You learn a lot about a company after being on its campus for two days. Microsoft's no different. The company's main campus in Redmond is huge, with tens of thousands working there daily. With so many people, my meetings cut across business and product lines, and I was able to get a bunch of good insight, as well as some bits and pieces that I find newsworthy and interesting, including some release dates and/or new details about Windows Live, security, management and developer tools. So, onto a blog of news and notes.First, some stats and interesting notes:
Microsoft has thousands of people working in online services, according to Adam Sohn, a director in the Windows Live group.
In total, all of Microsoft's Web sites combined get more than a half billion unique visitors every month.
Microsoft blocks 5 billion spam e-mails every day.
Microsoft's services all run on Windows machines on the back end, and with very few exceptions use SQL Server for database stuff.
There are 450 million machines managed by Windows Update, and Microsoft delivers more than a petabyte of updates monthly.
One of my meetings was with Sohn, who's ostensibly a PR director in the online services business, but is very plugged in, from what I could tell. We talked extensively about Microsoft's services platform architecture. After Sohn drew a diagram up on the conference room's whiteboard, I asked if something would be needed to pull everything together, gently avoiding any mention of Windows Live Core, Microsoft's potential "cloud OS," by name, since I knew Microsoft isn't talking much on that front. Here's what he said during the ensuing conversation: "In order to enable an ecosystem, you've got to get to a point where people can count on you. We need people to bet businesses on [our online platform]. We want, pick any huge Internet company, to be doing stuff on top of our services ... It's now time to operationalize the platform ... There will be some game-changing moves our company will have to make to be successful in the new world." He also said the Windows Live team works some with Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie and a lot with corporate VP of Windows Live Core David Treadwell "and those guys." Apparently, we're going to hear some more details at Mix, though from what I can gather, the main topic of conversation there is going to be more about Silverlight and the Expression line of design tools, so I don't know how much more we'll hear there.
Microsoft sees a big future for the role of SQL Server in the services world. As mentioned above, it already powers the Live properties. Another online customer is MySpace. Microsoft even seems to be on an evolutionary path toward hosting SQL Server, though that wasn't said explicitly. "Ultimately, the cloud will participate in [SQL Server's] end-to-end ecosystem," says Ted Kummert, Microsoft's corporate VP of data and storage platforms. "I see what we'll do in the future in terms of hosting this as much more evolutionary from what we're doing today with our customers." He then rattled off concepts like helping customers handle questions of multitenancy, security, privacy, quality of service, and economics to guide them toward a successful services model. Kummert ran MSN a few jobs ago, where he says he says he learned, among other things, a lot about how customers can use software-as-a-service.
Kummert wouldn't say much about the next version of SQL Server, code-named Katmai, except to refer back to the developmental pillars of the product line, like fundamentals of total cost of ownership and availability and a move to be able to handle more types of data than traditional relational databases can. He wouldn't comment on release dates, other than to say SQL Server is on a 24 to 36 month release cycle. That pegs Katmai's release at some time during 2008.
Microsoft plans to begin shipping its Forefront security line and some System Center management products (a few have already been launched, others are in beta, some are in beta but slated for later release) at a May 2 launch event in San Diego, according to Andy Lees, Microsoft's corporate VP of server and tools marketing and solutions. "People will ask why are you doing security and management launch at the same time? They want everything to work together," he says. "If there's a security issue, guess where they want that information to come up? In the same management tools." However, as I was walking through a hallway in one of the buildings, I noticed a release schedule for System Center Configuration Manager 2007 -- formerly Systems Management Server -- which said the final release would be May 18, 2007. It's currently in Beta 2. We'll see how well the final release date holds, or if Microsoft pushes that up to the May 2 event.
Lees says Microsoft will release a new version of what is now its Antigen e-mail and collaboration security products within a year.
Lees also says the reason for the delay of the public beta for Microsoft's Viridian visualization technology for Windows Server isn't just performance and scalability, as Mike Neil, general manager of Microsoft's virtualization strategy, reported in an earlier blog. Lees says its also about tweaking the technology so that it will have a "very core level of integration" with Windows Server Longhorn, which is still due out in the second half of this year.
I asked S. Somasegar, corporate VP of Microsoft's developer division, about the future of cross-platform development. While Silverlight is a good start -- the Flash competitor runs on Windows and the Mac -- Somasegar seemed extremely eager to tell me more. Unfortunately, his PR handlers and one of his colleagues weren't so inclined. Yet. All he could say was to expect more about cross-platform development at Mix. I'm currently trying to set up a follow-up interview with him there so we can chat about what this mysterious cross-platform news might be.
Now, for the news stuff: