One of the key issues Microsoft will highlight at its TechEd North America 2009 conference will be the notion that now is the time for developers to step up and lead their IT organizations through tough economic times.
Indeed, a primary message Microsoft will proffer is that good, well-equipped developers can become more of a competitive advantage in a time of economic crisis than they have been in more robust times. Microsoft’s TechEd conference runs May 11-15 in Los Angeles.
“At TechEd we’re going to focus on how we can help the developer be that secret weapon in this economy,” said Burley Kawasaki, director of product management in Microsoft’s Connected Systems Division, in an interview with eWEEK. Kawasaki said Microsoft will focus on ensuring developers’ skills are current and that they take advantage of the full range of the .NET platform and have the proper guidance to use Microsoft’s flagship .NET and Web development technologies, including Visual Studio.
“Among the things we’ll talk about is, given the economy, what can organizations do, and what can developers do,” Kawasaki said. “What is the role IT can play in this recession versus the last one? In the last recession, technology was a big part of the problem with the over-hype of the dot-com boom. With this one, developers can be the secret weapon. Companies are looking at how IT can help them.”
Kawasaki noted that the Forrester market research firm has forecast IT spending growth of 1.6 percent for this year, which is less than the 4 percent seen last year, but it is still growth during recessionary times.
Moreover, Kawasaki said he believes a lot of the IT investment made over the last five years is key. “And our message at this TechEd is that it’s about unlocking that business value that organizations have invested already — things like Web services, composite applications and legacy applications, and how to turn that into IT value.”
Kawasaki also said that according to Forrester, 61 percent of organizations are focusing their IT spending on updating legacy applications, and 40 percent are focusing on updating enterprise applications. “There is a return to backend integration, using web services. to deliver new capabilities to users,” Kawasaki said.
So IT is still an investment area, he said. However, the rally cry to developer is to deliver value by unlocking all of this. Microsoft also will stress that it is time to focus on real world applications and use existing technology because, “In the vast majority of cases, developers aren’t using the full capability of what they have …and we want to give better guidance to developers to help them unlock IT,” Kawasaki said.
He also said Microsoft plans to talk about the road map for its core technology at the conference. But one thing is abundantly clear, being in a recession, Microsoft is emphasizing that rather than wait to obtain the latest and greatest new technologies, developers should take advantage of the technology they have in-house.
“You don’t have to wait for the next release, work with existing technology,” Kawasaki said. “We will talk about how to get the most out of existing tools. We’ll talk about how developers can play a pivotal role in cutting costs in IT.”
Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft, has emphasized the need for customers to do more with existing technologies. “Rather than decreasing their IT spend in challenging times, some companies are choosing to recalibrate their budgets and invest in technical solutions that deliver savings over the long run,” Muglia said in a statement from March.
And Microsoft will call on its customers and partners to help play up these angles, Kawasaki said.
Spotlight on Cost
Microsoft plans to highlight an internal research study called Spotlight on Cost, which focuses on best practices, and the use of technology for deployment and optimizing for the data center. Microsoft recently released the results of a two-year study of the impact that data center best practices could have on IT operations costs. The study shows that businesses also can realize immediate savings just by operating their existing data centers more efficiently. For example, organizations that adopted certain practices in the areas of e-mail and collaboration management reported IT costs of at least $10,000 per server per year less than those that did not. The study also found that many of the most beneficial practices, such as software imaging or cloning, automated restore and automated deployment processes, are rarely performed today.
Microsoft also will play up its “Ramp Up” program, which is part of the company’s Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) suite of programs. The focus of the program is to ensure that customers have the latest and greatest for their own personal skills so we target training and resources to move from skills they know today to help bridge the gap to the latest versions of tools, technologies and frameworks.
A description of the program on Microsoft’s Ramp Up site said:
“Ramp Up is a free, online, community-based learning program, with a number of different tracks that will help you build your portfolio of professional development skills. Ramp Up has a solid foundation of premium technical content from subject-matter gurus, and provides easy-to-access content in a variety of forms that guide you in learning the important skills.”
Project Ramp Up features tracks on SharePoint for Developers, Visual Studio 2008, Developer Basics of Visual Studio 2005, as well as a track entitled “Java Developer: Learn .NET,” among others.
Kawasaki said Microsoft also will be promoting broader use of interoperability across heterogeneous platforms from industry leaders such as IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Sun and others. Indeed, Microsoft will be promoting and playing up its participation in Project Stonehenge, an Apache Software Foundation project to develop a set of sample applications to demonstrate seamless interoperability across multiple underlying platform technologies by using currently defined World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) standard protocols.
“The goal of Stonehenge is to make interoperability easy and simple,” Kawasaki said. “Many customers still don’t have the training or the documentation they need so they don’t try to do the integration. So we’re working with Apache and companies like Sun and WSO2 and others to prove that interoperability and the WS-* standards are real.”
Also at TechEd, Microsoft will emphasize the use of its Web Platform Installer. The Microsoft Web Platform Installer (Web PI) is a free tool that makes it simple to download, install and keep up-to-date with the latest components of the Microsoft Web Platform, including Internet Information Services (IIS), SQL Server Express, .NET Framework and Visual Web Developer. In addition, Version 2.0 of Web PI, currently in beta, also enables users to install popular open source ASP.NET and PHP Web applications. Web PI has had more than 200,000 downloads.
“Developers are picking up tools for Web development and Web PI is a one-stop shop to pre-install all the Microsoft Web technologies and platforms for you,” Kawasaki said. He noted that Web development will be a major focus of the conference. “It will be woven throughout the sessions,” he said.