Hot Weather, Hot Food and Hot Products

Three of ENT's editors just returned from a week in New Orleans at Microsoft's annual Tech Ed conference. Aside from the sweltering heat, fatty foods (make that delicious fatty foods) and considerably less sleep than was really needed, we also ingested more information and education on Windows NT and BackOffice products than we could realistically hope to absorb.

Among the key events at Tech-Ed this year was hands-on training on SQL Server 7.0, and Windows NT 5.0 along with ZAW/TCO training. Outside of the training sessions, there were a number of messages that came out of the conference. Following are some of the highlights that impressed us.

  • Using and deploying Windows NT 5.0 carried the most important emphasis at the conference. Microsoft executive vice president Steve Ballmer called NT 5.0 "the cost of ownership release."

    What wasn't discussed is how you're going to take advantage of the cost of ownership release of NT without investing some big dollars. You'll quickly find out that NT 5.0 is a massive program with intense resource requirements (27 million lines of code vs. __ lines of code in NT 4.0), meaning that many of your existing desktop systems probably won't be a match for it. In other words, to get to the cost of ownership release of NT on the desktop, as Microsoft is suggesting, you're probably going to experience a major expense of ownership.

    Need proof? Many of the speakers were using Windows NT 5.0 on their presentation machines. One Microsoft employee conducting a session about security configuration crashed his underpowered NT 5.0/P166/32 MB laptop during a demonstration of the group policy editor. He then proceeded to go through an agonizing reboot with at least 10 minutes of session time devoted to ad hoc questions and answers, while we stared at a frozen hourglass on the overhead screen.

    On the other hand, there are lots compelling reasons to upgrade. One new feature, which drew cheers and applause from one keynote crowd, is that any modification of network settings will no longer require a mandatory reboot for the settings to take effect. That's definitely a step in the right direction.

  • A new version of Visual Studio, which is covered in depth in this issue of ENT, is really slick. Where Visual Studio 5.0 was a collection of independent development tools that were shoehorned into a single suite, without much integration or commonality, Visual Studio 6.0 presents a more integrated work environment, along with some really nice features such as an option for fully instrumented code, enabling easy code flow charting and some coverage/performance analysis capabilities.

    However, version 6.0 releases of the Visual Studio components are still not completely common in look and feel. Visual J++ and Visual InterDev share the Visual Studio development environment, but Visual Basic, Visual C++ and Visual FoxPro don't. Look for the formal release of Visual Studio 6.0 to occur on September 2 during Microsoft's Developer Days program.

  • SQL Server 7.0 won't be available for some time. Ballmer promised that SQL Server 7.0 won't ship until it's absolutely dink-proof. Apparently Microsoft is willing to wait this one out. This is a consistent theme we've heard from Microsoft for more than a year, so if you've been holding your breath for the new release, you may need to hold it for a few more months.

  • OLE DB, which until now has been more smoke than fire, is going mainstream. Visual Studio 6.0 uses OLE DB capabilities that are built into the development environments. OLE DB is one of two major enhancements made to Visual Basic, the second being Internet deployment support. Additionally, OLE DB providers, which can deliver nonrelational data to an OLE DB consumer, are emerging from a variety of sources. One of the more unusual ones I've heard about so far comes from a company called Blue Angel Technologies Inc. (Valley Forge, Pa.,, which provides data from sources located out on the Internet.

  • Terminal Server is supposedly ready to go. When packaged with Windows NT 4.0, there will be a special "Terminal Server Edition." But with NT 5.0, the Terminal Server hooks will be built into the kernel, meaning users will need to purchase additional licensing to use it, but there won't be any reinstall needed. On the other hand, it looks as if there may be some residual bugs either in Terminal Server or in Windows Terminals. During a session on Terminal Server configuration and deployment, a presenter using Terminal Server to run his PowerPoint presentation was forced into a reboot of the Windows Terminal client device when the device went haywire midway through the presentation.