Below are some of my ad hoc notes from TechEd 2010 in New Orleans. 

The Atmosphere

Much more encouraging than last year, in my opinion.  The numbers seem to be up and the convention centre is very busy even though the facility is huge.  Microsoft has rented over 1 mile worth of space to host the event.  At a meeting that I attended on Sunday, a Microsoft rep indicated that registrations had exceeded their expectations this year.  They attributed this to improvements in the North American economy.

Keynote

A great deal of the keynote was dedicated to cloud computing.  The phrase that has been floating around Microsoft circles for the last little while is “we’re all in” meaning Microsoft is betting big time on the emergence of cloud computing.

Some items that were discussed include new tools available for Developers and IT Pros to monitor cloud applications including:

  • Intelitrace for Azure
  • SCOM Management packs for monitoring Web Roles and other artifacts in the cloud
  • SQL Management Studio integration for managing SQL Azure databases

Microsoft discussed a client, Chicago Tribune, and their shift from moving On-Premise assets to the Cloud.  Some of the key drivers for this move includes:

  • Reduction in the amount of Data centers required to run their operations
  • Pay as you go Scalability.  As you can imagine there would be some very newsworthy days that would stress a media outlet’s IT infrastructure
  • Reliability and Uptime.  If your site is down, people will just go to your competitor’s site.

Other announcements

  • Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 2008 R2 SP1 will enter Beta in July (2010)
  • Windows 2008 R2 SP1 will include enhancements such as Dynamic Memory
  • Office Communication Server 14 is schedule for Q4 – 2010 Key Features include
    • Tighter SharePoint and Exchange integration
    • Picture displays in the OCS Client as pulled from SharePoint
    • Pictures include a presence border (Green/Yellow/Red)
  • Microsoft has over 74 000 Enterprise voice users internally and saves $1 million per month by using OCS and Live Meeting for long distance and conference calls
  • Use OCS to search for Skills within your organization
  • 720p video supported with OCS 14
  • Exchange pushes polices down onto Windows Mobile 7 phones
  • Windows Mobile 7 supports multiple exchange accounts including on-premise and in the cloud
  • Windows Mobile 7 easily separates your work and you life within one phone
  • Edit documents from SharePoint using your Windows Mobile phone

Other Sessions

BizTalk 2010 and VNext

  • Customer wants include better alignment with Platform releases (SQL/Windows/VS)
  • Session was full – BizTalk interest is alive and well
  • Enhanced Mapper exists in 2010 that allows for
    • Functoid “Move to page”
    • Reduction of noise by focusing on specific areas
    • Node Search
    • Undo
    • New Ribbon at the top of Mapper – Ribbons are in-style
  • Mapper and LOB Activities are available within WF Workflows
    • A license will be required – potentially a BizTalk Standard license
    • Potentially, BizTalk Dev edition may become a free version
  • Enhanced BizTalk Management Pack for SCOM will be included
    • Better terminology and modeling used
    • Better support for multi-node BizTalk deployments
    • Adoption of SCOM still low for BizTalk deployments (around 10-20% of the room uses SCOM – non-scientific survey)
  • Settings Dashboard available in 2010
    • Allows for more granular control over performance settings
    • Some Settings remain Global, some Host specific and some Host Instance/Machine specific
    • Settings are scriptable via WMI
  • Upgrade
    • Full support from BizTalk 2006 R2 and BizTalk 2009
  • New FTP Adapter
    • FTPS protocol is supported
    • Support for read only scenarios
    • Improved performance when connecting to AIX systems
  • VNext
    • Plans still vague but looking at more Cloud integration – perhaps we will see BizTalk in the cloud or Transformations as a service in the cloud

Building Communication enabled Business Processes with Microsoft Communications Server 14

This session contained some really cool demos and makes me wish I had more spare time.  I saw some demos where a CRM application was extended to include OCS integration.  You may be saying what is the big deal you can do this today?  What was really neat was that they were able to push the CRM context into OCS so that when you called/IM’d the recipient their OCS window would be expanded to include context about what you were contacting them about.  Imagine you needed to speak to “Bob” about customer “XYZ’s” payment.  Wouldn’t it be nice to include the data that you are looking at as part of the conversation so that Bob does not have to log into the CRM? This is now possible by using the Microsoft Communications Server 14 API.  The API seemed very intuitive and includes XAML components that allow you to drag and drop these components onto your WPF/Silverlight canvas.  I see plenty of opportunities of this type of functionality in Contact Centre or CRM type applications.

View from the BizTalk Booth

This year I am spending some time helping out at the BizTalk Booth.  I thought it would be interesting to post some of the questions or trends that I am seeing while visiting with other attendees. 

  • Many people still don’t know what BizTalk is/does.  Once you explain it to them, they usually provide a response similar to “I have a broken down process that is hard to manage and is unreliable, can I use BizTalk in that scenario”?  The answer in many cases is Yes.
  • A great question came up regarding BizTalk and SAP Enterprise Services with respect to performance
  • Some people expressed frustrations over previous versions specifically some of the management tools in BizTalk 2004.  For those that have been there before and have moved on, I encourage you to come back and take a look at what BizTalk 2010 has to offer.  The tooling, tracking and management of applications has greatly improved.
  • Great questions around how do you manage your BizTalk environments?  The answer is SCOM, but you need to invest some time so that you do not create a SPAM engine.  I wouldn’t want to manage a BizTalk environment without a tool like SCOM as it provides great visibility into the Health of your BizTalk application. Tune, tune and then tune again to find the right balance.