In-Depth

Tech-Ed: Let's (Third) Party!

Independent software vendors have long been the life of Microsoft's party by producing products that fill in the gaps Redmond leaves open. For Tech•Ed North America 2009, we celebrate third-party vendors and preview what they'll be announcing and demonstrating at the show.

Somebody go find Randy Newman. Bring in Magic Johnson, too. Get the Beach Boys going on the Zune. Oh, and round up all those stars -- Brad, Matt, maybe Angelina and the Governator himself. Get them all together because Microsoft and thousands of customers and partners are coming for a big party in Los Angeles. At Tech•Ed North America 2009, everybody's going to love L.A.

This might not seem like the best time for a party. The economy is still struggling, and some of the industry's bigger vendors had earnings dips in recent quarters and warned about hard times ahead.

The front page of Microsoft's Tech•Ed Web site trumpets the theme "smart ideas for today's challenges." And that's a sensible, grounded and entirely reasonable idea -- focus on how to make the best of a difficult economy.

But we want to have a little more fun than that. Tough times or not, we say that there's no better time to celebrate -- because hard times are the best times for innovation and creativity, and that's what this party's all about. Microsoft has produced a lot of great 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 terrific standalone products that keep the company's ecosystem blooming.

In this Tech•Ed preview, we celebrate the third-party vendors in Microsoft's world by previewing what they'll be announcing and demonstrating at the show, which runs May 11-15 in sunny Southern California. So grab a drink, dance a step or two and relax. Let's (third) party!

DataCore Software Corp.
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."


dtSearch Corp.
dtSearch, based in Bethesda, Md., 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.

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


Fun Fact: The "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" happens every fall -- not in Los Angeles but in Jacksonville, Fla., when the football teams from the University of Georgia and the University of Florida renew their annual rivalry.


Idera
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 admins 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," Pleczko explains.

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


Fun Fact: About.com claims the five-county Los Angeles area would be the fourth-largest state in the United States if it were a state unto itself. That's a lot of room for a dance floor.


K2
K2 is a division of SourceCode Technology Holdings Inc., based right in Microsoft's backyard, 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 -- meaning non-developers -- can build SharePoint workflows and applications without writing code.

The company will also show off its K2 connect product, an add-on to its flagship software blackpearl. 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.


Lieberman Software Corp.
Lieberman will be right at home in Los Angeles, given its corporate headquarters are located in the city on the aptly named Avenue of the Stars. The star for Lieberman at Tech•Ed will be Enterprise Random Password Manager, its also aptly named password-management product.

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 Systems Center, company officials say.


Marathon Technologies Corp.
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 Server. 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.


MVP Systems Inc.
MVPSI 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 that 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: www.mvpsi.com.


Raxco Software Inc.
Raxco, a Gaithersburg, Md.-based provider of disk-defragmentation software, rolled out its PerfectDisk 10 line of storage-management products in January and will make the product the focus of its presence at Tech•Ed.

The main new player in the PerfectDisk family is PerfectDisk 10 Virtual Enterprise Edition, which provides, as 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 to purchase -- or download a free trial copy -- at the company's Web site: perfectdisk.com.


Fun Fact: Randy Newman released the single "I Love L.A." on his 1983 album "Trouble in Paradise." Though it's hard to say whether the song and accompanying video were an ironic slap at the city or a genuine love poem -- they were probably a bit of both -- the tune became an iconic song for the city in the 1980s and no doubt got blasted at more than a few parties.


Red Gate Software Ltd.
All the way from Cambridge -- England, not Massachusetts -- comes Red Gate Software with a new archiving tool for Exchange that's 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.

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 are named after Via Porta Rossa [Red Gate Street] in Florence, Italy, close to where Leonardo da Vinci invented the database in 1512."


Sanbolic Inc.
At Tech•Ed, Sanbolic will announce that it's adding distributed snapshots to Melio FS, its clustered file system. Also in the product will be 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.


Sapien Technologies Inc.
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 describes. 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," he adds.


ScriptLogic Corp.
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 additionally offers centralized event monitoring and reporting, as well as simplified delegation of AD and backup and recovery functionality.

Also at Tech•Ed, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company 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.


Sherpa Software Group L.P.
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 adds.

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 your proper solution. That's sort of our mantra here."

The company lives the theme, even giving internal servers names like "Everest." But visiting Sherpa's booth at Tech•Ed will likely be less dangerous than trying to scale the famous mountain.


Special Operations Software Inc.
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 apps virtually using Group Policy. Thorbjörn Sjövold, the company's CTO, 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," Sjövold says.

Those "bubbles," he explains, let users make changes to applications without changing anything in the operating system itself. With Virtual Deploy, "what you can do with App-V is take Office 2003 and virtualize it," Sjövold says. "[Office 2003] is a bubble that lives inside its own little world. Whatever you change inside Office 2003, it doesn't affect the OS.

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

Johan Ögren, president of the company's North American operation, says Special Operations Software will give 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."


VMware Inc.
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, an online columnist for Redmond sister site VirtualizationReview.com, notes in his March 25, 2009, story, "Changes Coming to Thin Provisioning," 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 expands 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."


SteelEye Technology Inc.
Down from Menlo Park, Calif., comes SteelEye Technology, which will demonstrate 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, VP of marketing for SteelEye, says that at Tech•Ed the company will show how DataKeeper Cluster Edition handles "Quick Migration of live running Microsoft Hyper-V VMs 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 the company's Web site: steeleye.com.


Meanwhile, Back on the Mother Ship
Microsoft will have plenty of its own products to showcase at Tech•Ed. The "first party," so to speak, tends to keep 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) and System Center Essentials, the company's midmarket IT management suite, in a special technical session.

As for other noteworthy events, Microsoft Learning will give all attendees vouchers worth 50 percent off a certification exam.

Lee says: I had a lot of fun with this preview because I really do love Los Angeles, with none of Randy Newman's irony necessary. Most people in the technology industry -- maybe most people, period -- lean toward San Francisco in the ancient battle between Northern and Southern California, but while San Francisco is nice, give me L.A. any day.

I'll put up with the smog, the traffic and the sprawl in exchange for sunshine, beaches, great Mexican food, places like Malibu, Venice Beach and Santa Monica, and trips up or down the coast to Santa Barbara or San Diego.

I'm no star-watcher by any means, but I'd much rather have a chance sighting of a beautiful young actress on Rodeo Drive than run into the CEO of a big tech company in San Jose.

As I write this, it's 45 and rainy in Framingham, Mass., and I really am doing some (Southern) California dreaming. Nice choice, Microsoft.

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