Developer Days 2000: Bigger Than Ever

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 10, 2000 — John Coffey, vice president for customer architecture at Moss Software, says it all started out rather simply. As he remembers it, a handful of software developers gathered to play pool at Gillian’s, a bar near downtown Seattle. At one point, talk turned to the notion of creating an event that would give colleagues who worked with Microsoft products a chance to get together and trade notes. That was back in 1994. The idea was to give software developers who made a living programming for the Microsoft platform a forum for sharing war stories and tips.

Of course, Coffey and his fellow pool players weren’t just a random group of programmers who wandered into the same bar at the same time. He is one of eight original Microsoft Regional Directors, a select group of independent software developers who act as unpaid evangelists to the developer community for Microsoft products and technologies.

Their discussion back in 1994 led to the creation of Microsoft Developer Days. Held for the first time in 1995, it has become the company’s largest technical training event. Today at Microsoft Developer Days 2000, more than 25,000 software developers will gather in 34 cities across North America to get the “inside scoop” on the latest Microsoft tools and technologies. In the weeks that follow, a total of 100,000 developers worldwide will have the chance to attend the event as it moves to venues around the globe.

According to Coffey, anticipation during the run-up to Developer Days 2000 was at an all time high, and not just among developers who were looking forward to taking home a bag full of free stuff. This year, Developer Days takes place on the heels of the Microsoft Enterprise 2000 Launch. The biggest product launch in Microsoft history, the Enterprise 2000 Launch saw the announcement of nine new server products — the .NET Enterprise Servers — created specifically to meet the needs of enterprise customers.

“At DevDays, there’s free lunch, free software, and free shirts, so everyone is excited,”
says Coffey. As a Regional Director, he will serve as the host for the Long Beach, California, Developer Days 2000 gathering.
“But the real reason for the excitement is that they know they are going to get deeply educated on the Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers. With .NET, Microsoft has shown that it really understands the enterprise, that it knows what’s important for IT managers, and that it has the tools and technologies that developers need to meet the needs of enterprise customers.”

Tim Huckaby, the Regional Director who is hosting the San Diego Developer Days 2000, agrees.
“This year’s Developer Days is special,”
says Huckaby, who is the principle engineer at InterKnowledgy, a software engineering firm that writes Web applications for intranets, extranets, and the Internet.
“.NET is the most exciting thing going in the computer industry, not just for Microsoft and not just today, but since I started out in this business back in the 1980s. With .NET, our world is changing for the better because now we’re going to have tools that no one ever dreamed of to write powerful enterprise applications effectively and quickly.”

The Dawn of the .NET Era

Although the complete lineup of the .NET Enterprise Server family was officially launched just two weeks ago, it is already having a major impact on the way business users think about technology. Created to provide the foundation for the next generation of XML-enabled applications, the .NET Platform offers unmatched levels of performance, scalability, reliability, and integration. As business decision makers search for the best way to take advantage of the Internet to create flexible, cost-effective global networks of employees, partners, and customers, they are finding that the .NET Enterprise Servers give them a huge advantage.

Part of that advantage comes from the depth and breadth of the entire .NET Platform. Built on top of Windows 2000, the .NET Enterprise Server family is a comprehensive set of applications that includes Application Center 2000, BizTalk Server 2000, Commerce Server 2000, Exchange 2000 Server, Host Integration Server 2000, Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2000, Mobile Information 2001 Server, and SQL Server 2000.

Taken together,.NET Enterprise Servers gives companies the tools they need to achieve business agility.
“.NET lets companies take advantage of the Web in much richer and more robust ways,”
says Barry Goffe, Group Manager of Microsoft’s .NET Developers Solutions Group.
“It’s everything from the ability to integrate applications behind and across firewalls, to the support of next-generation standards like XML and SOAP. It’s also the ability to deliver a totally new category of functionality called orchestration which helps businesses integrate applications at the process level instead of at the transaction level. That means unmatched flexibility and speed in taking advantage of new market opportunities and market trends.”

