Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Google Deemed 'Most Disruptive' in Mobile Market

Google is set to disrupt the Mobile Information and Communication (M-ICT) industry with its Linux-based Android mobile operating system, according to Strategy Analytics.

The Boston-based research and consulting firm identified Google as the M-ICT industry's "most disruptive firm" in its Global Forces Program research. Google topped the list based on a study of more than 100 firms, including mobile OS players such as Microsoft, Apple and RIM, Strategy Analytics announced last week.

According to Barry Gilbert, vice president of Strategy Analytics, "disruptive impact" can be defined as a new business model, or product, that has collateral impact on other companies with similar technologies.

"No one would have dreamed that when Apple introduced the iPhone that it would have such an impact on the mobile communications market," said Gilbert in a telephone interview. "Likewise, who would have anticipated Google would enter the space with a handset product and OS [Google Android] that would blow that marketplace wide open."

Gilbert said Strategy Analytics uses a sophisticated algorithm that scans patent records, venture capital investments, new chipsets, developing technologies, and other datasets to identify companies or new offerings that might have a significant impact on other companies in the same space.

"We've developed an early warning alarm system to help companies deal with unforeseen changes in the marketplace," Gilbert said. "Google's foray into operating systems, handsets, application offerings is certainly going to have an impact on the mobile information and communications market."

Google had significantly higher disruption rates than Apple or Microsoft, both of which were given high scores for "behavior that caused stress, aggravated competitive dynamics, and threats to [other company] profits," according to Strategy Analytics.

"Clearly these other companies are going be taking a very close look at Google, especially in addressing the needs of the consumer market," Gilbert said.В  "The ante has been raised with the introduction of [Motorola's Android-based] Droid [mobile phone], and the anticipation of Windows Phone 7, which I think will be competitive, but there's plenty of room in this space."

Gilbert said that Strategy Analytics will continue to monitor dynamics in the M-ICT space. The factors being monitored include product adoption rates, company behavior, distribution policies, pricing, corporate structure and more.

"The market is growing at a rapid pace, and there will be a lot of innovation from the top players," Gilbert said. "It becomes a race and the question is who will win the race and how long will they be able to hold that position."

Apple Found To Be Worth More Than MicrosoftPeter Jackson Reportedly Negotiating To Direct ‘The Hobbit’

Agile SCM Tool Wedded to Apache and ViewVC

CollabNet last week introduced a distribution of the Subversion open-source version control and software configuration management tool that includes the Apache Web server and the ViewVC respository viewer.

CollabNet Subversion Edge provides a Web-based management UI designed to simplify installation, administration and governance of the three-part software package, the company said in a news release. Users are automatically notified of software updates and can install them via the Web UI, CollabNet said.

The company, known for its cloud-based Agile application lifecycle management products, is the primary corporate backer of the 10-year-old Subversion open-source project, released under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPLv.3).

CollabNet said it addressed numerous http://forums.open.collab.net/ user forum requests for help with security and user governance by including support for the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). Subversion Edge manages administration features and user access through a Web-based, role-based access control system.

Beta downloads of the new distribution are available now, with a general release expected this summer.

‘Restrepo’: The War That Won’t End, By Kurt LoderNew Agile Project Management Tools Announced

'Identity Ecosystem' To Replace Passwords, Draft Strategy Suggests

Imagine signing on to your computer, logging onto a secure Web site or handling a sensitive document electronically -- all without needing a user name or password.

The draft national strategy for building a new "identity ecosystem" that the Obama administration released June 25 would accomplish that, according to its developers. The ecosystem would base authentication on trusted digital identities instead.

The plan, named the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, would lay a blueprint for an online environment in which online transactions for both the public and private sectors are more secure and trusted. The strategy identifies the federal government as "primary enabler, first adopter and key supporter" of the identity ecosystem.

In the language of the strategy, "In the envisioned identity ecosystem individuals, organizations, services and devices would be able to trust each other because authoritative sources establish and authenticate their digital identities." What that means in real terms is that trusted providers, such as a bank, would issue security credentials that would then be accepted by other online resources such as social networking sites and e-mail providers. Rather than using a user name and password, the person would have the crediential on a device that would authenticate his or her identity to the computer and, by extension, give access to services that accept the credential. The strategy includes references to smart cards, USB drives, mobile devices, software certificates and trusted computing modules as possible authentication technologies.

The strategy provides a hypothetical case of of a woman whose husband has recently been in the hospital. She is able to access his medical information using her cell phone because everyone involved in the information exchange uses a "trustmark" that signifies they adhere to the identity ecosystem framework.

The woman would have established her digital identity when she subscribed to a cell phone service plan, and the phone carrier would have verified her identity based on defined standards and issued her a credential on her cell phone that she could use within the ecosystem. The hospital and her husband's primary care provider, in turn, would have validated and maintained the appropriate attributes needed to release the information. And at the very beginning of the process, her husband would have provided her name and phone number to the hospital and signed the needed documents to authorize release of his information.

"No longer should individuals have to remember an ever-expanding and potentially insecure list of usernames and passwords to log into various online services," White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said in a post on the White House blog. "Through the strategy we seek to enable a future where individuals can voluntarily choose to obtain a secure, interoperable and privacy-enhancing credential…from a variety of service providers -- both public and private -- to authenticate themselves online for different types of transactions."

Schmidt's office has been leading the effort and will continue to do so. The Homeland Security Department is collecting public comments on the plan through July 19. Schmidt said the strategy will be finalized this fall.

Officials say participation in the identity ecosystem must be voluntary. The draft document breaks the ecosystem down into execution, governance and management layers and explains how individuals, companies and government would benefit from that online environment. For example, the document says individuals would get more security, efficiency, privacy and choice.

The document says goals for the strategy are to:

Develop a comprehensive identity ecosystem framework.Put in place an interoperable identity infrastructure aligned with the identity ecosystem framework.Bolster willingness to participate in that ecosystem.Ensure the long-term success of the ecosystem.

The strategy also lays out high-level priority actions:

Designate a federal agency to lead the public/private sector efforts. Develop a shared, comprehensive public/private sector omplementation plan.Accelerate the expansion of federal services and policies that align with ecosystem.Work among industry and government to put enhanced privacy protections in place.Coordinate the development of risk models and interoperability standards.Deal with liability worries of people and service providers.Perform outreach and awareness activities.Continue collaborating in international efforts.Identify other ways to push for adoption of the identity ecosystem nationwide.

"There is a compelling need to address these problems as soon as is practical, making progress in the short term and planning for the long-term," the document concludes. "For the nation to realize the vision of this strategy and associated benefits, all stakeholders must come together in a collaborative partnership."

Microsoft Releases ADFS 2.0Peter Jackson Reportedly Negotiating To Direct ‘The Hobbit’

Saturday, June 26, 2010

IE 9 Platform Preview 3 Released, Supports Canvas

Microsoft on Wednesday announced the third "platform preview" release of its Internet Explorer 9 browser prototype.

The preview can be downloaded at Microsoft's IE test drive page here. However, the release is not a complete Web browser and it only works with Windows 7 or Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (on both x86- or x64-based PCs), according to the release notes. Platform preview 3 can be run alongside IE 8 without conflict and will overwrite any earlier installed IE 9 platform preview, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft is trying something a little different with its platform preview releases of IE 9. The releases are more like pre-alpha demos for developers that show performance and feature improvements of the browser. Microsoft officials have said that IE 9 testers can expect to see a new platform preview every eight weeks or so, but platform preview 3 arrived about two weeks early. The last release came in early May.

Platform preview 3 continues Microsoft's focus on supporting Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) specifications, such as the developing HTML 5 and CSS 3 specs. It also includes some improved benchmark scores for JavaScript performance. With this release, Microsoft added support for the Web Open Font Format (WOFF) through CSS3. IE 9 uses WOFF, the underlying hardware and Windows DirectWrite (a DirectX API) to produce high-quality font rendering.

For those developers worrying about supporting legacy Web apps based on IE 6, Microsoft announced earlier this month that IE 9 will be capable of supporting IE 6 quirks mode through the use of conditional comments. Otherwise, Microsoft generally recommends that Web developers should avoid conditional comments altogether and use HTML 5 feature detection in their code.

In an IE blog post on "IE's Compatibility Features for Site Developers," Microsoft Program Manager Marc Silbey explained the point: "There is one case where it is appropriate to use Conditional Comments, which is for backward compatibility with IE6 or IE7 stylesheets."

Platform preview 3 includes native support for the video and audio elements in the HTML 5 spec ( and tags), as well as native support for the canvas element ( tag). Developers can use these tags to embed video and audio in their Web sites without users having to have a plug-in (such as Adobe's Flash) installed in their browsers to enable playback. Microsoft provides a video describing native video and audio support in IE 9 here, as well as an overview of the new IE 9 demos here.

The addition of the canvas element is new with platform preview 3, whereas support for the other two elements had been announced in March. The canvas element provides a compact way to write animations in Web sites or rich Internet applications. A short Microsoft-produced demo showing how the canvas element is supported by IE 9 is available here. There's also a video on Amazon.com's use of the canvas tag.

Microsoft has improved ECMA-262 Fifth Edition standards support in IE 9's "Chakra" JavaScript engine. Platform preview 3 includes support for "new array and object methods, as well as other language enhancements for working with strings and dates," according to Microsoft's announcement. A short video on IE 9's use of ECMAScript 5 standards is available here.

