Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day Two PDC Keynote - Rock and Roll to the Epic Saga of Misunderstanding

The initial pump and excitement was certainly there this morning as opposed to yesterday’s slightly lackluster performance.

It should not be surprising that Windows 7 gets the rock star treatment on stage. It is the bus that drives the cash to Microsoft's front door every day.

Ray's introduction to the session was a perfect pull back and setting to the scene. Explaining the history of Windows, positioning the PC, the phone and web platforms from Microsoft's perspective was perfect. This is the theatre you need in a keynote, and the scene was set for Steven Sinofsky to get on stage and start showcasing Windows 7 and the features being improved.

It is clear that a lot of work has gone into the user experience for the client, and there is an understanding that Windows is now (and has for a long time been) a consumer operating system not just a business operating system.

Windows 7 is about much more than the user experience. The core technologies have had some great improvements at a power management and networking device management level. Goals for Windows 7 have been around performance and responsiveness; Windows 7 now supports 256 processors, boots faster, uses less memory and reduces the power consumption on the device.

Today all attendees get a copy of the win7 pre-beta (milestone M3 ) build. Beta will be delivered early CY 09.

This is where the keynote should have ended but Microsoft VPs rather appreciate long-winded tales, so it must have made sense to them to continue telling stories. Feedback for anyone putting together a presentation - tell one story, create a beginning, middle and an end. Perhaps learn from theatre and movie makers – please keep it short and simple next time, folks.

The next story was presented by the great Scott Guthrie. The new features in WPF, .NET 4 and VS 2010 were briefly covered by Scott, and the developer focused audience loves the fact that now more average developers can write code. Again a democratization of software development continues, allowing more mediocre software to be built and shipped. You have to hand it to Microsoft for enabling software development to be done by unexceptional members of the world’s population; leading to even more rubbish software in the world. Personally I think this may be great, it will allow the people that really know what a computer is doing to build fantastic software that will really differentiate from the rest.

Two hours in and the Day Two PDC keynote kept going and the audience got restless, the exodus started from the keynote room as David Treadwell came on stage to disclose information on how to build software using the Live Services. David discussed the concept of the internet as a bridge to allow users to see the same data and share data between users and devices. Mesh is now a key component of Live Services, mesh is the experience built on top of Live Services. The Live Services is now a platform for S+S, making it easy for developers to build applications that utilize the Live Services via the Live Framework.

Live Operating Environment is akin to the CLR in .NET. A set of open, consistent interfaces are provided in the Live Framework. Live Framework comes with a set of API kits including a .NET API kit making it easy for .NET developers to build Live Services enabled applications. Now your applications can tap into the user data, devices and social relationships.

Dr. Neil

Monday, October 27, 2008

PDC Keynote Day 1 – Developer View

During the PDC2008 Keynote this morning, the secret about Microsoft “Cloud OS” was finally revealed. The platform, called Windows Azure, offers scalability and on-demand resources to host and manage Web applications on the cloud. Along with these platforms, they also announced a few other Microsoft Online Services that utilize the Azure platform.

The most exciting news about the Azure platform is that developers can use their existing skill set to take advantage of it right away. There will be a SDK released in a few hours which contains a new Visual Studio project to create and deploy Web applications to the cloud. All of the configuration files use XML-based syntax so that, for instance, if you need to scale up the computing resources of your application, all you need to do is make a one-line change against the xml. They said, “Even a CEO can do it”. However, if you are not comfortable with XML, there is good news - Microsoft will be shipping a GUI to make this configuration process even more seamless. Azure platform supports SOAP and REST protocol for communication purposes. The fact that it is an open platform which is targeted for both Microsoft and non-Microsoft languages (e.g.: Java, Ruby, Python, etc) makes it even more compelling.

Moving on, I was thrilled to hear the announcement of the first Online service - .NET Services. This service addresses most, if not all the hurdles and issues that Enterprise application suffered from. Federated Authentication has been a nightmare for Enterprise class hosted solution. Traditionally, it requires the Service provider to maintain a set of client credentials on top of the ones that the client already has in their Active Directory, resulting in duplicates and painful maintenance. With .NET Services Access Control, the authentication can be federated with options to use either Enterprise Directories or Web Identity System such as Windows Live ID. Then, the authorization decision can be made based on the set of rules and claims that can be changed easily. No hassle at all!

The next component of the .NET Services is the Service Bus. They demonstrated a product to manage the product recall. Traditionally, to accomplish this task, each consumer and publisher needed to have a dedicated connection (e.g.: VPN) to manually connect the 2 networks together. Using the Service Bus, as developers, we can lift those boundaries by having our centralized services available at internet-scale without any corporate restrictions, and yet automatically get the scalability and on-demand benefit of the Azure platform.

The last component of the .NET Services is the Workflow Service. This service provides a mechanism to construct, deploy, and run workflow on the cloud platform. It uses XML –based configuration file to build the action flow. Microsoft promised to have it integrated with the Visual Studio 2008 Workflow Designer soon.

The last service they announced was the SQL Services. As the name suggests, it allows you to store data (using SQL Data Services), run reports, and do analytical processing on the cloud. However, at the moment, they only have SQL Data Services up on CTP release. I had a play with SQL Data Service since it was on the Preview mode. I admitted that there are a LOT of improvements from back then. I’ve just browsed the latest SDK on MSDN and now they’ve supported the JOIN and ORDER BY feature. Although these features might be far from new for developers who work on the on-premise SQL Server, this proves that Microsoft took feedback from developers and implemented it. The other new feature from SQL Data Services is the support for external Authentication Services. By default, it will use the Token Service, but alternatively, developers can pass on the Authentication endpoint to the SQL Data Service.

Personally, I am glad to see the improvements and vision from Microsoft for the months ahead. The cloud services indeed will benefit the majority of businesses, from small, medium to enterprise. Looking forward for the announcement for Day 2, which I’ve heard will be mainly around Live Services (including LiveMesh). :)

Dimaz Pramudya