Posts Tagged‘teched’

Microsoft Doubling Down on Cloud, Mobile.

Microsoft’s message last year was pretty clear: we’re betting big that you’ll be using Azure as part of your environment and we’ve got a bunch of tools to make that happen. For someone who has cloudy aspirations this was incredibly exciting even though I was pretty sure that my main client , the Australian government, would likely abstain from using any of them for a long time. This year’s TechEd seemed like it was a little more subdued than last year (the lack of a bond style entrance with its accompanying Aston Martin was the first indicator of that) with the heavy focus on cloud remaining, albeit with a bent towards the mobile world.

TechEd North American 2014

Probably the biggest new feature to come to Azure is ExpressRoute, a service which allows you to connect directly to the Azure cloud without having to go over the Internet. For companies that have regulations around their data and the networks it can traverse this gives them the opportunity to use cloud services whilst still maintaining their obligations. For someone like me who primarily works with government this is a godsend and once the Azure instance comes online in Australia I’ll finally be able to sell it as a viable solution for many of their services. It will still take them some time to warm to the idea but with a heavy focus on finding savings, something Azure can definitely provide, I’m sure the adoption rate will be a lot faster than it has been with previous innovations of this nature.

The benefits of Azure Files on the other hand are less clear as whilst I can understand the marketing proposition it’s not that hard to set up a file server within Azure. This is made somewhat more pertinent by the fact that it uses SMB 2.1 rather than Server 2012’s SMB 3.0 so whilst you get some good features in the form of a REST API and all the backing behind Azure’s other forms of storage it lacks many of the new base capabilities that a traditional file server has. Still Microsoft isn’t one to develop a feature unless they know there’s a market for it, so I’d have to guess that this is a feature that many customers have been begging for.

In a similar vein the improvements to Microsoft’s BYOD offerings appear to be incremental more than anything with InTune receiving some updates and the introduction of Azure RemoteApps. Of the two Azure RemoteApps would be the most interesting as it allows you to deliver apps from the Azure cloud to your end points, wherever they may be. For large, disparate organisations this will be great as you can leverage Azure to deploy to any of your officers, negating the need for heavy infrastructure in order to provide a good user experience. There’s also the opportunity for Microsoft to offer pre-packaged applications (which they’re currently doing with Office 2013) although that’s somewhat at odds with their latest push for Office365.

Notably absent from any of the announcements was Windows 8.2 or Server 2012 R3, something which I think many of us had expected to hear rumblings about. There’s still the chance it will get announced at TechEd Australia this year especially considering the leaked builds that have been doing the rounds. If they don’t it’d be a slight departure from the tempo they set last year, something which I’m not entirely sure is a good or bad move from them.

Overall this feels like incremental improvements to Microsoft strategy they were championing last year more than revolutionary change. That’s not a bad thing really as the enterprise market is still catching up with Microsoft’s new found rapid pace and likely won’t be on par with them for a few years yet. Still it begs the question as to whether or not Microsoft is really committed to the rapid refresh program they kicked off not too long ago. TechEd Australia has played host to some big launches in the past so seeing Windows 8.2 for the first time there isn’t out of the question. As for us IT folk the message seems to remain the same: get on the cloud soon, and make sure it’s Azure.

New Orleans: Day 5 and 6

I had that feeling, you know the one, when you wake up and everything just feels a little…off. It wasn’t due to any self inflicted torment (although that is the reason why this post is a day late, which I’ll get into later) but it felt distinctly like the beginnings of a cold, almost on cue for the same time I did this last year. Great, I thought, I’m going to have to ride out the last day of the conference a blithering mess and then be that guy on the plane that gets everyone sick. Thankfully though that particular feeling didn’t last long , although the extreme humidity outside and the near freezing temperatures inside didn’t do much to help that along.

