Powers Unfiltered

An entrepreneur’s journey into grid computing and partnering with Microsoft, by John Powers

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Digipede Network V2.1 — Beyond the Press Release

June 5th, 2008 · No Comments

Releasing software is hard.

Sure, the individual steps like specifying, developing, testing, documenting, and planning support for new software features are difficult enough — but the discipline of knowing when to STOP adding features, and to focus instead on finishing a complete, polished, release-ready product is tougher than it sounds to those outside the industry.

In any software organization worthy of the name, there are more good ideas than can possibly be put into any specific product release. There are also just a stunning number of bad ideas competing for inclusion in shipping products (I am notorious within Digipede for proposing needlessly specific bad ideas. Mercifully, my partners of 20 years have honed their skills in talking me out of the worst of them.)

We decided early on at Digipede that our feature set would be guided by three principles: Performance, simplicity, and a focus on adding value to the Microsoft platform. Over the past five years, these principles have helped us make decisions on what to include (and as importantly, what to exclude) from our software.

Last month, we reached general availability of the latest release of the Digipede Network, Version 2.1. You can see what’s new in this release on our Web site, but now that our customers have had an opportunity to upgrade, let’s look at a few of the specific new features to see how we did in sticking to those principles:

Job concurrency: The improved Digipede Agent software can manage different applications running simultaneously on multiple cores of a single compute node, maximizing utilization of compute nodes on the grid. Users can set Job Concurrency values to allow the Digipede Agents to work on multiple jobs simultaneously: designate which applications can safely run with other applications, which applications can run side-by-side with themselves, and which applications are not compatible for concurrent jobs.

Performance! This one is just amazing. As new machines ship with more and more cores inside, I am continually baffled at the lack of attention from ALL the major vendors out there about how to take advantage of those cores. Sure, Intel talks about compilers and Microsoft talks about Parallel Extensions and so on — but in shipping products in 2008, there’s just incredibly little help for users and developers who want to take advantage of multi-core processors. What we shipped in Version 2.0 last September is still miles ahead of other software options in terms of both development patterns and execution modes for multi-core processing. With Version 2.1, we’ve extended that lead significantly — if you want to take advantage of dual-CPU quad-core servers and desktops TODAY, you need to take a look at how the Digipede Network handles concurrency. Watch the 4-minute video that shows how, then get an evaluation copy of the software and try it yourself!

Management APIs: New management APIs give developers programmatic ability to create, modify, and delete resource pools. (Available in Professional Edition only)

Performance (specifically, scalability), and Simplicity (of grid management). A browser-based UI for grid management is great — for small grids. As our customers deploy larger and larger grids, they need both the browser-based UI of Digipede Control and a wider range of tools for the programmatic manipulation of grid resources. It is vastly simpler to take advantage of thousands of grid nodes through simple extensions to our management API.

Risk-free sharing: “Pool Rank” permits risk-free sharing of resources: you can add your servers to the enterprise grid and ensure that they always work on your jobs first. That means that by joining the grid, you can only improve your application performance. You can donate your cycles when you are not using them without worrying that your application performance will degrade, because you are always guaranteed that your machines will work for you.

Performance and Simplicity. We’ve also referred to this feature as “Selfish sharing.” We hear from other grid vendors about how users “must” get over the practice of “server hugging.” We try not to be so arrogant; we’ve never found that scolding our customers is good business practice. If customers want to preserve unconditional priority on their own servers, we say “good for them.” So we’ve built a straighforward way to preserve absolute priority for the resource owner, even when they offer to share surplus resources. From what our customers tell us, we think this approach encourages efficient resource sharing far more than lecturing ever would.

First Grid Computing Solution Certified for Windows Server 2008: We followed the long and winding road of the Early Adopter program to become the first grid solution to obtain this important certification, so that customers can be confident that our software works not only with the Microsoft products they use today, but with all the latest improvements Microsoft is bringing to market now.

