Latest Power Query Update Supports SQL Server Analysis Services!

Microsoft has just released a new version of Power Query that you can download here.

One of the key new features is the ability to query cubes from SQL Server Analysis Services.   SSAS is now a first class data source and you can query against facts and dimensions to load up the resulting data into your Power Pivot model.

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Custom Master Pages, Custom Site Templates and Sandboxed Solutions are NOT Recommended for Office 365 Sites

As the pace of updates to Office 365 continues unabated, Microsoft is recommending strongly to limit customizations such as custom master pages, custom site templates and sandboxed solutions.  There is a general article providing some advice on planning these customizations here with recommendations on what types of customizations pose the most risk to the sustainability of adopting future changes to the Office 365 user interface.

There was also an updated session at the last Teched Europe conference where Microsoft is recommending to avoid using these types of customizations.

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If you are customizing SharePoint and expecting Microsoft to respect your customizations, don’t count on it.  When you start customizing, you’re essentially forking the code from the moment of time when you start building the customization.  As Microsoft adds additional features (which it is doing very frequently), your customizations do not automatically get these features.  In addition, there is no guarantee that your customizations which depend on underlying CSS styles, XML structures, etc. in the Office 365 product will continue to work as Microsoft tweaks these underlying structures.

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Custom Site Web Templates

The key challenge with creating your own site definitions and web templates is that while they are based on underlying out of the box templates (e.g. a Team Site Template) they do not receive any new features from those underlying templates as they are updated.  If Microsoft adds additional features to those out of the box templates, your custom site template does not receive these features automatically – in effect, your custom site template is now based on a moment in time version of the out of the box site template.  This means your custom template becomes further and further out of the date as Microsoft adds additional features.

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Custom Master Pages

Custom master pages have been used for years to customize the SharePoint look and feel to inject branding into the default user interface.  Many organizations spend LOTS of time, energy and money to make their intranets branded.

When you customize the default SharePoint user interface in Office 365, you’re now assuming a fixed framework underlying that customization.  However, the Office 365 interface framework is evolving and there is no guarantee that your custom master page will continue to work as the underlying CSS styles, XML, HTML, Javascript, etc. that is provided as part of the out of the box framework will support your customizations in the future. 

Another consideration for custom master pages is that they are specific to SharePoint.  Microsoft’s key mission at the moment is to provide integrated branding across the entire Office 365 service including Outlook, Office online, Yammer, Delve, etc. 

A good example is the basic navigation for SharePoint and the look and feel around it.  The basic navigation is rapidly evolving with Office 365 and if you start building a master page based on these navigation constructs your master page could either break in the future, not be compatible with other Office 365 services and/or not leverage new features coming in the future.

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Microsoft is also evolving its own branding service for the entire Office 365 service so you can brand it across all services.

Sandbox Solutions

Sandbox solutions come in two flavors – custom managed code and no code solutions.  Office 365 does not support custom managed code running in a Sandbox solution at all.  You can deploy sandbox solutions that contain 100% client side code and declarative markup.

Even on premise, Sandbox solutions are officially “deprecated”:

While developing sandboxed solutions that contain only declarative markup and JavaScript — which we call no-code sandboxed solutions (NCSS) — is still viable, we have deprecated the use of custom managed code within the sandboxed solution. We have introduced the new SharePoint app model as a replacement to those scenarios that required the use of managed code. The app model decouples the SharePoint core product from the app runtime, and this enables much more flexibility and gives you the ability to run the code in the environment of your choice. We realize that our customers have made investments in coded sandboxed solutions and we will phase them out responsibly. Existing coded sandboxed solutions will continue to work in on-premises SharePoint farms for the foreseeable future. Given the dynamic nature of online services, we will determine support needs for coded sandboxed solutions in SharePoint Online based on customer demand. NCSSs continue to be supported. All future investments will go to making the new SharePoint app model richer and more powerful. Accordingly, we recommend that all new development should use the new app model whenever possible. In scenarios where you have to develop a farm solution or coded sandboxed solution, we recommend that you design it so that it can easily evolve toward a more loosely coupled development model.

However, even currently supported development models in Office 365 are evolving.  For example, if you built an “Auto-hosted” App these are no longer supported in Office 365. 

The key recommendation is keep your hard core code off of SharePoint and as loosely couple to underlying SharePoint services as possible.  Use client side APIs instead of the old server side APIs to build your customizations and keep track of the evolving APIs.

Office 365 Development Best Practices

Microsoft has an Office 365 Development Patterns and Practices site on GitHub that contains a number of sample coding patterns as well as documents outlining best practices.  You can find the site here.

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Information Rights Management Now Enabled for OneDrive for Business and Synchronization

One of the key features in Office 365 is the ability to secure documents through easy to use Information Rights Management software (IRM).  IRM has been part of the Microsoft suite of technologies for many years but with Office 365 it’s built right into the service and is very easy to use and configure.

Microsoft has announced that now IRM can be safely applied to synchronized documents using OneDrive for Business.  This means that when you sync files that are protected by IRM they are automatically still safeguarded when they are synchronized to your local folder. 

