Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Pursuit of Happyness


Yesterday I watched in Comcast, the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness“. Will Smith has superbly portrayed the character of a struggling salesman who takes custody of his son as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional endeavour. The story is inspired by a true story of an investment tycoon (of the same name portrayed) Chris Gardener. An emotional story told very well, the boy (done by Will Smith’s real son Jaden Smith) has acted great especially in the scenes – where they are moving from place to place after a long day when they don’t have a place to sleep.

Don’t miss seeing this award winning movie.

Notes on Microsoft PDC 2008 – Azure under the hood

In this PDC2008 talk, Chuck Lenzmeier – the Architect in Azure team explains how the Virtual Images of OS works in the Azure cloud data centers. His Bio in PDC2008 says that Chuck has been with Microsoft since 1989, and worked on all versions of Windows from NT 3.1 to Vista. The below video really helps to understand how the Virtual Images are being managed to achieve Windows Azure manage while retaining absolute compatibility with existing OS, Software and Applications.

Click on this picture for the video of Azure Under the Hood

His co-speaker Frederick Smith from Microsoft explained the other aspects of Windows Azure.

Azure Under the Hood (2) Azure Under the Hood (3)

  • Windows Azure provisions and monitors hardware elements (Compute nodes, L2 Switches, LBs, Routers), hardware lifecycle management (burn in tests, diagnostics and repair, failed hardware are replaced) and capacity planning
  • Azure Fabric is highly available: Network has redundancy built in, services deployed across fault domains, load balancers route traffic to active nodes only, Fabric Controller state check-pointed periodically, FC state is stored on multiple replicas
  • PDC 2008 CTP release of Azure has Automated Service deployment, Three Service templates, change number of instances, simple service upgrade/degrade, Automated service failure discovery and recovery, external VIP Address/DNS name per service, Service network isolation enforcement & automated hardware management
  • For 2009 release will have ability to model more complex application, richer life-cycle management & richer network management

Notes on PDC2008 Sessions – HP Magcloud on Windows Azure

I was in the talk by Andrew Fitzhugh from HP’s The site is HP’s attempt to do on demand publishing of magazines and allow anyone to publish, sell and distribute magazines. An interesting statistics that was shown that in USA about 3.6Billion magazines were delivered to US News stands last year and out of which 2.3Billion was never read.

He talked about how Magcloud moved their front-end systems and portions of storage to Windows Azure. on-premises architecture utilizing Windows Azure on-premises architecture utilizing Windows Azure

Seeing the title I had good expectations, but the session turned out to be disappointing. The speakers completed the talk in 30 minutes and didn’t have anything more to talk or go into architecture or code details. The project seemed to me to a half-hearted attempt to test drive Windows Azure and was a simple project to showcase anything interesting. 

Notes on Microsoft PDC 2008 – Day 3 Keynote

Today was the keynote by Rick Rashid, Sr. VP from Microsoft Research. Notes on the session:

  • Why is fundamental research important to a company like Microsoft or country like USA. It is to survive tough times, about agility through your earlier investments and having smart people
  • Talked about Terminator, liveness property. Basically if you create a lock in say “C” will the code release it and so on
  • Talked about Dryad – Dryad is an infrastructure which allows a programmer to use the resources of a computer cluster or a data center for running data-parallel programs, without knowing anything about concurrent programming
  • The study on computer “programs” help us to understand more on human “cells”, similarly study on “cells” is helping us to understand “programs”
  • Microsoft has been working with Washington university for Collaborative technologies – ConferenceXP
  • Microsoft released today a new version of Microsoft Worldwide telescope Autumnal Equinox Beta

Feng Zhao (Principal Researcher) talked on the energy usage, how to sense and how we can reduce. He showed a small device made by Microsoft Research that uses a 16-bit CPU, 10K RAM, 40K ROM to collect humidity, temperature and  other parameters. It then transmits it using a low-power Radio as they are powered by batteries which need to last long.


He showed the below demo on how this data can be visualized:

These visualizations used in Data Center has helped them to map and plan on how cooling happens, where to place heavy computing loads, etc. He talked about Senseweb – a Wikipedia of Sensors  which is used by over 11 universities worldwide. This is used primarily in Swiss alps to collate data from different instruments on alps and study them for impact of humans on climate change.

