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Everything but cloud at Microsoft TechEd 2010

TechEd Hands-on Labs

While it was hard to keep the cloud out at Microsoft TechEd 2010, there were several topics that weren’t primarily focused on the cloud, though they might have laced it in. Here’s a brief rundown:

Visual Studio

During the opening keynote, Muglia and co. showed a nice demo of Visual Studio getting a little dev/ops friendly: deploying to clouds directly from Visual Studio. The idea wasn’t really to deploy production, but to deploy to test and QA clouds. Also, the bug recording feature was a nice application of cloud-inspired technologies into the development process.

Silverlight back-burnered

In previous years, Silverlight has had a significant part in TechEd. Not so much this year. To be fair, Microsoft’s PDC and MIX conference are more the spot for that. Though TechEd usually does a good job at lacing in development and operations concerns together, this year’s cloud focused made it sway more operations.

Silverlight did show up in excellent data visualization and BI demos: something resembling DeepZoom was used to nice effect to explore large sets of data, in this case, DVD sales. Also, of course, Silverlight was mentioned in the context of Windows Phone 7.

Windows Phone 7

Onboard the Creole Queen docked booze cruise, I met with some Windows Phone 7 folks who were, of course, enthusiastic. They had their concerned split between consumer and business use. The platform itself is looking impressive, but Microsoft has a terribly difficult path ahead of them.

The team was doing a good job floating FUD on Apple (closed and whacked language to develop in) and Android (just “the other white meat”). Their attitude about the phone as a remote control for the cloud (I can still never remember who came up with that metaphor) was nice and welcome.

We’ll see what happens with Windows Phone 7 once it gets out more, there are marketplace(s) (or ways to make money on apps), and wide availability. It seems like it’s destined to be a damn fine business phone for those on the Microsoft stack: the problem will be using consumer sales and desire to drive corporate IT procurement plans.

As I tell most all mobile and developer people now-a-days, the primary strategy is to allow developers to find the shortest path between compile and cash. The phone play is all about bubble-think, and there’s plenty of developers who didn’t get burned last time that’ll be real goers.

Desktop Management, VDI, Application Virtualization

TechEd Analyst summit gift

While desktop virtualization has seen a huge rise in vendor interest over the past year, all the cloud talk pushed it off the agenda. At past events, application virtualization was a huge topic for Microsoft.

Among other “good old fashioned IT management topics,” I talked about this with Anders Vinberg on the topic. Microsoft is still very interested in it.

One of my pet thought exercises at the moment is to think about doing away with desktop management in the corporate world: if you can’t manage you’re own desktop, you’re fired. That’s of course exaggerated to prove a point, but I do feel like “desktop management” as we know it is just a really expensive hack to put up with crappy operating systems and an assumed (and allowed for) lack of computer literacy among the workforce.

Also, of note, he has an interesting 2009 presentation somewhat on the topic: “What Could New-Era Corporate Systems Management Mean For The Home? And Vice Versa?”


A large part of Microsoft’s 10 year vision for IT Management transformation – the Dynamic Systems Initiative, or DSI – is modeling out IT assets, services, and so forth. This is the stuff of much DMTF and XML efforts and pops up in such thrilling spaces as SNMP MIBs and WMI.

In past years, part of the vision for modeling was the finally get those damn developers to properly instrument and model their software. They would seem the best positioned to know what you’d want to monitor in production and ways of fixing it. They wrote the stuff after all, right?

Far from it. As Bob Muglia pointed out, until he made developers play a larger role in supporting their software in production (thanks to cloud deployment models) they never appreciated the need for good management features in their software. Drawing from my person experience as a developer who was put on a 3rd-level support tour, until you have to support your code in production, you just don’t understand enough to care about that stuff.

“I used to think that models were done by developers,” Muglia said in response to a question by Ray Wang on the topic, “I now know that (most) models are done by IT.”


Perhaps the most interesting innovation coming out of STB now is PowerPivot. It’s a cliché “on steroids” product for Excel. The king of numbers handling and data analysis (by volume if anything) is Excel, which can buckle under the big data loads needed and lack in the helpful & pretty visualization users are beginning to expect.

PowerPivot is looking fantastic, actually. RedMonk’s Stephen O’Grady regularly writes up Big Data topics (e.g., coverage on big data and the future of spreasheets) and we all spend a lot of time thinking about this kind of BI for the masses stuff. Crossed with the “infinite” computation ability on the cloud and all the open data (or at least structured and accessible) that’s starting to emerge, offerings like PowerPivot are looking tasty.

When talking about TechEd this week with James Governor, PowerPivot was all that came out of his mouth.

Microsoft SaaS

Microsoft has been somewhat quietly building up it’s SaaS offerings, like most vendors (go and ask CA Technologies about their SaaS stuff – you’ll be shocked).

The Business Productivity Online Suite (or “BPOS” which “consists of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online”) offering has been going strong now with numerous user seats sold. Microsoft also released it’s “Office does Google Apps” offering (“Office Web Apps”) this week.

It’s always fun to see the kind of customer ping-pong and new signups that plays out in these things.

Not to be forgotten, the upcoming Windows Intune SaaS offering is an interesting desktop management service targeted at SMBs, shops with 50-500 PCs.

Disclosure: Microsoft is a client and paid travel and expenses for TechEd. See the RedMonk client list for other relevant clients.

Categories: Conferences, Development Tools, Enterprise Software, Systems Management.

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