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The sessions I had lined up with a specific topic in mind (I wanted to dive into the backup/disaster recovery stuff that they just put into Azure) turned out to be complete wastes of time. One of them being another vendor junket and another a 400 (expert) level class that was realistically a 200 (beginner) class and the only reason I could think of for it being labelled as such was due to the over-inflated ego of the presenter. The final one was interesting to a point, but I’d already seen the majority of it through various other sessions that were tangentially related. Thankfully the interview I did with Don Jones turned out quite well despite me not really knowing what to do, which can be wholly attributed to the fact that Don is a really switched on guy.

However this was only a small part of the day since tonight was the closing party which promised to be quite an amazing event.

After we’d all filed our posts for the day and rested up a little bit we trundled down to the Mercedes Superdome to get our drink on courtesy of Microsoft. There was no shortage of entertainment with all attendees greeted by a marching band at the door and the main floor thriving with people in front of a live band. We spent most of the night checking out the various side shows they had running (like a hand writing analyzer, the one that doesn’t use science) whilst slowly making our way through a good chunk of Microsoft’s booze. That was all mere distraction however as they announced the “special guest” they had been alluding to all evening.

Tina Turner.

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Now don’t get me wrong, the instant her name was said the entire TechEd population flocked to the center stage so she still has drawing power, but the performance that followed afterwards can only be described as atrocious. Sure I enjoyed myself, and so did a lot of other people there I’m betting, but I’d hazard a guess that most of them enjoyed it for all the wrong reasons. Indeed it was a bizarre performance in its own right as she didn’t have a band and, whilst all credit should be given to her for not lip syncing, she was essentially singing over the top of her own performance. You could do worse when you’re pushing 70 though.

The band that followed (Mojo Band) we’re quite excellent, playing songs from Elvis all the way up to the Black Eyed Peas, nailing them all. They certainly did a lot better job of getting near immovable crowd dancing (although that’s to be expected when you cram 12,000 nerds in the same room with nary a computer to be seen) than the other band did and we spent the rest of our time there chatting and enjoying their covers. The TechEd party closed at midnight and with all of us sufficiently intoxicated Bourbon St started to sound like a great idea. In retrospect it was, although the current dull headache I’m nursing might attest to otherwise.

We meandered around a bit looking for a place to pick up a couple of roadies (walking around with an open container is legal here, surprisingly) but we ended up finding a bar to settle into. Before we could get drinks though we were accosted by one of the shot girls and of course, we all obliged. Suffice to say I have a photo for one of my friends who requested I do “something stupid in Bourbon St” for him thanks to her. After that we barreled around looking for another place to grab some more drinks and ended up in a divy jazz bar where one of the competition winners was parted with 20 of his dollars for the pleasure of standing on stage for 5 minutes.

By this point (I think it was around 2:30am) I was getting seriously hungry and ended up in one of the local burrito places. I have to say that it was actually pretty well done, even upon reflection the next day, and the others picked up a couple roadie slushies to tide them over. I was nearing that tenuous point where Drunk Dave was about to come out and, knowing that I had to endure 18+ hours of flying the next day, decided not to continue and wandered off back to the hotel. It was halfway back there that I caught up with Gus who’d gotten separated from us an hour previously and, with no one but me with international roaming enabled, was out of contact with us.

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Of course that meant today I woke up feeling a lot less than optimal, especially when I saw I only had 30 mins to pack everything and check out. I managed to get it all done, of course, however the TechEd bag and my new Surface have proved to be problematic leaving me with 3 bags to carry around. Once we were all sorted we headed over to Mother’s, a Zagat rated restaurant across the street that always had a long line snaking out the front door. The food there was pretty great, especially for the price, and was most definitely better than the usual Maccas run that I seem to fall into every time I’m hung over.

We spent the rest of the day aimlessly wandering around New Orleans since we didn’t have time to really do anything thanks to our late start and need to get to the airport early in the afternoon. The highlight (and this says a lot about our state of mind at the time) was sitting in one of the ferries that crosses the Mississippi river. After that it was a quick trip to the airport where I’m currently awaiting a connecting flight to Dallas before the 15 hour flight back to Australia.

