Microsoft

Would you bet on WPF, Silverlight or HTML5?

There’s nothing like someone saying some technology is “dead” to really create a storm. It’s even more of a controversial thing when it’s said by a former Microsoft Product Manager for Silverlight about what many consider a key technology for Microsoft i.e. WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation).

Scott Barnes, made some interesting statements on where he thought WPF, Silverlight and HTML5 were headed in the overall Microsoft Strategy. His overall assertion was that WPF was on a road to nowhere and that most of the internal love was for Silverlight and increasingly for HTML5. This even prompted Scott Guthrie of Microsoft who manages the teams that builds these products to state

scottgu

I have no special insight into whether Scott Barnes is right and I’ve no reason to believe that someone as respected and trusted as “The Gu” is not being honest.

My own insight and thoughts on this, with 20 years experience, in the technology/software industry is that I would be very surprised if there weren’t tensions between product groups at Microsoft. I think that is the nature of a large corporate business like Microsoft and I’m sure the Windows 7 team doesn’t like the Managed Code .NET teams and possibly views it with suspicion. It might explain the reason that we’ve not seen any WPF app built into Vista/Windows 7. I have previously blogged and stated at Microsoft Partner  meetings why Microsoft wasn’t porting more of it’s own apps to WPF? Something even as less controversial as Windows Live Messenger remains as a standard Windows app.

Betting on technologies is what we do and we do it for and with our customers everyday. I know that often the range of technologies/solutions from Microsoft are quite large but from my experience customers do need choice as to how they build solutions. Even if Microsoft had only one way to build apps then people are sill faced with a wide choice of building software whether that be Java, PHP, C/C++, Python, Ruby, Objective C, Adobe Air and running it on different platforms.

The fundamental principle behind WPF/Silverlight that we needed to bridge the gap between UI designers and developers was a sound one, and that by having a declarative language like XAML we could do valuable stuff easily/quickly without hardcore programming in C# or VB.NET was absolutely right. It’s true to say that we haven’t seen a huge rush for people to build WPF apps and that Silverlight has probably been more successful. I have just installed the new Seesmic Desktop 2 Beta which is built on the out of browser Silverlight capability.

There is now talk of HTML5 killing Silverlight and I guess by inference Adobe Flash as well and I saw an article today saying whether it will kill Javascript. It is with little doubt that HTML5 is going to be a very important move in web based applications. HTML is a funny old beast! It’s one of those technologies which was designed to give a very basic user experience because we are essentially working with the lowest common denominator to get a uniform experience, i.e uniformly bad!!. We then had more stuff pushed to the browser with Flash for more interactive experiences and then AJAX and more recently Silverlight. HTML5 is still developing as a specification whereas Silverlight is here and now and provides a great set of developer/designer tools and capabilities.

Obviously, we have some “big beasts” backing HTML5 such as Apple & Google. Microsoft cannot be seen to backing away on HTML5 because it’s been there and done that before. That’s why it’s been quick to release the public beta of IE9.

So, which do you back? Well, I think it does really depend but it’s still a very good bet to be backing Microsoft technologies!

SMBs Still Wanting to Buy Servers?

With all the talk about “Cloud Computing” at the moment you’d almost be forgiven that SMBs would be dumping physical server purchases by the bucket load to move to the new promise land of public cloud services!

This is one case of where the hype does not match the reality as highlighted by this article on the Windows Server Division Weblog, which points out recent IDC stats showing the biggest year-on-year server shipments in more than 5 years! As the article points out is that this is explained by the fact that businesses are in a different stages of their adoption of cloud services. A typical Microsoft Small Business Server is a multi-role solution within a single physical server and even shifting email services to Gmail or BPOS, still leaves you with file sharing, identity management/security, print sharing, remote access & possibly remote access, software deployment, policy management of desktops and possibly some line of business application (LOB). You could move your storage to the cloud as well and sync the data locally and there are solutions to do that but about your LOB? It might well be a bespoke solution which is not untypical in many businesses and so there might not be a cloud service doing quite what you want.

Sure, the cloud market is going to grow dramatically in SMB but there is going to be a process of organisations shifting to that gradually. There is still demand for physical servers as SMBs adopt virtualisation as they need new hardware capable of supporting virtualisation technologies from VMWare and Microsoft to do this.

Microsoft’s move to providing Azure as a platform for providing an environment to build cloud services is absolutely right because competitors like Google, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com and others are pushing hard on this.

The Microsoft Web Platform & Increasing Revenue

It’s no secret that I am fan of Microsoft technologies but there is no point in being a fanboy of a technology if it’s not delivering for your clients and ultimately for you as a business. It’s always great, when as a business owner, you can deliver a solution that makes a fundamental impact for your client and allows them to grow their business and be more successful. This is one of those occasions that I’d like to share.

