Tech Ed 2007: Microsoft Product Tidbits from the Show

I'm not attending Tech Ed 2007 this year because of a scheduled surgery for my son, which, irritatingly, was delayed until later in the year. But Microsoft has unleashed a deluge of information from the show, and I thought you might enjoy a Short Takes-style look at some of the other product-oriented developments from Tech Ed 2007.

SQL Server 2008
Microsoft christened its Katmai release of SQL Server as, predictably, SQL Server 2008. This version of SQL Server will work with technologies such as the LINQ-enabled versions of Visual C# 2008 and Visual Basic 2008, and the new ADO .NET Entity Framework, to make it easier for developers to access relational data programmatically. Though Microsoft has made numerous data access libraries over the years, with SQL 2008 and the Visual Studio 2008 products and technologies, the company is finally making data access an integrated object model that can be accessed from within Microsoft's top-tier development languages. That is, rather than access data using database terms, like tables, developers can now access data through native programmatic objects. For the non-programmers in the house, this means data access has just gotten a lot easier. But there's more: Microsoft is also working on a project called Astoria, which will try to expose data as a Web service. This will happen over time, the company says, but a very early preview is now available.

IIS 7.0
While I often rail against Microsoft's innumerable product delays, its next generation Web server, Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0, has been completed for some time now: It's just waiting on the company to ship Windows 2008 so it can be deployed around the world. Microsoft previously announced a Go Live license for IIS 7.0, however, which allows enterprises to deploy IIS 7.0-based Web applications running on Windows 2008 Beta 3 in production environments. At Tech Ed this week, the company also announced something I've been waiting to talk about for weeks: It's going to augment its Server Core installs of Windows 2008 with a new Web Server role that is, of course, based on IIS 7.0. However, because Server Core lacks the .NET environment, the version of IIS 7.0 you'll get in Server Core is somewhat lacking. There won't be any ASP .NET, for example, which Microsoft is really not communicating very well at the show. Microsoft insiders have told me that the Server Core version of IIS 7.0 is there solely to compete with low-end server installs that might have otherwise gone to Linux. Makes sense.

Office Live Meeting Next
Microsoft announced the "2007 release of Office Live Meeting" at the show, though I'm unclear why they're using that naming approach. Presumably, it will be called Office Live Meeting 2008 when it ships at the end of this year. Anyway, this next version of Live Meeting includes a simpler UI, shared and local recording capabilities, two-way VoIP conference calls, embedded support for Flash, video, and audio files, and live Web cam video and 360-degree panoramic video for those using the new Microsoft RoundTable system. Live Meeting might not sound very exciting, but it's revolutionized my work schedule: I used to fly out to Redmond several times a year, and I certainly meet with a wide range of Microsoft folks in the Boston area, but I've been able to halve my travel thanks to Live Meeting-based virtual meetings. Needless to say, I enjoy the occasional jaunt to the Web coast, but having this as an option is wonderful. I'm looking forward to the new version.

Windows Vista
It wouldn't be a Microsoft trade show in 2007 if the company didn't flog its latest best-selling OS, Windows Vista. Tech Ed being an IT-oriented show, Microsoft tried to cast what has historically been a slow uptick in new OS deployments as a chance for leading businesses to show what they're worth. And sure enough, they carted out a few companies that have actually deployed Vista, apparently to great effect. I won't bore you with that now, but Microsoft did announce some Vista-related goodies that are interesting. The company is offering a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) test drive program for the volume licensed-oriented Windows Vista Enterprise so that businesses can test this Vista version inside of Virtual PC and Virtual Server-based virtual machines. And there's a new data encryption toolkit (DET) for mobile PCs, which helps enterprises optimize their use of data protection technologies like BitLocker and EFS.

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