Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rising Trend Seen for SaaS Security Managed Services

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) security market is booming, according to a report by Infonetics Research, announced on Monday.

SaaS security services accounted for 10 percent of the estimated $9.4 billion managed services market in 2010, according to Infonetics. That share is expected to grow to 22 percent by 2014. The report predicts that the SaaS security market will continue to grow as both enterprise and small-to-medium businesses deploy managed security services to fight off growing Web-based security threats.

Infonetics analyst Jeff Wilson predicts "strong growth" in SaaS security over the next five years. However, meeting enterprise needs for SaaS security is still a bit behind the curve, he noted in an e-mail.

"It's a work in progress, and it depends on the security technology in question," Wilson wrote. "The security technology itself is there, but many of the ancillary capabilities [that enterprises need] are still under development." Those capabilities include management, logging and reporting, he explained.

Wilson noted that security on the Internet has always been a big question for businesses of all sizes. The answers businesses will get "will vary based on the [service] provider you talk to," he said.

"The equation generally boils down to the provider showing that moving to SaaS improves a company's level of security over what they're doing right now, and then the buyer building trust over time with the provider," Wilson added.

For its study, Infonetics tracked major telcos (including AT&T, T-Systems, China Telecom and more), large hosting providers offering security services (such as Google), specialized service providers and security SaaS vendors such as Cisco/ScanSafe, Symantec and McAfee. The report, "Managed Security Services and SaaS," provides market forecasts through 2014.

The study's results showed that worldwide revenues for SaaS security services were up by 70 percent in 2009. Those revenues were boosted by demand for content security services that address, Web, e-mail and antivirus security.

From a SaaS revenue standpoint, customer premises equipment (CPE)-based security still dominates the security space, with a more than 60 percent market share. Next in line, in terms of SaaS revenue, are cloud-based security offerings with more than 20 percent of the market, followed by current SaaS security services, according to the report.

Wilson noted that cloud-based services, such as firewall services in hosting environments, are typically provided by a traditional service provider with network or datacenter facilities. These providers typically do not develop their own security technology, but instead add solutions from third-party security software vendors.

"SaaS offerings are developed and sold by one entity. The technology is branded with the name of the SaaS provider and, in most cases, they don't own their own network facilities," Wilson said. He noted that SaaS providers are a mix of focused service providers, such as zScaler, and technology/product suppliers such as Cisco, McAfee, Symantec and others.

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Report: U.S. Consumers 'Satisfied' With Windows 7

Consumer "early adopters" of Windows 7 expressed general satisfaction with the new operating system, according to two studies released today by Forrester Research.

Forrester used an online survey of 4,559 U.S. consumers to gauge impressions about the new OS in late December, or about two months after Microsoft released Windows 7. The survey found that "86 percent of Windows 7 early adopters" were satisfied with their computers.

Forrester found a somewhat lower satisfaction rate when it polled users of "all Windows versions," who showed a 74 percent satisfaction rate with their PCs.

The study, "Windows 7 Early Adopters Are Very Satisfied," also showed a curious trend. Consumers obtained their copies of Windows 7 either with a new PC or by upgrading an existing PC, and those numbers were in about equal proportions. The high number of Windows 7 upgraders in Forrester's sample may reflect Microsoft's change in direction on hardware support. Unlike Windows Vista, which required a hardware upgrade to run the OS in many instances, "the relatively thinner Windows 7 client runs well on older PCs," according to the report.

The study's lead author, J.P. Gownder, described Windows 7 as "a less burdensome OS than Windows Vista." He added in a blog post that Microsoft met the demand for a sleeker OS with Windows 7 due, in part, to "the rise of netbooks."

Microsoft has tended to say that most people will obtain Windows 7 when they buy new PCs. However, 43 percent of Forrester's early adopters purchased their copy of Windows 7 to upgrade an existing PC.

Forrester also measured consumer awareness of the new OS in its "Windows 7 Succeeds in Raising Awareness" study. Windows 7 awareness was high, at 90 percent, in the fourth quarter of 2009. By contrast, Vista awareness was slightly lower (85 percent), but Forrester had gauged Vista awareness in its survey before that OS had been released.

Microsoft continues to stumble over its popular, but venerable, nine-year-old Windows XP OS, which has long been the staple of enterprise users, even after Vista was launched. Consumers apparently love XP too. Forrester's report found that "43 percent of PC owners" see no reason to upgrade from XP.

"The biggest competitor to Windows 7 isn't the Mac -- it's Windows XP," the report explains.

XP is typically being sold today only with new netbooks purchases, and only as the Home edition. All Windows 7 users have XP downgrade rights if the PC is purchased before April 22, 2011. However, when Microsoft releases Windows 7 Service Pack 1, new PC buyers will only be able to downgrade to Vista, according to details described by Microsoft in June.

Microsoft hinted this month that SP1 for Windows 7 is on its way, but the company didn't say when it would ship.

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IE 8 Hacks Slowed by Windows Safeguards

Even a fire-proof safe needs additional protective measures, and Internet Explorer 8 on Windows 7 is no different.

Such was the view of Microsoft security maven Paul Cooke, commenting on the recent "Pwn2Own" contest at the CanSecWest security conference, which was held last week in Vancouver. IE 8 got hacked in two minutes during the contest.

A hacking mainstay from Germany who goes by the nickname "Nils," along with Peter Vreugdenhil, found ways to disable IE 8's touted DEP (data execution prevention) and ASLR (address space layout randomization) protections, which are two of the most vaunted anti-exploit features in Windows Vista and Windows 7. Nils also was a big winner at last year's Pwn2Own contest.

Even though two minutes seems like a short time, delaying hacker success is part of the security goal, according to Cooke.

"A stronger fire-proof safe with several defense in depth features still won't guarantee the valuables forever, but adds significant time and protection to how long the contents will last," Cooke wrote in a blog.

Hackers targeted Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 on Windows 7 and IE 7 on Vista and XP during the contest. They showcased their intrusion skills and competed to win prizes of up to $10,000.

Cooke noted in the blog that Microsoft's newer operating systems, such as Vista and Windows 7, provide additional "defense in depth" protections over previous OSes. H.D. Moore, Rapid7's chief security officer, largely concurred with that view, but he added a caveat.

"The [recent Pwn2Own contest] made one thing clear: efforts by software vendors to improve the resiliency of their operating systems are paying off, but application-specific vulnerabilities are still a serious threat," Moore said. He added that the defense-in-depth protections of the OSes did slow down the Pwn2Own hacking efforts somewhat.

"The complexity of the Internet Explorer exploit used [by the winners] to bypass both DEP and ASLR should be seen as a positive thing for security," said Moore, who is a security researcher, hacker and founder of the Metasploit Project, which tracks software vulnerabilities. "Just one year ago the same type of vulnerability would have exploitable by anyone with basic skills and an hour of time to burn."

Security software entrepreneur Phil Lieberman had a simple response to the two-minute knockout of IE 8.

"Cool and bravo," said Lieberman, who is president of Lieberman Software. "Maybe this will wake up Microsoft to stabilize and secure their browser. IE 8 was worse than IE 7 from a compatibility and performance point of view. It looks like IE 9 will use a more secure architecture built on the new Vista and Windows 7 core."

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Microsoft Rolls out Dynamics CRM5 Community Technology Preview

Microsoft began leaking -- maybe even gushing -- details of Dynamics CRM5 back in late 2008, and today the customer relationship management suite took another step toward availability today.

Community Technical Preview 3 (CTP3) of Dynamics CRM5 is now available to a select group of partners. Microsoft officials said in a statement today that more than 400 partners of various stripes are participating in the program and that Microsoft will open the CTP to more partners in the months to come.

A company statement said CTP 3 is aimed mainly at software developers and that Dynamics CRM5 is due for general availability in the second half of 2010. The suite will continue to be available in three formats: on-premises, partner-hosted and hosted by Microsoft in a product known at Dynamics CRM online.

Microsoft officials said the company will continue to use the same code base across all three suites. In fact, the Redmond giant has been revealing details about CRM5 on its Dynamics CRM Team Blog as far back as late 2008, when Microsoft bloggers revealed enhancements that the product will include.

In particular, Microsoft's CRM team said that it is focusing on making it easier for ISVs and IT departments to manage deployment of third-party applications in the CRM suite. The blog mentions the possibility of allowing developers to write secure custom code on the server in Dynamics CRM Online. The Microsoft bloggers also indicated that improvements to user interfaces and increased capabilities for handling plug-ins and custom business logic are on the way.