Last year we started working with a company in Luton which provides car parking facilities for the popular Luton Airport. The car parking is provided offsite and is just outside the perimeter of the airport. It’s a competitive business and relies on taking much of it’s bookings online. It is therefore imperative that the business has an efficient and usable site.

Our client had a website but it was an old site which had been developed in ASP and used SQL Server 2000 as the backend database. It was hosted by a relatively unknown company which didn’t deliver the best service in the world. The website could only be accessed by Internet Explorer because key parts of it were implemented using VB Script. The payment system was integrated through to SagePay and there was a VB Basic application which the staff ran to access bookings from the SQL Server. It was a system that was not scalable and not reliable as the site would often stop connecting to database (at least once a week). This could only be fixed by a support email to the hosting company, who would reply with saying it was fixed but never said what the problem was or how to resolve it permanently. The system was no longer supported by the original developers.

Our client recognised all these issues and that it was holding their business back and had employed a relatively large IT/Software outsourcing business to develop a new site for them. This business failed to deliver and produced virtually nothing after 12 months and a serious of money having been spent.

Having eventually approached us, that is Ardent iSys, we embarked on a complete redevelopment of the site. We chose to develop the site using ASP.NET MVC 1.0, JQuery and SQL Server 2008. The aim was to put the entire business online, so that the backend booking management could be accessed via the browser as well. We moved the hosting to iomart using two dedicated servers running Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 on the second server. This gave significant scalability and the possibility of hosting multiple sites on this platform/configuration. Since deployment at the beginning of the year there has been zero downtime due to platform issues and the hosting is backed by SLAs. The costs have risen for the hosting but this is well worth the money for having your business up and running all the time. The new site can be found at http://www.airportcarparkz.com and is a complete end to end development by Ardent iSys including the site design. This site was developed in about a 6 month period and since going live has functioned without any critical issues or causing the business to be offline for any time at all. The site can now be accessed via any browser and as we are using ASP.NET MVC we will eventually make the site W3C compliant. We are working on a new site design which is why we haven’t made the site fully W3C compliant at the moment. Gone are the days when Microsoft Web technology was the poor mocked cousin when it came to web standards.

The most important thing is that the new site is competing with some of our client’s bigger car parking competitors and after seeing the site they have started to get in touch with our client. The traffic to the site jumped rapidly after initial launch as people were able to use different browsers. Bookings have been steadily climbing and the search engine ranking of the site has gown as well. During the last few months traffic to the site has risen again by 40% and the revenue is greater than at anytime during the businesses existence.

There are plans to add a content management system, provide business reports from SQL Server about bookings and build an affiliate programme. The site is no longer a block to growing the business and our client can now concentrate on building and further growing revenue and profitability. They now know they have a technology solution that can deliver for them a Microsoft partner who can make that happen for them.

We are now developing a new site for a holiday business for this client which will be developed using ASP.NET MVC 2.0 and hosted on the same platform.

SBS 2008 Released to Manufacturing

I was at the Manchester SBS Group Meeting this evening when Gareth Hall, the Microsoft Windows Server Product Manager announced that SBS 2008 was now at RTM. Sure enough, I had the following email from the Beta Participation :

We are very excited to announce the RTM of Small Business Server 2008 today! This is a huge milestone for the team here, as well as all of you who have played a pivotal role in providing feedback on this product. We on the product team want to say "THANK YOU!" for the hours you’ve spent installing builds, discussing issues on the newsgroups, and filing all of those bugs we love! The SBS Community CANNOT be topped, and this release is just another example of that!

What’s next?

We’ll be making the Evaluation builds available on the Microsoft CARE site within a month

Complimentary Not for Resale copies of SBS will be awarded to Beta participants, based on participation.details from Kevin Beares coming soon!

RTM product to be available in Retail and Volume Licensing early October, stay tuned to your favorite OEMs for launch plans Please join us in celebrating this important day! We couldn’t have done it without you!

Cassie Hicks and Dean Paron

Windows Small Business Server 2008

So You Want to Learn SBS 2008?

I’ve heard quite a bit about Partners wanting resources for learning SBS 2008, web casts, training courses, etc. Now, whilst these are all valuable things there is really only one way to learn the product and that is to use it. You can download SBS 2008 RC1 and I have a post on getting a very cheap test server running virtualisation, so you really have no excuses!

Get Ready for the Windows Essential Server Solutions Launch with
Technical Training Series <https://partner.microsoft.com/40075344>
The November 12, 2008 launch for Windows Essential Server Solutions is
fast approaching! Prepare by attending Partner Academy Live technical
training sessions for Windows Small Business Server 2008 and Windows
Essential Business Server 2008 starting on August 15, 9am PDT with “The
Small and Midsize Business Server Platform: Which Is Right for Your
Customer? <https://partner.microsoft.com/40075267>”. Topics include
planning and installation, migration, security, management,
virtualization, and more for both Windows SBS 2008 and Windows EBS 2008

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SQL Server 2008 RTM

You’ve probably seen that SQL Server 2008 has RTM’ed and as it is a key component of SBS 2008 and EBS 2008, then you might want to find out more about what it can do. With the loss of ISA Server in the Premium Edition of SBS 2008, then quite a few people are wondering what the value proposition is going to be to justify the extra cost of the Premium version. Microsoft has included SQL Server 2008 Standard Ed (SQL Server 2005 in SBS 2003 R2 was the Workgroup Ed) and can be installed on the Server 2008 licensed server that also comes with SBS 2008. Even if you use virtualisation, then this is a great LOB platform.

