DevelopMentor Connected Systems Roadshow

I've spent the last two days at the Microsoft Campus, in Thames Valley Park, Reading, at the DevelopMentor Connected Systems Roadshow. There were two tracks - 'Connected Systems' and 'Building Next-Generation Secure & Robust ASP.Net Applications', both a day each so you could do one and then the other across the two days, which is what I did.

The 'Connected Systems' track was introduced by David Gristwood of Microsoft who gave us some background information on Microsoft's offerings in the area before handing over to Richard Blewett and Niels Berglund who covered the 'technical part' which lasted the rest of the day.

I was mainly interested in this track to learn about BizTalk, which I really had very little clue about how it worked but had always planned to learn at some point. The £30000 price tag may keep me from getting to do much real world work on it, mind you - so the final session of the day from Richard was probably all I'll ever need to know on that subject. I'd never even heard of SQL Service Broker, which Niels covered in the middle session of the day, it looks like it could actually be a very useful tool - a lot of things which I've previously done with DTS, or would have relied on outside tools for, could be done better and more reliably using the Service Broker.

Probably the most interesting part of track one was before lunch, when Richard presented WCF. In theory this stuff could be extremely useful - it allows you to abstract out of your service all the communication 'plumbing', so then if you want to switch your application from using SOAP Web Services to .Net Remoting or even MSMQ then it is a simple matter of changing a configuration setting and everything 'just works'. Unfortunately it's not quite that simple, because the different channels have different characteristics the abstractions are somewhat leaky, meaning your classes need to have different annotations to be compatible. I imagine, if you truly needed an application which could be switched between different protocols in production, rather than be easy to redevelop quickly, I imagine you could cobble something together with some sort of factory set up.

Overall the presenters were very enthusiastic, all the source code was presented in a nice, big font which made it easy to read from a distance (a problem when I attended Dave Crane's presentation the other week. The momentum was spoiled somewhat by a number of technical issues with the projector (mind you, it was neat to see Niels' Mac laptop doing it's OpenGL window transitions between his desktop and his Windows VM), and the 'on the fly' development of the example, while engaging, also led to a few empty pauses for debugging. Very worthwhile though, I'm glad I went.

So that was day one, join me tomorrow for a summary of day two - ASP.Net security with Dominick Baier.