Performance, Simplicity, and Microsoft focus. By aligning with Microsoft’s technology and strategy, we help our customers create a truly dynamic IT infrastructure. Server 2008 brings many benefits in performance and manageability, and we’re confident that our customers will be upgrading quickly (more quickly than, say, to Vista); we want to be sure they can use our latest capabilities on Microsoft’s best OS platform.

Let me be candid here; these benefits do not come free to ISVs. I have considerable anxiety over extending yet further the number of versions of Microsoft products we support — for example, while I think Server 2008 is great, and Visual Studio 2008 is great, and the new SQL Server 2008 will be great, staying current means we’ll have to start enforcing our requirements by turning away requests for support of Windows 2000 and SQL Server 2000. The combinatorics for testing on multiple OS versions, .NET versions, SQL Server versions, IIS versions, and upgrade paths for our own software versions get out of hand quickly. I’ll have more on this issue another day. For now I’ll just say I’m happy with our decision to stay current — mostly.

Automatic Failover Package and Integration with NLB: Failover has long been a feature of the Digipede Network Professional Edition but with the optional Automatic Failover Package, organizations can now have complete out-of-the-box integration with Windows Server 2008 load balancing, giving “hands-free” failover to mission-critical applications.

Performance, Simplicity, and Microsoft focus — yes, even this advanced capability was guided by our goal of simplicity. While automatic failover is often considered a complex requirement, we made some basic decisions to keep it as simple as possible. First, we made automatic failover it’s own SKU, so customers without the need for high-availability configuration don’t even have to think about it. Second, we did away with a lot of the manual scripting that often slows implementation of failover solutions — you can have it running very quickly. Finally, we left as much as possible to popular existing technologies — SQL clustering and NLB — so the implementation steps will be as familiar as possible.

Reports Package: Assembles critical information about the use and optimization of the grid, with easy-to-understand charts and graphs, flagging of critical information, and drill-down capability, giving enterprises fully integrated optimization of grid performance, with tracking of who contributes to and who benefits from grid resources.

Performance, Simplicity, and Microsoft focus — In larger systems, simple and informative visual tools are essential for wringing the most performance possible from a grid. Users and administrators become far more productive in their routine monitoring functions and troubleshooting activities with this new package, which plugs directly into Digipede Control (our admin UI). And by building on SQL Reporting, we’ve created a framework for future extensions.

Overall, I’m pleased with the extent to which we have driven the improvement of our product by staying focused on the three principles described above. To be a little less self-congratulatory, I wish we had stopped adding features at least two months earlier and brought most of these capabilities to market sooner, rather than piling quite so much into a single release (and there’s certainly more than I’ve had a chance to discuss here).  Perhaps another day, I’ll have a chance to discuss some of the things we (purposely) left out!  Now that V2.1 is in the market (and getting rave reviews from our customers), I’m eager to see what great new applications our imaginative customers create and deploy on our latest platform.

→ No CommentsTags: Customer Service · Entrepreneurship · Grid applications · Growth · Partnering with Microsoft · Usability

Off topic — Going Solar

June 3rd, 2008 · No Comments

Late this winter, we had a whopper of a Pacific storm, and it became clear that the Powers Roof had reached the end of its useful life. (The weather inside may not have been as bad as the weather outside, but it was bad enough.)

This wonderful opportunity led to the “while-we’re-at-it” syndrome that plagues so many home repair / improvement projects. So while we’re replacing the roof — why not investigate installing a photovoltaic system at the same time?

Going Solar — The Roof

And after a bit of analysis (more on that another day), we decided to go for it. The process of collecting bids and testimonials went smoothly (hint — the housing market really is as soft as people say; contractors are hungry!), and after a bit of permitting and paperwork — BAM, new roof and new solar panels. From two signed contracts (roofer and solar guys) to completed project took less than 10 days, including Memorial Day weekend. PG&E will be out “soon”with a new meter, and we’ll be getting about half our electricity from the sun.

The whole system will pay for itself in about 8 years (given California’s outrageous electric rates), and we’ll take a few toes off our carbon footprint.

