Keeping the cloud open

I really like Matt Asay’s article on why we need to focus on keeping the cloud open and less about keeping the operating system open. If you think of the cloud as an ‘array’ of applications and less of a hosting solution it starts to open up the aperture on it’s true potential. Imaging the ability to stitch together applications across the cloud like you can stitch together data. Basically a yahoo pipes for applications not just data.

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SharePoint Conference 2009 - Day 3

Day 3!  The whole reason I am at the SharePoint Conference this year is because I am helping our client present their SharePoint case study in one of today’s sessions.

I scheduled some lightweight sessions in the morning, starting with the fun Building Sharepoint Mashups With SharePoint Designer, Bing Maps and REST Services.  This session was really pretty straight forward.  Using a data view web part to retrieve data from an MSN and Twitter RSS and/or REST feeds and then using XSLT to display maps mashup data (Google or Bing).

Before lunch, I went to Best Practices for Implementing Multi-Lingual Solutions on SharePoint 2010 to see what new things has 2010 in store for Variations.  While there are big changes in store for multi-lingual solutions, they are more on the admin/UI side.  The biggest improvement is the performance gains in building the Heirarchy Creation as timer jobs.  From a UI perspective, the chrome is now also localized based on User preferred language selectable from all the language packs installed.  And as much as I shake my head when I hear this from people, SharePoint 2010 DOES NOT TRANSLATE YOUR SITE CONTENT AUTOMAGICALLY!

I met my client for lunch and we proceeded as a group to Breaker E - our session room.  We presented “Kraft: Migration of Consumer Facing Websites to SharePoint” to a roomful of people and a few came up for questions, comments and leads after the session.  We consider it a success!  That was of course the highlight of my day and everything else was just blah after that point ;p  If you missed it, or are interested in watching the video of the presentation, a copy of the deck and a video of the presentation is up and available on the SharePoint Conference site.  You would need to login with your Windows Live ID.

I spent the afternoon going to Developing Social Applications with SharePoint 2010; and Customizing the Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Deployment Process. In 2010, comments, ratings, my network, RSS feeds all come out of the box.  The social features available in SharePoint 2010 are ok but not good enough yet, IMO.  This is one area where I think the focus is still more in ECM implementations rather than the Internet.  The Manager/Employee methapor just will not work in the real world.  And though, I was told by the Product team that it could be implemented in an Internet scenario, as shown in their Adventureworks demo - I will have to form that opinion once I’ve seen their Adventureworks demo site.  Deployment has indeed been made simpler in VS2010 by being able to compile and deploy from VS2010 to a local SharePoint instance.  But for deploying between environments, and betwen farms - WSPs are still the best way to go.

This evening’s event is Ask The Expert and SharePoint Idol, a Rock Band competition.  I thought for a sec about joining a team but changed my mind.  I had fun watching them though.

SharePoint Conference 2009 - Day 2

The challenge I always have with these conferences is the plethora of choices available to attendees.  I already know what topics I want to focus on:  WCM; Architecting, Developing and Building public facing internet sites, and Social features in 2010.  But even so, there are still time slots where I have narrowed down the choice to 3, and then I have to make the tough decision and hope that I made the right choice.  For the most part, I decided to always go to a 300 or 400 level session, and then just watch the video and the deck online for the 200 sessions I missed.

For the 9am slot, I had to choose between Advanced Web Part Development in VS 2010 and Introduction to Service Applications and Topology.  The architect won over the developer so I went to the Service Applications session. Essentially, 2010 SSP (Shared Service Providers) is replaced by the new Service Applications architecture. You build service applications that can live in a separate Application Server, and you call it from clients, in this case a SharePoint web front end via proxies.  I’m not sure if this is a correct simile, but I kinda liken it to old DCOM architecture. This makes it easier for organizations (and frankly, ISVs) to build Service Applications that can be deployed once and then used in multiple SharePoint web apps, and more, multiple SharePoint farms.

There’s a follow-up session to this about Scaling SharePoint 2010 Topologies for Your Organization, but I skipped that in favor of Overview of SharePoint 2010 Online. SharePoint Online is another product in Microsoft’s “Software as a Service” offerings.  It is essentially a service where Microsoft hosts and manages SharePoint for your organization.  This is part of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) which also includes Exchange Online, Office Live Meeting, Office Communications Online, Dynamics CRM Online. It is good for small or medium size business but can also be considered for the enterprise in some special cases.  The important thing to note is that this does not have to be an all-or-nothing decision.  SharePoint online is supposed to complement/extend your on premises infrastructure, not necessarily replace it.

