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Vertigo Training's "Building Successful Solutions with Microsoft Windows DNA 2000"

Vertigo Training's "Building Successful Solutions with Microsoft Windows DNA 2000"

by John Peterson

I'm assuming some of you have been wondering why the site's been so static recently. Well besides the fact that we've been swamped with development projects, we also took time out of our busy schedule to attend Vertigo Training's "Building Successful Solutions with Microsoft Windows DNA 2000" course in San Francisco.

We were introduced to the guys from Vertigo through an earlier meeting at Microsoft's Redmond Campus. During their short talk they gave an extremely impressive demo of the FMStocks application. It was focused almost exclusively on performance and scalability, and even from that short presentation we learned some extremely useful tips (a very few of which I rolled into the new forum code). When we heard they were going to be offering a training session shortly thereafter and giving away more of their secrets we knew we had to go!

The 3-day course had approximately 30 attendees and ran from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21, 2000. The stated objective was to "learn how to design, implement, and deploy scalable distributed web applications using Windows 2000, SQL Server 7.0, and Visual Studio 6.0." To add a degree of fun to the class the whole thing was set to a spy theme, which was very reminiscent of the James Bond movies.

We arrived on Tuesday evening to attend the welcome reception and the first surprise was that when I got to my room there was a personalized dossier waiting for me along with a Vertigo Training martini glass containing an invitation to the welcome reception! Well needless to say the welcome reception involved alcohol and none of us were overly bright-eyed the next day.

Training started with a quick overview of the project we would be building and a brief overview of the technologies we'd be using. The technology was naturally Windows DNA 2000, but the project was a little unique... we were to build an e-commerce store for spy supplies appropriately named IBuySpy! That led directly into the first phase of development... planning. The combination of lecture followed by lab that was used in the planning stage was used throughout the three-day class and for the most part worked extremely well. At each stage we were first given a high-level overview and description of what we were going to be doing and why. This was followed by a period of time set aside for us to actually do it. The hands on approach worked well and by the end of the course everyone had completed their 3-tier web store!

The first day we dealt mainly with user interface and site flow. This is a part of the project people often jump past and often comes back to haunt you when you're working on other areas and you don't have a clearly defined process to refer to when questions arise. This was pretty low-tech... in fact most of it was done on paper and in MS paint, yet as cheesy as it sounds it was time well spent and was something I always sort of took for granted. Well no more... since then it's been the first step in almost all my development... no matter how small.

The second day was focused on the data and business tiers. A lot was somewhat predefined and the tables were populated for us to save time, but most of it was logical and very similar to what most of us would have come up with on our own. We defined some SQL Server tables, wrote the stored procedures, built a data access layer using Visual Basic and tested the data access layer using a quick little VB program. Then we proceeded to the business tier. Once again VB was the tool of choice and once again we tested it using a quick VB form. So at this point we had the business logic and the data access components written. Registering and creating packages for them within the Component Services MMC applet basically completed the backend of the site.

The third day left us with just the front-end left to be built. Once again we were provided with some basic building blocks, templates, and the graphics and were left to build the rest. At the end of the "getting the damn thing working" phase we discussed scalability, performance, clustering, and deployment. By the end of the third day we had all built 3-tier web stores and packaged them up so they could be installed on a bare machine with a few simple clicks of the mouse!

We learned a great deal and I'd recommend the course to anyone who's doing this type of development. My only real warning to people is that the course is not to be taken lightly. If you don't have a strong working knowledge of Visual Studio (mainly VB and VID), SQL Server, stored procedures, and asp scripting, you'll be lost before the class gets started! It's more focused on architecture and best practices then on teaching you about the individual technologies involved. Believe it or not this is actually not a bad thing! The course knows what it covers and it covers it well without getting too sidetracked.

One side effect of this is that a lot of the code was pre-built and handed to us. So, in the end, we really didn't end up writing every line of code. It would've been nice to truly build it all, but to do that as well as cover all the information in the three days is just not a realistic goal. That said, the things we were given to us were some of the more time consuming things and were somewhat realistic in themselves. For example, instead of spending time making all the graphics, we were handed pre-built ones that might've come from a graphic designer. I only mention this fact to give potential attendees a realistic view of the course. It is not my intention to take away from the quality or comprehensiveness of the course in any way because honestly it's the best course I've attended, but I felt it was something that should be mentioned.

Overall the course was exceptional. The guys from Vertigo have really done a top-notch job in their first attempt at a training course, and from what I know of them I would assume that future classes will only get better! The course is definitely a "must attend" for any developer looking to build Windows DNA apps but it should not be looked at as the only training session you'll need. It should probably be taken after most others so if it helps... think of it as saving the best for last!

Additional Information:
Vertigo Training web site
"Fitch & Mather Stocks" sample site
Microsoft's DNA page

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