Thursday, June 28, 2007

WWPC Bound--Are You?

or the third year in a row, I'll be heading to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. This year, it's in Denver. Last year's event was in Boston and, except for the deplorable lack of lunches, extremely worthwhile.

We are dedicated Microsoft partners, and I always enjoy meeting and networking with other partners. The sessions at these things are good, but the networking is great.

With that said, the tools they give the partners to do networking always suck. It's difficult to use the networking tools and the "tables" are always booked. As John pointed out, their various tools can't even agree on time zones. And, of course, I had to create another user name and password (oh, and a screen name, too--what is this? MySpace? Am I fourteen? I don't need a screen name to hide behind, I'm trying to actually meet business partners).

This year, they've added a new tool: "blogs." And, once again, they've mucked it all up. Rather than create an RSS aggregator (just like PDC did in 2005), they've created their own blogging tool that allows you to have a blog hosted on and only available from their site. It's like someone who has no idea what blogging is about decided that they should have blogs. Guys: many of us already have blogs. We don't want to have some new, hidden-from-the-world, proprietary-software, blogging platform. By the way: I did create a blog on their site (it's called "I Already Have a Blog") and I'll be crossposting WPC-related material there).

Networking problems aside, I expect to have a great time in Denver. On Tuesday, I'll go to INVESCO for the US party (I really hope that they continue Margo Day's tradition of the high-five tunnel on the way in!). On Wednesday the 12th, John and I will be attending the Partner Awards (and, with any luck, picking up our Innovation ISV Partner of the Year Award).

So, with that said, are you going? If so, want to meet up? Who do you think the "Classic eighties band" will be?

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Microsoft Partner DVD Available

Want to try over 100 add-ins and packages for Visual Studio 2005?

Microsoft has just released the 2007 VSIP Partner DVD. VSIP is the Visual Studio® Industry Partners (disclosure: our CTO Robert W. Anderson sits on the advisory board), and the Partner DVD has 5 gigabytes worth of products, add-ins, and evals that help make Visual Studio more productive.

Naturally, we put something on it: the Digipede Network Developer Edition. It's not a short term eval--it's a full-featured, Digipede Network on-a-box.

It's free, but you have to order it rather than download (did I mention that it's FIVE GIGABYTES?).

Order it here.

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Really. Small is better.

My reader caught a good post about SOA over at ZDNet this morning. In SOA business case: smaller is better by Joe McKendrick, he quotes heavy hitters from BEA and HP and makes the case for starting small with SOA.

There’s been quite a bit of debate as of late as to whether SOA should start small and incrementally, or be introduced from the top down as a transformative venture. The word out of the recent BEA Systems executives annual Arch 2 Arch customer conference in Nice, France, is ‘start small, and build from there.’
I've been preaching this for a while now, and lately I've gotten some firsthand experience seeing it in action.

We have several customers who are "starting small" with their SOA. In each case, they've identified a single (or small number) of applications and began by adapting those to run within the construct of an SOA.

Why start small?

The first and most obvious reason is budget. Starting small often allows for a budget as small as a few tens of thousands of dollars (including refactoring the app to run as a service, a software infrastructure, and hardware to run it on). Rearchitecting your enterprise's entire infrastructure is often millions of dollars (yep, a TWO order of magnitude difference).

Starting small also allows for learning lessons. Your developers will better understand both SOA in general and how you've chosen to implement it on site. Your IT department will learn about implementation and deployment in incremental steps. And your users won't be confronted with all new systems simultaneously.

Another great benefit of starting small is the ability to show incremental success. Some of our best customer successes have come at customers who started with very small implementations--as small as 10 nodes (of course, being a grid vendor, I measure the size of a project by the number of machines it's running on). As other users and developers see the success of a service running 10 times faster on the grid, they want a piece. They want to replicate that success themselves.

Rather than a corporate mandate to implement a scalable SOA, we have the users themselves clamoring for more applications on the grid. We have developers working on their own to adapt applications. Success begets success--even small success.

When IBM and their grid partners amble up to talk to a CIO to talk SOA, everyone knows it's a multimillion dollar project--and a huge risk. But when a department spends a fraction of their budget, is able to SOA-up an app, and pave the way for further success--they make everyone look good.

By the way, speaking of looking good, our customer who started with a single service oriented app running on 10 nodes is now up to about 400 CPUs, and their grid is growing fast--this is definitely an example of success begetting success.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

HPC in Finance: Real World Story

  arc Jacobs is the smartest guy whose blog you're not reading (unless, of course, you are).

He's one of those classics-majors-turned-IT-superstars who has an incredibly rare combination of talents that allows him to dive in and understand deep technical problems, then explain it in such a way that makes you feel like you're reading a Delillo novel. I know many people who can boil a problem down so even the layperson can understand it--Marc goes way beyond that. He turns a technical hurdle into a piece of prose that you want to enjoy like you would a work of fiction.

Until recently, he developed distributed trade generation and portfolio optimization systems for an enormous hedge fund; now, he's at Lab49 and is also writing a book about developing distributed applications.

This guy knows distributed applications.

He began blogging here not long ago (I'm sure his readership is already killing mine), but he recently started a series of posts that any of my readers will find compelling: High-Performance Computing in Finance: A Customer’s Perspective. He's breaking it up into 7 parts, and he's already published parts 1, 2, and 3.

