Ray Ozzie’s Azure Keynote Overview

In case you missed it, you can see a clip of Ray Ozzie giving an overview of Azure.

If you want more recorded sessions you can see all the keynote videos here:

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/pdc/default.mspx

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Oslo Roundup

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I have talked a little bit about Oslo in the past (Oslo Sneak Peak) but not too much given the launch at PDC. At the conference the proverbial "cat is out of the bag".

It all started with the “Lap Around Oslo” session yesterday. If you missed the conference you can watch the recorded session and the Lap Around Oslo presentation itself. This was the first public demo of the Oslo components, including the “M” language, “Quadrant” visual toolset and repository.

Oslo Tracks at PDC

  • “Oslo”: The Language
  • “Oslo”: Customizing and Extending the Visual Design Experience
  • “Oslo”: Repository & Models
  • “Oslo”: Building Textual DSLs

 

Architecture Overview

Below is an overview of the Oslo architecture. I am not going to go into too much detail right now as there has been a ton of coverage on Oslo so far. See below in the resources section.

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Quadrant

  • Visual modeling tool to see the graphical information
  • Development environment for models
  • Adapters will be provided for other MS modeling tools such as Visio

"M" a.k.a. Model Language Overview

  • “M” is a language for defining domain models and textual domain-specific languages (DSLs)
  • M domain models define schema and query over structured data
  • Values, Constraints, and Views
  • Natural projection to SQL
  • M DSLs define projections from Unicode text to structured data
  • Rule-based transformation
  • Grammar-driven text editor integration

Repository (don’t have a whole lot of info here)

  • The repository that will store all of the model information
  • Provide data driven services to drive certain tasks
  • API for integration of other tools such as Office, VSTS, etc.

 

To earn more at PDC, download the CTPs or Oslo SDK and check out the new resources at the Dev Center. The “M” language is under the Open Specification Promise. By doing so, “M” it makes it possible for third parties, including open source projects, to build implementations of "M" for other runtimes, services, applications and operating systems.

 

Resources

 

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Office Web Applications

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There hasn’t been a shortage of announcements this year at PDC. The next big one besides Windows 7 is the new "Office Web Applications" live services. The Office team will be delivering the five most popular Office applications as light weight browser based versions that include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Folks at PDC got a sneak peak at a demo and screenshots, see below:

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So what does this mean for architects? Is this just consumer black box services? I don’t think so. The Office team is trying to move away from the Software as a Service (SaaS) model and focus on solutions that expose rich integration capabilities with not only the browser environment but what ever form factor is appropriate for a specific scenario. This is the software plus services (S+S) theme that has been delivered all through PDC with Azure, Windows 7 and now Office.

Existing solutions in the web based productivity space such as Google Docs and Zoho offer a very limitted and black box solution. It makes it tough to have rich collaboration as you can see below in the interview with Antoine Leblond, Senior VP of Office Productivity Apps and Chris Bryant of General Program Manager.

 

http://channel9.msdn.com/posts/PDCNews/435973/player/
First Look: Office 14 for Web

 

I haven’t gotten completely briefed on the architecture of the solution but what I do know is that the technologies that enable Office Web is a mixture of Silverlight, AJAX and HTML. It is great to see a mixture of technologies used for this implementation because there is a variety of web technologies that are right for particular aspects of the architecture.

From a browser perspective it looks like Office Web will also be compatible with IE8, Firefox (used in the interview above) and Safari.

One could imagine the possibilities here and what it could mean for customers that have built Office Business Applications (OBA). The story get much richer now that you can introduce the cloud into the mix.  It is still too early to tell how much of the API will be available but more details are forth coming.

Office Web Applications will be released to a limited set of partners and customers at the end of this year. The release date will closely align with Office 14 and Windows 7 which will be sometime in late 2009 or early 2010.

Resources

Microsoft Azure Services Platform

Another announcement at PDC today from Ray Ozzie was the Azure Services Platform. This is an Internet-scale cloud services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers, which provides an operating system and a set of developer services that can be used individually or together. Azure’s flexible and interoperable platform can be used to build new applications to run from the cloud or enhance existing applications with cloud-based capabilities. Its open architecture gives developers the choice to build web applications, applications running on connected devices, PCs, servers, or hybrid solutions offering the best of online and on-premises.

