Today was the first day of the PDC 2010. Microsoft hosts events all around the world, inviting local partners, where they broadcast the PDC keynotes and have a discussion around that afterwards. I was in such an event in Montreal.
Steve Ballmer was delivering the keynotes with many Microsoft stars delivering portions and demos (e.g. Scott Gu, Don Box, Mark Russinovich, etc.). Steve looked a bit less over-the-top energetic today. Is it the stock going down, his chief architect leaving? He didn’t tell…
There were three main themes:
- IE 9 / HTML 5
- Windows Phone 7
- Windows Azure
There wasn’t much news in the first two items.
IE 9 is great, fast and supports HTML 5. We got some crisps demos about how to integrate a site with Windows 7, via branded pinned-down-to-the-task-bar icons, branded (actually, coloured) back/forward buttons, customized jump list and even customized buttons (like the play / stop / rewind buttons you get on the preview of Windows Media Player). We even got the mandatory “look at this sample site, IE 9 is way faster than Google Chrome”, but they refrained from doing it on every demo.
The message there was that HTML 5 was the glue on all the MS experiences: XBox, Windows Phone 7, PC, etc. . That got some eyebrows raised in the assistance where a couple of consultants gambled their short-term career on Silverlight and led to some interesting discussions afterwards.
For the Windows Phone 7, I really didn’t learn much despite not going utterly out-of-my-way to gather information usually (as I do for Windows Azure or parallel computing for instance). Scott Gu gave a good demo, sporting his typical red shirt. Beside OData library for WP7 being released today, the real news was the profiler for WP7. That’s a pretty good beast actually: it’s able to profile a run of an app, counting the frame per second, CPU utilization, # of objects being instantiated on the screen, etc. and alerting you when abnormal numbers show up. It seems like a very good piece of technology. It should be in beta soon.
The device looks very cool. I don’t know if it’s just the amount of effort put in the demo, but it really looks cool. Actually, an enterprise customer in the room with us told us they had access to a few devices during a development project of an app for his company and he really enjoyed the device. That customer later did an interesting presentation on Windows Azure (http://www.yellowapi.com/).
Now the real darling of this show was Windows Azure. There I finally learned something and there was a bunch of announcements. Actually, Microsoft is doing two things.
First, they provided features answering to feedbacks they got from customers. Among the announcements: Extra-small cheaper instance, capacity to RDP on your server to better diagnose problems, full-IIS mode (allowing you to deploy more than one web sites in an instance among other things), a caching service (the equivalent to AppFabric or Velocity on-premise) and Reporting Services in the cloud. Those are all features requested by users and they will strengthen the offering.
Second they basically broaden the spectrum of there offer. VM role is #1 there: with this they basically get into Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and compete directly with Amazon (will they be competitive on the price, that is an open question though). This feature should be available in beta by the end of the year. Server Application Virtualization… this is supposed to be the equivalent of App-V on the server side, in the cloud, but didn’t get demoed. With Network connection, you’ll be able to virtually extend your on-premise network (and domain) to Windows Azure. TFS in the cloud is… TFS in the cloud! It seems to include the source control, work items and even build server (via the VM Role or a worker role for standard environments) but not the SharePoint part nor the cubes. Azure App Fabric Service bus got some new bells and whistle (something I certainly advocated for), such as durable messaging, but none were demoed. Finally, a new Market-Place for Azure Services, a bit like Windows Phone Market place, but in the cloud (Project Dallas would become the data market, a sub product of that offer).
ERATUM: VM role aren’t IaaS. This was a mistake from my part. Please read this article to understand why.
There wasn’t much timeline given for those features except ‘later this year’. Nevertheless, those announcements give us the picture: Windows Azure is getting mature very quickly. The basis is getting stronger and larger.
Soon you’ll be able to take an on-premise .vhd of Windows Server 2008 R2 and move it to the cloud without much ceremony. This gives an excellent migration path for all the apps that would be too costly to modify. Basically, Windows Azure the Consolidate, Virtualize, Cloud roadmap suggested by the Gartner’s of this world.
I’ll tell you about the local discussion in a later post.