David Heckerman in a video talked about how they are helping to find how HIV mutates in a person using technology from SPAM identification and statistical analysis.

Matthew Maclaurin talked about Project Boku – Lightweight programming for kids. Boku is a character/robot, he needs programming to succeed. Why for Kids – because it is a life skill, demystify and engage & make it easy for learning. All programming is done with XBOX Game Console, no keyboard use. See the demo below:

Finally they showed “SecondLight” an innovation based on Microsoft Surface. In SecondLight you can show over the regular display, which gets shown only when you move an ordinary paper above the display. There is an infrared sensor that follows you on the second display. This is exciting stuff, so don’t miss seeing this video from Tech Flash showing this.

Notes on PDC2008 Sessions – Inside the NBC Olympics Player

This session was done very well by Eric Schmidt (Director, Microsoft).

Some top-level highlights were:

  1. 34 top level events sorted by icons
  2. At the peak, 17 live separate events were happening
  3. 2000 hours of live content and 2200 Highlight content that was created

The result was staggering: 1.3 Billion Pageviews, 50 Million Unique Visitors, 70 million videos watched, 5000 Unique clips viewed per day during the final week, 600 million minutes of video delivery, 27 minutes of viewing per session, 35 million mobile views (external), 130,000 peak streams, 3.4 petabytes of video delivered, were built for 2.5 times of what was delivered.

Four main types of contents:

  1. Live Content were delivered with Windows Media Server, with commentary was coming from commentators typing in a CMS which got moved as XML to production
  2. Rewind – Video on Demand play of live content
  3. Highlight NBC pulled out 50 Interns from college put them in 30 ROCK and make them create these 3-5min highlights of individual events.
  4. Encores – Broadcast replays

Other points mentioned:

  • Planning of capacity was most important. When, Where and Size (each sport is of different length) was to be planned to determine the CPU, storage and ingress/egress needs.
  • NBC was helped by Intel Penguin processor, NBC waited for it and the servers got shipped around in May and took 6 weeks to go to Beijing
  • Bandwidth out of Beijing was limited to a 40 meg (DS3). 40 encoders were running live, so about 1MB per encoder (Digital Rapid). All this went into two windows media services box in Beijing, this got patched to window media services in 30 Rock, New York so that they can control if they had to. Which was then mapped to Limelight & Level 3 CDN’s massive WMS boxes. More details of encoding process in the blog post here
  • No full screen due to IOC Advertising requirements on the percentage of advertisements to video
  • Many partners were involved: Deltatre (Italy) had the CMS the best in the world to do live score on web
  • HTTPWatch Professional (and Fiddler) was useful to see what’s going on

Lessons Learned:

  • Scrum and Scrumming builds better teams as the teams were distributed worldwide
  • Meeting Face to Face was very important, especially to bring this up cost in RFP stage
  • Everyone should know all roles and all architectural touch points
  • Reduce complexity via common schema
  • Long-tail delivery hides issues, when you are watching current items you needed to focus on the older contents that were being watched by the long-tail
  • The industry needs better telemetry and monitoring solutions
  • “Chunked” workflow (smaller sized thousand of files created) presented new challenges – Now IIS 7.0 Smooth Streaming in Media Pack announced yesterday does this better
  • Over 250 people between Microsoft, NBC and all other partners

Notes on Microsoft PDC 2008 – Day 2 Keynote

The announcements made in this keynote today was picked by every media around the world, so I will be brief. You can watch the full keynote from here.

Windows 7

  1. The improvements were on decreasing Memory, Disk I/O, Power consumption and on Increasing Speed (Faster Boot, Device Ready), Responsiveness (Start Menu) and Scale up to 250 Processors
  2. BitLock on USB Drives to protect your data
  3. Native VHD support to mount and boot
  4. Remote Desktops now support Multi-Monitor, cool
  5. Multi-touch, Start Bar UI improvements and more…

On seeing this I was initially disappointed to see no new UI or major changes. However, after using Windows 7 in the labs and attending more sessions, I realized Microsoft was not throwing what was done in Windows Vista, but improving on it, which is good.