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Key components of the Azure Services Platform include the following:

  • Windows Azure for service hosting and management, low-level scalable storage, computation and networking
  • Microsoft SQL Services for a wide range of database services and reporting
  • Microsoft .NET Services which are service-based implementations of familiar .NET Framework concepts such as workflow and access control
  • Live Services for a consistent way for users to store, share and synchronize documents, photos, files and information across their PCs, phones, PC applications and Web sites
  • Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services for business content, collaboration and rapid solution development in the cloud

Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Azure Services Platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage internet or cloud applications. Windows Azure supports a consistent development experience through its integration with Visual Studio. In the early stages of CTP, .NET managed applications built using Visual Studio will be supported. Windows Azure is an open platform that will support both Microsoft and non-Microsoft languages and environments. Windows Azure welcomes third party tools and languages such as Eclipse, Ruby, PHP, and Python. This further solidifies Microsoft’s wiliness to open up the developer platform.

As you can see below, the Azure Services Platform aligns quite well with the Microsoft vision of Software-plus-Services and overall services strategy by offering customers, developers, and businesses a transformation in connecting devices, business, productivity, and software. Azure provides the backbone for Microsoft’s cloud based computing platform.

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Azure is a platform that will complement your existing IT environments or data centers by providing services in the cloud. the cloud based processing runs in Microsoft’s data centers and is optimized for cloud computing scenarios. You may be asking, "will Microsoft continue to innovate and invest in Server products"? Of course, the Windows Server tram addressed this right away on the Windows Server blog. They say:

We will continue to innovate and ship Windows Server for both on-premise application and infrastructure scenarios and will ensure that customers continue to have choice in choosing the platform that best meets their need, whether on-premise or in the cloud. – Bill Hilf, General Manager, Windows Server

http://blogs.technet.com/windowsserver/archive/2008/10/27/pdc-2008-azure-services-platform-and-windows-server.aspx

 

Overview Video

http://images.video.msn.com/flash/soapbox1_1.swf<\/embed><\/div>";” alt=””>

If you want some more information there are some initial source out there:

 

Hacking an Election, Really?

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Watching the news last week and over the weekend it is almost humorous to see the spin going on about the voting system issues (Sequioa AVC Advantage). It is almost discouraging people from trusting the voting system and technology all up. it concerning for me as an architect to see this happen. I am wondering if there was any architecture efforts from the either the client or the vendor side on this one. The issues seem so elementary. 

Just to get it out of the way real quick, this is not a post about any sort of political statement, endorsement, attack on the media or "the man" for that matter. If you want to hear my personal views on politics friend up with me on twitter.

So if you haven’t heard, the folks at Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy did a security assessment on the electronic voter systems and found some really big security flaws in the voter systems that are deployed in several states including key swing states like Ohio. This was brought on by a New Jersey lawsuit brought against the state by public-interest groups. The full article can be found here: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20081024-study-sequoia-e-voting-machines-disturbingly-easy-to-hack.html and http://freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/appel/report-sequioa-avc-advantage

Andrew Appel from Princeton University who led the study says:

"We have found that the Advantage AVC firmware has errors. We have also found that it is easy to replace firmware in the AVC Advantage with fraudulent firmware that can undetectably steal votes and thus change the outcomes of elections," the report says. "Furthermore, some kinds of fraudulent firmware can automatically virally propagate themselves from one AVC Advantage voting machine to another, without the attacker being physically present. Once fraudulent firmware is installed in the AVC Advantage, it can steal votes in election after election without any additional effort by the attacker."

After talking with family and friends that are not technology savvy it was interesting to hear there responses to this bit of news. There was a great deal of frustration with the vendor, government agencies that approved the machines and technology in general. Is this fair? Who’s to blame? And who is ultimately on the hook for this? All of which are hard to answer with any real certainty.

As a technologist I have to take a step back and look at the broader picture here.

