Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Microsoft TechEd North America–Day 2


Day 2 Keynote

Day 2 opened with another Keynote this time led by Antoine Leblond.  It did address some of my concerns with Day 1’s keynote.  This time the focus was on Windows 8 and they did demonstrate the OS running on a few different devices.  The demos were nice and relevant, however they did not demonstrate it on new hardware.  They used the Samsung Series 7 slate with the Samsung Series 9 laptop.  They also demonstrated Windows 8 on a Lenovo laptop(sorry nothing cool about a Lenovo).  If they wanted to generate some excitement, and didn’t want to pull out a shiny new beta Samsung,  they should have just bought a new MacBook Pro and run Windows 8 on it.  I think Microsoft missed another big opportunity but I digress.

Line of Business Apps

They did demonstrate some good looking Metro applications on the devices.  They did provide a quick overview of the Beer Ranger app that I mentioned in a previous post.  They also demonstrated a native SAP application that is part of their Sales Automation Pipeline lineup.  The application was a nice looking app, but much like many other SAP applications, I had no idea what it was suppose to do (opps did I say that out loud).


My primary personal (non-work) machine is a MacBook Air that runs Windows 7.  Many people ask why I do this and how I am missing out on all of these touch gestures.  For me I love my Microsoft Arc Touch mouse and quite frankly could care less about the gestures that you can use on a trackpad.  But for those of you who like using gestures on a trackpad there is some good news for you.  Windows 8 will support “Apple like” gestures including Semantic zoom and access to the new “App bar” to name a few.


Developing for Windows 8

Antoine provided us with a rundown of what is involved in building applications for Windows 8.  Here are some of the highlights.

  • Windows Runtime (WinRT)
    • New API set that allows you to build apps and games
    • Supports touch, keyboard and mouse
    • Support for “contracts” so that apps can leverage OS functions like “share”.  Much like you can Share “data’  on a Windows Phone 7, you will be able to perform a similar function with your own application but hooking into these contracts.
  • Tool Support
    • new release of Visual Studio (2012)
    • C++, C#, JavaScript, css, html are all supported technologies
  • Language and platform support for inline async calls. 
    • I really like this feature.  I was never a big fan of all of the delegate spaghetti code a person previously had to write to support async methods.  In a previous post, I had to write async REST methods to support calling REST based services from a Windows Phone 7 app.  I expect it to get much  simpler now.
  • Visual Studio Simulators
    • Can simulate different types of hardware(slates, desktops, large displays, small displays etc)
    • Rotate screen
    • Higher/lower resolutions
    • Touch gestures

ARM Support

This was interesting to see as I have heard a little bit about ARM support but just have not seen it in action. 

Some of the benefits of leveraging ARM based devices include:

  • Low power consumption
  • Long Battery life
  • Trusted boot
    • Validate all code in boot path before it runs
    • Device encryption is always on
  • App model
    • Geared at making apps that don’t alter the state of the machine (Security benefit)
  • Can use same Management infrastructure to manage devices
  • Metro apps work on WinRT as well
    • An RDP client does exist so that you can log into other Windows PCs/Servers
    • Apps must be signed by known trusted authority or have appropriate cert
    • Apps must must have been run through “WAC” approval application
      • used to honor design principals about not altering the state of the machine
  • Key office applications are available

Essential Tips for the Windows Azure Startup

This was a really interesting session.  Michele Leroux Bustamante is well known in the WCF and MVP community as a person with deep technical skills.  I have seen her speak before at a previous TechEd so I thought this would be a good session to attend.  Something that I appreciate about Michele’s presentation style is that she remains composed through out the entire presentation.  Even when she runs into some issues, such as a demo not quite working out, she is able to recover with a tremendous amount of poise. I believe she is Canadian, maybe this has something to do with it.  Smile

This time around she was giving guidance on developing a Startup based upon Windows Azure.  It was a very enlightening session and it was quite evident that she “gets it”.  She has acted as a consultant to many start-ups and provided the following tips when building applications for Start up companies.  Something to keep in mind is that these principles, while applicable to Startups, also just good practices to follow even if you are a well established brick and mortar company.

