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Continuous services and connected devices

Ray Ozzie, who took over the role of Chief Software Architect at Microsoft when from Bill Gates retired about five years ago, announced recently that he will be retiring soon. When Ozzie first became Chief Software Architect, he wrote a famous 5000-word internal memorandum titled, The Internet Services Disruption. The memo outlined the transformative and disruptive potential of web services.

Ozzie wrote, "The ubiquity of broadband and wireless networking has changed the nature of how people interact, and they’re increasingly drawn toward the simplicity of services and service-enabled software that ‘just works’. Businesses are increasingly considering what services-based economics of scale might do to help them reduce infrastructure costs or deploy solutions as-needed and on subscription basis.". Ozzie was spot on as this is what today's Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computer are all about.

Now, five years later, just before he is about to retire, Ozzie wrote another 5000-word memo entitled Dawn of a New Day. In this memo, Ozzie reflects on how Microsoft has been transformed over the past five years with regards to so-called 'services'. Despite many successes, Ozzie acknowledges that for the most part, Microsoft missed the boat on mobile and social software.

More importantly, he also lays out his vision of where things are going in a post-PC world: "To cope with the inherent complexity of a world of devices, a world of websites, and a world of apps and personal data that is spread across myriad devices and websites, a simple conceptual model is taking shape that brings it all together. We’re moving toward a world of 1) cloud-based continuous services that connect us all and do our bidding, and 2) appliance-like connected devices enabling us to interact with those cloud-based services."

I spent most of my evening reading both memos. It provides some unique insight about what it means to be Chief Software Architect at one of the largest software companies in the world, as well as how they see the future. In general, I agree with Ozzie's vision of the future as he explains it in his latest memo. The part on complexity also resonated with me. I think the points he makes are very relevant for most of us that make a living with Drupal. Like Ozzie, I think development of this new service-connected world will be neither fast nor easy. However, I think Drupal is uniquely qualified to play a prominent role in such a world. It requires us to make the right decisions, to manage complexity, and to stay on top of our game. Whether you like Microsoft or not, the memo is worth reading.

On Microsoft's anti-Drupal ad

Microsoft's anti-Drupal ad

Yesterday, an anti-Drupal ad by Microsoft was spotted in the wild; see the image on the right. The news spread on Twitter like wildfire. I said this was "interesting", not because Microsoft isn't allowed to compete with Drupal but because Microsoft is also promoting Drupal. In fact, I was flattered by the idea that Microsoft considered Drupal worthy of competition. However, it left many of us confused about the fact that Microsoft decided to both partner with Drupal and compete against it.

For me, the interesting part is not whether Microsoft is allowed to compete or not -- of course they are allowed to compete. What is interesting to me is the way Microsoft reacted. Within hours, Microsoft had noticed the small Twitter-tsunami, picked up the phone to talk about it, pulled down the ad and publicly apologized for confusing the Drupal community.

This means a lot. It is hard proof that social media like Twitter works, and that Microsoft can be great at listening and responding. It is proof that the web has changed to be more humanized, and that Microsoft understands how to build relationships online. By being transparent and human, and by publicly apologizing, they built some trust with the Drupal community (as reflected in the comments of Mark Brown's blog post), and that might actually influence people's experience with Microsoft. Plus it looks like, at least for now, Microsoft decided to promote Drupal rather than compete with it.

At the end of the day, this was the act of one Microsoft employee in India who was out of sync with the rest of Microsoft. This inevitably happens in big companies. All is good now.

IIS module for Mollom

Zion Security, a Belgium-based company specializing in the security analysis of web sites and systems, has used Mollom's open API to develop a Microsoft IIS module utilizing Mollom to detect and prevent comment and posting spam.

This module is unique in that it is a HTTP module coded for Microsoft IIS, comparable to an Apache module, and allows Mollom to potentially expand to a number of ASP/IIS based systems.