Risk vs. Probability

While the risk is high, the probability for this sort of incident is low. To pull this off you really need someone that understands technology and is comfortable with modifying a chip set. I would think someone would have to do the following:

  1. Read up on DYI Guide to hacking a voting machine
  2. Get the tools & software to flash a chip. This would require some low level understanding of computers which is going to be a relatively small portion of folks out there.
  3. Possibly get a chip that is already loaded, now they have to purchase somewhere. Online? The mysterious guy in an ally somewhere? You get the point.
  4. Then you have to go to register, put your name on a piece of paper, go into a booth and hack away
  5. If you can get to the hardware components and if your handy lock pick or screw driver doesn’t make too much noise you may be able to pull it off
  6. Pull and pray… What if it doesn’t work? What if the system goes into an endless beep cycle when reboots… Well, your toast.

There are way too many points in this process where you as the hacker are personally identifying your self. I really don’t see why any smart person our there would do this.

Risk vs Reward?

So what’s in it for the hacker? Is it the thrill of "putting it to the man"? Is it trying to get your favorite politician in office, like in your favorite episode of Heros? As I outlined above, there is a ton of risk here for arguably little reward. The consequence, breaking a few federal laws and spending a good portion of your life in "the clink".

I don’t see the incentive.

Ability to do this?

As I mentioned above, to pull this off successfully there is a requirement to be very technology savvy. While there are many of us out there, I am confident we are using our skills for good rather than prison time.

So what does this mean?

In my personal opinion, at the end of the day whomever purchased these machines should be ultimately accountable. They did not due the required due diligence. I am somewhat disappointed in the lack of diligence here given the federal mandate to consolidate technology decisions, create structured processes and enterprise architecture. I wonder where process broke down on this one?

As for the blame on technology, I don’t think it’s a valid argument. We trust technology with our money, our health care  and many other critical things in our life.

So what about the news media. Are they to blame for anything? Well this is more of a philosophical debate but personally they are in it to make a buck and get higher ratings so just like with anything they are going to hype it up. While I don’t agree with the methods, I understand them and have my hype filter set on high.

As for the vendor, there should be some accountability there since they provided the software. It more of an ethical dilemma really. Ultimately the government purchased this horribly flawed machines the vendor should of been forced to make changes on the behalf of it’s customer. Personally they probably should of stepped up a bit more since they knew well in advance what these machines would be used for.

To sum it all up, can I get some more architecture here? After looking at the entire solution there seem to be a number of issues besides security. One important one was the user experience (UX) aspects. The UX was pretty bad and not all that functional or easy to understand. 

Resources

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Microsoft SOA & Business Process Conference 2009

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The annual Microsoft SOA & Business Process Conference 2009 continues again this year with some really exciting features for three days dedicated to customer needs. The conference is the event for customers to receive detailed guidance on Service Oriented Architecture and Business Process Management. SOA & BPM span the enterprise, from developers building new services; to architects recommending IT standards; to business analysts designing processes; to business owners using IT to compete effectively and move their business forward.  The conference is designed to cover the relevant areas of concern to you.  

Online Registration

http://www.regonline.com/Checkin.asp?EventId=628664

Registration for the conference is $899.  Register by 12/1 to receive a discounted rate of $599.

Conference Highlights

  • Keynotes delivered by Microsoft Executives
  • Breakout and Chalk Talk Sessions, Case-Studies & Roundtables from partners and SOA customers
  • Networking Reception on Tuesday, January 27 with Partners and Customers
  • Partner Expo

 

Conference Tracks

            Track 1: SOA & BPM Best Practices

            Track 2:  Technology Offerings

 

Location

The conference will be held in Redmond, WA at the Microsoft Conference Center, January 27-30th.

 

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New "Real World" SOA Site

Today was the launch of that the new "Real World SOA happens {here}” site. This is one of the first Silverlight 2.0 applications on Microsoft.com and probably anywhere for that matter. This new site extends the existing Microsoft SOA site (http://www.microsoft.com/soa) by providing real world guidance around the SOA space. You can come here to investigate what Microsoft customers have to say about how they have developed their solutions on the Microsoft stack. You will see real world approaches that deliver significant, tangible and measurable value to their businesses.

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This is interesting to me because there isn’t a whole lot of SOA vendors that create a first class experience for customer stories and learning’s. Its good to see that we are to democratizing SOA.

There are 4 main areas you can explore:

  1. Real World SOA – Mission statements and principles to Microsoft’s approach to SOA
  2. Events – Upcoming events and registration
  3. Customer Stories – Stories and lessons learned
  4. Partners – Key partners that extend the capabilities of the MS stack

All and all they did a great job!

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