In the afternoon, I agonized over Developing SharePoint 2010 Applications with the Client Object Model, Microsoft Virtualization Best Practices for SharePoint but ended up going to Claims Based Identity in SharePoint 2010.  The client object model was really getting a lot of good tweets during and after the session and I see a lot of opportunities there for us to pull SharePoint information via client calls, i.e., Javascript or Silverlight.  The virtualization session focused on Hyper-V so I didn’t feel too bad about missing it. In the Claims Based Identity session, Microsoft introduced their new Identity Framework and explained how it works.  This essentially works like Kerberos where essentially SAML tokens are created.  The good news is that it supports AD, LDAP, SAML.  The bad news is that it doesn’t support OpenID and other standard internet auth schemes/standards… yet.

I wanted to know more about composites and the new Business Connectivity Services (BCS) so I went to Integrating Customer Data with SharePoint Composites, Business Connectivity Services (BCS) and Silverlight.  BCS is one other new thing with 2010 that is interesting.  Allowing SharePoint to create External Content Type that can pull data from external LOB data opens up a lot of possibilities, but most of the demos I’ve seen so far only connects to 1 table.  In the real world, we would be connecting to a more complex table, in a lot of cases - pulling heirarchical data and I wanted to see how this works - more importantly, will it support CRUDQ features.  This session finally demo’d how to connect using a LINQ data source.  Didn’t see the CRUDQ part though, because the demo was read-only data.

For the last session of the day, I chose between Securing SharePoint 2010 for Internet Deployments (400) and SharePoint 2010 Development Best Practices (300).  So of course, I chose the geekier session since security is a hot topic on public facing sites.  However, this is probably one of the more disappointing sessions for me as this was really more targeted towards SP IT Pros than developers.  It is more about hardening your servers and protecting your network.  All these considerations even come default already in Windows 2008.  I probably would have enjoyed the best practices session better even though I was afraid they will be filled with “duh” moments.  I have to check that deck out though, it produced some funny tweets.

Day 2 is also the night of the Conference Party.  This year, the theme is 80’s night at The Beach (Mandalay Bay) with Huey Lewis and the News providing music and entertainment.  Too bad I missed it.

SharePoint Conference 2009 - Day 1

I’m at the SharePoint Conference in Vegas this week. Registration and Exhibit Hall started Sunday night, but sessions officially started Monday. I am tweeting all day during the conference, follow me (@mmdeluna) if you are interested. You can track tweets using #spc09. I will be posting daily summaries. Stay Tuned!

Registration and Exhibit Hall

This year’s conference is SOLD OUT. Compared to last years 3,800 attendees, this year’s 7,400 attendance is a testament to how big SharePoint has been adopted in the enterprise. Registration was pretty well organized and the badges are smart cards that are being scanned (optionally) by vendors for mailing list subscriptions and contests; and are also scanned by event managers for session attendance. Most of the vendors I saw in the Exhibit Hall are from Document Management Services - scanning, annotating, encrypting, converting, etc. And then there are the normal partner vendors: ISVs, SIs, Training, Data Recovery, Content Migration and Professional Services. Having said that - the give aways were a bit lame :)

Keynotes

There were 2 keynotes scheduled on day one, which lasted the whole morning. You would think that it wasn’t smart to have 7,400 attendees to sit still for almost 3 hours but Kudos to the presentation team, they pulled it off. Steve Ballmer did his FIRST SharePoint Conference keynote, one of the last few things Bill used to do that he hasn’t done yet. Tony Rizzo and the others did a great job on the demos doing enough to whet the appetite of all the geeks (like me) in the room. Here are the items that “struck” me during the keynotes. I am hoping to attend some of the sessions that show these in action.

  • There’s a HUGE emphasis on SharePoint and Internet facing sites. So much so that MS has renamed their products and services to emphasize this. Expect licensing prices to reflect this change

    • Intranet Products: MS Sharepoint Foundation 2010 (formerly known as WSS), MS SharePoint Server 2010, MS Fast Search Server 2010 for SharePoint

    • Internet Products: MS SharePoint Server 2010 For Internet Sites (STD, ENT editions) and MS Fast Search Server 2010 for Interet Business

  • Oh yeah - Steve Ballmer features Kraft Foods on his keynote - Nice! I wonder if this will drive attendance on our session (Wednesday, 1021 @ 1:15 pm)

  • SharePoint 2010 goes on public beta in November - don’t forget to download

  • SharePoint Online (SharePoint in the Cloud)

  • SharePoint Workspaces (Groove Makeover)

  • SharePoint Composites - I need to know more about this.  Interesting.