Microsoft also reported improved benchmark test results with platform preview 3. A chart in Microsoft's announcement shows that IE 9 nearly equals the performance of Safari, Opera and Chrome for the fastest performance on a WebKit SunSpider JavaScript benchmark test. Similarly, Microsoft's IE 9 now scores 83 of 100 point in the Acid3 test, up from 68 of 100 points in the last platform preview. (Microsoft tends to downplay Acid3, saying that it doesn't test the most used features in browsers.)

In building IE 9 with an eye toward W3C standards from the ground up, Microsoft hopes to help Web developers write code once that will be supported across all other browsers. Microsoft's concept of targeted W3C standards includes HTML 5, as well as "SVG 1.1 2nd Edition, CSS3, DOM L2 and L3, and ECMAScript 5," according to Jason Upton, test manager for Internet Explorer.

The main issue for Microsoft and other browser makers is that the W3C specs are interpreted differently. Browsers also use different rendering engines, but even browsers using the same engine (such as the WebKit engine in Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome browsers) have shown varying HTML 5 test results. Consequently, Microsoft has been submitting a series of tests of the HTML 5 spec to W3C working groups. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it had submitted 118 new tests to the W3C, bringing the total to more than 1,600 tests. It has also written 1,309 JavaScript test cases and plans to make them available to Web developers.

Microsoft is claiming that IE 9 is the first browser demonstrating speed and performance advantages by tapping into the power of graphics processing units (GPUs) in devices. This capability is part of HTML 5's planned support for scalable vector graphics (via the SVG 1.1 spec).

Next year, Microsoft's chip-producing partner, AMD, plans to roll out its new Fusion family of accelerated graphics processors that will combine GPU and CPU capabilities. A demo of IE 9 using AMD's Fusion processors is shown in this blog post. The blog also shows how Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 enables hardware-accelerated graphics by default. Such support is becoming a general trend for software developers, according to the blog.

Microsoft Releases IE 9 Preview 2

Microsoft Shakes Up Partner Organization

After nearly seven years running Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, Allison Watson is stepping aside to take on a new role in the company. She will be replaced by Jon Roskill, who previously oversaw Microsoft's commercial products businesses and before that he served in the company's developer organization.

Watson will assume the role of corporate VP of Microsoft's Business and Marketing Organization. A spokeswoman would only say that both Watson and Roskill will be at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference next month in Washington, D.C. to discuss the transition. Neither were available for comment.

Microsoft has also quietly, re-assigned Eduardo Rosini, who was corporate VP of the company's Small and Medium Business Solutions and Partners group. Rosini is now corporate VP Microsoft's Business Platform Marketing Group, covering SQL Server, middleware and data modeling tools, according to his bio, which was updated last month

As part of the reorganization that takes effect at the beginning of Microsoft's new fiscal year (July 1), Roskill will report to Rosini's replacement, VahГ© Torossian, who was named corporate vice president of the Worldwide Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners (SMS&P) Group. Before joining that group, Vahe, oversaw sales, marketing and operations in the Central and Eastern Europe region.


Jon Roskill, new leader of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group.

Given Watson's long tenure in her role, the move was not as surprising as its abrupt timing, less than three weeks ahead of Microsoft's WPC. "This is a surprising time to be making a change like that so close to the partner conference," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot, in a brief interview. "I am more surprised by the timing than anything else."

It begs the question, was this a typical Microsoft re-organization or is this part of a bigger shakeup in Microsoft's partner organization, said Howard Cohen, who heads up both the northeast region and New York chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP). "When she was brought in, she was introduced by her predecessor at WPC," Cohen recalled. "It was like a coronation."

Cohen, DeGroot and others credit her with creating the existing Microsoft Partner Program. But there is considerable angst among pending changes to the Microsoft Partner Network that is due to kick in later this year. Microsoft is not commenting on whether the shift in management will impact the rollout of that program this year.

Watson's replacement, Roskill, is not well known in the channel but he is known by those associated with Microsoft's products group, according to Cohen. "His name is associated with a lot of positive things, he is well known and well liked in those circles," Cohen said.

Bringing in someone with roots in products and the developer organization may portend a greater focus on ISVs, said DeGroot. "It may mean emphasis on the developer community and on ISVs, which are escaping them to some extent," DeGroot said, "as current development shifts to things like mobile and so on where Microsoft doesn't have a presence."

Office 2010 Upgrade Deal Expiring in July

Thursday, June 24, 2010

IT Complexity, Costs Driving Cloud Adoption

Internet cloud-based services are getting a second look as organizations confront their information management burdens and an economic downturn, according to research firm Gartner.

Across all sectors, information management challenges have been weighing increasingly heavily on in-house IT departments. Coupled with the economic difficulties of the last couple years, these challenges are pushing IT in some profoundly new directions, Gartner explains in a new report released this week. The result will be an swing toward cloud-based services over the next several years, the report predicts.

"The scale of application deployments is growing; multi-thousand-seat deals are increasingly common," said Gartner Research Vice President Ben Pring in a released statement associated with the report, "Forecast: Public Cloud Services, Worldwide and Regions, Industry Sectors, 2009-2014."

This increased focus on cloud services represents a conceptual shift for IT, Pring added.

"IT managers are thinking strategically about cloud service deployments; more progressive enterprises are thinking through what their IT operations will look like in a world of increasing cloud service leverage. This was highly unusual a year ago," Pring stated.

In 2009, expenditures on cloud services worldwide and across sectors totaled $58.6 billion. That figure is expected to jump nearly $10 billion to $68.3 billion by the end of this year and to $148.8 billion in 2014, according to the report. The report also indicated that software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) expenditures by enterprises will reach $112 billion over the next five years.

Pring partially attributed the trend to the growing need of IT organizations to control costs.

"After many years of germination, most notably in the SaaS arena, the core ideas at the heart of cloud computing -- such as pay for use, multi-tenancy and external services -- appear to be resonating more strongly," Pring said. "In part, this can be explained by macroeconomic factors. The financial turbulence of the last 18 months has meant every organization has been scrutinizing every expenditure. An IT solution that can deliver functionality less expensively and with more agility (remembering that time is money) is hard to ignore against this backdrop."

IT organizations are also looking to cloud services because in-house management of "complex, custom, expensive solutions" has become burdensome, according to Gartner.

The United States is currently the largest consumer of cloud services worldwide, accounting for 60 percent of overall expenditures in 2009 and 58 percent in 2010, according to the report. Gartner predicts that this percentage will further drop to 50 percent by 2014. U.S. expenditures on cloud services will grow from $35.16 billion in 2009 to $74.4 billion in 2014.

Financial services and manufacturing will be early adopters of cloud services, along with "communications and high-tech industries," according to the report. The public sector, Gartner said, "is also clearly interested in the potential of cloud services and its share of the overall market."

A few of the potential barriers to more rapid adoption cited by Gartner were the perception of security vulnerabilities inherent in cloud computing, service availability, and "vendor viability and maturity."

"Many enterprises may be examining cloud computing and cloud services, but are far from convinced that it is appropriate for their requirements," Pring said. "We expect that this will be a significant opportunity for existing IT services players to evolve their current offerings -- such as outsourcing, system integration, development, etc .-- to become cloud-enabled and try to combine the best of the two worlds, namely traditional IT services and cloud computing."

The full report is available now for $1,495. Further information can be found here.

IBM Acquires Cast Iron Systems

Gartner Dissects Google vs. Microsoft Cloud Battle

Organizations should start experimenting with Web apps from Google, Microsoft and other software companies. That's one of the conclusions from a Webinar presented by two Gartner analysts on Tuesday.

Web apps are becoming "just good enough" for the enterprise, said Tom Austin, a Gartner vice president and fellow. Austin, along with colleague David Mitchell Smith, provided some general guidance to organizations trying to react to shifts in the IT software market, such as the potential use of Web service offerings and thin clients in the enterprise.

In the "Google vs. Microsoft: A Battle for the Clouds" Webinar, the two analysts mostly dissected the ongoing Internet cloud slugfest by the two software giants.

Smith explained that Gartner doesn't think that Google attacked Microsoft's business first. Instead, the real story is that Microsoft is pursuing Google's business, which is almost wholly focused on search and advertising. Google's push into the enterprise space is considered to be more of a defensive reaction to Microsoft's attack. About 97 percent of Google's $23 billion in revenue came from search and advertising. Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE), which includes the corporate Gmail service, represents a drop in the bucket in terms of Google's revenue.

"GAPE is a tiny, tiny, tiny sliver," Smith said. "In fact, [Google] reported in Q1 of 2010 a total of $300 million in revenue attributed to 'licenses and other,' of which we estimate that less than $100 million came from enterprise sales of GAPE."

Google has the potential to do much more than search because it has built out a massive datacenter complex running Linux, which gives them "a significant cost advantage" for delivering services such as Google Gmail, Austin explained. G-mail is "good enough for enterprise use," he added, and "a viable contender." Google had a 57 percent growth rate in Gmail use between the first quarters of 2009 and 2010. However, Gmail use is not anywhere near the mass adoption rate of Microsoft's solutions. Other enterprise Gmail targets for Google include IBM Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise users.

Google Docs, Google's hosted productivity suite, "isn't there yet" for enterprise use, according to Austin. "We don't see it as an aim for Google to replace [Microsoft] Office," he added. Organizations could consider using a hybrid approach, with some users getting Google Docs and some getting Microsoft Office. However, document fidelity is still an issue when round-tripping a document from one format to the other. Austin said that "typically 30 to 70 percent of users could get along with using Google Docs" even though Google Docs is "two generations behind where Microsoft is [with Office]."