Panels like these were quite rare even here in California even 2-3 years ago. Now, they’re popping up all over. The California Healthcare Foundation (where Marian works) just put up a 100 KW system, which is 30 times the capacity of ours. Google put in a 1.6 MW system a year or two ago. Walmart has started putting them on stores here. It’s not enough to account for much power yet, but it’s a big change in a short time.

If you want to find out how solar might work for you, call Jason at Borrego Solar, and tell him I sent you — they did a great job (and no, I don’t have any financial interest in Borrego).

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Digipede in .NET Developer’s Journal grid computing article

June 3rd, 2008 · No Comments

Derek Furguson of Bear Stearns (now JPMorgan Chase) has a good article in .NET Developer Journal about how to apply genetic algorithms and grid computing to the problem of market timing in stock trading. I was pleased to see that he chose to implement his algorithms using the Digipede Network.

His article is in two parts, and this first part provides a good overview of the complex problem he’s facing — he confronts issues in financial modeling, data sources, genetic models and grid computing. As a result, Part One does not dig too deeply into coding details. But it’s worth a read — you’ll understand the architectural decisions he’s facing, and how he’s planning to address them. Plus, from what I’ve heard about Part Two (which will be out in June), there’s plenty of detail (and code) coming.

This is the second time in two months that we’ve seen influential financial modelers implement their public examples using the Digipede Network (see also Matt Davey’s recent Dr. Dobb’s article).

This is consistent with what we’re seeing from customers. While there are many grid offerings in the market, there seems to be a growing consensus that if you use .NET, there are significant advantages to working with a grid solution built on .NET. Or conversely, there’s no point trying to fit a square peg into a round hole — i.e., there’s no point trying to graft a .NET application onto a grid built for other technologies when a better option exists.

This is the “application centric” view — grids should follow applications, making it easier for developers to adapt applications to a grid, even if that means limiting the options for running those applications to a particular set of resources (in Digipede’s case, Windows machines running .NET).

The other view is “infrastructure centric” — that OS should not matter, that a grid should allow applications to be deployed across all resources, even if that means restricting the application technologies and development patterns allowed for such deployment.

Digipede has been unapologetically in the “application centric” camp for five years now, but what do others think? Has Derek made a wise choice by trading off ease of development for deployment limited to a single OS? We think so, but let’s hear from you!

→ No CommentsTags: Grid applications · Press coverage · Usability

LINQ and Digipede — great Dr. Dobb’s article by Matt Davey

April 28th, 2008 · No Comments

In his most recent Dr. Dobb’s article, Matt Davey has some good commentary on Parallel Extensions to the .NET Framework, including PLINQ — as well as some very practical ideas about how developers can work with LINQ and the Digipede Network to build high-performance grid applications in .NET today.

Matt illustrates his ideas with some sample code that can “price trades in parallel on a Digipede grid,” with the results returned directly to his client LINQ application — simple, elegant, and very useful.

Matt has many more ideas for financial developers — his blog, Tales from a Trading Desk, is a must-read.

Never one to leave well enough alone, my colleague Dan Ciruli’s recent commentary on Matt’s workmentions Digipede’s concurrency patterns for taking advantage of multi-core processors. We’ll have lots more on that shortly.

→ No CommentsTags: Grid applications

Well THAT was fun…

March 4th, 2008 · No Comments

Powersunfiltered readers know that I’m a believer in the effectiveness of marketing events — but only with sufficient planning and preparation.  (For a refresher course in the Powers School of Events, start here.) 

As reported here last week, Digipede had a station in the Partner Pavillion at the Windows Server 2008 launch in LA last Wednesday.  I watched Ballmer (good), some Microsoft’s demos (pretty good), and learned yet more about the latest huge wave of innovation coming out of Redmond (excellent). 

But mostly, we were at the event to show and tell, not just listen and learn.  Any investment in a booth or station at an industry event has to be weighed at least in part by the exposure gained and leads gathered — and in my judgment this one was a success, thanks to some innovative preparation by the Digipede team.

