When you think it cannot get worse…

… you end up presenting at TechEd.

Yesterday was fun (of a sort) I ended up doing the demo section of the ESB Guidance session at TechEd. This session was scheduled to be done by Robert Hogg (Black Marble) and Ewan Fairweather (Microsoft) but Ewan had to fly home early unexpectedly on Friday morning, so leaving somewhat of a gap.

So you say, ‘that is not too bad you just step in and do the prepared and scripted demo’. Well in a perfect world you would, but about 6 hours before our session was on the formal release of  ESB 1.0 was posted to the MSDN site. As our demo was based on a CTP build, and as we knew the final release was somewhat different, we thought it only right to at least show the new documentation and file structures. So a hectic few hours were had by all.

I hope anyone attended the session go what they wanted out to if. I had to leave for my flight soon after the session so have heard no feedback other than the people who came to chat at the end of the session, who seemed happy. I am sure Robert will know more when he gets back, as his flight was later he had time to return to the olympian heights of the speaker lounge to once more feast upon unicorn steaks and ambrosia (well get coffee in a proper cup not a paper one at least).

As I made the mistake of not changing my TechEd speakers shirt before the flight home, not realizing the shirt made me look like a member of EasyJet staff, my outstanding question is – is there any future event in my life where the lovely grey/blue with orange trim TechEd speakers shirt is appropriate wear?

Last day at SOA – day 4

Seems quiet here today at the SOA conference, less people about. I wonder how many have sneaked off early for flights? It does seem to be mostly Europeans left, judging by the languages I have heard.

This does not mean parking was easy this morning, as in the same conference center Bill Gates and Bill Clinton are speaking at an MSPAC event. Now a bit of google’ing shows MSPAC is either:

  1. Microsoft Political Action Committee 
  2. Resources for Ms. Pac-Man(www.mspac.com)
  3. Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut

I really hope it is one the last two, but I doubt it.

I always thing the best thing you can bring away from conferences such as this are best practice and gotta’s, to that end I saw a great session by Stephen Thomas on best practice with orchestrations, you can find his sample and slides on www.biztalkgurus.com

So that’s it for the SOA conference, off to the airport now, about 12 hours at home in the UK then off to TechEd in Barcelona. Oh what a jet set life I lead.

A trip out to a Seattle Landmark

There is more to Seattle than the Space Needle and flying fish at Pike Place Market. At the end of the SOA conference today I persuaded Robert to embark on a tourist adventure, to brave the Seattle traffic and go to Archie McPheeOutfitters of Popular Culture” . It should have been a 20 minute drive… hour and half later of nose to tail traffic we arrived.

Now I had come across Archie McPhee years ago when my ex wife had been on the Clarion West SF writers camp, and she came back with the strangest plastic frog in fur white rabbit suit; I always wonder what the person who made it in China think of the west?

The Archie McPhee web site is just full of strange and wonderous things such as the Horrified B-Movie Victims

and the Sky Diving Sigmund Freud

to name but two, so I had made a mental note to pop by if in the area.

Ballard where they are located is different to Bellevue where we have been  staying, less empty of people and not so bland, it has some character. When you get to McPhee’s there are now two shops next door to each other, both full of stuff. The problem is what seems a great thingamabob on the web can close up just look a bit cheap and plastically (this is mostly because they are, by there nature, a bit cheap and plastically).

So Robert and myself did not find anything major that we felt would add to the geek office theme for the Black Marble office, though the giant plastic tulips seemed a candidate if they had been practical to move.

So now I can say I have ‘experienced the landmark of Seattle’.

Thoughts from the SOA conference – day 3

As with all conferences you tend to flag part way through, you start to think of the flight home and not having to sit in yet another session (no matter how interesting it sound on paper). It starts to seem all sessions are either in a cold draft or tropical atmosphere. At this point I have to say I am not looking forward to another conference next week at TechEd Barcelona, I could do with a holiday! Now I am sure some will say a conference is a holiday, but I rarely find them so, holidays do not involve PowerPoint (with maybe the exception of Triathlon training camps, but many people would say they are not holidays either)

Today’s sessions have given me much to think about on in a diverse set of areas, but they could all be described as bring robustness to SOA. Now this is often lumped into the term SOA Governance, a hot topic at this event.

