An SOA odyssey

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

MVP Summit Day 2

Day 2 of the MVP Summit was spent in building 43 on the Microsoft campus, the home of the Connected Systems Division. Right away what I liked about their approach to the event was that the sessions CSD delivered were not targeted to a single MVP focus (BizTalk for example) but rather to a larger group that included Solutions Architects and others. In essence the sessions were designed to give us the broad picture of how everything in the division interconnects, which, if you think about it, should be a primary focus of their division.

Just a quick note on last night's activities. The attendee dinner was held at The Museum of Flight south of downtown and it was a fabulous event. For some reason I had never made it to the museum and was absolutely floored by the quantity and quality of the exhibits. What was particularly interesting to me were the myriad examples of fighter planes from World War I up to the current day with brief but informative descriptions of each. The exhibits were also grouped by time period so a British Spitfire was next to the German Messerschmitt and the planes the US Navy flew were next to the Japanese versions which allowed you to compare and contrast them. The displays were also interesting in that along with a description of a specific kind of plane a brief blurb about the founder of the various aircraft companies as appropriate and the history of the museum's particular example of that aircraft.

In any case the first talk today was given by Sonu Arora, Program manager in CSD and Jesus Rodriguez, the Chief Software Architect of a company called Two Connect. Their topic was titled "Line of Business Adapter with WCF Deep Dive". Essentially the LOB Adapter is a new SDK for building adapters (termed the LOB adapter SDK where LOB refers to any backend application such as SAP, PeopleSoft and even custom databases) to integrate LOB applications with WCF clients. To that end the result is integration with your line of business applications that areā€¦

  • Surfaced as WCF Binding

  • Can be consumed using WCF channel/service programming model

  • The strength of this approach is that it moves the adapter out of BizTalk and the other Microsoft products (for example Microsoft today has five SAP "adapters" strewn about their products) where it can be reused. In all, very interesting stuff.

    The second session of the day was given by David Hill PM Tech Lead in the UI Framework regarding a topic that is still under NDA but is related to the existing client application block (CAB), Smart Client Software Factory, and WPF work being done and targeted for the post Visual Studio Orcas timeframe.

    The third session was given by Jack Greenfield of Software Factories fame where he first discussed the current state of the software factory and software product lines and then moved on to the plans (under NDA) for this space under Rosario.

    One of the things I did find interesting in his review of the current state of things is when he showed a slide that include a continuum of guidance evolution. The evolution starts with written guidelines, moves on to standard patterns, evolves to templates that can be reused in tools, then to frameworks that templates often rely on, and finally to visual designers that are integrated into the tool. This is interesting since in our project we're entering the template and frameworks stages by developing a set of CodeSmith templates to drive the development of new services by hooking into our existing service provider and service consumer frameworks. I'm not certain we'll ever get to visual designers or that we'll ever need to, but the topic reminded me that there is a continuum here and in my experience there is a large gulf between guidance/patterns and templates/frameworks and that is where you can really drive adoption. Until there is some actual help outside of the printed word, it is difficult for developers to adopt a new framework.

    Next, we were off to building 5 and the home of the Patterns and Practices group where we took a tour of their agile-enabled redesigned space. In a nutshell the P&P group worked with a team of architects over a three to four month period and ended up rearchitecting their space for their teams that doing a mix of Scrum and Agile development.

    The space, which accommodates up to 50 people, is now split into five team rooms wrapped by a ring of offices on a raised floor where literally the walls of all the team rooms and the offices are moveable. Each of the team rooms has desks with low dividers that can be configured in any way the team likes to the extent where the power coming from the floor can be moved along with the tables. The walls of each of the team rooms is double pane glass with a white material between them so they can be written on from floor to ceiling. Each of the team rooms was configured differently with some teams working in a circle sort of like a traditional conference room while others were staggered throughout the room. Not all of the walls had the white surface, however, and neither did the glass doors since one of the design criteria was that no matter where a team member sits, they can see outdoors. Each room also had a projector and conference phone and each phone at the workstations use IP and so can be moved as developers move around. The workstations themselves are all dual monitor (every team member uses a laptop) as well with their own lighting.

