Microsoft seeks to build corporate computing platform of the future


FRAMINGHAM – Microsoft on Monday used the opening of its annual TechEd conference in Orlando, Fla., to bundle up a cornucopia of forthcoming products aimed at developers and IT managers that it hopes will foster a Windows-based automated corporate computing platform for years to come.

The morning’s keynote by Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, opened with a video clip mimicking the movie “Back to the Future” that showed the film’s costar Christopher Lloyd and Muglia riding in the flick’s famous De Lorean time machine.

In the clip, Muglia goes back in time to see how Microsoft’s previous visions of the future, such as Hailstorm services and Exchange Server’s WebStore storage, had tanked.

Muglia vowed not to talk anymore about vision but about real products, a setup to discuss and demo Microsoft’s lineup of infrastructure, management, security and development tools.

The only nugget of news that Muglia slipped in was that Linux desktop and server vendor Xandros had agreed to an interoperability and intellectual property agreement similar to one Microsoft signed with Novell last year. He also said Microsoft had acquired Engyro, which builds connectors for Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 and System Center Operations Manager 2007 that hook it into HP OpenView or IBM Tivoli management tools.

Muglia’s approach differed from the classic fare at TechEd, Microsoft’s largest annual conference, which generally focuses on upcoming products and grand ideas for changing the historic course of computing.

Muglia’s course change was driven in part by the fact that product delays and other factors have left Microsoft with a slate of just released and about-to-be released products that include a number of integration points around development, management and security that it hopes will drive corporate upgrades.

“We need to understand your issues today, tomorrow and for many years,” Muglia said. “So we are putting in place the foundational elements to allow us to meet your business needs today, but then for five, 10, 20, even 50 years beyond. We intend to be your business partner for the long run.”

Muglia said the three major components of that foundation are Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, both set to ship by year-end, and Visual Studio 2008, which is slated to ship in 2008. He also presented a number of demos focused on System Center management tools, virtualization, BizTalk Server, the Silverlight Web application platform, and the integration of software and services.

Many of the demos were repeats or takeoffs of demos presented at other Microsoft conferences and product announcements, but the intention was to show that taken together, they can lower operating costs by automating many IT tasks that are manual processes today

“I think what is going on here is kind of subtle,” said Peter O’Kelly, an analyst with the Burton Group. “This is something of a milestone. They are delivering on a suite of products for client, server and tools that represent a completion of things they have been working on for five year. It’s important, and they are kind of announcing to the market that their next generation of products for servers and tools is done.”

Muglia opened his keynote by laying out Microsoft’s plan to create four “optimization models” spanning applications, infrastructure and business process that companies can use as guides to building out their dynamic computing infrastructure.

He said the four models — unified/virtualized, process-led, model-driven, service-enabled and user-focused — would define Microsoft’s product development going forward.

He called Gartner analyst Tom Bittman to the stage to highlight the changing realities of corporate computing today. Bittman said the speed of technology growth is creating an opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves. He said agility is the key in a world that is becoming more connected, which provides opportunities that appear and disappear in the blink of an eye.

He said agility is not only the speed needed to adjust to change but also the ability to ensure operational efficiency and to do it systemwide. Bittman said besides agility, a company needs a variable cost model, which lets it pay only for what it needs, and a QoS plan.

“You need to look at cost, quality of service and agility and build metrics for each of them,” Bittman said. He added that companies that are developing their infrastructure should “not just focus on business process but also on technology and [corporate] culture.”

Muglia used those conclusions to launch into components Microsoft feels define a dynamic IT environment including federation of identities; security; interoperability, such as data transformation and open source integration; and standards including the Service Modeling Language, which Microsoft turned over to the World Wide Web Consortium in March.

Muglia then introduced a series of demos, first showing virtualization-management capabilities that showed how users can manage those resources just as they manage physical resources.

The demo also highlighted a virtual machine migration feature of Windows Server Virtualization (WSV) called Quick Migration.

The demo was a direct response to criticism Microsoft has received recently for its decision to eliminate the Live Migration feature from WSV, which is slated to ship no later than 180 days after Windows Server 2008.

Other demos included management tools that are model driven, including System Center Operations Manager and its integration with SQL Server 2008. Muglia also showed software and service integration — a theme Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, has been championing — that included BizTalk Server R2, BizTalk Services and integration of RFID capabilities from SQL Server 2008. Other demos showed integration of Visual Studio 2008 and Office applications and the Silverlight platform, a programming model and a runtime browser plug-in for running rich applications and supporting video. “We think this is a great year,” Muglia said. “A lot of great products have shipped over the past six months and a lot of great products will ship. There is lots of real-world stuff to do.”

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