  • Developer tool integration in VS 2010. One-Click build, deploy and debug >> AWESOME!

  • Powershell Scripting - say goodbye to STSADM

  • New External Content Type / BCS (formerly BDC) - opens up possibilities with integration to backend systems. I’m very excited about this

  • SharePoint Service Applications - say goodbye to SSP

  • Improved List Performance and Caching - taxonomy navigation (tags and labels)

  • New and Improved Central and Site Admin UI - it’s AJAX yo!

  • Built in Spell Checker - it’s the little things…

  • Our PLDs and PLAs will like the improved support on standards specially WCAG

  • Some Social Computing features out of the box - ratings, notes/comments, blogs, wall (My Network)

  • VS 2010, SharePoint 2010 running on Windows 7 - 64 bit mobile development machine. yay!

Steve made a point by saying he didn’t think there’s any software out there that competes directly with SharePoint. Jeff Teper implies the same when he compares SharePoint to a Swiss Army Knife. Both videos are available online for viewing at the SPC09 website.

The list just goes on and on! There are way too many things to get excited about in 2010. I am hoping to get into the details of a lot of these in the upcoming sessions.

Day 1 Sessions

For the breakout sessions on day 1, I selected a couple of SharePoint overview topics.  One was SharePoint 2010 Overview and What’s New and more specifically for developers, Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Developent Tools overview.  These sessions give me enough information on the overall features available so I can make a more informed selection in the coming days.

Cloudfront, Amazon's Caching Delivery Network (CDN)

Speed differences between Amazon S3 and CloudF... Image by playerx via Flickr

It’s nice to see Amazon moving into the CDN space with their Cloudfront offering, it seems like the CDN market can definitely use some fresh look at the challenge. It looks like it builds off your usage of Amazon S3 but with an accelerator finding the closest cache server to deliver your content. With this approach it doesn’t seem like a great fit as a CDN for any architecture. The chart on the right is an interesting comparison.

I’ve been intrigued over the last couple of years with Coral Caching. Peer to peer open source caching seems like it’s ripe with opportunity, wouldn’t it be cool if my mediacenter pc, apple tv and other laptops that sit at home idle during the day could be leveraged to help offload servers. I guess it’s a balance of saving power and sleeping or turning off the box vs. using less server power.

This is a diagram of a Wikipedia:Peer-to-Peer ... Image via Wikipedia

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How does cloud technology benefit marketing and service organizations?

** **Lots of folks have been asking about how Cloud Computing helps marketing or web development projects. Here’s a couple of the key benefits that have bubbled to the top of the conversations.

  • Cost, cloud services are drastically less expensive than tradition hosting options, so the marketer can do more and innovate more with their money. Cloud services enable some basic things such as faster time to market, so faster results because we can build solutions in less time and not have to wait for an technology team to allocate servers and setup physical devices.

  • Faster scalability to better keep up with the peaks and valleys of marketing campaigns** and user traffic**. In the old days we would have to prepare for an ad, email, keyword, or offline-online campaign and get servers ready on standby. With cloud services we can scale on demand with a lower cost and faster timeline. That’s because we aren’t limited by physical servers

  • Strategically, social services are enabled through cloud computing, new offerings like Facebook connect, Twitter/delicious/reddit/digg/etc. apis, or even Youtube embed capabilities are all cloud services that enable you to drive traffic to your site without having to build your own social network. Facebook connect is a cloud service that enables the portable social graph bringing users to your property. One user post back to a user’s Facebook wall results in three more users accessing your site. So not only do you get exposure, but you save on Google keyword buysJ. In the old days, 3 years ago, we tried to build social networks on sites like flip.com and other properties, now we tie into the cloud service and get the same functionality in a fraction of time .

*lastly, there’s a word of caution around cloud services. Make sure you have some sort of redundancy, i.e. multiple services to achieve the same goal. We worked with Billboard on the latest release of their site which is a great example. See the red arrow as good example, if Facebook goes away, we are still sharing with other services. Other questions arise around redundancy for infrastructure cloud providers. The cloud computing manifesto is at least acknowledging the need for redundancy, but how to get the providers to do it.

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