  • Startups need to show some traction early on
  • Go fast, maintain quality
  • Monitor status, analytics and adjust accordingly
  • watch for conversion rates
    • do visitors create accounts

10 Essential Tips

Here they are as they were presented to the audience:

1. Design for Role Scale out

    • Needs to happen up front.  By the time you need to scale it will probably be too late or more difficult to
    • Need to design for scale, may want to segregate or isolate controllers to allow to further scale out functions that may be more popular or have more access patterns (Mobile, API)
    • Domain Mapping
      • Create a CNAME or A Record for the IP address of your production deployment

2. Use an SMTP relay service

    • Most applications require some form of email communication
      • Can use System.Net.Mail.SMTPClient
    • Write email “messages” to a queue and then dequeue and send
    • Need to use a relay service so that your “From Email” address does not get blocked/spam
    • smtp4Dev is a great tool for use in Development
    • authsmtp is a production ready email relay service that may be beneficial

3. Configuration Profiles

    • Avoid web.config for
      • settings that vary between staging, production
      • settings that require experimentation for performance
      • settings that support diagnostics and test
    • Use the Azure Service config files instead
      • ServiceConfig.Local.cscfg
      • ServiceConfig.Cloud.cscfg

4. Don’t forget to Cache

    • You don’t realize how much latency that accessing frequent data creates
      • Co-locate Cache with across roles
      • Together produce distributed cache total
      • Any role can access
    • Be careful, Cache is not durable, may not live forever
    • Use for optimization
    • Performance increases are phenomenal

5. Watch your Queuing costs

    • Costs may escalate due to the amount of polling
    • If you are polling, you are paying
    • Understand the differences between Service Bus and Azure Storage Queues 
      • Message lifetime
      • Max message size
      • Max total storage
      • Duplicate detection
      • Order guarantees
      • Dead letter queue
      • Storage metrics
      • Purge capability
      • Long polling/manual back-off polling
    • Initial decisions are about cost and agility
      • consider Storage Queues due to back-off polling

6. Collect Diagnostics

    • When writing new project, there is a lot of hacking going on because you are trying to be fast
    • Difference between getting it done and getting it done properly
    • Create a diagnostic helper and establish patterns

7. Monitor from outside

    • Azure Ping free monitoring tools
      • Sends SMS or email when monitoring
        • Storage
        • SQL
        • Queues
        • Is site running?
    • Azure Watch
      • Monitoring and alerts

8. Don’t drink the no-SQL Kool-Aid

    • VCs love “NoSQL”
      • Can be pressure from VCs to use it
      • VCs think it is cheaper to manage because you don’t need a DBA
        • Asking for trouble if you don’t understand your relational data model
    • Need people who understand SQL to look into NOSQL and report back to the group on what the pitfalls are
    • Go to NoSQL for obvious stuff
      • search indexes
      • GEO data
      • profile data (coming from social media)
    • Keep core competencies in RDBMS
    • Then reach out to NoSQL  experts to help bridge the two worlds

9. Enable Social Logins and Simplify Sign Up

    • You want conversion rates – make it dead simple then!
      • ACS facilitates this – simple to use
        • Dirt cheap per transaction
    • The more you ask from a user to register, the less likely they are to sign up
    • Keep it simple you will get conversions
      • Pinterest – only email address to sign up?

10. Estimate your costs

    • Layers of cost
      • Storage
      • Storage Transactions
      • Bandwidth (# 1 thing if you have  a lot of media)
      • Cache
      • ServiceBus
      • SQL Azure
      • Bandwidth
    • Need to run estimates
      • scenario based
    • BizSpark may offer some cost savings for new startups

Service Bus Overview – Clemens Vasters and Abhishek Lal

As usual Clemens put on a good show. This time Abhishek joined him in this presentation and provided some solid demos.  The first half of the presentation was largely a review for me as Service Bus is an area that I try to stay up to speed on.  The second half of the presentation introduced some new tooling and features as part of the June 2012 release.  Selfishly, I don’t want to go into too many details here as I would like to actually play with some of these features and then provide a more complete blog post(s) in order to provide these subjects with some additional context.   Stay tuned!

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