Forrester Weighs In on App Servers

Forrester this week published a breakdown of the application server platform market and judged that Oracle came out on top, thanks largely to its broad array of features and robust strategy. Behind Oracle, both IBM and Microsoft earned praise for their broad and capable offerings.

The report notes that customers are looking to lock in their investments into either Java-based or .NET-based server platforms. Looking forward, Forrester says the next generation of app servers will extend feature sets to encompass SOA, social computing and Web 2.0.

You can view the report summary page here.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/18/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Silverlight Rising

There was a time when I allowed myself to be surprised by Microsoft's ability to play catch-up, but no longer. So when I ran across Tim Sneath's blog, Musings of a Client Platform Technical Evangelist, I wasn't entirely shocked to find an impressive list of 50 working Silverlight applications.

Silverlight, of course, is the combination cross-platform media runtime and application delivery platform that promises to do a lot more than simply give Redmond a competitor to Adobe Flash. It offers .NET-savvy developers the ability to deliver functional applications to systems beyond .NET-enabled Windows PCs.

There's some cool stuff here. The Office Ribbon app (found here) turns Microsoft Office 2007 RibbonX XML into Silverlight XAML to enable rich navigation of Silverlight-based apps.

You'll also find the Telerik RadCube control, an interactive cube-shaped image selector that can be used in Silverlight applications.

What kind of apps would you like to see come out of the Silverlight community? Is your company looking at the technology? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/18/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Jump-Start Your Skills with Virtual Labs

Microsoft has long led the industry when it comes to supporting developers. Witness useful resources like MSDN, Channel9 and the nonstop parade of conferences and seminars designed to get coders up to speed.

Now, Microsoft has produced a series of what it is calling Virtual Labs: 90-minute long, interactive how-to sessions designed to help developers evaluate and master a variety of specific Microsoft products and technologies.

Virtual Labs cover a variety of categories, from languages like Visual Basic, C# and C++ to products like SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server and, of course, Visual Studio 2005. Coverage also extends to functional categories like Security and Web Services. And good news: There's no installation required to work with these sessions.

You can learn more about the tutorials here.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/18/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Where Are the Developers Going?

Just before the July 4 break, Evans Data Corp. released the results of a developer survey that it says shows growing cracks in the dominance of Windows as a target for programmers. The survey found that the percentage of North American programmers targeting Windows server or client OSes has dropped, from 74 percent in 2006 to 64.8 percent in 2007. Evans Data predicts further erosion, on the order of 2 percent, in 2008.

The winner in the survey? Linux, which has seen its share of developer attention grow from 8.8 percent to 11.8 percent over the past year.

The results, honestly, hardly seem surprising. Interest in Web-centric applications -- including rich Internet applications built on AJAX, Flash and soon Silverlight -- is exploding. And Evans Data points out that developer attention has shifted to "niche operating systems for non-traditional client devices," which I imagine includes cell phones, smart phones, BlackBerrys, MP3 players and every manner of hybrid device.

Perhaps most important, Microsoft continues to hold the loyalty of the developer teams themselves. The survey shows that the use of Windows as a platform for creating applications remains firm.

Do your development plans mirror what's being reported in this survey? And do you think this trend could mean trouble for Microsoft? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/11/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Where's Waldo?

Or, more precisely, where in the world is Ray Ozzie? Outside of an appearance at the Web-centric Mix07 developer event in Las Vegas this April, Microsoft's chief software architect and presumed successor to Bill Gates hasn't been featured at any of Microsoft's major conferences.

We're reading tea leaves here, but it seems that much of the early light and heat of Ozzie's arrival in Redmond has burned off. Meanwhile, CEO Steve Ballmer is taking center stage at key events like Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, going on now in Denver.

Could it be that Ozzie's vision for Microsoft, one founded on the openness and innovation implied by Live Clipboard and similar projects, has bogged down?

