Thursday, 14 December 2017

Presentation deck – Best bits of Azure for the Office 365/SharePoint developer

This is post 2 of 2 to publish the slide decks for presentations I’ve given recently, in particular at the European SharePoint Conference 2017 held in Dublin. See also:

Presentation deck – Pitfalls in SPFx development

As with my other post, the slide deck is embedded at the bottom of this post. There’s no way for me to convey the demos easily, but the slides themselves hopefully have some good reference information. When you start to consider some of the different scenarios in even lightweight extensions to Office 365/SharePoint, it’s clear how useful Azure is:

What? How?
Do something on a schedule Put code in Azure Web Jobs/Functions
Build apps (Office 365 app/SP provider-hosted add-in) Deploy app files to an Azure app
SharePoint site provisioning Deploy PnP Partner Pack (or PnP Core with some calling code) to Azure
Run code on a button click Use Azure Functions + JavaScript
Store data not suited to SP lists Use Azure SQL Database
Store files for my app Use Azure BLOB storage (and CDN if appropriate)
Implement SharePoint web hooks Use Azure Queues and Functions
Implement authentication on a custom web app Implement Azure Active Directory (AAD) auth

The highlighted scenarios are ones I demo’d, with the last one actually being a demo of a real-world solution we built which touches on queues, web jobs, BLOB storage, CDN and more.

Otherwise the main topics are:

  • Azure web apps
    • Lots of cool features you might overlook here, including Deployment Slots and Testing in Production. In other words, it’s much more than simple web-hosting that you might get from the days of hosting IIS yourself..
    • Variety of ways to deploy files there – from the Kudu interface which is similar to dragging/dropping files into a SharePoint document library, to publishing from Visual Studio, to WebDeploy, to auto-sync from your source control (VSTS, GitHub etc.)
  • Azure App Insights
    • Another unsung hero of Azure? I’ve discussed this in a couple of posts recently, including Use Azure App Insights to track events in your app/web part/provisioning code. I love the idea of finding out how often a particular web part is running, or if a particular tab is being clicked in your app – and it’s really simple to put this kind of stuff in place too. App Insights also has great tools for querying your logs in a SQL-like way, and also for configuring alerts (e.g. if the home page takes longer than 5 seconds to load from the client-side). Take a look!
  • Azure Functions
    • If you’re an Office 365 developer and you haven’t implemented some code in an Azure Function yet, I think it’s only a matter of time :) I have a slide which compares to Azure web jobs, but overall Functions can be used in so many more scenarios – including things like a button click in a web part or PowerApp, or perhaps a call out from a Flow or the Site Designs model for site provisioning (via a Queue Trigger)
    • I also talk about how Azure Functions should typically be secured with AAD auth in the real world. I demo’d an SPFx web part which uses SPO cookie auth as an alternative to adal.js or similar – this has some advantages to the current arrangement (of adal.js), including the fact that multiple web parts on the same page don’t need to sign-in separately
    • It’s also worth understanding how far the Visual Studio tooling for Functions has advanced. Sure, VS Code is the cool kid for many coding scenarios these days, but for C# functions, VS 2017 is actually stronger I feel – some info on this:
      COB options for Azure Functions - CSharp
  • Azure SQL Database
    • The main point here is to stop storing things in SharePoint that should be in SQL :) SP devs who haven’t touched SQL for years shouldn’t be scared of Azure SQL – it’s really easy to get started, and you can run databases up to 20GB for free
    • Also, be aware that identity in the SQL world has been updated for the cloud. You can now use Azure Active Directory accounts to authenticate, including from tools such as SQL Management Studio and Visual Studio Server Explorer
  • ARM templates
    • ARM templates offer an alternative to lots of button clicking and manual configuration in the Azure portal – perfect for those things that will be deployed to multiple Office 365 tenancies/Azure subscriptions, where you want repeatability
  • Azure Queues (and triggers)
    • Queues are a great building block to support things you might do in code. Any time you need some separation or some long-running processing, a queue is often a nice pattern to use – one thing puts something on the queue, and something called a QueueTrigger is used to point to some code which does the long-running thing (e.g. create a SharePoint site). As mentioned previously, the new Site Designs model for site provisioning will use this, and so do SharePoint web hooks.
    • In terms of what your code might be, Azure Functions and Azure web jobs are common – both work with QueueTrigger as you might expect

As before, hopefully there are some useful nuggets in here which are useful to you!

    Slide deck:

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