Sunday, 21 June 2009

Technet Virtual Conference June 09

One of the problems for many people working in IT is the tendency to work in small groups, possibly even alone – there are many more of us working in teams of 5 or less than there are that work in larger groups. Unfortunately, this can then cause us to develop a “silo” attitude to working. It’s then very easy to become blinkered in our attitudes and the way that we work.

For that reason, I try to get out of the business occasionally to attend various events, and I encourage my staff to do the same so that we can see what else is going on in the world. In the last few years we’ve been to various seminars that were on developing technology that we thought might be of use to us that we needed to learn more about, and of course we always try to get along to the supplier events (just a hint to the suppliers – guys, forget all the crappy junk that you hand out, it’s t-shirts we want!)

Over the years, I’ve seen the Tech-Ed events and have wanted to go; but the company won’t pay and I can’t justify stumping up the cash myself. So when it was announced that the Microsoft Technet team were planning to hold a “virtual” conference, I was intrigued. I work quite a bit with video-conferencing and audio-conferencing – and as part of my studies through the OU, I’m used to collaborative online work with forums, wikis and blogs. For me, making it an online experience makes a lot of sense – instead of spending money on event facilities, the resources can go into the content.

If you didn’t get the chance to attend the event, then most of the material is still available on-line at:
and I understand that this should remain available at this location until September 09 – I imagine that it will be available after that, but filed away somewhere else. I would suggest that there is something for everyone – plenty of useful material for the techie, and for the managers alike.

Now many people can get cynical about these sorts of things – they envisage it purely as a sales vehicle. I understand those concerns and yes, it could be argued that Microsoft is trying to sell us on the idea of buying more of their products. Well Duh! they are a commercial enterprise – of course they want to sell things. However, the event was much more about the ideas behind the use of the technology and the way that it can be used.

We are currently doing some evaluation work with Windows 7 and there were a couple of items during the event that discussed new features and the way that Microsoft sees it being deployed. These were very useful – they highlighted bits that we hadn’t actually seen and we will be making a point of checking them out at some stage. There was also information about some of the additional features in Server 2008 R2 that we want to look at – and there was a session on Data Protection Manager Server 2007 which my staff and I think is one of the most valuable / useful products we have ever bought.

A few minor criticisms – I had a couple of issues with some of the material, probably because I was watching on a laptop whilst doing some other work, so on occasion the videos were a bit jumpy and some of the lip synching was slightly off; the presentation slides could also be out of step with the talk. I had a problem with one of the sessions; it froze part way through and wouldn’t re-start. (OK, I need to buy more memory for my laptop, I only have 512M.) However, I went back to it the following day and watched all the way through. There was also an issue with the chat function – apparently even the Technet staff had this problem.

On the positive side, I would highlight one particular session that stood out for me – a look at the future in a session by Miha Kralj. Really thought provoking and delivered with sense of humour. I would have to say that I do actually take issue with some of his points and may even discuss it in more detail in subsequent blog posts. But don’t take my word for, go the site and hear what the man has to say for yourselves.

All in all, 2 thumbs up for a very useful resource produced by the guys and girls at Technet – I think that they all deserve a big pat on the back for a great job well done. I’m told that around 4,000 people took part on the day and I really hope that many more go back to the site to check out the resources in the next few months. I think that they also plan to hold more events like this in future and I for one would definitely be taking part if possible.

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