Smith said that the Google Apps service (which includes the Google Docs productivity suite) is less of a threat to Microsoft now that the company has rolled out its Office Web Apps service.

In terms of the cloud, Google took a "clean sheet" approach to building out its datacenters, which is something that Microsoft has not done, according to Gartner. Microsoft, in contrast is a platform provider focused not just on external clouds but also on private clouds as part of its "Software plus Service" vision.

Microsoft "recently invested in being good in the enterprise space" and has proved to be very successful, Smith said. The company's current pursuit of the search and advertising space aims at increasing its growth prospects. Microsoft's $13 billion revenue reported in its fourth-quarter 2009 financial statement derives mostly from Windows and Office. Microsoft's online ventures so far have been a "100 percent loss," according to Gartner.

The Gartner analysts described a laundry list of areas where Microsoft and Google clash. Battleground areas include:

Community and social networkingSearch and advertisingE-mailCollaboration and portalsWeb platforms and APIsEnterpriseOffice and productivity appsConsumerization of IT, andThe mobile space

Smith noted that Google's forthcoming Chrome OS operating system, which supposedly will bypass traditional operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, will be the first OS that is not a platform. However, Google took a different approach with Android, which is a mobile OS platform. Google needed a platform approach in the mobile space because it still has to catch up with Apple, Smith said.

Users will have more choice with Google Android over Apple's mobile OS. With Android, users can run Flash, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs has banned from Apple platforms. Smith noted inroads for Google's Android strategy. He said he's counted three models of the Apple iPhone, whereas there are 100 models of phones using Android.

While Microsoft has tended to have some floundering in the consumer mobile space, Smith didn't see mobile as Microsoft's biggest threat. The main threats to Microsoft include OS pricing for netbooks, Google Chrome OS, Microsoft's "leadership focus" and its future sources of growth.

Google Touts Alternative to Office Upgrades

Paragon Tool Upgrade Addresses Virtualization Migration

Paragon Software Group has upgraded a software utility to speed up the migration of files from physical computers onto virtual computers or from one virtual environment to another.

Paragon Virtualization Manager 2010 Professional has several functions. It allows an administrator to:

Migrate a Windows-based computer to a virtual environment;Migrate files from a virtual environment to a physical environment and from one virtual environment to another;Migrate a Windows-based computer to a different hardware platform;Restore a physical system from a Paragon backup to a virtual environment;Connect a virtual disk as if it's an ordinary physical disk, thereby opening up features available for physical disks;Recover the operating system after a failed virtualization or system migration to a different hardware platform;Exchange data between a physical environment and a virtual one, or between a virtual disk and its snapshots;Clone a partition or hard disk; andPerform virtual drive partitioning.

The latest edition has updated wizards for the physical-to-virtual copy and restore features. Virtual machines can be built out of supported virtual disks or Windows Vista and Windows 7 backup images. Users can mount a virtual disk in the read-only mode to prevent data changes during the migration.

The corporate version of the product supports the export format of VMware ESX Server, as well as several virtual machines. Paragon Virtualization Manager 2010 Professional supports the following virtual machines: Windows Virtual PC and Microsoft Virtual Server; VMware Workstation, Fusion, and ESX Server; and the open source VirtualBox, developed by Sun Microsystems.

Corporate edition pricing starts at $199. That covers one "per seat" license, allowing for the use of the software on one physical system that hosts up to 99 virtual machines.

SP1 Roadmap for Windows Server 2008 R2 Unveiled

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Microsoft Releases Exchange 2007 SP3

Microsoft this week released Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 3, which lets IT pros run the mail server on Windows Server 2008 R2.

The new service pack was released on Sunday, but was announced yesterday, and can be downloaded here. Microsoft took time to deliver this service pack because it entailed making a lot of coding changes to Exchange 2007, the company explained late last year. Microsoft promised back then that it would deliver SP3 in the second half of this year, so this release came early.

The arrival of the service pack means that organizations don't have to move off Exchange Server 2007 if they have migrated to Windows Server 2008 R2 already. Exchange 2010 is currently available, having been released as a final product in November, but some organizations may not be ready to make that move. For example, Exchange 2010 uses a different method of archiving and storing e-mails from its predecessors that may require infrastructure changes.

However, the release notes for SP3 suggest that IT pros won't have a simple upgrade process. SP3 will cause Active Directory schema changes, so Microsoft's release notes suggest preparing Active Directory and domains prior to installing this service pack.

SP3 is cumulative, meaning that it contains update rollups through the fourth release. Consequently, it allows users to upgrade from earlier service packs (such as SP1). However, Microsoft says that users must first "uninstall all Interim Updates before you install Exchange 2007 SP3."

Removing SP3 appears to be less simple than installing it. The only way to uninstall SP3 is to remove Exchange Server 2007 entirely and reinstall an earlier version, according to Microsoft's release notes.

SP3 will work on Windows Server 2008, but not if the OS was previously upgraded. Microsoft offers just one approach: "To deploy Exchange 2007 SP3 on an Windows Server 2008-based computer, you must first install Windows Server 2008 on a computer that does not have Exchange installed, and then install Exchange 2007 SP3."

Exchange Server 2007 SP3 supports both 32-bit and 64-bit machines. However, a Microsoft blog notes that "only the 64 bit is supported in Production environment[s]."

A few new features are available with SP3. Highlights include the ability to install Exchange Management Tools on Windows 7 computers, as well as an improved search and password reset capabilities.

Microsoft Releases Service Pack 2 for App-V 4.5

Microsoft Cites Success of Novell Linux Interop Deal

Microsoft touted its operating system interoperability partnership with Novell on Monday, saying that more than 500 customers have signed up since the program began more than three years ago.

The program does more than just ensure that Windows and Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise play well together in heterogeneous computing environments. It also ensures that users of SuSE Linux Enterprise don't violate Microsoft's patents, providing users with so-called intellectual property (IP) "peace of mind."

When announced in November 2006, the program was denounced furiously by the open source community. A Microsoft official later claimed in May 2007 that Linux violates 235 of Microsoft's patents. However, the company has never been specific about what patents are involved.

Jay Lyman, open source analyst at The 451 Group, said that the interoperability promise is the most important aspect to the Microsoft-Novell deal. Customers he's spoken with have never mentioned IP protection as a compelling reason for buying into the program.

Still, the deal helps Novell in its battle against Red Hat, the current leader in enterprise Linux. By pledging interoperability with Windows, the deal gives organizations another reason to choose SuSE Linux Enterprise over Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Novell even rolled out a program to help organizations make the transition off Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is known as Novell's "Expanded Support Service."

A study by the Oliver Wyman Group, commissioned by Novell, examines Novell's support model, particularly its Expanded Support Service. The study is available here, but at press time, the PDF file would not download.

Also available at that link (and failing to download) is a Forrester Research study on "The Total Economic Impact of Microsoft and Novell Interoperability Solutions," commissioned by Microsoft and Novell. The study found that the joint OS interop program resulted in "82 percent ROI in under a year with regard to licensing fees, implementation and hardware," according to a Microsoft press release.

In June, Novell announced a partnership with VMware in which VMware will bundle its vSphere cloud-computing platform with Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise. The announcement that VMware planned to "standardize its virtual appliance-based product offerings on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server" drew swift reaction from Microsoft. In a blog post, Patrick O'Rourke, director of communications for Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, claimed that VMware was offering "a bad deal for customers" by locking them into using vSphere to do patching. In response, VMware said the bundling offer actually streamlines the agreements vSphere customers have to sign.

Lyman dismissed this Microsoft-VMware spat as just part of broader competitive trends.

"I think this is indicative of the increasing competition among the big enterprise virtualization and cloud computing stack providers," Lyman stated via e-mail. "VMware, in particular, is competing more and more with Red Hat and Microsoft, and perhaps Microsoft prefers to count Novell in its camp, but obviously Novell has its own interests."

Lyman also noted that while Microsoft and Red Hat have not signed an IP deal (like Novell), they have nonetheless cooperated. Last year, the two companies announced a collaboration to certify that Windows and Linux will run on each other's virtualization platforms.

VMware and Red Hat increasingly have been stepping on each other's turf, according to analysis by Canonical's Chief Operating Officer Matt Asay, in a CNet blog. Asay points out that Red Hat has been moving into the virtualization space, while VMware bought SpringSource, which competes against Red Hat's JBoss middleware product.

Red Hat has given Novell stiff competition on the enterprise Linux front, but Novell has other worries. The company has been showing up on radar screens as a possible acquisition target. In March, Novell declined a $2 billion takeover bid from Elliott Associates, an investment fund.

VMware’s SpringSource Partners with Google on Cloud Computing

Report: PC Sales To Grow 20 Percent This Year

Things may be turning around in the PC market, according to new analysis by IDC.

IDC reported this week that it expects revenue in the 2010 PC market to surpass a peak that was last set in 2008. The main growth driver will come from mainstream notebooks, IDC predicts, based on its June "Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker" report. Netbooks, which IDC calls "mininotebook PCs," will play less of a role in driving PC sales, staying at less than 12 percent of sales, the analyst firm predicts.

The desktop PC is not quite dead yet, with IDC expecting growth of "over 8% in 2010." This positive expectation is based on the idea that businesses will start buying new PCs and "the popularity of All-in-One PCs." It also arises from a low earlier benchmark -- or, as IDC puts it, "a dismal 2009" for desktop PCs. However, a table accompanying IDC's announcement shows relatively flat figures for desktop PC sales -- at least in the U.S. market -- over the next four years.