The Mollom IIS module is available as a zipped file for download here and is listed on our downloads page. It checks any submitted form for spam using Mollom's spam detection analysis, and like other Mollom plugins, requires you to obtain a set of registration keys from mollom.com before it can be actively used to protect your ASP-based forms.

Because it is written as a module at the webserver layer, it may be possible to use Mollom's spam-detection and CAPTCHA challenge ability with existing web applications running on IIS (think SharePoint or DotNetNuke). It's an interesting approach and one we haven't really considered ourselves. It will be interesting to see how this develops, and if it sticks.

Microsoft promoting Drupal

Microsoft announced its Web Application Gallery at its annual MIX conference today. The exciting news for many of us is that Drupal is one of the first 10 applications to be included as part of the Web Application Gallery. Other open source applications including Wordpress, SilverStripe, and Gallery also made into the initial group.

The Microsoft Web Application Gallery follows on from last year's Web Application Installer, but it is even better. The Web Application Gallery allows you to browse and discover web applications that install and deploy well on Windows, and offers a simplified download/install experience for these applications and all of Microsoft's free web products that these applications run on. Just click the 'Install' button on the Web Application Gallery and you'll be guided through the installation process. For people running Windows Vista, 2003 Server, XP or Windows 7, the installer automatically configures IIS6 or IIS7 appropriately for PHP and Drupal, installing the required MySQL database and PHP's mod-rewrite rules and required extensions. Note that Drupal does not support Microsoft SQL, and that Microsoft will not automatically install MySQL at this point -- the installer prompts users to download and install Windows binaries for MySQL from mysql.com.

Because we believe this is an opportunity to introduce Drupal to hundreds of thousands of new users, Acquia worked with Microsoft to help package Acquia Drupal for the Web Application Gallery. When Microsoft approached us, we were cautious at first, but quickly realized this could be a great opportunity for both Drupal, and the Open Source community at large. We were further encouraged when the Microsoft Web Platform team provided us every resource we needed to get the job done in record time, including dedicating a full-time engineer to work with us. While not perfect in version 1.0 we are encouraged by this new direction.

One interesting aspect of this cooperation is that the actual Drupal code, along with the Web Application Gallery metadata, is all hosted and maintained by Acquia (not by Microsoft). Whenever we roll a new release of Acquia Drupal, the Web Application Gallery will automatically point to the latest version of Acquia Drupal. It is integrated in our testing environment and build loops. In addition, all support for this IIS-friendly Acquia Drupal package can be handled through Acquia's support forums.

This kind of arrangement makes things very scalable for Microsoft. Going forward, anyone will be able to submit their ASP.net and PHP applications for inclusion in the Web Application Gallery. If Microsoft chooses to push this hard, and markets these applications to the millions of Windows developers world-wide, it is likely we'll be seeing hundreds of Free and Open Source applications being added to the Web Application Gallery. Microsoft also told us that they are working on an SDK that will allow third-party applications, such as Plesk and cPanel, to integrate with the Web Application Gallery, enabling their customers to install all the Web Application Gallery software directly on their Windows-based hosting accounts instead of their local desktop.

Microsoft web application gallery

Microsoft ships Drupal

Microsoft just announced the Web Application Installer. It is an installer designed to help get users of the Windows operating system up and running with some popular web applications. Guess what? It comes with support for Drupal. I don't know enough about their roadmap but this could introduce Drupal to millions of new users. Oh my!

From the Web Application Installer page: Web Application Installer provides support for popular ASP.Net and PHP Web applications including Graffiti, DotNetNuke, WordPress, Drupal, OSCommerce and more. With just a few simple clicks, Web Application Installer will check your machine for the necessary pre-requisites, download these applications from their source location in the community, walk you through basic configuration items and then install them on your computer.

I don't have a Windows machine so I can't test it out, but it sounds like a great way for Windows users to explore Drupal. (Hat tip: Jelle Druyts)

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