INTEGRATE 2018: Highlights from Another Great Event

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Photo by Tariq Sheikh

Two weeks ago I had not only the privilege to attend the sixth INTEGRATE event in London, but also the great honour of speaking for the second time. These events always provide a wealth of information and insight as well as opportunities to meet face-to-face with the greatest minds in the enterprise integration space. This year was no exception, with at least 24 sessions featuring as many speakers from both the Microsoft and the MVP community.

As usual, the first half of the 3-day conference was devoted to the Microsoft product team, with presentations from Jon Fancy (who also gave the keynote), Kevin Lam, Derek Li, Jeff Hollan, Paul Larsen, Valerie Robb, Vladimir Vinogradsky, Miao Jiang, Clemens Vasters, Dan Rosanova, Divya Swarnkar, Kent Weare, Amit Kumar Dua, and Matt Farmer. For me, the highlights of these sessions were: Read more of this post

6th Annual Global Azure Bootcamp Brings Azure to Brisbane

imageLast weekend I had the honour of both organising and speaking at the 6th annual Global Azure Bootcamp in Brisbane. This is always a large event to manage, typically sold out with a long waiting list – and this year was no exception! We had over 70 people attend this all-day Saturday deep-dive into Microsoft Azure technologies – and the response was extremely favourable by all signs.

As the name suggests, this is a global initiative which is organised by six individuals from around the world who donate a massive amount of time and effort to facilitate the launching of local community events on a specific common day. Through their website they manage to collect registrations from local organisers, disseminate information, create hands-on lab materials (e.g. racing game), obtain global sponsors (who donate free licenses and trial subscriptions of their products), set up support for sub-domains, and even help obtain local sponsorship (e.g. Microsoft providing free Subway lunches at most locations).  It is a massive undertaking. This year we had 262 locations from around the world participate.

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Local organisers were free to decide their own agenda in terms of content and activity. In Brisbane, we nominated to have a full day of presentations while allowing attendees to go off and work on hands-on labs whenever they wanted to. This has worked out well in the past, and this year was not exception. In this way we were able to accommodate seven presentations, from some of which you can download the content (I’ll keep updating this as they are posted, so please check back if a link isn’t available just yet):

Speaker Title Download
Adam Cogan Keynote: The Nine Knights of Azure Slides | Video
Todd Whitehead Azure Ninja Tips & Tricks Slides | Video
Adam Stephensen Bots – The Next UI Revolution Slides | Video
Alessandro Cardoso Identity Modernization with Azure Slides | Video
Dan Toomey Serverless iPaaS in Azure Slides | Video
David Alzamendi Ingesting, Processing & Displaying Real Time Information with Azure Slides | Video
Elliot Munro Automate Office 365 administration with Azure Functions and PowerShell Slides | Video

Dan-wAudience-DeanROne challenge this year was finding a venue after a building-wide power outage at Microsoft was scheduled at the last minute. Fortunately, The Precinct was available and was generous in lending us their Staircase Stadium. What an interesting space! It came with an excellent A/V package, free wi-fi, and a kitchen that was well suited to the catering. Although it did not offer the luxuriant comfortable seating one might prefer for an all day event, the attendees nevertheless seemed to agree that it was a good venue. AdamCogan-Keynote

Lunch was provided by Subway through the generous sponsorship of Microsoft. We also were served an excellent morning and afternoon tea by Art of Catering.

At the end of the day, we were able to raffle off some excellent prizes to six lucky winners thanks to the generous donations of both the global and local sponsors.

There are several people and organisations I’d like to thank for their contributions to this event:

Looking forward to next year!

2nd Annual Global Integration Bootcamp a Success!

DZLx-R1UQAEhxvOLast Saturday I had the great privilege of organising and hosting the 2nd annual Global Integration Bootcamp in Brisbane. This was a free event hosted by 15 communities around the globe, including four in Australia and one in New Zealand!

It’s a lot of work to put on these events, but it’s worth it when you see a whole bunch of dedicated professionals give up part of their weekend because they are enthusiastic to learn about Microsoft’s awesome integration capabilities.