Global PC sales grew 27 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared with last year's first quarter, according to IDC. The analyst firm expects to see a growth rate of 20 percent overall for global PC sales for the whole of this year.

The market will face some disruption from new portable PCs hitting the market, according to Jay Chou, an IDC research analyst.

"New devices such as e-readers and media tablets will pose disruptive challenges to conventional usage models while opening up intriguing possibilities in consumer and mobile business spaces," Chou said, in a released statement. The success of the new devices will depend on balancing the benefits of portability with having the ability to produce "creative content" on the new devices.

IDC forecasts that total worldwide PC shipments will grow from 296 million in 2009 to 570 million in 2014. In the U.S. market, total PC shipments will grow from 70 million in 2009 to 121 million in 2014, IDC predicts.

Forrester Research analysts, looking at the U.S. consumer PC market, also see some upward trends.

"Over the next five years, PC unit sales across all form factors will increase by 52%," stated Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, in a recent blog post. "In fact, desktops are the only type of PC whose numbers will be fewer in 2015 than they are today -- and even desktops will benefit from innovation in gaming and 3D."

Forrester predicts that "growth will come from new form factors like tablets, but laptop sales will increase steadily also." Tablets will start outselling netbooks in 2012, according to Forrester's report, "The US Consumer PC Market In 2015." Forrester's report, like that of IDC, also sees PCs as not quite dead yet.

"Fewer desktops will be sold in 2015 than in 2010, but in 2015, they'll still be used by more consumers than any other type of PC," Rotman Epps stated.

Report: Windows 7 Gaining Corporate Adoption

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Microsoft Unveils 'Windows Embedded Handheld' Efforts

Microsoft today described an operating system branding and restructuring effort aimed at the enterprise mobile devices market.

The first such devices based on the new "Windows Embedded Handheld" OS brand will use the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform, with the earliest release expected in the next six months, according to video comments by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer also heaped praise on Motorola for announcing today that it plans to release its ES400 enterprise digital assistant device, based on Windows Mobile 6.5, later this year.

Ballmer's comments stopped short of calling the ES400 a Windows Embedded Handheld-branded device, but that was the implication. The ES400 for GSM and CDMA networks will be available through the Motorola sales teams and from Sprint. It will have features for remote workers such as a touch screen, bar-code reader, "full-shift" battery power, Wi-Fi with push-to-talk VoIP capability, a fingerprint reader, GPS location, a camera and a three-year lifecycle, among others.

Microsoft is planning a second wave of Windows Embedded Handheld-branded phones that will be based on Windows 7, specifically Windows Embedded Compact 7. Original equipment manufacturers can select the Windows features they need for devices using this componentized OS. Those devices are expected to appear in the "second half of calendar year 2011," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Ballmer suggested that enterprises could be assured that Microsoft would protect line-of-business applications within the lifecycle of Windows Embedded Handheld products.

"We're also going to provide a clear path for enterprises to migrate line-of-business applications to our new application platform, based on Microsoft Silverlight and Visual Studio 2010," Ballmer said in the video. "These releases will provide proven management and security functionality, while giving customers confidence that investments in the handheld enterprise devices and line-of-business applications will be protected by an extended support lifecycle."

Ballmer did not explain whether there will be a clear operating system upgrade path for Windows Embedded Handheld devices, such as when migrating from Windows Mobile 6.5-based devices to those using Windows Embedded Compact 7. Earlier explanations from Microsoft associated with upgrading Windows Phone OSes (which also use the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS) have suggested either that there is no upgrade path or that it will be difficult to do.

A question to Microsoft on the OS upgrade path topic was not answered by press time.

Microsoft recently reorganized its mobile OS development efforts, as seen here. Windows Phones are managed under its Mobile Communications Business unit and that unit has the consumer market in its purview. A separate Windows Embedded Business unit oversees Windows Embedded Compact and the new Windows Embedded Handheld businesses, which are aimed at the enterprise, industrial and ruggedized device markets.

Recent high-level executive departures at Microsoft's Enterprise and Devices Division, which includes mobile efforts, were the latest signs that Ballmer aims to spur Microsoft's sometimes flagging mobile efforts. However, Microsoft's ruggedized handheld OS predominates in the market, according to VDC Research. In 2009, 87 percent of shipped ruggedized handheld devices ran Microsoft Windows Embedded CE or Windows Mobile, according to a VDC white paper (PDF download).

Ballmer's video comments weren't specific on the management functionalities that will be enabled with the new Windows Embedded Handheld devices. However, a Microsoft blog on smart phones posted on Wednesday suggested that the company is contemplating "enabling some Administrative tasks from smart phones." Possible tasks include resetting passwords, viewing the status of services and viewing service requests, but Microsoft is seeking feedback on which features to prioritize.

Such capabilities may not apply with Windows Embedded Handheld devices since they are typically designed for specific remote field work, rather than general use.

Windows Embedded Compact 7 CTP Released

Friday, June 18, 2010

Eclipse Survey Says Scrum Most Popular Methodology

Agile -- especially Scrum -- rules among developers who use Eclipse, the popular open-source IDE, according to a survey released last week.

The Eclipse Foundation reported that 15.4 percent of respondents identified Scrum as the methodology that best reflects their process for development. That was highest among specific responses, though it came in second to those who reported using no methodology, at 25 percent.

The remaining responses were fragmented among 18 other methodologies, with Agile Modeling (6.4 percent) and Extreme Programming (6.1 percent) taking third and fourth places behind Iterative (10.9 percent) among specific responses (7.8% didn’t know what they used).

The Eclipse Foundation garnered 1,696 respondents who completed the survey, conducted in April and May.

The survey also found that Linux was gaining on Windows as the preferred operating system. The number of Windows users (58.3 percent) fell 16 points from that reported in the foundation’s 2007 survey, and 6 points from the 2009 survey.

Linux, meanwhile, reported an increase of 13 points from 2007 and 6 points from 2009, coming in at 32.7 perccent.

Coders reported they used Java more than any other language (Eclipse is primarily written in Java), followed by C/C++ and PHP.

Other survey highlights include:

Subversion is the most popular source code management tool.Ant is the most popular build management tool.Linux is the most popular deployment operating system.MySQL is the most popular database.Apache Tomcat is the most popular application server.Most respondents (58.4 percent) said their organization has no plans to move to the cloud.Google is by far the biggest source of Eclipse-related information.

A PDF of the survey results is available for download here.

Tell the Boss To Get Lost (and Other Scrum Tips)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hackers Exploiting Windows XP Help Flaw

Microsoft today revised its security advisory on a Windows help function flaw, noting that the proof-of-concept code to exploit the flaw is now being used by hackers.

The flaw, described last week, just affects Windows XP systems. Microsoft ruled out earlier concerns that Windows Server 2003 might have been vulnerable, according to security advisory 2219475 revised on June 15, 2010.

"Microsoft is aware that proof-of-concept exploit code has been published for the vulnerability," the revised advisory now states. "Microsoft is also aware of limited, targeted active attacks that use this exploit code. Based on the samples analyzed, Windows Server 2003 systems are not currently at risk from these attacks."

The active attacks were also confirmed on Tuesday by software security firm Sophos. In a blog post, Sophos identified the malware as "Sus/HcpExpl-A," which is spreading through a compromised Web site. The malware will drop a Trojan (called "Troj/Drop-FS") on a user's computer.

Microsoft has published a Fix it solution that provides an automated workaround for the vulnerability. Otherwise, IT pros would need to unregister the HCP Protocol by editing the Windows Registry to ensure against possible attacks to Windows XP systems. The exploit requires the victim to click on a link in an e-mail or visit a specially crafted malicious Web page.

Microsoft is saying that it will provide any further details at its Microsoft Security Response Center blog or via its Twitter page. Possibly, the company could issue an out-of-band patch or wait to issue a fix with the next security update cycle in July. Microsoft hasn't rated the threat level of the flaw, but Sophos described it as "high."

Meanwhile, the security researcher who first disclosed details about the flaw, Tavis Ormandy, who works for Google, received additional criticism. Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, chimed in that the five days notice given by Ormandy was insufficient for Microsoft to respond to a zero-day threat.

Ormandy responded to his critics on Twitter by stating that "those five days were spent trying to negotiate a fix within 60 days."

Microsoft’s May Patch Aims at Office Vulnerabilities

SQL Azure Pricing Options Coming This Month

Microsoft today announced plans to introduce new SQL Azure pricing options later this month, based on the platform's improved scalability.

The scalability improvements of SQL Azure were announced last week as part of an opening keynote talk at Tech-Ed in New Orleans. Customers will be able to tap 50 GB maximum using Microsoft's Internet cloud-based relational database management system, starting on June 28. In addition, Microsoft added the ability to store spatial data-types using the SQL Azure service.

Microsoft offers two pricing plans for SQL Azure users: a lower cost Web Edition and a Business Edition. The Web Edition costs $9.99 per month for a relational database of 1 GB. Greater capacity at 5G is also available under this plan for $49.95 per month.

The Business Edition starts with a 10 GB relational database at the low end of the scale for $99.99 per month. Greater capacity is available in 10-GB increments for $100 more at each increment. Consequently, at the high end of the scale, it costs $499.95 per month for a 50 GB relational database.

A description of the SQL Azure price changes is provided by Microsoft here. Overall costs associated with the Windows Azure platform are listed in this table. Microsoft provides its own description of how it charges for SQL Azure services in this FAQ.