All in all it’s been a pretty good trip and whilst I haven’t seen as much of New Orleans as I would have liked I did get to check off pretty much everything on my “must do” list, although the list of recommendations I got from friends is untouched. It’s definitely an interesting city, one that definitely requires more than one night of drunken stumbling to explore properly. I don’t think I’ll ever make the trip out here specifically to do that, however, but should I ever find myself doing a second tour of the USA it’ll be one of the many stops on my list.

 

New Orleans: Day 4

I don’t know what it is about holidays or trips away but I seem to spend the first half dreading everything about the place I’m in and then once I’m past the halfway point I seem to yearn for it not to end. This trip is no different as I wasn’t too crash hot on the whole idea but late yesterday I felt like I hit a turning point. My article that I dreamed up went down a treat and today the vague layout I had given myself helped to focus me on the important points of the sessions I was attending. Now I feel like the little amount of time I have left here isn’t enough and I curse my former self for being so impudent.

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Most of today was fairly uneventful as I had managed to choose a few sessions that had significant overlap with each other. This is despite them claiming that “no one else has seen this content yet” so I ended up spending an undue amount of time on Reddit just waiting for it to finish so I could move onto the next one. Thankfully I had 2 sessions that were really quite awesome, especially the Azure Internals one done by Mark Russinovich who’s fast becoming my favorite presenter for everything Microsoft. I’m less worried about what I’m going to see tomorrow since I can do a reflective post about everything and I expect the chances of me finding out anything amazing on the last day are slim to nil.

I finally decided to brave the line for a Surface¹ as I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t take them up on the offer. Like most I was planning to go for the duo, getting one of both to take advantage of the price difference, however thinking about it I have no need for 2 tablets (my wife swears by her Macbook Air and I my Zenbook) but for $99 I figured the RT was cheap enough for those rare times I’ve found myself thinking “Hey a tablet would rock here”. All told I was in the line for about an hour or so when all I would’ve been doing otherwise was surfing the web so it wasn’t time wasted and the short line for lunch afterwards was a nice bonus.

We all managed to catch up for beers and dinner after we’d all finished writing our posts which was bloody fantastic and was most definitely one of the key things that had been missing from this trip. It was also very interesting to hear the journos war stories about the various tech press and the media in general and even better still being able to relate to them as a blogger (and not be ridiculed for it, omg). I did feel a little bad for the other guys though as whilst they we were all talking shop I felt like we might’ve been excluding them a little bit, but thankfully the conversation didn’t circle around journalism for the whole night.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a pretty excellent day with the sessions stopping early and the big Microsoft piss up happening shortly after. I know we’re all looking to exploit this for all its worth so it should be a good time to get loose with everyone after a hard week’s blogging. Whilst that might preclude doing anything particularly interesting the day after it’ll all be worth it if we enjoy ourselves. I’ll just have to make sure to not get too wrecked as we’ll be shipping out the next day and flying hungover isn’t exactly one of my most favorite things to do.

 

¹For those not in the know they’re offering them to TechEd attendees at a ridiculous price point, $99 for the RT and $499 for the Pro.

 

New Orleans: Day 3

I’ll have to admit I was a little bit stressed this morning. I’d spent the majority of the night previously thinking about the narrative I wanted to put forward for my post for Lifehacker and the night’s sleep didn’t bring about any sudden moments of clarity. This isn’t completely unusual, indeed there are many times when I go through a similar process for my daily entries here, but the thought of not being able to deliver something (well, something that was up to my standards) to someone else for publication wore on me heavily. Still I’m not one to dwell on problems that don’t have an immediate solution so I trucked myself out to TechEd.

