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Thoughts on the Professional Developers Conference

Greetings!  Chris Steffen here again. You may have read my posts regarding virtualization and green IT in the past.

I had the opportunity to spend the week at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) recently.  While I am not a programmer, as a technical architect, I took away several interesting tidbits from the conference that I thought I would take a moment to share:

1.  Windows Azure is the real deal. Previously, it seemed to be a hodge-podge of somewhat related technologies, with some of them helping customers get into the “cloud” – something elusive and barely defined, but very likely the next cool thing.  PDC 2009 changed that forever.  Now there is a complete roadmap, from application development to system monitoring tools to OS and database support.  Microsoft is the only company out there that has the complete solution—and it is about time someone did.

2.  The “cloud” defined (sort of).  What does it mean to be part of a “cloud”? I have actually had this discussion on multiple occasions, and while two individuals might be able to come up with an acceptable definition, no one has come out and established what it means to be “cloudy.” Finally, Bob Muglia, in his keynote address on Tuesday, has done so. Flexibility, scalability, self service, on-demand provisioning and virtualization are all key components to being part of the cloud.  More importantly, he also made it clear that you don’t need to do all these things to be part of the cloud – covering most of them is acceptable.  Of course, Microsoft has a solution for each of these components, with more tools in development to make it even easier.

3.  Some is better than none.  It was refreshing to hear that Microsoft is not thinking that everyone will migrate everything to the cloud immediately.  In fact, they are taking a very realistic approach to the cloud as a whole, fully expecting that it will be a deliberative process and that it is very likely that some sort of hybrid environment (part public cloud and part private cloud) will always exist.  Some of the other existing cloud providers could stand to learn a thing or two from this approach.

4.  One size does not fit all.  Probably the most interesting thing that I heard (repeatedly, I might add) is the idea that Azure is not a “one size fits all” solution.  Quite the opposite, in fact. Microsoft wants to bring cloud computing to the masses, but is keenly aware that providing for the masses means that there are niche markets for which they will not be able to directly provide, and that their partner hosting providers are expected to fill this space.  They understand that they are going to get the business – either directly through subscriptions to Windows Azure or through hosting partners, using Microsoft’s operating systems and management tools.  Pretty smart long-term thinking…

Overall, the developers that I talked to at the conference were excited about cloud computing.  Much in the same way that virtualization is the “it” technology among systems and operations folks.

The forecast is cloudy!

Chris Steffen

Principal Technical Architect

Kroll Factual Data