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Build Sessions to Watch For

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With 274 sessions at the //Build/ conference it is hard to predict which are going to be important and which are just filler. Here is a rundown of the sessions we think are going to be important to enterprise developers.

Windows 8 Apps

First up, and probably most important, is “Prepare your apps for Windows 8 and beyond”. This session will teach developers how to prepare desktop applications to work side by side with Metro style applications. This will also cover is techniques for applying Metro concepts to today’s applications.

Microsoft’s dedication to application integration cannot be emphasized enough. Applications must support “charms”, the cross-application integration points exposed by WinRT, to be considered first class citizens on Windows 8. The principal charms: Share, Search, and Device, will each have its own session.

Another must-watch session for enterprise developers is the one titled “Real time communication: keep your Metro style app connected whether it is running or suspended”. Much like applications on mobile devices, Metro style applications do not run in the background. Once the user switches to another program they are suspended within 5 seconds. This session promises to cover the techniques needed to support real-time communication in such an environment.

Once again Microsoft is trying to become the central authority for user authentication. We’ve seen this story before, in fact we’ve seen it many times before, so forgive us if we are a bit doubtful about Microsoft’s dedication to providing a universal single sign-on. But if you are interested in off-loading authentication to someone else, the Live SDK is going to support that. In addition to authentication, Live services are supposed to handle synchronization of “documents, photos, videos, and contacts” between devices. If you miss that session there is another on the platform’s track titled “Deep dive on app data roaming”.

There are also countless sessions on Metro UI design and development, both with XAML and HTML. Windows Phone got a few sessions, but there is nothing on WPF or Silverlight in the browser. This doesn’t necessarily mean these technologies are dead to Microsoft, but for the time being the bulk of their attention and resources are going to be on the new UI for Windows 8.


Async is very important across the Microsoft stack. At the foundation layer, WinRT API only exposes asynchronous functions for calls expected to take longer than 50 milliseconds. This philosophy is carried all the way up the stack with async support being backed into C++, C#, VB, and JavaScript. The session “Async everywhere: creating responsive APIs & apps” is one of several sessions that expand on this concept.

The WinRT API exposes the networking stack in a different fashion than developers may be used to. Enterprise developers in charge of wiring together applications and services from a variety of third parties would be interested in the session “Building Windows runtime sockets apps”. This promises to show how to use the new APIs to simplify both basic scenario and complex ones such as HTTP proxy traversal.

One of the biggest challenges for enterprise developers is application delivery. Unless you are willing to punt the question and use a web-based interface, one has to always think about how to ensure their users, both internal and external, are always on the correct version of the program. The session “Under the hood: installation and updates for Metro style apps” will cover how this works under the Windows 8 model.


If you are one of the few enterprise shops still using C++ instead of .NET or Java then the session on C++ Code Analysis is going to be of particular use to you. Integrated code analysis has long been a staple of professional .NET development and inclusion in the Visual C++ tool will be most welcome. (Of course there are third-party products such as PC-Lint that already do the same thing.)

Team Foundation Server continues to fill in the missing pieces. The next version promises to include code review functionality and seamless offline support.


Sessions on HTML5 offline storage, SVG/Canvas, and web workers demonstrate that Microsoft is still committed to participating in the web’s renaissance.

Web Forms for ASP.NET 4.5 promise to have much better support for HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. There is also a session on using the new data binding features that Web Forms inherited from ASP.NET MVC.

WCF RIA Services are continuing to be pushed by Microsoft. Not only are they the recommended way to build the back-end for Silverlight apps, they are now being billed as the framework to use for data driven HTML5 sites.


While this track isn’t usually of use to enterprise developers, there are a few gems. One of them is “Windows To Go”, which solves the problem with users connecting their untrusted home machines to the corporate VPN. This allows developers and IT staff to build out a custom version of Windows with all the necessary software pre-installed. They can then stick it onto a USB drive and hand it over to remote users. When it is time to sign in they simply attach it to their Windows 7 or 8 PC and boot to it instead of the normal OS.

Server and Cloud

I think this title is pretty much self-explanatory: “Windows Server 8 apps must run without a GUI - learn more now”. If you haven’t already done so, it is time to start learning PowerShell API design.

According to the session description, “Windows Server 8 is the first operating system to be optimized to support Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for building private and public clouds.” What this means will be explained in the session “Using Windows Server 8 for building private and public IaaS clouds”.

There are six sessions on the theme of Continuous Availability. Half of them deal with storage options include NAS and remote file storage.

For the NoSQL and Big Data fans there is session on LINQ to HPC. This allows developers to “go beyond MapReduce and leverage the LINQ programming model and HPC scheduler to execute optimized query graphs across a cluster of machines”.

And finally there is the usual coverage of Windows Azure. There are a few behind the scenes topics, but most of this is the standard material that we see at every Microsoft conference.

And speaking of HTML5, WCF RIA services will also

over the next three days it will be hard to figure out which are the most important.

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