The top time-savers in WinServ, SQL and VS 2008

Microsoft creates fictitious firm to showcase features of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server and Visual Studio

Microsoft created an imaginary competitor to (Canadian coffee and donut chain) Tim Horton's this week as a way of demonstrating the kind of organization that might use its latest versions of Windows Server, SQL Server and Visual Studio.

A fictitious firm called Fourth Coffee was used to showcase the performance, features and applications of Microsoft's flagship enterprise software products. Executives from Microsoft Canada plotted out scenarios in which Fourth Coffee had to manage multiple compute loads, for instance, using Windows Server 2008, or use SQL Server 2008 to identify a shortage of coffee cups. Visual Studio 2008, meanwhile, was used to create an animated Fourth Coffee Web site.

The world's largest software company sent its chief operating officer and a former CIO of Wal-mart, Kevin Turner, to oversee the Canadian launch. Turner, who moved on from a strictly IT role to become CEO of Sam's Club shortly before joining Microsoft two and a half years ago, told hundreds of developers and customers he still gets involved in the technology side at Redmond.

"We have one official CIO, and quite a few unofficial CIOs," he said, adding in a private interview with ComputerWorld Canada that he didn't find it difficult to move from technology into more senior management positions. "As a CIO you get the vantage point of how the company operates in almost every department. It means you have to scale up (your management expertise) so that you can understand where things are and what's going on."

Microsoft used the theme "Heros happen here," to celebrate the role IT executives play and how they can transform businesses. Along the way, they also discussed specific features customers could use to accelerate that transformation. Here's a handful:

Presentation Virtualization (Windows Server 2008): Attendees at the Canadian launch included BMO Capital Markets, which recently opened four offices in China as part of its expansion into the Asia Pacific region.

According to Sorin Manta, BMO Capital Markets' manager of Windows Server infrastructure, Chinese government regulations mean that once approval for setting up shop there has been granted, you only have a short time frame to establish an office. "They'll come and audit, and if you're not operational and running smoothly, the authorization can be put on hold or revoked ," Manta said. In this case, BMO had only few months to get the offices going. Setting up a lot of physical machines wasn't possible, so Manta's group started with Windows 2003 and eventually used improvements to Terminal Services in the 2008 version to set up remote publishing of trading applications running of server farms in Canada. This is Presentation Virtualization, and Manta estimates it saved BMO Capital Markets about US$150,000 in capital equipment expenses for each of the four offices.

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