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I've been a bit quiet here on my blog for the past few months, partly because I've had plenty of stuff outside of work keeping me busy, and partly because I've been working away at several updates to my Pluralsight courses.

The downside of creating courses about Azure is that it is an extremely fast-moving space. New features and services are constantly being added to the platform. The portal changes very frequently, so I've had plenty of demos that needed re-recording to show the updated UI.

One particularly nice thing about this round of updates is that some of the demos are shorter! It's nice to see the need for workarounds and complex pre-requisite setups being removed. I think the next few years of updates to cloud services needs to be more focused on simplification and ease of use, rather than adding in loads of additional features, and so it's pleasing to see that happening with many.

Anyway, here's a quick rundown of what's changed the six Pluralsight courses I've updated recently:

Durable Functions Fundamentals

I recorded the original version of my Durable Functions Fundamentals course just before version 2 of Azure Functions was released, and there were also a couple of small breaking changes to the Durable Functions extension itself. So this update was my largest, re-recording all the demos with the latest versions of Visual Studio, Azure Functions and the Durable Functions extension.

Durable Functions remains one of my favourite capabilities of Azure Functions, and is well worth considering if you are implementing any kind of long-running business workflows. It's great to see Durable Functions continue to improve and is now much easier to host in a containerized environment so you can benefit from it's capabilities even if you're not hosting in Azure.

Deploying and Manage Containers

My Microsoft Azure Developer: Deploying and Managing Containers covers a basic introduction to Docker, and then surveys all the many ways you can run containers in Azure. Many of the demo recordings have been updated to reflect changes in tooling, and base container image names.

Probably the biggest change is that Azure Service Fabric Mesh has been retired. In one sense this feels a real shame, as I felt it was a really great idea, providing a really easy to use serverless containerized microservices hosting platform. However, I think that the idea behind Service Fabric Mesh lives on, and we are seeing the emergence of similar platforms based on Kubernetes instead, that will hopefully soon offer all the benefits and simplicity that Service Fabric Mesh promised.

I also updated the Azure Kubernetes Service demos to reflect the many changes in the portal. One really nice simplification is that now you can view and manage Kubernetes resources directly within the Azure Portal - removing some of the complexities of setting up the old dashboard experience.

Create Serverless Functions

My Microsoft Azure Developer: Create Serverless Functions course also had a fairly substantial update. I focused particularly on updating the Visual Studio and VS Code demos, as well as the places where the portal was shown. I also updated the module on containerizing Azure Functions as the base image names have changed.

Microservices Fundamentals and Building Microservices

I also updated two of my microservices courses, Microservices Fundamentals and Building Microservices. These courses are intended to teach the principles of microservices rather than showing implementation specifics, so there were fewer changes needed.

However, the reference demo application eShopOnContainers has been updated and improved somewhat since I first recorded the course. So I have updated all the demo recordings to show a newer version of eShopOnContainers (the exact version I use is my fork on GitHub).

It's nice to see that the updated eShopOnContainers is simpler to work with. The docker build command is simpler, running it with WSL 2 on Windows requires less setup effort, and the integration tests run out of the box in Visual Studio 2019 now thanks to the built-in container integration that automatically starts up the dependent containerized services like RabbitMQ. One slight change of note is that when you access the homepage you need to visit it via host.docker.local instead of localhost or the identity microservice won't accept the redirect URL when you log in.

Implement Azure Functions (AZ-204)

My Microsoft Azure Developer: Implement Azure Functions course is a very short and focused course intended to provide the background information about Azure Functions necessary for taking the AZ-204 certification (Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure). A new objective was recently added to the exam which is to implement custom handlers. To be honest, I was a little surprised this is expected knowledge for the exam as custom handlers are something that I think the majority of Azure Functions developers will not need to make use of. But it is useful to at least know they exist and what scenarios they can help with, so I added a short module explaining that.

What's next?

There are a few other Pluralsight courses of mine that would benefit from an update, as well as some ideas I have for new courses, so there may be some more courses released later this year. I have also submitted a few talk ideas for upcoming conferences - it's great to see that these are coming back, and I was particularly pleased to see that the South Coast Summit is being held very close to where I live - it would be great to see you there if you can make it along.

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