ATLANTA. Microsoft is holding its annual TechEd North America event this week in Atlanta, Georgia. At the keynote, it declared the cloud, devices and developers the theme for the week. TechEd has content to appeal to both IT professionals and developers. With registration numbers somewhere around 10,000, there is definitely no lack of interest. The first half of the keynote was delivered by Robert Wahbe, corporate vice president, Server and Tools Marketing. His focus was on the opportunity of the cloud and virtualization in general. He used numbers to make his case, including a statement that only 20 percent of currently deployed servers are virtualized.
Wahbe used the keynote to highlight some of Microsoft's successes, including a video showing a team from Brigham Young University that developed a portable ultrasound system based on a USB device that will connect to any laptop and upload images to the cloud. He also talked about how Microsoft understands the importance of portable devices to include those based on other operating systems like Apple's iOS and Google's Android. System Center 2012 will include support for managing these devices.
There's no question Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has a leg up on the competition from a high-end perspective. It basically owns the corporate email space with Microsoft Exchange. The Office 365 product offering makes it possible to outsource pieces of your core corporate applications, including email and collaboration, through SharePoint. Wahbe emphasized Microsoft's ability to deliver common core functionality pieces, such as identity, virtualization, management and development tools, as a key competitive advantage.
Microsoft announced a new product code named Concero at its Microsoft Management Summit 2011 show a few months back. Concero is essentially a web-based cloud management tool, or portal, for both public and private clouds. It will be part of the next release of Microsoft System Center and deliver a single management point for Windows Azure and local Hyper-V virtual systems.
Project Crescent was another new effort demoed on stage. It was described as PowerPoint for big data -- think building charts and graphs that have very large data sets behind them and can be dynamically created. The demo included multiple ways to actually display the data from simple bar charts to dynamic movie-like visualizations. This tool will be delivered as part of the next release of SQL Server code, named Denali. In the wrap-up for this section the speakers highlighted the Windows Azure Toolkit for developers looking to extend corporate applications to the cloud.
Jason Zander, corporate vice president, Visual Studio, anchored part two of the keynote. His talk showed off a number of new capabilities Microsoft is working on as a part of Visual Studio vNext. The focus is to address the development cycle in terms of shortening the amount of time needed to take a new application from concept to deployment. In addition, they're working on helping with the problem of reducing the time and effort to resolve an application incident, better known as a bug.
In the world of design, Microsoft showed off a new storyboarding assistant, built on top of PowerPoint, where users can quickly prototype some aspect of an application and then easily collaborate on that idea through SharePoint. The idea here is to provide a tool to help articulate an idea or new requirement and then use collaboration to help stakeholders come to an understanding of what's needed.
On the operations side, the panelists showed off a new application instrumentation capability that will greatly reduce the amount of time needed to track down bugs. Applications will now be able to provide a full recording of user interaction and program execution in a way that a developer can quickly and efficiently identify the problem. Other enhancements to their Team Foundation Server (TFS) product include things like the ability for a developer to stop working on a current project and save his context so he can pick back up at a later time. This will come in very handy for those times when the boss comes in with the proverbial "I need this yesterday" request. Another closely related tool was a team navigator feature allowing a manager to visually adjust team work assignments using a touchscreen device.
Expect to see community technology preview (CTP) releases of many of these new technologies in the coming months. You can also follow TechEd North America on the show website.