Data in the Cloud from Dallas to Mars

There’s a lot going on at this week’s Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC 09); it’s a traditional launchpad for cool new stuff. I thought I’d point out several of the government-relevant announcements and technology roll-outs.

I specifically want to spotlight something called Codename Dallas, and how NASA and others have begun using it. In the keynote this morning Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie told PDC attendees (and his streaming-video audience) that a landslide of new sensors and observational systems are changing the world by recording “unimaginable volumes of data… But this data does no good unless we turn the potential into the kenetic, unless we unlock it and innovate in the realm of applications and solutions that’s wrapped around that data.”

Here’s how we’re addressing that, with a bit of step-by-step context on the overall cloud-computing platform enabling it.  The steps are: 1. Azure, 2. Pinpoint, and 3. Dallas.

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Para Bellum Web

Tim O'Reilly, Ray Ozzie

Tim O’Reilly created a bit of a stir last night in the tech world by writing a thoughtful essay entitled “The War for the Web.” He’ll be expanding on his thoughts in his keynote address today at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York. From the essay, here’s the core argument:

“[W]e’ve grown used to a world with one dominant search engine, one dominant online encyclopedia, one dominant online retailer, one dominant auction site, one dominant online classified site, and we’ve been readying ourselves for one dominant social network. But what happens when a company with one of these natural monopolies uses it to gain dominance in other, adjacent areas? I’ve been watching with a mixture of admiration and alarm as Google has taken their dominance in search and used it to take control of other, adjacent data-driven applications.

It could be that everyone will figure out how to play nicely with each other, and we’ll see a continuation of the interoperable web model we’ve enjoyed for the past two decades. But I’m betting that things are going to get ugly. We’re heading into a war for control of the web. And in the end, it’s more than that, it’s a war against the web as an interoperable platform. [emphasis added] Instead, we’re facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill.

… P.S. One prediction: Microsoft will emerge as a champion of the open web platform, supporting interoperable web services from many independent players, much as IBM emerged as the leading enterprise backer of Linux.

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Early Bill Gates, and Bill’s Last Email

From Bill Gates’s final email today to “All at Microsoft”:

 

As Microsoft has grown, one of the most exciting and fulfilling things for me has been to watch new leaders develop. I am thrilled to have Ray and Craig playing key roles in guiding the company’s strategy… For over a decade I had hoped that we could convince Ray to join Microsoft — and in the three years he has been here, he has made a huge difference in helping us focus on the challenge and opportunity of software plus services. I have worked with Craig for more than 15 years. His ability to anticipate the future direction of technology is a key asset, as is his deep interest in and understanding of emerging markets.

Of course, I’ll continue to be involved in the work of the company as part-time Chairman. As part of this I will help with a handful of projects that Steve, Ray, and Craig select.”  

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Opening Doors to Interoperability

I had to write a freshman term paper on Immanuel Kant, and chose as a topic his role in sparking the German Enlightenment, from which I at least learned the word Aufklarung … which surprisingly doesn’t come up much in normal conversation, even when I’m in Germany. But I’ve been thinking about that movement and its ramifications quite a bit, because of the ongoing technology enlightenment driven by “open-source” approaches.

When I announced I was joining Microsoft, several of my friends in the open-source-software “movement” raised their eyebrows and ribbed me for joining the dark side… although the brighter ones also pointed out several important trends and markers through 2006 and 2007, changes in Microsoft behavior and approach which appeared to signal that the company was tacking in a much more open direction. Ray Ozzie’s joining of the company, and his announced projects, were taken as significant, along with several software launches (both in the Live world and elsewhere) with fundamentally open foundations.

Today the company is making public what Steve Ballmer and Ray Ozzie are calling “important changes to our technology and business practices that will enhance the interoperability of our products and expand the technical information we share with developers, partners, customers, and competitors.” All to the good, including more comprehensive information about the new “Interoperability by Design” approach.

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