First of all, we decided months ago to time our press release announcing Version 2.1 of the Digipede Network to coincide with the Server 2008 launch.  That involved some careful product decisions (hard, but essential anyway), doing a press release (easy), getting Microsoft’s approval and participation in that press release (time-consuming, but feasible), and earning the Certified for Windows Server 2008 designation (hard, and quite time-consuming, but worthwhile in the love ). 

We have been talking about making stickers out of the Digipede logo for some time — our logo looks cool, and just seems to belong on a sticker.  Robert Anderson sent around an innocent note about a month ago, which said, in its entirety, “Should we get some Deatle stickers made for the launch?    They can’t be too expensive.”  (Deatle is the name of the creature on our logo.)  The idea of seeing lots of Digipede stickers at the Server 2008 launch suddenly became compelling to all of us, and we set about making it happen.

DigiOval.JPGThere followed several rounds of innovative sticker design (by our own Nathan Trueblood and our wonderfully patient and creative graphic artist Norma McDonough), which resulted in the blue-and-silver oval seen here. 

But even stickers as lovely as this don’t just display themselves, and my suggestion of sneaking in early and plastering them on every wall and post was wisely overruled (as uncool, quite possibly illegal, and certainly easily traced).  So — Where could we reasonably put hundreds of stickers without incurring the wrath of the LA Convention Center?

Dan Ciruli’s elegant solution was to get the attendees to wear them at the event, using the time-tested technique of bribery.  “Wear a Digipede sticker for a chance to win a Zune” was the original idea.  We thought about an XBox, but those are quite a bit more expensive and harder to ship…  But as luck would have it, I attended another Microsoft partner event up in Bellevue in mid-February, and actually WON an XBox in a drawing.  I re-gifted XBox to Digipede for use at the launch, on the condition that none of my partners could tell my 12-year-old twin boys that I had owned an XBox for half an hour and not brought it home.  (They don’t read this — so everyone shhhhh.)

It turns out that in a room full of Windows developers and IT geeks, you definitely want to be giving away an XBox.  At first, traffic was a little light, and nobody was taking the stickers.  But within the first half hour of the event, as soon as a few people were wearing the stickers, other attendees got wind of the contest, and traffic picked up.  The rules were simple — if a Digipede spotter sees you wearing a Deatle sticker at an undisclosed time and place in the LA Convention Center, you’ll win the XBox. 

These few rules got people thinking — I have to wear this sticker somewhere visible, and I can’t just restrict my movements to hanging around the Digipede station (or even the Partner Pavillion).  At the Digipede station, people were putting stickers on their jackets, on their backs, on their backpacks, on their laptops, and more creative spots.   Soon, Deatles were crawling everywhere.  By early afternoon, even when I was out of the Partner Pavillion at lunch or in the halls or in the Microsoft Pavillion, people were walking up to me and asking — “I see those stickers everywhere; what the hell is Digipede?”  This was definitely working.

All the while, at Station 56 in the Partner Pavillion, Dan, Nathan, and I were keeping reasonably disciplined about striking up a brief conversation with each and every visitor.  Anyone who ONLY wanted a sticker for a chance to win the XBox was more than welcome to it; but many others stopped long enough to engage about the amazing grid computing software we were demonstrating as well.  (Some of the demos we did were similar to this.)  We gathered many leads this way, all of whom were at least partially qualified in person before scanning their badges (we did not scan those who just wanted a chance at the XBox — they don’t need to receive more emails from us, and we don’t need to fill our CRM system with them). 

There were LOTS of other giveaways going on throughout the Partner Pavillion — but they were all of the type “dump your card or scan your badge here and you might win a something.”  This is a popular approach, and no doubt the folks running these will think they got “more” leads than we did — but in my experience, a card dropped in a bowl (or a badge scanned for a prize) is not nearly as useful as a badge scanned after a qualifying conversation and/or demonstration.

