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Microsoft links its new Cosmos DB database to serverless technology for Azure developers

Microsoft’s Cosmos DB database can now be used at the center of an event-driven app built with serverless technologies. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft’s strategy for helping its customers use one of the more exciting developments in cloud computing — serverless technologies — continues to evolve, and the company is ready to expand Azure Functions to several other services under its umbrella, including its shiny new database.

Developers building apps on Microsoft Azure using serverless technologies can now link those event-driven apps with Cosmos DB, Microsoft plans to announce Monday at its Ignite conference for technology professionals. Cosmos DB, unveiled earlier this year at Microsoft Build, allows developers to take advantage of what the company calls the world’s only globally distributed cloud database as well as service-level agreements that promise uptime and low amounts of latency.

Applications written with Azure Functions will now be able to respond to events generated by Cosmos DB, such as when a new order is placed through a web site and entered into the database. This allows applications to automatically respond to new orders based on parameters set by the developer in defining “events,” such as when the order hits the database, and “triggers,” which respond to those events.

“Serverless is all about the happy marriage between events and data,” said Dharma Shukla, Microsoft distinguished engineer and creator of Cosmos DB.

This event-driven approach to software development is still pretty new, but backers are excited about its potential to allow developers to write applications without having to spend a minute thinking about the underlying infrastructure on which those apps will run. Serverless is also promising because of its speed and billing flexibility, allowing users to only pay for the computing resources they need second-by-second: it’s “the culmination of all that we’ve been trying to do with cloud computing,” said Chris Anderson, senior program manager for Microsoft Azure Functions.

Since it first released Azure Functions back in early 2016, Microsoft has been steadily building out its approach to serverless computing, which first arrived on the cloud computing scene via Amazon Web Services and its Lambda product. Adding trigger support for Cosmos DB data builds on the announcement of Azure Event Grid, which helps developers manage what can become a complicated mass of events as they plunge into serverless development.

Microsoft also plans to announce other new capabilities for Azure serverless developers at its Ignite conference, where CEO Satya Nadella will give a keynote speech Monday morning.

Functions written by developers will now be able to access OneDrive, Excel, and other parts of the Microsoft Graph, which could allow developers to create some interesting applications based off of spreadsheet activity or incoming emails. It also plans to let developers with Macs build serverless applications locally on their machines, and to address one of the bigger problems with serverless computing — a lack of supporting tools — with two new monitoring and analytics services that will help developers identify ways to make their applications better.

Azure chief Scott Guthrie also plans to unveil a few new enhancements to Microsoft’s cloud computing service at Ignite. SQL Server 2017, which adds compatibility between cloud-based and on-premises versions of SQL Server to make migrations to the cloud easier, is now generally available. Microsoft has also completed the integration work following its acquisition of Cloudyn in June, allowing Azure users to get a better handle on their cloud spending through Cloudyn’s technology, which will be available to all Azure users for free.

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