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Monday
Nov172003

INETA interview from PDC

Dave Noderer and I were interviewed by Jon Box as part of the Sys-con Radio shows from PDC. It has just become available. Complete list of interviews is http://www.sys-con.com/dotnet/radio2003/interviews.cfm, a direct link to our interview is http://www.sys-con.com/dotnet/radio2003/WednesdayINETA.mp3. We talk about what INETA is, as well as some of the inititives and programs we have in place.

Thursday
Nov132003

That was a "scoop"....

[Updated July 2009: of course, we know now that what I saw was actually the Windows Orchestration Engine, which, nowadays, we call "Windows Workflow Foundation". I really was very early with this post!!]

I didn't know it at the time, but heard from someone on the BizTalk team that the article I wrote last week for .NET Developer's Journal was the first piece that had been written about the post-BizTalk Server 2004 orchestration prototype.

A global scoop, and you heard it here first folks!

Wednesday
Nov052003

San Diego Firestorm 2003

Well, I'm back home from PDC now, and am trying to absorb the magnitude of what happened while I was gone.

I wasn't able to get current reliable news while in L.A., as most stations fixated on L.A.-area fires and gave minimal airtime to what was going on in San Diego. The little snippets on CNN weren't terribly informative either, as they never went into the detail needed to fully grasp what happened here.

Some stats as of yesterday:

  • Cedar Fire: 280,293 acres burned, 2,232 homes lost, 22 businesses lost, 14 deaths, 91 injuries
  • Paradise Fire: 56,700 acres burned, 179 homes lost, 2 deaths, 20 firefighters injured
  • Otay Fire: 46,291 acres burned, 1 home lost

I live on the coast, so my home was never threatened, but all of these are local fires, ranging from a few miles away to a couple of hours drive. When you see a fire map, it's staggering how much of the countryside around here has burned. The Cedar fire actually caused evacuations and many homes lost in a San Diego suburb, and jumped a major freeway to start encroaching on the Miramar Marine base.

I'm a hiker/camper/geocacher (see geocaching.com), so I know some beautiful landscape has been lost. I have memories of sitting on some big rocks creek-side with my family, under an impossibly blue sky, in an Oak shrouded valley on one of my favorite local hikes. We have a couple of caches in that area. That area was dead center of the Paradise fire, and must be a charred lunar landscape now.

Last year we had the massive Pines fire near the historic/scenic mountain community of Julian. I drove through there a few times this year on my way to the dessert, and was blown away by the extent of the damage. Based on the reports I've seen, the Cedar fire (much much bigger than last year's massive fire) took out a lot of what did not burn last year. Downtown Julian itself was saved thanks to a massive firefighting effort, but a lot of homes were lost.

We know several people that were evacuated, one of who lost some trees as the fires burned to within feet of their home, but we don't know anyone directly that lost a home. More stories of loss and sorrow, and heroism and survival, are emerging every day.

The cause of the fires is under investigation. One sounds like it was caused by human stupidity. Others may have been arson (who I think should be dealt with following the “eye for an eye“ approach, Salem-style!). Years of fire suppresion led to an abundance of brush and fuel, drought-weakened trees were succeptible and killed by the thousands by Pine bark beetles, so there was lots of standing deadwood. The photos of the 200ft walls of flame are unbelievable.

We will bounce back, but it will take many years for landscape to heal.

We're going to be heading off desert camping over Thanksgiving in a few weeks, and will probably end up driving though Julian. I don't know how many dry eyes there will be as we drive through the devastation.

I had to get this out of my system, I'll try to keep future posts more technical!

Teach your kids not to play with matches...

Sunday
Nov022003

BizTalk Orchestration Futures

Here's an article I wrote for the .NET Developers Journal (http://www.sys-con.com/Dotnet/article.cfm?id=447) on some cool future-tech. I think of this as “BizTalk 2006”.

