Latest posts by Paul Schnackenburg (see all)
- Microsoft Ignite 2017 Australia - Mon, Mar 6 2017
- Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) - Part 2: setup and monitoring - Tue, Jan 24 2017
- Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) - Part 1: features and fault tolerance - Mon, Jan 23 2017
Tech conferences: a changing landscape ^
I have attended TechEd (now known as Ignite) over the last 10 years here in Australia. It has changed considerably in that time—partly due to the changing nature of IT itself, and partly due to changes within Microsoft and their focus.
If you've never gone to a tech conference, you might ask, what's the return of investment on the considerable amount of money for travel, accommodations, and delegate tickets? It's a fair question, especially since today, at least Microsoft streams keynotes live, and recordings of breakout sessions are available a week after the event for free. Once upon a time, there was technical content presented that you couldn't easily get to any other way, but that's no longer true.
The main reason to attend a tech conference is for the networking opportunities. You can connect with and talk to technical experts, and get free consulting if you're stuck on a particular technology implementation. I made several new connections based on the session I delivered on Virtual Machine Manager (VMM). The other main benefit is inspiration; there's something fundamentally encouraging about being among 2200+ other geeks, and hearing and discussing various approaches to the day-to-day issues of IT.
Ignite 2017 ^
Scott Guthrie delivered this year's keynote. It was all about the cloud, including hybrid architectures, with several examples of Australian companies taking advantage of Azure for elasticity and new technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT).
After the keynote, a lucky 250 attendees were able to attend a great "unplugged" session, where Scott spent the first 10 minutes soliciting topics from the audience's questions and then proceeded to answer each of them. It was a great session, providing good insights into what's coming in Azure. Some nuggets were that nested virtualization is coming this year to Azure, managed disks are awesome, and if you're in Azure, you should take advantage of both the new Advisor and the Security Center.
Microsoft is a much broader technology provider than just a few years back—something that was very clear at this conference. There's the on-premises technology, Windows Server, Hyper-V, System Center, Exchange, and SQL Server, which is the foundation of many an enterprise's infrastructure. Then there's the cloud focus, with Azure and Office 365 taking the lead. And Azure now has over 70 different services, so each tool of the Swiss army knife serves a purpose for various business scenarios.
This year, there were 18 sessions in the infrastructure track, including:
- Hyper-V 2016
- Windows Containers
- Hyper-V Containers
- Nano server
- Azure stack and pack
- Configuration Manager
- Virtual Machine Manager
- Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
- Just Enough and Just-In-Time Administration (JEA and JIT)
- Disaster Recovery (DR)
These topics show an interesting trend of the changing focus from on-premises to the cloud. A few years back, there would have been two or three times as many on-premises tech-focused breakout sessions.
On the cloud side, there were 35 sessions, including:
- building a large scale Azure application on small budget (including the presenter's "Have I Been Pwned" data-breach site)
- Azure Resource Manager (ARM)
- Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS)
- Platform as a service (PaaS)
- Key Vault
- Azure Functions
- Power BI (business intelligence)
- Azure Active Directory (AAD)
- Mobile apps
These were just a few out of many more sessions. The top-rated session for the conference was the very funny and useful final session by our own Orin Thomas, 30 Terrible Habits of Server and Cloud Administrators.
Add to these 63 sessions in the Architecture, .NET, and Data/Analytics tracks, and you start to see a pattern. A few years ago, there would have been a 70/30 split between operations and developer sessions. This has now switched to 20/80 in favor of developer-focused sessions. This is partly due to the public cloud's focus on development skills and partly due to the shift to DevOps. As Ben Armstrong remarked in my interview with him (to be published here on 4sysops shortly), "it's a lot easier for developers to pick up an operations skills than it is for sysadmins to pick up developer skills."
In a world first (to my knowledge) at an Ignite conference, we also had an open-source track with 14 sessions on Linux + OMS (Operations Management Suite), Docker, Linux + Azure, Jenkins, Linux on Hyper-V and Azure, Typescript, Angular 2, continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, Node.js, and Chef.
Rounding out the breakout sessions were Windows 10 sessions as well as 20-minute "soft skills" presentations. Microsoft pushed HoloLens heavily with the opportunity to receive a golden ticket for a 15-minute guided session with a HoloLens. This included playing a "robots break out of walls" game, manipulating a holographic zombie to walk on a record player, and making friends with an eight-foot (baby) Tyrannosaurus rex. It was an amazing experience, and I look forward to start developing apps for HoloLens. I think mixed reality is going to change how we think of computing in many useful ways.
Making it a "proper" Ignite was Seth Juarez flying over and doing live streamed interviews with speakers and daily wrap-ups.
Dona Sarkar, queen of the Windows Insider program, delivered the excellent locknote address on the importance of building platforms rather than just solutions.
There was a fun party on Thursday evening held at the convention center with many different activities, including the crowd favorite and now traditional band jam.
I found this year's Ignite an excellent mix of deep technical sessions delivered by exceptional presenters, combined with laid-back fun content. It was also a good value for the money; for example, Wednesday started at 7am and finished at 7:45pm.
I'm always surprised when I meet IT people who don't attend tech conferences or user groups. Honestly, it's one of the best ways to learn about the new stuff coming over the horizon. In fact, this is the main reason you should convince your boss to send you to the next one in your country.