Microsoft's MEC 2002 conference was held in Anaheim, California, 2 weeks ago and was well attended by approximately 5000 technology-thirsty people. In recent years, Microsoft has tactically leveraged its large conferences to announce new products and technology, and this event was no different. Microsoft also used this venue to parade solutions and testimonials from large and well-known customers who have built solutions on the Microsoft platform. I had the pleasure of talking to the folks from the Developer and Platform Evangelism Division at Microsoft and to Therese Fontaine, principal architect at Honeywell. Fontaine, a savvy industry veteran, enlightened me about the technologies that Honeywell is building on the Microsoft platform. Fontaine runs a cutting-edge shop and has every right to be proud of it. But one of the most interesting and important things Fontaine mentioned is a phenomenon that I've been seeing (and writing about) for a long time—the productivity gains companies can enjoy by building solutions in Microsoft .NET.

"With the utilization of the .NET architecture, XML Web services, and the Microsoft Business Intelligence Tool sets, we are able to deliver critical data to our users in hours and days, where previously it could take weeks or months. We now look at releasing critical applications to our user base in 4 to 10 weeks. Our developers are very excited at being able to meet our customers' needs and doing so in 10 to 20 percent of the time that it used to take," Fontaine said.

Consider the statement "10 to 20 percent of the time that it used to take." I've been saying, "it takes half the time, most of the time" for a long time. Truly, we're experiencing a software revolution. 

Alain Gentilhomme, director for the Developer and Platform Evangelism Division at Microsoft, said about .NET's benefits, "We are delighted with the innovative ways our customers are implementing .NET. Honeywell is a perfect example of the productivity and ROI that large enterprises can realize from the .NET Framework, Visual Studio .NET, and XML Web services. Enterprises that have large existing investments and that need to move to the connected world of XML Web services are finding .NET to be the most straightforward way to move ahead, providing the most bang for their buck in terms of people, resources, and time." 

The most exciting announcement that Microsoft made was about Jupiter. Microsoft briefed me about this technology a few months ago in a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) meeting in Redmond, and I never thought that the company would publicly announce Jupiter so soon. Due in the 18-month time frame, Jupiter will combine, and consequently integrate, Microsoft's Content Management Server, Commerce Server, and BizTalk Server. The idea behind Jupiter is to allow less painful integration for users who have projects that use these three server products and to further Microsoft's "better together" commitment. Microsoft is positioning Jupiter to compete directly against IBM's WebSphere product line.

Microsoft also revealed more information about Titanium, the code name for the next Microsoft Exchange Server version. Titanium promises to provide dramatic reductions in total cost of ownership (TCO) and the best-connected user experience online, across a range of network connections, or offline. Titanium will offer XSO, the code name for a new managed API for adding collaborative functionality to .NET applications. XSO will make integrating Exchange data and services (e.g., email notifications, calendaring, contacts, tasks) into business applications more intuitive for developers. Because XSO is also remotely accessible, applications built with XSO don't have to reside on the Exchange server, so more applications will be able to use Exchange functionality from anywhere in the organization. Microsoft also predicts enterprises that run Titanium will be able to significantly decrease the amount of Exchange server hardware they need thanks to new backup technology, Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)—not to be confused with Visual SourceSafe—and improvements to reduce and compress traffic between Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. Titanium also boasts improvements such as Messaging API (MAPI) over HTTP, a new Outlook Web Access (OWA) client, and native support for mobile devices.

Another announcement Microsoft made concerned Microsoft Solution for UNIX Migration (MSUM), a set of tested templates and best practices on how to interoperate or move mission-critical business applications from UNIX to Windows. The Windows Server Platform installed base continues to grow, while the combined UNIX derivatives continue to decline. Microsoft's Industry Partners are prepared to provide services and support programs focused on helping customers who want UNIX applications to interoperate with or migrate to Windows Server platforms. Microsoft reported that more than 100 of the largest enterprises worldwide are in various stages of migration, with more than 50 of those migrations already completed.

With no large conferences scheduled before April 2003, we'll have to wait a while for more major announcements from Microsoft. But the launch events for Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) 2003 and for Visual Studio .NET 2003, although not officially scheduled yet, are coming soon.