Microsoft Focuses on Agility

At its 2007 TechEd conference, Microsoft tells customers to get agile.

ORLANDO, Fla.—Microsoft kicked off its 15th annual Microsoft TechEd conference here with a discussion of the companys strategy for "Dynamic IT for the People-Ready Business," as Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the companys server and tools business, put it.

But first, Muglia had to play out the live re-enactment of a scene from the movie "Back to the Future," in which he drove a time machine-enabled DeLorean onstage with the "Doc" character, also known as Christopher Lloyd, from the film.

In his keynote address, Muglia discussed the challenges IT professionals face, including the pressures of global competition and regulatory compliance requirements. IT professionals are also trying to determine how to take advantage of new technologies and computing approaches, such as mobile devices and SAAS (software as a service).

However, Muglia identified agility as a requirement for businesses looking to become more dynamic.

Tom Bittman, vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner, said three things are pushing the need to more agility: Connectivity is pervasive, response time expectations are shrinking, and relationships are online and short-lived.

Bittman described agility as the ability to sense a change in something and do something about it efficiently and effectively.

Agility is not only achieved by technology, he added, but also by culture and process.

He noted that even today 70 percent of IT budgets are being spent on maintaining the status quo. And "complexity triumphs agility," Bittman said.

Indeed, Bittman said, agility will become a major business differentiator in the connected world, and the gap between agile businesses and non-agile ones is growing.

/zimages/5/28571.gifMicrosoft unveils its "coffee table" PC. Click here to read more.

"We need a variable-cost model," Bittman said. The cost model should account for costs based on usage and take into account quality of services and service-level commitments.

Moreover, Bittman said it is important for organizations looking to become more agile to use some sort of IT maturity model. He also identified key reasons many organizations see as interfering with their ultimate push to become more agile. According to Gartner research, 29 percent of the companies said they believe technology was the key factor impacting their push toward becoming more agile and dynamic, 26 percent said process, 25 percent said cultural or organizational issues were the main factor, and 20 percent said "other."

And while Bittman identified the Capability Maturity Model for Software that came out of Carnegie Mellon Universitys Software Engineering Institute as the "granddaddy of all maturity models … the CMM is not good enough for high-technology changing IT."

Overall, organizations need to look at the major factors that can be tweaked to reach agility. "You need to look at it all," Bittman said. "Its not just process, but also the technology and the culture. … We need to take IT from being a cost center to an investment center."

Indeed, "those that are on a path toward a real-time infrastructure have experienced a dramatic reduction in their costs, improvements to their quality of service and, most importantly, significant value-add in terms of business-differentiating agility," Bittman said.

Muglia then described the new wave of innovation and progress coming from Microsoft in the areas of application development, server, enterprise security and client management.

Microsoft has provided a name for the next release of SQL Server: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, formerly code-named SQL Server "Katmai," and announced the delivery of the first SQL Server 2008 Community Technology Preview.

Microsoft also announced the name for the next release of Visual Studio: Visual Studio 2008, formerly code-named "Orcas." Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2 is expected to be available later this summer and will include the Visual Studio Shell, a new offering that enables developers to create and distribute their own custom tools built on top of the Visual Studio IDE (integrated development environment).

/zimages/5/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.