The actual type of data stored in SQL Azure doesn't affect the price. Instead, the price depends on the plan used and the relational database size, including "the amount of data passed into and out of the datacenter," according to Rob Sanfilippo, research vice president for developer and tools & strategies at Directions on Microsoft, a consultancy organization.

"Writes to the database will incur $0.10/GB of data transferred in, and reads from the database will incur $0.15/GB of data transferred out," Sanfilippo stated in an e-mail.

In addition, Microsoft calculates the charges on a per-day basis as part of the monthly service plan. The lowest cost plan, using a 1 GB relational database, does not incur a flat fee of $9.99 per month. Instead, the costs can vary depending on use.

"For example, if you deploy a 1 GB database ($9.99/month) for ten days of one month, your database fee for that month will be $3.33 ($9.99 x 10 days / 30 days)," Sanfilippo explained.

Microsoft includes the master database at no additional cost with the SQL Azure service. Sanfilippo explained that the master database "is a system-level database present on every SQL Server instance," so Microsoft just doesn't charge for the space it takes up on the SQL Azure platform.

Microsoft automatically backs up instances of databases on SQL Azure as part of the service, according to Sanfilippo. Such backups protect against data corruption or hardware failure on SQL Azure. Those wanting additional backup protections face additional costs.

"Customers should still consider backing up databases [on SQL Azure] to protect against bugs in their own software that may corrupt their data, requiring a rollback to an earlier state," Sanfilippo explained. "A backup created by a customer would incur additional charges."

Microsoft offers a service level agreement of 99.9 percent uptime for SQL Azure. It's based on the "connectivity between the database and our Internet gateway," according to Microsoft's SLA description.

On Aug. 1, Microsoft plans to begin a promotional offer for SQL Azure Business Edition users. Under the new "SQL Azure Development Accelerator Core" promo, Business Edition users can buy a 10-GB relational database increment for $74.95 per month, or 25 percent off the regular price. The deal is good for a six-month period, but the terms can be renewed.

One catch is that Microsoft charges overage costs if users exceed the increment paid for under the SQL Azure Development Accelerator promo, as described here.

SQL Server 2008 R2 Released to IT Pros

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Microsoft Issues Security Guidelines for Windows Azure

When it comes to cloud services, Microsoft is said by outside observers to have done a respectable job at ensuring that its Business Productivity Online Services and, more recently, its Windows and SQL Azure offerings are secure. But deploying applications to the cloud requires additional considerations to ensure data doesn't get into the wrong hands.

As a result, Microsoft this week released a version of its Security Development Lifecycle, which focuses on how to build security into Windows Azure applications. Microsoft over the years has updated its SDL, a statement of best practices to those building Windows and .NET applications, to ensure security of those apps.

Those practices however were not designed for the cloud, warns, Michael Howard, principal security program manager of Microsoft's Security Development Lifecycle team, speaking in a pre-recorded video statement embedded in a blog entry published this week. "Many corporations want to move their applications to the cloud but that changes the threats, the threat scenarios change substantially," Howard says.

The 26-page white paper, called "Security Best Practices for Developing Windows Azure Applications," is divided into three sections. The first describes some of the security technologies that are part of Windows Azure including the Windows Identity Foundation, Windows Azure App Fabric Access Control Service and Active Directory Federation Services 2.0. The latter, ADFS 2.0, is a core component for providing common logins to Windows Server and Azure and was released last month, as reported.

The second part of the paper explains how developers can apply the various SDL practices to build more secure Windows Azure applications. Among numerous recommendations, it outlines various threats such as namespace configuration issues and the impact of scoping cookies. It also recommends data security practices such as how to generate shared-access signatures and use of HTTPS in the request URL.

It also identities various threats including denial of service, spoofing, eavesdropping/packet sniffing and the impact associated with multi-tenant hosting and side-channel attacks. The final portion of the paper is a matrix that identifies various threats and how to address them.

"Some of those threat mitigations can be technologies you use from Windows Azure and some of them are threat mitigations that you must be aware of and build into your application," Howard says.

Security is the number one inhibitor to cloud adoption and Microsoft has addressed many key issues, according to experts. "By Microsoft providing extensive training and guidance on how to properly and securely use its cloud platform, it can overcome customer resistance at all levels and achieve revenue growth as well as dominance in this new area.," said Phil Lieberman, president of Lieberman Software Corp., a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that specializes in enterprise security. "This strategy can ultimately provide significant growth for Microsoft."

Scott Matsumoto, a principal consultant with Washington, D.C.-based Cigital Inc. (a consultancy firm that specializes in security), agreed. "I especially like the fact that they discuss what the platform does and what's still the responsibility of the application developer," Matsumoto said in an e-mail. "I think that it could be [wrongly] dismissed as a rehash of other information or incomplete -- that would be unfair."

The paper can be downloaded here.

Microsoft’s May Patch Aims at Office Vulnerabilities

Monday, June 14, 2010

Report: IT Salaries Edging Upward

Salaries for CIOs, middle managers and staff were generally higher this year compared with 2009, according to the "Mid-Year 2010 IT Salary Survey" by Janco Associates. The one exception was compensation for IT executives at midsize enterprises, where the study found a slight softening trend.

IT executives at large enterprises had a mean compensation, including bonuses, of $143,378 this year, representing a slight increase over the $142,753 found in last year's survey (June 2009), according to the report. At midsize enterprises, IT executives took a slight nick. Their mean compensation was $125,079, down from $126,031 last year.

Victor Janulaitis, Janco's CEO, said in a released statement that midsize enterprises are "much more cautious and concerned that the recovery will not be strong enough to support increased IT spending."

Middle managers and staff had higher salaries than last year, in both large enterprises and midsize enterprises, according to the study. The median salary in large enterprises for middle managers was $79,924 (vs. $79,230); for staff, the median salary was $66,230 (vs. $65,965). At midsize enterprises, the median salary was $73,217 (vs. $72,444) for middle managers and $61,047 (vs. $60,279) for staff.

The study noted that many midsize enterprises are still not hiring. Hiring for new positions has been flat "over several quarters." Layoffs have tended to focus on middle management and staff, rather than executives.

Still, the study takes a generally positive view today, especially compared with the economic downturn of late 2008. Compensation for IT professionals took a hit then from several factors, such as increased outsourcing, hiring freezes, salary caps, layoffs and even company closures.

The study listed multiple IT positions that may be less in demand today, or at higher risk of layoffs and outsourcing. Notable mentions at the large enterprise level include: manager of applications development, computer operations shift manager, supervisor of PC support and webmaster. At the midsize enterprise level, these jobs were considered less secure: director of IT planning, data warehouse manager, computer operations shift manager and network services administrator. A full list is provided in the study.

Janco Associates surveyed firms in the United States and Canada for the study. Respondents included 23,676 large companies and 27,782 midsize companies.

The study defined large and midsize companies as follows: "Large companies are companies whose gross revenues are equal to or greater than $500 MM. Mid-sized companies are companies whose gross revenues are less than $500 MM."

IBM Acquires Cast Iron Systems

ISVs Release SharePoint 2010 Tools at Tech-Ed

One month after the release of SharePoint Server 2010, the third party market for migration and management tools is heating up. A number of vendors have launched or showcased new tools for the new SharePoint release, many of which took center stage at Microsoft's Tech-Ed North America conference, held last week in New Orleans.

Among those who have recently launched tools for SharePoint Server 2010 are Axceler, AvePoint Inc., Idera, Metalogix Software Corp., Quest Software Inc., Tzunami Inc. and Vyapin Software Systems Ltd.

ISV partners say they’re seeing high demand for migration tools in part because Microsoft only offers basic tooling -- but more pointedly, interest in upgrading to SharePoint 2010 is high.

"We see it going from zero to 60," says Rick Pleczko, president and CEO of SharePoint tools ISV Idera. "We’re amazed at the amount of demand we’ve had." Pleczko says demand for SharePoint 2010 is outpacing that of SQL Server 2005, until now the most widely upgraded platform in the seven-year history of Idera.

Looking to bolster its portfolio of SharePoint administration tools, Idera week at Tech-Ed said it has acquired iDevFactory, a supplier of security administration software as reported. Idera, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, says it has 7,000 enterprise customers ranging from small to the very largest of shops. The addition of iDevFactory gives Idera a tool that will give administrators and systems auditors a view of the security of the SharePoint environment, according to Pleczko.

The deal is the second recent acquisition for Idera, which also acquired the Sonar performance management tooling from Binary Wave Ltd. in October. The latter company is a SharePoint consultancy.

Idera is not the only SharePoint tools vendor looking to bolster its portfolio. Axceler, also a supplier of SharePoint administration software, earlier this month announced it had acquired echoTechnolВ­ogy, a provider of SharePoint migration tools.

"The most important thing to SharePoint administrators is migraВ­tion," says Gail Shlansky, director of product management at Axceler. The company developed the Davinci Migrator for SharePoint 2010, released last week. The tool supports migration from multiple sources, including SharePoint 2007 and 2003, Lotus Notes and file shares, Shlansky says.

"The migration from SharePoint 2003 to 2007 was quite complex because Microsoft really didn’t provide much of an upgrade path and a lot of the functionality with the two releases was quite different, she explains. "The migration from 2007 to 2010 is better, but still there are a lot of challenges."

