Microsoft TechEd Review – Day 1

Microsoft Teched Review

Lets begin with my Microsoft TechEd review.  This is day one.  I plan (time permitting) to write a quick review every day until the conference closes.

Microsoft TechEd Review

Lets begin by saying, this is the year for the Cloud Wars.  Amazon, Google, Microsoft, VMware.  Every conference by every vendor is talking about all new features GA’ing and new services being added on and price drops.  Its pretty awesome to watch if you are a consumer of cloud resources.  Pretty cool.

Keynote

Disclaimer: I wont really be covering the keynote, as most of it was about Microsoft Azure, and as most people know I work for VMware in the Hybrid Cloud Business Unit, and ultimately as Azure is a direct competitor to VMware vCHS I wont talk about the announcements they made.  I am sure anyone that interested can Google or as Microsoft would prefer BING to find out more.  I have never heard the word BING used so many times 🙂

I was quite impressed by the keynote though, they started off with a musical band playing the warm up, which were called “Flash Drive” and are from the Houston area.  They played some nice modern tunes, which was fun to listen and see.

Lots of other announcements came about Office 365, new enterprise social media additions to office, and Windows Phone announcements.  For an infrastructure guy, hearing about how Excel now integrates with Olga or some strange name was not of massive interest to me.

So it was time to head off to my first session, which was one of the foundation sessions.

Transform the Data Center: Making promise of connected clouds a reality

Now this session was right up my street.  Clouds 🙂

This was a packed room.  They have lecture type rooms for the the foundation sessions, which I liked.  The session stated off talking about Azure, so again the above disclaimer applies in that case.  After about 10 minutes of the Azure sales pitch, the session got a bit more interesting.

So interestingly all the talk was about Software defined.  They talked about Software Defined Compute (Virtualisation) Software Defined Storage and Software Defined Networking.  We can certainly see where the IT industry is heading with all the software defined talk from a number of vendors.

Interestingly, Microsoft’s idea of Software Defined Storage is still SMB file servers.  They are investing heavily in SMB 3 and said it is the “storage protocol of the future.”  I will let other people debate that statement.  You can see by the slide below how they plan on doing this.  Apologies for the quality I was at the back of the room

Microsoft TechEd Review

They call the new file server system SOFS – Scale Out File Server – It provides Zero downtime to distribute storage across clusters.  Using Ethernet is the way forward in Microsoft’s opinion as Fibre Channel and HBA’s is expensive and out of date.  Cant say I disagree with that statement.  Dell has recently announced support for the new Storage Spaces and released products accordingly.  You can find out more on that product here.

Interestingly, every vendor I have visited is now talking about a consistent service delivery platform.  That I must say, I agree with.  We are too far down the line in IT to still live in the days of 20 windows to manage everything, and its nice to know that all the vendors have finally listened to what we as IT admins have told them for years!  One window! One pane of glass please!

The last part of this session was on Microsoft’s automated deployment tool – Azure Pack they call it.  Its essentially a plugin pack for System Center.  One of the nice features of this product, is the ability to define pre-provisioned SQL servers, then allow a consumer to simply create a database on that SQL Server.  Nice if you are providing on-premise ITaaS and catering to developers.

Building a Backup Strategy for your Private Cloud

This session was all about Enterprise backup cloud strategies from Microsoft, Veeam, NetApp and EMC.  I attended this session so that I can understand where vendors are heading with regards to Enterprise backup strategies.  Interestingly, no one talked about blob storage as an endpoint for backup archiving.  I thought this would have more of a focus.

Microsoft spoke about Volume Shadow Copy of course, and how you can leverage the new SOFS (Scale Out File Server) for your backups.

Veeam spoke about the new v8 product, and Veeam vPower feature that allows you to store your backups on disk, then instead of performing a restore, you can simply import that VM into the inventory and run from that location.  If you have an issue with a production VM that you cant resolve quickly, you can simply run the VM from backup while you resolve the production issue.  Nice feature, which I didn’t know about.

NetApp spoke about the standard backup product they offer, and to be honest, didn’t really show me anything new.  Its all of a muchness from NetApps backup product to be honest.

EMC showed off Avamar and Data Domain and how you can backup your workloads from on-premise or from the cloud using the new avamar plugins announced recently.

Microsoft TechEd Review

EMC managed to stealthily get VMware’s name on the slide even if they did manage to use the wrong case for the W.  Nice touch EMC 🙂

Microsoft TechEd Review

I then attended the last session of the day for me titled: Microsoft Azure in the Enterprise, Why and How

As per my disclaimer, I wont talk about the specifics of features of Azure, but what I will say about this session is that a lots of the talk was about why you would use a public cloud.  The interesting part for me, was that they didn’t tell me anything new.  I wanted to hear specifically about what Azure could give me that other cloud providers couldn’t.  They didn’t.  For the use cases they talked about in this session, I didn’t hear anything that wanted me to jump ship and move everything over.

The key use cases spoke about were:

  • Dev/Test Workloads
  • Deploying Packaged Applications
  • Moving existing applications to the public cloud

These are all extremely valid use cases, and exactly the same use cases I have spoke about in my sessions when presenting about why moving to a Public or Hybrid Cloud, but lets be realistic (putting my VMware admin hat back on), if you already have stuff virtualised in a vSphere environment, it doesn’t make sense to move it all to Azure and Hyper-V!  Where is the benefit of this?  It would be a major headache!  Anyway, this article is not to debate which hypervizor/cloud provider should I choose.

A few interesting statements were made in this session that I am on the fence with The key one was about how you should learn to trust your cloud provider.  I understand that lots of people have reservations about moving workloads to the cloud, due to either compliance, security or trust.  The funny part is, the presenter said we just have to start trusting cloud providers (as seen in the slide below).  I actually agree with him, it is time we started to trust cloud providers, however I am also an ex-admin, and a control freak…  I want to know what security is in place to protect my data, in the event that as a corporation I am audited, how can I ensure compliance ultimately.  If I show a bunch of auditors the slide below,  I think I will be in trouble 🙂

Microsoft TechEd Review

Social Media Interaction

One thing I have noticed about TechEd which is completely different from VMware conferences is the social media interaction.  Frankly there is none!  Jason Nash summed it up with this twitter conversation we had:

Microsoft TechEd Review

As Jason said everybody tweets on the hashtag, but wont interact with you.  Its like you are the only one sat at the table, but in the middle of the biggest wedding you have ever been too.  The only time I have had a response from anyone at TechEd who is not a VMware related person is when I was bashing the WIFI, and was then told to RTFM!  I had to go and collect my backpack to find out the WIFI password! Really?  Wow! Sorry…

Summary

To re-cap, and to not sound as negative as some of the points have, Microsoft still throw a good conference.  I only have VMworld and EMC World to compare too, and its not quite the same, its very different.  I am looking forward to day 2 though.  I have some awesome sessions lined up to find out about Active Directory, Exchange and other Microsoft packaged apps, which frankly no one does better than Microsoft.  AD and Exchange are probably the two best enterprise apps available.

Thanks for reading, I am now off to battle the humidity and find some dinner.

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