======================================================================

BizTalk Orchestration Futures
* Live from the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference *

By  Brian Loesgen

 

(October 30, 2003) - Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a friendly giant came down from the mountain with a gift for developers… Sorry, wrong audience. BizTalk Server 2004 was officially unveiled at Tech-Ed 2003 in Dallas, just a few short months ago. BizTalk Server 2004 is a phenomenal product. While most of the concepts from prior versions are still evident, everything from the core messaging engine out has been rewritten - and exciting new capabilities and tools have been added. The product is tightly integrated into .NET and the Visual Studio IDE, giving .NET developers a powerful new tool for their arsenal.

 

In view of the fact that the first public beta was just released, it seemed somewhat strange to see an even further-out version of the orchestration engine. However, Abhay Parasnis, group program manager for the BizTalk team, showed exactly that at the PDC during a session on BizTalk Orchestration futures.

 

It is important to note that this is just a version of the orchestration engine, not a new version of the product. It is a scaled-down, lightweight, rehostable orchestration engine suitable for simple workflows.

 

His demonstration scenario showed tight integration with both Visual Studio and Windows SharePoint Services (WSS). The sequence was:

 

 

  • A "workflow template" – a Word document that can have a workflow associated with it - was opened in Word.
  • A workflow was attached from WSS.
  • In a graphical depiction of the workflow, actors (my word, he did not use this term) were assigned to workflow tasks.
  • The document was saved to WSS, creating SharePoint tasks for the actors (i.e., people with a pending workflow step would see it as a pending task in SharePoint).
  • Workflow task states were updated (e.g., "completed", "approved") by various actors in Outlook.
  • For one of the steps, a workflow task was delegated to another actor, also from Outlook. The status of the task remained the same, but the task had been delegated, and this could be seen in WSS.

     

    The real magic here is that the new lightweight orchestration engine was not only being hosted server-side in WSS, but also client-side, in Outlook. This is very different from prior versions of the BizTalk Orchestration engine, which were always server-side. Equally intriguing was the statement that it could also be hosted in Indigo, which I interpret to mean that this could be a good way to orchestrate Indigo services.

    BizTalk Server 2004 will bring tight integration with Visual Studio. However, what was shown today goes even further: whereas with BizTalk Server 2004, developers will create special BizTalk projects, in this future version they will simply add workflow elements to regular projects.

     

    An extensive API will expose a comprehensive object model, allowing for (among other things) programmatic creation of workflows. This could open up new doors for third-party vendors.

     

    The extensibility mechanisms were very impressive. Developers will be able to take common parts of orchestrations (single elements or "chunks" of tasks) and make them into components, parts of a "workflow service library" that become available in the toolbox. In addition, developers will be able to create new primitives (task shapes in a workflow) for the first time.

     

    Having worked with BizTalk a lot since the inception of the product, the first thing that struck me was that this far-future version seemed to require a mind shift. Whereas prior versions were message oriented, this new version seemed more task oriented. This is, I believe, a side effect of abstracting business process automation to make it more approachable.

     

    So when can we expect to see this as a product or add-on? Not anytime soon. This was a very early look at some innovative work that builds on the excellent work that’s being done right now on BizTalk 2004. It will certainly change a lot as time goes by and new concepts evolve and solidify. In the meantime, download the BizTalk 2004 beta to get a taste of what the near-future holds.

     

     

  • Wednesday
    Oct292003

    First Post....

    So here's my first post to my brand new shiny Blog. Thanks Jeff Julian for setting this up for me.

    I'm sitting in a boring session at PDC (presenter can't get his Indigo/Avalon app to build, guy beside me actually started snoring, there's a rush for the doors), while San Diego county is in flames. Personally, my house is not threatened, but a huge tragedy is unfolding, with many lives and homes lost. Some beautiful countryside is being devastated. All this because some guy got lost in the woods and lit a signal fire...

    Next session, about BizTalk/Yukon/Indigo/Sharepoint/Name-a-technology should be better...

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