The big announcement this week — and there was all kinds of stuff about this — is PowerApps.

PowerApps is a new Microsoft Office application development platform.  And it kind of rises from the ashes like a phoenix from the old Project Siena stuff from a couple years ago.

The idea behind this is they want an app development platform and again there is, you know, the crawl, walk, run of app development. This is the crawl thing.

This is the kind of thing that I would use. And I did use It: I used Project Siena for a couple of things.

Beyond Project Siena

PowerApps is going to be that. It's kind of the next generation of that and it lets dummies like me or even smart people create these apps. And these apps will connect to all kinds of services, so obviously Office 365 and Azure and those kinds of things.

But it will also connect to Salesforce, Dropbox, the much beloved OneDrive for pleasure — OneDrive Consumer — and it will also work on all kinds of platforms.

So the idea behind this is that you'll be able to write these apps easily and they'll look great on your computer and they'll look great on your phone, even if it's a Windows Phone.

They'll look great on your tablet. They'll automatically resize and do all these great things. 

And then on the back-end its going to use all these great features — all the usual suspects we connect to in the cloud … Azure AD, Azure Media Services for Video. It uses Microsoft Graph to connect to Office 365.

It’s going to be a great way to kind of build these simple little apps to expose things. And the idea behind PowerApps was they wanted to make creating and distributing an app — one that you can use in your workflow — as easily as creating and sharing a document.

Microsoft has done a pretty good job.

You Can't Have It Yet

So right now, though, because this is just the way they work, those stinky little devils, you can't get in and use PowerApps.

But if you go to powerapps.microsoft.com and read through all of the marketing blah and all of the pictures, you'll find a place at the bottom where you can enter your email address and request access to the program. I did that and I got an email back saying, "Hey, we've added to the list. We'll let you know when it's available."

So even I don't get in or anything fancy. But definitely do that. And when you look at it, they’re going to have multiple skews of PowerApps. So there's going to be a free one that's going do some stuff. There's going to be a standard one that will connect to a few more things.

And then they'll have an enterprise version that will do everything for everybody.

For IT pros like us who can't really develop apps but need a little bit of functionality or need to make something simple, this is a good tool. So when PowerApps comes out and is widely available, I highly recommend you think about using it.

Talkin' About SharePoint

I have another thing I got so excited about that I just have to tell you about. Since SharePoint 2010 I've been a huge fan of PowerShell. And we’ve all told our PowerShell testimonies before.

I went into PowerShell kicking and screaming and hated it and resisted it. And then, without even noticing it, I fell in love with PowerShell. With the SharePoint 2010 days, I started writing a bunch of scripts and then when SharePoint 2013 came out, I checked those PowerShell scripts to see how they worked with SharePoint 2013.  

For the most part they worked pretty well. A few things were different and search was a notable exception. It was a little different, but for the most part, scripts to create web apps and service apps and create farms and all that were the same in SharePoint 2013 as they were in 2010.

So now I'm playing with the SharePoint 2016 preview. Beta 2 came out a couple weeks ago. I'm working through all that and now I'm updating my scripts again.

And the first one, obviously, that I need is my 'create a farm' script. For the most part, it works, except for one line. One line in my script does not work and that is the new SP configuration database commandlet.

PowerShell Mystery Solved

And why doesn't it work? Why, after all these years, does that one line not work? Well, one little word: MinRole.

MinRole is a new thing in SharePoint 2016. You've probably seen it all over. It's one of the things that Microsoft is the most excited about in SharePoint 2016.

It's the ability to give a server in the farm a specific role in that farm — be it a web server, an application server, a search server, a distributed cache server … whatever — and then tell the server "This is your job in life. You will be a search server and that is what you'll do."

And then SharePoint, through the magic of timer jobs and rules and things like that, will make sure that server is always running the things that it needs to do that job.

You know something happens, if a service instance is broken or something, SharePoint will try to fix it for you. And if it can't be fixed, it will alert you and tell you a server is not happy. That is the magic of MinRole.

But for that to work, you have to assign a server a MinRole and when you run new SP configuration database, automatically, as part of that, the server you're running that on is added to the farm that you just created.

I obviously wasn't defining any MinRoles with SharePoint 2010 or 2013, since they didn't exist then. So that one role failed or that one line failed.

I'm going to blog about this, so stay tuned.

SharePoint Versions Gotta Be Friends

There are a few different aspects of this. One, I wanted to have one script that did everything. So I wanted to modify my existing script so it would continue to do SharePoint 2010 and continue to do SharePoint 2013 but would also do SharePoint 2016.

One of the things that I show off in my script now is some PowerShell you can use to determine which major version of SharePoint you have installed — before SharePoint is configured.

We've always been able to do "get SP farm" and find out which version we've got. But what do you do before the farm is installed? How do you find out? So the script has some logic for that.

And then it includes some logic with a PowerShell command called switch that says, "Okay, based on this value, which commands do I want to run?"

So I implement switch in this script and then I do a crazy thing, because inside of my switch statement, I have two values that should get the same statement for creating a farm and a third value that should get a different one.

But instead of duplicating it I do this crazy "or" thing. And that's that's another fun thing.

So the script will include all the things you need to create farms for SharePoint 2010, 2013 or 2016. One script.

Hold your breath. I'll be telling you more.

And There's More Now, Too

As always, there is more in Podcast 271. So sit back and watch or just listen. The time stamps below link to the selected content.

  • 20:13 Skype for Business — not Skype for Pleasure, which is a completely different thing — is going to be adding PBX/PSTN support
  • 23:49 I'm sure the three or four of you that use Yammer like Yammer. And now Yammer supports enforcing Office 365 identities
  • 26:23 Finally, there is an alternative way to connect PowerShell to Azure using an Azure AD account

Title image by Ryan McGuire