Microsoft TechEd 2010 Keynote @ New Orleans, Day One

8:35 AM: I head into Hall F for the the Microsoft TechEd 2010 keynote by (a name previously unknown to me) Bob Muglia, President of Server and Tools Business for Microsoft. A coworker beeps me to let me know the doors have been opened at 8:30 AM, so I walk a long mile guided by dozens of red-shirted Microsoft ushers (enforcers?) to the far right side.

8:40 AM: Almost as soon as I take a seat, the band that’s been quietly setting up on the stage kicks into their first song at full volume and startles everyone. It’s a nine-man band composed of all your expected instruments: Guitar, saxophone, drums, trumpet, chainmail-washboard shirt. I fail to catch the name of the band on any of the screens and also forget the name when it’s mentioned at the presentation’s close by Bob Muglia. Sorry guys.

8:45 AM: The lead singer seems to be wearing a sort of chainmail shirt which he also plays as an instrument (the washboard). How great would this have been back in Ye Olde England? You could be both a minstrel and a knight. Maybe instead of being a great knight or a great minstrel you’d be mediocre at both, but the flexibility would have been enticing.

8:47 AM: The lead singer rather abruptly attempts to get the audience to sing along. We fail miserably but at least have a laugh at ourselves. My section is quickly deemed the lead singer’s favourite due to its higher than average energy level (not me, I’m typing, but Dmitri yells loudly at one point).

8:51 AM: My photos don’t do this justice, but Hall F really is big. There are four enormous screens that flank the stage, and as the band plays we’re shown stills of late jazz and blues greats, and also have explained to us some little known factoids about the local culture. A sampling (in shorthand):

  • Jazz is America’s music.
  • The saxophone invented by Adolphe Sax in 1841.
  • Guitars were added to jazz combinations in the ’50s.
  • There’s a picture of Louis Armstrong playing a clarinet! After this, he was shunned for years by brass zealots for defecting to the woodwinds. I made that last part up because I played trumpet in high school and hated woodwinds for how good they got at their instruments.
  • The bass guitar plays on the 1st and 3rd beat.
  • The word “zydeco” has its origin in “les haricots”, French for green beans. I don’t know how that makes sense.
  • The zydeco violin is also known as the fiddle.
  • The word “saxophone” has its origin in “sackbut”, which means “pull and push” in French (I think, didn’t make note of what language at the time).
  • Banjoes and pianos play on the 2nd and 4th beat.

8:58 AM: The promised James Brown impression and leg splits is achieved.

9:00 AM: Extended guitar solo! Pretty awesome way to buy some time as it’s obvious that things are running a bit late.

9:02 AM: Time to go! The band says farewell and the lights go down. Band instruments quickly disappear offstage (everything is on wheels) and two large podiums arrive.

Bob Muglia appears on stage to applause and the screens display the keynote topic: “Cloud Computing; Changing The Dynamics of IT”.

9:03 AM: First of only a few groan-inducing lines: “We’re going to have some fun, we’re going to do some learning, and we’re going to have some fun learning!”

9:05 AM: Very quickly we’re into our first demo, blueyonder: How to update a bug in production.

There’s a bug in the code. We get a glimpse of Team Foundation Server 2010. Its bug detailing is much richer, going even to the level of embedded video of an issue as it happens.

The new and improved IntelliTrace is very impressive: “Like recording TV,” giving a timeline of exactly what happened (what was executed) when an exception (crash) occurred.

More on IntelliTrace: You can now go step by step backwards through a trace using the instance’s actual data, even if the issue occurred hours/days ago.

Lab Center: Includes a fully virtualized test area using HyperV, allowing developers to perfectly simulate the production environment.

System Center: For deployment, Opalis automates workflow deployment.

9:12 AM: End of the look at TFS. We’re now introduced to Stephanie Cuthbertson, Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft, for she is about to tell us about “End to End: Development To Operations”.

9:15 AM: “The cloud delivers [the server] as a standardized service, freeing you up to focus on your business.” Do the Operations people in the audience hear the implications about their employment in this statement? Good thing I’m a developer.

Bob Muglia takes over again and breaks down the cloud (as seen by Microsoft) for us. The five key dimensions:

  • The server
  • Professional and social interaction
  • Smarter devices
  • The cloud learns
  • Changing IT

9:19 AM: The first dimension of the cloud: The server. Anders Vinberg, Technical Fellow at Microsoft breaks it down for us in a talk entitled, “Image Based Management and Composable Applications”. The cloud allows for just-in-time provisioning and scaling of services on shared hardware.

