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Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Summit 2007: The Future

Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Summit highlighted the best strategies for architecting .NET applications. This report focuses on conversations about the future of the Patterns & Practices group, including its future focal points and how it intends to disseminate information.

REDMOND, WASH. -- Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Summit is lighter on code, and heavier on architectural diagrams, than most conferences. Hosted by the company's Patterns & Practices group, these sessions highlight what the group has deemed the best strategies for architecting .NET applications. Attendees, meanwhile, ask questions, offer feedback and have a bit of a hand in shaping the P&P group's future endeavors.

The latest Patterns & Practices Summit hit the conference center on the Microsoft campus. Each day had its own theme -- architecture, agile, development, software factories and applications. The report that follows focuses on conversations throughout the week about the future of the Patterns & Practices group.

Rick Maguire offered the audience a look at the group's four main areas of focus, at the technology on which the group is currently targeting and at the technology toward which some of its future efforts will be directed.

  • In the realm of application lifecycle management, Visual Studio and SQL Server are the current foci, and Visual Studio Team System "Rosario" and its Team Factory, as well as test engineering practices, are future topics.
  • As for SOA and BPM, Windows Communication Foundation and BizTalk Server are the current targets, and infrastructure composition, services composition and workflow are future considerations.
  • Application infrastructure concerns, now and in the future, include LINQ and data entities.
  • Finally, the group will add Silverlight to its Web and rich client guidance offerings, which already include ASP.NET, the Model View Controller Framework and Windows Presentation Foundation.

In addition to expanding its focus, the Patterns & Practices group aims to produce more video demonstrations of its offerings, more (and smaller) chunks of source code on CodePlex and a searchable explorer tool, Maguire indicated.

That said, the summit also featured a lively exchange among four members of the P&P group and some members of the audience about the best way for Patterns & Practices to disseminate its information.

Two Microsoft architects, Ade Miller and Wojtek Kozaczynski, stood up for bundling patterns into tools. Two others, Dragos Manolescu and Jason Hogg said that communication -- in the forms of books, documentation and community sites -- was the bets way to spread the word.

Hogg emphasized the need to discuss patterns before they could be implemented in a tool. A wizard is indeed helpful, he said, but it is no help if the user does not understand the pattern that the wizard is implementing.

Manolescu, meanwhile, compared the practice of embedding patterns into wizards to hitting the auto play buttons on his children's electronic keyboard. A song does play, but the pattern -- in this case, the requisite notes -- are so deeply encapsulated that the notes are not learned.

More P&P coverage
Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Summit 2007: Application Day

Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Summit 2007: Software Factory Day
Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Summit 2007: Development Day

One architect in the audience agreed, stating that tooling solves the short-term problem of finishing a project, whereas patterns act as a teaching tool and can therefore better address long-term practices.

On the other hand, Miller pointed out, no one learned to ride a bike from a book or a Web site -- we all learned from training wheels, a helping hand and trial and error. Plus, no one has time to read these days: "We're all trying to do things yesterday."

Kozaczynski said he saw little benefit to a collection of patterns that was just waiting to be consumed. As evidence, he pointed to the now-defunct PatternShare, a guideline-sharing site that debuted in 2005 but was taken down earlier this year. For Kozaczynski, it would be better for Patterns & Practices to focus its efforts and its dollars on tools, since those are actually used.

One audience member, who is active with a user group in Jacksonville, Fla., said the user group gets much larger crowds when its talks focus on pragmatic issues. "When I speak patterns, no one wants to listen," he admitted.

At the end of the debate, Microsoft decided to poll attendees and see whether they wanted to see patterns closely tied to architecture and development tools or expressed in various forms of documentation. Understandably, no definitive conclusions were reached during the show, but additional details should emerge forthwith.

If you have any thoughts about all this, let us know and we will add them here.

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