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Microsoft wants you to think inside the Dev Box from July

If you like the idea of building software on Windows in the cloud, this may be for you

Microsoft, having tested its cloud-based software development environment on more than 9,000 of its own engineers, plans to invite external coders to think inside its Dev Box on July 10, 2023.

In an announcement emitted in conjunction with the Microsoft Build developer conference this week, Josh Zimmerman, senior program manager at Microsoft, explains that the Windows biz undertook its effort to shift its developers into a cloud coding space to reduce the onboarding and maintenance burden of high-powered workstations customized with esoteric tooling.

"Unfortunately, it’s not just the productivity loss and developer frustration that makes these machines a problem – every one of the independent environments must also be secure and compliant," said Zimmerman.

"Our teams are consistently innovating to face these challenges, but it’s not simply a matter of priority or resources. To address these issues, we need to change the fundamental approach to development environments."

As usual, there's a ridiculous number of announcements from Build. You can find Microsoft's summary here of the stuff it's pushing this year, and a smaller list here – or our more digestible run-down here over on our programmer-friendly website DevClass.

Previewed last August, Microsoft Dev Box is a cloud-based space that's easily configured and customized for writing code. Offered through Microsoft Azure, it's similar in concept to GitHub Codespaces though there are differences.

For example, Codespaces is based on Linux and relies on Microsoft-owned GitHub for source control management while Dev Box is based on Windows and can accommodate various software version control systems. Codespaces was designed for cloud native apps while Dev Box can handle a broader range of workloads, such as desktop apps. Finally, Codespaces relies on GitHub for management while Dev Box was fitted for IT management through Microsoft Intune and Endpoint Manager.

There's also Windows 365 Cloud PC, though that's more of a general cloud-based, multi-user Windows environment than a replacement for a developer workstation. And there's Azure Virtual Desktop, which has less comprehensive IT management options.

Dev Boxes are intended as a way to get developers up and running quickly using preconfigured images that populate the development environment with the appropriate tools.

Their major selling point, however, is management – companies can provision staff or contractors with the appropriate permissions, access controls, and login policies. And IT admins can push patches as needed and can disable Dev Boxes during off-hours to limit usage-based compute costs.

Microsoft has posted a few starter images for Dev Box users to the Azure Marketplace, including: Windows client for developers, Microsoft Visual Studio 2019, and Microsoft Visual Studio 2022.

On a related note, Microsoft introduced Dev Home, a control center for Windows that provides a dashboard for keeping track of workflows, developer projects, GitHub issues, pull requests, and assorted networking and compute metrics.

Dev Home supports a Machine configuration tool for setting up a local developer environment, extensions for customizing widgets that present particular information, and Dev Drive, a storage volume based on ReFS that is designed specifically for developer workloads. ®

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