I made a comment on Twitter today after watching some of the announcements from today’s WPC Keynote. It got a nice conversation going and also got me thinking, an IT consultant’s role goes overlooked by the Tech Companies.
Being unable to attend Microsoft’s WPC in Toronto, I turned to Twitter to keep up with it, as I go out to clients on a regular basis and can’t always stream the keynotes. The announcement today of a complete refresh of all Microsoft products in the next 12 months was the icing on the cake. Microsoft was promoting through those at WPC, and forgetting about getting the refresh items in the hands of IT people.
the point comes really into play in the vast SMB marketplace. I have great influence over my clients and what they decide to purchase, due to a level of trust that I have built with them over the years. One the other hand I have limited resources of my own, and have to convince my bosses to get me new technology that I can test in our environments. Being a consultant is not easy.
Where Microsoft dropped the ball, is with TechEd. All the refreshes should have been on display and easily accessible to all the attendees. We are the ones who can drive adoption, and even give higher marks to a product compared to main tech site reviews. Now figure in that you need to set up budgeting for the following year, and Microsoft really dropped the ball. The Surface Tablet, if announced 2 weeks earlier and put on display/testing for the thousands at TechEd would have gotten even more press, more word of mouth and been ready to burst, if it is as good as they say. Office 2013 has been talked about, and I think has been shown a little at WPC, but still no build up for something that is coming out late this year or early next year.
TechEd pushed Server 2012 and Windows 8, but even then, unless one had time to do labs and not go to seminars, there wasn’t a lot to work with. the idea of having given or at least loaning a Windows 8 Tablet to all TechEd attendees would have been a boon. A chance to use it in a real world situation. the majority of us don’t have a way to test it on a tablet unfortunately.
TechEd also pushed cloud services, which for SMBs is still cost prohibitive. You have the cost of the services plus the cost of extra bandwith needed to be able to function at a smooth rate. The barrier to entry is too great. Add on that we are still seeing cloud service crashes every 4-6 months. the lack of the SBS edition of Server might drive more to the cloud, but could leave SMBs with older software, lack of funds to upgrade, and eventually create security issues.
As Scott Ladewig said in response to one of my tweets in our conversation, ” I love the deep dives into technology and educational opportunities, but TechEd keynotes should be more like WPC,” and about TechEd, “Great event, can be even better!” He is right, and hopefully Microsoft will learn. The SMB consultants are the true movers and shakers for a large majority of technology. Get us on board because we are not going to recommend something we haven’t tested.
After spending a week at TechEd there are thoughts and opinions. I had no idea what to expect, outside of the chance to learn and do some networking. What I found was that, more and less.
TechEd is supposed to be the premier Microsoft Tech conference. The idea is to cram information into 4 days, to show off upcoming technologies, and to allow direct access to the people who know the technologies the best. I was hoping to be able to say it was all that, but the reality is that TechEd does fall short of those ideas in a number of ways. Do not get me wrong, TechEd is worth going to, but be aware of expecting too much.
Companies always have an agenda, and Microsoft is no different. TechEd at times seemed like a huge propaganda machine, even in the sessions and seminars. The comments about Windows 8 and how speakers got special permission to use it in their seminars got old. The fact is that while they had a full keynote on Windows 8, the never showed integration into a corporate domain, how it works hand in hand with Server 2012, nor why it belongs in the corporate environment. Here you have the IT folks, the ones who can help push your product, if they like it, and you are not giving them what they need. It was nice to see some beta app from SAP but, that is not the way to present to the people who want to know how difficult will the migration process be.
Lets move to the crux of what TechEd is about, learning. The seminars/sessions overall were rather informative, if not a bit short. 75 minutes per session is not a lot of time to cover the topics in much detail. Things get skipped over, glanced at or just muddled. This was most evident in the Exam Cram sessions where there really wasn’t much information given out except for what would be the opening of any study guide for those exams. I felt bad for the MCTs who really were not given a chance to shine and really prepare the people at the seminar in any meaningful way.
The other sessions I went to gave information in a more condensed form most of the time, and were interesting overall. Still they felt a bit rushed by the end as the speakers wanted to talk and interact more, would find themselves doing that and have to squish things together at the end. Mind you these speakers (Paula, Mark and Mark) were amazing, knew their stuff and were really teaching and showing us how to do what they were talking about. The amount of information I got was amazing, but it gets so condensed that one barely has time to process it before the next item on the agenda gets hit. I’m lucky if I can remember 10% of what I was shown. Luckily most of the session I went to are up in video format on the TechEd website (which really only works on 32Bit IE) so I can go back to them.
The networking part of TechEd was the best. Between meeting people in sessions, to the after hours shindigs that were going on, you had plenty of chances and opportunities to make new connections and friends.
TechEd is a great idea, and is worth going to. Microsoft has to decide though what they really want it to be about. With the attendance being 30% Devs and 70% IT Pros, the TechExpo area (vendors) was geared more to the Devs. The hard push on cloud this and cloud that was deplorable. The amount of information one could find and learn was amazing, and super condensed. the fact that Microsoft could have handed out Win8 Tablets to all of us for note taking and recording sessions, yet didn’t, was a disappointment. You have the people that drive the IT decisions there. Throw us a bone.
The end is neigh. TechEd is finishing up. So what was Day 4 like?
To be honest Day 4 was the most surreal experience. Mostly because I was walking around with a ton more stuff on my back, as I was leaving that evening and had to check out of the hotel. Also I crammed everything into my TechEd backpack that I could. Good quality to be able to handle what I shoved in it.
The sessions for this day were on Wireless Security, and Windows Troubleshooting. The wireless security seminar was pretty basic, as they really went over the best practices and how to set up a Radius server, PKI infrastructure, and the rest of what is in any Microsoft networking and Infrastructure course. Pretty basic stuff that was made less interesting by a speaker who didn’t have much personality on stage by himself. I had seen him with a partner the day before with the pentest seminar, so it made things a bit more disappointing.
The next step in my day was all the giveaways. I can understand the need to have the winner present. This doesn’t work when all the drawings wind up on top of each other. Rather poor planning on their part.
I finished up the day going to Mark Russinovich’s Case of the Unexplained: Windows Troubleshooting. First late me say that Mark has rock star status at TechEd. His seminars are always filled, and this one was over packed early so he started early. Second, this one has such real world application to it. The fact that these are real world problems and solutions using the Sysinternal suite of products, is fascinating. The idea that it doesn’t teach you a series of procedures to troubleshoot, but instead how to use the tools to troubleshoot is even better.
The whole show closed up by 4 pm outside of the bag area and the testing area. A low cost shuttle was available to take me to the airport, compared to spending $50 on a cab. Over the weekend I’ll post up a summary and go over some final things from TechEd