In-Depth

Tech-Ed Preview: Building Out the Ecosystem

ISVs provide the critical tools and applications that complete Microsoft solutions. Microsoft Tech-Ed is traditionally where many of those vendors announce their next products.

When it comes to the Microsoft-based IT ecosystem, the biggest show of the year for new product launches and demonstrations is Tech-Ed North America. Microsoft is holding that show this month in Los Angeles.

Microsoft has produced a lot of market-moving technology over the years, but third-party independent software vendors (ISVs) have always been there with the fill-ins and add-ons that make Microsoft's wares better and keep the company's ecosystem blooming. Those vendors also produce some great technology of their own.

For this Tech-Ed 2009 preview, we spoke with many of the third-party vendors in Microsoft's world to find out what they'll be announcing and demonstrating May 11-15 at the show. Some of these new technologies are sure to make strong additions to the portfolios of products offered by Microsoft partners.

K2 (K2.com)
K2 is a division of SourceCode Technology Holdings Inc., based in Microsoft's back yard of Redmond, Wash. The company provides a platform aimed at simplifying business process automation and process management. At Tech-Ed, K2 will be demonstrating K2 blackpoint, a Microsoft Office SharePoint Server add-on.

K2 blackpoint, released in March, is "focused on making it easy to compose process- and workflow-based applications on SharePoint," company officials say. With blackpoint, non-technical users can build SharePoint workflows and applications without using code.

The company will also be demonstrating its K2 connect product, an add-on to its own blackpearl product. K2 connect, released in February, helps non-developers bring information from SAP AG's enterprise resource planning applications together with Microsoft Office, SharePoint and technology built on the .NET platform.

Raxco Software Inc. (perfectdisk.com)
The provider of disk defragmentation software, based in Gaithersburg, Md., rolled out its PerfectDisk 10 line of storage-management products in January and will make it the focus of the company's presence at Tech-Ed.

The main new player in the PerfectDisk fold is PerfectDisk 10 Virtual Enterprise Edition, which provides, the company notes, "virtual awareness to enterprise disk defragmentation." The new product works with virtual products such as VMware's ESX Server and Microsoft's Hyper-V, and automatically determines how often it should run a defragmentation session based on the resources the physical host has at a given time.

Virtual Enterprise Edition is available starting at $249.99. It and the other PerfectDisk 10 products are available online at the company's Web site.

Idera (idera.com)
Idera, based in Houston and a division of BBS Technologies Inc., will roll into Tech-Ed ready to show off SharePoint backup, the latest version of its application that provides backup, search and document recovery for SharePoint.

Version 2.0 of SharePoint backup adds enhanced scheduling capabilities and lets administrators preview documents before recovering them. SharePoint backup is one of a large group of SharePoint tools Idera provides.

Idera also introduced SQL secure 2.5 in March. The application lets database administrators monitor SQL Server security and track security problems. SQL secure, along with sister product SQL compliance manager, is especially useful for companies with strict compliance regulations, Idera CEO Rick Pleczko says.

"It's like having a video camera on your database that can alert you to audit violations," he explains.

The new version of SQL secure lets administrators take a snapshot of employee access permissions to compare to a later permission list. It also provides templates that allow users to drill down into specific compliance regulations, says Juan Rogers, SQL secure product manager at Idera.

Special Operations Software (specopssoft.com)
All the way from Stockholm, Sweden, with U.S. headquarters in Portsmouth, N.H., comes Special Operations Software with its Specops Virtual Deploy product. This new offering works with Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) to deploy applications virtually using Group Policy. Thorbjörn Sjövold, CTO of Special Operations Software, explains: "We're taking the concept of Microsoft App-V and making it more simple for users than it is today. We let you use Group Policy to deploy virtual bubbles. You pick your bubbles and deploy them out there.

"The good thing about Group Policy is that everybody knows how to use it," Sjövold continues. "Since we don't require any infrastructure, you're up and running as soon as you have your first bubble."

He adds: "What you can do with App-V is, you can take Office 2003 and virtualize it. It's a bubble that lives inside its own little world. Whatever you change inside 2003, it doesn't affect the operating system."

Johan Ögren, president of the company's North American operation, adds that Special Operations Software will be giving away gold bars at its Tech-Ed booth. "The marketing message this year is all about gold," he says. "We believe our products are solid investments."

Red Gate Software Ltd. (red-gate.com)
From Cambridge, England, comes Red Gate Software with a new archiving tool for Exchange, sensibly called Exchange Server Archiver.

Company officials promise that the new tool will be "simple to try, install and administer" and will deliver an interface with an e-mail-preview pane, instant retrieval of e-mails and search capabilities for archived and non-archived e-mails.

"Exchange Server Archiver reduces the time for archiving and restoring messages manually. The automated process and granular archive rules are a great help for any Exchange administrator," says one beta tester, via a company spokesperson.

