The End of Days

Before the Sunset #8
Originally uploaded by rdonovan

Today was one of the hardest days of my professional career.

I affected a reorganization at work that effectively ended the standalone life and destiny of the team I have worked hard to lead for the last several years – and seen it folded into a larger parent organization with a different charter.

Given several business realities, it was the only pragmatic thing to do. Everyone has a home if they so desire – or can pursue other interests within the company. I will be following the latter course myself personally.

Not the kind of sunset one desires – but as they say – every ending is a new beginning!

The View Isn’t Always Rosy at the Top

After living in San Francisco for several years, I became a high-rise living convert. The heart of the city within walking distance. Easy commutes. Great views. And much more.

Occasionally, it has its problems though. When something goes haywire in the building – and it affects your individual unit – it can be an extraordinarily frustrating experience. One such gremlin in my building is the air conditioning.

In a gesture of immense stupidity, the thermostats in individual units featuring air conditioning are tied to the thermostat in the building. When something happens in the building – such as a periodic maintenance cycle that appears to happen on Sunday evenings – the thermostat in the unit will be ignored and the temperature will rapidly rise to 80+F/27C. Setting the temperature and adjusting the thermostat is USELESS – the only way to fix it is pull the circuit breaker, allow the whole system to reset, turn it back on, and then reset the thermostat. Fun stuff.

And this wondrous suggestion is from the head of building maintenance. Next time – don’t do it!


Now I have seen everything in the realm of software stupidity. Fortunately, it is not Microsoft who’s at fault! Surprisingly, it’s Apple. I have one of the very first MacBook Pro 15″ laptops ever made. I purchased it the day Boot Camp came out – and never looked back. The machine has been flawless – until now.

I have religiously installed Apple’s software updates as they have been pushed to me. This weekend, one of those updates was the SuperDrive 2.1 Firmware update. And now the optical drive in my laptop is dead! You literally cannot even install a disk. After searching the issue on Apple’s forums, it appears that I am one of many that this has happened to – and there is no fix short of hardware replacement.

My machine is out of warranty by a few months. It seems that this is being handled on a case-by-case basis both at the Apple stores as well as by Apple’s phone support. I am going to have a long, stupid chore ahead of me regardless – and no absolute promise of a fix (yet).

Sigh. The moral of the story – don’t push firmware updates unless you are 110% sure they work. This one sure didn’t – and now I’m going to look at all such fixes much more carefully before allowing them to be automatically be installed on my hardware.

In-Depth: Commerce Server Product Roadmap & Information Desk Program Announcement

At this time last year, Commerce Server 2007 (CS2007) hit worldwide general availability. We couldn’t let the occasion pass without some kind of appropriate encore, so we figured the long-term product roadmap announcement might just suffice.

It has been a long time coming – perhaps too long – but we truly wanted to rethink this properly around the unique needs of the Commerce Server customer-base and get it right the first time. Hopefully you think it has been worth the wait! And now, for the details:

  • Commerce Server “7” – This will be the next-major version of Commerce Server (and 7th major iteration of e-commerce technology from Microsoft since Merchant Server’s debut in 1996) and successor to CS2007, targeted for delivery in mid-2010. This release will feature the following themes:
    • Migration from CS2007 – given the size of our 5K+ global customer-base this has to be there and has to be right. Plain and simple.
    • Commerce Foundation 3.0This will be the third major evolution of core e-commerce capabilities, with the first two being Merchant Server/Site Server and Commerce Server 2000-2007. Some of the key enhancements to look forward to include an all-managed foundation (sans a few pieces for backward compatibility), scrubbed and consistent programming model aligned to the latest .NET developer platform, and full support for 2-tier and 3-tier/Web Service support pervasively for both runtime and data management scenarios.
    • Commerce-at-Your-Fingertips – CS2007, with its Web Service support, started reaching beyond traditional Web site scenarios for the first time. “7” will treat all commerce scenarios as first-class citizens, not just the online Web store. Think about things like Web Service-based punch-outs from other systems or marketplaces, kiosks, mobility, emerging mediums (like gaming or interactive/IP TV), and in-store integration – it will all be there in addition to continuing to evolve the Web store offering and making it better than ever.
    • Lifestyle Commerce – Personalization technology has a come a long way. Social networking has emerged as the latest and hottest trend on the Web. Driving convergence of the two together into a seamless experience for both shoppers and business users represents one of the largest areas of investment for CS “7”. First, think about investments in orders and profiles for customer care scenarios to facilitate 1:1 interactions between the business user and shopper – this is an area that could use more investment in CS2007 and we intend to get it right in “7”. Second, think about extending the entire shopping experience (and ability to do personalized targeted marketing as a business owner) to social networks – with things like content syndication, blogs, forums, and other means of collaboration – this will also be a major “7” investment. Third and finally, think about targeted marketing across all channels with predictive analytics to measure the results and make adjustments (that can be off, on full automatic mode, or interactively utilized as “suggestions” by the business owner) – this will also be in “7” as well.
  • Commerce Server 2007 Accelerators – Between now and “7” is a long time to wait, so we wanted to deliver more value to CS2007 customers by adding new capabilities a la carte that have minimal-to-no impact upon existing deployments to facilitate the most oft-requested technology integration or industry deployment scenarios for CS2007. This will be accomplished via accelerators – which will be shipped starting in the 2nd half of 2008 (with preview releases available beforehand) – that can be added to any existing CS2007 deployment.
    • Technology Integration
      • SharePoint – Leverage CS2007 + Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS2007) together for end-to-end site search (SharePoint data + Commerce Server data), commerce-enabled portals (ability to consume CS2007 runtime services in MOSS2007portals), and content authoring/workflow (leverage MOSS content creation to manage your CS2007 catalogs + associated content in a unified experience).
      • Dynamics – End-to-end e-business deployment with Dynamics CRM plus a choice of Dynamics AX, NAV, or GP for ERP.
      • Live! Services – Search engine optimization and publishing for Live Search, store location with Live Local/Virtual Earth, and integration of AdCenter support into the Commerce Server marketing subsystem.
      • Enhanced Business User Experience – Leverage of Silverlight 1.1+ technologies to replace Windows SmartClients for business user tools capabilities to facilitate zero desktop footprint and multi-platform support for business users.
    • Industry Enablement
      • End-to-end facilitation of vertical industry scenarios through a premium version of the Starter Site (with industry-specific functional customizations, controls, etc.), custom schema extensions, customized business management tools, Expression Studio support, and any other capabilities needed to enable a specific vertical scenario.
      • Target industries include: General Merchandise Retail, Apparel Retail, Electronics Retail, Digital Downloads (Software + Media & Entertainment), and General Business/Hospitality Services.