(Note to the Microsoft organizers of this event — you did a PERFECT job with the partner lead collection system.  There was none of the insane doublespeak about who gave permission to share what leads with which partner — everything worked exactly as the partners and attendees would expect.  No doubt Microsoft’s legal legions are wringing their hands over the idea that Microsoft partners collected leads from Microsoft customers at a Microsoft event using a lead collection system featuring badges created by Microsoft — but unlike prior events, this was very well done!)

About 10 minutes before the Partner Pavillion closed, Dan and I went out to the main escalator, picked a random number between 1 and 60 (using a handy random number generator I wear on my left wrist — the number was 16), and started counting Deatles.  I would estimate that OUTSIDE the Partner Pavillion, about one in 10 attendees we saw was wearing a Digipede sticker.  (This means that no attendees with their eyes open could have missed seeing quite a few of these stickers.)  When we reached the 16th sighting, we awarded the XBox to a lucky Glendale-based IT professional, who was appropriately excited and appreciative.

So what did we get out of all this? 
1.  A large number of partially qualified leads with whom to follow up.
2.  A lot of brand awareness among Server 2008 users, buyers, and technical influencers.
3.  Additional visibility with the Microsoft Server team.

Worth the trip?  We think so, but as always, we won’t know for sure until we’ve worked the leads some more.  John’s One and Only Rule of Trade Shows — “Work it, or it’s not worth it.”

→ No CommentsTags: Events · Partnering with Microsoft

Digipede Rocks the Windows Server 2008 Launch

February 26th, 2008 · No Comments

Wear and WinDan Ciruli, Nathan Trueblood and I will be at the Windows Server 2008 Launch in Los Angeles tomorrow.

Wear our sticker at this event — you could win an XBox 360!

Digipede has a station in the “Partner Pavillion” in the LA Convention Center, at which we will be demonstrating the only grid computing solution Certified for Windows Server 2008.

We’ll also be handing out the highly coveted Laptop Fashion Statement of 2008 — an oval sticker featuring the Digipede logo. A randomly selected attendee spotted wearing this sticker (on your laptop or anywhere else!) will win an XBox 360, so stop by our station and wear your sticker proudly!

We’ll be showing cool grid and multi-core demos like this one, too.  If you’ll be there, contact me, and we’ll meet up.

→ No CommentsTags: Events · Grid applications · Partnering with Microsoft

Multi-Core and Grid Computing — New Digipede Video Shows the Way

February 19th, 2008 · 4 Comments

It’s no secret that multi-core computing is the future; Intel and AMD have told us they can’t make a single core go much faster, but they can pack more and more cores onto a single chip.

Current operating systems, compilers, and frameworks do little to assist the application architect or developer in taking advantage of this radical change in hardware. 

Digipede’s grid computing software is remarkably good at distributing application workloads — not just across multiple machines on a grid, but also across multiple cores on a chip.   Here’s a video I made this weekend that shows how we use the same exact technology to distribute calculations first across multiple cores on a single server, then across a larger grid.  Please have a look — I managed to keep it under four minutes!


As a complement to this video, you may also want to check out Dan Ciruli’s earlier demonstration that shows the code changes required to grid-enable an application — just 20 lines of code!

   http://www.digipede.net/products/whitepaper.html  (scroll down to the “Videos” section)

I’ll have lots more about this topic in the coming few weeks. 

→ 4 CommentsTags: Grid applications · Growth · Presentations

Back in Redmond (or nearly)

February 19th, 2008 · No Comments

I am in Bellevue, Washington today and tomorrow for a meeting of Microsoft partners in financial services.  The meeting is in one of Microsoft’s many local offices.  (If any of my loyal Microsoft readers want to get together, please contact me and we’ll work something out.)

The financial services IT market is going through some interesting times at the moment (in the Chinese curse sense of the phrase).  Opportunities abound — but they’re shifting.   At Digipede, we only see a small piece of that market.  I’m looking forward to learning how our colleagues among other Microsoft partners (and in the Microsoft Financial Services Group) see that market — and how we can go after new opportunities together.  