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My writer’s anxiety wasn’t helped by the fact that the first session I had chosen turned out to be a 75 minute long advertisement for NetApp. Now usually I’m ok with sessions like this, especially if I’m interested in the particular tech they happen to be peddling, but no where on the session information did it say anything about this being all about whatever NetApp could do rather than, you know, what the session description led you to believe. Thankfully the second session I went to was with Mark Russinovich (of SysInternals fame) who’s presentation was not only great the stuff he talked about it was the inspiration for my post on Lifehacker. That’s also led onto me figuring out where I want to go with it for the next 2 that are due which just makes everything a lot easier.

The lack of a common meeting point (like the press room was the last time around) has led to this weird situation between all of us. Since we’re all in sessions for most of the day and the majority of them don’t overlap I actually didn’t see anyone else from the Lifehacker crew today. Sure there were a couple emails shot about but apart from that I’ve had no contact with them. After the experience I had travelling with DFAT it certainly feels a bit weird to me as we’d always meet up after work for dinner and a chat, something which was always fun after you got over that initial getting-to-know-you hurdle.

However this also afforded me a little freedom to do what I pleased after TechEd finished. After battling with dodgy Internet to get my post and pictures uploaded for the better part of an hour I finally made it out of the hotel and set out to look for some local cuisine. I’d tracked down a decent looking restaurant called Luke and, after walking in circles and almost giving up on finding it, settled in for a nice meal of baked oysters, a burger and an Oaked Arrogant Bastard ale. The food was quite incredible as the following photo will attest:

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I had thought ahead and brought my camera with me to the restaurant (none of the pics I’ve uploaded so far are from it, however) and afterwards I went on a bit of a tour around the area near my hotel. There was no limit of interesting subjects, at least for someone like me, and looking over the photos shows that I should have at least a couple keepers, maybe more once I get done with them in Lightroom. I was going to install a copy of it on this laptop however I don’t really have the time to go through them right now, unless I want to cut sleep out completely. It’s enough to satisfy me should I not get another chance, but I’m hoping to spend the better part of Friday doing the same thing again, only during the day.

So two days and two more posts to go. I’m feeling an awful lot better about this whole thing and I feel like its going to be reflected in my writing. Hopefully I luck into some more of those inspirational sessions as whilst I’ve got a general idea of what I want to write those kinds of posts always feel a whole bunch better. We shall have to see though and I’d better stop prattling on here in favor of getting some decent rest before tomorrow.

 

 

New Orleans: Day 2

Due to our late arrival yesterday we had to be up pretty early to get to the convention center for registration. Thankfully I’m still in the throws of jet lag and was awake from 5:30am onwards so the 6:40am start wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be. Whilst I was getting ready I noticed that my camera battery was a little low and then realized that I had left my charger at home. One of the Lifehacker guys is using a Canon though so hopefully I’ll be able to bum a charge off him so I can spend what little free time I have taking pictures as I found today that spare time is going to be at something of a premium.

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The keynote turned out to be a lot more interesting than I had expected, mostly because my expectations were in the toilet after last year’s TechEd Australia. There was the usual over the top parts, the keynote speaker playing a James Bond-esque character and trundling up in an Aston Martin being chief among them, but thankfully that was essentially it with the rest of it focusing on good old fashioned technology. As the other’s remarked there was a lot more newsworthy stuff in the keynote than we’d expected and whilst I won’t cover it here (mostly because I’m sure it’s already been done to death everywhere else) suffice to say that instead of walking out feeling confused and slightly angry I was instead pretty eager to dive into some sessions to get my hooks into the newly announced features.

My choice of sessions was probably a bit sub-optimal though as the first couple we essentially retreading the same ground with not a whole bunch of new insight. Indeed the best session of the day was the one I hadn’t planned to go to since it was labelled TBD but my press buddies informed me they would be the ones to watch out for since TBD was code for “covers as of yet unannounced features”. With that in mind I’m taking a good long look at my schedule for tomorrow as I’d rather spend my time being interested in these sessions than nodding off halfway through them.

