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Build: Microsoft Azure embraces external technologies

Microsoft has open-sourced its new C# compiler and Azure now incorporates the open source Chef and Puppet configuration managers

By Joab Jackson
April 3, 2014 04:59 PM ET

IDG News Service - As it rolled out tools and features for coders at its Build developer conference Thursday, Microsoft showed that it is ready to embrace technologies and platforms not invented within its walls.

Rather than relying solely on internal tools, the Azure cloud services platform has incorporated a number of non-Microsoft technologies, including popular open source tools such as the Chef and Puppet configuration management software, the OAuth authorization standard, and the Hadoop data processing platform.

The company has also taken steps to incorporate open source into its product roadmaps, by releasing the code for its new compiler and setting up a foundation for managing open source .Net projects.

"Clearly Microsoft's message is its support of multi-platform. It will take any part of your stack, it doesn't have to be just Microsoft software," said Al Hilwa, IDC research program director for software development. "This is good for Microsoft and good for the ecosystem."

Microsoft's Azure strategy is to "enable developers to use the best of Windows ecosystem and the best of the Linux ecosystem together ... and one that enables you to build great applications and services that work on every device," Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's new executive vice president overseeing the cloud and enterprise group, told the audience of developers and IT professionals.

On the developer side, the company announced that it has open-sourced its next generation compiler for C# and Visual Basic, code-named Roslyn.

To date, compilers have been "black boxes," explained C# lead architect Anders Hejlsberg.

Roslyn is unique as a compiler because has a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) that can feed information about a project as it is being compiled to Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE (integrated development environment) and third-party development tools.

Hejlsberg demonstrated how Visual Studio can offer helpful tips through an "interactive prompt," using feedback from the compiler. For instance, it can flag libraries that have been called but not used in the program code.

Microsoft is hoping that other vendors will incorporate the API into their software development tools. Developers can also now add their own features into C# and have the compiler recognize them. Open-sourcing the compiler may also lead to efforts to create versions of C# for other platforms.

The company released Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 Release Candidate.

One new capability allows for two-way communication between the Visual Studio IDE and browsers.

Typically, when developers write code for a Web application in Visual Studio, they can check to see if it runs correctly by running it in a browser.

Now, using a technology known as Browser Link, developers can edit the source code directly in the browser. Browser Link will write the changes back to the source code file in Visual Studio. If a file such as a related style sheet is not open, Visual Studio can open the file and make the change as well.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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