Post-Game: Microsoft Financial Services Developer Conference
19 Mar 2008
As mentioned in a previous post, I spent the two days last week at the 6th Annual Microsoft Financial Services Developer Conference, and I have to say that it was a great event.
On Wednesday, I gave my talk on distributed caches:
The room was packed, folks were asking great questions, and the feedback I got was very positive. For folks who are already knee-deep in high-performance computing and distributed caches, the presentation may not offer much not already known (except perhaps for the late sections on performance tests we ran in the lab and advanced techniques like object segmentation). But given that Microsoft had given this conference a clear emphasis on HPC and that many developers in attendance were relatively new to the subject, the presentation seemed to strike a fair balance between background and practice.
The funny thing is that when I set about writing this presentation, my first draft had over eighty slides for a sixty minute talk. Though I’m a fast talker, I’m not able to retire content-rich slides at a 45 second pace and still maintain an audience. Getting acquainted to distributed caches from a developer’s point of view involves a lot of content, but due to the constraints of the presentation, a lot had to end up on the cutting room floor. Ultimately, I trimmed the deck to fifty-one slides (including such dross as title slides and section headers), but I got through the entire deck with time allowed to take questions. In the minutes before my talk, I was concerned that the most interesting, most crunchy, most impressive material got lost during revision. But by the time the talk was over, I realized that was left after revision was what this audience really wanted to hear.
During the talk I took two straw polls. The first question was: how many people in the audience had practical exposure to distributed caches? I would that guess about 15% raised their hands. The second set of questions revolved around which distributed cache products people were familiar and/or had actually used. Interestingly, GigaSpaces was the runaway winner in both awareness and actual exposure, with about 10% raising their hands. ScaleOut StateServer was a strong second. GemStone GemFire, Oracle Coherence, and Alachisoft NCache clustered far behind. IBM ObjectGrid drew crickets.
Anyway, after my presentation on Wednesday, I caught up with friends and colleagues from our partner companies and sampled the “Lab49 Red”, a drink recipe served at the Wednesday cocktail reception sponsored by Lab49 in our capacity as Platinum Sponsor.
On Thursday, I sat in a couple sessions. The first session, hosted by Rich Ciapala from the Microsoft HPC Server 2008 team, demonstrated the Microsoft HPC++ CompFin Lab, a framework for computational finance that Lab49 has been building for Microsoft. It’s a great piece of work, and it deserves a blog post on its own. The second session I went to was Stephen Toub’s presentation on the Task Parallel Library, PLINQ, and related technologies from the Parallel Computing Group at Microsoft. Though I had seen most of the content before, I was taken aback by the 24-core (!) test machine they got from Intel to run their demos on. That’s four sockets, six cores per socket. The Task Manager Performance tab looked awesome.
Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed this conference. This is my second year in attendance, and this year was much more interesting than last. There are few other conferences so focused on giving developers in financial services concrete and practical information on how to become more adept at using Microsoft technology to solve their particular brand of problems. Microsoft’s product teams were in heavy attendance, and the vendors present seemed both relevant and engaged.
I look forward to next year!