Heard on .NET Rocks!: Talking .NET with Tim Huckaby

am the host of “.NET Rocks!”, an Internet audio talk show for .NET developers online at www.dotnetrocks.com and msdn.microsoft.com/dotnetrocks. My co-host Richard Campbell and I interview the movers and shakers in the .NET community. We now have over 170 shows archived online, and we publish a new show every Monday morning. For more history of the show check out the May/June 2004 issue of CoDe Magazine, in which the first column appeared.

In show #170, Richard and I talked with Tim Huckaby, Chief Executive Officer of InterKnowlogy?a software, infrastructure and network engineering firm dedicated to consulting, application software design, and network engineering. As Lead Technical Architect, Software Development Lead, Microsoft Regional Director, and Microsoft Partner Advisory Council member, and International .NET Association “Rock-Star” speaker. We spoke about .NET adoption, and an interesting project his company is working on to help find the cure for cancer.

Carl Franklin: So we were talking about adoption of .NET among other things and this is an area that you know lot about.

Tim Huckaby: I am fascinated by it because like you guys when [heard about] .NET?when we first were briefed by Microsoft?what the hell did they call it? The Window’s global naming??

Carl Franklin: Next Generation Windows Services.

Tim Huckaby: Yeah, doesn’t that seem like an eternity ago? When Microsoft?that was what, 2000?

Carl Franklin: Yeah.

Tim Huckaby: And here we are, 5-6 years later?could we have predicted that .NET would have taken off as much as it has? And I don’t mean to speculate, IDC?which if you want to go check them out, I think they are [at] idcresearch.com, and they are one of those independent firms that does all these huge studies. Their recent numbers on .NET adoption versus J2 were shocking. And I wish I could show you the numbers in Excel but in small companies, .NET is 50% larger versus J2, which is at about at a 29% adoption rate. Where J2 really owns the world, and always has, and frankly will for a long time because of 10- and 20-year capital investments, amortization in hardware, and such, you can’t expect J2 to be ripped up quickly?and that’s in the very large orgs. And .NET’s adoption is at 41% in the largest organizations in the world.

Carl Franklin: Wow! That’s great.

Tim Huckaby: It’s unbelievable.

Richard Campbell: In 6 years flat.

Tim Huckaby: So then I am lucky that Microsoft sends me all over the world and I get to speak to these developer audiences that just dig .NET so much. I got to tell you, recently in my world travels, I have never seen so much .NET adoption in these companies.

Carl Franklin: That’s great. Well for instance, where have you been lately?

Tim Huckaby: Well I did this?I got to tell you?I did one of the most fun trips, business trips, I have ever done. People raised a few eyebrows about it when I told them this. I went to the Middle East, just recently about three weeks ago in fact. I went to Dubai which is kind of a famous city in the United Arab Emirates, especially now because of that port debacle. I guess we are not supposed to talk politics on this show, so I’ll just (laughter)?but nonetheless? We have some opportunities over there to build some software. You really have to know your geography, as a typical American even I had to stare at the map to figure out where I was going. But I went to Oman, a town called Muscat, Oman, which is their capital. Although they control the entrance to the Persian Gulf, they are on the Arabian Sea side. So, dramatically different in terms of the ecosystem and nature and such, Oman also has, just out of curiosity, the longest relationship with the United States of any Middle East country.

Carl Franklin: Wow!

Tim Huckaby: So suffice it to say that it is a very friendly type place. What I was shocked at is how beautiful it is, I mean tropical and lush. I wish I could send you the pictures. Now, they have a summer that is almost unlivable but nonetheless it’s a beautiful place. So we have an opportunity with a local partner there in Microsoft to [do] (without breaking NDA, it’s a government project public portal type thing) a large project. This RFP was written?I mean, you can tell those of us who have been in the business, have been responding to government RFPs for a while, you know exactly that IBM handheld them through this RFP.

Carl Franklin: Request For Proposal, right?

Tim Huckaby: Yeah, sorry. This request for proposal, this document we’re supposed to respond to?and IBM has written this for Web Sphere to win it. You can just tell and those of?there [are] people in the audience who are shaking their heads saying, “I know exactly what Tim is talking about.” So nonetheless I think we are going to steal this one.

Richard Campbell: Wow!

Carl Franklin: Congrats man.

Tim Huckaby: Yeah because we could do it for half the cost. .NET is so much of a production.

Richard Campbell: And that’s really the reason that .NET adoption has gone so well; it builds software fast.

Tim Huckaby: Exactly and that means it’s more inexpensive and [the] world isn’t driven totally by technologies?it’s driven by budgets and money and stuff like that as we all you know. So, yeah I am very encouraged about this opportunity. But, one of the more amusing meetings I had was from the big chief himself?the Prime Minister of the Sultan?the guy who owns the finance, the Minister of the Economy.

Carl Franklin: Wow! The Alan Greenspan of Oman.

Tim Huckaby: Yeah. And some other people in our government or in the United State’s government that is. Yeah so I had to address him as Your Excellency?