Why would we want this? That’s pretty obvious, but for our non-technical readers: It allows for the easy acceleration of site speed/availability as needed while in the meantime lowering costs.
You don’t need to maintain servers in a data centre, and if you’ve got a web application with peak and low sales seasons, you don’t need to deploy and pay for one hundred servers all year around when you only need five. But if in a week’s time you do need that one hundred to handle the Christmas crush, no problem.

The cost of maintaining hardware and data centre space isn’t something most developers care a whit about, but after five years of working for a web hosting company I’ve had enough discussions with our various vice presidents to realize it’s a major expenditure.

9:21 AM: Wouldn’t be the perfect cloud application? As I’m currently the lead developer on this project, I simultaneously feel intrigued and wary.

Vinberg: “Instead of deploying this new config, just like a cooking show we’ll switch to one we’ve already got running…” The time-saving measure and comparison are noted and appreciated.

9:25 AM: Vinberg wraps up.

9:28 AM: Muglia introduces us to Doug Purdy, Architect. Here’s here to talk to us about “Expanding Applications to the Cloud”.

Purdy shows us a live demo in which Azure (Microsoft’s cloud platform) is reading Active Directory (AD) identities, auto-populating names, contact information, addresses…

9:32 AM: Product announcement; .NET Framework 4 is now available for Windows Azure.

9:33 AM: You know, I don’t think a non-developer would make heads or tails of what’s been discussed thus far in this keynote address. I appreciate the lack of pandering to the media. I wonder if Apple’s WWDC is like this?

9:34 AM: Neat, though expected: You can deploy directly from Visual Studio 2010 to Windows Azure. It’s also got the extremely useful new IntelliTrace For .NET 4 debug tool.

9:36 AM: Product announcement: Windows Server AppFabric is now shipping. Not much detail on what it does is mentioned. Terrible name, though. You have to wonder if Microsoft holds a series of meetings with “key stakeholders” to try and figure out the worst names possible for their products. But at least they don’t take a noun and plop the letter “i” in front of it.

9:38 AM: “Liveblogging” a keynote really makes you realize how much speech is needed to fill up a minute of time. The speaker is yapping away with fifty or sixty words a minute; the blogger distills it down to about ten.

9:39 AM: Purdy is done.

9:40 AM: Product announcement: Windows Server 2008 R2 SP2 and Windows 7 SP1 will be available in July. Only in a Microsoft presentation are service pack releases worth a product announcement…

9:42 AM: Note to self: Photoshop the logo onto the Cloud Partnerships slide.

9:42 AM: Here’s a real-life example of using the cloud: The Chicago Tribune is currently using Windows Azure, and has gone from maintaining 7 data centres to 3.

9:45 AM: Apparently the Tribune Company has a Vice-President of “Technology Innovations”. Besides being a cool title, every company should have someone in that role. Or at least someone tasked with seeking out new technology and brainstorming on ways to apply it as a primary responsibility.

9:47 AM: It’s time to talk about cloud dimension number two: How the cloud enhances professional and social interaction. Unused possible subtitle: “Just when you thought you didn’t see and know enough about your coworkers!”

I think we’re talking about companies big enough that you don’t know everybody’s name. While we at SoftCom use e-mail and instant messengers heavily, I’m not sure the features being talked about here would be of much use for us.

9:49 AM: Gurdeep Sing Pall, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft is introduced. He’ll tell us about Microsoft Communication Server “14”. (They added the quotes, not I.)

Windows Communicator will have a full soft phone built in, plus video call capabilities.

Microsoft now internally has 74,000 users no longer on a PBX, but using Communication Server instead. This is apparently saving them some $1 million a month.

Yeah, this is definitely a big company-oriented feature. Communicator allows you to publish a list of your skills for others to look up if they know what they need to know about, but don’t know who to talk to. Communicator also infers a skillset from your documents in SharePoint.

9:55 AM: In Communicator, video calls are just a click away and handles 720p video. A 720p webcam for your laptop or desktop PC will retail for $50 USD.

9:56 AM: The 30-foot tall face of Jamie is forced to nod along as Gurdeep talks for a full minute. Must be awkward to know that your face is being displayed on four enormous screens to thousands of people as you mutely wait for your speaking cue.

