As you know, Visual Studio App Center delivers a solid DevOps foundation for your app projects, delivering the cloud services you use build, test and deploy your apps. Many customers use App Center services inside their apps as well, collecting volumes of information from apps running in the wild through our Analytics service and capturing data on the rare application crash through Diagnostics. App developers and marketers engage with their customers in a variety of ways through the App Center Push service.
In all, there’s a lot you can do in your apps using App Center, but we also know our customers use other services in their apps as well. Successful apps typically identify users using a third-party identity service or the less popular username and password approach. These apps usually manage some sort of application data, whether it’s the user’s data shared across multiple devices or data shared across multiple users, groups, or even whole companies or divisions. Data in this context means structured or unstructured data as well as binary data such as files.
As we listened to developers talk about what they put into their apps, and assessed the cool technologies Microsoft has in its portfolio, we knew we could do more for developers (and their apps) through App Center. In the Product Planning repository we published last week we outlined plans for adding the following services to App Center:
- Identity – Many of our customers deploy apps that require the ability to uniquely identify application users. Some developers use custom (home-grown) identity providers, but most use third-party identity providers (like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft) to authenticate users. To accommodate these customers, we’re considering adding an Identity service to App Center which enables applications to authenticate users via username and password (custom authentication) or through third-party identity providers. The service will likely use Azure AD B2C under the covers, but deliver the simple and streamlined developer experience for which App Center is famous.
- Data Synchronization – Many of our customers use home-grown or third-party data synchronization services in their apps. Use cases for these solutions range from simple offline caching of new records (with an automatic sync to the server when network connectivity exists) up to full offline synchronization of shared data across team members. Microsoft offers some pretty cool data storage options through Azure, so to accommodate these use cases, we’re considering adding a Data Sync service (likely backed by Azure Cosmos DB) to App Center.
- File Synchronization – Many of our customers include file sharing capabilities in their apps; allowing application users to attach files through the app and sync them with the server or enabling administrators to publish files to the server and synchronize them to relevant app users. To accommodate these use cases, we’re considering adding a File Sync service (backed by Azure Blob Storage) to App Center
Now, I could spend a bunch of words here telling you all about these new services, but we published a lot of the details in our February Iteration Plan. In that plan, you’ll find initial details for the Data Sync and Identity services including detailed specifications, proposed APIs, and more. I expect that over time we’ll add information about the File Synchronization service. We’ll publish UI mockups as they become available, too. When you have the time, hop over and read through the specs. Let us know what you think about our plans, what you think would work for you, what wouldn’t, and what extra features you’d need to make these services work for you.