The day’s agenda concentrated on Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) offerings in Microsoft Azure. It was a packed schedule with both presentations and hands-on labs:

Time Slot Topic Speaker
08:30 – 08:45 Arrival & Check-In  
08:45 – 09:00 Introduction & Welcome Dan Toomey
09:00 – 09:45 Serverless Computing with Logic Apps, Functions & Event Grid Dan Toomey
09:45 – 10:45 Building a Smart Solution with Azure Storage, Event Grid, Functions, Logic Apps & the Computer Vision API (Hands-On Lab)
10:45  – 11:30 Microsoft Flow, LUIS and Bots Susie Moore, Dan Toomey
11:30 – 13:00 Creating a Smart Expense Claims Bot using Flow & Bizzy (Hands-On Lab)
13:00 – 13:30 Cognitive Services Adam Finster
13:30 – 15:00 Recognising People  with Cognitive Services Face API (Hands-On Lab)
15:00 – 15:30 Azure API Management Dan Toomey
15:30 – 16:30 API Management Tutorials (Hands-On Lab)
16:30 – 17:00 Integration Design Lee Simpson

It wasn’t all work… we had some delicious morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea catered by Artisan’s Café & Catering, and there was a bit of swag to give away as well thanks to Microsoft and also Mexia (who generously sponsored the event).

0a4f5bc5-e350-401a-b98d-a26c7cd6a502-originalOverall, feedback was good and most attendees were appreciative of what they learned. The slide decks for most of the presentations are available online and linked above, and the labs are available here if you would like to have a go.

I’d like to thank my colleagues Susie, Lee and Adam for stepping up into the speaker slots and giving me a couple of much needed breaks! I’d also like to thank Joern Staby for helping out with the lab proctoring and also writing an excellent post-event article

Finally, I be remiss in not mentioning the global sponsors who were responsible for getting this world-wide event off of the ground and providing the lab materials:

  • Martin Abbott
  • Glenn Colpaert
  • Steef-Jan Wiggers
  • Tomasso Groenendijk
  • Eldert Grootenboer
  • Sven Van den brande
  • Gijs in ‘t Veld
  • Rob Fox

Really looking forward to next year’s event!

MVP Summit: Microsoft Rolling Out the Red Carpet

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Last week I had the extraordinary privilege of attending my first MVP Summit at Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, USA. From hearing the stories and remarks from my many MVP colleagues over the years, I’ve known for a long time that this is one of the biggest perks of this highly coveted award. But even so, I was really impressed and humbled by the experience, particularly by the lengths that Microsoft went to ensure that we felt welcome and had a great experience.

The MVP Summit is an annual event hosted by Microsoft and open only to the ~3800 MVP award recipients throughout the world. (To learn more about the MVP award itself, please see my previous blog post.) The event features several days of presentations and interactions with the various product groups, affording rare opportunitiesiPhone Import 024 for MVPs to obtain exclusive NDA information about what is coming and to provide feedback to Microsoft about their observations and experiences from the field. It is in this role as influencers that MVPs provide Microsoft the greatest value, as it helps shape better products and maintain their competitive edge. In addition to the presentations, workshops and interactions, there are several events designed to facilitate networking including a Regional Meetup, Product Group Happy Hours, and of course the Attendee Celebration. Microsoft pays for accommodation (twin share), provides all local transportation via a fleet of shuttle buses, and lays out plenty of food – including a limitless supply of coffee throughout the day and alcohol at the evening events. So the only major expense for attendees is getting to the event  – not an insignificant cost for an Australian, but definitely worth it!

2018-03-05 JoeysAs with all conferences like this, one the greatest benefits is the ability to catch up with friends and colleagues from all over the world who share a special interest (in this case, enterprise integration). Despite a full five days of scheduled content and events (plus a pre-event day), there was still plenty of time to socialise, whether it be enjoying an exquisite meal at Moksha, downing a few drinks at Joey’s, or even making a side trip to a local attraction.

In addition to seeing so many friendly faces from around the world, it Dan&Justinwas also good to be joined by at least 90 MVP colleagues from Australia & New Zealand, including my esteemed Mexia co-worker Justin Yoo, my long time mentor & friend Bill Chesnut, and the familiar face of Kirsty McGrath who was also a first timer at the Summit (and yet invited to speak!)

