Tech.Ed 2011 a feast in more ways than one

Computerworld spends the day at the 16th Tech.Ed in New Zealand

Tech.Ed 2011 kicked off today in Auckland, with a keynote appearance by former Fairfax CEO and All Blacks captain David Kirk, who noted, among other things, that when Fairfax acquired Trade Me under his CEO-ship, some questioned the $750 million price tag.

At the time unfavourable comparisons were made with the price Fairfax paid for New Zealand’s indigenous auction website and that which Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation paid for the then-hip MySpace social networking site. It was felt Murdoch had driven a harder bargain.

Kirk took some pleasure in pointing out the relative status of Trade Me and MySpace today, and the success of Trade Me, which is a significant user of Microsoft development technologies, was demonstrated at several sessions at Tech.Ed, including “Trade Me: 0-70 million pages in 0.34 Gigaseconds”.

Kirk was also present onstage during a preview of the online experience that Microsoft has helped build for the official Rugby World Cup site. Once the tournament gets underway the website will feature videos of games that will include rolling updates of match statistics while you watch.

The opening keynote session, also featured an address from Microsoft Worldwide Services chief technology officer Norm Judah who claimed that "virtualisation is here" and that the "cloud is closer than you think".

The difference between virtualisation and cloud services is automation, according to Judah. "It's about taking the things that operators would do and making them repeatable and predicatable."

Judah told the audience that the cycle of product releases is changing dramatically - from a 2-3 year cycle to 2-3 months, and even 2-3 weeks.

"You need to start thinking about writing your applications as services and no longer as packaged software and that transition is very dramatic," he told the audience.

Judah says that Microsoft's long-term vision is to group its products in two layers - software and services on one layer and devices on the other. The device layer has three major products - Xbox where the business model is one vendor, Windows phone where there are ten vendors, and Windows which has hundreds of vendors.

He was quick to assure developers that their skill sets would still be relevant with the release of the Windows 8 device. But more information about its user interface wasn't forthcoming from him today - this will be unveiled at the Build Conference in California next month he said.

Following the keynote, the sessions got underway, with the near two thousand of attendees selecting ones that were pertinent to their area of expertise. The cloud featured heavily in many of the sessions, confirming its status as the most significant trend in software development and delivery in the past few years.

Here are some highlights and tips from the non-session parts of the conference:

Lunch: great – good variety, vegetarian options plentiful, but remember, don’t overindulge, especially on the carbs, otherwise you feel sleepy at the afternoon sessions. The squid rings were a treat, so much so that one attendee piled his plate with them exclusively. For something sweet after lunch, the Turkish delight and fondue fountain was hard to beat.

Prize draws: There were several of these held over the lunch sessions, but some poor souls missed out, because their names were drawn from the hat, but they weren’t at The Hub (the exhibitors area previously named Market Place) at the time of the draw.

Coffee: After the end of some of the afternoon sessions, it was temporarily unavailable. But password management vendor Thycotic came to the rescue, with free barrista coffee at The Hub during that drowsy mid-afternoon time when a caffeine jolt is required. Kudos to Thycotic.

Old-fashioned technology: Several exhibitors at The Hub had racing-themed displays and screens available for attendees to try, but Jade Software’s old-fashioned physical racing car set, which was used to demonstrate a race between two development technologies in completing a task, was pretty cool.

Subliminal marketing: All of Tech.Ed is one big marketing opportunity for those vendors who sign up, but Gen-i went one step further and placed marketing collateral in a place where it had the consumer’s undivided attention – on the inside of toilet cubicle doors.

Conference satchel: And, finally, it’s not a Computerworld Tech.Ed piece without something on "The Bag". This year’s satchel was functional, stylish, and understated, performing its role without distracting from the conference itself.

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