2008/10/28

PDC 2008 - Day 1 - Keynote

The "huge" news from Ray Ozzie keynote has been Azure which represents the coming of Microsoft in the world of cloud computing (a sexy buzz-word to describe a buzz-concept like Software+Services :-D )

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My expectations from PDC were for a set of tools and maybe server platforms to create the "clouds" but Microsoft has gone beyond!

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The main idea is to leverage the huge MS experience on data-centers (Live, MSN, MSDN, Windows Update, etc.) to create an hosted-horizontal platform that could be used by external developers to create their own service application without having to think about the engineering of the server farm (network, storage, disaster-recovery...). All is managed and maintained by the MS team.

So everything we use to know until today (the MS Server Platform or what is assumed to be "The Premises") is enforced with a new set of online "tools" hosted and managed on the MS datacenters spread around the world.

To have access to those tools obviously a license has to be purchased (but the sales strategy doesn't appear to be already defined). In 15 days demo access token will be released to the attendant of the PDC to test and play with the platform!

014 The On-Line platform is composed by a set of services (SQL Services, Live Services, Sharepoint Services, .Net Services, Dynamics CRM Services) that appear to be a "subset" of the original server application but tailored to work in a cloud environment.
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To create your hosted-application, new project templates are available in VS 2008. What is really amazing is that you can run and debug your application locally and then deploy it to the online services!

To deploy the application just push the "Publish" button in Visual Studio.

Well, to be honest is not possible to debug locally SQL Server Service (but this hasn't mentioned during the keynote...)

016 You own Dashboard is available online to manage the application (I think there are 2 environments, for staging and production) but I didn't understand if the versioning is managed and how.
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An application has been demonstrated (www.bluehoo.com) which leverage the hosted platform.

Ok there is Silverlight, there are animations. It's an application for Social Networking integrating Mobile- Phones with the cloud but I didn't understand the business model (and this is my concern, when we talk about Azure there is a technical perspective where everything is cool, and there is a business perspective where everything is dark...)

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Bob Muglia talked about the impact on Enterprise companies.

The idea is that we're entering in a new era for computer applications (and that's potentially is true but I don't think the adoption will be so quickly).

024 What is very important for enterprise application is the extensiveness of the platform that is guaranteed by .Net Services (you can create and deploy you own .Net assemblies and integrating them with a set of integration services like workflow, identity management etc.)
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Security, Identity Management and Federation are Key-Concept for Cloud Computing and everything has been released in this platform.

What I've really appreciated is the Active Directory connector that can be used to delegate authentication and authorization to the company system which is "federated" in the service.

There are some wizards which will guide you in the configuration of the "federation". It has been very impressive"

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SQL-Server Services is the database offered by Azure. Don't think to it as an hosted full SQL-Server! It's a subset and you don't OLAP cubes, Integration Services, etc.

At the moment I don't know the available features but the idea should be having a relational online database for your on-line application. The implication is that you cannot use this as an alternative to SQL-Server. It' hasn't been conceived to store TB of data!

Also if your application need to integrate data from etherogeneus data-sources (not on HTTP) maybe is not a good idea to put it on an Online platform!

Azure has been created for HTTP applications! EAI and ETL cannot run on this platform!

So Keep it on mind! If you're from Italy and you're thinking to this platform to put-away the servers and the system engineers from you small to medium size company (a PMI) you're on the wrong-way

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The final demonstration was driven by Shawn Davison from RedPrairie which explained how they delivered and integrated Microsoft System Center with an approach Software+Services showing some Dashboard and some reports build with Reporting Services 2008.

Recap

Technical Perspective

  • Everything seems to be amazing.
  • Which are the wall and the constraints imposed by the platform interfaces contracts? How complex could be the applications? Which are the functional boundaries?
  • Which are the performances trade-off and the suggested storage and transaction limits (the work-load)?

Business Perspective

  • A billing module is missing. That's a lack for a services development platform. I'd like to see off-the-shelves functionality to manage the billing of the services!
  • How the platform will be selled by MS?
  • Which is the partner ecosystem? Potentially some applications could be moved from small/medium size companies to hosted platform (Exchange, Sharepoint, CRM) shrinking the market for system engineers consultancy.
  • Which could be the business-model for service application hosted by Azure? Who will build them?? Maybe Azure could be for the innovative startup companies what myspace has been for the musicians...
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