This time around has felt a whole bunch more disconnected than last year as after the keynote we all kind of went our own ways and we didn’t have the convenient press room to retreat to. It wouldn’t have been much of an issue but it seems that they couldn’t arrange the powered seats like they did last year which put me in the unenviable position of having to ration my use of the laptop, which meant my notes were pretty brief. It seems like an odd oversight given that they had it at TechEd Australia but I guess it must be a limitation of the venue.

I wasn’t so fussed about the relatively long hours last year since I’ve already seen most of what Brisbane has to offer but it does feel like a right shame that I’ve been here 2 days and I haven’t really seen much of New Orleans. Since TechEd won’t be providing dinner tomorrow though that might give me a little bit of a chance to get out and see a little bit of the place while I search for something edible. There seems to be a really cool little amphitheater/restaurant across from me that had live jazz playing tonight which is quite intriguing but it might have to wait as I’ve got a couple suggestions from friends to check out first.

I guess I could just go AWOL… 😉

 

New Orleans: Day 1.

As most of you are aware sine I won the little blogger competition that Lifehacker ran last year they invited me to tag along for the culmination of their World of Servers gig at TechEd North America. That meant I’ve spent the better part of a day travelling from Australia to New Orleans and whilst I won’t bore you with the details of the rather uneventful journey (save for me being “that guy” who was late for his flight because he simply didn’t hear the boarding announcement) I thought I’d give a little comparison to the last time I was here, nearly 3 years ago now.

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For starters the flight over was much better than the last time I went, all because instead of flying Delta I was on Qantas. My wife and I lucked out somewhat last time as we managed to score a whole row of seats to ourselves on the way up (not on the way back) but flying solo this time around I was pretty impressed by the little marginal differences between Qantas and Delta that made the experience a little more tolerable. I’ve also become a bit better at sleeping on planes than I was back then (I think that was my first truly long haul flight, actually) and I managed to sleep through most of it.

Not that it helped my jet lag at all, as the headache I’m currently enduring will attest to.

New Orleans seems like a great place, all of the locals I’ve talked to so far have been really easy going. I didn’t get to see much of it as we got in at around 6pm and we’re going to be heading out to the venue at 6:40am tomorrow but there’s an odd dichotomy going on in the buildings, much like that I saw back in Montreal. I figure that’s mostly due to the destruction that hurricane Katrina wrought here all those years ago but thankfully it looks like quite a few of the older buildings survived.

Tomorrow we’ll have the opening TechEd keynote and then we’ll be off to our first round of sessions. I’ve predominately aligned myself with the enterprise/cloud space and whilst I haven’t been able to fill every session with something along that idea there’s been more than enough on offer for each time slot to keep me occupied. I’ve already had a couple clashes which has led to some tough choices about which ones I actually want to attend. That was made somewhat worse when Angus Kidman (the man behind much of Lifehacker Australia’s tech news) said that the TBD sessions would all be Windows Blue related. I’ll probably have to have a look at reworking it once I get a little downtime, probably during the keynote.

So if you’re coming here for your daily dose of tech/gaming/whatever related news I’m going to disappoint you for a little while but I’ll be doing wrap up posts every day over on Lifehacker Australia which I’ll be sure to retweet on my Twitter account. Mostly I’ll just be posting about the various exploits I find myself in whilst I’m over here in New Orleans and, time willing, sharing a few photographs that I manage to snap.

Join Myself and LifeHacker Australia For TechEd North America (in New Orleans!)

If you’ve been here a little while you’ll know that last year I won a competition to go up to Brisbane to cover TechEd Australia 2013 for LifeHacker Australia. During my time up there I wrote three posts covering everything from PowerShell, the evolution of the term “private cloud” and why Windows Server 201 would succeed. Evidently the LifeHacker writers and readers loved what I wrote and I ended up winning the mini-competition with the 2 other guest bloggers. At the time I was told that this would lead onto another series of posts for Microsoft themselves however that never eventuated but I did end up with a shiny new HP MicroServer that’s become the mainstay of my home network.