Tell us what you think. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/11/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

.NET Framework Security

We all know the managed code mantra of the .NET Framework -- more robust, more functional, more secure.

Or is it? Yesterday Microsoft announced a critical security flaw in versions 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 of the .NET Framework. In fact, the framework suffers from a trifecta of vulnerabilities that can allow remote attackers to gain control over the system.

And yes, in case you were wondering, a buffer overflow issue is involved.

The good news is that .NET Framework 3.0 is not affected by the vulnerability. But if you currently have machines running older versions of .NET, you should move to get them patched. You can find information about this vulnerability here.

Are you surprised that Microsoft has to patch the .NET Framework? Does a vulnerability like this provide incentive to move to the most recent version of the framework? Let me know at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/11/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Happy Fair Use Day!

I'm still recovering from a hectic Fourth of July holiday, but it seems another important holiday is upon us: Fair Use Day. The holiday was founded three years ago by Eric Clifford as a way to draw attention to the ongoing battle between software, media and other companies and the consumers and businesses that make use of their products. The concern: That increasingly aggressive and restrictive efforts to protect and lock down content was robbing consumers of the basic right to use the material they owned.

It's a thorny issue and one that eludes a simple solution. Over the past year, for instance, Apple earned applause for shedding digital rights management (DRM) in parts of its music service. Yet, just months earlier, Kevin Rose and his popular site faced legal threats as Digg members continued to publish the hex key that lets users crack the AACS protection on HD-DVD content.

From copy protection on software to the ongoing issue of Net neutrality, it seems we'll all have cause to observe Fair Use Day for a long time to come.

You can visit the Fair Use Day Web site here.

Are you celebrating Fair Use Day? Write me at [email protected] and tell me why.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/11/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Top 10 Dev Mistakes

It's no secret that far too many software development projects end in abject failure. Whether it's a simple internal application or a massive, well-documented boondoggle like the FAA's disastrous Air Traffic Control system update, there are a lot of reasons that good software concepts can go bad.

In fact, Forrester Research recently published a report that defines 10 reasons software development efforts fail. The June 26, 2007 report by Forrester analyst Peter Sterpe, titled "Ten Mistakes That Send Development Projects Off Track," makes for some compelling reading. You can get a quick intro here.

So what gaffes made the list? Here are the 10 points from the report:

  1. Never committing to project success (that is, the target user community needs to be on board with the application).
  2. Freezing the schedule and budget before the project is understood well enough.
  3. Overscoping the solution.
  4. Circumventing the app dev organization altogether.
  5. Underestimating the complexity of the problem.
  6. Being stingy with subject-matter experts (SMEs).
  7. Choosing the wrong project leadership.
  8. Distrusting the managers to whom tasks have been delegated.
  9. Jumping into the "D" of "R&D" without enough "R."
  10. Suppressing bad news.

Worth noting from Forrester's exploration is the fact that many of these lethal pitfalls tend to occur in the planning and analyzing stages of software projects. In other words, it's the early failures that often kill projects later.

Is this list complete? In your experience, what causes well-intentioned software development projects to fall flat on their face? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/27/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Halfway House

When we launched Redmond Developer News in November of 2006, we knew we were showing up at the right place at the right time. Microsoft, after all, has been hyperactive in the development tools space, kicking out one groundbreaking product after the next. In fact, as we look back at the first six months of 2007, it's remarkable to think how much has already happened.

Consider this. Since our launch, Redmond has released the .NET Framework 3.0 (you might have heard of it); debuted first betas of Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008; and advanced key technologies like Language Integrated Query (LINQ) and Entity Frameworks (EF). And don't even get me started on Web-centric stuff, like the Microsoft AJAX Toolkit, Silverlight platform and the growing Expression Suite.

As if that weren't enough, we've seen unprecedented activity in the area of open source tools and languages. Dynamic languages like Ruby and Python have prompted Microsoft to expand the tent, adding hooks to enable dynamic languages under Visual Studio. The Eclipse IDE, meanwhile, continues to mature and expand.

