Tech-Ed North America 2011: Day 0 – Recap

After following the very poor directions given to me about finding the shuttle to bring me to the hotel, and being lied to and ripped off for 20 bucks (yes, I’m bitter.), I made it to my hotel, the Marriott Marquis in Downtown Atlanta. Check in was fairly effortless, and I’ve got a very nice room on an upper floor of the hotel with a great view of the city. For the week, Microsoft has invested in custom room keys, sponsored by Windows Intune, with an attached map of the downtown area.

After getting settled in my room, I met up with Randy Guthrie, Academic Developer Evangelist and some Imagine Cup USA Finals winners as well as other invited students, and had a quick bite to eat while waiting for everyone to arrive. Once everyone arrived, we made the 15 minute walk over to the Georgia World Congress Center, and along the way passed by CNN Center, World of Coca-Cola, and the Phillips Arena. While at the GWCC, took a quick walking tour of where keynote would be, the exhibit hall, bloggers lounge, etc. After the tour was over, we went out to dinner and then made final arrangements for the morning.

On Day 1 we’ll see announcements from Jason Zander and Robert Wahbe and from what I’m hearing these announcements will be interesting.

Here are some photos from Day 0:

Tech students, want to get ahead of the curve?

If you answered yes to the above question, then may I suggest that you check out an offer that Microsoft has for you.

Microsoft is offering all students a free 30-day pass for access to Windows Azure. Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing offering, and by using tools that you are most likely already familiar with such as Visual Studio, IIS, C#, and SQL Server, you can build web applications that are highly reliable, scalable, and can be built quickly.

The 30-day trial pass includes:

  • 4 small compute instances
  • 3GB of storage
  • 250,000 storage transactions
  • Two (2) 1GB Web Edition databases
  • 100,000 Access Control transactions
  • 2 Service Bus connections
  • 3GB in/out data transfer (per region)

By signing up for and using Windows Azure, you will gain valuable experience into the future of computing. More and more companies are moving towards cloud based computing, and you as a student and an end user are already using cloud-based services. If you own an iPod or a Zune and buy music through Apple or Microsoft, that’s a cloud service. If you like Dominos pizza and order online, you’re using a cloud service (powered by Windows Azure). Are you a Gmail user or a Hotmail user? Then you are a user of a cloud based service. See where I’m going with this? Cloud computing is where the future is at.

If you’re ready to dive in, click here, and use the promo code AC30D to sign up. (there isn’t a continue button, so you’ll have to press enter after typing in the promo code.)

If you’re not so sure, and want to learn more about Windows Azure, click here.

What’s new with Windows Azure?

Last week at PDC 2010, Microsoft announced some new features in Windows Azure. Here’s a quick rundown of those new features along with my take.

New Management Portal: Azure’s management portal is getting a much needed facelift and better integration. If you’ve used Azure at all, you’ll know that there are three different management pieces and having to go back and forth can be a pain. Well, that’s all changing. Coming soon, the new portal will be Silverlight powered and the three sites will be integrated into one. I think this is great, and I wonder why this wasn’t done sooner.  Expect availability sometime before the end of 2010.

Admin Mode: I’m excited about this one. Currently, if you develop an application for the Azure cloud and deploy it and issues occur there currently are not many ways to diagnose the failure. Admin Mode, essentially Remote Desktop, changes things. With Admin Mode, you are able to RDP into your Web Roles and manage them just as if they were being run on a physical server in your own datacenter. Expect availability sometime before the end of 2010.

Full IIS Support: Currently when an application is deployed into the Azure cloud, it is deployed into a highly customized version of IIS. With the new Admin Role, Microsoft is extending Full IIS support. Meaning that you’ll be able to deploy your application into the Azure cloud with the same flexibility as deploying an app in-house. Expect availability sometime before the end of 2010.

Multiple Administrators: Right now, Azure is limited to two administrators per service account. Microsoft will now allow multiple administrators per service account. Expect availability sometime before the end of 2010.

VM Role: Microsoft will now offer the ability to create a Virtual Machine and host it in the Azure cloud. Windows Server 2008 R2 VMs will be supported first with Server 2003 coming later. Key caution is that these are not stateful VMs, they revert to the uploaded image upon restart. Expect CTP availability sometime before the end of 2010 and a final release in 2011.

Extra Small Compute Instance: Microsoft is now offering an extra small instance that includes a 1GhZ processor, 768MB of RAM, and 20GB of disk space, all for $0.05/hr. I think this is a great starter option and can be used for smaller scale cloud applications. Available now.

These are in my opinion some of the top new features in Windows Azure. There are many more, such as SQL Reporting Services support in SQL Azure, finalization of the SQL Azure Database Manager, and some updates to the Azure AppFabric.

For more information, I highly suggest visiting the Microsoft PDC website and viewing sessions related to Azure. Click here to visit the Microsoft PDC website.

Windows Server Code Name “Aurora” Public Preview now available

Dashboard3

Today along with the release of the August Preview build of Windows Home Server “Vail”, Microsoft has released the first public preview of Windows Small Business Server “Aurora.”

Windows Small Business Server “Aurora” is what I’m going to call the younger brother of Small Business Server. Aurora is designed to be the “bridge to the cloud,” with on-premise features such as network monitoring, remote access, PC backup, and cloud features, such as e-mail and collaboration through services such as Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services Standard Suite (BPOS).

Aurora is designed for small businesses with less than 25 users and do not have the resources or budget for an SBS or even higher setup.

Aurora and Vail share the same code base so there is some feature overlap, and in the case of Aurora, the “home” features such as media sharing have been removed. Some of the features of Windows Small Business Server “Aurora” are listed below.

  • Active Directory integration for enterprise grade user and resource management.
  • Remote Web Access to files, computers, and applications created by third parties
  • Integration with Microsoft’s online service offering, BPOS
  • Client Connector and PC Backup of Mac OS X clients (must be using 10.5 or above)
  • Launchpad for quick access to common tasks
  • Drive Extender storage technology, first introduced with Windows Home Server v1, for easy upgrades and management of server storage

While this release is a public preview, it is not recommended that you use Aurora for production use as there is no support and there are some issues around server storage. I’ve listed those issues below.

  • There is a QFE available along with this build that addresses an issue where saving files to an Aurora server may fail when a large amount of data is present on the server. It is advised that this QFE be installed immediately after installing Aurora.
  • Storage Check and Repair is broken in this release, as under certain conditions, there may be data loss.
  • If a hard drive goes missing from the storage pool and you attempt to remove that missing hard drive from the storage pool, the removal wizard may inadvertently remove the wrong files from your server.

For the build number curious amongst us, this is Build 7657 and is available from Microsoft Connect today. The CRC and SHA1 hashes for the ISO have been posted below along with steps to check the integrity of the downloaded ISO.

Hashes for today’s release:

Volume label: GR0SAAxFRE_EN_DVD
CRC: 0x15C92BAA
SHA1: 0x83D7341DB9916145749A02B010981494227F1166

To run MSCDCRC against an ISO file that you have downloaded follow these steps.

  1. Download MSCDCRC to the same folder that you downloaded the Vail ISO to. (Click here to download MSCDCRC)
  2. Open a Command Prompt window and navigate to the folder from Step 1
  3. Type "MSCDCRC InstallDVD.iso" (without quotes)
  4. The integrity check will take a few moments to complete. After the check is complete compare the CRC and SHA hashes to the hashes posted below
  5. If the hashes match then you have successfully downloaded the ISO