Thursday, October 30, 2008

PDC2008 - Day 3

Microsoft Research Keynote

Day 3 of PDC was opened by Rick Rashid - lead of 800 researchers at Microsoft Research. Rick gave some interesting insight into his life and the current work of one of the largest research organizations of the world. Especially demos about world-wide telescope and SecondLight - a new version of the multi-touch Surface computer - were fascinating. But they were all topped by Matt MacLaurin and his Boku project - a graphical programming environment for children. It is designed to enable kids to program impressive little games using a game controller. Details and screen-shots can be found here.

Internet Service Bus

My next session was Clemens Vasters talking about Azure Services as an Internet Service Bus. Clemens did a great job in motivating the new cloud services and their technical details.

Central point is a service registry, which can be found at

Services hosted on a local server can be registered in the web under this new domain. Service clients can address their calls to the servicebus directory, but are instantly re-routed to your local service implementation. This happens in a very intelligent fashion and depending on the binding you select. Clemens has some excellent graphics in his slide-deck illustrating the process in detail.

Azure services use the well-known WCF programming model, but are heavily based on web standards - thus enabling interop with Java, which Clemens promised to show in a session tomorrow...

The biggest advantage of the Azure service platform is the possibility to use it as a relay which establishes a direct, bidirectional connection between a client and a service despite firewalls and NAT. This is done via socket forwarding and port probing. Client and server only need to create outbound connections into the cloud in order to start communication. The rest of the job is done by the Azure fabric, which snaps the sockets to match each other and gets out of the way of the normal service communication. This all can and shall be done with message level security. Authentication and authorization features are also provided, their use is strongly recommended.

These features finally enable secure pub-sub solutions between enterprises. Clemens called it "pervasive, secure connectivity for services" and a "DMZ in the sky"...

I recommend watching the video of this excellent presentation as soon as it is available online!

VSTS 2010 Architect Edition

My next topic was an interesting discussion with Peter Provost, Jeff Brown, Christian Binder and my colleague and VSTS-specialist Klaus Liebe regarding the future of VSTS modeling, model merging and other very interesting stuff regarding VSTS project handling in general. It was great fun having direct influence onto an important area of the tool. Peter's presentation later on showed the vast interest of many developers regarding the new modeling features in VSTS 2010 architect edition. Now we got the newest CTP bits and can have a closer look into the newly created functionality.

Offline-enabled Data Services

Another very interesting session today was by Pablo Castro who introduced his project "Astoria offline". The presentation showed some very interesting problems if you want to create an Outlook-like occasionally connected system. The project team wants to create a solution to make services available offline by using technologies like ADO.NET data services (again REST...), Microsoft Sync Framework and the ADO.NET Entity Framework. Nice point is, that the solution is created with certain building blocks and you can replace the different technologies with technologies of your choice as long as you meet certain criteria.

Work on this project is still in a very early stage, but the guys definitely take the right direction to tackle these heavy problems of modern application design.