For Developers, Microsoft Has More in Store than Ever Before

So, the grand Microsoft spectacle known as the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005 has now come and gone. Except for the hype surrounding the launch of the original .NET Framework, I cannot remember a technical conference garnering so much anticipation. This might have seemed like the Super Bowl for techno geeks in the U.S. and around the world, but it may have been only the warm-up act. The November launch of Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006 will be the largest such event in Microsoft History.

To get a sense of how big, here are some of the projections:

  • Microsoft expects approximately 2,500 attendees at the San Francisco, Calif. event aptly named "Launch 2005," where Steve Ballmer will be the keynote speaker.
  • Redmond has scheduled an additional 293 launch events in 241 cities worldwide, covering 91 countries, with an estimated attendance of 200,000.
  • Additionally, over 1,800 launch events will be hosted by the user group, learning channel, and academic communities.
  • Sixty partners—a record number for any Microsoft server and tools launch—are sponsoring "Launch 2005," including Accenture/Avanade, AMD, CapGemini/Sogeti, Computer Associates, Dell, EDS, EMC, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, SAP, Siebel and Unisys.

But enough propaganda. This article is my take on the key announcements and other take-aways from the PDC 2005 this past month. The announcements broadly covered different technology releases; there was a little bit for everyone. So, if you've been wondering whether technology in general is in a slump since the Internet bubble popped, I can assure you that it is not. Just ask anyone who was at the sold-out event. Sold out? I thought that was for concerts and plane flights? How on earth can a technical conference for geeks sell out? Hmm, ponder that question as we go over some of the highlights.

Mr. Gates Is in the Building

Bill Gates Keynote. Enough said. When Bill is in attendance—you know it's big. You have to wonder how Gates stays interested in technology. The same way I do, I guess: He likes what he does. It's not work if you enjoy what you are doing. I stumbled into the IT world by accident and thought I was playing. I never imagined I could actually make a living doing it. So, anytime I see Gates speak, I see that drive in him that I think embodies a lot of us in this field.

Gates spoke of all the soon-to-be-released technologies and the impact that they will have on future software releases. If you did not make the PDC this year, you can still see the keynotes from Gates and Co-President Jim Allchin.

Windows Vista, WinFS

Windows Vista, formerly known as Longhorn, will be Microsoft's next operating system release for the desktop and server. For the developer, WinFX is the new programming model that sits on top of and also extends the .NET Framework.

The Indigo API now becomes the Windows Communication Foundation Framework, with extensible SOA and SOD (service on demand) features and capabilities built directly into the API. These will all support industry standards such as the WS*- specifications. This is a key component to the connected services paradigm that the IT world is heading towards.

This announcement means it's going to be easier to develop on open standards that are deployed as part of the API, rather than as an add-on SDK. The security and reliability will be built into the OS.

Then there is the Windows Presentation Foundation, built on XAML. This to me has been the most exciting thing I have seen yet for one simple reason: I am a meta-data guy, and this solves a lot of the coding issues I had with Windows, Web pages, or anything graphical. The separation of UI design from the code and the data that is driven from the code enables me to store my attributes about a 'widget' in WinFS and render it using the WinFx API. This should be released in 2006 for XP.

Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk 2006

Visual Studio 2005 (Whidbey) has become my new favorite development tool. Okay, so it just replaced Visual Studio 2003, but I must say that the VS team is doing a great job with this new IDE. Although I have been using it for close to 18 months now, I am just now starting to learn some of the new features.

By far, my favorite new feature is IntelliSense Code Snippets (ICS). I used to write macros for what I now can do with ICS. I still write macros, but not as many. I won't go into too many details (because I have a forthcoming Developer.com article on the topic) other than to say, learn it, live it, be the snippet!

The Visual Studio Team Foundation will be the new working model for development projects. It is the flagship environment for medium-sized to large project teams. It is built around industry standards such as Agile software development and Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF). In some cases, you might hear it as the replacement to SourceSafe, and to some extent that is true. But, it does so much more for the entire product lifecycle, such as project management, process workflow, and defect tracking to mention just a few.

SQL Server 2005 (Yukon)—where to begin? Let's start with Integration Services. If you currently work with SQL Server 2000 Data Transformation Services (DTS) and have not taken a peek at Integration Services, stop whatever you are doing and try it. It is not an evolution, but a revolution! First and foremost, it is part of SQL Server 2005—period. I have been a long-time user of DTS 7 and 2000 and grew very found of its capabilities. But, as I matured with the tool and my customers matured with it and other Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) tools, I found myself extending quite a bit in some ways that I think were not intended. I sometimes found myself asking what if; I now just say wow!

The Business Intelligence (BI) and SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) team delivered a product that I believe over time will have the biggest impact of all the tools that ship with SQL Server 2005. Starting with optimizing the data flow so that the performance is optimal, and then adding most every imaginable task and component, they have all but eliminated the need for extensibility.

But wait, you say you need to extend widget X? No problem, because it's built on top of .NET 2.0 and part of Visual Studio, you can extend existing objects and components or just write your own in your language of choice.

This naturally leads me to CLR integration. Delivering this feature, to say the least, was not a trivial process. Early Yukon-CLR integrations were actually hosted by IIS. The 2.0 implementation changed this for stability and integration ease. What you get is a very stable DBMS that allows you to write managed code for stored procedures, triggers, and functions.

More to Come

I hope this has been enough to get you excited about some of the new technologies that are coming. I will follow up this article with a series of articles on some of the specific technologies that were introduced at the PDC.



About the Author

Patrick Gallucci

Patrick Gallucci is a Senior Consultant in the Communications Sector at Microsoft. He has more than thirteen years experience in information technology. Patrick's area of focus is developing operational efficiencies using development tools and technologies such as .NET, SQL Server, BizTalk Server, Content Management Server, and Commerce Server. His certifications include MCSE, MCDBA, and MCT. Patrick is a recent instructor of MSF Design, Microsoft C#, ASP.NET, and other .NET classes.

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