The advantage also comes from the built-in ease of development that makes it far simpler to create mission-critical enterprise applications than ever before.
“The truth is that writing software these days isn’t that difficult,”
says Huckaby.
“But shipping hardware is still very difficult, especially on the Web. Every developer knows this. With .NET, not only will it be easy to write software, but we’ll now have the tools we need to get it done, and get it live on the Web. That’s going to help developers immensely and it’s going to bring down IT costs for companies considerably.”

A fast-growing number of companies have seized on these advantages and have already deployed new systems that use some or all of the .NET Platform. At the Enterprise 2000 Launch, Microsoft announced that more than 100 leading corporations were using .NET technologies, including Ford Motor Co., Home Shopping Network, Honeywell, Lycos, RadioShack, and Wall Street Journal.com. Many of the companies that have implemented .NET Enterprise Servers have switched over from systems that utilized Sun and Oracle products.

One company that has made the move to .NET is FreeMarkets. The Pittsburgh-based eMarketplace company brings together buyers from the world’s largest companies with suppliers from around the globe. More than 5,000 suppliers from over 50 countries have taken advantage of FreeMarkets to realize new business opportunities. Buyers have purchased more than $7 billion worth of goods and services through FreeMarkets since 1995, and saved nearly $1.5 billion in the process.

Until recently, FreeMarkets’ system was built on a mix of technologies that included Microsoft products and other development and deployment tools. But with business expanding at a very brisk pace, decision makers at FreeMarkets saw a growing need to move to a single, reliable platform that would scale to meet tremendous growth in both users and the volume of business conducted through its eMarketplace. After a careful look at all of the options, including Unix and Java, the company chose to go solely with Microsoft technologies.

“When we looked at the total cost, the robustness of Windows 2000, the power of .NET, and the advantages of the premier support programs offered by Microsoft and its partners, it really became a compelling proposition for us,”
says Tony Bernard, FreeMarkets’ Director of Technical Architecture.

The company has already implemented a new system that includes Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, the newest of the Microsoft Windows servers, and SQL Server 2000. The benefits include 99.999 percent availability coupled with the ability to scale to meet any level of demand without sacrificing performance.

“Two fundamental things excite me about .NET,”
says Bernard.
“One is the rich set of components that developers will be able to leverage. This will cut development time significantly. The other thing is the concept of Web-enabling applications during the development process so that we can publish them on the Web quickly and have confidence that they will work the way we expect them to. This a powerful new approach to creating applications for the Internet.”

The Future of Web Application Development

According to Barry Goffe, Bernard is just one of a fast-growing group of enterprise architects who are finding that Microsoft technologies in general, and .NET Enterprise Servers in particular, are the best way to build next-generation Internet enabled IT systems. Evidence of the growing respect among architects for .NET can be seen at Developer Days 2000, he says. In the past, the people who attended the event were almost exclusively hands-on programmers — software developers who work down in the trenches to build business application. This year, however, 30 percent of the attendees will be enterprise architects like Tony Bernard.

“Enterprise architects tend to focus on the leading edge of technology and look at the issues involved in incorporating these new technologies into their corporate infrastructure,”
says Goffe.
“That so many of them have decided to attend demonstrates pretty clearly that this new wave of server products really represents the both the leading edge of technology in this industry and the future of Web application development.”

Rod Wittmier, president of WNT, Inc, a consulting and training firm based in Washington State, agrees. An industry veteran who has been working with computer technology since the 1970s, Wittmier made the switch from Unix to Microsoft technologies more than a decade ago.

“There are still some people who wonder if Microsoft is ready for prime time in the enterprise,”
he says.
“My firm belief is that we passed that point for a long. The fact that there will be thousands — even tens of thousands — of enterprise architects at Developer Days is proof positive that the truth is out there and that the real decision makers recognize that this stuff is going to let developers kick it up a notch.”

A Regional Director, Wittmier is hosting his third consecutive Developer Days. He expects it to be the most galvanizing version of the event that Microsoft has ever held.
“You have to remember why I’m doing this,”
he says.
“I don’t work for Microsoft. I’m not on salary. I’ll be there because I work with this stuff every day and all of my knowledge and experience shows me that .NET is the right answer for any company that wants to be out there with best technology, both for today and tomorrow.”

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