Intro

Mark Curphey here (@curphey on Twitter and www.curphey.com on the web). I am the Group Program Manager for the Server and Tools Online Subscriptions team. We develop the Subscriptions web site and the infrastructure that powers your MSDN (and TechNet) subscriptions experience. There is a lot of exciting things that have been happening behind the scenes and we are going to re-birth this blog to start sharing the news so look for regular updates from now on. You will see posts about how features work and about new features we are releasing from the Program Management team, posts from the developers about how we do development, and our architecture and from the test engineers about we test our code. As a teaser I want to share a sneak peak about two things we will start rolling out in beta this summer (starting at the end of June). Small print: The screen shots may not be exactly the same as the final experience, we are an Agile team after all!

There are two big improvements to talk about (and many more in the pipe):

  • New Web Experience for Subscribers
  • Super Fast Downloads from the Azure ECN

 

New Web Experience for Subscribers

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The subscriber portal has had a complete face-lift including the downloads experience, the help content, program comparison and buy experiences.

Most subscribers will probably first notice a new My Account page where you can learn about all the benefits you have available to you as a subscriber and understand what you have used and what you might want to activate. We know from research in speaking to customers they want a simple place to understand and navigate to all of their benefits like their Azure hours or Technical Support Incidents but in the past have often found it hard to track those benefits.

From the My Accounts page you can also easily find common tasks like activating specific benefits and updating your profile.

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We have invested a lot of time in helping subscribers find the right software easily.

In the header you will see a new search experience that has auto-complete to help you get to popular downloads fast.

The products A-Z helps you sort through high level groups of software in the same way as you experience on the Microsoft download center.

The new downloads experience has a set of dynamically generated filters to allow you to easily filter through versions, architectures and languages.  No more manually sorting and scanning hundreds of versions of Windows or Office when you just want Windows 7 Ultimate and Office 2010 Ultimate but if you want to find a specific version from the entire catalog it’s all still there and searchable.

There is lots more of course and well release some more screen shots in the coming weeks. We built a full sketch flow prototype and have done extensive user testing  and well cover how we do our user testing in a future post.

Super Fast Downloads from the Azure ECN

We currently serve files from three data centers around the world and have been working hard to move our downloads infrastructure to the Azure Edge Content Network (ECN). The Azure ECN has a large number of nodes  all over the world and so if you live in New York for instance you would pull files from a node that will be both closer and faster than you get them today. When you use the Azure ECN you will also be promoted to install a new modern download client to enable you to pause and resume. At this point the gallery erupts with happiness at no more File transfer Manager! We know, we are cheering here  as well! Its hard to predict just how much faster this new system will be as it will depend on where you live but we can confidently say that it will be orders of magnitude faster for most users and we will be able to scale much better at launch events.

We have internal previews now running of both the web experience and Azure downloads and plan to roll them out to subscribers as a beta some time in July. The final release is currently tracking to September.

Look for more updates in the coming weeks. We have been thinking about a series of short videos from the product managers about how to do tasks that some people find tough or may not fully understand. If you have hot topics or want to hear from us about anything from how we build software to suggesting features  we would love to hear from you!

-Mark