What's new?

MSDN Events gives us a chance to connect with people from all around the country to show what's possible with the new technologies. This quarter we're talking about 3 great new products and tools that address holes in the technology map and provide innovative ways to address challenges of building complex systems.

Team Data sells itself because nothing exists in the mainstream for addressing the challenges of managing the database. If you work in an environment with multiple developers and applications that share databases, coordinating the schema and objects between the different timeliness and deployments can break you when you least expect it. That's where the Visual Studio Team Edition for Database comes in. It fills the gap by giving us a tool to do things like:

  • Sample Data Generation – especially important for people working with sensitive data (i.e. financial, medical, HIPPA). You shouldn’t be using production data for testing yet who has time to write scripts to generate data? This is especially true for complex data with hierarchical relationships.
  • Code Versioning – how do you roll back to a specific version of the schema?
  • Schema and Data Compare – allows a developer to see what’s different between ANY two schemas…very cool
  • Refactoring – fixing all those legacy problems of poorly or misnamed columns and objects without breaking your neck
  • Testing – how many people really unit test their stuff like they should? 5%? Manual tests are good too…we show how you can create and automate much of the testing process
  • Deployment – scripting a repeatable deployment is key to stability and scalability

The workflow session introduces a fairly new approach to developing systems which automate business process that account for both system and human interaction. Many developers are new to the concept and they want to know what it is and why do they care? I found a great article on MSDN last night (

An early look at Workflow) that does a good job of explaining it. There are also some samples that come with it that you can look at to get a glimpse of how it works. One is a Outlook Wizard Workflow which provides a way for users to create rules for email and generate a XAML declarative representation for it.

So what’s cool about Workflow?

  • It can be state-ful...try that with a web site (a stateless engine by design). Very useful for long running processes
  • Supports human activities…like if your manager takes a week off and your request for vacation just sits
  • Efficient…unloads when not active, responds to events, etc.
  • It is dynamic…workflow can change while it’s running
  • Integrated in MS Technologies including…SharePoint, BizTalk, Office 12
  • Componentized approach…libraries can be built and easily combined in new and powerful ways
  • Graphical…easier to share the business rules when you can look at them
  • Common technology for diverse problems…the same workflow engine can support and meet the needs of very different applications, from boiling water, to approving vacation time, to processing orders, to defining Outlook email rules

Finally, we look at the Expression Web Designer. This product is aimed at web designers who spend their time with dealing in the complexity of cascading style sheets and xslt transformations and want a rich environment to build web sites. Besides adding support for dynamic web templates (dwt), it also enables designers to work with the same ASP.NET 2.0 controls as Visual Studio. There's a lot of stuff we show including:

  • Productivity features of the new environment
  • Use of templates, both Master Pages and Dynamic Web Templates
  • Extensive Style sheet support
  • XSLT processing and generation
  • The fact that I can build very rich and dynamic pages that use the ASP.NET 2.0 data binding controls!

There's a lot of stuff here. Join me at one of these events. My schedule this quarter includes:

  • 10/17 - Milwaukee
  • 10/19 - Rapid City
  • 10/24 - Wichita
  • 10/26 - El Paso
  • 10/27 - Heartland Developer Conference in Omaha
  • 11/7 - Portland Oregon
  • 11/9 - Seattle
  • 12/5 - Minneapolis
  • 12/7 - Fargo
  • 12/12 - Dallas
  • 12/14 - Houston