Tuesday, October 28, 2008

PDC2008 - Day 1


The first PDC conference day was opened with a key note by Ray Ozzie et. al. revealing Windows Azure - the new MS cloud  OS.
Windows Azure will serve as a third tier complementing the first (desktop & mobile clients) and second (enterprise servers) tiers. The presentation finally clarified Microsoft's Software+Service strategy - .NET developers will be enabled to enrich their applications with cloud services - either written by themselves and hosted on Microsoft's data centers or using Microsoft's Azure Service offerings. Identity federation might be one of the most interesting services leveraging enterprises' local Active Directory infrastructure as part of a claim-based, globally federated identity management system used "in the cloud". All in all the key-note was very focused on infrastructure aspects - thus it wasn't as thrilling to most attendees as other PDC keynotes in the past. Nevertheless it shows the big shift in Microsoft's business from product to service offerings - as I already expected in my post yesterday.

VSTS 2010

Cameron Skinner gave several nice demos regarding some key scenarios, VSTS 2010 is built to solve. We heard about these "Rosario" features now for some time, but it was quite interesting to see them running live. Main focus of VSTS 2010 lies in testing and architecture capabilities. One of the coolest features is to reproduce a bug found during a tester session on the developer machine. The developer is supported by the bug work item containing several attachments - containing screen shots and a video showing what the tester was doing and experiencing during the test session. The developer can jump into the video at every test step. Historical debugging information with call stack and context information is supplied - the developer can see visually and code-wise what was happening during the test session. This feature obviously still needs some some tuning - but one could see clearly the path that is chosen.

I think architects will love VSTS 2010. It supports UML 2.1 diagrams and makes heavy use of modeling in several places. There are code-centric features like generating sequence diagrams from code  - a great basis for re-engineering tasks. VSTS also supports model-centric design - e,g. by providing layer diagrams which can formulate your intended dependency graph between your different software layers - these can now be enforced via  build strategies. As soon as a developer violates your architecture rules by using a reference to an assembly residing in a forbidden layer you can let the build break. Great feature for pro-active quality management.

C# 4.0

Anders Hejlsberg was once again my personal highlight of the PDC day. He's one of the few speakers being very profound in his message and equally smart in his presentation technique and motivation for his topics. Anders spoke about multi-paradigm requirements for programming languages and how C# 4.0 will cope with modern aspects like dynamic typing, declarative programming and concurrent computing. Especially the demos regarding the new dynamic keyword in C# 4.0 impressed the audience. This simplifies interoperability with dynamic languages like Ruby or Python, but also tremendously improves COM inter-op scenarios. I strongly recommend watching the recorded video of this PDC session!


My next session was about ASP.NET MVC. I didn't learn anything tremendously new, but all my feelings about these bits were supported - this is cool stuff, which has to be watched closely. It is built by a small team in an incremental fashion and heavy community support and reviewing. ASP.NET MVC will be released end of year 2008 as an ASP.NET add-on. All the interesting aspects of Rails are ported to the .NET world leveraging the REST-approach, DRY and Convention over configuration. ASP.NET MVC is going into the right direction - the only problem is: forget about your well-known ASP.NET controls - this is a different world. Instead Microsoft trusts heavily in jQuery - an open-source  JavaScript library which now seems to become very important and can be used to implement some of the Web 2.0 glitter...

WF 4.0

This was my last session for today. It started quite high-level, but revealed some important news: My bad feelings about the current and - in my opinion - overloaded and complex WF design aspects in .NET 3.0 and 3.5 were supported. The team has decided to completely re-write the WF runtime for v4! It is now built on "Oslo" and the new modeling language "M", which will be revealed in greater detail in the keynote tomorrow morning.

Even the workflow designers now look completely different - they are built with WPF  technology. Workflows can now be expressed either graphically or textually be a specific DSL. Custom Activity design is claimed to be extremely simplified in comparison with the previous WF versions. Performance of the runtime is said to be increased by a factor of 10 to 100 - depending on the workflow scenario. Let's see how these promises behave in development reality...