Review of the MDC at NYC

trav-035 For those of you who may be wondering where yesterday’s post was, here’s what happened…

I went to the New York MSDN Developer Conference, a one-day event that gave me a fly-by of what’s currently available, what’s coming, and a taste of how to program to it.  The conference itself was only $99 and we got a pretty good lunch out of the deal and got to watch the inauguration during lunch.  However, NY is kind of a hike for me, so I also needed to pay for a room at the hotel, dinner that night, and parking, which I split with a friend.  There was also a day’s worth of programming I was not able to do.  So, the cost to me was significantly more than $99.00.

The question becomes, was the conference worth the cost?

There were three tracks I could have participated in: Azure Services Platform, Client and Presentation, and Tools, Languages and Framework.  I stayed in the Client and Presentation track for the entire conference.

It was definitely worth the $99.00.  I would say it gave me a much clearer understanding of Azure, for example, and why I probably won’t need to pay that much attention to it for a while.  It also gave me a pretty clear understanding of MVC.  I don’t think that’s going to be too hard to pick up for anyone who’s done struts programming in the JAVA/JSP world.

Keynote:
I can’t remember a whole lot about the Keynote other than I think I finally get what Azure is all about.  They also did a short presentation on Windows 7 but I don’t get too excited about operating systems so I didn’t care much about it.

The best way of describing Azure to someone who doesn’t know what it is or why they would need it is that it is “Windows Server Farm meets Linux Beowulf Clusters and Grid Computing.”  Microsoft is already using this platform to provide things like hosted Exchange servers.

What this gives you that a normal web farm does not is the ability to ask for more CPU’s as you need them, and a disperse network of servers so that your information is served up from a server close to where your customer is rather than from a server that is close to where you are.

What is particularly useful about having the ability to ask for more CPUs as you need them is that if you have a process that only needs lots of CPU power occasionally, you can request the CPUs for the time that you need them and release them back into the cloud when you are done, thereby only paying for what you need when you need it, rather than paying for and building out your own farm for the relatively few times you are actually going to use it.

I can think of several practical uses for it, however I can’t think of very many practical uses any of my clients would need it for.

WPF and Silverlight:
These were actually two different sessions but I will cover them together here since they are so similar.  The main take-away from these is that the time to start learning these is now.  In fact, if you are currently using Windows Forms for your Windows programming, you’ll want to seriously consider planning a transition strategy to WPF or you may find yourself so far behind that you’ll either need to do a  complete rewrite of your system or you’ll end up being an application that can’t move forward.

Silverlight, on the other hand, is cool, but I’m still having trouble seeing how that’s going to help me write a web application that does any better than what I can do with jQuery and jQuery UI or some other javascript GUI framework.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I’d leave Silverlight on the shelf until I needed some performance that I couldn’t otherwise get.

MVC:
This is another technology that you need to start learning now.  The Beta is available at CodePlex.  It is different from WebForms development but that does not mean that it is hard to learn.  The current weaknesses seem to be centered around forms authentication and the fact that MVC really isn’t intended to work with WebForms controls.  You can use them, but that’s not how MVC was designed to be used.

jQuery:
I was probably the most disappointed in this presentation, but that’s probably because it is the one topic I know the most about.  They did effectively show that you can use jQuery in conjunction with MS-ajax.  But they showed everything from an entirely MS-AJAX perspective.  So instead of being a presentation on jQuery that showed how it worked well ASP.NET, it ended up being a presentation on MS-AJAX showing how it worked well with jQuery.  In the end, I’m not sure this convinced anyone to use jQuery and I’m sure many people walked away from the presentation wondering what all the fuss about jQuery is about.

Conclusion:
Would I do it again?  Maybe.  I have a much better understanding of what I need to spend time learning over the next year or so.  But it will probably be a while before I travel anywhere where I need to spend a night to attend the conference.

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