We are thrilled by the surprisingly large number of bots, tools, channels and the overall vibrancy and excitement within the developer community since our launch of Bot Framework on Github in March. The democratization of AI and the advancement of conversational canvasses are well underway.
For software developers, creating a conversational experience requires a shift in the way we design and build software. It turns out, it’s pretty difficult to do well. Conversation is inherently fluid and tangents are the norm. This isn’t the case for a traditional app, where the design center has (mostly) been about task completion accomplished through a graphical user interface (GUI).
In order to make it easier to get started creating a bot, today we are excited to announce a new service which is built using the Bot Framework and Azure Functions: 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. Bots run on Azure Functions, a serverless environment, so they scale based on demand and you pay only for the resources your bots consume.
Accelerate development cycles
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. 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. Or you 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.
Enrich your bots
The Azure Bot Service includes built-in configurable channels to improve your customer interactions and increase your reach to more customers. You 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.
Plug in Microsoft Cognitive Services to enable your bots to see, hear, interpret and interact in more human ways. You can enhance the capabilities of your bots with a just few lines of code using many other Azure services, too. For example, Azure Search makes it easy to add powerful and sophisticated search capabilities to your bots. Check out this GitHub sample to see it in action.
Boost operational efficiency
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. Moreover, you also don’t need to worry about provisioning or managing servers that run your bots. Patching and infrastructure maintenance is handled for you – you focus on writing code.
Integrated continuous deployment support means that you can use your preferred DevOps tool chain and commit code to source control systems such as Visual Studio Team System, GitHub, and BitBucket and then automatically publish the code into Azure to continuously improve your bot.