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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Great Week at Ignite Australia!

TLGsLast week I had the opportunity to attend Microsoft Ignite on the Gold Coast, Australia. Even better – I had a free ticket on account of agreeing to serve as a Technical Learning Guide (TLG) in the hands-on labs. This opportunity is only open to Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs) and competition was evidently keen this year – so I am glad to have been chosen. Catching up with fellow MCTs like Mark Daunt and meeting up with new ones such as Michael Schmitz was a real pleasure. Of course the down side was that I missed quite a few breakout sessions during the times I was rostered. Nevertheless, I still got to see some of the most important sessions to me, particularly those that centred around Azure and integration technologies. Please have a read of my summary of these on my employer’s blog.

By and far this was my best Australian Ignite/Tech-Ed event experience for many reasons, including:

  1. The Pro-Integration team from Redmond came all the way out to Australia show everyone what the product group is doing with Logic Apps, Flow, Service Bus, and BizTalk Server
  2. I was chosen to present an Instructor-Led Lab in Service Fabric – my first ever speaking engagement at Ignite
  3. I had the rare opportunity to catch up with some fellow MVPs from Perth and Europe.

It was truly phenomenal to see enterprise integration properly represented at an Australian conference, as it is typically overlooked at these events. In addition to at least four breakout sessions on hybrid integration, Scott Guthrie actually performed a live demo of Logic Apps in his keynote! This was a good shout-out to the product team that has worked so hard to bring this technology up to the usability level it now enjoys. I’m glad that Jim Harrer, Jeff Holland, Jon Fancey and Kevin Lam were there to see it!

iPhone Import 015Teaching the lab in Service Fabric was a thrilling experience, but not without some challenges. The lab itself was broken and required a re-write of the second half, which I had pre-prepared and uploaded to One-Drive here so the students could progress. The main lab content is only available to Ignite attendees, however if you want to have a go at a similar lab you can try these ones available from Microsoft:

Despite the frustration that some attendees expressed about the lab errata and the poor performance of the environment, I was pleased that all the submitted feedback relating to the speaker was very positive! Smile

iPhone Import 050iPhone Import 037 (2)Finally, perhaps the best part of events like these is the ability to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. It was a pleasure to hang out with Azure MVP Martin Abbott from Perth and meet a few of his iPhone Import 047colleagues. It was also great to see Elder Grootenboer and Steef-Jan Wiggers from the Netherlands, who happened to travel to Australia this month on holidays and to speak at some events. Steef-Jan also took time to include me in a V-Log series he’s been working on with various integration MVPs, recording his 3-minute interview with me at the top of Mount Coot-tha on a sunny Brisbane Saturday! And Mexia’s CEO Dean Robertson & myself got to enjoy a nice dinner out with the Microsoft product group and the MVPs.

All good things must come to an end, but it was definitely a memorable week! Now it’s time to start getting ready for the Brisbane edition of the Global Integration Bootcamp on Saturday, 25th March, to be followed not long after by the Global Azure Bootcamp on Saturday 22nd April! I’ve got a few demos and presentations to prepare – but now with plenty of inspiration from Ignite!

Month of Achievements!

“When it rains, it pours.”

Well, I must say I’ve had a pretty remarkable run the past few weeks! I can’t remember any point in my professional life where I’ve enjoyed so much reward and recognition in such a short time span.

mcsa-cloud-platform-certified-2017-smFor starters, after six weeks and probably 50-60 hours of study, I managed to pass my MS 70-533 Implementing Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam. Since I’d already passed the MS 79-532 Developing Azure Solutions exam a couple of month earlier, this earned me the coveted Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) qualification in Cloud Platform. I now have just one more exam to pass to earn the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) qualification.

MVP_Logo_Preferred_Cyan300_RGB_72ppiThen just last week I was granted my first  Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award  in Azure! This is incredibly exciting to say the least, and not only a surprise to myself to have been identified with so many incredibly accomplished leaders in the industry, but also to many others because of the timing. Microsoft has revamped the MVP program so that now awards will be granted every month instead of every quarter, and everyone will have their review date on July 1st. I’m looking forward to using my newfound benefits to contribute more to the community.

And if that wasn’t enough, this week Mexia promoted me to the position of Principal Consultant! Aside from the CEO (Dean Robertson), I am the longest serving employee, and the journey over the last seven and a half years has been nothing short of amazing. Seeing the company grow from just three of us into the current roster of nearly forty has been remarkable enough, but I’ve also watched us become a Microsoft Gold Partner and win a plethora of awards (including ranking #10 in the Australia’s Great Place to Work competition) along the way. Working with such an awesome team has afforded me unparalleled opportunities to grow as an IT professional, and I will strive to serve both our team and our clients to the best of my ability in this role.

So what else is on the horizon? Well for starters, next week I join the speaker list at Ignite Australia for the first time delivering a Level 300 Instructor-Led Lab in Azure Service Fabric. I’m also organising and presenting for the first ever Global Integration Bootcamp in Brisbane on 25th March, and doing the same for the fifth Global Azure Bootcamp on 22nd April. And somewhere in there I need to fit in that third Azure exam… It’s going to be a busy year!