Arguable the most important session I saw for future work I will be doing was that by Marty Waznicky on Microsoft ESB Guidance which provides patterns and practices style information and samples for best practice use of BizTalk. It in effect provides dashboards and exception catching tools (and much more) that provide SOA Governance for BizTalk and potentially any other SOA implemention. The guidance pack he (bravely) used in the session was one that was only build this morning (and should be the release version) so you can expect to see it on MSDN next week. My only complaint over this session was the volume of information he tried to cram into 1hr, at least 2hrs were needed, it must have been one of the fastest sessions I have seen at any conference. I felt dazed by about half way through and am sure I missed stuff due to the pace.

If you want to know more ESB and are going to TechEd Developer in Barcelona next week why not look in on the session being done by Robert Hogg (Black Marble) and Ewan Fairweather (Microsoft)

Running a very close second to the ESB session was the session on Web Service Software Factory by Don Smith. Again this was a session using software built today; it is the V3 version of pattern and practice guidance pack. It is tools like this that allow developers to build robust supportable web service application in VS2005 (expect to see the VS2008 early next year). I would really advice any web service developers and SOA architects to look at this new and much improved release of the PnP when it appears in the next few days.

A couple of general points to end this post on:

  1. If this is a business automation conference why are the session feedbacks on paper and not online forms?
  2. Is there some problem with the attendees of this event which means they cannot find the mute/vibrate setting for their phones and laptops? Most sessions seem to have devices going off, but nobody here seems to do the usual British practice of silent tutting and a hard stare of disapproval. Is this an American thing (acceptance of devices going off) or are all just getting blind to it in this connected broadband age?

Microsoft SOA Conference – day 2

I have focused on the the more developer end of SOA today. In the morning excellent sessions by Aaron Skonnard and Matt Milner on using WCF in BizTalk and best WF practices respectively, both provided an interesting set of gotta’s to look out for. Check their blogs if this is an area you work in.

In the afternoon I went to a session on the Microsoft Managed Service Engine (MSE), a set of tools to allow versioning of services using in effect a WCF based proxy broker. Not a solution for every site, but in an ESB SOA world it could really save the day if you want an Agile development model, where you have to change WDSL contracts as a system evolves. My only worry would be how far it can go with the XML transforms to keep old clients working with new contracts. You still need a depreciation model which might be an issue – but even if this is the case a potentially very useful tool I am sure I will be revisiting.

Next I went to a session on testing BizTalk, all based around the BizUnit tool. Now this looks interesting, though the definition language looks a bit nasty (all XML). I think putting the ‘unit’  term in the name is stretching a point if we define a unit test as being atomic. By its nature any BizTalk test tends towards an integration test – this said still a potentially vital tool for any BizTalk project. I think Darren Jefford maybe repeating the session at TechEd in Barcelona next week, if testing is your thing go and see it, or see the write up on his blog or book.

Finally I went the session on BizTalk Services which gave some more detail on stuff announced at the keynote. This has the potential to be very big, providing a unified inter domain message routing service, you can envisage a world where IM such as Windows Messenger routes via such a service, let alone more major B2B services. Calling it BizTalk Services is a typical confusing  Microsoft naming as it is not as the name implies a hosted version of any parts of BizTalk server! Looks like CardSpace will also figure highly in this world for federated security, though this does not answer questions over passing private business data across international borders and third parties servers. Probably the most telling part of this session was in the Q&A, in that at present there is no define plan for a revenue or SLA model. This is still in it’s early CTP days – but is open to public and Microsoft seem keen for feedback so have a look.

A good day, but I think most of today’s sessions suffered from being put in too shorter slot, as I said yesterday I think it would be a good idea to  have 15 minutes longer on each session and 15 minutes less on each break. From comments from a number of speakers it seems that their presentation were written for longer slots. I am not sure if this is due to other conferences having longer slots or the materials are normally presented in a classroom style normally.

Where are all the people?

