TechEd 2008 – Day 1

Bucking tradition, I ate breakfast at the hotel instead of eating at the convention center (OCCC). The food at the convention center isn’t bad, but the Embassy Suites offers made-to-order omelets, so I couldn’t pass that up. After breakfast, I headed over to OCCC for the morning keynote.

Normally the keynotes feature some amusing videos and a guest celebrity (or minor celebrity depending on the year). previous years we’ve seen Christopher Lloyd, Samantha Bee, the woman who plays Chloe on 24, etc. I should have known something was off when I found a plastic maraca on the chairs in our section. Plus the slides they usually show with sponsors and trivia questions weren’t running. When the lights finally went down, they showed a short video (non-funny type) and as it ended, the stage was lit and there were people dressed like they came out of the Lion King. They played drums and eventually a woman came forward and tried to lead the crowd in shaking the After what seemed like 5 minutes or more of this, I was ready to go up front and beg them to just get on with the keynote already. After all that I figured they owed us a decent celebrity guest.

As it turned out, they didn’t agree. The keynote was presented sans celebrity and funny videos. And to top it all off, the first demo they did was basically a developer topic. Still can’t figure out why they were showing it to us at IT Pro week. Nothing of much importance was announced. SQL Server 2008 RC0, but that wasn’t exactly earth-shattering.

The rest of the day was spent as usual — in breakouts, on the expo floor, and so on. My sessions for the day were:

  • CLI362 – What’s New in Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2008? Updates for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista SP1
    (Excellent session. Always look forward to Michael Niehaus. Definitely need to get MDT installed and move off of BDD 2007.)
  • UNC359 – Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 SP1 Architecture and Design in Microsoft IT
    (Not directly related since our Exchange system is much smaller, but still some good insights to take away from the choices they made and their experiences.)
  • SEC369 – Introducing Forefront Client Security 2.0
    (Not bad, but not great. Was good to get a sneak peak at the next version of Forefront Client Security, but I was expecting more.)
  • BOF905 — Windows in Higher Education Birds-of-a-Feather session
    (Excellent discussion. We probably had 50+ schools represented. Outsourcing student email was a big topic.)

During my first session after lunch, I realized that I never noticed any snack tables during the morning sessions. That struck me as odd, considering in years past, the tables were overflowing with chips, string cheese, cookies, trail mix, etc. When afternoon rolled around and all they had were empty tables during the first break, I went on the CommNet site and did some digging. Turns out for this year we get one beverage break in the morning without any snacks, and hen one snack break late in the afternoon. Lt me tell you, the tweets were flying about the dearth of snacks. I’m sure the blogs were or will be full of comments about that. Considering they cut a day from the conference and still charged us the same for registration, the snack situation or “Snackgate” as I like to call it, was the final straw for some folks.

Later at 6 PM, the reception in the Partner Expo started. The food was decent. The little mini burgers were good as always, but I hate when they label them as White Castle burgers. Whoever called them that has never had a White Castle before.

There were some good vendors represented this year, most notably Dell. They’ve skipped TechEd for several years, so it was good to see them back in the house. IBM backed out fairly late in the game and was not here. No big loss, but i was looking forward to seeing an X300 in person. The Xiotech folks were there, showing off their new Emprise units. I also spent some time at the Citrix booth. Very interested in their XenDesktop product in conjunction with some Microsoft components. I think that’s where we’ll take our student labs some day. Moving to a standardized, virtual desktop for students to use no matter where they are is the future for most universities in my opinion.

I picked up a fair amount of swag, but not as much as in previous years. Most folks seemed to be cutting back, even Microsoft. Most of the booths didn’t have the kinds of toys and oddball items they usually do. The only exception to that were the Vista Springboard folks who gave away a remote control car for following a few simple instructions. i figured the car would be something tiny, but it turned out to be a fairly large (to me anyway) remote control car. Looking forward to trying it out when I get home. I’ll post the swag tally on a separate post.