Dynamics CRM's market share still pales in comparison to that of competitors such as SAP AG, Oracle Corp. and Inc., according to the Gartner statistics that date up to 2008. But the economically priced suite has experienced strong growth in recent years, Gartner noted.В  В В В 

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Plugged in to Visual Studio 2010

With powerful advances in recent years -- the Visual Studio 2005 automation model and the Visual Studio 2008 Shell -- Microsoft has increased support for customization of its integrated development environment by offering developers broader extensibility. The .NET extensibility model in Visual Studio 2010 takes it a step further.

The code editor and shell, rebuilt using managed code, enable new extensibility based on the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphics subsystem and extensible objects from the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) libraries, on which it's built. Part of the Microsoft .NET Framework 4 and Silverlight 4, MEF lets developers build tools around extension points -- content types, classification types, drop handlers, tags, adornments, margins/scrolling and IntelliSense -- using MEF components (parts), without implementing a package.

PreEmptive Solutions LLC, provider of the .NET obfuscator called Dotfuscator and related services in Visual Studio 2010, used the new extensibility framework to "mash up" usage data generated from its Runtime Intelligence Service with test data inside of the Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate Architect Explorer.

"We took something Microsoft had already done -- they color-coded the nodes in Architect Explorer to show code coverage -- [and] we folded in the usage data from Runtime Intelligence to change the size of the node, so you saw an immediate heat-map gap between code coverage and actual usage," explains Sebastian Holst, chief marketing officer at PreEmptive Solutions. He says the integration points in 2010 are very exciting for developers.

VSIX Files
Visual Studio 2010 also introduces VSIX deployment, a container model for extensions that's based on the Open Packaging Convention (OPC). OPC is used in the Microsoft Office System Open XML specification, which is supported in Office 2007 apps and other Microsoft software. It stores the extension and metadata about the extension -- including manifest and payload -- in a standard .ZIP file.

VSIX is part of the new Extension Manager in Visual Studio 2010 that lets developers manage extensions and share code templates, for example, in the Visual Studio Gallery from a menu within Visual Studio 2010. The Extension Manager supports MEF components, VSPackages, project templates and item templates.

With the new extensibility model, many developers are concerned about having to rewrite existing add-ins as extensions in Visual Studio 2010.

"For Visual Studio 2010, the VSIX format supports VSPackages, MEF Components, Project Templates, Item Templates, Template Wizards, Toolbox Controls and custom extensions, [such as] extensions to a third-party extension," explained Gearard Boland, a developer on Microsoft's Visual Studio Platform team, in response to a similar question on an MSDN forum in February. "It does not support add-ins, Code Snippets and other extension types not listed in the previous point. VSIX also allows you to include assemblies and other resources that your extension requires in their payload and will install them next to your extension component."

Boland continued: "The benefit of switching to a VSIX-supported extension type is that you can take better advantage of the deployment and discoverability aspects that we delivered in Visual Studio 2010 via the Extension Manager and Visual Studio Gallery integration."

Even so, add-ins based on the Automation object model in Visual Studio (EvuDTE) and toolbar (Microsoft.VisualStudio.CommandBars) still work in Visual Studio 2010, but developers may have to employ workarounds. That was the experience of Carlos Quintero, a Microsoft MVP, who updated his MZ-Tools 6.0 add-in to support Visual Studio 2010 RC. "Microsoft finally fixed most of the bugs that I've been reporting in the last months in the WPF-based CommandBars, so add-ins can get loaded in the IDE without crashing," he wrote in his blog in March. "As far as I'm concerned, I was able to work around all the issues that were not fixed -- and won't be in the release to manufacturing."

The updated MZ-Tools is compiled in Visual Studio 2008 against .NET 2.0. Quintero explained: "I have done tests for future versions and it seems to be possible to build a single assembly in the .NET Framework 2.0/CLR 2.0 that targets Visual Studio 2005, 2008 and 2010, using references provided by Visual Studio 2005 (that are also available in next Visual Studio versions), or using Reflection for references whose version changes between IDE versions. (I think that you can use assembly redirections, too.)"

Early adopters of Visual Studio 2010 test builds have also noticed that some adjustments may be needed to successfully migrate add-ins that make use of certain toolbar features. Microsoft has confirmed that developers will need to move to packages for toolbar functionality such as ComboBoxes.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

EclipseCon: Oracle Pushes Java Modularization

Two executives from Oracle -- one veteran, one newly acquired -- kicked off the annual EclipseCon conference, underway this week in Santa Clara, Calif., with a keynote Tuesday focusing on the future of Java under the stewardship of Oracle.

"Java is certainly the crown jewel of this acquisition," said Steve Harris, senior vice president of Oracle's application server group. "It brings together a tremendous base of developers and a tremendous community, and it's incredibly important to our business." Harris joined Oracle in 1997 to manage development of the Java virtual machine for the Oracle8i release.

"Developers are the life blood of Java," said Jeet Kaul, who joined Oracle with the Sun acquisition to serve as vice president of the company's client software development group. "Nine million developers are using Java, and we want to grow that community. And how do you grow that community? We have to make sure that Java is available in as many places as possible… and we want it to be a competitive platform." While at Sun, Kaul led the team that created Java FX, Java ME, Java SE and Java Card, among others.

The two execs were short on specifics, but touched on several areas, including an overarching plan to push Java modularity based on the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) specification.

The module-based design principles defined by the OSGi have emerged as the defacto means of componentizing enterprise Java, RedMonk analyst Michael CotГ© told this in an earlier interview. OSGi provides a common model for writing and deploying applications to local or remote computers in modularized form. The spec frees developers from the need to create monolithic applications and facilitates collaboration among many small components.

Both Eclipse and the Glassfish application server are built on the OSGi spec.

Oracle wants the Java Platform to support OSGi modules alongside the base Java platform modules, Harris said, and the company is working with the group to make that happen. According to Harris, Oracle's plan involves a module system framework that gives developers a consistent API for accessing and manipulating modular systems, and implements underneath the covers the Java Platform module system. This arrangement would eliminate the need to choose between these systems, he said.

"OSGi is an incredible part of the ecosystem and the platform overall," Harris said. "So the commitment here with building this Java Platform modular implementation is that it will support OSGi modules alongside the base platform modules. The way we'll do this is with a module system framework that gives you a consistent API for accessing and manipulating modular systems, and implements underneath the covers the Java Platform module system, which can be alongside OSGi."

Kaul told attendees that Oracle is currently working on a roadmap for the Glassfish app server. The timing of the 3.1 release and the roadmap details would be available in the next few days, he said.

Kaul, who confessed to being a "bona fide Java bigot," promised to push for improvements in things like generics, additional support for dynamic languages and enhancements of JavaFX RIA platform, which he described as a reaction to developers' need for a new graphics pipeline in Java.

Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems was completed in January in a deal valued at more than $7 billion. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company is nearing the end of its "Hundred Day Plan" to integrate the assets of its neighbor from Santa Clara, Kaul said.

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Microsoft Previews Planned Bing Facelift

Less than a year after releasing its Bing search engine, Microsoft plans to give it a facelift this spring. The updated Bing will render more contextual and visual information, including real-time data feeds within the interface.

Microsoft will be rolling out previews of some of the changes in the coming days with a complete update to Bing set to go live in the coming months. Yusef Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft’s online audience business, unveiled some the new features planned for Bing in a keynote address Thursday at the Search Engine Strategies 2010 Conference and Expo in New York.

Mehdi also demonstrated the Bing interface on a prototype smart phone running Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows Mobile Phone 7, which was first previewed to developers at last week's MIX 10 conference.

Since its release last June, Bing has steadily gained share of the search market at market leader Google's expense. Bing accounted for 12.5 percent last month according to Nielson Co. That's a 15 percent jump over January. Despite Microsoft's gains with Bing, Google still remains the dominant search engine, accounting for 65 percent.

Mehdi defended Microsoft’s earlier failed approaches at besting Google in the search market before launching Bing last year. "In search we definitely missed the boat early on," Mehdi said. "The Web was about the long tail. We actually focused a lot on the head of the queries and said the long tail might not be as important. It turned out that it was much more important."

In concert with Mehdi's introduction of the updated Bing, Microsoft outlined some of the key planned changes on its Bing blog. Among the updates that Microsoft will begin testing that Mehdi demonstrated include plans to move the Quick Tabs function to the top of the page. Mehdi also emphasized Microsoft's plans to continue its drive toward adding more visual and contextual results, Mehdi said.