Check it out.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We're going to the finals!

I'm very proud to say that Digipede has been chosen as a finalist for Microsoft's ISV Innovation Partner of the Year! The awards will be handed out in July at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver. We attend every year, so I was going to be there anyway...but now I'm really, really excited!
Innovation Partner of the Year FinalistMicrosoft has hundreds of thousands of partners, and thousands attend the WWPC. I believe around 2,000 applied for Partner of the Year; it is an extreme honor to be named one of the 3 finalists along with Fractal Edge and Tecnologia de Gerencia Comercial (from Brasil--after all, these are Worldwide partners!).

We've worked hard to extend the Microsoft stack in innovative ways, and it is great to see them acknowledge and appreciate it. We couldn't have come this far without lots of help from our friends throughout Microsoft's organization.

By the way, if you are an ISV developing on the Microsoft platform, you should absolutely join the Partner Program and attend WWPC. More than any other event, it can help you learn how to succeed in the partner ecosystem. Microsoft works hard to help its partners--but you have to work hard at it, too. This is the perfect place to learn how to do that...

...and maybe see us pick up an award while you're at it!

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Worst Name Ever: VSTO != VSTO


  have been using Excel as a vehicle for demonstrations since our product was in Alpha testing--after all, one of the greatest aspects of .NET-based grid computing product is the ability to integrate well with ubiquitous tools like Excel.

With Visual Studio Tools for Office and Visual Studio 2005, it was a snap for me to build a "supercomputing" spreadsheet that performed analysis across a grid of many machines. I routinely give demonstrations where I show how, with only 20 lines of .NET code, a spreadsheet with a .NET add-in can be adapted to run on a grid. I love it, potential customers love it--everyone loves it.

Last week, I got a new laptop (HP Compaq nc8430 running Vista), with shiny new software--including Office 2007! After getting everything set up, one of my first jobs was to port our old Office 2003 demos to run in Office 2007. Well, to be clear, they already ran in 2007 in "compatibility mode," but I had beenbuilding them on my old laptop with Office 2003. I wanted to build them on my new machine.Compatibility ModeSo I installed Visual Studio 2005, Visual Studio 2005 Visual Studio Tools for Office, and the brand-spanking new Visual Studio Tools for Office 2005 Second Edition for the Microsoft Office 2007 System. Phew.

And what happens when I try to open my project?
A compatible version of Excel 2003 is not installed on this computer

"A compatible version of Excel 2003 is not installed on this computer?" Ouch. Does this thing really mean to tell me that I need to install Office 2003 to open this project? That makes no sense, right? I mean, I know Excel 2007 can open my XLS file.

Well, a bunch of googling searching led me to this post by Martin Sawicki on the VSTO blog. Put your thinking cap on, and read this carefully:
The important thing to note here is that "Cypress", now officially known as Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office Second Edition Beta, is NOT the "v3" of VSTO. It's a new product in its own right that will be available long before "v3". Now, the most confusing part perhaps is that despite its naming, VSTO 2005 Second Edition Beta is actually largely orthogonal to and independent of VSTO 2005. You can install VSTO 2005 SE Beta on top of VSTO 2005, but you can also install it on top of Visual Studio 2005 Professional, which doesn't contain any VSTO 2005 functionality. The "Second Edition" has its own unique feature set that does not overlap with VSTO 2005, as far as the design-time functionality goes. (It does, however, borrow a number of ideas from the "v3" CTPs, especially related to ribbon, task pane, and add-in support.)
Ignore all that stuff about betas (the post was written last September). The important stuff: Visual Studio Tools for Office 2005SE is a completely different product than Visual Studio Tools for Office.

You can understand why I was confused.

I understand this is a big company, and I understand that naming things is hard. But Microsoft is approaching ridiculousness with this! Remember, this is coming from the company that released .NET 3.0, which isn't a new version of .NET at all because it's really .NET 2.0 with some stuff added to it, and that a new version of .NET will come later.

But my problem here isn't with the name--it's that they seem to have discontinued the "old" Visual Studio Tools for Office line, leaving those of us who had a codebase written in it out in the cold. From what I can tell, I've got to rewrite my project if I want it to run in Office 2007 using the latest tools.

Naming the new product the same as the old product not only left me feeling abandoned, but it gave me the mistaken impression that I'd be able to simply upgrade to the new version--when, instead, I've got to start from scratch with the new version.

I'll keep you posted as I delve further into this.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

SOA and Grid webcast

  ohn Powers and I gave a talk at the MS Financial Developers Conference in New York in April, and it was very well received. The crowd was a good mix of technical people (who wanted to see some code) and higher ups who wanted to know more "Why" than "How," and that fit our talk perfectly.

Next week, we're reprising the talk in an MSDN webcast. Because this is a developer webcast, we may lean a little more heavily on the code than we did in New York.

This event has already filled up once, and Microsoft tore down some virtual walls to expand the virtual meeting room. Sign up here if you're interested.

Title: Scaling SOA in Financial Services with Grid Computing for .NET
When: Tuesday, June 12, 2007 1:00 PM Eastern Time (10:00 AM Pacific Time)

Registration required.

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