My TechEd 2014 – Day One

Full disclosure: I started this post on day two of TechEd, and as is usually the case, I was never able to get back to it to finish up and post before TechEd ended. So while the next paragraph is correct that it was day two when I wrote that specific paragraph, everything form the sessions down was really done on the Sunday after. On with the post…

I’d normally start by saying it’s bright and early here in Houston as I write this, but the truth is it is overcast and rainy and 8 AM isn’t all that early.  It’s day two, and I’m waiting for my first session to start.  But this post isn’t about day two, it’s about day one.

TechEd kicked off yesterday as it always does with the keynote.  It was a bit different this year as the keynote hall was significantly smaller than normal. this meant that not everyone who wanted to see it live could attend in person. The keynote was streamed to other room (rooms?) as well as online for folks at home and in Houston. Judging from online comments, reviews were mixed (aren’t they always?) with some people enjoying the opportunity to sleep in and watch in their hotel rooms, while others complained of not being able to get into any of the rooms showing it.  I knew about the size limitation from the December Roundtable, but I expect it’s a one-off situation. I’m sure if they had been able to get a room large enough, they would have.

The actual keynote wasn’t as good as last year, but I still found it worth attending. The message this year was as expected. The topics covered in order of emphasis were cloud, cloud, mobility, cloud, and just a bit more cloud at the end. Did I mentioned they focused on the cloud? Seriously though, the new tagline is “Mobile First, Cloud First”. Note that they’re saying “first” and not “only”, which continues what we were told at MEC  —  “Cloud first, not cloud only”.

There are some great posts that go into details about the specific product announcements for Microsoft Azure, so i won’t go into them here. Check out:

While I was watching the keynote, it struck me that there is a generation of IT Pros on the horizon that will have never spent any time in a server room. No history of racking servers, running cables, swapping out batteries in a UPS. None of that. they’re not here yet, but they’re coming. When i tweeted this thought, someone responded and said they felt sorry for them. I remarked that they will feel the same way about us when they look back. it’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing. It just is what it is. A ride through the clouds is often bumpy, but that’s what seatbelts are for, right? I choose to look at the opportunities Azure offers and focus less on what it takes away. Odds are, they’re things I really don’t want to be doing long term anyway.

Moving on… sessions. I went to four sessions on day one, a full schedule. I’ll touch on each one briefly.

Foundational Session – FDN06 Transform the Datacenter: Making the Promise of Connected Clouds a Reality

The Foundational Sessions are intended to go deeper into topics and demos covered in the keynote. i did not attend one last year, so I can’t say how this year compared. Jeffrey Snover (@jsnover), Jeff Woolsey (@WSV_GUY), and Matt McSpirit (@mattmcspirit) presented/demoed in this session. As billed, it was a rehash of the datacenter and Azure portion of the keynote (which was most of it) including demos of setting up site-to-site VPN and setting up Azure Site Recovery (new feature). The best quote of the session, and one that wasn’t emphasized during the keynote perhaps as much as it could have been was “Adopt the cloud in your way, on your timetable.” If you set it up to make azure an extension of your datacenter, you make it possible to move resources back and forth between the two, placing workloads where they make the most sense.  Speaking from experience, we have some challenges doing this, primarily because of how the network on our campus is configured. The mixing of public and private address space in what should be a strictly internal network makes it difficult to setup the site-to=site connection and still maintain connectivity to our network and to those resources which sit outside our firewall across the rest of the University.

DCIM-B338 – Software-Defined Storage Solutions: Storage Management Plane Functionality in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2

Presented by Hector Linares, this session covered different scenarios using software-defined storage with System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2. One example covered storage classification in which different types of storage are classified and tagged. In your templates for deploying VMs you can use these tags to indicate the type of storage you want to use, and when you deploy the VM, it will be deployed using the matching storage. This method is commonly used for self-service scenarios which ensures the VMs the end users create use the correct storage. Other scenarios covered included Scale Out File Server provisioning, ingestion of VHDs into VMM, and Fibre Channel storage. Useful session if you’re getting started with VMM.

Watch the session recording

DCIM-B325 – The Real-World Guide to Upgrading Your IT Skills AND Your Infrastructure, Part 1

This session was the first of two sessions presented back-to-back by Rick Claus and Joey Snow. Everybody’s two favorite IT Pro Evangelists take IT Pros by the hand and help them learn to see the cloud not as a job killer but as a job enhancer. If these two server huggers can start to embrace the cloud, so can we.  The core of the session is an upgrade and virtualization of Active Directory in a lab environment. We may not all agree on the cloud and whether it bodes well or ill, but I think we all agree that having a way to recover your Active Directory DCs is pretty critical to staying employed.  The walkthrough of how to setup an AD lab and test recovery is worth the price of admission alone, but when you add the stories and insights from Rick and Joey who both spent years in the trenches just like us, it becomes a do-not-miss session.

One idea I wanted to call out here is the idea of the Differentiated IT Pro, a term coined by Jeffrey Snover. We’ve spent our careers troubleshooting and fixing problems. To help ensure your place in the future of the IT industry, we all need to “level up” and enhance our skill sets to move beyond the kinds of functions that are moving in the cloud. If all you can do is rack a server and walk through a software wizard, you’re probably going to find fewer and fewer job opportunities out there. You may still be employed somewhere, but your career isn’t going to advance. Instead you want to differentiate yourself from the other IT Pros around you by learning new skills like PowerShell (truly a basic skill these days), automation, DSC, etc. Now you’re poised to move your business’s use of IT to the next level and take your career along for the ride

If you’re interested in hearing more from Jeffrey about the Differentiated IT Pro, watch his interview with Rick Claus on Channel 9 from day two of TechEd.

Watch the session recording

DCIM-B326 – The Real-world Guide to Upgrading Your IT Skills AND Your Infrastructure, Part 2

This session is part two of Rick and Joey’s session described above.

Watch the session recording

Evening Activities

After the sessions ended, I did a quick tour of the Partner Expo to pick up some party passes that were waiting for me and see if there was any obvious swag I wanted to pick up.  I didn’t see a lot (and continued to not see much as the week went on), so it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner with Krewe friends at III Forks. Dinner was good, but I went with the special and it wasn’t as good as if I had just gone with a standard steak.  I’ll keep that mind if I ever dine there again. The only other downside of dinner was it was really slow, and I missed out on going to the Microsoft Learning event at Howl at the Moon.

Afterwards I met up with friends at Reserve 101 for a bit, and finally called it a night.