"We are taking this in a direction where it is helping you get the task done, not just giving you the links," Mehdi said. For example, he demonstrated a scenario where a user may be looking for a customer service telephone number, noting such information is the most difficult to find on most companies' Web sites.

Mehdi also previewed a feature where Microsoft has embedded photos that it has gathered of specific locations. He demonstrated Seattle’s historic Pike Place district and a scenario where a customer can determine how long the line is at a Starbucks location via Bing Maps.

Indeed, providing real-time streams will also be a key thrust, Mehdi said, pointing to the company’s work with Twitter that it is rolling into Bing. Mehdi also demonstrated a Silverlight-based application by closely-held foursquare, a company that provides real-time activity streams from specific locations tied to Bing Maps.

One attendee of the keynote asked Mehdi if Microsoft’s efforts to render more contextual data within Bing would result in fewer click-throughs to sites. Mehdi responded that he doesn't see cause for concern. "What we have found is there are more click-throughs when you add richer captions," he said.

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Microsoft Unveils New Communications Server

Microsoft today gave the first public preview of its planned Office Communications Server upgrade.

OCS is Microsoft's unified communications add-on that works with Exchange Server and the Microsoft Office suite. In conjunction with this Microsoft stack, OCS supports Internet telephony, voicemail, instant messaging and conferencing. Microsoft typically bills it as a replacement for existing PBXs.

More than 100 million Office users are connected to OCS, said Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Office Communications Group, speaking today in a keynote address at the VoiceCon show in Orlando, Fla.

Pall took the wraps off the newest release, code-named "Communications Server 14," in a presentation that was Webcast. Many expect it will be renamed as "Communications Server 2010" in keeping with Microsoft's 2010 branding campaign and roadmap.

The new release will feature a new Communicator client that will integrate with the forthcoming releases of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, as well as Exchange 2010, which shipped last fall. Communications Server 14 will support location-based presence, allowing users to know if another user is in their office or mobile.

A user's location can be detected based on the network's subnet (or wireless access point if mobile) and published, based on the policies selected. "This system is designed to work from anywhere," Pall said. "It is designed to be simple, both from an end user perspective and from an IT management perspective, and the system is designed to be cost effective."

In the demo, Pall showcased how individuals can use Communicator to tap into SharePoint's new search capabilities and find users with specific knowledge or skills. Communications Server will also support 911 capabilities. It can detect a caller's location and direct the caller to the proper 911 dispatch site. The new Communicator client will also support the social networking and activity streams features that are being added to Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

The new Office Communicator release will be more extensible and interoperable than prior releases, Pall said. However, company officials declined to elaborate. Microsoft released 14 APIs for Communications Server at its Professional Developers Conference in November. Pall predicted that within three years, 75 percent of applications will have unified communications capabilities embedded in them.

Office Communicator will be better suited to support branch offices, Pall said. "Branch office survivability" will be built into Office Communicator. According to this scheme, if a connection between a remote location and a headquarters is severed, the branch will still have communications capability.

Several of Microsoft's partners announced products that will support Communications Server 14's branch survivability capability, including Audio Codecs, Ferrari Electronics, Dialogic Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

HP and Microsoft agreed last year to work together to tie together HP's ProCurve networking switches with Communications Server. At VoiceCon, HP said its Survivable Branch Communication zl module will enable Microsoft's Communications Server 14 to work with HP's ProCurve 8200zl and 5400zl switches.

Polycom Inc., a leading supplier of videoconferencing and phone systems, said it plans to offer a number of new audio and video phones that work with Communications Server 14 when it ships.

A small set of Microsoft's customers are currently testing a beta version of Communications Server 14. Microsoft did not disclose when a public beta would be released.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Microsoft: Windows 7 Sells 90 Million Copies

Microsoft reported sales of 90 million copies of Windows 7 at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on Tuesday.

The 90-million sales figure, announced by Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein at the San Francisco-based event, represented a significant increase over a previous report. In late January, Microsoft indicated that 60 million Windows 7 licenses had been sold through the end of its fiscal second quarter.

Klein said that there was a continuing momentum for Windows 7, which he called the "fastest selling operating system in history." He made similar comments during Microsoft's 2Q announcement.

Current Windows 7 sales figures are largely from retail and consumer purchases, but Klein said that he expects enterprise purchases to surge as IT spending improves and refresh cycles take place. Consumer sales of Windows 7 were launched in October 2009.

For FY10 H1, Microsoft had overall revenues of $31.9 billion (+1 percent year over year) and operating income of $13 billion (+9 percent year over year).

Klein emphasized that Microsoft was focused on cost discipline and prioritizing investments, which he said has become sustained and philosophical, rather than a temporal solution to the economy. "As the market recovers, that gives us great leverage as we maintain control of our cost structure," he said.

Although the server market was particularly hard hit by lower IT spending, that business has continued to grow. "Even during the downturn, we were increasing, which shows an underpinning for growth," Klein said.

Encouraging factors for the immediate outlook include an expected increase in IT spending, the strength of Windows 7 sales, hardware innovations by OEMs, emerging markets and the beginning of enterprise deployment during refresh cycles, Klein said.

Klein's prepared statement focused on the consistency and comprehensiveness of Microsoft's upcoming products. "We feel very well positioned from a product perspective in the second half of the year" he said, highlighting the importance of the Internet cloud for Microsoft's future.

For the Xbox gaming console, Klein projected three drivers for growth over the next 12 to 18 months: Project Natal, the Halo game release and platform building with Xbox Live.

In addition, he said that there were several core elements that position Microsoft for success with its smartphone, including design, working harder and more consistently with hardware developers (he noted that past efforts were "wild and open") and the capability to offer a comprehensive set of services.

Klein also announced that Microsoft will launch the Office Tech Guarantee program before the end of March. The program is expected keep up new sales of Office 2007 by offering free upgrades to Office 2010 when it is released for general availability.

An audio Webcast of Klein's talk can be accessed at the Microsoft investor relations Web site here.

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Windows Enterprise Licensees Get Options on Amazon's Cloud

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft have established a pilot program that allows some Windows Server users to apply their licenses to Amazon's EC2 Internet cloud.

The "Microsoft Windows Server Mobility Pilot" program, introduced on Wednesday, allows enterprises to migrate existing Windows Server licenses to EC2. The deal only applies to Windows Server licensees with Enterprise Agreements (EA) in place, which means they must also have purchased Microsoft's Software Assurance (SA) option.

Enrollment in the program ends September 23, 2010.

The pilot has other restrictions as well, according to Amazon's announcement. Participating companies have to be based in the United States. В They have to have an EA that is good for at least a year after entering the program. The deal is only offered to enterprise customers. Academic and government institutions are excluded.

"It sounds like Microsoft is opening a window to allowing a licensee to run their software on someone else's hardware, but you pay for that privilege: you have to have SA on it, which adds another 25 percent a year to the price," noted Paul DeGroot, research vice president for channels and licensing at Directions on Microsoft, in an e-mail.В  "Microsoft is being very selective on who can squeeze through this door, making it an option only for large customers who are already paying their annual upgrade and maintenance fee."

Amazon customers can already gain access to Windows Server via the AWS cloud. Amazon has supported Windows Server 2003 for a while, and recently added support for Windows Server 2008, according to Kay Kinton, public relations manager for Amazon, in an e-mail. However, many large customers of AWS were asking if they could use Windows Server on Amazon EC2 and apply their existing Microsoft EA licensing to that instance.

"With this new Microsoft pilot program, those customers can bring their EA Windows Server licenses into the cloud, activate them, and then launch Amazon EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows Server at the Linux/Unix On-Demand or Reserved Instance prices," Kinton said. "You don't need an EA license to run Windows; you can use the licenses we provide and pay for them by the hour. Effectively this program lets you use licenses you have already purchased."

Once enrolled in the pilot, users will be able to run instances with all of the EC2 features -- Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon CloudWatch, Elastic-Load Balancing and Elastic IPs -- for 12 months.

Pilot participants must observe some fine-print details. An applicant's licensing must remain in the program for 90 days, after which they can be migrated back to on-premise locations. Applicants are responsible for maintaining their applicable Microsoft licenses. Licenses for Windows Server can only be transferred to the U.S. East (N. Virginia) and U.S. West (N. California). The program will support Windows Server Standard, Enterprise and Data Center editions.