Carl Franklin: Excellent.

Tim Huckaby: (Laughter) No, I had to wear a suit. God, I don’t wear suits except at weddings and funerals these days. And, you know, I am trying to portray?this meeting started out very stuffy, very formal and we had to wait until he picked up his cup of tea before we could [talk]. Clearly I got briefed culturally.

Richard Campbell: It sounds more like sitting with royalty than with government.

Tim Huckaby: Right, right but as we got going in this two-hour meeting, this hour meeting that was supposed to be two hours, its me, Rodney Guzman from InterKnowlogy and then a couple of our InterKnowlogy guys over there, Hafid Al Walvi (ph) and Fadi Al Rufbi (ph) and that’s it and the prime minister guy. As this meeting got going we started talking about technology and .NET adoption and then he started lecturing us on how much he likes .NET, how much he likes how Microsoft has changed over the years, how excited he was about the opportunities, and I was sitting there just blown away shocked thinking like, “Oh! My God how lucky am I to be sitting here,” on the other side of the world listening to this guy who controls seemingly a $40 trillion budget talk to me about .NET.

Carl Franklin: That’s amazing.

Tim Huckaby: Isn’t that cool?

Carl Franklin: That’s great man. Good story.

Richard Campbell: Nice place to be.

.NET Rocks! (cont.)
Tim Huckaby: Yeah so the good news is it’s a beautiful place. Their beaches are amazing. There are tons of Europeans on vacation there. Their hotels are lavish. The bad news is, it’s the other side of the world, so from where I live it’s a 24-hour journey. So, it’s not the type of place you can vacation at easily. But did I tell you this? We stayed in Michael Jackson’s hotel room.

Carl Franklin: No. (Laughs)

Richard Campbell: Did you really?

Tim Huckaby: No (beep) sorry you are going to have to beep that. (Laughter)

Richard Campbell: Was he there?

Tim Huckaby: You guys know Rodney. I don’t know if you remember Rodney, my right-hand man from InterKnowlogy.

Carl Franklin: Sure, he was there on the Road Trip.

Tim Huckaby: Yeah they bumped us for some reason. The Hyatt bumped us to?they call it Sultan Suite or something like that, because they needed two rooms. They said, “Hey would you guys mind staying in the same room. You’ll have your own bedrooms.” We had been traveling for 24 hours, so I am like, “Yeah sure, no problem.” And they march us to a hotel suite; it is bigger than our house.

Carl Franklin: Wow! (Laughter)

Tim Huckaby: I mean like I am talking 3000 square feet of hotel room with seven rooms.

Carl Franklin: Was there like monkeys and ice cream all over the place and ?

Tim Huckaby: No, still, but I wanted, I requested monkeys and I (laughter). So like Management 101?you give your direct report the nicer room, right? So, I gave Rodney the master bedroom, which was gross it was so lavish. It had a sauna in it and a Jacuzzi and the whole deal.

Richard Campbell: Wow.

Tim Huckaby: Then we find out two days later from the front desk, “Oh yeah, you’ll be staying in Michael Jackson’s room, he was just here three weeks ago.”

Richard Campbell: (Laughter) Wow.

Tim Huckaby: So Rodney shares DNA with Michael Jackson, by sleeping in his bed.

Richard Campbell: Very nice.

Tim Huckaby: You may have to bleep that (laughter). What the hell were we talking about?

Carl Franklin: Vista! What’s going on with Vista, man? You know, I know you know and you know that I know that you know.

Tim Huckaby: I totally know. I am surprised you, you are catching me of course with the Vista thing, I actually am talking to the New York Times about this. You know normally I talk to the trade rags you know?

Carl Franklin: .NET Rocks! And?

(Laughter)

Tim Huckaby: Well, you guys are smart and sensible and non-emotional. But as you know, some of the press [people] who cover technology are always looking for a scoop and it’s usually shock journalism. So you know in my personal opinion, and clearly the Window’s team is not telling me, you know, “Okay, here’s how we f***ed up and here’s why we were late.” In my personal opinion I honestly believe by talking to a ton of people in Redmond last week, that Microsoft will never ship a piece of crap software again. They just won’t ship a Windows Me ever again. They have been burnt so bad, and the scars are so deep from 10 years ago that if Vista is buggy, they are not going to ship and they’d rather be 6 months late and suffer the financial consequences which honestly are significant.

Richard Campbell: Oh sure, missing Christmas is a big deal.

Tim Huckaby: And the enterprise licensing?I mean, they have legal agreements with these large companies that have enterprise licensing, for you know every 3 or 4 years they have to get a client.

Carl Franklin: Are they really rewriting 60% of the code?

Tim Huckaby: No, I doubt that.

Carl Franklin: Oh, that’s what was reported.

Tim Huckaby: That’s ridiculous, that’s shock journalism.

Carl Franklin: Yeah.

