Microsoft previews Build 2019 with Azure and Intelligent Edge announcements

Abhishek Baxi

Microsoft India

Microsoft has announced a series of new Azure services and advancements in hybrid cloud and edge computing ahead of Build 2019, the company’s annual developer conference. Build 2019 will be held in Seattle from May 6-8 with more than 6,000 developers and stakeholders expected to attend the event.

In a departure from the usual practice, Microsoft has shared the details of the announcements the company will be making at the event in advance. Of course, this is likely not an exhaustive overview and there might be a few surprises at the event, along with a broader showcase of the announced products and services.

It’s an incredible time to be a developer. From building AI and mixed reality into apps to leveraging blockchain for solving commercial business problems, developers’ skillsets and impact are growing rapidly.

– Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President, Microsoft – Cloud and AI Group

New innovations in Azure AI

According to Microsoft, more than 1.3 million developers, many without specific AI or data science skills, currently use Azure Cognitive Services to build intelligent apps that can see, hear, speak, understand and even begin to reason.

At Build 2019, the company is announcing many other updates to Azure Cognitive Services, including Ink Recognizer, which can learn to read handwriting, Form Recognizer, which identifies forms, and other new conversation transcription capabilities and other speech, vision, and language advances.

The company will also launch a new Cognitive Services category – Decision – that delivers users a specific recommendation for more informed and efficient decision-making.

Microsoft will also bring AI to Azure Search enabling customers to apply Cognitive Services algorithms to extract new insights from their structured and unstructured content. The company is also announcing new innovations in Azure Machine Learning that simplify the process of building, training, and deployment of machine learning models at scale.

The Intelligent Edge opportunity

To support the spectrum of edge compute needs, Microsoft is introducing Azure SQL Database Edge – a SQL engine optimized for lower compute requirements with built-in AI. Azure SQL Database Edge runs on ARM processors and provides capabilities like data streaming and time series data, with in-database machine learning and graph. Because Azure SQL Database Edge shares the same programming surface area with Azure SQL Database and SQL Server, developers can easily take applications to the edge without having to learn new tools and languages.

Microsoft has also announced IoT Plug and Play, a new open modeling language to seamlessly connect IoT devices to the cloud, enabling developers to deploy IoT solutions at scale. Previously, software had to be written specifically for the connected device it supported, however, IoT Plug and Play will offer customers a large ecosystem of partner-certified devices that can connect quickly.

For mixed-reality development, Microsoft has introduced HoloLens 2 Development Edition providing developers with access to solutions to help them build and run mixed-reality experiences across a range of devices. Starting at $3,500 or as low as $99 a month, the HoloLens 2 Development Edition makes it easier to create applications for HoloLens 2.

Simplifying Blockchain development

Last year, Microsoft announced Azure Blockchain Workbench which gave developers a simple UI to model blockchain applications on a preconfigured Azure-supported network.

Microsoft is now doubling down on investments to empower blockchain developers by announcing Azure Blockchain Service, a fully-managed blockchain service that simplifies the formation, management, and governance of consortium blockchain networks so businesses can focus on workflow logic and application development.

Microsoft has embraced the open community of blockchain developers and has brought the best of their cloud development tooling to the developers building the next wave of decentralized applications. With Azure Blockchain Service and Ethereum integrations for tools like VS Code, Microsoft is demonstrating its commitment to open blockchain development.

– Vitalik Buterin, Co-founder of Ethereum

The Azure Blockchain Service is now available in preview.