Standard edition users will be limited to running one instance of Windows per license, while Enterprise and Datacenter users can run four instances of Windows per license. All editions can run on-demand instances, one-year reserved instances, or three-year reserved instances.В  Pricing is based on the region in which the instance is running and how the licenses are held.

"By bringing their license to Amazon EC2, [users] will reduce the cost of running a Windows-based instance to the Linux/UNIX price," Kinton said. "If they have already purchased a license, it lets them leverage that asset and save money."

Further details on the Microsoft pilot program for AWS are described at Amazon's page here, which lists pricing and conditions.

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BizTalk To Get Improvements and 2010 Branding

BizTalk Server 2009 R2, which has not been released yet, will be known as "BizTalk Server 2010" when it rolls out sometime later this year, Microsoft announced. BizTalk Server essentially functions as a messaging component in service-oriented architectures. It's used by enterprises to help tie disparate business processes together.

The new BizTalk Server 2010 name will have the effect of shifting the product's lifecycle support forward, according to John Breakwell, a Microsoft product support services team member. The shift will occur because the product is no longer associated with the current R1 and R2 nomenclature and product support timeline.

"For BizTalk 2010, the support bands start from its release...some time in 2010," Breakwell explained in a blog post.

Breakwell listed eight "key capabilities" to BizTalk Server 2010, although some of them -- such as the mapper, FTPS adapter and radiofrequency identification (RFID) improvements -- were previously announced as part of the roadmap for BizTalk Server 2009 R2.

Other key capabilities in BizTalk Server 2010 mentioned by Breakwell include:

Improvements to help manage trading partner connectionsAdapter updates for Oracle eBusiness Suite 12.1, SAP 7 and SharePoint 2010System Center management pack integrationSingle dashboard managementPerformance tuning enhancements

Microsoft previously announced that BizTalk Server 2009 R2 would include support for SQL Server 2008 R2, Visual Studio 2010 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Microsoft's announcement did include some enhancements that weren't expected until "the next major release (2011 or later)," according to Rob Sanfilippo, research vice president for developer tools & strategies at Directions on Microsoft, a consultancy firm.

For instance, the trading partner management enhancements "should help set up and remove connections to other businesses in B2B messaging systems," Sanfilippo noted, and "will probably use technology that Microsoft purchased from Covast in 2008." In addition, the enhanced mapper "should provide better tools for translating between application message formats (especially complex formats)," he added.

Microsoft has suggested in its BizTalk Server roadmap that it plans a deeper integration with its .NET Framework and the Windows Server AppFabric sometime in the near future. Microsoft is also promising that a future BizTalk product would facilitate connecting on-premises applications with Windows Azure cloud-based services.

Sanfilippo noted a few more possible improvements that might be seen further down the road when the next major release of BizTalk Server is seen (in 2011 or later).

"[Microsoft's future plans for BizTalk Server] may also include improvements to Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), which enables organizations to capture and analyze status data from business processes, and further EDI improvements, some based on Covast technology," he explained. "Microsoft also plans asset tracking and device management components, probably built on BizTalk Server's existing RFID capabilities."

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ballmer Says Microsoft Is Betting Its Business on the Cloud

Microsoft is reshaping its business around cloud computing. In his strongest public statement to date, CEO Steve Ballmer on Thursday said that Microsoft is "all in" when it comes to the cloud.

Cloud computing is changing the way people think about server hardware and software, Ballmer told an audience at the University of Washington in a speech that was Webcast. Seventy percent of Microsoft's 40,000 software builders are either working on something associated with the cloud or working on projects designed to support the company's cloud computing initiatives. Within a year, that figure will be 90 percent, Ballmer said.

"We're betting our company on" cloud computing, Ballmer said. He pointed to the infamous memo issued by Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie that set the company on its current cloud computing course. Nevertheless, nearly five years after Ozzie issued the memo, there's still unrealized potential, he said.

Microsoft and other companies are betting on a cloud computing industry that may amount to a $3.3 trillion global industry, Ballmer explained. He noted that there will be room for various cloud implementations, not just Microsoft's Windows Azure. However, Microsoft's teams have already shifted to creating products for the cloud and will do so even more in the near future.

Some of Microsoft's 2010-branded products have already been designed to take advantage of the cloud, including Microsoft Office, Exchange and SharePoint. Microsoft currently offers some of those products' capabilities as services through its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Microsoft also launched its Windows Azure platform-as-a-service as a commercial venture just last month.

While there were few revelations in Ballmer's remarks, they appeared to represent a tacit shift in messaging and emphasis for Microsoft, which will begin rallying its partners next week to take advantage of opportunities enabled by its cloud and software-as-a-service offerings.

In response to a question from the audience, Ballmer distinguished Windows Azure from other cloud computing platforms. He particularly singled out cloud computing leader as doing a "nice job" with "the programming model of yesterday that is not scale agnostic."

"On the other hand, what we're trying to do with Azure is let you write a different kind of application, and I think we're more forward-looking in our design point than on a lot of things that we're doing, and at least right now I don't see the other guy out there who's doing the equivalent," Ballmer said.

Ballmer outlined "five key dimensions of the cloud" that Microsoft considers important. Cloud computing:

Creates opportunities and responsibilities, meaning it will lead to new inventions and business models much like Apple's App Store.Uses semantics to add more context to data, providing new ways to learn and make decisions.Enhances social and professional interactions.Lends itself to smarter devices.Drives server advances that in turn drive new forms of computation.

There currently are about 2 million servers powering the Internet cloud, Ballmer said. Still, there can be some limitations in terms of geographic scale. For instance, the United Kingdom's Sky TV has a service that integrates with Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. It's not available in the United States and it might have problems expanding to this market.

"Believe me we had some geographic scale issues with Sky TV," Ballmer said. "Thank goodness they're not trying to sell us that service in Seattle."

A study commissioned by Avanade, which measured the opinions of 502 IT decision-makers on cloud computing late last year, found a three-fold increase in the rate that enterprises are planning or testing cloud computing when comparing those opinions over a nine-month period. Avanade, which provides systems integration services, has a particular stake in Microsoft's cloud computing effort as it delivers BPOS services to enterprise customers.

"We were encouraged by the reinforcement of Microsoft's vision around their dedication and commitment to the cloud and it certainly aligns well with our enterprise business and our plans," said Tyson Hartman, Avanade's global CTO. Avanade is a joint venture between Microsoft and global management consulting firm Accenture.

Ballmer acknowledged privacy and security concerns that could slow adoption of cloud computing. For enterprises, that's an ongoing concern, but Hartman argued that companies have been successfully dealing with such issues for a while, such as outsourcing payroll processing functions and sharing that data.

Ballmer was also asked about the possibility that government regulators might insist that data be stored locally within the country, and how that might affect cloud computing. It's a debate more prevalent in Europe at the moment. Ballmer suggested that local Windows Azure-based datacenters could be built to address the issue.

While privacy and security are legitimate concerns, they likely were too complicated to address in a single speech, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

"For instance, the dedicated versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Communications Online are hosted on a dedicated server, and Microsoft recently announced a version of the BPOS for government agencies where the data is actually stored in a separate, monitored and guarded facility," Rosoff noted. "So there are going to be different mechanisms and levels of privacy depending on the service."

Ballmer made sure to acknowledge that his latest cloud emphasis does not signal a move away from Microsoft's core software business. "We start with Windows at Microsoft," he said. "It's the most popular smart device on the planet, and our design center for the future of Windows is to make it one of those smarter devices that the cloud really wants."

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Report: IT Systems Engineer Named Best U.S. Job

San Francisco-based research and analysis group Focus has named systems engineer as the "best job in America."

In determining the best job, the study looked at positions that will achieve growth in demand by 10 percent or more over the next decade, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates. Focus excluded positions that did not require at least a bachelor's degree and two-to-seven years of experience. Focus also eliminated jobs that did poorly during the recession.

According to the study, a systems engineer works in the information technology sector with pay ranging from $87,100 to $130,000 a year. Focus provides some of the study's results in a chart here.

Systems engineers may have cause for cheer, based on the study's results. However, it's not exactly clear what they do.

"We actually made no effort to define systems engineer," stated Brian Provost, Focus' vice president of audience development, in an e-mail. "The data was pulled from analysis published by external sources like, CNN/Money Magazine, the BLS and then packaged into our infographic. It was our intent only to merge all those signals into one, easily consumed piece of content for the end user."