The video below describes the process…

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Gain YouTube for the Enterprise with new Office 365 Video Portal

Microsoft has just announced a new portal called the Office 365 Video portal.   Office 365 Video provides an easy way to upload, encode and distribute videos within your enterprise. 

 

Uploading a video is as simple as dragging and dropping a video or uploading from a mobile device:

Office 365 Video 1

The service uses Azure Media Services to take an uploaded video (which you can do just by dragging and dropping into a video library) and encoding it for a variety of playback standards for multiple devices.

Videos also will be fully integrated into the existing social features of Office 365 including Delve’s discovery search engine and Yammer conversations.

Office 365 Video 2

Office 365 Video 3

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New Version of Azure SQL Coming in 2015

Later this year, Microsoft will be releasing a new preview version of Azure SQL, which a new production version anticipated for 2015.

The new version will include:

  • Support for larger databases (currently available up to 500 GB)
  • Online indexing and parallel queries
  • Improved T-SQL support
  • Support for the Common Language Runtime
  • XML Index
  • Improved troubleshooting with extended events

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ASP.NET 5 will be Leaner and More Modular

The new ASP.NET 5 framework coming from Microsoft has some significant architectural changes that make it more modular, cross-platform and leaner than previous versions.  The following are some of the key new features for developing light weight web based applications using the new ASP.NET 5 framework.

Use the Full .NET CLR, Core CLR or Cross Platform CLR

One of the key changes in ASP.NET 5 is the ability to choose from full .NET CLR, a more streamlined Core CLR or a cross-platform CLR.  The Core CLR is only 11 megabytes compared to the full .NET CLR at 200 megabytes.  Instead of requiring the entire framework, you can add the specific libraries you need through NuGet packages. 

The cross-platform CLR will target Windows, OS X and Linux. 

Embed the CLR with Your Application

In the current and older versions of the .NET framework, you deployed the CLR as a global installation.  If you upgraded the framework, it could impact every application running on the server. 

In the new ASP.NET 5 architecture, you can run different versions side by side and you can embed the Core CLR and any dependent packages with your application. 

No More Web.Config!

One of the key advantages of ASP.NET 5 is a replacement for the reliable but inflexible Web.Config.  You can now store configuration information in variety of formats including JSON and XML.

Host Anywhere!

One of the key dependencies for any ASP.NET application is IIS.  While IIS will still be the default method to host an ASP.NET application, you can now target other hosting environments.  For example, the ASP.NET 5 framework provides its own console app called WebListener that can host ASP.NET applications without the need for IIS.

For more information on ASP.NET 5 see the ASP.NET vNext web site

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Deploy to Azure from Git Repository

Microsoft has just added the ability to deploy directly to an Azure Website from a Git repository.  All you have to do is place the following into your README.md file:

[![Deploy to Azure](http://azuredeploy.net/deploybutton.png)](https://azuredeploy.net/)

You can also use standard HTML tags to provide your own button like this:

<a href="https://azuredeploy.net/" target="_blank">
    <img src="http://azuredeploy.net/deploybutton.png"/>
</a>

 

The following video describes the process in more detail.

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.NET Platform Goes Open Source and Cross-Platform

A number of announcements came out today from Microsoft on the evolution of the Visual Studio, .NET and ASP.NET platform. 

.NET Core Runtime is Going Open Source and Cross-Platform

Microsoft has been moving more of its code to open source frameworks including ASP.NET, Entity Framework, Web API and the C# and VB compilers.

Microsoft announced that the core .NET runtime and libraries are also now going open source.  This includes the CLR, Just-in-Time Compiler, Garbage Collector and core .NET libraries.

In addition, Microsoft is going to release an official distribution of .NET for Linux and OS X.  This will enable any developer to write .NET applications that run equally well on Windows, Linux or OS X. 

New Visual Studio Community Edition

Microsoft is going to release a new version of Visual Studio for free called the Community Edition. 

It is now available completely free for:

  • Any individual developer working on a commercial or non-commercial project
  • Any developer contributing to an open source project
  • Anyone in an academic research or course setting (e.g. students, teachers, classroom, online course)
  • Any non-enterprise organization with 5 or fewer developers working on a commercial/non-commercial project together

We are making it available for download starting today, and developers can download and start using it immediately.  There is no program you need to join to use it – simply visit www.visualstudio.com, click the download button, and you are good to go.

New Visual Studio 2015 Preview with New ASP.NET Features

A new preview version of Visual Studio 2015 has been released with a bunch of new ASP.NET features.

The new ASP.NET features available include new project templates, faster build times, support for xUnit tests, improved intellisense, etc.

JSON Editor Improvements

In addition to new preview versions of Visual Studio 2015, there has also been released a new update to Visual Studio 2013.  Included in this package is a new update are improvements to the JSON Editor including JSON schema validation, improved intellisense and duplicate property validation.

New Emulator for Android

Microsoft has also now released a new emulator for Android built into the Visual Studio 2015 Preview environment.

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