Plenty of buzz at Microsoft’s Tech-Ed 98

Microsoft's Tech-Ed conference, attended by about 500 individuals in Auckland, showed off a range of the company's key technology tools - including Visual Interdev 6.0, Visual Java 6.0, SQL 7.0 data transformation services and the repository. But the highlight was the motorbikes.

Microsoft’s Tech-Ed conference, attended by about 500 individuals in Auckland, demonstrated several technology tools I am itching to use. These included Visual Interdev 6.0, Visual Java 6.0, SQL 7.0 data transformation services and the repository.

The main thrust of the development tools over the past year or two has been to integrate all the tools into Visual Studio. To celebrate this, all the tools have been renumbered to version 6.0 whether they have reached stagnation (VB6.0) or are nearly ready for market (VJ6.0).

Visual Interdev 6.0, a tool to help professional developers produce database-oriented Internet/intranet systems, does feel as if it has reached maturity and will become significant for many developers. An inter-language demonstration switched backward and forward between Visual Basic and Visual Java.

It showed that VJ still has a way to go in the performance area. However, the immaturity of the Java market does mean that VJ is still a highly competitive product.

With SQL Server 7.0, Microsoft is trying to redefine the RDMS product niche by bundling a data modelling tool, decision support services and a data transformation tool set. The data transformation tool provides flexible import, export and copying facilities. There is a diagramming tool that allows you to define these facilities and it is definitely worth investigation.

Looking back, what were the low and high points of the conference? Without hesitation, I can say that the low point was starting at 7.30 on the Friday morning without access to caffeine until 10.27 (yes I was clock-watching). Choosing the high point is much harder. The most exciting moment was when high-speed motor cycles rushed around indoors close to stationary developers. One could see this evolving into a management practice for stimulating late projects.

In picking a strategic direction from this plethora of products, Microsoft would seem to have embarked on a host-centric path where the host is NT and the clients are DHTML thin clients. Many of the newer technologies, including COM+ and MSMQ, seem to be aimed at allowing us to write reliable systems on top of an unreliable infrastructure. While the presenters specifically mentioned the network, one could not help but wonder about NT’s resilience. I saw nothing to suggest relief is close at hand.

On the component side, I was personally disappointed in the COM+ direction. I was hoping it would steal a few ideas from Corba and Java RMI. But no, the Microsoft Transaction Server philosophy is being integrated down into the bones of COM.

Was attending worthwhile? Without hesitation, I can say it was professionally informative and thoroughly enjoyable. My thanks to Chris Thodey, Dave Thompson and all the local Microsoft team.

Reynolds is an independent consultant based in Auckland.

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