Kirsty&DanAlthough Enterprise Integration was hardly a heavily featured topic at the Summit, Principal Program Manager Jon Fancey helped make the most of the opportunity by scheduling a special “round table” session where 25-30 integration specialists were invited to discuss topics and concerns with the pro-integration team. While the product group is always extremely responsive online, it was awesome having face-to-face conversations.  We all left feeling that the session was very productive and informative at both ends. In addition, we hosted our second Integration Down Under webinar right from the Microsoft campus, inviting Jon along with MiaoJiang, Paul Larsen, and Dan Rosanova as speakers. You can view the recording here

Daniels_1As a final surprise, the pro-integration team (including Jim Harrer) expressed their appreciation of the Global Integration Bootcamp organisers by taking us all out to a fancy steak dinner at Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue. It was a great evening, although I walked away feeling like I’d eaten a whole cow!

I would really like to express my deep appreciation to Microsoft for rolling out the red carpet for us! No detail was missed. For example, the endless fleet of shuttle buses taking us between the hotels and the Microsoft campus (which even had power outlets in the seats to keep our devices charged), the free umbrellas handed out to endure the wet weather, and the stylish MVP jackets that all participants were issued! In addition, all of the staff were so friendly and helpful. It certainly makes all the hard work leading to an MVP status feel appreciated. I hope I have the opportunity to attend for many years to come!

And lastly, I’d like to shout out the excellent work that Lana Montgomery does as our MVP Regional Manager for Asia. Not only does she keep us all informed, but she also tirelessly works to support our initiatives and events – and even schedules regular events in all our big Australian / NZ cities to keep us connected. Thanks Lana!

Integration Down Under… is UP & RUNNING!

For years now Integration Monday has been faithfully giving us webinars almost every week. There have been some outstanding sessions from international leaders in the integration space including MVPs, members of the Microsoft product team, and other community members. For the Asia Pacific community, however, it has always been a challenge to participate in the live sessions due to the unfriendly time zone.  (I certainly know what a struggle it was to present my own session last October at 4:30am!)  Even from the listener’s perspective, it is usually nicer to be able to join a live webinar and ask questions rather than to consume the recordings afterwards.

Thanks to the initiative of veteran MVP Bill Chesnut (aka “BizTalk Bill”) and the sponsorship of his employer SixPivot, we now have a brand new webinar series starting up in a friendlier time slot for our APAC community! Integration Down Under is launching its inaugural webinar session on Thursday, 8th February at 7:00pm AEST. You can register for this free event here.

This initial session will introduce the leaders and allow each of us to present as very short talk on a chosen topic:

    There are already more than twenty registrations even though the link has been live for only a few days. I hope that this is a good sign of the interest within the community!

Feeling really fortunate to be part of this initiative, and looking forward to delivering my intro to Event Grid talk! It will be a slightly scaled down version of what I presented at the Sydney Tech Summit back in November. Hope to see you there!

Speaking on Azure Event Grid at the Microsoft Tech Summit in Sydney

I’m really excited about the opportunity to speak at the Microsoft Tech Summit in Sydney this week! This free two-day event is a technical learning opportunity with a focus on Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365. There are some great sessions lined up with mostly Microsoft speakers, and although my partner slot is only 15 minutes, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts on Azure Event Grid with the community:

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Unfortunately with such a short time frame, there won’t be the opportunity to share and demonstrate the scenario which I’ve blogged about here, but I hopefully will have time to do a very short demo of the blob storage integration. In my preparation, I’ve been able to whittle down the execution time to less than three minutes, which includes:

  • Showing a pre-created Azure blob storage account with a single empty container
  • Provisioning an Event Grid subscription to blob creation events from within this storage account
  • Targeting the subscription at a URL from Request Bin
  • Uploading a file to the blob container using Azure Storage Explorer
  • Observing the event message displayed in Request Bin
    Getting all this to work smoothly in a limited time will feel a bit like a Mister Maker “Make It in a Minute” challenge – but Event Grid makes it so easy to integrate with Azure services that I’m pretty confident in being able to pull it off.
    Right now, the preview version only accepts a limited number of publishers and subscribers from Azure, but these options will expand over the coming months:

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    And with support for custom topics and WebHook subscriptions, Event Grid is capable of handling events from anywhere today that can publish a properly formatted message to a URL and provide the necessary SAS token!
    If you’re going to be in Sydney at the event, please be sure to drop by the Amplify 1 stage at 9:15am on Thursday and check out my presentation! You won’t be disappointed. And don’t be shy about coming up to say “Hi” – I’ll be around for the rest of the two days, including the MVP  “Meet the Expert” sessions.

Serverless Logging & Alerting with Service Fabric & Azure Event Grid

(This post was originally published on Mexia’s blog on 1st September 2017)

Microsoft recently released the public preview of Azure Event Grid – a hyper-scalable serverless platform for routing events with intelligent filtering. No more polling for events – Event Grid is a reactive programming platform for pushing events out to interested subscribers. This is an extremely significant innovation, for as veteran MVP Steef-Jan Wiggers points out in his blog post, it completes the existing serverless messaging capability in Azure:

  • Azure Functions – Serverless compute
  • Logic Apps – Serverless connectivity and workflows
  • Service Bus – Serverless messaging
  • Event Grid – Serverless Events

And as Tord Glad Nordahl says in his post From chaos to control in Azure, “With dynamic scale and consistent performance Azure Event grid lets you focus on your app logic rather than the infrastructure around it."

The preview version not only comes with several supported publishers and subscribers out of the box, but also supports customer publishers and (via WebHooks) custom subscribers:

EventGridPubsSubs

In this blog post, I’ll describe the experience in building a sample logging mechanism for a service hosted in Azure Service Fabric. The solution not only logs all events to table storage, but also sends alert emails for any error events:

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Migrating Service Fabric Sample Voting App to ASP.NET Core

Service Fabric is emerging as popular hosting model for microservices, due to its scalability, resilience, and powerful service orchestration capabilities. The fact that it can run anywhere (Azure, other cloud providers, and on-prem) makes for a compelling story, particularly when considering that single cluster can be stretched across multiple locations (see this great blog post by my Mexia colleagues talking about a proof-of-concept hybrid cluster). In my recent interview for SSW TV, I talk about Service Fabric being “PaaS for DevOps”.

Recently Microsoft introduced support for ASP.NET Core stateless services. This is especially relevant when building Service Fabric application in Visual Studio 2017 which has built-in support for .NET Core. However, it can be a bit tricky trying to migrate existing .NET Web API services to ASP.NET Core – which is the subject of this post.

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Great Experience at INTEGRATE 2017 in London!

Last week I had the privilege not only of attending the INTEGRATE 2017 conference in London, but presenting as well. A huge thanks to Saravana Kumar and BizTalk360 for inviting me as a speaker – what a tremendous honour and thrill to stand in front of nearly 400 integration enthusiasts from around the world and talk about Hybrid Connectivity! Also, a big thanks to Mexia for generously funding my trip. 14-DMT_NickHhauenstein

With 380+ attendees from 52 countries around the globe, this is by far the biggest Microsoft integration event of the year. Of those 380, only four of us that I know of came from APAC: fellow MVP speakers Martin Abbott from Perth and Wagner Silveira from Auckland NZ, as well as Cameron Shackell from Brisbane who manned his ActiveADAPTER sponsor stand. Wagner would have to take the prize for the furthest travelled with his 30+ hour journey!

After publishing one blog post summarising my take on the messages delivered by Microsoft (which accounted for half of the sessions at the event),  I followed on shortly after with another similar post highlighting the MVP community presentations. In addition to BizTalk Server, Logic Apps, and other traditional integration topics these also spanned into the new areas of Bots, IoT and PowerApps.

iPhone Import 156Aside from the main event, Saravana and his team also arranged for a few social events as well, including networking drinks after the first day, a dinner at Nando’s for the speakers, and another social evening for the BizTalk360 partners. They also presented each of the BizTalk360 product specialists with a beautiful award – an unexpected treat!