The role of a systems engineer is subject to debate. A University of Arizona definition describes a systems engineer as someone who oversees the customer's needs over a system's lifecycle. Wikipedia defines systems engineering in terms of design and project management. One of Focus' sources, CNN/Money, defines systems engineers as "big think managers on complex projects."

Microsoft, in its description, defines a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer as someone "skilled in designing, implementing, and administering infrastructures for business solutions based on Microsoft 2000 Windows Server and other Windows server platforms. Implementation responsibilities include installing, configuring, and troubleshooting network systems."

"We are aware that systems engineer is a pretty broad umbrella," Provost noted.

Focus narrowed the study's results down to the top 10 jobs by interviewing industry experts and people on the job. The top 50 jobs included in the survey were selected based on "quality of life factors such as flexibility, stress and personal satisfaction."

Other IT jobs that made it into the top 20, according to Focus, included IT project manager ($98,700 to $140,000), computer/network security consultant ($99,700 to $152,000), software developer ($79,400 to $116,000) and software product manager ($106,000 to $148,000).

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Red Hat Updates JBoss Dev Tools, SOA Platform

Red Hat showed off the latest incarnation of its JBoss Developer Studio IDE at the annual EclipseCon developer conference, underway this week in Santa Clara, as well as a new version of its JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform, and it unveiled the latest version of its JBoss Enterprise Web Platform.

JBoss Developer Studio 3.0 is built on the latest Eclipse platform release (3.5), explained Ashesh Badani, senior director of Red Hat's Middleware Products group, and expands support within that IDE for the breadth of the company's product line, including its enterprise application platform and its SOA, portal and data-services platforms.

"The JBoss developer tools allow us to incorporate the latest Eclipse releases and give full support from a developer perspective across our
product line," Badani said in an interview with this site at EclipseCon.

The latest version of the IDE is designed to allow developers to build both rich Web applications and enterprise applications. JBoss Studio 3.0 supports a range of frameworks, including RichFaces, Seam, Spring Struts and GWT.

Red Hat currently claims more than 1.5 million annual downloads of JBoss Tools, a set of Eclipse-based plugins for JBoss technologies, including Seam, Hibernate/JPA, JSF, EJB3, JBossESB, JBossWS, Portal and others. JBoss Tools is a non-commercial project productized in the JBoss Developer Studio IDE.

"There's the mass of developers who use Eclipse and a variety of frameworks," Badani said. "And we want to take a subset of that group for our particular product line, and we'd like to expand it. That's why we're at a show like this."

The company also launched a major update of its SOA software. JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform 5.0 adds a number of features to the company's evolving middleware product, which Badani said supports the integration of an array of applications, services, transactions and business processes in one simple architecture.

The 5.0 release comes with new administration consoles, a new tool for transforming XML docs (based on XSLT) and an upgraded UDDI
registry. Look also for version 5 of JBoss Rules, which works with JBoss Enterprise BRMS, and better integration with such cloud services as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), as well as in-house cloud environments.

"This release is about giving enterprises more visibility and control," Badani said. "Both JBoss Enterprise SOA and the Studio tools are
advancements and maturations of what we've been doing in the past."

Badani said that an internal Red Hat project, called Andiamo, is taking on the challenge of "making our product line more manageable, and getting more functionality around scalability and robustness and performance across our product line."

The JBoss Enterprise Web Platform 5.0, unveiled at EclipseCon, is designed to provide a lightweight Java platform for such popular programming models as Java EE, Spring, Struts and JBoss Seam.

The Web Platform represents the final component of the company's Open Choice middleware strategy, announced last summer, Badani said. The Web Platform, along with two other Java application server products (the Enterprise Application Platform and the Enterprise Web Server), serve as "cornerstones" of the company's open source middleware portfolio. Together, these app servers provide enterprise-level support for just about all the popular frameworks, including Hibernate, Seam, Google Web Toolkit, RichFaces, the Spring Framework and Apache Struts.

"Since Oracle's acquisition of BEA and Sun, there really remains no independent provider in the middleware business," Badani said. "The JBoss strategy and philosophy of doing innovative technologies hasn't changed. Open choice: Let folks use what they want to use."

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Study: Security Lags in Datacenter Virtualization Projects

Datacenter virtualization projects can open up security issues, depending on how they are implemented, according to research from Gartner.

Gartner's study, published in late January, looked at security risks in datacenter virtualization projects and found that 60 percent of virtual servers become less secure than the ones they replace. The trend is likely to continue through the end of 2015, when the number of insecure virtual servers is expected to drop to 30 percent, according to Gartner.

"Virtualization is not inherently insecure," said Neil MacDonald, Gartner fellow and vice president. "However, most virtualized workloads are being deployed insecurely. The latter is a result of the immaturity of tools and processes and the limited training of staff, resellers and consultants."

Numerous state, local and federal agencies have moved or are moving to virtual servers, including the state of California and the Energy Department. While Gartner estimated that only 18 percent of enterprise datacenter workloads had been virtualized at the end of 2009, that number is expected to grow to more than 50 percent by the close of 2012.

One of the major causes of this issue is a lack of involvement of the IT security team in the architecture and planning stages of development, Gartner said. About 40 percent of the surveyed organizations had not brought security professionals into the projects.

Another risk is that the virtualization layer could compromise all hosted workloads, with hackers already targeting this layer, Gartner said. Gartner recommends keeping the layer as "thin as possible, while hardening the configuration to unauthorized changes."

Organizations should not rely on host-based security controls, the report states.

Gartner's study pointed to a lack of visibility and controls on internal virtual networks, which are not visible to network-based security protection devices, such as network-based intrusion prevention systems. Another potential problem is consolidations of workloads of different trust levels on the same physical server without adequate separation. There is also the potential for inadequate administrative access controls and administrative tools for the hypervisor/virtual machine manager layer. Finally, a potential loss of separation duties for network and security controls could lead to inadvertently allowing users to gain access to data that exceeds their normal privilege levels.

To address these risks, Gartner recommended treating the virtual network as similar to a physical one, with the same kind of monitoring and separation of workloads and the same team handling both. Additionally, organizations should isolate virtual desktop workloads from the rest of the physical datacenter and restrict access to the virtualization layer.

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Reports: Small IT Spending Increases Expected in 2010

Global IT expenditure is expected to increase slightly this year for the first time since 2008, with one third of CIOs planning to increase their budgets, according to a report released this week.

The report from Ovum indicates that IT spending is trending upward but most increases will be small -- between 1 percent and 5 percent. A majority of enterprises will continue to have flat budget growth, the report predicts, based on CIO responses.

There are positive notes in the survey of 529 IT decision-makers, but the report does not predict an IT spending recovery, according to author Rhonda Ascierto, a senior analyst at Ovum, part of the Datamonitor Group.

"Despite improved global economic activity, persistent business uncertainty in 2010 will be mirrored by tepid IT budget increases," Ascierto said in an e-mail interview. "CIOs have become like sailors hunkered below decks after the storm has passed. They are not yet thinking about charting new courses."

To make its assessment, Ovum compared responses to a survey conducted in the second half of 2009 with responses from 2,192 IT decision-makers in similar survey conducted in the second half of 2007. In addition, Ovum used its surveys of IT decision-makers in the full years of 2007, 2008 and 2009, which had 3,314, 3,130 and 1,745 respondents, respectively. All were global surveys, and respondents were from various industries.

Respondents were asked how their IT budget had changed in 2009 and how it was expected to change in 2010. Those who expect to see a flat budget in 2010 constituted 42 percent of CIOs surveyed. В In 2009, 40 percent of CIOs said their budgets were flat.

The study found that 33 percent of CIOs expect an increase in their IT budget in 2010. However, of that number, 23 percent predict only a slight increase of between 1 and 5 percent. In comparison, in 2009, 26 percent of respondents actually saw their budgets increase.

Those CIOs predicting a decrease in their IT budgets in 2010 numbered 26 percent in the report. In 2009, 34 percent of respondents said they saw their budgets actually decrease.

Ascierto noted that the percentage of significant increases in IT spending (6 percent or more) remains virtually unchanged (9 percent in 2009 and an expected 10 percent in 2010).

"IT budgets were mostly flat when the economy was either rosy, jittery or in full-blown crisis," Ascierto said. "This demonstrates that IT is no longer viewed as an easy target for spending cuts, as it once was."