→ No CommentsTags: Events · Partnering with Microsoft

Digipede in New York Again

February 9th, 2008 · No Comments

Dan and I will be at another one-day conference in New York on Monday, February 11 — this one is Web Services / SOA on Wall Street, at the Roosevelt Hotel.  We’ll be in booth 211.

I’ll be interested to see what the crowd is like.  While the broader IT world remains somewhat divided on how widely applicable service-oriented architectures really are, we’ve seen many of our financial services clients moving quite rapidly toward SOA.

We’ve been helping these clients build scalable services using grids based on the Digipede Network.  And, as Rob and Dan said so well in their now-classic Dr. Dobb’s article on grid computing and SOA, ” You can’t build a scalable SOA on top of services that don’t scale.”

We’ll have some nifty demos (as always), and some new customer stories (ditto), and some controversial opinions to contribute to the conversation (no surprise there, either).  If you’ll be there, contact me and we’ll find a way to meet up.

→ No CommentsTags: Events · Grid applications · Presentations

Five Suggested Technical Improvements for the Microsoft Partner Web Site

January 29th, 2008 · 6 Comments

In the spirit of Todd Weatherby’s comments about opening a dialog regarding the Microsoft Partner Program Web Site, here are five technical things Microsoft could do to improve interactions with partners and customers.  I (and other partners) have put forward some more radical ideas for redesign of partner program policies and tools, but let’s start with things that could be done relatively quickly, without major surgery:
1. Enable better search tools on all parts of partners.microsoft.com.
Microsoft Live Search is actually getting pretty good. The quality of search results is usually (not always) on par with Google. The UI is simple, the search engine is fast, it’s reasonably comprehensive, and it’s relatively good at ranking results. Now step into partnerland, and you’d never know you were dealing with the same company. Try to search for a Microsoft partner interested in teaming with us to market and sell to hedge funds — go ahead, I’ll wait. The search tools are limited by the fields imagined by the designers of each application lurking behind partner.microsoft.com. The way the rest of the world (including large chunks of Microsoft) addressed this years ago was with better free text search tools (like Live Search). More recently, much of the rest of the world has discovered the value of tagging, which allows users to decide on the importance of words and phrases to help others find their content. (And yes, this example is from Channel Builder, but similar restrictions limit the value of other applications as well.)

2. Improve the compatibility of partner.microsoft.com with all major browsers, especially Firefox.
OK, I know, we’re all Microsoft partners and we’re all just delighted to use IE because it’s great, and because we’re all part of the great Microsoft dogfooding process. Mostly, I’m OK with that. But processes like obtaining customer references drive customers into parts of the partner site, and neither Microsoft nor its partners should be imposing IE on our customers. (One of my customers gave up on the reference process over this issue last month — thank you to the fine person on Todd’s team who approved the reference manually, but that hardly seems like the smoothest approach.)  Digipede is unusually highly focussed on the Microsoft platform — our software is written exclusively Windows — yet over 25% of visitors to www.digipede.net use Firefox.  Microsoft simply can’t assume partner customers use IE.
3. Speaking of dogfooding — Windows Live ID: All or Nothing.
After years of preaching to partners and customers about the value of Windows Live ID (formerly Passport) — why do so many Microsoft properties still not use it? Yes, I log into partner.microsoft.com using my Live ID — but when we go to the Worldwide Partner Conference, CommNet uses something else, and Structured Networking (now WPC Connect) uses something else else, and when we participate in the ISV Royalty Program we use something else else else, and so on. This is just login — how hard could it be to standardize?

4. Clear, useful, accurate, and complete partner status reporting
How was the number of points from our “Microsoft Tested Products” calculated?  How can my points associated with our only location be different from our total number of points?  Where did these 2 points I see in “Other Activities” come from, and when do they expire?