Red Gate takes its name from one of the earliest tech inventions, something that came along long before the microprocessor. Company spokesperson Michael Francis explains: "If you're wondering where the name Red Gate came from, we're named after Via Porta Rossa [Red Gate Street] in Florence, Italy, close to where Leonardo da Vinci invented the database in 1512."

MVP Systems Software Inc. (mvpsi.com)
MVP Systems Software rolls in from Farmington, Conn., to Tech-Ed, where it will demonstrate for the first time at a trade show a free monitor for its Job Access and Management System (JAMS) software.

JAMS is a batch-job scheduling system, and JAMS Monitor provides a singular view through which users can monitor and manage Windows Task Scheduler and SQL Server jobs running in multiple servers. A "Convert to JAMS" function lets users move their processes into JAMS, a move the company says yields better scheduling capabilities and opens up features such as dependency triggers, event-based scheduling and alerting.

Free copies of JAMS Monitor are available at the company's Web site.

Sapien Technologies Inc. (sapien.com)
Just upstate from Los Angeles is Sapien Technologies, based in Napa, Calif.

At Tech-Ed, Sapien will be demonstrating iPowerShell. Released in March, iPowerShell is a product that blends two worlds by bringing PowerShell to the iPhone. iPowerShell is available for download at Apple Inc.'s App Store.

iPowerShell "contains full descriptions of each and every core PowerShell version 1 cmdlet, their syntax, parameters and examples of proper usage," the company says. It also includes help topics and a sophisticated search function.

"This news is important because it shows Sapien's commitment to the IT professional by expanding its software offerings and broadening its customer base," says Ferdinand Rios, the company's CEO and co-founder. "Additionally, with the iPowerShell release, we're showing that we're supporting the newest technology and making it easier for IT pros to get their job done, both locally and remotely."

dtSearch Corp. (dtsearch.com)
Bethesda, Md.-based dtSearch will be demonstrating a new line of its text-retrieval software at Tech-Ed.

The company rolled out a whole new dtSearch suite in March, version 7.6, which includes a broad array of products for searching for files on a PC or across a network, publishing large volumes of searchable data to an IIS intranet or Internet site, and publishing searchable documents or Web content to portable media, among other functions.

Two components of the suite, dtSearch Engines for Windows and .NET and the same product for Linux, let developers at dtSearch bring search functionality to applications. The new version of the Windows and .NET product adds expanded sample code for Microsoft's latest release of Visual Studio.

DataCore Software Corp. (Datacore.com)
DataCore will travel from sunny Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to sunny Los Angeles with what the company calls its "Pimp My Storage" crew. The crew will bring down half an IT department's storage infrastructure. The mystery for attendees will be to find out whether the system's virtual machines (VMs) keep working.

The company will also be showing off new capabilities it announced in April, including 64-bit "mega caches," as the company calls them, which highlight its new SANmelody 3.0 and SANsymphony 7.0 products. With the new products, a SAN-wide cache will now hold the entire working set of a large number of VMs.

Another new option in both products is Transporter, a migration facility that, the company says, "migrates disk images and workloads between different operating systems, hypervisors and storage subsystems-eliminating lengthy backups and restores due to complicated format conversions."

ScriptLogic Corp. (scriptlogic.com)
ScriptLogic has a product release for Tech-Ed: the latest version of Active Administrator, its application for managing Active Directory.

Among other functions, Active Administrator 5.1 gives administrators enhanced capabilities to schedule database maintenance and provides self-monitoring of server components. The application also offers centralized event monitoring and reporting, as well as simplified delegation of AD and backup and recovery functionality.

Also at Tech-Ed, Boca Raton, Fla.-based ScriptLogic promises to announce "a new product line to bring a highly cost-competitive, instant remote assistance capability for IT administrators to support users everywhere in the enterprise and on the Internet," company officials say.

SteelEye Technology (steeleye.com)
Down from Menlo Park, Calif., comes SteelEye Technology, which will be demonstrating the latest version of DataKeeper Cluster Edition. The software offers high availability and disaster recovery by working with Hyper-V and Windows Server Failover Clustering.

Greg Ewald, vice president of marketing for SteelEye, says the company will show at Tech-Ed how DataKeeper Cluster Edition handles "Quick Migration of live running Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines from coast to coast ... replicating clustered SQL Server running in Hyper-V VMs across data centers, [and] Hyper-V, [Windows Server Failover Clustering] and DataKeeper Cluster Edition working together to provide simple and powerful disaster recovery for Exchange 2007."

Previews of the demos are available at SteelEye's Web site.

Sanbolic Inc. (sanbolic.com)
Sanbolic will announce at Tech-Ed that it's adding distributed snapshots to Melio FS, its clustered file system. The product will also have a generic Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) provider-available from both physical and virtual servers when Sanbolic's file system is in use-which third-party data-protection products can invoke.