    The outside offices are used for a variety of purposes ranging from a dedicated customer room where customers have a place to call home while working with the team to a series of offices some of which are actually dual offices for product managers and others. Interestingly, they also have a dedicated "quiet room" (my term) where a developer can get away from their team in order to make a phone call or otherwise take a break from their teammates. From the feedback I've gotten from the team I worked on who worked in a war room environment for several months, this is probably an essential aspect of this kind of team environment.

    In taking the tour it was also noted that the P&P group of course uses Team Foundation Server but does not use MSBuild but rather CruiseControl to do their builds. They're also working their way through how to use the process guidance in TFS as the different teams have used different templates and use those different templates in various ways.

    Labels: ,

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Developer Division Update

    The Developer Division hour long session at the MVP summit was given by the corporate Vice President of the division by S. Somasegar. He started by presenting an overview of what has been happening within the division since the release of Visual Studio 2005 some 16 months ago. This included reviews of .NET 3.0 with WFC and WWF, ASP.NET Ajax, Team Foundation Server, the MSDN Wiki beta, and the March CTP of the Orcas release of Visual Studio. He then proceeded to bring out a presenter to do a demo of the Office 2007 integration with Orcas related to "forms regions". Essentially, as shown in the demo, within Orcas developers will have an add-in makes it fairly simple to integrate outside content into Outlook. The most interesting of the demos that he showed integrated additional features into contact management where clicking on a contact used Windows Live Services to pull down maps of the location within a pane inside outlook. He also showed a demo where business data on specific clients was brought up in a separate pane (using a WPF control highlighting the cool UI features) when an email from that client was selected. Interesting stuff.

    Somasegar then went on to point out that "friction free" deployment was one of their big challenges and something they've been working hard on. He followed this with a demo of WPF/E (Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere) (there was a CTP in February) and is the subset technology of WPF allowing rich multimedia experiences to be embedded on web pages using XAML and scripted using Javascript.

    The demo was interesting in that it showed one of WPF/E enhanced capabilities to deal with inking. In the demo the user on the web was able to annotate an image or a video and then when posted back to the server (you could also use Ajax) and saved, the page would allow for searching the video stream for the annotation, seeking to it, and then replaying the inking on the screen.

    He then answered a few questions and noted that PDC will be held this year in early October in Los Angeles.

    At several points in the talk he was also very high on LINQ and urged those in attendance to take in the talk later today on the subject. It will also be included in Orcas and brings query capability down into the CLR and provides extensions to support both relational and XML data stores.

    Labels: ,

    Global MVP Summit

    After a brief visit to several spring training sites over the weekend I'm here in Seattle attending the Microsoft MVP Summit. This is the annual event where 1,700 Most Valuable Professionals from 90 plus countries gather to attend over 500 sessions and to give Microsoft feedback on their products. These MVPs (and I admit I'm woefully lacking in that area) do much of their work in newsgroups and provided over 28,000 answers (21% of all answers) to questions in the MSDN forums last year. I'm in the Visual Developer group as a Solutions Architect and will be attending many of the developer tracks and hopefully providing some commentary over the next several days.

    In this morning's keynote Bill Gates spoke for about 20 minutes on the evolution of technology in Microsoft's just over 30 years in the industry. He hit all of the common themes from the growth in computing power via Moore's Law to the growth in multi-core computing (predicting 16 to 32 processors for desktop machines in 4 to 5 years) to the increasing availability of wireless technologies and it's expansion into the so-called "white space" that will allow for entire cities to provide wireless access. He also spent some time discussing graphics and video technologies and Microsoft's desire to raise the level of abstraction by providing APIs in the core operating systems that include the physics components and that also harness the power of the emerging multi-processor architectures. He sees video in many ways as the "final frontier" because of the challenges it posed in the past in terms of storage and processing power and he forsees the integration, cataloguing, and retrieval of video from a wide range of sources (colleges like MIT making their lectures freely available, businesses in corporate training, home and local use as in children's sporting events) as the next major application of the technology.

    He also took question for over a half hour fielding a wide range of queries related to the history of Microsoft and its products, the decline of computer science graduates in the US, the role of information technology in disaster scenarios such as that posed by Katrina and 911 (he reference the show 24 in his answer to this one noting how the integration of systems that the CTU can tie into does not exist in the real world today), and the struggles of Windows Search.

    Now it's on to the Developer Division Roadmap session.

    Labels: , ,