Davinci Migrator for SharePoint 2010 includes real-time collection of critical configuration data, which allows for discovery and planning for migrations where there are known risk issues, according to the company. It also includes detailed analysis reporting and has a rules engine as well as a core migration engine designed for consolidating the various platforms. It will be available this quarter.

Axceler also released a new version of its ControlPoint administration and configuration management tool, certified for the new SharePoint 2010 release.

Also at TechВ·Ed, Quest Software launched Server Administrator for SharePoint, which allows admins to view server configurations and settings of both SharePoint 2007 and 2010 systems. The tool is designed to let administrators optimize performance and determine risks associated with configurations. It also has reporting capabilities that help determine if a 2007 configuration is suited for migration to SharePoint 2010.

The software, available now, is priced at $1,495 per server. It comes just weeks after Quest released Site Administrator for SharePoint, which helps ensure availability, security and compliance. With the product, administrators can set policies and permissions and generate consolidated reports of log data for compliance purposes.

Gold Certified Partner Metalogix Software, another key provider of SharePoint and Microsoft Exchange Server administration software, released Metalogix Migration Manager for Blogs and Wikis. The tool is designed to migrate content from blog sites (such as Google Blogger, WordPress, Telligent, Confluence and Wikimedia or any other blog that supports the MetaWebLogAPI standard) to Office SharePoint 2007/2010 file types. It’s priced at $2 per page migrated.

Metalogix Software, which only connects to SharePoint through supported Microsoft APIs, also released SharePoint Site Migration Manager (SSMM) 2010. The tool, which starts at $6,995 per adminВ­istrator, uses Windows PowerShell scripting to transition systems and content from SharePoint 2003/2007 to the new release. The company says SSMM is suited for all migrations, from routine to very complex.

AvePoint, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, released DocAve Software Platform version 5.5, a suite of administration, storage optimization, reporting and testing, real-time replication and integration, data protection, compliance and migration tools.

Another Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Tzunami, released an upgraded version of its Tzunami Deployer for SharePoint, a migration tool designed to move content from a variety of enterprise content manageВ­ment systems to SharePoint 2010.

The graphical user interface of Tzunami Deployer supports drag-and-drop editing, and offers automated migration procedures. In addition to old versions of SharePoint, file shares and Exchange public folders, it supports migrations from EMC Documentum, EMC eRoom, Hummingbird DM, Plumtree/AqaLogic, Lotus Notes and custom repositories, according to the company.

Besides tools to ease migrations and administration of SharePoint, the release of 2010 will also spawn new offerings to bolster its capaВ­bilities. BA-Insight, for example, launched Longitude V4 for Microsoft SharePoint and FAST Search 2010 at Tech-Ed.

Logitude V4 is targeted at research analysts, sales management and other knowledge workers that need to find and use data that’s in multiple formats and locations. BA-Insight added a Silverlight Viewer and connectors to 30 different line-of-business systems.

The frenzied activity in acquisitions and product releases surrounding SharePoint migration and deployment is just one more indicator of the buzz that’s been building in the months leading up to the 2010 release. Partners looking to get in on the SharePoint 2010 action will find plenty of tools to help get that practice running, while customers have plenty of tools to choose from.

SharePoint Tools Vendor Idera Acquires iDevFactory

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Microsoft Releases June Patch Targeting 34 Flaws

Microsoft today released 10 fixes in its June security update, with three deemed "critical" and seven considered "important" to patch.

The June patch addresses 34 vulnerabilities -- the most seen so far this year. Remote code execution (RCE) exploit considerations continue to be a prominent theme with this and other Microsoft patch releases. Six of the total patches are designed to plug RCE flaws. Meanwhile, three elevation-of-privilege fixes and one tampering risk make up the remainder of the June slate.

The systems affected by these patches include Windows, Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and Internet Information Services. Also, with today's release, Microsoft will be closing out two security advisories. They include Security Advisory 983438 regarding a cross-site scripting vulnerability in SharePoint Server and Security Advisory 980088 that describes an information disclosure vulnerability in Internet Explorer.

"The crew in Redmond is kicking off the summer strong by fixing 34 vulnerabilities," said Rapid7 Security Researcher Josh Abraham. "One possible reason is that they foresee that next month they will be busy fixing vulnerabilities that are being released this summer at Black Hat/Defcon, as well as allocating resources to handle the transition of customers off of the versions of Windows that they are no longer supporting, which includes Windows 2000 and Windows XP SP2."

Critical Fixes
The fixes for the three critical vulnerabilities affect all Windows operating systems, including Windows 7. They should receive "top priority" from IT pros and Windows users, Microsoft recommends.

The first critical item resolves two privately reported vulnerabilities in Windows associated with vulnerabilities in media decompression programs. Microsoft is patching a handful of media products again this month, delivering hotfixes to ward off threats from video and audio files that could contain malware. Such patching follows a general trend. Microsoft patched DirectShow in February of this year and issued many patches to both DirectShow and GDI all through 2009. This item addresses every supported Windows OS.

Critical item No. 2 addresses two vulnerabilities that could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page that "instantiates a specific ActiveX control with Internet Explorer," Microsoft explained in the patch notes.

The third and final critical item affects Internet Explorer, covering IE versions 5.01, 6, 7 and 8 sitting on every Windows operating system currently in circulation. This fix resolves five privately reported vulnerabilities and one publicly disclosed vulnerability in IE.

Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle, said that in general, whenever Microsoft patches IE, it's the top priority to deploy the fix. He added that this rule-of-thumb approach is "doubly true" this month.

"Along with patching a previously disclosed bug, Microsoft is patching a number of other critical security issues in IE this month, including their Pwn2Own bug from CanSec West," he said. "Critical bugs are still being found in IE 8 and Windows 7, but they are harder to exploit because of Microsoft's mitigation technologies. The underlying bugs are still there, but IE protected mode, Windows DEP and ASLR make them much far less attractive to hackers."

Important Fixes
The first important item covers every supported Windows OS and resolves three bugs in the Windows kernel-mode drivers.

The second important item touches Microsoft Office XP Service Pack 3, Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 3, 2007 Microsoft Office System Service Pack 1 and 2007 Microsoft Office System Service Pack 2. This bulletin deals with weaknesses in COM validations in Microsoft Office files. The patch is designed to fix a bug that could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted Excel, Word, Visio, Publisher or PowerPoint file with an affected version of Microsoft Office.

Important item No. 3 affects every supported OS and resolves a privately reported vulnerability in the Windows OpenType Compact Font Format (CFF) driver.

The fourth important item covers the spreadsheet program Excel in Microsoft Office XP Service Pack 3, Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 3, 2007 Microsoft Office System Service Pack 1 and 2007 Microsoft Office System Service Pack 2. Also, Excel running on the Mac OS is covered under this patch.

This bulletin is particularly unique because it addresses a staggering 14 privately reported vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office.

Important item No. 5 addresses vulnerabilities in Microsoft SharePoint. Among the three vulnerabilities to be patched, one is a cross-site scripting flaw that Microsoft described earlier in a security advisory issued at the end of April. Overall, this bulletin touches Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Service Pack 1 and Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Service Pack 2.

The sixth important patch is another Windows patch affecting every OS except Windows 2000 and Windows XP. It addresses the frequently patched Internet Information Services (IIS) Web server application. The vulnerability in question here could allow an RCE attack "if a user received a specially crafted HTTP request," Microsoft explained.

The seventh and last important patch addresses a vulnerability in Microsoft .NET Framework. Microsoft describes the flaw as a "tampering" vulnerability that affects every supported Windows OS version.

All patches may require a restart.

Meanwhile, IT pros that actually still have time to look at nonsecurity updates from Microsoft can find them in this Knowledge Base article.

Abraham of Rapid7 and other security experts advise Windows enterprise customers to start reviewing their IT environments. They should access their management systems and verify that all Windows XP-based devices have been upgraded to Service Pack 3 and that all Windows 2000 devices have been replaced or removed from the network.

"The most critical area of weakness for many organizations is third-party devices that are still using these operating systems," Abraham said. "For these systems, customers will need to contact the vendor and verify the upgrade process."

Microsoft’s May Patch Aims at Office Vulnerabilities

Friday, June 11, 2010

Free Microsoft Office Web Apps Available

Microsoft launched its free Windows Live versions of Office Web Apps on Monday.

The new service is currently available in English for Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canadians can access a French version too; a Spanish version is also available for the United States. Microsoft plans to expand the service to other locales and languages in "the coming months," according to the PowerPoint team blog.

Office Web Apps are simplified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that run in supported Web browsers. These applications use the "Ribbon" user interface menu system that was first introduced in Office 2007, although the menu is far less extensive. For Windows systems, supported browsers include Internet Explorer 7 and 8 and Firefox 3.5. On the Mac operating system, Safari 4 is supported.

Users need to sign up for a Windows Live password to access the service, but it's all free. The service can be accessed anywhere using a supported browser and an Internet connection at http://www.office.live.com. Smartphone users can view Word and PowerPoint files without additional software on most devices, according to Microsoft's announcement. Printing files in Word and PowerPoint Web Apps can be done right from the browser.

Office Web Apps are tied to SkyDrive, Microsoft's storage space in the Internet cloud. SkyDrive provides Office Web App users with 25 GB of storage space, which can be used to save files and share them with others. A coauthoring feature is available, but just for Excel and OneNote. Microsoft claims that users can collaborate on a document at the same time and not be locked out, even as various people try to access it. In addition, Office Web Apps preserves a version history, which is saved on SkyDrive.