The UAC improvements made me think why not introduce “Roles” like in Windows Server for Windows 7 (Client) also. This way “Developers”, “Power Users” and “Home Users” can have different settings and security prompts.

.NET 4.0

The idea to have the “Web” guy Scott Guthrie do the talk on Windows 7 developer improvements and on WPF was a “major coup” to promote it.

  1. AutoCad was showing how they are using Windows 7 Multi-Touch, Ribbon APIs for their native C++ rendering
  2. A new WPF Toolkit and Silverlight Toolkit were announced today
  3. In .NET 4.0 you will have side by side hosting in the same process both .NET 4.0 and .NET 2.0 CLR
  4. A new managed extension framework which was shown in VS2010 on how the Text Editor can be customized
  5. VS 2010 is being rebuild on top of WPF, this I felt will certainly force Microsoft to improve the performance and invest more on WPF and make it better
  6. Having JQuery (an Open source project) supported is another major coup within Microsoft
  7. ASP.NET 4.0 will support multiple web.config, one each for Debug, Production and so on
  8. Today Silverlight 1.0 is in over 25% of all machines in Internet and nearly in 100 million of them have Silverlight 2.0

Live Services

  1. David Treadwell showed Live Services which consists of Search, Geospatial, Live ID, Communication & Presence and Directory services
  2. Live ID will now support Open ID. This if works well, has the potential to make it come alive the dream of a single identity provider on the Internet
  3. The demo of BBC Live Player using Live Mesh services to sync up was cool. The BBC Engineer talked that “Last Year Broadcaster decided what you saw, This Year you decide what you saw, Next Year will determine what you see”. What they are watching, which segment is good will all be shared using Social networking tools and powered by Live Mesh

Office “14″

  1. This was perhaps the most interesting demo of the day, with a lightweight of office (Word, Excel and OneNote) for the Web
  2. The cool thing was how it synced up in real-time changes done in Client version and the Online version. All working behind the scene with “REST” protocols
  3. Microsoft claimed this to be “Office without Limits”

See how the Client Onenote and Online Onenote are in sync

See how the Client Word and Online Word are in sync

Reviews on the Web: Windows 7, Office 14

Notes on PDC2008 Day 2 – Silverlight 2 for Mobile

Microsoft-Silverlight-for-MobileAfter showing preview of Silverlight for Mobile two years back, Microsoft has been absolutely silent. Since there was no news for a long time I presumed they have killed this project. After seeing this session today I am glad the project is alive and getting closer to release. In this session by Amit Chopra and Giorgio Sardo, they talked more about this – both the speakers did a fabulous job of entertaining the audience and making the session fun. Notes on the session:

  • The Mobile version of Silverlight will be Silverlight 2.0 with .NET Managed code support and not the SL v1 with JavaScript (Thank god)
  • Public CTP will be released in Q1 ’09
  • Most of the Silverlight applications written for desktop today can run in SL for Mobile
  • A new emulator for debugging Silverlight for Mobile is now integrated with Visual Studio
  • By using the User-Agent and Platform class you can determine whether your application is running in Desktop, Windows Mobile or Nokia phones, etc.
  • Lot of optimisation work is happening to play media well on SL for Mobile

You can see one of the demos in the video below that was shown running in a Windows Mobile:

You can read here an interview with Amit Chopra by Register, where talks about what’s in and what’s out.

Notes on PDC 2008 Day 2 – Project Velocity

I am right now in Microsoft Project “Velocity” talk in PDC2008 by Muralidhar Krishnaprasad. Microsoft has been promising a distributed (and in-memory) cache system for a long long time. If I remember right it was first talked about in COM/ASP days. After that in every Microsoft event a version of it was shown (by a different team each time) in pre-release stages, but none of them got released. The story from Microsoft on the need for one, how to solve it and roadmap kept changing all the time. As for me, having got tired of this I have been using SQL Server as the distributed cache for few years now.