I thought that would be the end of it but a couple months ago Angus Kidman, the man behind much of LifeHacker Australia’s tech coverage, contacted me with an offer: come with him to the USA and participate in covering TechEd North America as part of their World of Servers initiative.

Of course I said yes.

TechEd North America 2013 LifeHacker Australia

It will be much the same as it was last year, I’ll be attending TechEd in New Orleans every day and writing up a post that sums up the lessons learned that I take away each day. The primary focus will still be on Server 2012 although with Microsoft’s increasing focus on cloud integration you can rest assured that I’ll be weaseling my way into as many Azure sessions as I possibly can. It’s going to be interesting to compare and contrast the two as I’m sure TechEd North America is going to be huge by comparison and hopefully that means we’ll get some juicy insights into some of Microsoft’s upcoming products.

But this post isn’t just for me to humble brag to you guys. I’m here to tell you that LifeHacker Australia is offering this very same opportunity to 2 lucky IT professionals! To enter all you have to do is fill out this entry form and answer a few questions about your IT chops. Once you’ve done that you’re in the running to win a fully paid trip to New Orleans to cover TechEd North America and you’ll get to hang out with me for the duration of the trip (most people would consider that a perk…most people ;)).

If you’re a budding blogger hoping to get a foot in the door or just a tech head who loves everything Microsoft then there really isn’t a better opportunity than the one LifeHacker is offering here. You’ve only got until May 1st to get your entries in (that’s 2 weeks people!) so I’d encourage you to get it in sooner rather than later. I’m incredibly excited to be going along for the ride on this one and if my previous experience was anything to go by it’ll be a blast and it’d be amazing if I could bring one my readers along for the ride.

Hope to see you there! 😀

 

TechEd Day 3: Less Hectic, More Interesting.

Today started out pretty much like yesterday. I did my typical thing of staying up just a tad too late thanks to DOTA 2 and my terrible addiction to watching the Discovery Channel if its on the hotel TV (you should’ve seen the gold dredging showdown I watched, it was incredible television) meant I wasn’t at 100% when I got up but the smorgasbord of breakfast stuffs and coffee are a powerful motivator. Also it seems the combination of some good old fashioned delayed onset muscle soreness coupled with what I think is a mild cold has left me in less than stellar shape. Still I made it to all the sessions I planned to today and some of them really impressed me, not least of which was PowerShell V3.0

I won’t go into terrible detail about it here as my post tomorrow on LifeHacker will give a better rundown of the features but suffice to say I’m excited to use it. It might be a long time before I get to see any of it in production (my current project is only just getting onto Windows 7) but I’ll probably be playing around with it at home as there’s an awful lot of good stuff in there that I could make use of. I’m probably going to have to sweet talk my way into a TechNet/MSDN subscription though as I don’t have access to one at the moment (nudge nudge wink wink Microsoft).

I was also very impressed by the number of value add services available from Microsoft for any kind of application. Long time readers will know of the pains I had back when I thought that I was only 2 steps away from being the next Internet success story and it seems I’m not alone if Microsoft has put this much effort into giving us plebs some amazing things for free. I’ve actually got an application in the pipeline that I’ve been working on casually for the past couple weeks and I think it’s going to be a good candidate to try some of these services out and hopefully actually launch it instead of procrastinating endlessly.

There was one particular session I was rather disappointed in (Building Cross Device Mobile Applications Powered By SQL Azure Federations if you were wondering) as the name lead me to believe there’d be a heavy focus on the challenges of cross platform development. It wasn’t unfortunately as the majority of the session was dedicated to the back end infrastructure with the cross platform part of it amounting to little more than “We used MonoTouch”. That’s cool and all but it’s nothing I didn’t learn a year ago after an hour or so of Googling the different options. I can understand that they can’t really spend the majority of their time here spruiking another company’s product but that doesn’t stop me from feeling somewhat disappointed.

