A visit to Deception Pass – Washington State

After spending last week in LA for Microsoft PDC, this whole week I was in Redmond (Microsoft is Headquartered here). I didn’t have any meetings today as all Microsoft Managers were out to MS Company Meet today – Microsoft is 30 now.

My Cousin “Vijay” who lives here, suggested I drive down to Deception Pass. Deception Pass is a beautiful scenic place and a Washington State Park, which is about 80 miles from where I stayed (Bellevue, WA). In the past I have driven in the US only twice – first time with in Bellevue area itself and the second was last week for few miles on the way from LA to Sequoia. Though I have been driving in India for more than a decade, driving in the US is different especially the road rules. In the past whenever I came to US it has always been for short stays and I have avoided driving here.

Yesterday I called up Enterprise Rental, got myself picked up and rented out a Dodge Neon Car. I went with the full insurance package which covered risk upto a million dollars (enough even for US terms). Today morning started around 10:30AM and reached Deception Pass Bridge view point around 12:30PM (520 West, 405 North, I 5 North and finally on SR-20 West). Though I feared, driving was not difficult here; Equipped with a Direction Map from MSN site, I took the correct Exits and turns. I had gone with my colleagues, we spent next few hours at various scenic spots around Deception Pass Bridge and inside the State Park. On our way back to Bellevue, we stopped at Prime Outlet before joining I 5 South. Overall it was a day worth spent, enjoyed it most.

Deception Pass - Venkatarangan TNC and Colleagues

Events, Microsoft

PDC ’05 – Web Content Management

Web Content Management is now part of Microsoft Sharepoint Server (Office 12 System). MCMS is dead. Ryan Stocker from Microsoft in WCM session highlighted the new features of upcoming WCM product.

  • Today there are two portal stories from Microsoft – Sharepoint is for Intranet and MCMS was for Internet. With Office 12, it will be an integrated story. You can create Internet Facing Sites and Intranet (as always) using Sharepoint technologies. Remove forced choice “CMS02″ vs Sharepoint Portal Server. Roadmap towards an integrated Enterprise Content Management (ECM) story.
  • To achieve the last point all WCM services found in MCMS02 have been developed into the new Sharepoint server. This meant adding Internet readiness to Office “12” Servers.
  • New WCM features introduced
     ○ Consistent and Pixel Perfect Branding – which was extremely difficult today with Sharepoint 
     ○ Page Authoring – Web based or Smart Client (Word)
     ○ Dynamic Site Navigation controls/webparts
     ○ Governance – Publishing Schedules, Approval workflow, Formatting restrictions
     ○ Site Management Tools
     ○ Performance – Internet Scale & powerful Caching to handle high traffic rather going to DB for every piece of content. Also cache buckets are based on user rights.
     ○ Content Deployment methods
     ○ Security – Forms Authentication, Anonymous
     ○ Multi-Lingual Sites (Basic site in English and then other sites depend on this)
     ○ Search

  • Customers will be provided powerful tools to migrate all content from existing MCMS02 sites to Office “12” server. 

    • Make creation of dynamic, produced websites dramatically faster and easier. 
    • Provide great Out Of Box (OOB) Experience
    • Lower amount of costly custom code
    • Incremental migration is like a job that can move incremental content from CMS02 every night to the new site

  • In the new system:

    • Portals are a collection of webs
    • The webs are arranged in a hierarchy
    • Hierarchy controls navigation and security
    • SPSv2 Area, CMS02 Channel are now all based on the WSS webs construct for containership
    • Each web has a document library for pages. Pages are special document library items. So they inherit all WSS functions like versioning, Check-in/Check-out, workflow free
    • Each web can have its own ASP.NET v2.0 master page. Then there is page layout that actually lays out the page
    • WSS ships with standard field controls. There are additional CMS field controls like rich HTML
    • Portal Navigation 

      • Includes Webs, Pages and Authored links
      • Dynamic Navigation based on site hierarchy
      • Navigation links trimmed based on security, workflow state and publishing schedule

    • Security

      • A new WSS authentication provider implemented on top ASP.NET Role provider

        • Viewer role: Viewers can use the site, can view pages, documents, images. But they can’t use the Sharepoint application – Can’t call Remote APIs: SOAP, DAV & RPC. Can’t view application UI
        • Policy: Can constrain maximum access per web application. Deny all write access via http://site:80

    • Topology

      • Farms: Scale up and down as needed
      • Multi-farm: Staging environments in different networks. Authoring in Intranet with AD Authentication. Production in live networks with forms authentication
      • Site collections can be deployed between environments

    • Paths and Job

      • QuickDeploy job role allows news authors to deploy content immediately
      • Normally there is path which is channel connecting authoring to the live environment
      • Jobs control what content is copied when
      • It doesn’t deploy security setting

Having worked on Portal Development for nearly a decade, I was quite skeptical when I heard Ryan talk about using Sharepoint as the basis for a High Traffic Internet site. So I went to Hands-On-Labs (HOL) and played around with this new technology. After an hour of getting my hands dirty I was convinced that this is very promising piece of work. Though the final release and performance will determine its success, the idea of using Sharepoint’s (ASP.NET v2.0) evolved WebPart technology as the basis, brings in hitherto unseen power to the WCM space.


