Day 3 turned out to be even more interesting than I thought. There were keynotes again this morning, but they were very demo heavy which is always good. The first was Kevin Schofield from Microsoft Research. After some great stats about Microsoft being the largest spender on pure R&D and being a leader in annual patents granted, he showed some amazing demos of visualization and image processing projects our researchers are working on. One of them you can see as well at this link. After this, Jim Allchin and some of his team did some great demos of Vista and Office 2007.
Later in the day I went to a great session on Active Directory in Longhorn. The biggest changes are targetted toward branch office scenarios with the introduction of the read only domain controller (RODC). As hopefully most people know, physical security of domain controllers is a critical requirement. Typically in branch office scenarios this is not the case. With the RODC, even if it is compromised, there is not a full account database on the server and it is prohibited from replicating back to full domain controllers. This role can run on Longhorn Server Core so you can have a very secure branch office directory server.
Finally, at the end of the day I went to a session on System Management Server, soon to be called System Center Configuration Manager. The session focused mostly on OS deployment and Network Access Protection (NAP) which were the two biggest areas of investment. Finally we will have a unified and robust method for deploying both client and server operating systems. There are some great improvements to the image based deployment process. In terms of NAP, this is going to be one of the biggest areas to improve security. There are many options for checking, quarantining, and remediating non-compliant systems. It’s also extensible so ISVs and even customers can create their own health checks.
Day 3 continued the themes of security and manageability across the board.