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Highlights from Microsoft’s TechEd 2014 Conference

ClipTraining’s CIO, J. Peter Bruzzese, brings back notes and pictures from his week covering TechEd 2014 in Houston.

What an interesting week! I’ve been in Houston, Texas for Microsoft’s biggest conference of the year for IT Pros and Developers. My week has been filled with bumpy plane rides to and from Houston, early breakfast meet-and-greets, press meetings, one-on-one chats and one vendor sponsored gathering after another until the wee hours. Exhausting, but informative…and fun.

I met up with my assistant Trish Grencer right after registration (thanks for the cup of coffee to wake me up!) and our starting point was the Keynote address with Brad Anderson. What was really interesting here were the number of announcements revolving around Windows Azure and the LACK of announcements revolving around anything on-premise. Everything was cloud and it was clearly stated that this is now a cloud-first, mobile-first world. Note: To see the top 5 Azure releases and soon-to-be new features check out my article on InfoWorld entitled “What’s new in Microsoft Azure”.  There were some quick demos of elements already announced at other events like a Cortana demonstration at one point and a set of demos from Julia White about new features with Office 365 and Office apps for iPad (which was great because she is one of my favorite speakers).

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You can watch the whole Keynote right here: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2014/KEY01#fbid=

After the keynote we had a mini press event moderated by Joey Snow which allowed us to ask a few questions. I asked about the high pricetag of Azure from a small business perspective and it was explained that it’s not a 1 to 1 replacement of an on-premise server to a cloud-based server. You are also saving money on the maintenance, HA (high availability) and DR (disaster recovery) side, the electricity, etc. and so it all adds up and equals out. Perhaps, although I believe the cost could come down a bit based on what I’m seeing from the Azure calculator when looking at smaller business deployments.

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It was nice to run into other Exchange MVP’s on the Expo floor. Here I am with Bhargav Shukla (KEMP) and Paul Robichaux (Dell). Bhargav is holding up an Xbox with Titanfall, which is an incredible game they featured during the Keynote. Apparently for every user that joins they get their own VM Server spun up for them in Azure. (Seriously, click the link above and watch the little movie that plays.) KEMP Technologies was giving this away at their booth.

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Back in the Press Room I spent some time with folks like Jeff James, Jeff Hicks, Mary Jo Foley, Mary Branscombe, Brien Posey, Ed Liberman and others. The Waggener Edstrom folks took really good care of us. I also had a chance to see my friends David Davis and Kasia Lorenc!

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I saw folks I’ve known for years including Loretta Yates and Greg Wiegand from Pearson, as well as Jeremy Moskowitz, who informed me of some great new releases from his company PolicyPak like PolicyPak Preferences and PolicyPak Cloud. And I was even able to pick up an advanced copy of the latest book in the Jeff Aiken based series from Mark Russinovich called “Rogue Code” which he says is even better than the first two. (Due out May 20th)

There were many gatherings at TechEd. Enjoyed the Krewe party (always the place to be) and the Armadillo Palace gathering. Went to a Petri author meet and greet and then a dinner for authors of the site. Exciting new things coming from the Petri folks. One of the coolest parts of the week was going to a “Bowling with Woz” gathering with Fusion-IO. It was here that I finally got my chance to meet Steve Wozniak (aka “Woz”).

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Even better than that, Heather Fitzpatrick from NASCAR (as well as a ClipTraining instructor) was asked to bowl with Woz!!! Can you believe that? One of three chosen to bowl with the Woz! And he gave her a bowling pin with his signature on it! That was awesome.

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One gathering was at the Houston Aquarium (Microsoft knows how to throw a good party) where I was able get a tour by none other than Scott Schnoll, Senior Content Developer on the Exchange Server Team. We spent a long time hanging out with this tiger Nero (who was absolutely amazing to watch).

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TechEd may sound like a week long meet-and-greet social event but there are sessions too! Unfortunately I just didn’t have time to attend any (good thing Trish goes to sessions) and this year I wasn’t presenting (I at least go to my own sessions… typically) but with the Microsoft Exchange Conference being in Austin last month I gave a session there and so only had to focus on covering this event as a journalist. Needless to say it left me with a lot of time on my hands to be a bit of a social butterfly spending time with my friends from Mimecast (including Jules Martin and the Mimecast crew, who are great to hang out with at any event), Gary Eimerman and the team from Pluralsight, and a host of other people.

TechEd 2015 is rumored to be in Orlando Florida next year. All the fun, without a crazy bumpy plane ride? Looking forward to it!

Rethink how much time you spend on your devices looking down

This is 5 minutes that you won’t regret spending watching a YouTube video.

ClipTraining’s J. Peter Bruzzese speaking at MEC 2014 in Austin TX

The Microsoft Exchange Conference (known by all as its acronym MEC) is happening this year (March 31st to April 2nd) in Austin Texas.  This beloved event was an annual highlight for Exchange admins but it disappeared over a decade ago and was engulfed into the TechEd conference platform.  But that was never the same vibe for Exchange admins and so folks were thrilled in September 2012 when MEC re-emerged like the phoenix to a new generation (with plenty of MEC veterans still present).

