For those of you, like me, who aren’t lucky enough to travel over to New Orleans for TechEd, you’re pretty much restricted to catching up on the gossip via blogs, and news feeds.  Whilst this is fine for some, there’s nothing quite like seeing the technology for yourself.  It’s good news therefore, that the keynotes are being made available, on the web, on Demand, for you to stream, or download so you can hear first hand, Bob Muglia, the President of our Server & Tools business, talk about Dynamic IT, Cloud and more.  If that’s not enough, you’ll also see a selection of speakers from Microsoft show you, live, some of the currently available, and future technologies, that can help you to transform your infrastructure.  For those of you who don’t want to watch it, or perhaps don’t have time to watch it all, here’s my highlights…

3m 50s to 10m 30s – Visual Studio Lab Management & System Center Integration

I’m not a dev.  Far from it!  Sure I know the odd bit of PowerShell (Get-VM) but for those of you who do work in that world, having process around the development, testing, and rollout of an application or workload can be difficult, and expensive.  Having watched this demo in action, I have to say, I’m impressed.  I’ll reiterate, I’m not a developer, but I could see how the combination of these technologies could easily benefit that type of environment, and leverage tools, like System Center, that can also benefit other areas of the infrastructure.  Stephanie Cuthbertson, a Group Program Manager in the Visual Studio TFS team, explains how easy it can be, with the right technologies, to, for example, update troublesome applications that are live in production.  Using recording capabilities, IntelliTrace, and more, I was actually blown away with what it gives you.  I used to code Java whilst at Uni, ad it was very different then! (it wasn’t that long ago, for those of you thinking the worst!)

Visual Studio and System Center

Once the application has been fixed, it needs to b deployed into production, and that’s where System Center, in particular, Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, Opalis comes in.  Opalis, for those not familiar, is an orchestration engine, helping you to build out workflow with little or no scripting involved, saving time, effort, and grey hairs.  It really does enable some compelling scenarios, and, like many of the System Center technologies, the framework they provide means the more you put in, the more you get out.

15m 55s to 23m 10s – System Center Virtual Machine Manager vNext

For me, this is a big one. Anders Vinberg, Technical Fellow in the Management and Security Division, shows us that firstly, the interface has been overhauled, to bring it in line with Office.  It’s going to manage the fabric of your infrastructure, as oppose to just the VMs that run on it.  It’s going to transform the way you deliver a virtual infrastructure, through integration with things like Server App-V, DAC Packages (Data Tier Applications), and MSDeploy Packages.  This separation of these intelligent components, combined with the Service Model wizard, enables construction of tiered applications very quickly, in a very powerful manner.  Core Elasticity is how Bob describes the system – a good term to slip into presentations me thinks ;-)

SCVMM vNext

The demo then moves on to servicing of applications.  The demo shows Anders scanning images in the library, offline, comparing the images with patching baselines that have been defined, and deploying those patches into the offline images on the fly.  Subsequently, we can now show that the production systems, which also need to be updated, are being highlighted.  How do we update these production systems?  Well, the system can effectively use Server App-V, to lift the application off the OS, service the image, and drop the application back down on top.  If Microsoft pulls this off, this will be a big thing, and I look forward to getting my hands on it!

26m 10s – 36m 45s - Building Cloud Applications and Integration with On-Premise Technologies

As I said earlier, I’m not a dev, so anything that’s development related, usually goes over my head, but this demo, very much like the first one, just makes sense.  Doug Purdy, CTO in the Data and Modeling group, shows us things like extending your identity up to the cloud from AD make it seamless for the user to utilise cloud services, but also, how this can integrate into on-premise platforms like CRM.  Very cool.  Doug also announces that as of now, you can start to construct applications on Azure utilising .NET 4.  The key thing that is apparent to me, is the deep (and getting deeper) integration from Visual Studio up to Azure, whether it’s looking deeper inside the databases on SQL Azure, or actually deploying applications straight to Azure, utilising tools that were highlighted in the first demo of the keynote.  We’ve also released AppFabric to RTM, so you can really start to connect pieces of your infrastructure to the cloud.

Azure and SCOM

The final part of the demo, and my favourite bit of Doug’s section, was the extension of Azure to enable monitoring, side by side with your on-premise elements, with System Center Operations Manager.  Very cool indeed.

40m 55s – 43m 15s - Chicago Tribune and it’s use of Azure

OK, not a demo as such, but a useful insight into how a real-world customer is benefiting from Windows Azure to run their business, scaling on demand, and reducing their 32 datacenters, 75000 square feet of raised floor, and 4000 different servers running a variety of different applications.  The result was 2 datacenters, and 1 Azure based platform.  Massive savings!

