Build 2012 Recap

We were in Redmond last week for the Build conference, where Microsoft offered deep dives into their latest technologies. Unlike last year, where the emphasis was on in-depth looks at lower-level technologies like Windows RT, .NET 4.5, and Windows 8 internals, this year’s conference concentrated on higher-level application-oriented APIs like Microsoft Account (formerly Windows Live ID) and Windows Store, as well as more peripheral (to us) technologies like Windows Phone 8. In fact, if we had seen the list of sessions in advance, we might have decided to skip the conference and watch any relevant sessions online (although it was nice to receive the Surface RT, Nokia Lumia 920, and 100GB of SkyDrive capacity that all attendees received). Even so, there were a number of interesting sessions that were relevant to our work on interoperability. (All Build sessions can be seen here:

There was an interesting session that unveiled details of Microsoft’s previously announced Hadoop on Windows Azure offering (now called HDInsight). Since the offering has been by invitation only, there haven’t been too many details. It’s interesting to contrast Microsoft’s approach to Hadoop/.NET integration, which uses .NET streaming but conceals it with the artful use of wrappers, with our approach of direct API calls through JNBridgePro (here and here). Each approach can be useful in certain situations.

Microsoft offered more details on their new Windows Azure Virtual Machines, which brings to Windows Azure the capabilities already found in Amazon’s EC2. Microsoft claims advantages over Amazon’s offerings, particularly in the areas of administration and automation. For us and for our users, this is interesting because it makes it even easier to create applications that use JNBridgePro and deploy them to Windows Azure. It had been possible, but there were a number of complexities in setting up and starting the applications in the cloud; now it’s as easy in Windows Azure as it’s already been with Amazon EC2. In addition, Microsoft will be offering virtual machine images containing BizTalk Server 2010 R2 CTP, and you will be able to use JNBridge’s JMS adapter for BTS with those images.

A talk on the evolution of .NET covered both the history of the platform, including all of the earlier milestones, and possible future directions in which the platform can go. The speaker made the very interesting point that the typical PC of 1998 (when the .NET project began) or even 2000 (when it was unveiled) is very different from the typical PC of today, in terms of processing power, memory and storage, user interface, and connectivity, and any future .NET implementations will need to reflect that. We can only wonder what that will entail, but it’s encouraging to learn that Microsoft still considers .NET to be an essential platform for their future offerings.

One of the more surprising things we learned had to do with Windows Phone 8, which we really hadn’t been tracking, since it didn’t seem relevant to our mission. Windows Phone 8’s runtime is actually a version of the .NET CLR called CoreCLR, which is really based on the existing SilverLight CLR. We haven’t supported SilverLight, both because of its slow adoption, and because it has been constrained in what it can do, but we were interested to learn that in response to requests from developers, the CoreCLR will allow Windows Phone 8 applications to access existing native (read C++) gaming engines. Since Java Runtime Environments are also native C++ libraries, does that mean that a JVM can be hosted in a Windows Phone 8 app’s process? If so, it might be possible to support shared memory interoperability in Windows Phone 8 applications. It’s certainly something we’ll be looking into. Will it be possible to do something similar in Windows 8 “Metro” apps? That remains to be seen.

Did you attend Build, or watch sessions online? If so, did you see something that you’d like to call our attention to? If so, please let us know in the comments.