However, knowing SQL Server in any sort of depth is not an easy thing and there is only so much you can know, but now is a great time to learn more about SQL Server 2008. One blog you should definitely follow is Andrew Fryer’s on SQL Server and check out the SQL Server 2008 Unleashed Event on 10th September down at TVP, Reading.

Georgina also has a list of the upcoming Technet Events which include two events focused on SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 in Bristol and London on 22nd and 29th October.

Upcoming AMITPRO Meetings

Here are details of the upcoming meetings for AMITPRO that Steve Wright has been busy organising as the new Group Leader, so put these in your diary and come along to the Arden Hotel next to Birmingham Airport and we meet at 17.00 for a 17.30 start in the Bar Area before going to the meeting room.

Next meeting is 12th August

Speakers:

· Emily Lambert, Microsoft SBSC Programme Lead

· Microsoft Windows Mobile Team and Distributor Brightpoint (formerly Hugh Symmons) to discuss a potential mobile offering with Orange.

Emily will be the new point of contact for everything SBSC and is very keen to understand what we want/need/like/dislike about the SBSC programme, so you wont want to miss this meeting. Have your questions/suggestions/wish list to hand and let’s make sure MS understand we are the go to group for providing feedback on SBSC!

Sept 9th Meeting

Provisional speakers:

· N-Able Technologies. www.n-able.com. IT Automation & Managed Services Solutions. Only 1 speaker this month as this is likely to be a longish presentation.

Oct 14th Meeting

Provisional speakers:

· VSLnet: http://www.vsl-net.com/ : Managed Internet Solutions – start offering hosted solutions to your customers now or add to your existing portfolio.

Premier Finance and Leasing: Specialists in IT finance & lease. Gain a competitive edge over the competition by offering finance & lease to your customers and easily overcome their objections to cost.

Meet Andrea Russell

I can’t believe I don’t have a photo with Andrea from WPC, that is a major oversight but she is probably one of the most important people in our lives as SBSC Partners. She is the Worldwide Programme Manager for SBSC and lives and breaths the "blue badge". I’ve now worked with Andrea for just over a year and realised that underneath that outwardly cool, calm and collected exterior lies a very determined person. I know that often the feedback is that Microsoft does not listen and act but you can be sure that Andrea is pushing hard for SBSC Partners. She’s been known to corner people in the corridors of the Redmond Campus to demand stuff for us. She might not always get it but I know she won’t give up easily. She was the one who got Michael Risse over to a lunch with the SBSC PALs in Houston so we could ask him some questions including why the recent Small Business Vista Adverts were highlighting free support direct from Microsoft and didn’t mention SBSC Partners or any Partners!

She’s overseen an amazing period with SBSC Partners globally reaching about 15,000 over many different countries in a relatively short time. As she told us in Houston, it is the largest coherent Partner Group in Microsoft, bigger than any of the competencies so a "force to be reckoned with"!

It’s all about the people, it’s people who drive Change.

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Remix UK 08

I’m booked to go to Remix UK 08 on 18/19th September at the Brighton Centre. Apparently, this isn’t an event in its traditional form its a "48 hour conversation". Not sure what that actually means but it sounds good. Attendance at this event highlights the changes happening in what I’m doing. Remix is about Microsoft’s Web technologies and is aimed at Designers and Developers. The keynote speakers are :-

  • Scott Guthrie, Corporate VP, .NET Developer Division
  • Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher, Microsoft

The site for Remix says that Brighton is a "…really chilled out place that has a unique creative buzz about it, and if you’re from out of town you’ll be able down tools completely and just lay back and enjoy…"

The only problem is that it won’t be the usual crowd that I know, so means I’ll have to talk to people I don’t know …arrgghhh!! But, I’m really looking forward to it and if you are going let me know.

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David Overton On Software plus Services

When I saw Dave recently at WPC he said he was writing this blog post and what an excellent one it is. It’s one of those ones where you should print it out and stick it your office wall or something or your bedroom wall if your partner/wife lets you :-)

It’s clear in my mind that SaaS and/or S+S is happening and we can’t be like king Canute and try stop the tide coming in by standing on the beach and waving our hands to stop the tide coming in.

The problem for Microsoft is that they have very few people who can articulate to Partners their S+S strategy and to be honest I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Okay, I’m off to start a campaign to bring Dave back to the happy family that is SBSC :-)

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