Notes from the session:

  • “Velocity” is Microsoft’s Distributed Cache .
  • Usage scenarios are: Reference Data, Vendor Catalogs, Activity Data, Resource Data (Flight Seat Inventory and like)
  • It is an explicit, in-memory, distributed cache
  • Any .NET Objects that can be serialized can be cached
  • Scale very easily, add as much memory and add as much machines as you can
  • Velocity is going to be free and released in MSDN
  • Runs on standard Windows PC. If machines go down, the data is preserved and not lost. High Availability (HA) is ensured
  • Velocity releases: CTP2 now in PDC, CTP3 in Mix ’09 and release at Mid ’09 timeframe
  • In V1.0 simple Add queries can be done. In later versions LINQ queries will be available.

You can read more on the CTP2 that got released today from the Velocity blog post here .

With what we were shown today of Velocity, especially its high availability, monitoring tools, ease of use and scalability are pretty impressive. I just hope this time they ship this and not go the previous paths.

Notes on PDC2008 Day 1 – SQL Services

This was by far the best session for me in PDC2008. It was SQL Server: Database to Data Platform – Road from Server to Devices to the Cloud by David Campbell, a Microsoft Technical Fellow and SQL Server guru. David was brilliant, you could clearly see and appreciate his deep expertise on the subject. He gave an overall view of what’s happening with Database in the last few decades, how you can write very complex huge data applications today easily. And then he talked about where this SQL on cloud fits in, where it doesn’t and so on. You can see two brief demos shown in the talk below.

David Campbell talking about Sync in Action with Sync Framework in the talk

Zach Skyles Owens of Microsoft showing the Trey Research Demo application

If you want to catch up fully on what David talked about here, you can watch this video he did few weeks before PDC2008 covering the same topic – I highly recommend you watching this.

Notes on Microsoft PDC 2008 – Day 1 Keynote

You can see the photos I took from here.

Ray Ozzie

  • For the last few years, the scope of enterprise applications are increasing. IT departments have to manage more of outside users (their customers) than their internal users
  • More of IT Pros and Developers have to work together and learn together in this new cloud world
  • More than ever the web site of an enterprise is critical to the overall business health
  • Hat’s off to Jeff Bezos and his team at Amazon for the phenomenal work they are doing with EC2 and Windows hosting. In ways we collaborate with them and in other ways we compete with them
  • Today this cloud is another tier. The first tier is your PC or Mobile, it is all about you. The second tier is the enterprise and its scope is the size of the enterprise. The third tier is this cloud. To do this we had a team headed by David Cutler, Amitabh Srivatsa and others in Microsoft
  • Today’s systems whether it is Windows, Java or others are all modelled for scale-up. We need for the next 50 years, we need something that can scale out & parallel computing
  • We announce today “Windows Azure“. It is our new Windows (new OS) that supports all the infrastructure to power this cloud design. It is not a software, but a service that is running on Microsoft Datacenters, initially in USA then to be rolled out worldwide
  • It will be the most environmentally sensitive, scalable, reliable service for all Microsoft hosting over the years
  • Windows Azure works with the same tools – VB.NET 2008, C#, C++, .NET, etc. including both managed and un-managed code. Initially managed will be supported and later support for un-managed will be introduced
  • There was a demo of a new services, a Mobile Phone discovery in neighbourhood using Bluetooth – and client can be downloaded from

PDC2008 Day 1 Keynote PDC2008 Day 1 Keynote

Note: For the first time I saw Microsoft keynote speakers (Ray Ozzie and Amitabh Srivatsa) in a developer conference not wearing T-Shirts but are in formal attire with a blazer.  

Ray Ozzie’s closing notes video below:

Bob Muglia

  • There was demo of using .NET Services and SQL Services by RedPrairie and also of System Management “Atlanta”. Atlanta uses SQL Services for customers to compare their instrumentation data with others and best practices
  • This week we are releasing “Oslo” a new modelling tool and a language “m”

Dave Thomson

  • Vice President of Microsoft Online, he has headed the team that developed Active Directory and in Exchange Server
  • One of the problems to solve is federated identity. This is done by using Microsoft Services Connector which sites on-premises and then syncs it to the online cloud. This is currently used by Microsoft online services and will be the same used by Windows Azure.