9:58 AM: First demo flub of the day! The SharePoint document Jamie and Gurdeep want to collaborate upon fails to load after a wait of some two or three minutes. Gurdeep is ready for this eventuality and loads a whiteboard up instead. Jamie offers to draw him directions on a map, but at first nothing loads, leading us to think that Gurdeep is being handed a hilarous MS Paint-style set of directions. Finally, the background pops in and we see Jamie has actually been drawing upon a map the entire time. Everyone, including Jamie and Gurdeep, get a laugh out of this.

10:00 AM: Gurdeep is done! “We’ll be shipping this… Later in the year.” The audience has another laughs. Clearly there are some bugs that need to be stomped out.

10:01 AM: We meet Augusto Valdez, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, to hear about cloud dimension number three: The cloud wants smarter devices. His formal topic title: “Windows Phone 7: Productivity and Collaboration.”

I’ve seen videos of this at the launch earlier this year of Windows Phone 7, but Smart Tiles are still neat.

Windows Phone 7 supports the use of multiple Exchange servers on a single phone. Could be handy.

10:04 AM: Ouch, Augusto gave us a quick glimpse of his e-mail – he’s got “weekly team budget” meetings to attend. Weekly seems a bit much, no?

SharePoint integration on Windows Phone 7 is pretty tight. Augusto just loaded up an Excel spreadsheet on his phone with minimal lag time. There’s no functionality to go as far as start working with numbers, but he is able to make notes that get uploaded right back to the SharePoint server. Very… collaborative.

10:07 AM: Augusto is done.

10:08 AM: Only 43% of battery life left on my HP 1030NA netbook! The LCD’s brightness is as low as it can go, WiFi is disabled… See what happens when you cheap out and get a 3-cell battery?

10:10 AM: Product annoucements: Windows InTune is a cloud management service that is now in beta.

10:11 AM: Cloud dimension number four is, “The cloud learns and helps you learn, decide and take action.” We meet Amir Netz, Distiguished Engineer, to talk about “New Insights.”

Wow, this is unexpected. Netz loads up Excel 2010 on a laptop, and shows us a worksheet with 100,000,000+ rows in it. He selects the descending order sort. It responds and completes nearly instantly: “Wickedly fast.”

Microsoft’s “Project Dallas” is introduced. It’s a drive to make data available in a way that it can be easily consumed by business applications. A key technology for this is called PowerPivot for Excel 2010. Basically the dream of every developer: Having API access to a set of data on every topic imaginable. It’s got a ways to go, but very promising.

10:23 AM: James Cameron appears on prerecorded video to tell us how the cloud helps filmmaking. For Avatar, it allows them to scale 3D rendering and mathematical data crunching in a cost effective manner. He also named his cloud infrastructure Gaia. The cloud can’t have a name, Cameron!

Interesting stuff – the Avatar crew had reference cameras with enough horsepower and receiving enough real-time data to show in basic but extremely effective terms what a final render would look like. This while simply panning around people dressed in mocap clothes on a sound stage.

10:28 AM: Meet Tony Scott, Microsoft CIO for the final cloud dimension, “IT and Cloud Computing.”

“Dogfooding” is apparently a Microsoft concept in which a company runs a product of their own internally, from its first build all the way through to the shipping version
. This is done in order to give realistic and immediate feedback on said product at every step of the way.

The cloud will make this easier? Okay.

Scott is the rare Microsoft speaker who doesn’t rattle it off at a rapid-fire pace. It’s a bit of a relief after the verbal barrage of the half dozen people before him, but he’s also kind of losing the audience. It’s still early and most of us didn’t get much sleep last night.

10:33 AM: Something interesting: Microsoft showing charts recognizing that early efforts at using the cloud were more hassle than they were worth, and implying that our first efforts might also be. Their view is that today, with Azure, it will finally worth the effort.

10:33 AM: Scott announces that Microsoft will be “cloud first” from this point forward.

10:37 AM: Also interesting: MS also recognizes that the cloud dpes creates opportunities, but also creates responsibilities, a.k.a. more work and hassle for Operations and Software Development departments. New administrative questions have to be answered and new tools created to move those capabilities away from developers.

10:40 AM: We’re done! I finally realize that I’m sitting on a bright orange t-shirt that I’m supposed to take home with me. It’s a size XL. I don’t make it to my first conference lecture before ditching it.


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