Tech·Ed North America 2011: Microsoft Readies Numerous Updates

Microsoft has several significant updates and revisions forthcoming to its Microsoft Azure, SQL Azure, System Center, Forefront and Windows Phone 7 platforms.

Lafe Low

The halls of the Georgia World Congress Center were buzzing a few weeks ago in mid-May. Once again, Tech·Ed brought hordes of technology professionals together for a week of sharing ideas, sharing contacts, and hearing about new updates and enhancements to many of the Microsoft product groups.

Microsoft notably makes several significant product announcements during the week of Tech·Ed, and this year was no different. Here is an overview of some of the major announcements and updates, along with links for more information:

Microsoft Azure

The updates to the Microsoft Azure platform were centered on two components: Microsoft Azure AppFabric and Microsoft SQL Azure. The former is geared more toward the development community, while IT professionals will need to get up to speed on the latter.

Microsoft Azure AppFabric is a middleware development platform to facilitate cloud application development and deployment. The Microsoft Azure AppFabric Service Bus, now in the Community Technology Preview (CTP) stage, supports secure transfer of data and messages between cloud apps and mobile devices.

The Microsoft Azure AppFabric Composite App Service has been renamed the Microsoft Azure AppFabric Application Manager and Developer Tools. This toolset helps developers build and manage multi-tiered applications as a single entity. These revised tools will be available for CTP in June.

Microsoft also announced several enhancements to SQL Azure, its relational cloud database platform. First off, the import and export features in the management portal will be integrated. This will simplify database archiving and migration from physical SQL Server instances to SQL Azure. There are also enhancements forthcoming to the SQL Azure Management Portal, including an enhanced schema management and a new service that facilitates managing SQL Azure databases using Open Data Protocol endpoints. There will be a service update to SQL Azure later this summer that delivers these feature revisions.

Microsoft System Center Orchestrator 2012

This is the automation platform formerly labeled Opalis. Microsoft System Center Orchestrator will give you a platform from which you can apply IT process automation. You’ll be able to orchestrate (hence the name change) IT workflows including multiple tasks and across multiple systems. You can expect a beta release of the newly renamed Microsoft System Center Orchestrator in June.

Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010

The endpoint security component of the Microsoft security stack has also had a bit of a facelift. Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 is built on System Center Configuration Manager 2012, and is designed to streamline and strengthen network endpoint protection. It can protect against zero day attacks and other recent threats.

Microsoft actually released a beta of Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 at Tech·Ed last month. Visit the download center to check it out for yourself.

Microsoft Windows Phone 7

The forthcoming version of Windows Phone promises to include several significant upgrades. Most notably, Windows Phone will support Microsoft Lync 2010 Mobile, so through their Windows Phone-based devices, your mobile users can have a unified communications experience. There will also be support for Office 365, so they can also get at their Exchange, SharePoint Online and Lync Online repositories.

Also coming to the next iteration of the Microsoft mobile platform are organizational and security enhancements like:

  • Conversation view
  • “Pinnable” e-mail folders
  • Server search
  • Complex password support
  • Information Rights Management support for e-mails and documents.

These changes are a ways off. Keep an eye on the Windows Phone blog for updates.

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2

Microsoft’s venerable server OS expands its Hyper-V support to include Linux-based CentOS. If you’re running a mixed Windows and open source environment, this will give you the option of consolidating on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V support for Linux-based CentOS is available now.

Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit

Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on version 6.0 of its Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP). The new version of MAP will include consolidation guidance for Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track infrastructures, focusing on compute power, network architecture and storage infrastructure. Look for a beta release of MAP 6.0 soon. Microsoft expected to release it by the end of May.

Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 SP1

The updates in this service pack focus on improving security, stability and performance for Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. This forthcoming service pack will include all previous, publicly released updates through June 2011, as well as some new updates, such as:

  • Office Web Apps functionality improvements
  • Microsoft SharePoint database performance improvements
  • Internet Explorer 9 browser experience improvements
  • Microsoft Access 2010 updates
  • FAST Search Server 2010 for Microsoft SharePoint updates
  • Office Web Apps updates
  • Microsoft Project 2010 Search Server 2010 updates
  • Microsoft Visio 2010 updates
  • Microsoft Office language support updates, including Cyrillic, Basque, Catalan, Serbian and Galician

According to Microsoft, you can expect the Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 SP1 to be ready for download by the end of June. It will be pushed out as an automatic update 90 days after becoming available as a download.

Lafe Low

Lafe Lowis the editor in chief of TechNet Magazine*. A veteran technology journalist, he’s also the former executive editor of 1105 Media’s* Redmond magazine.