Tim Huckaby: No, I think they have found?you know there [are] a couple of teams that are behind?I am guessing they found a couple spots that might be a little subject to attack surfaces for security. I am totally guessing and they just said, I am guessing, “Screw it. We are going to have to redo this, it’s going to affect the schedule and we might as well tell the world now that we are going to be late because it might as well take the heat now, as the heat at the end of the year is just going to be awful.” That’s my speculation on this whole thing.

Richard Campbell: And it blows my mind that it’s March and we are talking about a slip in November.

Tim Huckaby: Right! Which is why you can just, Richard, you can just picture those guys in the war room. I don’t know, you guys probably know these terms?

Richard Campbell: Yeah, the war room.

Tim Huckaby: War room and triage. Triage is where you go and fix bugs, you know, figure out the features you are going to cut and or fix. War is between the product managers and program managers, product planners and that’s where you make a decision like this like, “Ok we are going to affect the schedule by four months because we are going to have to redo X and Y and Z and it’s going to cost us and we need to go to the press.”

Carl Franklin: So they’re talking February right, the CES show is their target date?

Tim Huckaby: That I did not know, but as we all know Microsoft tends to do product shipments around big shows so that would make sense if they are going to delay a couple or three months that would make sense.

Carl Franklin: Yeah, this is what I read, but in that same article they also said that they are rewriting 60% of the code. This is from slashdot a couple of days ago.

Tim Huckaby: Okay, you know that 60%?that’s silly. There is no way.

Carl Franklin: Yeah, I thought that was a little crazy.

Tim Huckaby: I mean just think about the software you guys write; if you are going to rewrite 60%?

Richard Campbell: I know. I mean, how long have they been working on it?four months to rewrite 60% of the code? I don’t think so.

Tim Huckaby: Yeah, you rewrite the whole thing, the whole kernel in .NET if you are going to do that.

(Laughter)

Carl Franklin: Hey, why stop there? Why not go for the Windows API itself?

Tim Huckaby: Hey, there you go. That would be a beautiful OS.

Carl Franklin: Sure.

Tim Huckaby: So yeah, we have this amazing project and Gates himself I am told is going to demo part of it at the World Wide CIO summit.

Richard Campbell: Wow.

Tim Huckaby: And the reason it’s cool, and damn it I wish I could show your audience this right now. One of our engineers, Kevin Kennedy?brilliant guy who has honestly, tons of graphics experience so it’s not like any average .NET programmer who builds this in two weeks, which he did, but it’s completely 3-D., The company is the Scripps Research Institute. There’s nothing NDA about this. They are trying to solve cancer.

Richard Campbell: Wow.

Tim Huckaby: And they do it by staring at these 3-D renderings at a protein molecular level and then they comment on them and then they try and collaborate around the world with other companies. There’s nothing competitive about cancer research.

Carl Franklin: Right.

Tim Huckaby: A bunch of people trying to fix a problem, and they all collaborate together. Unfortunately they collaborate by meeting once a year in Helsinki for some conference, or this and that.

Carl Franklin: So you’re trying to speed up that process?

Tim Huckaby: Yeah, so Kevin built this Avalon-based?wrapped in XAML actually?3-D viewer, because Avalon can do this and it is quite snappy too it is very snappy on Vista. Even in XP it’s snappy and those drivers aren’t talking to hardware yet. So you know you drag this 3-D rendering of these molecules around and at an atomic level you right-click, and you know, some oncologist, some cancer researcher notices something; a pattern, a mutation something like that; and decides to comment on it or annotate it. So you right-click on this thing and that annotates out to SharePoint. But it’s tied to that atom, right? So the SharePoint search goes out to the world. Some other cancer researcher is searching and they get a match and boom! Now they are staring at the same molecular view of this cancer cell.

Carl Franklin: Does it have a Holodeck interface?

(Laughter)

Tim Huckaby: You know what? I’ll have them add that as a feature and put your name on it.

(Laughter)

Carl Franklin: That is amazing.

Tim Huckaby: Yeah. I can’t wait to show you this.

Richard Campbell: Well and it’s so interesting that it’s really about the visualization.

Carl Franklin: Absolutely.

Richard Campbell: You know this is not a big processing problem or you know coming up with the number at the end equals this.

Carl Franklin: Not a database problem.

Richard Campbell: Yeah, this is?I need to see this thing so that I can feel my way visually to an answer.

Tim Huckaby: Right and interestingly enough, we didn’t know this. We are just, you know, [a bunch of] application programmer guys and girls, right? But Microsoft has looked at this and said, number one, the Avalon team clearly needs a flashy wind so they are freaking out, they loved this thing. But Microsoft has also said, you know what, there are so many businesses that need to look at a rendering picture and annotate. And we have zero, we have zero new technology demos to do this. So you know this thing may have a life span of many years and apply to many different businesses. I hope so.

Carl Franklin: Yeah me too. Good luck! That’s awesome!

Tim Huckaby: Yeah! We write a lot of Microsoft software. It’s just not that interesting. Can you imagine writing the software that helps the company that cures cancer?

You can listen to the entire interview and read the transcript online at http://shrinkster.com/ek0.

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