Using Office Web Apps in conjunction with Office 2010 will let users edit offline, according to Microsoft's announcement. It also enables richer features in documents, such as adding comments when coauthoring documents. Office Web Apps are targeted toward consumers and lack the management controls typically expected by business users. Microsoft has a whole other plan for business users of Office Web Apps, which may involve purchasing Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 or subscribing to Microsoft's online services.

Microsoft's announcement seemed relatively low key, even though offering free Office Web Apps to consumers via Windows Live represents a major marketing shift for the company. Customer premises-installed versions of the Microsoft Office suite have been a major cash cow for Microsoft over the years, but business users have contributed the bulk of that cash. Microsoft seems to have made the shift to free Office Web Apps in response to Google, which already offers its free Google Docs service to consumers and educational institutions.

Microsoft hopes to convert consumers to higher priced versions of Office by loading Office Starter editions on new PCs. That strategy will give Microsoft "80 percent coverage with Office 2010," said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Office Business Productivity Group. He was answering a question about the free Web Apps strategy at a UBS technology conference held on Tuesday.

Koenigsbauer also answered a question on about Microsoft's business model with SkyDrive. He explained that "about 80 percent of our [Office] revenue comes from enterprise, about 20 percent from in the consumer space." However, Microsoft sees a need to capture that 20 percent because home users of Office will be "pushing their companies to upgrade."

Microsoft will describe more about Office Web Apps next week (around June 15), which is when Office 2010 is expected to be available to consumers.

Full disclosure: This story was written in Word using the Windows Live version of Office Web Apps and saved to SkyDrive. I found the cursor the Word Office Web App to be a little nonresponsive at times while editing. The spell checker was somewhat mysterious in that it did not seem to allow a checked word to be skipped. Saving a document was rather slow.

Also, as a test, I uploaded a formatted Word document, which included an embedded graphic, a simple table and an embedded Excel workbook. The formatted text, table and graphic displayed very well -- very much like the desktop version of Word. The embedded Excel workbook did not display, but it was accessible again when the document was opened using Office 2003 on the desktop. Also, because I have Silverlight installed in Internet Explorer 8, I was able to upload multiple files by dragging them to a folder created on SkyDrive.

Guy Creese, an analyst at Gartner, recently tried out the Word Office Web App on Windows Live too. He noted in a blog post that the Word Office Web App had fewer tabs and fonts than the premises-installed version. Also, the Web App version did not support custom-mixed colors and multiple columns.

Microsoft Office Web Apps Tied to SharePoint 2010

Microsoft's New TFS 2010 Template Is Pure Scrum

Microsoft released a Scrum process template for Team Foundation Server 2010 at its Tech Ed North America conference in New Orleans this week. The new template, which is in beta, moves beyond the existing Microsoft Solutions Framework/Agile iterative development process template, and fully embraces standard Scrum terminology and processes.

Brian Harry, a Microsoft technical fellow and the product unit manager for TFS, discussed the announcement in his blog on Monday:

"Over the past couple of years, Scrum has evolved as an extremely popular iterative development process and we’ve been getting feedback that our Agile template feels unnatural for teams trying to do Scrum. For example, it uses different terminology like Iteration rather than Sprint, User Story rather than "Product Backlog item", etc."

The state transition models, terminology and reporting metrics are different in the new Team Foundation Server Scrum v1.0 Beta to match the Scrum process, according to Harry. The template includes work-items, three report types (Release Burndown, Velocity and Sprint Burndown) and a SharePoint project portal. Process guidance will be made available when version 1.0 is released.

Visual Studio 2005 Team System, Microsoft's first version of its ALM suite of tools with Team Foundation Server on the back end, shipped with two Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) process templates, MSF for CMMI and MSF/Agile 3.0.

With Team Foundation Server 2010, released in April, Agile project management is greatly improved in the existing MSF/Agile 5.0 process template, according to early adopters, who point to the new Excel planning workbooks, and hierarchical work items, among other features.

The new Scrum process template supports hierarchical work items so it is not compatible with TFS 2008/2005. It does not work with the Excel planning workbooks.

In response to a question, Harry explained that decision on his blog:

"We're in the process of designing some new Scrum sprint planning/execution tools and decided to bypass updating the workbooks unless people really felt that it was critical to have. We'll be taking feedback on priorities over the next couple of months."

Microsoft is considering developing a Task Board for TFS, according to Harry. The Conchango Task Board (now EMC Consulting) is popular among TFS developers. EMC, which acquired Conchango in 2008, has updated the process template Scrum for Team System v3.0 to support TFS 2010. Task Board v3.0 is not part of Scrum for Team System v3.0. It is now a component of a new project utility application called Scrum Masters Workbench.

The release of TFS 2010 also marked the start of the first Professional Scrum Developer Program, a training course developed by Accentient President Richard Hundhausen and co-creator of Scrum, Ken Schwaber. PSD is endorsed by Microsoft and instructor certifications are available to those that receive a 90 percent on the PSD assessment through Scrum.org, Schwaber's new company. Schwaber broke ties with the Scrum Alliance last fall.

Microsoft MVP and Certified ScrumMaster Lei Xu of ALM Networks offered a walk-through of his first experience with the new Scrum process template in his blog and overall he liked what he saw:

"Still, I don't expect too much from every v1 from Microsoft, but this Scrum Process Template is really good as it covers most of tooling requirements of scrum and it even helps you to understand many concepts of Scrum which is confusing at the beginning, e.g. where should I put my bug?"

Download the Team Foundation Server Scrum v1.0 Beta here.

Tell the Boss To Get Lost (and Other Scrum Tips)

SP1 Roadmap for Windows Server 2008 R2 Unveiled

SP1 will be available by the end of July. As mentioned in March, it will include two management capabilities. One addition, called RemoteFX technology, will support remote three-dimensional user experiences on client devices in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2. The other addition, dynamic memory, will let IT pros allocate pools of memory in Hyper-V that can shift across different virtual machines in response to workload changes.

Microsoft also announced that it plans to release a new beta of the Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) solution, called "v2 beta," which will be available in the fourth quarter of this year. Microsoft Technical Adoption Program participants can get involved earlier by signing up for the beta in mid-June, according to an MDOP blog post.

The MED-V v2 beta, when released, will allow IT pros to use Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to set up the virtual desktop infrastructure. In addition, it will enable USB and printing support when used with Virtual PC 7. MED-V is a desktop virtualization solution available to Microsoft's Software Assurance customers that comes as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) suite of tools.

On the application virtualization front, Microsoft has created a new TechNet recipe forum for App-V users. IT pros can share how they sequenced their virtual applications at the forum. Sequencing virtual apps is somewhat akin to packaging .MSI files, according to the MDOP blog.

Another announcement of note is the availability of Microsoft Exchange 2010 SP1 beta, which can be downloaded here.

Additionally, Microsoft plans to release the next version of Communications Server, code-named version "14," sometime "later this year," according to Microsoft's announcement. Only a few of the new features expected in this unified communications solution were described. They include "one-click meeting access from Outlook, SharePoint and mobile phones," plus document and application sharing improvements. A fuller list of expected features is described in this PointBridge blog.

SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 won't contain any Windows 7-specific improvements, according to a blog by Gavriella Schuster, general manager for Windows client commercial. Instead, the service pack contains a rollup of updates that are currently available through Microsoft's Windows Update service, plus some hotfixes that Microsoft created in response to feedback from partners and customers.

Microsoft disclosed a few more detail about its RemoteFX technology and how it supports a rich experience on thin clients. A video with Michael Kleef, senior product manager of Windows Server, shows how RemoteFX can enable running 3-D graphics-intensive applications such as AutoCAD, as well as high-definition video. Kleef said that the client device shown in the demo had "RemoteFX on an ASIC chip" and only "3 Watts of power." He also described using a USB port in a mobile device to access the virtual desktop infrastructure.

The RemoteFX demo, as well as another video showing dynamic memory in action, can both be accessed at this blog here.

Microsoft's announcements were all part of the opening Tech-Ed keynote talk by Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business. Muglia, speaking in New Orleans on Monday, reemphasized Microsoft's "all in" cloud focus that was highlighted back in March by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Cloud computing announcements at Tech-Ed included an updated software development kit for Windows Azure. In addition, SQL Azure now supports spatial data and Microsoft has bumped up the database capacity to 50 GB.

On top of that, Microsoft announced a public preview of Data Sync Service for SQL Azure. This service lets users synchronize a SQL Azure database with other SQL Azure databases hosted on Microsoft's servers. In that way, data can be moved closer to users, a Microsoft blog explains.

Pricing for Microsoft's Windows Azure Content Delivery Network, which delivers Windows Azure blob content from Microsoft's servers around the world, was also announced. Details on Microsoft's SQL Azure announcements and Azure CDN pricing are described in greater detail in this blog.

Cloud Computing Drives Microsoft Announcements at TechEd North America

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Flash: New Android Release Offers What Apple Won't

The latest version of Google's Android OS is officially numbered 2.2, and was nicknamed "Froyo," as in frozen yogurt. But it could also have another, just as appropriate nickname -- the "I'm not an iPhone" update.

That's because two of its most-heralded updates are features conspicuously lacking on Apple's iPhone: tethering and, more importantly, Flash capability. Apple has consistently said it disallows Flash on the iPhone because of concerns about its resource usage, which is high, and its record of insecurity; for years, Flash has been a well-known attack vector for malware.

Those concerns weren't enough to dissuade Google, which is in the midst of a very public feud with Flash owner Adobe. Android 2.2 uses Flash version 10.1 for multimedia functionality. As for tethering -- the ability to link a phone with a laptop, which acts as a modem for online access -- Apple has said it's a feature that will be added in future versions of the iPhone OS, without giving any specific timeframe.