It's been a crazy first half of the year, and the second half of 2007 looks to be no less hectic. The stretch run of 2007 will prove critical, as Microsoft sharpens Visual Studio and its Team System sibling, for what should be an early 2008 launch. We can also see Redmond continue to wrestle with the thorny issue of managing data, as LINQ and EF approach launch and data-savvy languages like Microsoft's IronPython continue to gain traction.

The real question in all this is: How can we help you? What would you like to see more of in the pages of RDN? What departments or columns work and which ones don't? Shoot me your thoughts at [email protected], so we can get down to work making our publication and Web site better.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/27/2007 at 1:15 PM2 comments

Get Your Gears On

I'll admit it. I've never honestly believed any of the talk about Google seriously challenging Microsoft's hegemony in the software business. For all of Google's success in search, in advertising, in Web mail and in consumer Internet applications, Microsoft enjoys the strategic high ground.

No, I don't mean Redmond's overriding advantage in operating systems and productivity applications. I mean the company's incredible developer support network, capable tooling and vast research efforts, which enable it to stave off almost any threat. But today, for the first time, I wonder if Google might have an outside shot at all this.

I'm talking about Google Gears of course, the open source browser plug-in that lets developers finally bridge the gap between online Web and offline apps. You can read more in Keith Ward's initial coverage of the Google Gears announcement here.

Using Google Gears, developers can create apps, using JavaScript APIs, that can download code and data to the local client to work even without a connection. From browsing e-mail archives to managing Google docs and spreadsheets, the new capability opens all sorts of opportunities for businesses looking to deploy lightweight, connected, Web-based applications.

No doubt, I expect Microsoft to offer a sincere and vigorous response to Google Gears. Efforts like Office Live and Windows Live certainly lay the competitive groundwork for such a response. The question is: Can Microsoft provide a compelling counter to Google as the search engine giant draws the argument in its favor? In an era of increasingly rich cross-platform Web applications, that task becomes more difficult.

Do you plan to look into Google Gears for your corporate application development? What benefits and problems do you expect from working with the platform? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/20/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Virtual Reversal

Late last night, I got an IM from frequent RDN contributor Mary Jo Foley informing me that Microsoft had suddenly and unexpectedly reversed course on its virtualization licensing policies.

According to Foley's blog post, Microsoft was set to announce today more relaxed virtualization policies, which would "allow users to run all versions of Windows Vista in a virtualized environment." The previous policy (which will remain in effect for the foreseeable future) only allows the more expensive Business and Ultimate versions of Vista to run in virtual machines.

The change is a setback for development organizations that looked forward to using virtualized Vista environments for software development, testing, QA and prototyping. It could also scramble the channel, as VARs and resellers poised to configure and sell virtualized workstation environments must scramble to stay legal under the current EULA. You can read more about this issue here.

Of course, Microsoft has struggled with licensing around virtualized environments for years, so I suppose this kind of 11th hour change shouldn't be a total shock. What do you think? Does this change impact your plans? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/20/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Silverlight Goes Linux

You might recall that when Microsoft proudly announced its Silverlight rich Internet application platform and runtime that Linux support was entirely missing.

Now, Miguel de Icaza and the Novell-sponsored folks who brought us the Linux-savvy Mono .NET compatibility layer are planning to demonstrate a Silverlight 1.1 beta running on Linux. As Jeffrey Schwartz reports, the demo will take place at Microsoft's MIX 07 conference in Paris.

Incredibly, de Icaza tells Schwartz that the Mono project team developed the Silverlight implementation -- code-named "Moonlight" -- in just 21 days. Among the features in Silverlight that appeared ready for the demo are XAML parsing, video playback and most of the graphics capabilities.

Says de Icaza: "It's been crazy, we've been working around the clock."

What do you think of de Icaza's contributions to the development community with the Mono and Moonlight projects? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/20/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

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