Upcoming Redmond plugfest will help developers crack the interoperability code

Starting June 16, Microsoft Interoperability teams are hosting a five-day Interoperability Plugfest at the company’s Redmond campus. This event provides free, hands-on help to developers and quality assurance engineers who want to test Windows and Office products and make them work with the systems at their companies. The event will cover topics such as Windows file sharing, SharePoint, Exchange and SQL protocols. 

Attendees represent about 30 companies – some of whom would be competitors under different circumstances – such as Apple, Oracle and Google. Many partners will bring their implementations and “plug” into a Microsoft environment, where they can run tests using Microsoft’s tool set, network traffic and security.

“A Plugfest is a gathering of geeks; an opportunity for developers from different organizations to get together and throw virtual snowballs at one another’s products to see what breaks,” writes Chris Hertel, a Samba team member and a past participant in Microsoft’s events by the same name. “Plugfests are supposed to be fun, but also productive. Participants learn new things about their own code (where it’s weak, where it’s limited), but also learn as much as they can about the competition and the underlying technology that brings them all together.”

These events are geared toward developers and IT professionals trying to implement solutions that are interoperable with products such as Windows 8, Windows Server and Office. Microsoft’s engineers are there to help with configuration and running of the interoperability tests. The testing at this Plugfest will include protocol test suites that can tell whether attendees’ products conform to the relevant Microsoft Open Specifications.

Developers have open access to the technical specifications available on MSDN, which includes documentation for the protocols used to communicate with a number of the most popular Microsoft products, its most popular binary file formats and key standards and languages that are seen in certain Microsoft products.

Attendees get pre-released access to many Microsoft test tools across SharePoint, Windows and Exchange, as well as early betas of some toolsets that collect feedback and provide preliminary testing for partner implementations, says Michael Bowman, an Office program manager for open specifications events and test tools (pictured to the right).

Because it is such an immersive event, attendees receive significant one-on-one attention from top Windows and Office developers building the products attendees will test during the sessions, and from developers building the test tools.

Attendees also get help from dedicated support teams – professional escalation engineers – who support open specifications.

Plugfest participants learn how to use Microsoft’s test suites, and how they behave with their companies’ setup. That could mean creating an email client that connects to a Microsoft server, or testing with the Server Message Block network file protocol, which is found in mobile devices, as well as small and big file servers.

For Microsoft, Plugfests help make Windows and Office products more interoperable with other devices, services and platforms, including iOS, Android and Linux. It’s also important that every device – tablets, phones, desktops and laptop computers – can connect with services such as Office 365, says Bowman. These help build an ecosystem around Microsoft products.

“We’re keeping our commitments – the open source promise and commitments for compliance – and also this makes Windows or Office more interoperable,” says Darryl Welch, a Windows program manager for open specifications events and test tools (pictured to the left). “As we’re building cloud infrastructures, it must be fully interoperable with other systems.”

Microsoft Interoperability teams don’t just reach out once a year – these Plugfests happen globally, too. In recent months, events have drawn hundreds to Taiwan, mainland China and Europe. For participants, the events give them an opportunity to ask questions and put a face to the Microsoft tools they use daily.

Companies that plan to test can register on a first-come, first-serve basis to use private offices or labs during the event.  

Test Suites help developers evaluate whether a protocol implementation meets interoperability requirements and can be a useful gauge of interoperability. 

The Office interoperability team’s portfolio of testing tools for this event includes SharePoint protocols (including a Beta version of the WOPI and FSS protocol test suites), Exchange Web service protocols, Exchange RPC test suites and MAPIHTTP Beta test suite and Exchange ActiveSync protocol test suites. The Windows and SQL teams will also be providing test and tool resources.

The Cloud and Enterprise interoperability team’s portfolio of Windows Protocol testing tools includes test suites focused on the SMB2&3 Protocol, ADOD scenarios and Identity Protocol, AUTHSOD and PAC/Kile Authentication, BYOD and MDM/MDE scenario tests, AZOD CBAC scenario tests and Microsoft Message Analyzer.

Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 (including spring updates) will be available in virtual environments for use in Protocol Interoperability testing.

Find more details on the Office Interoperability blog.

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Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff