Microsoft is joining the bot bandwagon, albeit in a strikingly stark manner. While most companies are busy rolling out platforms for bot development and making them, Microsoft has decided to cash in on its extensive experience with the cloud platform.
In order to make it easier to get started creating a bot, Microsoft is rolling out a new service which is built using the Bot Framework and Azure Functions: the Azure Bot Service.
Azure Bot Service is the first public cloud bot-service powered by the Microsoft Bot Framework and serverless compute in Microsoft Azure. With this cloud service, you can build, connect, deploy and manage intelligent bots that interact naturally wherever your users are talking – from your app or website to text/sms, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Teams, Kik, Office 365 mail and other popular services.
What’s interesting, is that these new Azure-deployed bots, will run on Azure Functions, a serverless environment, so they scale based on demand and you pay only for the resources your bots consume. Scalability with bots ? Well taken care of.
Microsoft is also pressing on how its Azure Bot Service will help developers accelerate their bot development cycle. The Redmond giant states, that with the Azure Bot Service, developers can accelerate building intelligent bots using Microsoft Cognitive Services by working in an integrated developer experience designed for bot development.
As a developer, you can get started quickly with out-of-the-box templates such as the basic bot, Language Understanding Intelligent Service bot, form bot, and proactive bot. You can build bots in C# or Node.js directly in the browser and try it out with the companion Web Chat control.
Alternatively, developers can use the IDE and code editor of your choice under the covers; the Azure Bot Service uses an Azure Resource Manager (ARM) template to create an Azure Function App for easy deployment and automatically registers your bot in the Microsoft Bot Framework, which provides a public bot directory to increase the exposure of your bot.
If you’ve been a bot developer, what you’d also notice, is the fact that the development is still at a rather basic level. Microsoft, with the Azure Bot Service, is “enriching” the bot development cycle. The Service includes built-in configurable channels to improve your customer interactions and increase your reach to more customers.
Developers can easily build bots that work from your apps or websites and across popular channels such as Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Teams, Web chat, Email, GroupMe, Kik, Telegram and Twilio. Through the Direct Line support you can interact with Microsoft Bot Framework features through a REST API, so you can bring the conversation experience to your app or website, provide control over your branded experience and reach the many channels Bot Framework supports.
Additionally, Azure Bot Service uses Azure Functions to give you the operational agility to run and handle scale as your bots grow in popularity and you only pay for what you use.