Tomorrow’s my last day here and thankfully it’ll be a relatively tame affair as my current condition coupled with the potential shenanigans that I might get up to at the Hype party that’s currently raging near me could leave me as an incoherent mess. I’ll power on though because I’m crazy like that and it’d be a right shame to let an opportunity like this go to waste because I wasn’t feeling perfect on the day.

TechEd Day 2: Ah So This Is Journalism.

I can’t say I was enthused at the prospect at getting up at 7:00am this morning to meet with all the other media people over breakfast but I figured I should make the effort, if only for the fact that free food is hard to turn down. It was a bit of a struggle but nothing compared to attempting to do the same in freezing Canberra weather, something that I’m thankful for the brief respite from. After the breakfast and a quick chat with everyone we were whisked back down to the showcase floor to have a cosy session with some of the Microsoft guys, their customers and some solution providers.

If I’m honest these kinds of high level talks bore the crap out of me. I understand their place, they’re great for people who aren’t into the nuts and bolts of technology, but for someone like me who lives and dies by their understanding of how to implement/configure/maintain things they’re just not that useful. After that it was off to our session choices for the day and I had chosen a path that was focused on virtualization/cloud topics which turned out ok, save for the couple sessions that were simply not worth attending. In case you’re wondering the sessions I attended were:

  • VIR312 – Whats New in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Part 1
  • WSV313 – Architecting Private Clouds Using Windows Server 2012
  • AZR314  – Azure SQL, Tables, Blobs, Queues, Cache, Hadoop – Which one is right for me?
  • VIR315- Whats New in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Part 2
  • VIR316 – Comparing Private Cloud Capabilities
  • DEV317 – WinRT Deep Dive (I was going to do some Cloud Auth thing but this looked better).

VIR 312 and VIR315 well worth attending as they gave a really solid overview of the new features in Hyper-V 3.0. I had read about most of them before but it was great to get an introduction to those things that aren’t usually covered in much detail in marketing material. Those two sessions were the basis for the first part of my blog for LifeHacker (which will be up tomorrow morning I believe) with the second half being based on some of the things I gleaned whilst attending the cloud sessions. The sessions I’d probably skip catching up on are WSV313 and VIR316 as they’d only be useful if you’d never designed a virtual infrastructure before or if you you weren’t capable of comparing Microsoft and VMware’s offerings. The last two were really just for me, although I’ll probably use some of the info I got from them in tomorrow’s post.

I was also lucky enough to win one of the helicopter rides because I tweeted something non-generic at the right time. It was a pretty quick affair, just a 15 minute jaunt around Broadbeach and Soutbank but it was pretty awesome to get a birds eye view of the place. I certainly didn’t expect to win when I entered with my slightly bizwank-esque tweet but obviously the people behind the account love to indulge in a little geek humour.

The whole day was really entertaining but thoroughly exhausting. When I wasn’t in a session or a helicopter I was up in the media room review my notes from the previous session and attempting to draft up the post for the day. When I was first told that I only needed to do one post a day I didn’t consider it much of a challenge, I mean I’ve been doing exactly that for years now, but its one thing to research a single idea and write about it and a whole other thing to try and distil 6+ hours of content into a single blog post. I think I did a good job of getting at a couple ideas I believe are key (and the editor liked it) but I’m so exhausted that I’m not sure how the greater public will recieve it.

But then again I don’t usually know that anyway 😉

TechEd Day 1: Toys, Technology and Technobabble.

