40 minutes, almost all including hands-on demos of working code. It would take a whole individual blog post to describe each session properly, so this post can only provide a high level overview.

The App

We built two versions of the app to support the event:

  • A web application using React
  • A native application using Xamarin. We published this using HockeyApp, another Microsoft acquisition which greatly simplifies publishing cross-platform apps to controlled user groups, without having to deal with the Apple and Google app stores.

In each session we published a number of pulse questions to the app that the audience was using. The responses were collated and analysed by Power BI in real-time, and presented back to the room on a large monitor. Here’s the first question (“How far did you travel to come here today?”) to introduce the concept to the delegates.

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The Data

In previous years, delegates had completed paper feedback forms, which then had to be collated and analysed. This year we instantly had access to real data, which Power BI could analyse for us..

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As well as the analysis of feedback scores, Power BI also produced analysis of the individual verbatim comments submitted:

feedback

Conclusion

The Microsoft UK Cloud and Developer team has run this event for several years now, and it always receives positive feedback from delegates. This year we actually put the code we were demonstrating in their hands, and so raised the bar. The day is an excellent demonstration of both the power and scope of the Microsoft development platform and toolset, and the knowledge of these held by the Premier Support for Developers team.

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