The Best and Worst of PDC 2010

I attended Microsoft’s PDC 2010 simulcast in their offices in Alpharetta, Georgia.  Here are my thoughts on the best and worst items from the day.

The Best of PDC 2010

  1. [Re]connecting with Friends & Colleagues – The best part of the day was seeing colleagues I haven’t seen in a while and talking to new people.  Randy, Doug, Jeremy, David, Chad – it was great seeing you guys.  Isaac, I enjoyed meeting you – best wishes in your new role.  The guy from India whose name I didn’t catch – our conversation was very interesting and raised some important points – thanks!
  2. Mark Russinovich on Azure – OK, I know this is old news, but Mark has so much geek cred & seeing him in action with Azure boosts my confidence in the platform.  I formerly just believed that Microsoft cared about making the guts of the platform accessible & diagnosable for developers.  Now I know there’s a guy in place who will make sure that happens.
  3. Asynch in C# 5.0 – I didn’t see much of Anders Hejlsberg’s, but what I did see was striking.  He demonstrated the capabilities of async and await which result in multithreaded code under the covers.  Of course multithreading is nothing new, and the Parallel framework in .NET 4.0 renders multithreaded code, but the addition of these keywords and compiler support will dramatically improve code performance at much lower development cost.
  4. Component Applications – Karandeep Anand’s presentation on AppFabric announced Azure’s upcoming Component Application features.  These features provide modeling capabilities for connecting various services together (inside Azure or not) and treating them all as a cohesive whole.  By adding and connecting a new service, all the glue code between the services was generated.  These capabilities will reduce development time and reduce manual code risks.
  5. Azure Management Portal – As with every Azure demo I saw, Karandeep used a new, Silverlight-based management portal, and it was really powerful.  The best example of ‘really powerful’ was during his presentation regarding Component Applications.  Karandeep was modeling several different services on a collection of Azure instances and he could deploy all of it atomically with a single action!  No more deploying individually.  Very cool and big time savings to boot!
  6. Windows VM hosting – Microsoft’s focus on the PaaS side of Azure has been the right course, but migrating existing apps to the cloud almost always involves some software that needs to remain as it is (due to cost, complexity, ‘it just works,’ etc.)  Now Azure will have true IaaS-level virtual machine support (but only for specific versions of Windows Server 2003 and 2008 R2)
  7. RDP to Azure Instances – In the “They Have to Do This Eventually” category, Microsoft has finally announced the ability to use Remote Desktop to access instances and VMs in Azure.  Beta coming by end of year.

The Worst of PDC 2010

  1. Buffering! My biggest disappointment of the day was that it seemed like we were watching the simulcast feed over the internet, just as we would have at our own offices.  Every session I saw encountered long pauses due to buffering.  Some sessions were so bad that people just left the room to do something (anything!) valuable with their time.  It was painful! Can’t Microsoft get these feeds over their WAN with some QOS support?  Many people in my sessions agreed that this is a make or break issue for attending next year.
  2. Azure Management Portal Not Available Until H1-2011 – The new portal will save every Azure developer a lot of time.  But, its first availability, even as a CTP, is set for the entirely nebulous “first half of 2011.”  In case you’re new to this game, that statement roughly translates to:
    • Q1 of 2011 – Wow!  You should be pleasantly surprised (shocked) if it is available in Jan, Feb or Mar
    • Q2 of 2011 – Microsoft’s internal target is probably in this quarter, and probably more toward the end.  No need to be shocked in this time-frame; pleasantly surprised is appropriate.
    • H2 of 2011 – Right, H2 is not part of H1; they don’t even overlap.  But hey, schedule slips happen!
  3. Component Application features, CTP in H1-2011 – Same as above; disappointing that we may not even get to CTP it prior to next summer.  Schedule slips are probably a higher risk for this component than the portal.
  4. Silver-what? There was a noticeable lack of Silverlight references or discussion.  If you took your guidance from yesterday’s keynote and other general sessions, you’d drop Silverlight and immediately switch to HTML5.  Silverlight still has a great future, and Microsoft continues to invest in it; so should you.

Well, that’s about it.  I hope this has been helpful or informative in some way.  If you attended PDC 2010 and think I missed a best or worst, just comment below.  If you think my Best and Worst items or commentary are wrong-headed, post a comment.  If you think I’m a lunatic, well just join the crowd.

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