Having been given the choice of coming up here late last night or early this morning I did what any enterprising person would do and elected to spend the extra night up here at the Gold Coast so I could enjoy a leisurely start to my day. It was worth it too as instead of having to get up at 4:30 in the morning I was able to stroll out of bed at 8am, wander aimlessly around Broadbeach for a while looking for food and then casually make my way over to my hotel for the rest of the week. After wasting a couple hours on Reddit waiting for the appointed hour to arrive I headed on down to the convention centre and met up with the guys from LifeHacker, Allure Media and the other contest winners. It was great to finally meet everyone and to put names to the faces (like Terry Lynch and Craig Naumann) and of course I didn’t at all mind that I was then presented with the shiny new ASUS Zenbook and Nokia Lumia 900 to take home. Whilst I’ve given the Zenbook something of a workout already I haven’t had a chance to play with the Lumia thanks to my sim being of the large variety and it needing a micro.

Hopefully I’ll get some time spare to sort that out tomorrow.

We then headed off for lunch where I met one of their videographers and talked shop with everyone for a good couple hours over steak, wine and honeycomb bark. As an informal affair it was great and we were pretty much told that there weren’t any restrictions on what we could talk about, so long as they were at least tangentially related to Windows Server 2012. Thankfully it looks like the focus of this year’s TechEd is going to be about Server 2012 anyway so even if we were going to go off the rails we really wouldn’t have far to go. Still I was pleased to find out that our choices of sessions provided a good mix so that we were all able to go to the ones we wanted to. I’ve chosen to cover primarily Windows Azure and the cloud integration aspects of Server 2012 as whilst I’m sure there’s a lot going on below that level my interest, at least in recent times, has been focused on just how Microsoft is going to bring cloud down to all those loyal system administrators who’ve been with Microsoft for decades.

The keynote was equal parts run-of-the-mill tech announcements coupled with, dare I say it, strange forays into the lands of philosophy and technology futurism. Now I can’t claim complete innocence here as I did make a couple snarky tweets whilst Jason Silva was up on stage but in reality whilst his speeches and videos were thought provoking I struggled to see how they were relevant to the audience. TechEd, whilst being full of creative and dedicated people, isn’t exactly TED; I.E. it’s not a big ideas kind of deal. It’s a tech show, one where system administrators, architects and developers come together to get a glimpse at the latest from Microsoft. Delving into the philosophy of how technology is changing humanity is great but there are better times for presentations like that like say TEDx Canberra which was just on recently.

The technology part of the keynote was interesting even if it was your usual high level overview that lacked any gritty detail. For me the take away from the whole thing was that Microsoft is now heavily dedicated to not only being a cloud provider but becoming the cloud platform that powers enterprises in the future. Windows Server 2012 appears to be a key part of that and if what they’re alluding to turns out to be true you’ll soon have a unified development platform that will stretch all the way from your own personal cloud all the way back to a fully managed public cloud that Microsoft and its partners provide. If that promise is sounding familiar to you it should as HP said pretty much the same thing not too long ago and I’m very keen to see how their offering works in comparison.

There were also some performances from various artists like the one from Synaecide above in which he utilizes as Kinect controller to manipulate the music with his movements. It was certainly impressive, especially in comparison to the interpretive dancer who obviously had zero control over what was happening on screen, and these are the kinds of things I’d like to see more of as they show off the real innovative uses of Microsoft technology rather than just the usual PowerPoint to death followed by a highly scripted demo. After this all finished we were allowed to go off and have a look around the showcase where all the Microsoft partners had set up shop and were giving out the usual swag which was when I decided to take my leave (after raiding the buffet, of course!).

With all this being said I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the real meat of TechEd 2012: the new technology. It’s all great to sell ideas, visions and concepts but nothing is more powerful to me than demonstrable technology that I can go home and use right away. Those of you following me on Twitter will know that I’ve already expressed scepticism at some of the claims has made during the keynote but don’t let that fool you. Whilst I might be among Microsoft’s critics I’m also one of their long time fans so you can rest assured that any amazing leaps will be reoported and missteps pointed out and ridiculed for your amusement.

Now I’d best be off, I’ve got an early start tomorrow.