Microsoft rolls out several software updates: What you need to know

Giving the gift of software for the holidays.

Microsoft software updates Dynamics CRM Visual Studio 2015 SQL Server 2012 Azure Container Service

Satya Nadella's elves have been busy in the workshop. In the space of a week, they have delivered several product updates across the non-Windows 10 line.

First up is the latest version of its CRM SaaS product, Dynamics CRM 2016. At the Convergence 2015 conference in Barcelona, Microsoft announced its worldwide availability in 130 markets and 44 languages. It comes both as an on-demand product and on-premises installation.

In a blog post outlining the new Dynamics, Jujhar Singh, general manager for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, said the new version focuses on three areas: 

  • Productivity: CRM 2016 seamlessly embeds into productivity tools like Office 365, Outlook, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business.
  • Mobility: CRM 2016 features full offline mobile capabilities for phones and tablets, the ability to create task-based mobile apps, Mobile Application Management with Microsoft Intune, and Cortana integration.
  • Unified Service: CRM 2016 delivers a single, unified solution for Customer Service across self-service, agent-assisted service, and field service.

Next is SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 3, which the company says in a blog post announcing the availability of the service pack comes with improved performance, scalability, and diagnostics. A second blog post, from the SQL Server Engineering Team, provides much more technical detail.

This SP rolls up numerous fixes released since SP2 18 months ago. At a high level, the fixes include:

  • Improvements in consistency check performance.
  • Query hints to provide granular control while using Resource Governor.
  • Additional monitoring capabilities through enhancements in DMV, Extended Events, and Query Plans.
  • Improved performance while opening and reading XEL files using XEvent Linq reader.
  • Improved performance for spatial queries.

Thirdly, Visual Studio 2015 has gotten its first update. The timing of Update 1's release is significant, as it enables building apps for the Windows Store that specifically target the significant recent update to Windows 10, known alternatively as Version 1511, Threshold 2, and Fall Update.

As usual, the blog post announcing the update has all the technical details. You can also read all about it in the release notes. Here's the quick rundown:

  • The latest version of the .NET Framework which, notches up to 4.6.1.
  • A tweaked application icon to help differentiate between other versions of Visual Studio running side-by-side on the same machine.
  • Editor support for new languages, including Go, Java, Perl, R, Ruby, and Swift.
  • Tools for Universal Windows Apps 1.2.
  • NuGet 3.3 and NuGet Package Manager.
  • Visual Studio license improvements allowing the IDE to remain unlocked for at least a year after signing in.

Finally, Microsoft this week released its Azure Container Service for public preview. It first announced the service in September. ACS is a joint development between Microsoft and Docker, the red-hot container vendor, along with a third company, Mesosphere.

Containers have been largely a Linux phenomenon as a smaller, faster, and lighter-weight alternative to virtualization. They have become a hot commodity because they use far fewer resources than virtualization and don't require a hypervisor, as they run on top of the OS and serve as a small capsule for one app.

Like the other announcements, the news came from a blog post. In yet another sign of Microsoft shedding its Not-Invented-Here mentality, it only supports Linux containers. Microsoft will eventually support Windows Server Containers.

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