Earlier this year, I ventured on to my favorite travel site and booked flight tickets for the first time in almost two years. It didn’t feel real, and I lacked confidence that the trip would even happen, given the COVID-19 pandemic. The event I was traveling to was the spring DevIntersection conference in Orlando, FL, between June 8th and 10th, 2021.
As the days crept on, I prepared my talks and IoT devices, pulled out my travel laptop, and dusted it off. Windows then proceeded to install updates over the next 12 hours. A few days before my flight, reality set in that this trip was going to happen. My anxiety was pretty high with fear of unknowns such as how will we all be safe, keep a distance, how many people will be there, how often will surfaces be cleaned, among many other concerns. Upon arrival, all of my concerns subsided as there were mask mandates, social distancing, and a superb Disney cast keeping on top of sanitizing rooms and common areas. The DevIntersection group planned this event perfectly, and I could then redirect my focus to the event’s purpose, learning about technology.
My learning goals were to attend sessions on security, infrastructure, and Infrastructure as Code topics. A few sessions that stood out to me were the following:
- Azure Sentinel, by Chris Givens. In this session, I learned about Azure Sentinel and how it works alongside built-in machine learning to identify changes in user behavior patterns. I also enjoyed experiencing the Sentinel user interface that generates graph visualizations as an intuitive method of investigating the root cause of security incidents. (image from: What is Azure Sentinel? | Microsoft Docs)
- Master your Terraform deployments with Azure DevOps, by Jim Counts. This session was my first introduction to Terraform. I learned about syntax, variables, the Terraform Azure provider, and testing strategies when it comes to authoring Terraform for deployments in Azure. After this session, I feel I have the information and confidence to begin authoring my own Terraform deployments in Azure, check them into source control, and leverage them in Azure DevOps pipelines.
- Running AKS in production, by Dan Patrick. This session brought real-world experiences and lessons learned to the forefront. The content covered infrastructure, networking, security, and DevOps. The candid nature of Dan explaining some of the problems encountered on projects could save others a lot of headaches and time. I like how the abstract for the session reads: “Our pain, your gain.” Dan provided guidance on best practices for deployments, Azure DevOps and Terraform deployments, and securing AKS. I enjoyed the conversation back and forth between Dan and his colleague Jim Counts who was also in the audience for this presentation – many more experiences were unearthed as part of those conversations. There were so many valuable points and recommended guidance presented in this session. I would love to see its content made available as a series of documentation written as a reference.
My sessions for this event were IoT-focused. I presented on four IoT topics and participated in a closing panel discussion on the final day of the conference. My sessions were:
- Introduction to Azure Sphere. In this session, I explained the reasoning behind the Azure Sphere platform. I described the seven properties of a highly secured IoT device and how the Azure Sphere platform satisfies those properties. I explained how to claim a device, obtain proper certificate authentication, and add a device to an enrollment group. I then reviewed a simple C program used to define a product for a device group. This program was then cloud-deployed to the Azure Sphere that I had on my desk.
- Living on the Edge. In this session, I reviewed the different types of IoT Edge devices and IoT Edge gateways. We walked through defining an IoT Edge device in IoT Hub. Using a Raspberry Pi 4 device, we used apt-get, and a trusted Microsoft feed to complete the installation and configuration of the Pi 4 device. We then walked through creating an IoT Edge module in C#, building and uploading the module to the Azure Container registry. In IoT Hub, we configured the module to be deployed to the IoT Edge device we registered: the Raspberry Pi 4 device.
- Using Azure IoT Central to form a basis for your IoT Solutions. In this session, I reviewed the Software as a Service (Saas) offering of IoT Central. I listed out some pros and cons of having this type of solution. While it is closed source and hides much of the underlying IoT infrastructure resources, such as Stream Analytics, IoT Hub, Device Provisioning Service (DPS), and Time Series Insights. I demonstrated multiple ways of extending IoT Central to benefit from its SaaS web portal interface, customizability, dashboarding, and analytics – and still enable more complicated scenarios and downstream processing, consistent with more mature IoT solutions. I demonstrated Continuous Data Export to a service bus queue and triggered a Power Automate flow when an alert (rule) is activated based on the data ingested.
- IoT State of the Union. In this session, we reviewed the Azure Internet of Things Platform. We covered the products and services expected in IoT solution architectures today and their roles in the overall solution. We covered concepts relating to IoT Hub/DPS and when it makes sense to kick start a solution using IoT Central. We also covered some of the new features surrounding Azure Digital Twins. We discussed multiple areas where Device Twin Definition Language (DTDL) is used, including device twins, module twins, and device capability models (IoT Plug & Play).
- Closing panel. I had the opportunity to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on technology careers with our host, Jeff Fritz, and friends Sara Faatz and Sam Basu. We talked about how various companies and employees adjusted and overcame obstacles related to such drastic changes in the work environment. We also discussed how DevIntersection is leading the pack when it comes to returning to in-person learning. Hybrid or online learning is valuable, but in-person learning provides the additional benefit of hallway conversations and connections with others.
As I reflect on the spring 2021 edition of DevIntersection, I am motivated to attend the fall DevIntersection event in December (7th-9th, 2021). This event was comfortable and very well-done. I am looking forward to adding more in-person learning opportunities in my steps to getting back to normalcy.