PDC09 Preview: Azure Launch Among Highlights at Microsoft's Developer Conference

Three screens and a cloud: That's the vision that will be put forth this week by Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference as attendees gather in Los Angeles to learn more about the company's developer platform strategy and how to take advantage of the Windows Azure cloud computing platform, Windows 7, Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4.

PDC09, Nov 17 – 19, officially kicks off with an 8:30 PST keynote by Ozzie and Bob Muglia, Microsoft's president of the Server and Tools Business. Scott Guthrie, the corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Platform and Kurt Delbene, senior vice president of the Office Business Productivity Group, along with a "special guest" are slated to give the keynote on Wednesday. Both keynotes will be streamed live.  Workshops are being held today.

This conference is just one-year after the PDC08 confab, held the last week of October in the same location. "This year is about catching up with a knowledge deficit on real product, rather than creating a pipeline of early-release bits," says Andrew Brust, chief of new technology for consultancy twentysix New York and Redmond Review columnist/blogger for Visual Studio Magazine and

Software plus services--the vision espoused at PDC08--which enables companies and their developers to move workloads seamlessly between on-premise infrastructures and the cloud, is beginning to take shape. The Windows Azure Platform, Microsoft's platform-as-a-service, will be officially launched during the Ozzie/Muglia keynote on Tuesday. The Azure Platform, which now consists of Windows Azure cloud operating system, .NET Services connectivity and SQL Azure relational data storage, is scaled back significantly in version 1 from what was announced last year; several changes stem from developer feedback.

On Friday, Microsoft released the November CTP of the Windows Azure SDK and Tools for Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2. Among the new features is support for variable-size virtual machines. "Azure VMs now scale up and out," says OakLeaf Systems' blogger and principal Roger Jennings, in an email. "Something Azure developers have been asking for and needed to compete with Amazon Web Services EC2."

Microsoft is also expected to unveil its business portal for Azure's consumption-based pricing model, which was announced at the company's Worldwide Partners Conference in July. Expect several software vendors to take the stage to show third-party support for the Windows Azure Platform.

Microsoft's cloud will be officially launched but developers can also expect to learn more about the three screens, a browser front-end (to the back-end cloud) that runs on a phone, PC and TV. In Microsoft's vision, the programming models and tooling across on-premises, mobile and outside infrastructure is based largely on skills already familiar to its Visual Studio developers. Even so, the number of platforms, servers and tools updates in the last year has been astounding.

"Since last year we’ve had official releases of ASP.NET MVC, Silverlight 3, RIA Services and more. Last month we saw the release of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. This month it was Exchange 2010 and Azure’s coming [this] week," says Brust, in an email. "Then we have the impending hit parade of new releases (Visual Studio 2010/.NET Framework 4.0 and all the parallel programming APIs and tools, the .NET Reactive Framework, Office 2010, Office Web Apps. SharePoint 2010, BPOS 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2, and SQL Server Modeling).

"Microsoft has a lot of housekeeping, education-wise and messaging-wise, to do and that’s what this PDC is about," says Brust. "There will also be the more traditional futures-focused content but that looks like it will be secondary this time around."

Among the bits offered up at the show, developers can expect the Windows Azure SDK and tooling, SharePoint 2010 beta 1, Silverlight 4 CTP, and the first SQL Server Modeling CTP, which is the new name for "Oslo." Windows Mobile 7 and Silverlight for Mobile should be in the mix, but a discussion of both technologies was expected at PDC08 and developers were disappointed.

"Developers are all excited about multi-touch interfaces, mobile technology and creating new exciting user experiences," says Infragistics' product manager Andrew Flick, in an email. "I think we can expect to see demos and new products around these things."

Infragistics is sponsoring the Tuesday night reception. The company is also celebrating its 20th anniversary, so "we're gonna party like it's 1989," says Flick.

In addition to the keynotes and sessions, for the first time this year Microsoft's Channel 9 is broadcasting live all day during the conference.

-Michael Desmond contributed to this article.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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