I'm in Atlanta at the World Conference Center for Microsoft TechEd North America 2011. This is Microsoft's biggest annual event, and TechEd 2011 has about 10,000 attendees who come from 84 countries. About 800 Microsoft participants will deliver 551 sessions and 250 hands-on labs for Microsoft customers and partners at TechEd 2011.The week of events launched Monday, May 16 with the first keynote session. The main speaker was Robert Wahbe, Corporate Vice President for Server and Tools Marketing at Microsoft. You could tell something was different at this year's TechEd, because there was actually some awesome pre-keynote entertainment — LA's The Glitch Mob delivered a live techno-electro house music experience (Figure A), and the keynote finished with some gesture-driven visual magic. Figure A
An electronic music performance by The Glitch Mob woke up TechEd 2011 attendees before the keynote. (Photo by John Joyner)
The keynote's main themes were cloud and devices, with a Windows Phone 7, an Xbox Kinect, a tablet, and a notebook PC representing the types of end user devices computing is moving to. Here are more specifics from the keynote.
Windows Azure, the public cloud from Microsoft
Microsoft's public cloud offering Windows Azure took center stage, and some examples were given of where businesses are using Windows Azure to do new things. In a customer showcase, a handheld ultrasound unit talked directly to an application in Windows Azure, and showed how you can add worldwide location independence to your application by writing to an Windows Azure back-end. The business benefits of agility, focus, and economics were called out as driving a cloud service like Windows Azure. In particular, allowing IT teams to focus on primary business generators rather than infrastructure maintenance — a familiar justification used by outsourcers and service providers of all types.
Microsoft is calling its public cloud the most complete in the industry. In addition to Windows Azure, there are cloud offerings available today for information workers (Office 365), the back office (Dynamics CRM Online), and PC management (Windows Intune).Related TechRepublic resources: 10 reasons to use Azure for your cloud apps, Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform: An overview for developers, 10 reasons why Office 365 rocks, 10 things you should know about deploying Office 365, Windows Intune offers desktop management tools in a cloud-based service, and Microsoft's Windows InTune: This could be big.
Build your own private Microsoft cloud
You may already own the software components Microsoft says are the building blocks of your private cloud, such as Windows Server, Hyper-V, System Center, SQL Server, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft CRM Dynamics. Virtualization is the core component of a private cloud, and Microsoft studies show that in 2011 more new servers are virtual than physical, and predicts that in 2012 the total number of virtualized servers will exceed physical servers.
A strong argument for choosing Microsoft products for your private and public cloud workloads is the commonality between the stacks, such as Active Directory and System Center extending security and management seamlessly from Microsoft public to private clouds and back. During the TechEd 2011 keynote, a new Microsoft application still in development, System Center Codename Concero, was demonstrated. (Concero was also featured during the keynote at the Microsoft Management Summit 2011 Las Vegas in March.)
Codename Concero is an automation solution that gives application owners a portal where they can request private cloud resources for automatic provisioning. In the demo, a request was made to expand the capacity of a cloud service using the Concero console. Assuming the IT admin has set up the required automation using System Center Opalis (which will be named System Center Orchestrator), selecting a template in Concero fires off Opalis to sequence and execute the provisioning instructions.
In the Concero console, we see the monitoring status of private cloud (labeled "System Center") and Windows Azure (public cloud) resources in the same view. A logical use of this feature was shown in the demo: the test/dev instances are on-premise using System Center, and the production instance is in Windows Azure.
New Windows Phone 7 features
Can you believe that the average individual has four "connected" devices? The megatrend towards the "consumerization" of IT is driving users to choose different form factors, in particular the smartphone. Microsoft announced that the new Windows Phone 7 features demonstrated at TechEd 2011 will be available in a release codenamed Mango by the end of the year.
Current Windows 7 phones will be able to get the new features in the Mango release. During the keynote, a new Lync client for Windows Phone 7 was shown, as well as new document management support that, for example, prevents a user from forwarding protected content outside the organization. As for management of mobile devices, there was an important announcement that System Center 2012 will support all popular smartphone and mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad, Android, and Nokia's Symbian.Related TechRepublic resources: 10 things to love and hate about Windows Phone7 and Great things ahead for MS System Center Configuration Manager 2012.
Kinect as an alternative I/O device
You can add "gesture" to your IT vocabulary alongside "point" and "click." Microsoft adds gesturing to your application toolset with its Xbox Kinect motion-detection technology. During the keynote, we watched a video showing how Kinect is being using in hospital operating rooms to solve a fundamental problem — how to manipulate IT devices such as mice without compromising sterility. For example, a surgeon can always stay in the sterile field with the patient and use Kinect gestures to drive displays of CAT scans.
For a finale, Microsoft virtualization guru Edwin Yuen drove the Microsoft WorldWide Telescope with gestures. Edwin used his hands and arms to move through the solar system, flying to Saturn using photos from the Cassini spacecraft. He them zoomed out to the Milky Way and rotated the galaxy with his arms. He showed how to advance in time to August 2017, and watch the shadow of the moon move across North America during the solar eclipse that will darken Atlanta skies in a few years.Related TechRepublic resources: Kinect for Xbox 360: Six possible business uses and WorldWide Telescope brings stargazing online.
More from TechEd 2011
You can watch a recorded version of the keynote, or catch a live stream of selected event content, at the Microsoft TechEd North America 2011 website.
John Joyner, MCSE, CMSP, MVP Cloud and Datacenter Management, is senior architect at ClearPointe, a cloud provider of systems management services. He is co-author of the "System Center Operations Manager: Unleashed" book series from Sams Publishing, and is developing cloud-based management solutions based on the Microsoft System Center 2012 suite. John is a retired U.S. Navy Lt. Commander 'Surface Warfare Officer', with the subspeciality 'Computer Scientist, Proven'. His tours of duty included Chief of Network Operations for NATO's southern region and network administrator aboard the aircraft carrier USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70).