Improvements in spending likely reflect the effect of deep budget cuts in 2008 and the first half of 2009, which left many IT departments operating at "bare-bones" capacity, Ascierto said.

While the report's forecast is for some increased spending, it may not translate into actual spending because the perception gap has widened over the last couple years. The difference between forecasted decreases and actual decreases more than doubled, from 7 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2009. The difference between forecasted increases and actual increases more than quadrupled, from 4 percent to 17 percent when comparing the same time periods.

"The extent to which IT budgetary expectations were miscued in 2009 is likely to mar the collective psyche of IT decision-makers today," Ascierto said. "The confidence of CIOs in their ability to predict IT spending with a reasonable level of accuracy has been splintered, if not shattered."

Ovum predicts that most enterprises will spend one quarter of their IT budgets in 2010 on hardware. Small companies (fewer than 100 employees) likely will spend 35 percent on hardware. IT budget allocations for software were estimated at about 25 percent in the Ovum report.

A report released this week by International Data Corporation (IDC) made similar predictions -- and similar caveats. IDC's FutureScan indicators predict that U.S. IT spending will increase by 2.9 percent in the next 12 months. IDC formulated its "buyer intent" metric based on surveys of 400 to 500 U.S. CIOs and line-of-business executives who were asked about expectations for IT spending growth over the next 12 months.

IDC found that IT shipments are picking up, and companies are approving hardware refresh money as they realize the penalty for not upgrading or replenishing infrastructure.

John Gantz, IDC chief research officer and senior vice president, said that survey results were positive, giving room for optimism. "The respondents are usually quite conservative, so anything above zero is good news," he said in an e-mail interview. "It generally takes a while for an economic upswing to percolate into tangible IT projects."

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Google Offers Tool To Ditch Microsoft Exchange

Google has taken another step toward making it easier for IT departments to abandon Microsoft Exchange for Google Apps.

On Wednesday, the company announced a new tool called "Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange." It's a server-side tool that can migrate "hundreds" of Exchange users simultaneously, according to Google's announcement.

Users can continue to use e-mail enabled through Exchange without interruption throughout the migration process, said Abhishek Bapna, product manager for Google Apps, in an e-mail. The migration tool works with Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2007, both on-premises and hosted. The tool is free for Google Apps Premier and Education Edition customers.

Google Apps is a suite of hosted e-mail, calendar and Office-like applications offered to businesses for $50 per user per year. It's free for educational institutions and individuals.

The new Exchange migration tool continues Google's movement to the enterprise software space after its initial rollouts to the consumer market. Exchange has been one of Google's prime targets in that effort. In June 2009, Google rolled out Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, which lets business users continue to use the Outlook e-mail, calendar and contacts interfaces while connecting to Google's servers.

Google also recently opened up its Google Apps Marketplace, allowing developers to sell their applications directly to businesses. The Marketplace and the release of the Exchange migration tool show that "Google is serious about enterprise software," according to Don Dodge, a developer evangelist working for Google. Dodge formerly served at Microsoft as an advisor to its startup communities. He was laid off during Microsoft's recent job cuts, but joined Google in November 2009.

Google claims that running Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange involves just four steps to move users onto Google Apps. The tool, along with a guide that outlines the migration process, can be downloaded here.

Google recommends migrating global address lists first so that "address translations are already available when e-mail and calendar data is migrated," Bapna explained. A tool called "Google Apps Directory Sync" can be used for that purpose. Bapna added that the migration process can be stopped at any point and resumed later. The tool includes "logging and reporting capabilities" to track any errors.

Google Apps Premier and Education Edition customers get 24/7 phone support from Google, plus online support. Hands-on support is available via Google's partner community.

"Customers desiring even higher touch support during their migration can work with one of the many partners who offer such services through the Google Apps Marketplace," Bapna explained.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Novell Rejects Buyout Offer

Novell has rejected Elliott Associates LP's $2 billion takeover bid calling it inadequate but indicated it was open to other offers.

Elliott, a New York-based hedge fund, issued the surprise, unsolicited bid in a letter to shareholders March 2. Waltham, Mass.-based Novell said it would review the bid. In a statement released Saturday March 20, Novell said it was rejecting the bid because it undervalues the company's growth potential. The board said it will consider various alternatives.

"These alternatives include, but are not limited to, a return of capital to stockholders through a stock repurchase or cash dividend, strategic partnerships and alliances, joint ventures, a recapitalization and a sale of the company," the company said.

Clifton Robbins, CEO of Blue Harbour Group, which owns 4 percent of Novell's shares, is among those who believe Elliott's bid was not adequate. "We agree with Novell's management and Board of Directors that the company's value significantly exceeds Elliott's proposal," Robbins said in a statement issued Saturday. "We support the company's decision today to pursue a formal review process with the assistance of its advisors."

But it appears Elliott achieved its goal – convincing Novell to entertain buyout offers. In a statement released today, the company said it is pleased by Novell's decision to consider its options. "We welcome the board's decision to conduct a sale of the company, which we believe is the best way to maximize shareholder value," the company said. "We look forward to the process and to actively pursuing an acquisition of the company."

The news of Novell's decision to put itself in play comes as the company is holding its annual BrainShare technical conference this week in Salt Lake City.

Once best known for its network operating systems and network directories, the company is now a diversified supplier of software and services. Novell's key offering currently is SUSE Linux, though it is overshadowed by the much more dominant Red Hat. Novell also offers managed services and various management tools.

Novell has also become a key Microsoft partner. Following a two-decade bitter rivalry, the two companies have more recently become unlikely partners in Redmond's efforts to link its various wares, including Windows and Silverlight to open source platforms including Linux.

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MIX10: Microsoft Doubles Down on jQuery

Scott Guthrie announced today at the MIX 10 Conference in Las Vegas that Microsoft is increasing its investments in the open source jQuery JavaScript Library. The corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division announced that Redmond will provide active code contributions and QA and testing resources to the jQuery Project.

Guthrie also outlined a series of improvements in Visual Studio 2010, including jQuery client-side data binding support in ASP.NET 4, a new jQuery templating engine and first-class support for client-side scripting in jQuery. Microsoft will contribute the templating engine to the jQuery JavaScript Library Team.

"We've been big fans of jQuery for several years now," Guthrie said during his Day 2 keynote address.

jQuery is a lightweight, open source JavaScript library that enables complex interaction between JavaScript and HTML. First released in 2006, jQuery gained Microsoft support in 2008 as part of the ASP.NET MVC project. The shipping version of ASP.NET MVC 2 was made available for download last week.

Stephen Walther, senior program manager for ASP.NET at Microsoft, said jQuery will play an important role at Microsoft going forward. "Our plan is to make jQuery the primary technology to use when building AJAX applications with Microsoft technologies," Walther said.

Underscoring that commitment, Guthrie welcomed jQuery founder John Resig on stage to talk about the library. Microsoft Program Manager Scott Hanselman also gave a demo featuring jQuery to build an e-Commerce site, and highlighting the new templating engine.

Response from developers was positive.

"This means that Microsoft has abandoned seeking a complementary strategy for client-side development to adopt jQuery," said Peter Vogel, principal of PH&V Information Services and a Visual Studio Magazine columnist covering ASP.NET. "Microsoft had started, for instance, developing their own client-side templating solution for displaying data. Now they're working with the jQuery team to present a proposal to make templating part of the jQuery core."

The commitment will also spur efforts by Microsoft to extend its own tooling to support jQuery. Vogel singles out the Open Data Protocol (OData) plug-in for jQuery that was discussed at the MIX keynote.

Andrew Brust, Chief, New Technology for consultancy twentysix New York, applauded the jQuery announcement.

"Scott Guthrie has implanted the jQuery religion throughout DevDiv," Brust wrote in an email exchange from the show. "And he was and is right. It's generating goodwill."

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Microsoft and Citrix Boost Desktop Virtualization Efforts

Microsoft today said it is expanding its desktop virtualization portfolio with licensing changes and technology improvements, while extending its pact with longtime partner Citrix Systems.

Starting July 1, Microsoft will offer improved pricing for Windows client customers who participate in Microsoft's Software Assurance volume licensing option. Under the new plan, customers no longer have to buy a separate license to access Windows in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. VDI rights will be part of the Software Assurance agreement.

The change is aimed at giving Microsoft's customers more flexibility in how they deploy desktop virtualization, since many do not know in advance how many users they will have and when they will deploy VDI, according to Gavriella Schuster, general manager for Windows client commercial, in a telephone interview.