Since arriving in the Bellevue/Redmond area I have been struck by the lack of people. Wherever I have gone it seems like the place was built for at least twice the number that are present, whether it be the shopping centers or restaurants. I wondered was it because:

  1. the others are soon to arrive
  2. half the people left

Now after traveling in to the conference for a couple of days and watching the local news I have the answer, It is option 1. – they are all stuck in traffic.

The traffic between the city in the Puget Sound area is bad, more a parking lot than a road system. I am glad our hotel is just a couple of blocks away from Microsoft Campus, 5 minutes irrespective of the time of day.

Microsoft SOA Conference – end of day 1

So my thoughts at the end of day….

Certainly a useful day, but the conference seems a little slow. The breaks seem long,the sessions short and the breakout sessions finished quite early in the day. Maybe I am just used to the crammed in format of TechEd that go on late into the evening.

On the plus side this format does give a good chance to chat to other attendees, who seem very chatty and are from a wide variety of locations across the world; though nearly all white and male, an even less diverse group than at Mix UK! What does this say about the IT industry or maybe more to the point who gets to go to conferences?

I did see a great session this afternoon from David Chappell comparing .NET to J2EE.I think I saw in effect the equivalent session he did at JavaOne in year 2000 back when Black Marble was a Java house. The key point remains the same – the choice of underlying platform once made is very hard to change, even within the J2EE family of vendors. All platforms have good and bad features so a company has to make a bet on which platform will meet their needs now and allow them develop in the future. I personally can’t get away from view that a single vendor solution (i.e. .NET) allow better internal consistency and easy of development but still allows external improbability via ws* standards (or the ISB in the future). But I would say that wouldn’t I as I work for a Microsoft Gold Partner!

In the Q&A session at the end of the day it was interesting to hear the Microsoft take on companies using the cloud as the ISB, which as I posted this morning was my concern. Their view is to think of Exchange as the model, Microsoft could host it, other third parties can host it or a corporate may host their own. In many cases it is will only be a routing service and so will not actually be storing data (which could be encrypted anyway). This should go a long way to aiding acceptance.

But enough for today, off to the ask the experts reception now.

SOA Buzzword Bingo Part 1

SOA being a conference on business process is a great place to learn new words for the game of buzzword bingo,  new ones to me thus far are:

  • Onboarding – to hire staff
  • Toast – information provided via a gadget on the desktop

Microsoft SOA Conference Day 1

After a couple of days in the Washington state my body has caught up to a manageable time zone (somewhere east of Denver I think, but that is close enough) just in time for for the start of the Microsoft SOA 2007 conference.

The keynote for me highlighted that Microsoft see the future in the cloud, the Internet Service Bus (ISB) as opposed to silo’d Enterprise Service Buses (ESB). Now this assumes customers have gone down the SOA route already, which I would say is not the case in the SME market I work in. I still see many monolithic legacy applications where migration to SOA has not been considered yet.

Anyway that aside, I see storage in the cloud being the big question – yes Microsoft are throwing services out there such as:

Time will tell what the uptake of such services will be, and I think issues of trust will be a major factor – will you trust Microsoft, or Google or Yahoo to store you personal and/or corporate data? And what about the cost? At present these services are free; I expect them to remain free for the home user, but corporate users will expect better defined SLAs and these will no doubt costs. Is this another journey down the Application Service Provider style of business model?

To get the seamless application integration of the systems, as we see in demos, we will also need a better uptake of federated security models else you will spend all your time entering passwords. Now this can be mitigated by making the connections behind the scenes (within the ISB), however most of the demos seem to use the desktop client as the central point to access these various ISB services, which is sensible as this the point the data is needed.

In the keynote Oslo, the next wave of BizTalk and related products, was announced. This will address some of these cross silo connectivity issues, specifically by providing BizTalk Services, a Microsoft hosted set of routing and workflow services using BizTalk V6 (vNext) that will allow easier firewall traversal between corporate silos, but even CTPs of these products is a way off.

Anyway enough for the morning session off to lunch.

ps. Just done a sound bite for Ron Jacobs of Channel 9 on Oslo – I wonder if it makes the cut?