Apart from those two upgrades, most of the changes are fairly minor. The home screen has added two new icons at the bottom, surrounding the applications symbol in the center: a phone symbol (i.e. dialer) on the left and a globe (i.e. browser) on the right. In addition, the video player has added a red "HQ" icon, for an alleged higher quality viewing experience. But initial reviews of the new setting indicate that the picture is about the same on Android 2.2 as it was on Android 2.1, also known as "Eclair."

The other upgrade important for consumers and developers alike is the improved speed of the OS. Android 2.2, claims Google, is two to five times faster than 2.1, a difference that will be especially noticeable under heavy CPU loads.

Ultimately, Android 2.2 is a more polished, more complete OS than its predecessor, and does some things that its main competition, the iPhone, doesn't do. It's already garnered a large amount of market share. It also increases the ability for mobile developers to leverage already-existing applications with Flash functionality, and to build that functionality into as-yet-unreleased applications. It will be interesting to see how Apple responds with its own iPhone upgrade, which is expected to be announced at its Worldwide Developer Conference, set to begin today.

Microsoft Embraces H.264 Video for IE 9

Business Case for Windows Phone 7 Outlined

Microsoft described its views on why its upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series operating system will meet the needs of businesses.

The approach was outlined in a Windows Phone blog post on Monday. Products using Microsoft's newest operating system for mobile devices are not yet available, but they could appear by year's end.

The company's last phone OS release, Microsoft Kin, was aimed at a younger crowd that might use the device to swap photos and chat with friends. However, for business users, Microsoft envisions Windows Phone 7 as integrating with other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office, Exchange and SharePoint. This integration of the Microsoft stack appears to be Microsoft's main argument for business adoption of Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft explained that it isn't trying to recreate the Windows desktop experience on the phone with the Windows Phone 7 OS. Instead, Microsoft plans to leverage something called the "Office hub," which will provide the familiar Office user interface. Users will have access to e-mail, contacts and calendars, as well as collaboration apps.

The blog promises that IT organizations will be able to tap into existing investments in Office, Exchange and SharePoint with Windows Phone 7. The OS will integrate with Exchange for e-mail, contacts and calendar. Collaboration is accomplished via SharePoint and the SharePoint Workspace client. Secure access to the corporate network can be enabled through Microsoft Forefront Universal Access Gateway.

Organizations will be able to use "Outlook Mobile and the Office hub" to tap into Microsoft's services, such its Business Productivity Online Suite or hosted Exchange and SharePoint, according to the blog.

Windows Phone 7 OS protects data through "application sandboxing," which prevents channels from being opened between applications, according to the blog. Applications get certified before being released through Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace. Secure transmission is enabled through 128- or 256-bit Secure Socket Layer encryption.

IT organizations can manage the password policies of Windows Phone 7 devices. The OS enables "managed EAS polices such as Require Password, Password Strength, Remote Wipe and Reset to Factory Settings with multiple failed unlock attempts," according to the blog.

Windows Phone 7 represents something of a break from Microsoft's earlier Windows Mobile tradition. A Microsoft official told APC in March that Windows Mobile 6.x-based phones "will not be upgradable" to the upcoming Windows Phone 7 OS. In addition, partners and developers are expected to have to rebuild their Windows Mobile 6.x apps for Windows Phone 7.

There also may be some pain points for organizations migrating to Windows Phone 7.

"We understand that migrating from Windows Mobile 6.1 or 6.5 to Windows Phone 7 will take effort," the blog explains, without being specific. "However, many customers we have spoken with thus far have told us that these are steps they are willing to take in order to achieve a new level of usability and productivity."

Microsoft Office Web Apps Tied to SharePoint 2010

Cloud Computing Drives Microsoft Announcements at TechEd North America

Microsoft's annual TechEd North America conference for developers and IT kicked off today in New Orleans. During the opening keynote, Microsoft's Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools Business, set forth the company's visions for dynamic IT and the cloud. The keynote centered on product enhancements to the Azure platform, Bing Maps, Windows 7, Windows Server and Communications Server, among other technologies.

The company is continuing to work on furthering the symmetry between its on-premise and cloud applications. "What we are focusing on is taking all of the features and capabilities that exist today in Windows Server and SQL Server and bringing that into the Windows Azure and the SQL Azure environment," said Muglia. "And we are taking the service learning that we have from Windows Azure and other properties like Bing and bringing it back into Windows Server, SQL Server, and System Center."

Microsoft is helping its customers move their investments in applications forward, according to Muglia, with a common identity, application and management model based on Active Directory, the .NET Framework and System Center. "[W]e think that there should be only one model, one platform across all of things so that all of the learning, the skills, the tools, the management environment that you have today is leveraged regardless of whether you are building clouds in your own data center, whether you are working with partners that are providing clouds or you are running apps in that environment, or whether you are building and deploying apps on the Windows Azure environment," he said.

Updated Tooling for Windows Azure

For developers, the biggest news is .NET Framework 4 support in Windows Azure. Microsoft Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio 1.2 (June 2010), which includes the Windows Azure Software Developer Kit (June 2010), fully supports the Visual Studio 2010 RTM. That means the new historical debugging (IntelliTrace) in Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate has been extended to Windows Azure and SQL Azure services. Jim Nakashima, Microsoft program manager on the Windows Azure Tools team, details how IntelliTrace works in Azure in his Cloudy in Seattle blog.

With the updated Visual Studio tooling, developers can "publish" services from within the IDE's Solution Explorer. Server Explorer now offers a read-only view of Windows Azure Tables and Blob storage and adds a Windows Azure Compute feature for service monitoring.

The Windows Azure Content Delivery Network, designed for edge caching of public Windows Azure Blobs that are less than 10GB, is generally available, starting today. The service, which was previewed in November, is designed to provide higher bandwidth by copying content and moving it closer to end users. Microsoft is expected to start billing for the CDN service July 1st.

SQL Azure was enhanced to support spatial data types and up to 50-GB storage. Microsoft is also previewing the SQL Azure Data Sync Service, which uses the Microsoft Sync Framework to enable synchronization of SQL Azure databases in Windows Azure data centers. This is an extension of the Data Sync for SQL Azure tooling, found in the Microsoft Sync Framework PowerPack for SQL Azure November CTP, which utilized the Microsoft Sync Framework to sync SQL Server on-premise data with SQL Azure services.

The SQL Azure Data Sync Service furthers the Project Huron vision, according to Microsoft program manager Liam Cavanagh, who is offering a TechEd session (June 8) on the new service and its potential use with clients such as Silverlight and Windows Phone 7. He explained in the Microsoft Sync Framework blog today:

"[I]t provides you the ability to extend that data to the location closest to your end users. All the while our scheduled synchronization service moves changes back and forth between these databases ensuring that changes get propagated to each of the databases in the data center. In conjunction with SQL Azure Data Sync, this data can also be synchronized back on-premises."

Microsoft will start to add registered users to the SQL Azure Data Sync preview next week, according to Cavanagh. Register here by clicking on SQL Azure Data Sync.

Microsoft SQL Server Web Manager, described as a management tool for developing and deploying Web applications was also announced.

In addition, the Bing Map App SDK is available for download starting today. It enables developers to use their own data with Bing Maps to create applications and services. Qualified apps may be featured in the Bing Maps Gallery. According to Chris Pendleton, the Microsoft Bing Maps Tech Evangelist, the developer sandbox is the actual Bing Maps site, which has been upgraded to Silverlight 4. The Silverlight Pivot Viewer for data visualizations is expected this month, according to today's announcements. Read more about the SDK and new apps here.

Windows Service Packs in July

The Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 betas are expected in July. Windows 7 SP1 will include all patches and security fixes, rather than new features, according to Muglia. The Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 will add enhanced graphics support for desktop virtualization with Remote FX, technology that stems from the Calista Technologies acquisition. An extension to Hyper-V for allocating resources called Dynamic Memory will be available in Standard, Web, Enterprise and Data Center editions. Microsoft announced the Service Packs in March.

The Windows Server AppFabric was also released to manufacturing today. The AppFabric extensions help manage composite apps, through an app server (Dublin) and distributed caching (Velocity), to enable highly scalable Web applications, according to Microsoft. The technology is available at no additional cost to people with licenses for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

The obligatory glitch during the keynote came during the demo of the social networking features of Office Communications Server "14," expected later this year. Microsoft Communicator 2010 Attendee, a meeting app with support for a soft phone and high definition video (720p HD) enabled by third-party Web cams was highlighted. While the virtual meeting seemed to work, the real time Office document sharing fizzled when PowerPoint wouldn't load. Communication Server integrates with Exchange Server 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

In other news, the Microsoft Exchange Server SP1 Beta is available today for download.The Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) v2 Beta is slated for the fourth quarter, according to today's announcements.

Some highlights of the keynote included a look at the Chicago Tribune's use of Windows Azure, which is allowing the media company to downsize from 32 datacenters to three, two of its own and one run by Microsoft. James Cameron made a video appearance to discuss Project GAIA, a customized app built with help from Microsoft that provided a digital hub and repository for Avatar data and files, which required fail proof security.

Dogfooding was another topic as Microsoft CIO Tony Scott talked about how IT is handled at Microsoft. "Everything we do from here on out, we are developing for the cloud first," he said.

Microsoft Releases Service Pack 2 for App-V 4.5