My schedule on day 3 and 4 was very heavy on sessions dealing with virtualization and various Windows Server 2008 topics. I mentioned it in my previous post but there is a tremendous amount of integration and collaboration between the virtualization teams and the management teams. I asked a several questions and had some discussions with various program managers from the teams around dynamic data center scenarios, large scale test lab scenarios, etc. These are absolutely on the radar screen and if you look at the technologies the teams are focused on like quick migration, live migration, intelligent placement, powershell everywhere, etc. you can see the foundational components required for those scenarios will be coming online over the next year and in concert with all of the System Center products being released as well.
On the Windows Server 2008 front, there is a large amount of improvements coming across the board. I came out to Seattle 2 days before TechReady to attend a Server 2008 Airlift which was basically 2 days focused on 2008 features. The big ones are obivously Server Core and Windows Server Virtualization but two others I learned a lot more about are the improvements in clustering with 2008 and in dynamic hardware partitioning. On the cluster front, there have been significant improvements in storage, networking, and UI. The storage changes make clustering much more SAN friendly and the network changes eliminate the need nodes to be on the same VLAN. There is also a much more robust quorum model that eliminates the quorum disk from being a single point of failure.
On the dynamic hardware partitioning front, I saw a demo video of a massive 32 processor NEC server that when combined with Windows Server 2008 provides the ability to hot add processors, ram, and NICs to a running system. It also allows you to physically partition the server into multiple physical servers as well as allocating resources as hot spares.
The combination of Server 2008, WSV, and System Center really take the Windows platform to a new level. For infrastructure architects, the platform provides technologies to implement much higher availability, secure, and dynamic infrastructures. Over the next several months I'm going to update some of my reference architecture documents and my test lab so I can share out some specific examples.
Day 2 at TechReady brought a keynote by Bill Gates and another Q&A session afterwards. The keynote was pretty interesting, it was a fairly typical BillG presentation with some good demos. He highlighted six major areas Microsoft is focusing on over the next 5 years. No real news there, it was the same things we've been talking about publicly for a while, the Services platform, etc. What struck me most about both his keynote and Kevin Turner's is the much increased focus on the consumer space.
Consumers are driving a big portion of the tech industry today and that makes its way eventually into the corporate market. Both are extremely important to Microsoft for obvious reasons. They hype and success of the iPhone, Wii, etc. demonstrate two areas BillG says Microsoft needs to improve. The first is the design and approachability of the hardware itself. The second is the user interface experience like the touch capability of the iPhone and the Wii controller. In each of these areas Microsoft has had research and demos for a long time (like Microsoft Surface) but haven't gotten them to the market quickly enough. My impression was that across the board there will be focus on hardware and user experience.
For the remainder of Day 2 I attended several sessions on Virtualization. The first dealt with using Microsoft technology to create a dynamic data center. The second was about current large scale virtualization projects currently underway. Some things demoed that I haven't had time to test out yet are a Self Service Portal for managing virtual machines. The scenarios are developers needing a virtual environment for testing so they go to the SCVMM portal and provision for themselves a set of VM such as a DB VM, an IIS VM, etc. This scenario can also be used for production VMs where a Tier 2 admin may be givne permissions to create new production VMs. Several TAP customers are doing this in production today on VS 2005 and SCVMM. The second one was the capability of Data Protection Manager to back up running VMs using VSS. If needed, you can snapshot running VMs as frequently as every 15 minutes. SInce it is VSS aware, the VMs and VSS aware applications are properly quiesced for a consistent snapshot.
This is an area I focus on a lot but seeing demos and real world case studies of customers using the full suite really demonstrated the breadth of our offering. Most people think only of Virtual Server when they think Microsoft virtualization but the full suite is quite a bit more including Virtual Server, Virtual PC, Softgrid, Virtual Machine Manager, Data Protection Manager, Operations Manager. The full suite gives us server, workstation, and application virtualization, high availability, quick migration, P2V, backup/DR, advanced monitoring and much more. The suite is a more holistic offering than our competitors and once Windows Server Virtualization comes out, I think Microsoft will gain much more traction in the market as we will have a suite that is equal to or better than our competitors in almost all areas. Certainly a great segment of the industry to focus on.
Check back tomorrow for the Day 3 summary, I'll be attending more Virtualization sessions as well as Softgrid and Configuration Manager sessions.
Hello from TechReady 5 in Seattle. Like last year, I'm going to blog each day this week with news from TechReady, Microsoft's internal technical conference for employees. TechReady is a great event held twice a year where we get to hear from the product groups about all the upcoming releases for the year as well as training on all of the current releases.
Today kicked off with a keynote address by Kevin Turner, Microsoft's Chief Operating Officer. As they usually do, at the end of his presentation he took questions from the audience. This is one of the great things about the company, the executives will take any question from the audience and in most cases they audience doesn't pull any punches. Today, I had the opportunity to step up to the mic and ask Kevin a question. I wanted to guage the executive committment to the amount of investment and vision required for the move to software plus services, hosting, and large data centers that we keep talking about and that I am a big proponent of. These are huge business changes that in some cases are completelty different than the models that we have historically been successful with.
Being an internal conference, I don't think it's appropriate to quote his response but I came away convinced that the committment is absolutely there from the highest level. I think the top level vision is dead on in terms of offering customers the choice: services hosted by Microsoft, services hosted by our partners, or services hosted by the customer themselves. Everyone else is pitching an all or nothing approach.
Tomorrow Bill Gates will be our morning keynote so I am definately looking forward to that! Maybe I'll get a question in to him too! Check back tomorrow for a summary of his thoughts and a review of the technical sessions I'll be attending.