UPDATED 22:40 EST / JULY 21 2020

APPS

Microsoft announces Dataflex, a new database for building low-code apps in Teams

Microsoft Corp. today announced a new relational database service called Dataflex that lets workers create, deploy and manage low-code applications and chatbots within its Microsoft Teams collaboration platform, which is a competitor to Slack, Facebook Inc.’s Workplace and Zoom.

Dataflex provides relational data storage, rich data types, one-click deployment and enterprise-grade data governance for citizen developers to build applications for Teams using its Power Platform tools.

Microsoft’s Power Platform is a suite of business analytics tools that lets workers analyze company data and automate various aspects of their work. It includes Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents, which are tools that enable people with only minimal coding skills to easily build apps and chatbots.

In a blog post, Charles Lamanna, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Low Code Application Platform, said Dataflex works by surfacing important business data that can be used to build low-code apps that address various business problems. The service also delivers artificial intelligence capabilities, plus performance and security benefits, he said.

Dataflex effectively brings all of the capabilities of Microsoft’s Common Data Service into Teams. Common Data Service, which is being rebranded as Dataflex Pro, is the data and governance framework that sits at the heart of the Power Platform, and pulls information from across Microsoft Office, Dynamics and Azure into a central location from where it can be used to build applications and automations. Dataflex makes it possible to do the same natively within Teams. It connects to the underlying Power Platform and provides a way to create and manage custom data tables in Teams.

“Microsoft Dataflex Pro is the new name for the Common Data Service, and Microsoft Dataflex is the newest iteration of this technology in Teams,” Alysa Taylor, Microsoft corporate vice president of business applications and industry, said in a second blog post.

Dataflex can handle various types of data, including standard relational data, images and files, and make them available for customized apps, chatbots and workflow automations built in Teams. Users don’t need to worry about any of the back-end complexity, and can even add AI capabilities such as category classification, key phrase extraction and predictive analysis to their apps.

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“With both the Power Apps App Studio and the Power Virtual Agents Portal embedded in Teams, users can now easily and quickly build apps and bots with drag and drop simplicity in Teams without switching applications,” Lamanna said. “With this built-in data platform and an easy-to-use editable data table, there is no need to connect to storage. All users can now easily create custom data tables that are Teams and scenario specific. Optimize your Teams processes, drive greater collaboration, and improve efficiency with a built-in low code platform and low-code data storage.”

Dataflex also lets users access external data sources via the Power Platform, which supports more than 350 data connectors that let users connect to outside systems such as an SQL server, Excel files SharePoint lists and so on. Dataflex removes the need to configure those systems, so there’s less friction. It means better performance and security too, since the data is no longer stored separately, eliminating latency, Lamanna said.

Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller told SiliconANGLE that there simply isn’t enough developers in the world to build all the code that enterprises need, which is why low-code and no-code tooling is becoming so essential.

“Data access is also a challenge that makes it harder to build applications,” he said. “That’s why new coding capabilities are coming to new work platforms that meet people in the flow of work, like Teams. Microsoft is bringing these key platforms together to shape the future of automation and the future of work for enterprises with Dataflex.”

Microsoft Dataflex will be available in preview within Power Apps and Power Automate next month.

Images: Microsoft

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