46m 28s – 57m 14s Microsoft Unified Communications – Wave 14

Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President of the Office Communications Group, walks us through a number of the capabilities of the next wave of OCS.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to heavily rely on OCS, as a way to quickly communicate and collaborate with my colleagues, and Partners, through the mediums of Instant Messaging, Voice, or Video.  It’s fundamental to my productivity at home too, seeing as my mobile phone signal is so bad, OCS is the only reliable (and cost effective!) way of communicating.  One of the big changes in Communicator, is its personalisation.  It’s much more of a ‘Corporate Windows Live Messenger’, with a very social experience, with photos, activities and more.  The big thing, I guess for many organisations, is cost savings associated with going to a soft-phone based VOIP infrastructure, and to give you an idea of Microsoft saving’s, we’re actually saving over $1million per month using this technology versus our prior phone-based solutions.  Impressive stuff.  Gurdeep also talks about the integration with SharePoint, and the intelligence around searching for people based on different pieces of information.  I have to admit, the high-def video stuff was awesome.  I’d like to see how it behaves on my pitiful internet connection in Chorley, Lancashire, but still, it’s extremely promising, and will work perfectly with my LifeCam Cinema!

OCSWave14


59m 25s – 1h 5m 28s - Windows Phone 7

I’m excited about Windows Phone 7, as it looks incredibly slick, and as long as someone converts all the iPhone Apps across to Windows Phone, it stands a great chance of having a good crack at the Smartphone market.  If that doesn’t happen, and the applications aren’t produced, to the standard, and price that people expect, it could be a long hard slog for Windows Phone to make a breakthrough.  Augusto Valdez, Senior Product Manager for Mobile, walks us through a number of capabilities of the new platform.  As I said earlier, I’m excited about this.  The interface inevitably, will be compared to other touch-screen devices, yet there are both similarities, and differences.  Overall though, the general look and feel, the quality of the experience, and the integration with Exchange, Office, and SharePoint is first class, which for businesses, is very important.  The use of the Live Tiles is very neat, although I’d be interested to know the effect it has on the battery!  I’d like to change the colours of the different tiles if possible – time will tell if that can be done.  I’m sure it can be!

WindowsPhone7

Opening of things like Excel, and PowerPoint retain the level of fidelity you expect from a PC-based device, and sure, not every command will be available, but it’s certainly a great way of interacting with data, in a rich manner, whilst on the move.  It’s this kind of functionality which will ensure that I wait for WM7, instead of jumping on the iPhone bandwagon…

1h 10m 22s to 1h 19m 35s – Combining Business Intelligence and the Cloud

Amir Netz, Distinguished Engineer in the Microsoft BI Team, showcases the power of Excel 2010 to present rich views of information.  What impresses me here, not being a BI specialist, is it’s done without the need for coding, making it instantly more accessible to a greater number of users.

ExcelBI


What’s perhaps more impressive in this example, is the sheer volume of data that’s behind these graphs and pie charts.  The sales data alone is over 100 million rows, and the fact that this is running on a laptop, locally, is phenomenal.  The demo then goes on to discuss interaction with different backend platforms, including the cloud, with services like Project ‘Dallas’, built on SQL Azure. The integration with SharePoint is also very slick.  I certainly wish I could build stuff like that into my demo environment!  More grey hair on the way I think!

1h 21m 28s to 1h 24m 5s – The use of Windows Server & SQL Server in Avatar

Now, before anyone jumps in and says ‘I didn’t see Windows Server or SQL in Avatar’ – you obviously weren’t paying attention in the film!  Just kidding.  Product placement in films is common place, but seeing WS & SQL isn’t something I expect to ever see!  Unless it’s a film about databases, in which case, I still don’t expect it’s something I’ll go to see with my own free will!

Avatar

It’s not often you think of technologies like Windows Server or SQL being involved with something like Avatar, but in this short video, you’ll learn about Gaia, and how that, along with Microsoft technologies, was fundamental to the movie.  Very impressive stuff indeed.

Summary

I wish I could have gone to TechEd.  We have our internal equivalent in the next few months, where' I’ll get immersed in new and upcoming technologies, which is something I’m really excited about so it’s not all bad.  What’s clear to me is, Microsoft is innovating on multiple fronts.  The stuff that’s here with BI, and Visual Studio, along with Azure, and it’s integration into System Center is really starting to take shape, and I cannot wait for future releases of System Center, as, release on release, things are getting stronger, and more relevant for customers’ infrastructures.  Windows Phone 7, from a personal usage perspective, is high on my agenda as my current phone, whilst functional, isn’t giving me the experience I’m looking for in a phone anymore.  Times have changed, across both desktop, datacenter, cloud and mobile, trends are changing, technologies are moving, and the keynote gives just a small glimpse into what’s possible.

If you want to watch the keynote for yourself, or download it, you can get it from here.