You can download from here slides for this and other Sharepoint sessions of PDC ’05. Thanks to Mark Harrison for the link to this page.


PDC ’05 – Day 3

Bob Muglia did the keynote on Day 3 and it was all about (as expected) Windows Server System. The highlights are:

  • Microsoft Windows Server Cluster Beta 1 – Today Linux dominates the high performance computing (HPC) market through ad-hoc custom clustering. Windows Server 2003 Cluster Edition hopes to bring a common platform to do this.
  • Microsoft is introducing Infocard – a federated identity verification system. You remember .NET Hailstorm?. This time it is supposed to be different, let us wait and see
  • Microsoft is introducing XPS (code named Metro) document delivery system as part of Avalon (WinFX WPC). XPS will be the default that applications speak to Printer for Printing, Printer are expected to have native XPS compilers in them around Windows Vista timeframe. XPS is based on Windows Presentation Framework XAML.
  • Windows Server Longhorn to be released in 2007. Today first CTP with IIS 7.0 was handed out to all PDC attendees.
  • Microsoft is introducing Transaction based file sytem (TxF) for NTFS. It will be an enhancement to NTFS released as part of Longhorn server, which makes every file operation as a transaction. Just like in Database you open Begin Trans, do file copy/move/delete/write/modify and commit trans. If you aren’t using it no overhead; usage also will add very little overhead. I think this is very cool.
  • New Event Log model to be introduced in Longhorn server
  • IIS 7.0 to be made Modular – modeled like Apache web server. (More details in a separate post). Will also have Windows Activation Service (WAS), ASP.NET Integration, Integrated Diagnostics and Tracing.
  • Windows System Center Management, Windows Hypervisor, Virtualization and new enhanced VHD format to be introduced post longhorn server
  • Today every piece of MS Server System is available in 64bit. MS Internal IT has seen huge performance benefits on running web servers in 64bit

Events, Microsoft

PDC ’05 – Windows Workflow

Windows Workflow Foundation (which was announced today) is an extensible programming model and runtime components for building solutions on the Windows platform. Major highlights:

  1. Bundled part of WinFX runtime, should get released around Windows Vista timeframe
  2. First likely to get released as part of powers Office “12” Server workflow. Windows Sharepoint Server “12” uses WWF workflow internally
  3. It is important to understand WWF is not a server product, but BizTalk is a server product. WWF can do both Human Workflow and EAI/B2B. There is no server or service component for WWF. It gets kicked off from your main function. You call a start function of WWF and the WWF runtime runs inside your application. User has to develop the host application that hosts the runtime and also has to develop failure (Restart) and multiserver setup. Persistence can be stored to a File or a SQL Database through appropriate connection string to any machine.
  4. Workflow models and definitions can be stored as a .CS (.VB) File or as .XOML file
  5. Dynamic changes can be made to the workflow  of a running instance

For more details, refer to MSDN WWF Site or Windows Workflow Site

Events, Microsoft

PDC ’05 – Day 2

Eric Rudder did the the keynote on Wednesday. The highlights of the keynote were:

  • Announcement of Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF), though a workflow engine from Microsoft has been rumored for several years, it finally was out of the bags today. A powerful Workflow framework as part of WinFX is a very compelling value proposition for .NET developers. Almost all business applications (Web or Windows) has some kind of Workflow custom build into them. Moving this to the underlying platform will certainly speed-up development and make it easier to debug, develop and maintain.
  • Microsoft announced MS Expression, a suite of designer tool. Traditionally developers and designers used different tool sets to do their work, Expression aims to bridge the gap. Three SKUs were announced part of Expression family

    • Microsoft Acrylic Graphics Designer – aimed at pure designers who can use it do powerful bitmap and vector graphics in the same design surface. Ability to generate XAML files.
    • Microsoft Sparkle Interactive Designer – aimed at designers and developers to design Windows Forms Application using XAML.
    • Microsoft Quartz Web Designer – aimed at designer and developers to design standards based Web Application. Everything the tool does XML, XSLT, CSS, HTML all conforms to standards. By default the tool generates XHTML 1.0 transitional – can be configured to generate based on any W3C Schema. Provides pretty cool two-way (Design and Coding) CSS and XSLT Design surface.
    • The best part of both Sparkle and Quartz is that it uses the same project files as Visual Studio 2005 and preserves formatting of all source files. Thanks Microsoft for listening to us on preserving formatting and adopting standards!
    • The folks from North Face adventure wares demoed an application that allowed sharing a 3D model designed in Autocad with people who had only Avalon was very compelling.

  • So far applications to be customized by end-users with a scripting language, had to use only Visual Basic for Application (VBA). This is commonly used by apps like MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. Now Microsoft is introducing Visual Studio Tools for Applications (VSTA) which provides the entire set of .NET Runtime and Languages available for developers to customize apps. An early version of Autocad was demonstrated using VSTA as Proof of Concept.
  • All PDC attendees to be given free copies of SQL Server 2005 once the product gets released. The final CTP of SQL Server ’05 was given to us on that day.
  • Release Candidate of Visual Studio 2005 was also given to all attendees. Finally Whidbey seems to get out of the door.