Microsoft also announced a new "Windows Virtual Desktop Access subscription" for customers who use devices that don't qualify for Software Assurance, such as thin-client devices, Schuster said. The license is priced at $100 per year per device.

Microsoft also enabled a remote desktop access capability that allows a mobile client device to run a Windows virtual desktop. This new capability is available to Windows client Software Assurance customers or to those who purchase the new Windows Virtual Desktop Access license, Schuster said.

On the technology front, Microsoft said it is adding two improvements. First, the company is integrating a "Remote FX" graphics acceleration platform into Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1), Schuster said. This enhancement, benefiting remote VDI users, will be available when Microsoft rolls out the SP1, although Schuster declined to say when that would be.

Second, Microsoft plans to add "dynamic memory" management capability in Windows Server 2008 R2 when SP1 arrives. Using this feature, the memory of virtual machines can be dynamically adjusted "on demand, without sacrificing performance or scalability," Schuster said. Such a feature can help conserve RAM when virtual machines are switched on but not used, according to a Microsoft forum post.

The Remote FX integration taps into capabilities Microsoft acquired when it bought Calista Technologies in January 2008. Calista had worked on technology that improved Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol, providing a truer presentation and desktop virtualization experience for users accessing multimedia and 3-D applications remotely, according to a Microsoft blog.

Microsoft explained its rationale at the time of the acquisition in a released statement, saying that "The addition of Calista's technology to future Microsoft presentation and desktop virtualization products will enable remote workers to receive a full-fidelity Windows desktop experience without the need for high-end desktop hardware."

Long-time partner Citrix makes VDI technology that is complementary to Microsoft's virtualization solutions, including XenDesktop. At the time of the Calista acquisition, independent desktop virtualization expert Brian Madden speculated that Microsoft would either no longer need Citrix as a desktop virtualization partner, or that the Calista's technology would be integrated into Microsoft's core virtualization technologies for Citrix to tap.

The latter scenario appears to have come to fruition. Schuster noted Microsoft's 10-year partnership with Citrix on terminal services. She added that Microsoft and Citrix's HDX technology in the Citrix XenDesktop will be extended to tap into Microsoft's Remote FX platform. Microsoft will rollout the integrated XenDesktop product in about six months after SP1 is released, she added.

Also, Microsoft is collaborating with Citrix by rolling out two VDI offers. One is called the "Rescue for VMware VDI program." Under this program, customers can trade in a VMware View license for a Microsoft VDI standard license and a Citrix XenDesktop VDI license at no additional cost. The other is a "VDI Kickstart program" for new customers. The Kickstart program lets customer run VDI for $7,000 for 250 devices. Both programs run through the end of 2010.

Finally, Microsoft offered some good news for IT pros with tight hardware budgets. Microsoft no longer requires that PCs have built-in hardware virtualization capabilities in the CPU to run desktop virtualization via Windows XP Mode, Virtual PC, or Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V). Microsoft found, through customer feedback, that the hardware virtualization requirement was a "significant hindrance" to deployment, Schuster said.

Microsoft offers various desktop virtualization and application virtualization tools for Software Assurance customers as part of its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2010 suite, which was updated in February to include App-V 4.6.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Microsoft To Release 2010 Products Starting April

Microsoft plans to release many of its 2010-branded products -- including Office 2010 -- to manufacturers next month.

Other products scheduled to hit the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage in April are SharePoint 2010, Project 2010 and Visio 2010, according to Microsoft's announcement on Thursday. The RTM release means that manufacturers will be able to create images of Microsoft's software for installation on new PCs.

In addition, Microsoft announced other dates of note for those wanting to buy the new products.

On May 12, Microsoft will begin offering its 2010 products to businesses as part of a worldwide launch event. The event will feature a talk by Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop.

Microsoft typically offers its TechNet Plus and MSDN subscribers access to products before general release. However, Microsoft's announcement did not specify a release date for those subscribers.

In June, Microsoft plans to release Office 2010 to consumers, both through online and retail stores. Currently, Office 2010 is only available to the public as a beta trial version, which can be downloaded here. Microsoft previously issued a release candidate version of Office 2010 in February, but only a private group of Microsoft technology adoption program (TAP) members got access to it.

Microsoft also announced on Thursday that it has initiated an Office 2010 "technology guarantee" program. Under the program, consumers who buy Office 2007 today can get an upgrade to Office 2010 at no additional cost.

The technology guarantee deal comes with some time restrictions. For instance, Office 2007 needs to be activated between March 5 and Sept. 30, according to Microsoft's announcement. In addition, the technology guarantee offer needs to be redeemed before Oct. 31 via this Web page. Consumers need a Windows Live ID, or they need to create one, to take advantage of the offer.

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Microsoft Releases Key Specs for Outlook and Office

Microsoft continues to open key specifications to developers, publishing closely held technical documentation on Office's proprietary protocols and file formats, to facilitate data portability and interoperability in multi-platform environments.

Last week, as promised, the company released technical specifications for Outlook's .pst file format, used with the software's personal folders. Developers can use the technical documentation and reference materials to access Outlook's email, calendar and contact data from various platforms and programming languages.

As an Open Specification, [MST-PST]: Outlook Personal Folders File Format Structure Specification is now available for public use, which means the documentation including schema, Interface Definition Language (IDL) files and code samples, can be freely copied and distributed as part of an implementation despite Microsoft copyrights, according to the company.

Last October, when the .pst announcement was made as part of the company's ongoing Open Specification efforts, Paul Lorimer, group manager, Microsoft Office Interoperability and author of the Interoperability @ Microsoft blog explained:

"This will allow developers to read, create, and interoperate with the data in .pst files in server and client scenarios using the programming language and platform of their choice. The technical documentation will detail how the data is stored, along with guidance for accessing that data from other software applications. It also will highlight the structure of the .pst file, provide details like how to navigate the folder hierarchy, and explain how to access the individual data objects and properties."

Developers can also use the Messaging API (MAPI) and the Outlook Object Model to access data in .PST files, according to Lorimer, but only on machines with Outlook installed. The [MS-PST]: Outlook Personal Folders File Format Structure Specification documentation is available now on MSDN.

It remains unclear whether early [MS-PST] implementations will be covered by Microsoft's Open Specification Promise (OSP), first announced in September 2006. OSP allows developers to use some of Microsoft's proprietary file formats and protocols without licensing fees or fear of patent infringement. That is clearly the intention, but for now it is not part of the official OSP list.

Lorimer explained in his blog post in October:

"This documentation is still in its early stages and work is ongoing. We are engaging directly with industry experts and interested customers to gather feedback on the quality of the technical documentation to ensure that it is clear and useful. When it is complete, it will be released under our Open Specification Promise, which will allow anyone to implement the .pst file format on any platform and in any tool, without concerns about patents, and without the need to contact Microsoft in any way."

The company also released updated documentation last week on proprietary Office protocols for developers who need to integrate the software with other Microsoft products. Information on the protocol specs, intended to spearhead Office 2010 integration, was first published in July 2009, according to Microsoft. The company started to release public technical documentation on proprietary protocols, languages, standards and formats with the release of Office 2007 Service Pack 2.

View the updated Microsoft Office Protocol Documents here.

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MIX10: Windows Phone Developer Tools Are Free, Silverlight 4 RC

The opening keynote of Microsoft's 5th annual MIX10 conference for Web developers and designers focused on the company's rich Internet application technology Silverlight and its role in Windows Phone Series 7 app development. The first Windows Phone 7 Series devices are expected at retail this fall.

The Windows Phone application development platform is based on Silverlight (XAML), XNA Framework (games) and the .NET Compact Framework, according to Microsoft. It supports Windows Azure cloud services, Zune apps, Xbox Live and third-party Web services such as social networking.

"This isn't Silverlight-lite, this isn't Silverlight different, this is Silverlight," said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, during the keynote. Developers can use the same programming skills (C#) and tools to create event-driven applications for the Windows Phone OS 7.0.

During the keynote, Guthrie announced that the Silverlight 4 Release Candidate is available for download today. The final release is slated for April, he said. It will include improvements to the media stack such as streaming to multiple monitors. A Silverlight Pivot control for data visualizations—based on the Live Labs technology-- will be released this summer.

The RC follows the first and only beta release at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in November. Since November, the Silverlight installed base has jumped from 45 to 60 percent of all Internet-connected devices worldwide, said Guthrie.

