Microsoft TechEd 2009 Keynote Liveblog


At today’s Microsoft TechEd 2009 conference in LA, Senior VP Bill Veghte started by talking about big-picture needs.  He discussed focusing Microsoft’s R&D on the ability to deliver anywhere access with end-user centricity: the ability for mobile users on laptops and PDAs to access applications securely and with IT control.

Office 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2 Release Date for CTP

Technical previews of both products are coming this year.  The SQL Server 2008 R2 CTP will be coming in the second half of 2009.  (PASS Summit, hopefully?)  From the TechEd press release:

“Finally, Microsoft announced that a Community Technology Preview of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 (formerly SQL Server code-named “Kilimanjaro”) will be available in the second half of 2009. SQL Server 2008 R2 will empower end users to make better decisions through self-service business intelligence, and help IT drive greater efficiency and reduce costs through new capabilities such as multi-server management and Master Data Services. In 2010, Microsoft will also introduce complex event processing for real-time insight into streaming information.”

The self-service BI stuff ties in with the Office 2010 release, and the technical preview for that will be available in July, but it’ll be a limited preview starting with the TechEd attendees.  More information is available at the Office 2010 Technical Preview site.

Windows 7 Notes and Improvements

He asked for as many people as possible to install and live with Windows 7 so that they can get telemetry: bug reports and device installation data.  The more data they get, the better the final release is.  They’re working on video drivers especially, which got a chuckle out of some of the attendees.  (In my humble opinion, video drivers are some of the buggiest things in an operating system, and it’s not Microsoft’s fault there.)

Microsoft worked with Intel on two things in Windows 7: power management (in core management and Nehalem) and hyperthreading scheduling.  The latter is starting to matter with Apple’s focus in Snow Leopard: Apple’s delivering something called Grand Central to ease multithreaded software development.  It’s nice that Microsoft is trying to compete on that.

Veghte said he was surprised that he didn’t get more feedback on Internet Explorer v7 and v8, especially around security.  I’ll break the insightful answer right here on first for my readers: it’s because we’re using Firefox and Chrome. <rimshot>

Windows Server 2008 R2 Improvements

Windows 2008 R2 brings tools with VDI, local printer support, PowerShell, etc to make it easier to manage lots of desktops and remote offices.  60-70% of the “run rate” has become portable machines, which makes management tougher.  The Windows Server 2008 R2 RC is available now.  One of the new key features is BranchCache, which caches file server content at branch offices to speed access for branch office users.

Vighte demoed BitLocker to Go, which encrypts USB flash drives.  Mark Russinovich then came onstage and showed a little about policy management (GPO) that can enforce the requirement of BitLocker so users can’t just plug in drives and use bad passwords.

Russinovich also introduced AppLocker, an improved version of SRM, and neither of these terms mean anything to me.  He pointed out a bug in the application and said that even though the app on his screen said Sysinternals, he clearly didn’t write it because it had a bug – and his software never has bugs. Ha! Nice.

He demoed Problem Steps Recorder, a troubleshooting tool that end users can use to record a mini-screencast of problems.  When they’re experiencing a problem, they start the tool, which captures a series of screenshots of each thing they click on.  It produces a chtml file with all of the screenshots embedded, making it easy to email that file over to tech support.

Windows will be able to access and create VHDs (virtual hard drives) very similar to disks.  In Disk Manager, you can create a new VHD, partition it and format it just like a hard drive, and it uses thin provisioning.  Users can create a 10gb VHD, but it won’t immediately start at 10gb – it just uses the necessary space to accommodate the files contained inside.  Windows will also be able to boot into a VHD by editing the boot configuration file: users can download a new VHD to test a new operating system, for example, and then reboot straight into it.

PowerShell v2 will be able to script Group Policy.

Application Compatibility and Virtualization

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) was demoed by Russinovich as a way for enterprises to continue to deploy and manage their older applications that aren’t Windows 7 compatible.  In addition, enterprises can specify specific URLs that will launch in older browsers via virtualization: if you have an old intranet web app that only works in IE6 or IE7, your users won’t have to know the difference.  The right browser will launch based on the site they visit.

He showed Application Virtualization (APP-V) as another piece in the lost-laptop puzzle: the way IT employees can rapidly redeploy laptops to users. Roaming profiles handles the storage of settings, folder redirection handles document storage, and APP-V handles the fast provision of applications on the fly.  All of this relies on extremely fast bandwidth, though: you can’t simply drop-ship a new laptop to someone in a remote office and expect them to pull their profile, folders and APP-V apps over the wire.  For in-office workers, it’s great though.