Azure Exam Talk at User Group

The other night I had the privilege of presenting to the Brisbane Azure User Group at our last meeting of the year. My topic was about certification exams in Microsoft Azure, and aimed to address two relatively new changes in the certification program:

  • New Certification Path – Microsoft recently announced changes in their certification program designed to streamline the certification path. Although they are retiring the Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD): Azure Solutions Architect as of 31st March 2017, the three exams mentioned below that made up this certification are still relevant and will now earn the title of Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Cloud Platform and Infrastructure.
  • Refreshed Exams – All three exams have been refreshed as of 23 November 2016, now including new content specifically around the PaaS capabilities in Azure (App Service, Logic Apps, Azure Functions, API Management, Service Fabric, etc), Azure Resource Manager (ARM), and extended identity management capabilities (e.g. Azure Active Directory B2B and B2C). They have also removed Cloud Services from the syllabus.

The three exams that all this relates to are:

The recording of this talk (which also discussed preparation tips & techniques) can be found here, whilst the slides are available here.

Busy Times…Again

You may have noticed that I haven’t been too active on the social media / blogging front of late. It certainly isn’t because there isn’t much to write about…especially when you consider the release of BizTalk Server 2016 (including the Logic Apps Adapter), the General Availability of Azure Functions, and many other integration events leading up to these! And for those on the certification path, there’s news of the refresh of the Azure exams as well.

In fact, it is that very last item that accounts for a good deal of my scarcity in the blogging world of late. My employer is keen for as many of us as possible to earn the Microsoft Certified Solution Expert (MCSE) accreditation in Azure. I’ve already passed first of three required exams, MS 70-532 Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions after several weeks of after hours study (hours that might have been spent blogging). That accomplishment has earned me this nice little badge:

exam-532-developing-microsoft-azure-solutionsI’m now currently studying for the next exam, MS 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. Passing this exam will earn me a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) qualification in Cloud Platform. However, it won’t stop there as I’ll need to pass one more exam – MS 70-534 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions in order to attain the coveted MCSE in Cloud Platform and Infrastructure. All I can say is that I’ll be doing a lot of studying over the Christmas holidays…

Aside from studying for exams, I’ve also been heavily tasked at work as Mexia has had a profoundly successful sales year in 2016 – which translates into an overload of work! No wonder we’re heavily recruiting right now, looking for those “unicorns” that can help us remain as the best integration consultancy in Australia. There has been a fair amount of travel lately, and as Mexia’s only Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) I will continuing to deliver courses in BizTalk Server Development, BizTalk Server Administration, BizTalk360, and Azure Readiness. That means many more hours preparing all of that content.

But it hasn’t stopped me from speaking, at least not entirely. Aside from regular presentations at the Brisbane Azure User Group (including this one on Microsoft Flow), I’ve also been a guest presenter at Xamarin Dev Days in Brisbane where I talked about Connected and Disconnected Apps with Azure Mobile Apps.

Looking forward to writing posts more regularly again after this exam crunch is over. There’s a lot of exciting things happening in the integration world right now!

User Group Presentation on Microsoft Flow

Last week I had the privilege of presenting a short session on Microsoft Flow to the Brisbane Azure User Group. The group meets every month, and at this particular event we decided to have an “Unconvention Night” where instead of one or two main presentations, we had several (four in this case) shorter sessions to introduce various topics. This has been a popular format with the group and one that we will keep repeating from time to time.

Wrapping up the evening was my session, called Easy Desktop Integration with Microsoft Flow.  Flow is a new integration tool built into Office365; it allows business users (yes, I really mean “business users” – no code required) to build automated workflows using 35+ connectors to popular SaaS systems like DropBox, Slack, SharePoint, Twitter, Yammer, MailChimp, etc.  The full list of connectors can be found here.

Even better is that Flow comes with over 100 pre-built templates out of the box, so you don’t even need to construct your own workflows unless you want to do something very customised! All you need to do is select a template, configure the connectors, publish the workflow – and off it goes!  In fact, it is so simple that I built my first Flow during Charles Lamanna’s presentation at the Integrate 2016 conference in London; I decided to capture all tweets with the #Integration2016 hashtag to a CSV file in DropBox.

Flow is built upon Azure Logic Apps, and it uses the same connectors as PowerApps – so you can leverage both of these great utilities to create simple but powerful applications:

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Because it is built on Logic Apps, this means you can easily migrate a Flow workflow to an Azure Logic App when it becomes mission critical, requires scalability, or begins to use more sensitive data that requires greater security and auditing.

Feel free to view the recording of my session at https://youtu.be/sd1AhZpPsBw:

Microsoft Flow presentation to the Brisbane Azure User Group

 

You can also download the slides (which came mostly from Charles Lamanna’s deck– used with permission of course). But most importantly, get started using Flow! I’m sure you’ll find plenty of uses for it.

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