The pricing, licensing, packing, and final naming are all TBD. Needless to say, we are committed to broadening the reach of Commerce Server as much as possible as well as delivering value on existing investments. Likewise, we don’t have more schedule specifics we can share at this time. Stay tuned to the team blog at for further details, as they will be shared as soon as information can be made available.

To provide better support to our customers, we are announcing the Commerce Server Information Desk. With a general response time of ~2-3 business days, this is a global, product group-managed program for ALL customers and partners to get tailored pre-sales support and connections with expert resources and best practices for post-sales engagements. The Commerce Server business is unique in that there are no two customers alike – as every organization runs its business differently. This program acknowledges this fact by providing the 1:1 interactions and specialized expertise needed to make customers and partners successful with evaluating and deploying Commerce Server worldwide through a consistently managed experience. (Note: This does not replace product support, which should still always be the first line of getting assistance with production issues.) To get started, simply mail today!

Simultaneously, Microsoft is entering into a long-term arrangement with Cactus Commerce of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada as the new preferred joint development and go-to-market partner for Commerce Server. What this means to partners and customers is that Cactus’ considerable industry and technical expertise and experience around Commerce Server can now be leveraged worldwide through programs in conjunction with the product group. This will help accelerate new software development offerings, better encapsulate real world experiences into the product development cycle, and provide global reach of deep Commerce Server expertise to whomever needs it, whenever and wherever they need it.

In short, today is one of the biggest days in Commerce Server history. We have a great product with Commerce Server 2007 and Microsoft’s FY07 was a banner year for Commerce Server 2007. Now, we have more resources than ever working on e-commerce, new programs to help get engaged, and the strongest, most specific roadmap in the product’s history. I, for one, am truly looking forward to the future – and on behalf of everyone in the product group, we hope you share our excitement as well.

Air Can(‘t)ada

I have been a loyal United Airlines and Star Alliance customer for many, many years. This year I am a Premier Executive/Star Alliance Gold and have already achieved that status for next year having been travelling quite a bit.

My previous experience on Star Alliance has been largely flying Lufthansa in Europe – and I’ve always been treated quite warmly by them (great seats, preferences always acknowledged) and been able to use their Senator’s Club lounges. Ditto for flying US Airways around the East Coast of the United States.

This trip I booked directly on Air Canada – which was a first. I have been re-routed due to cancellations on Air Canadal, but never booked directly. I discovered a nasty surprise – my Star Alliance Gold privileges are essentially meaningless when it comes to seating preferences – only their Aeroplan Elite/Super Elite get the good seats. I ended up in the last row of the plane – and was to have a middle seat except that the ticketing agent was kind enough to take pity upon me.

This is really unfortunate that privileges do not transcend airline boundaries within Star Alliance – at least in this case. (Apparently United is similar with issuing Economy Plus seats to other Star Alliance Gold flyers that are not on Mileage Plus.) If they were to truly get this right, the privileges would be recognized across. Period. And that’s my travel rant for this trip…