The company, based in Watertown, Mass., will also publish APIs for scripting and scheduling the VSS provider. Sanbolic is also making it possible for users to invoke Melio or a third-party VSS provider from the company's data-protection software, called Simple Information Lifecycle Provider (SILM). SILM will now bring better capabilities for scripting and scheduling.

Marathon Technologies Corp. (marathontechnologies.com)
Marathon and Microsoft announced in January a development and marketing deal aimed at providing fault-tolerant and high-availability computing for enterprise customers running applications on Windows servers. The agreement includes enhanced compatibility between Marathon's everRun fault-tolerance software line and Windows Server 2008, as well as other development objectives.

At Tech-Ed, Littleton, Mass.-based Marathon, will "present a joint session on Microsoft clustering technology and Marathon's extension of Windows Server high availability to continuous availability through software fault tolerance," company officials say.

JNBridge LLC (jnbridge.com)
JNBridge, located in the mountains of Boulder, Colo., will bring to the beaches of Los Angeles JNBridge Pro 4.1, an update to the company's main product. JNBridge's interoperability products connect Java- and .NET-based components and applications.

The primary new feature of JNBridge Pro 4.1 is that it will offer support for Windows Presentation Foundation. CTO Wayne Citrin will be in the company's booth at Tech-Ed to demo his company's updated product and to talk interpoerability with attendees.

Meanwhile, Back on the Mother Ship

Tech-Ed is Microsoft's show, above all, and Microsoft will have plenty of its own products to showcase. Microsoft tends to keep some of its product announcements close to the vest, but company officials have revealed some of what Microsoft will be focusing on at the show.

Among the products that will be on primary display, company officials say, are Windows Server 2008 R2, Operations Manager 2007 R2 (due this month), Service Manager beta 2 (due this summer) and System Center Essentials version 2 beta public release (due this month or in June). Microsoft will feature System Center Essentials, the company's midmarket IT management suite, in a special technical session.

Other hot topics, Microsoft folks say, will include Virtual Machine Manager 2008 and Virtualization, System Center data center solutions, and the Server Management Suite Enterprise and System Center community and influencer programs, due at press time to debut in April or May.

System Center will clearly get plenty of the spotlight at Tech-Ed. Much of the messaging around the product line will involve what one Microsoft product manager calls "cost efficiency," or, quite simply, how System Center helps contain IT infrastructure-management costs.

As for other noteworthy events, Microsoft Learning will be distributing vouchers worth 50 percent off a certification exam to all attendees.
-- L.P.

Sherpa Software (sherpasoftware.com)
Sherpa Software released the latest version of its Archive Attender e-mail-management software in March, and company officials will be demonstrating the updated product at Tech-Ed. But Sherpa will also be rolling out Transfer Rules, a new wrinkle for its Mail Attender product for e-mail archiving, content management and policy enforcement.

Tom Hand, vice president of Exchange development for Sherpa, explains Transfer Rules for Mail Attender: "The core product can search mailboxes, .PSTs and public folders, and search for any match within the criteria set you provide, and take action. [With Transport Rules], we now serialize that data out, transport it across the network and serialize it back into that data store. It doesn't rely on direct API to API connection," Hand says.

Sherpa's Himalayan name -- Sherpas are native guides who assist climbers in the famous mountain chain -- is intentional, even though the company is based near Pittsburgh, Hand says. "We sort of guide you through e-mail terrain," he explains. "We guide you to our proper solution. That's sort of our mantra here."

VMware Inc. (vmware.com)
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtualization titan will have a presence at Tech-Ed. The company's focus will be vSphere, which the company calls the industry's first cloud operating system.

Rick Vanover, writing in March for VirtualizationReview.com, a Redmond Channel Partner sister site, noted that vSphere offers "new support for thin-provisioned disks from ESX 4. ESX 3 did not offer thin provisioning by default, but it was possible through the vmkfstools command."

Vanover expanded further on the impact of vSphere: "Looking forward to ESX 4, VMware shops have an advantage due to the Virtual Machine File System (or vStorage VMFS), which can get you out of a jam. One of the new features coming in vSphere is Enhanced Storage VMotion, which permits a conversion from a fully provisioned virtual disk to a thin-provisioned virtual disk."

Lieberman Software Corp. (liebsoft.com)
Lieberman will be right at home in Los Angeles, given that its corporate headquarters are located in the city on the Avenue of the Stars. The star for Lieberman at Tech-Ed will be Enterprise Random Password Manager.

An update to the product to be unveiled at Tech-Ed will offer privileged account password management from within the consoles of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and System Center Configuration Manager. The update will enable security recovery of administrator passwords directly from System Center, company officials say.

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