You have to hand it to Saravana and his team – everything went like clockwork, even keeping the speakers on schedule. And I thought it was a really nice touch that each speaker was introduced by a BizTalk360 team member. Not only did it make the speakers feel special, but it provided an opportunity to highlight the people behind the scenes who not only work to make BizTalk360 a great product but also ensure events like these come off. I hope all of them had a good rest this week!

As with all of these events, one of the things I treasure the most is the opportunity to catch up with my friends from around the globe who share my passion for integration, as well as meeting new friends. In my talk, I commented about how strong our community is, and that we not only integrate as professionals but integrate well as people too.

01-SundayNight-Mikael  21-Pizza_TomCanter

Arriving a day and a half before the three day event, I had hoped to conquer most of the jet-lag early on. But alas, the proximity to the solstice in a country so far North meant the sun didn’t set until past 10:30pm while rising just before 4:30am – which is the time I would involuntarily wake up each day no matter how late I stayed up the night before! Still, adrenalin kept me going and the engaging content kept me awake for every session.

And no matter what.., there was always time for a beer or two! Smile

22-PostPizza_TomCanter

I look forward to the next time I get to meet up with my integration friends! If you missed the event in London, you’ll have a second chance at INTEGRATE 2017 USA which will be held in Redmond on October 25-27. And of course, if you keep your eyes on the website, the videos and slides should be published soon.

(Photos by Nick Hauenstein, Dan Toomey, Mikael Sand, and Tom Canter)

The New Azure Hybrid Connections

(This post was originally published on Mexia’s blog on 19th June 2017)

Microsoft recently announced that Azure BizTalk Services (MABS) is officially being retired. This was no great surprise, as those who actually used this service and its VETER pipelines to build integrations were well aware that the tooling was cumbersome, the DevOps story was terrible, scalability was severely limited, and the management capabilities left much to be desired. Logic Apps and the Enterprise Integration Pack already have already far surpassed the capabilities of MABS for cloud-based integration and B2B (EDI) scenarios. However, the one really useful feature of MABS was the free Hybrid Connections capability – free because this feature never made it out of preview mode.

Image result for hybrid connection images

Hybrid Connections allowed you to easily connect your Web App or Mobile service to an on-premises resource without making any changes to your corporate network, traversing NATS, routers, firewalls etc. with a purely codeless solution. In fact, you could literally “lift & shift” your existing on-prem website to Azure and not even have to alter the connection string to your database. Moreover, it worked at the transport layer so there was no dependency on WCF or .NET. I was so intrigued by the capabilities of this service that I authored a Pluralsight course on it, as well as creating a webcast and writing several blog posts.

With the obvious signs over the past year or so that MABS was on its way out, this had us wondering what would happen to Hybrid Connections? Other non-network related technologies like Service Bus Relay and the newer On-Premises Data Gateway certainly offer some viable alternatives, but nothing that permitted the same flexibility as Hybrid Connections. Fortunately, late last year we got our answer – the new Azure Relay.

A New Offering

imageAzure Relay became generally available on 27 March 2017, less than five months after the preview was announced. This service actually is comprised of two capabilities: the WCF Relay (which is the new name of the existing Service Bus Relay), and the new version of Hybrid Connections. This version of the latter is everything that the former version was, but much more:

  • It is no longer hosted in a sunsetted technology (lives in Azure Service Bus)
  • A published API means that the capability is no longer confined to Azure Web Apps and Mobile Services
  • Reliance on web sockets means it is truly a cross-platform solution

In my Pluralsight course and in my previous webcast, I proved how easy it was to enable a single Azure hosted web site to talk to two separate on-premises resources (a web service and a SQL Server database). That capability exists in the new Hybrid Connections and can be set up in exactly the same way; a convenient downloadable manager agent can be installed in seconds which will complete the listener setup and allow you to flow messages into your network. I was easily able to recreate the same demo scenario in my webcast with the new version.

But even more compelling was the experience at using the API to build a more flexible solution, for example connecting an Azure hosted VM to an on-premises resource. Here, the supplied samples on GitHub (conveniently for both .NET and Node) really prove the extensive capabilities of this service.

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