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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

#PDC10 Keynote Roundup

PDCs used to be something special, only reserved for big announcements or trends for Microsoft / Developers.  Of course, they used to be bigger too – regardless of Ballmer’s calling this the biggest PDC ever.  Holding it in Redmond, keeping it down to two days, limiting the attendees to 1000 (or so?) are all indicative of this PDC change. Will it be permanent?  Who knows, but I do wonder why they held it now.

Ray Ozzie was sorely missed in the keynote.  I can’t help but wonder if this PDC was put on just to show that Microsoft is still developer focused even with Mr. Ozzie’s departure.  Ballmer did a fine job this morning, but without Bill Gates and now no Ozzie, it doesn’t feel the same.

Anyway, in terms of the announcements (i.e., the “reveals”), not too much and nothing I would say is truly big.

There are lots of announcements though, but mostly they are incremental additions to existing products (e.g., all the new Azure enhancements) or the completion of initiatives that have been in process for years (e.g., Dallas).

All together the announcements show terrific strides for the Azure platform making it all the more compelling.

Windows Mobile 7 is also pretty cool.  I don’t know I’ll every use it, but I can see why a lot of people will.  I think they’ll have a homerun here.

Here is a live view on my PDC10 tweets:

 

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From PDC2009 Day 1: Azure & AppFabric

At last year’s PDC, I posted

It is the openness of this platform, the ability of developers to mix and match the different components, and to do it between the cloud and in-premises solutions that makes this such a winner. 

This last point is an important one.  Microsoft is in a unique position to help enterprise IT bridge to the cloud.  While I don’t think Amazon and Google will cede that market to Microsoft, their current offerings aren’t a natural fit. 

The offering was rich then, but since then Microsoft has continued to push these offerings forward dramatically. 

At the time, my biggest concerns were the one-size-fits-all approach to their provisioning model and their lack of full trust (two things that could make it harder to deploy the Digipede Network onto Azure).  Today those issues have been taken off the table and help support many more use cases, opening up Azure even more to non-Microsoft technologies and fortifying the extremely important IT bridge.

So what are the improvements in openness?

Allowing full trust opens up the door to, well anything.  Unmanaged code,  PHP, MySQL, Java, TomCat, etc. can all run on Azure.  Matt Mullenweg of Automattic demonstrated a WordPress instance running that way.  Kind of anti-climactic, because it would have been a big deal if wordpress.com was moving to Azure.  Simply running a WordPress instance isn’t really that interesting.

Custom VM images are also coming to Azure which will make it much easier to put whatever you want on a VM and deploy it efficiently.

For IT?

Too many items here to enumerate.  SQL Azure integrating into SSMS; Azure integrating into MOM; SQL synchronizing with cloud instances; (this list really does go on and on . . .).

Another important part of this IT bridge?  Not Microsoft’s new App Server, AppFabric.  Though I am excited about this – it is something that has been missing from the Microsoft stack – the key point here is that it runs on premises and in Azure.

Conclusion?

These new features in Azure push Microsoft out even further than the other cloud vendors.  No one else has the depth and breadth in tool support and service offerings.  No one else is innovating so quickly on so many parallel fronts. 

Will Amazon and Google cede the space?  Of course not, but I think they’ll need  to reposition their cloud brands.

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Quick Thoughts on the SDS Announcement

While the changes coming to SQL Data Services (SDS) are not exactly news, I wanted to weigh in on it.

I was familiar with SSDS before I knew anything about Red Dog Storage Azure Storage.  When I found out about the latter, my initial concern was that Microsoft would confuse developers by offering two overlapping services. Such overlap isn’t too surprising considering that these two projects came out of competing parts of Microsoft.  At the time, there was a pretty consistent message that SDS would someday support relational operations, but to me that meant they should  hold off on SDS until that day came.

Microsoft often offers multiple technologies to solve specific problems — often this is a result of legacy technologies — in this case it seemed a shame to start off with such overlap.

Because of all this, I am very happy to see this clear differentiation between the Azure and SDS services.  This is a good decision for Microsoft, Microsoft developers, and given the roadmap for SDS, an excellent decision for Microsoft’s enterprise customers.

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Podcast on PDC2008

Last Wednesday, while still at PDC2008, I did a quick podcast with Colin Steele of the Search IT Channel.  From his introduction:

In this podcast, Microsoft developer Robert Anderson checks in from the Microsoft PDC 2008 in Los Angeles. Anderson, the chief technology officer for Microsoft partner Digipede Technologies in Oakland, Calif., says Windows Azure has a leg up on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, the Google App Engine and other cloud computing platforms. But when it comes to Windows 7, Microsoft has to do a lot more to move on from the “perceived failure” of Windows Vista.

Listen or download from here.

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Why ‘Azure’?

Mary Jo Foley asks, Why ‘Azure’?  She uses Anand Iyer’s answer (from his post):

Azure is a vibrant, dynamic and uplifting color. Azure is also linked to the image of the blue sky and, by extension, ‘the cloud.’

I think there is a more direct association between azure and the Windows cloud:

  1. Clouds are opaque. 
  2. If you put a window in a cloud, you can see through to the clear sky.
  3. The clear sky is azure.

So, Windows in the Cloud == Windows Azure

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Microsoft Windows Azure

imageMicrosoft’s long awaited cloud platform has finally been unveiled here at PDC 2008.  Late to the Internet, Microsoft hit it hard.  Late to the cloud, Microsoft is doing the same with Windows Azure.  Happily, this will put an end to all the guessing about what Zurich, Red Dog, biztalk.net, SSDS, Live Mesh, etc., actually are.  

Of course, now begins the discussion of how all these pieces fit together.  

This is not a simple approach like Amazon’s EC2 or Google App Engine.  Not to trivialize either, but they are certainly easier to understand.  Try explaining them to the proverbial grandmother — no problem, especially if you leave out virtualization and pythons ;)  (preemptive comment: I know AWS is much more than EC2 and that bigger and better things are coming from Google).

Regardless, the Microsoft Azure is multi-faceted.  In typical Microsoft fashion, there is a lot for a developer to choose from:

  • Azure Storage, Management, and Compute.  Run WCF/ASP.NET based services, with work queues and data storage.
  • Microsoft .NET Services, nee biztalk.net (wrote about here).  This gives you an Internet Service Bus, Access Control, and Workflow Services.  Messages and workflow in the cloud connecting other cloud and enterprise offerings.  Very big deal.
  • Microsoft SQL Services, nee SQL Server Data Services or SSDS.  Eventually a relational model in the sky, currently not too different from Azure Storage.
  • Live Services: Not too much detail on this today, but this is clearly what was “Live Mesh”: a rich synchronization framework, “live operating environment” for writing applications to across the Web and on user’s devices. 
  • Windows Live (Live Office, Live Sharepoint, Live Dynamics CRM, etc). In-cloud applications extensible by partners and users with in-cloud and in-premises solutions.

It all does fit together, and will be of immediate value to developers.  As Marc Jacobs of Lab49 said to me afterward,

We could make use of all of these services today.

Damned straight.  It is the openness of this platform, the ability of developers to mix and match the different components, and to do it between the cloud and in-premises solutions that makes this such a winner. 

This last point is an important one.  Microsoft is in a unique position to help enterprise IT bridge to the cloud.  While I don’t think Amazon and Google will cede that market to Microsoft, their current offerings aren’t a natural fit. 

Taking this all together — not forgetting Microsoft’s leading developer productivity story — it looks like a home run to me.

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