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TechEd Day 2: More on Virtualization, plus PowerShell and SharePoint

The buzz yesterday was on virtualization.  That's still here today, but making just as much noise again this year is SharePoint.  And PowerShell is in the air, too.

PowerShell is perhaps the most surprising since there's a new version in the works, but it's shown its usefulness over the past year or so, and people are using it to do everything from scripting admin tasks (which basically is what it was designed for) to writing full-blown applications.  You won't see IE written in PowerShell, but if you're an admin you might likely see both commercial and Microsoft-built tools written with it.

SharePoint was also a big deal last year, and even with more time people still can't get enough of it.  I think there's simply a steep learning curve that many are struggling to climb, no doubt created to some extent by Microsoft's habit of creating multiple versions that have slightly different focuses and capabilities.  People seem to recognize the utility of these apps, however, which is why there are a lot of sessions covering SharePoint and a lot of vendors in the exhibit hall selling solutions to help deploy, manage, and protect it on your network.

Virtualization is still big today (not like I expected it to disappear after one day), and along with SharePoint you pretty much can be assured that at any given time of the day, there's a session or two covering these topics.

Virtualization is interesting for a number of reasons, but I'd say mainly for its flexibility.  You can virtualize your server with Virtual Server (or soon Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008). You can virtualize your applications (to ensure programs don't compete for resources) with SoftGrid. Terminal Services lets you use your desktop as a dumb terminal and save compatibility issues, installation time, and bandwidth. And you can use Virtual Desktop if you're an enduser who needs to run multiple OSs at a desktop (not Server) level.

And this doesn't take into account competitor's offerings.  VMWare is here with some highly-praised solutions, and they might win the marketing battle for simplicity -- they do have different versions of their software for different uses like the ones described above, but they don't confuse people with multiple product names.  They seem to take a wider approach (come to us and we can figure it out with you) instead of Microsoft's cluster bomb approach.  Feel free to disagree with me here, but that's just my impression from the floor.  I'm not making any claims as to Microsoft's or VMWare's superiority.

One thing that does impress me is virtualization on the production level.  Buck Woody mentioned this in his first TechEd post the other day, and for the most part the available software can be up to the task.  A VMWare spokesman even said they have shown improved application performance running in a virtual machine (Oracle and SQL Server 2005 were examples he gave me) versus running on a dedicated box.  I'm a bit skeptical, but I suppose it depends on versions and configurations.  VMWare does have some management advantages over Hyper-V, but some advantages should be expected when you compare shipping software to pre-release software.

More tomorrow.  Hopefully I'll be able to expand on SharePoint a bit.  Please feel free to throw ideas my way in the Replies section.

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