A long-standing request from partners far and wide is for a way to track the source and expiration dates of ALL partner points through partners.microsoft.com.  The Partner team showed a beta of this functionality at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver last July, and promised it “in the Fall.”  This functionality alone would be a great help to those of us who administer our firms’ participation in the Microsoft Partner Program.  Is this still in the works?
5. More human review of the partners.microsoft.com experience.
I hear Todd when he says:

We continue to invest in our on-line resources for our partners and customers worldwide. During 2007 we made several enhancements including a major release on November 30th. In early January, we realized we had some serious performance problems in some very specific steps in the enrollment process (eg. customer reference processing).

Since detecting the problem, we’ve been running 24×7 triage/test/fix cycles. We also added call center staff and extended hours of service to help partners work through enrollment and maintain their access to their benefits. We’ve made some fixes that have yielded improvement. We have more to do.

While parts of the enrollment process have been rough for some, partners have been using resources on the Microsoft Partner Portal in record numbers without problems, including online training, marketing and sales resources.

We continue to monitor system performance closely 24×7 worldwide. Status messages are being kept up to date on the site. Our Regional Support Centers are standing by to help partners.

OK — Granted. I realize that running a Web site for the largest partner program in the IT industry is complex, and I’m sure that somebody is monitoring system performance 24×7 — but let’s have a look at what I see today when I log in.

The first message, the VERY TOP item that Microsoft wants to bring to my attention today is:

Re-Enroll! It’s time to re-enroll the DIGIPEDE TECHNOLOGIES LLC in the Microsoft Partner Program. Read More

OK, no, it’s actually not time to re-enroll. I re-enrolled over two weeks ago. Let’s expand this message:

Re-Enroll! It’s time to re-enroll the DIGIPEDE TECHNOLOGIES LLC in the Microsoft Partner Program. Read More
Your Gold Certified Membership is scheduled to expire on Saturday, January 31, 2009. Continue your Partnership with Microsoft and retain member benefits by Re-enrolling Here.

OK, no, it’s really not important for me to rush out and re-enroll to avoid an expiration date more than one year in the future. As far as I can tell, there’s no reason for this message.

Let’s move to the second message Microsoft has for me today:

Attention! You must submit payment to complete your re-enrollment. Read More

OK, no, I submitted payment for my re-enrollment over two weeks ago, through Microsoft’s own interface, and received confirmation at that time.

Let’s expand this message too:

Attention! You must submit payment to complete your re-enrollment. Read More
The Microsoft Partner Program shows that you have not submitted payment for your Gold Certified Partner Membership. You may pay your Invoice now in the Payment Center.

OK, no, that’s wrong, I’m positive I paid, let’s dig around some more — sure enough, there in my Payment History (https://partners.microsoft.com/PartnerProgram/PaymentHistory.aspx) is the record of my payment, on 1/11/2008.  Now to double-check, let’s have a look over at the American Express site — yes, sure enough, I have a charge from Microsoft Programs two business days later for the exact amount I paid at the Payment Center.  So why is partners.microsoft.com still yelping at me for money?
By the way, this is not a trivial point. I’m not the only one at Digipede who can log into the Microsoft Partner site. I’ve promised my partners that I’ve taken care of our Gold Certified Partner status, and that we’re all set. Yet when they log in, they see Microsoft’s top two messages, and are led to believe that I’ve forgotten to pay and that our status is in jeopardy despite their herculean efforts to get our products tested and certified in time. This makes me look stupid (and I get enough chances to do that without Microsoft’s help).

That’s it for messages, so let’s hop over to the Partner Dashboard to make sure everything’s OK there:

Partner Dashboard is not available right now or does not have data for the organization you are mapped to. Please see your PAM for more information.

You get the idea.

There’s lots and lots of wonderful information at partners.microsoft.com, and I’d love to use it more consistently — but my experience with the site is that information specific to our company’s program participation is often problematic.  To me, this feels like a testing issue; some part of the 24×7 monitoring process could still use improvement (as Todd’s message clearly states).

So there’s my list — what do other partners think?  Todd has stepped up, and is ready to join the conversation — who else has ideas that can help improve this community?

→ 6 CommentsTags: Partnering with Microsoft · Usability