The fourth iteration of the technology since its introduction in 2007 adds support for Web cams, microphones, programmatic clipboard access and printer output, rich text editing, drag and drop capability, right click mouse and scrolling, access to file system resources, elevated trust, and out of browser online and offline applications.

Microsoft Silverlight 4 Tools for Visual Studio 2010 RC were released today. The Expression Blend 4 Beta, which adds support for Silverlight 4, Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 (Windows Presentation Foundation 4) was also made available for download. Registered users of Expression Blend 3 can upgrade to version 4 for free, announced Guthrie.

Microsoft announced that the XNA Framework currently used to build Xbox 360, Windows PC and Zune apps, supports Windows Phone and Silverlight prior to the Game Developers Conference last week. Developers can use the same project to develop games for multiple devices—Windows PC, Windows Phone and Xbox 360. This functionality was demonstrated during the keynote with a loop-based game called The Harvest. Visual Studio supports the 2-D and 3-D APIs in the XNA Framework. It also provides access to limited Xbox LIVE functionality such as achievements, scores and connecting with other gamers.

The Windows Phone 7 Series platform is a clean break from the company's Windows Mobile 6.5 platform, which Microsoft says it will still support. Current applications will not run on the new operating system.

Microsoft's mobile strategy is focused on enabling its developers and designers to use familiar tools and skill sets to build Windows Phone 7 Series applications. Community Technology Previews of Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone Emulator, Silverlight for Windows Phone and XNA 4.0 Game Studio were released today in the Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP, which supports Windows Vista and Windows 7. Developers with Visual Studio have the option to use a Visual Studio add-in or the Express tooling. Expression Blend users need the Expression Blend 4 Beta and the Expression Blend SDK for Windows Phone.

All Windows Phone 7 Series development tools are free and will remain free for Windows Phone developers, announced Guthrie.

The Visual Studio and Expression Blend tools for Windows Phone offer shared project templates and WYSIWYG controls that pick up the same look and feel as Windows Phone 7 Series skins--not Silverlight default controls. Among the Visual Studio tools is a Windows Phone Emulator, a virtual machine running the Windows Phone OS 7.0 for debugging, deploying and executing test builds. Apps can also be tested by plugging into a registered Windows Phone 7 Series test device with a USB connector.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president, Windows Phone, who introduced the Windows Phone 7 Series in February at the Mobile World Congress, gave another overview today of the user interface design, which is based on Live Tiles, task-oriented hubs and a wider than the screen "panoramic experience."

One of Microsoft's goals is to make life easier for developers and designers, according to Belfiore, who reiterated that the Windows Phone 7 Series devices, despite different manufacturers, will all use one application processor, a unified graphics subsystem, only two screen sizes and support capacitive touch. "Every Windows Phone 7 Series device is a Zune," he reminded the audience.

The Windows Phone 7 Series also supports standard smartphone functionality that developers can tap into such as location (Wi-Fi, cellular and GPS) and map control (Bing), microphone, push notifications, sensors and accelerometers. The location API works with Azure cloud services.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Microsoft: 64-Bit Office 2010 Not Ready

Are you thinking about deploying the 64-bit version of Office 2010? If so, Microsoft wants you to think again.

Microsoft's newest productivity suite, slated for public release as early as May 12, will be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions -- a first for the Office product line. The advantage of tapping into 64-bit metal includes the ability to handle files that require greater memory support, as well as to run more programs concurrently.

However, Microsoft explained late last month that its 64-bit Office 2010 isn't really ready for prime time after all.

More specifically, the add-ins, controls and Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programming code that need to be compatible with 64-bit Office 2010 still need to be updated, Microsoft explained in a blog. Consequently, Microsoft is recommending that Office 2010 users install the 32-bit version of the program, even when using a 64-bit Windows operating system with the productivity suite.

The 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Office 2010 are "largely indistinguishable" except for memory capacity, according to Ted Way, a Microsoft program manager for product lifecycle and engineering excellence.

"The extra memory capacity comes at the cost of some compatibility with existing extensions to Office, such as 32-bit versions of ActiveX Controls and some third-party add-ins, in addition to 32-bit versions of programs that interface directly with Office," Way wrote in the blog. "New versions of these extensions will need to be obtained, and it will take some time for 64-bit compatible extensions to be made available."

Way explained that 32-bit Office 2010 can handle files that soak up about 4GB of memory. When the 64-bit version is ready, Office 2010 will be able to access about 17 billion GB of memory, he added.

Eventually, Microsoft expects the 64-bit version of Office to be widely used. For now, the install program (setup.exe) defaults to the 32-bit version, which will run on a 64-bit operating system. Users who really want to run the 64-bit version can do so by opening a folder on the CD-ROM containing the executable install file.

Trying to run both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Office 2010 on the same machine is not supported, Way said. In addition, the install program will block the installation of the 64-bit version if it finds certain 32-bit Office apps already installed, such as Outlook. However, some 32-bit products are on Microsoft's "allowed list," permitting the installation of Office 2010 64-bit to proceed. Allowed-list products include Expression Web Designer, Microsoft Office Web components and the VBA 6.4 software development kit, Way said.

VBA will work with the 64-bit version of Office 2010, but developers need to do a little tweaking of the external interfaces, according to Danny Khen of Microsoft, commenting in the blog. Developers will have to update the Declare statements of VBA code that has "handles/pointers as arguments," Khen explained. Microsoft released a tool called the "Microsoft Office 2010 Code Compatibility Inspector" to help automate the update process, as described in this blog. There also are some free tools to help with migration to Office 2010.

Microsoft plans to release a new version of VBA, version 7, with the release of the 64-bit version of Office 2010, according to a Microsoft white paper. VBA 7 will work with both the 32-bit and 64-bit version of Office 2010. However, developers using the 64-bit version of Office 2010 still must update the APIs to get the VBA 7 code to work, or use the Code Compatibility Inspector tool to fix those APIs.

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Microsoft Disputes 'Vulnerability' in Virtual PC

Microsoft defended its turf this week after a software security vendor went public about an alleged security hole in Redmond's Virtual PC hypervisor.

Core Security Technologies published a security advisory on Tuesday saying that a vulnerability in the hypervisor may allow attackers to bypass several Windows security mechanisms. Those mechanisms include data execution prevention, safe structured error handling and address space layout randomization.

The problem, according to Core Security's advisory, affects Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, Virtual PC 2007 SP1, Windows Virtual PC (the successor to the 2007 version), Virtual Server 2005 and Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1. The advisory excluded Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor, which is part of Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V Server.

Microsoft's Paul Cooke disputed the "vulnerability" label being applied to Virtual PC's hypervisor. Virtual PC enables desktop virtualization, and when used with Windows XP Mode, it allows users to run the XP Service Pack 3 operating system in a virtual machine on top of Windows 7.

"The functionality that Core calls out is not an actual vulnerability per se," Cooke wrote in this blog post. "Instead, [Core Security] is describing a way for an attacker to more easily exploit security vulnerabilities that must already be present on the system."

The protection mechanisms that are present in the Windows kernel are "rendered less effective inside of a virtual machine as opposed to a physical machine," Cooke noted. He added that there is no vulnerability introduced, just a loss of certain security protection mechanisms.

Microsoft's tiffs with security vendors over semantics and nuances on what constitutes a vulnerability are nothing new. However, this time, experts appear to be lining up on Redmond's side. Microsoft is correct that the operating system is isolated from the memory space of the programs running in the Virtual PC.

"The fact that the VPC [Virtual PC] creates a sandbox for misbehaved programs is exactly what it is supposed to do," said Phil Lieberman, founder and president of Lieberman Software.

To that end, Don Retallack, a security analyst at Directions on Microsoft, said he doesn't think Core Security's assertion sounds like a serious problem.

"Virtual machines are isolated from each other, so they are more secure," he said. In that sense [Core Security's theory] doesn't show how different virtual machines interact and what would happen in those scenarios."

Retallack concurred with Cooke that anti-virus software needs to be maintained on a virtual machine, just as much as with the underlying operating system. Michael Whalen, an independent IT consultant and former senior manager of knowledge management at O'Melveny & Myers LLP, echoed the sentiment.

"In general, at the enterprise level, virtualization is where things are heading because it allows you to run multiple virtual servers on one piece of hardware" Whalen said. "Apart from making sure the underlying operating system is patched and updated, things are more fundamentally secure in a virtual environment."

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