Getting started with Azure Fluid Relay

At its recent Ignite event, Microsoft unveiled a new Office application: Loop. Built on its long-promised real-time Fluid Framework collaboration platform, Loop is a canvas that hosts components for shared work, providing a place to keep all the various pieces of a team’s project together.

You could consider Loop to be the spiritual successor to one-time Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie’s work on Notes and Groove. Loop mixes documents, editing tools, and conversations so a team can construct documents while managing discussions around the content. It builds on the micro-work concepts we’re seeing in tools such as Teams, breaking down units of work and collaboration into components that can be inserted into Loop documents.

Microsoft Loop is Fluid

Loop’s component model uses the Fluid Framework to construct components, either as stand-alone Loop tools or as elements from another application. It’s possible to see Office collaborative tools like OneNote become collections of Loop components, while the Power Platform could deliver Loop endpoints as the end of flows or as outputs from Power BI or exports from the Dataverse object store.

However, Loop is only part of what the Fluid Framework offers. It’s not only a tool for Microsoft’s own products, it’s a way to build your own collaboration tools or to deliver real-time data to your users’ desktops. You can use the Fluid Framework as an alternative to technologies like SignalR to share state between multiple endpoints. This last part is perhaps the most important aspect of Fluid, as it’s a many-to-many, low-latency, distributed computing framework.

Sharing state between many different endpoints isn’t easy; doing it in real time is even harder. Most of the alternatives are one-to-one or one-to-many systems—they’re not managing state across dozens of users, and maybe as many different applications. I might use Loop to construct a collaborative document with you, but you may be producing data we need in Power BI, Word, Lists, or any other Microsoft 365 tool that’s Fluid-ready.

Relaying Fluid state with Azure

One key aspect of the Fluid Framework architecture is the relay that sits at the hub of all application collaborations. Although much of the work is managed by the client libraries as they collect and manage state, there’s still a need for a server to ensure that data is delivered correctly and that only authenticated clients have access to your content.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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