This year’s MEC (www.iammec.com) appears to be bigger and better than the previous one in Orlando and we see a great deal of effort being put into the session content and overall agenda.  The breakout sessions deep dive into architecture, deployment/migration, eDiscovery and compliance, extensibility, client solutions like Outlook/OWA and mobile device clients, manageability and support, security and protection and more.  There is also a tremendous effort on the part of MEC sponsors to ensure the event is both education and fun for attendees.

ClipTraining:  J. Peter, how important is MEC to you?

J. Peter:  Well, there are three events within the year that I look forward to.  The MVP Summit, TechEd and MEC.  MEC isn’t an annual event (although I hope they change that going forward) so a year that has a MEC is a special one indeed.  2012 was actually my first one, I wasn’t part of that previous group that extolls the lore of MECs past and writes poetry about it to this day.  I thought it was amazing.  Whereas at TechEd I’m surrounded by admins and developers with a variety of focus and skill, MEC allows me to be with my peers.  Hundreds… no, thousands of my peers although we may all be at different skillset levels with Exchange/Office 365.

ClipTraining:  We hear you have a couple of exciting things coming up at this MEC, care to share them with us?

J. Peter:  I was incredibly pleased to get the approval to give a session at MEC.  On Tuesday morning from 9:00am to 10:15am I’m giving the session “Eliminate the Regulatory Compliance Nightmare” which focuses on the built-in tools within Exchange 2013/O365, walks through the overall story of regulatory compliance and how some are choosing to cope with it, and introduces a few third party tools (including Mimecast’s archive) as ways to mitigate the nightmare.  It should be both informative, as well as entertaining.

Now, another exciting aspect of MEC will be the release of my latest book entitled “Conversational Exchange (in 10 days!)” which is a 10 chapter book that helps conceptualize messaging subject matter to truly help newbies to Exchange to start grasping what Exchange/O365 is all about without having to learn the step-by-step how-to information that you can easily find on TechNet.  It’s a fun book with cartoons and easy-to-understand explanations and I’m super proud of it.  So, the first copies go live at MEC and I’m happy to mention that Mimecast is sponsoring these copies so that we will be giving them away at a signing at the booth right after my session on Tuesday, April 1st from 11:30pm to 1:30pm.  It’s important to note that I didn’t write this book to sell.  This one was a labor of love for the community and it’s free to the community.  We’re giving out hard copies at the event but will also have PDF versions available and online review of the content available soon after MEC.

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ClipTraining:  Wow, great stuff.  Are all MVPs as involved at MEC as you are?

J. Peter:  Are you kidding?  Many are more involved than I am (if you can believe that).  Bhargav Shukla, an MVP who previously worked for Microsoft and now works for Kemp Technologies, has 3 sessions!  But it’s not just about giving sessions, many MVPs will be present who aren’t speaking, it’s also about being available to support the community as a whole.  Those that show up at MEC will be ones who not only appreciate the effort the Microsoft Exchange Team has put into keeping them educated (and I think the Exchange Team is one of the best for disseminating information to the community) but they have their blogs that they read, many of which are written by MVPS, that now they can meet in person.  Many of these MVPs are traveling at their own expense to be at the event, coming from all over the globe.  Their presence will benefit the attendees of MEC, but what they learn and can take back with them will also benefit readers of their blogs and all they touch in their local community efforts.  That’s part of what being an MVP is all about so it’s great that so many will be able to attend.

ClipTraining:  It sounds like you are completely pumped up for MEC 2014.  Which sessions are you personally planning on attending?

J. Peter:  Good question.  There are too many to choose from for me right now.  I’m battling that dilemma, which happens at every conference I attend but it’s worse for one that is completely Exchange/O365 focused as you would imagine.

Ok, so I always try to catch a session from Ross Smith IV.  He has one on Monday at 10:30 am that explains Exchange 2013 architecture.  Jeff Mealiffe has one on Exchange Server 2013 sizing scenarios on Monday at 1:30pm that I think will be very valuable considering the significant architectural changes in Exchange.  Scott Schnoll, another of my favorite speakers, has one on “Exchange Server 2013 Tips and Tricks” on Monday at 2:45pm that looks really fun.  That session conflicts with another that I’m looking forward to, Paul Robichaux’s “Exchange Unified Messaging Deep Dive” on Monday, March 30th at 2:45PM.  I just finished up an Exchange 2013 Unified Messaging course for Pluralsight so I’m excited to hear Paul’s UM deep dive, he’s a master with UM.  I’m also looking forward to Tony Redmond’s “Retention Policies in the Real World” on Wednesday morning at 8:30am.  There is a “Build a hybrid configuration in less than 75 minutes” by Michael Van Horenbeeck that is happening at the same time and I really wanted to catch that one too so we’ll see which one wins out.

As I said… too many to choose from.  I expect by the end of MEC to have my head filled with knowledge.  I might have to start work on the second edition of “Conversational Exchange” by the time it’s all over!

ClipTraining:  Indeed!  Well, we thank you for taking the time to chat with us about the event.  Thanks again, J. Peter.

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