I’ve just returned from TechEd Australia 2013 and what a great event it was. Having never been to a TechEd before and having heard comments from other IT Pro’s and community leads in recent years that it was no longer a great event, I was a little unsure of what to expect. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.
Sunrise views from my hotel
Marking 20 years of TechEd in Australia, the event was held on Australia’s Gold Coast at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. With a few thousand people in attendance the keynote discussed the speed at which technology is now moving. How what would have taken 10 years was bought down to 5 and now, what would have taken three years is now down to just one. Enter Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, Windows Azure and the Azure Pack, and Office365 Wave 15 … This further realises Cloud on your terms and sets out lots of new, interesting technologies that delegates were keen to get their hands on!
I had been given some great advice about how to maximise my TechEd experience (“go for hands on labs first, then choose sessions for good speakers second, and finally choose based on topic, because watching great speakers and doing Instructor-Led Labs cannot be done online later”) and I found this was absolutely the right thing to do.
Sessions I Attended
With all of the great content it was extremely difficult decide between some sessions. In the end, my schedule was as follows:
Tuesday 3rd September
- IT Professional Kick-Off Session: The Modern Data Center Revisited – R2 to the Max!
- Keynote Presentation
Weds 4th September
- Introduction to Windows Server 2012 R2
- Managing Microsoft Office365: Hands On Lab
- Desired State Configuration with Windows Server 2012 R2: Hands On Lab
- Using MDOP to Enhance Your Users Flexible Work Style
- Network Automation using Windows Server 2012 R2 IPAM: Hands On Lab
- Building a Windows Server 2012 Storage Infrastructure: Hands On Lab
- Using PowerShell Magic to Manage Office365
Thursday 5th September
- FIM 2010 R2: Custom Workflow Activities
- Windows 8 Black Belt Troubleshooting
- PowerShell Demo Extravaganza
- Identity Management, Self Service and Orchestration in the Data Center
- Office365 Identity Management
- Introducing Windows 2012 R2 Work Folders – The New Data Sync Solution
Friday 6th September – Last Day!
- Storage Spaces: Whats new in 2012 R2
- Office365 – Attractive and Easy to Use
- Identity Management Jigsaw Puzzle
- Closing Presentation
My favorite session of all was PowerShell Demo Extravaganza. Presented by Microsoft PFE Krunoslav Mihalic this was not a session aimed at using to PowerShell to benefit the business, it was all about you! After seeing how to use PowerShell to build a business case for a 40″ TV, to automate a call away from a customer when the surf conditions are right and how to build and control a robot using PowerShell, I have literally seen it all! Who said PowerShell can’t be used for anything?! You should really check this out. My second favorite session was Windows 8 Black Belt Troubleshooting. As applicable to servers as it was workstations, this opens your eyes to Windows security and the presenter (Sami Laiho) is seriously entertaining. This is well worth a watch.
Sessions I wish I had seen
On Thursday, Ned Pyle (formerly of the Active Directory Team at Microsoft) was presenting ‘DFS-R has been hitting the Gym!’. I should have realised how full this one would be, when I arrived on time I couldn’t get into the room! Ned should definitley have had a bigger room. This is one I will be watching online instead if available, but at least I got to attend Carol Wapshere’s session instead.
Great Experiences that were not on the Schedule
Not everything you get from TechEd appears on the schedule, so here are the other highlights:
- Free Stuff – The TechEd free stuff was quite good. The bag was really good quality, it’s a Targus bag, comfortable to carry no complaints. I grabbed a number of t-shirts from different vendors, there was one year subscription to Microsoft Office, but the gem was the water bottle, which if you tipped it up while drinking made a sound akin to Dolphins. Rick Claus and Jeff Alexander captured videos of a Dolphin Wave, which can be found here.
- Meeting People – I follow a number of MVP’s and people who are experts in their field. It was great to meet Rick Claus from Microsoft (from whom I scored some real Canadian Maple Syrup), PowerShell MVP and Lync expert Shane Hoey, FIM MVP Carol Wapshere and a number of others.
- Speaking to IdM Folks – I was able to talk to the good folks at Unify about Virtual Directories and the AD Consolidation project I am currently working on. It allowed me to get a different perspective and some new ideas on what we’re currently doing.
- MVP Dinner – Thanks to the good folk at KEMP Technologies I was able to tag along to the MVP Dinner and chat to a few presenters and MVP’s.
The Closing Session
The closing of TechEd Australia 2013 showcased how Azure is being used to literally change the lives of people. Barnardos have developed an application that allows them to reconnect children with siblings that they have been separated from as they are taken through the care system. Something that previously would not have been possible. In addition, Azure is being used to power Research. A gene mapping system in Azure was able to process 63 Billion gene mappings that would previously have taken 25 years to complete in just 3 days. That really is impressive. With that, we were encouraged to go forwards, using the power of these tools and the technology available to us to “Simplify the Impossible”.
My first TechEd was an amazing experience. Getting hands on with new technology, getting to meet people who’s work I have been following online and getting to discuss technology with a number of experts, as well as seeing all of the great new technology coming through was just so invaluable. In previous years I had attended the now non-existent ‘The Experts Conference’ (TEC – run by Quest), which covered AD, Exchange, Sharepoint and Virtualization to a far deeper level. My expectation of TechEd was that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as TEC but surprisingly I did. I think the sheer variety of sessions and the fact that I got to go more broad than deep this time around was a refreshing change and appropriate to where I am at with technology at the moment. TechEd surpassed my expectations and I will be doing everything I can to attend again next year – even if we didn’t get free Surface tablets 😦
The closing presentation touched on an interesting point, recognising that companies were not made to be dynamic in a way technology affords them today. The companies that can adapt to the new possibilities that technology gives them will have the competitive edge. We need to break down the hierarchy of organisations and work more as a network of people, this allows us to achieve far more. The Responsive org is a website leading the charge on this change and is worth checking out. Technology was originally considered a competitive edge. then it leveled out into just the norm and the way business is done. We are back to this being a competitive edge, and smaller companies with limited funds and resources are able to take on the largest corporations and win with the cloud if they are more dynamic in how they operate. We are likely to see the number of David versus Goliath stories increasing in the business world for sure.
All in all, there is so much going on in technology at the moment and everything is moving so fast it’s hard to keep up, but the innovation is incredible and the possibilities that these new advancements are opening up are really exciting. This is a great time to be working in IT … providing your organisation is dynamic enough to be moving with it!
In my next post I will go into detail on the sessions I attended and what I took away from them. In the meantime, I will be pre-registering for TechEd Australia 2014 – I wouldn’t miss it for the world!