Windows 7 Release Date: “Before the Holiday”

Windows 7 Release Party
Windows 7 Release Party

Veghte came back onstage to talk more about application compatibility with Windows Vista applications, and emphasized that developers need to test their Vista apps to make sure they’ll work with the final release of Windows 7 since it’s coming fast.  He didn’t mention Windows XP applications, which rather surprised me until I realized Windows 7 Professional will come with a virtual XP – but not a virtual Vista.

He said that the release candidate work went on schedule, and it looks like it’s tracking for a wide availability before the holiday.  “The Holiday.”  No name, just “The Holiday.”  How politically correct. We know he means Hanukkah, though.

Windows Server 2008 R2

Iain McDonald, GM of Windows Server, came onstage to jokingly announce that TechEd 2009 is the coming-out party for Windows Server 2008 R2 because Windows 7 has hogged the spotlight too long.  Windows 2008 R2 is also on track for a holiday delivery, and that there won’t be a workload it can’t handle.

Several factors combine to make this release interesting for shops with a large number of servers: the ability to boot from VHD, the ability to run .NET apps on Windows Core, and PowerShell.  Between these, you could conceivably copy VHDs out to all servers in a farm, tweak their boot config files to update to the new VHD file, and reboot them.  If I managed web farms or application server farms, this would get me really excited, and down the road if SQL Server scales out, this has good implications for better server management too.

A new File Classification Infrastructure will let administrators set extended properties on files, like confidentiality.  For example, if a file is marked confidential, it will be moved to a specific area on a file server, a symlink will be left in its place, and the document will be handled the way the sysadmins want.  Even if the file isn’t marked confidential, Windows Server 2008 R2 will include OCR capabilities to recognize terms like “Microsoft Confidential” in scanned documents, and automatically add the appropriate metadata tags.

Exchange 2010

Iain called Exchange one of the most deployed applications in the world, and talked about wanting to deploy it similarly whether it was deployed locally or in the cloud. The goals for Exchange 2010 were making it:

  • Great at dealing with information overload
  • More reliable and easier to manage
  • Protecting data better for compliance needs

He demonstrated sending a piece of email from a member of the legal team to an executive – or rather, tried to, and he got two straight failures.  Whoops.  If the document had key phrases, it would recognize that the email should be confidential and would be marked as such.

Outlook Web Access in Exchange 2010 will work “beautifully” in other browsers (only Firefox and Safari were mentioned, not Chrome).

System Center Virtual Machine Manager

SCVMM’s aim is to manage both physical and virtual servers, and manage virtual servers no matter whose platform it is (Hyper-V, Xen, VMware, etc).  His demo showed a server with a high level of CPU utilization, and he migrated it to another node (host) the same way as VMware vMotion.

Interestingly, like SQL Server has done since 2005, SCVMM also has a Script button that will show the script that will be executed behind the scenes to accomplish the task.  This feature in SSMS 2005 was a boon for DBAs because it encouraged them to learn T-SQL scripts by example, and this might do the same thing for PowerShell users.

Summary Wrapup: A Good Time for DBAs to Attend Remotely

Why Yes, Those Are Yoga Books
Why Yes, Those Are Yoga Books

I’ve never attended TechEd in person, and this year’s economic climate meant that I was really happy Microsoft did such a good job of webcasting the keynote.  I was able to watch it, research in realtime, and liveblog it from the comfort of a quiet Barnes & Noble with my headphones on.

There wasn’t much news for the SQL Server community in the keynote.  The “accidental DBA” community – developers and sysadmins who spend most of their time managing applications or servers – got more out of TechEd than DBAs did.  The timing of SQL Server 2008 R2’s CTP date means that the PASS Summit will probably get the meat of the SQL Server news.

My take: this schedule makes attending the 2009 PASS Summit even more attractive for database administrators.  We’ll likely be getting our first good looks at SQL Server 2008 R2 at the summit, and since it’s in Seattle again this year, we’ll be able to talk to more Microsoft people about the release.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it looks like those yoga books are 30% off.

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • “and down the road if SQL Server scales out”

    I was under the impression that Kilimanjaro (sorry, SQL 2008 R2) had this ability ala RAC on Oracle. Is that only speculation or is that an announced feature?

  • It’s an announced feature, but they haven’t announced licensing for it yet. It may be a higher-level SKU than Enterprise, for example.

  • RAC functionality on SQL Server, Awesome! finally i can say me too on this feature with the oracle DBA’s. Looks like the ‘poor cousin’ in databases just got richer!


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