Microsoft's Bringing New Feature to its PowerApps Platform
As a proud non-developer, I typically complete ignore Microsoft Build because of Visual Studio this and Python that just don’t interest me. So I am really surprised to be writing this article this morning but, based on the news that is coming out this morning I felt it was necessary. Why? Because there are a whole bunch of announcements about our favorite no-code/low-code solution PowerApps. These announcements span both Canvas and Model-driven apps and also provide light into how the two platforms continue to come together.
If you are into PowerApps and are not a developer (like me), then give me the benefit of the doubt and keep reading. Some of the announcements when you are scanning the headings might not seem applicable, but I am going to do my best to make sure you know why you should care. Also, one of the core tenants of learning and being awesome at PowerApps is planting seeds. Taking mental notes of all of the pieces, so you know where and what to look for when you get asked to do something you haven’t done before.
Last thing, I promise my best to translate all of the fancy, developer acronyms along the way.
Say Goodbye to Traditional PC Lifecycle Management
Traditional IT tools, including Microsoft SCCM, Ghost Solution Suite, and KACE, often require considerable custom configurations by T3 technicians (an expensive and often elusive IT resource) to enable management of a hybrid onsite + remote workforce. In many cases, even with the best resources, organizations are finding that these on-premise tools simply cannot support remote endpoints consistently and reliably due to infrastructure limitations.
PowerApps Component Framework get more powerful – Custom Controls
This one is easy. We all were excited about PowerApps Components and their reusability when they were released earlier this year. Well, today Microsoft has ramped that story up. Instead of you and I just taking the controls that are in PowerApps and assembling them into something awesome now developers can take that further. Developers will now be able to open up Visual Studio and build an actual new component or control. Don’t like the way the PowerApps combo box works? Nobody does, a developer can build their own.
This will enhance the story for truly one-off components or controls in-house, but I think the real power of this announcement is the 3rd party story. Solution Integrators (SIs) and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) will now be able to build and release their own components. This means the ecosystem and what is possible will expand more quickly than today when Microsoft is writing all of the code. This is a big win for PowerApps across the board. More people adding functionality is a win for all of us.
To enable pro developers to build all of this cool new functionality there are new Visual Studio Extensions being released. Not exciting for us but something to tell your developers to be on the lookout for. The extensions are in private preview now.
This feature is General Availability (GA) for Model-Driven apps and Dynamics in June while Canvas apps are in private preview with the feature.
A PowerApps Embedding Software Developer Kit (SDK)
This story shows you just how much of future Microsoft has in mind for PowerApps. Today we think of PowerApps as standalone point solutions to business problems. Well, with the release of this SDK Microsoft starts to paint a picture of developers embedding PowerApps into their custom applications. And not just the running app but PowerApps Studio (the maker portal).
This means one day you might log into Facebook, click on create a widget, and PowerApps Studio would launch where you would build an app and embed it right in your Facebook feed. Probably no way that ever happens but with the release of the SDK and the new tooling it becomes a possibility. To be fair, I am guessing you will see this manifest itself in Teams or SharePoint Online first. But how cool. Building apps anywhere and everywhere.
An Azure Service Connector
Today in the apps I build I have a lot of connections to Azure services. A few examples include Azure SQL Database as a Service for PowerApps, Azure Blob Storage connector for PowerApps, Azure Cognitive Services and more. I struggle to keep up with all of the things I have available in Azure, and I am just one person. I cannot imagine what you all do in large enterprises where you have 100s or 1,000s of Azure services available. To help us out Microsoft has released a new connector for Azure Services. This connector will provide you a view of all of the Azure services available to you. A little one-stop shopping increasing discoverability and reusability across your company. This seems minor but will be super helpful.
PowerApps Democratizing Blockchain
One of my favorite features about PowerApps is “Power to the People!” Yes, I made that slogan up, but it reflects the awesomeness that is PowerApps. The idea is we are no longer beholden to custom development that takes months, and we no longer have to buy packaged software and then make our business process match the software. It also means we can leverage services that we used to be excluded from.
Services like Machine Learning (ML), vision, deep analytics, and now the block chain are all available for us to use with no-code/low-code. With today’s announcement, Microsoft is now providing a connector to the Ethereum block chain. The connector allows Microsoft Flow and PowerApps to interact directly with the block chain. There will also be Flow templates for common scenarios and Visual Studio Code tooling to generate flows from smart contracts.
Wrapping it all up
As a non-developer that is a lot of announcements at a developer conference that have me fired up. It does two things for me. One, it keeps me in touch with what is possible and the vision that Microsoft has for PowerApps future. Two, it is a solid reminder that those of who are investing in PowerApps skills today will be rewarded. We are early adopters of software that is in its early days. The platform is going to go on an amazing journey, and we are in the front seat. Now stop reading and go build yourself another amazing app.