Random Thoughts from TechEd NA 2012

I attended TechEd NA this year, making this the seventh year in a row I attended.  This year, I was a paid attendee, rather than working the Hands-On Lab area, which meant I was able to interact with more booths and see more sessions than usual.  My various unstructured thoughts follow in the hope you will find them useful.

  • Products Featured.  This show was all about two things:
    • 2012 releases – Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012, Visual Studio 2012, and SQL Server 2012
    • “The Cloud” – Office 365, cloud-based management including Windows Intune, and Windows Azure including the new Virtual Machine offerings.  In fact, the custom hotel room keys this year put The Cloud very clearly front and center:
      69e41244-7ea4-46c9-894f-4589fe5e37a0
    • Not really talked about much:
      • Windows Phone (although there was a large show floor presence, there was no track and only a few sessions; expect a lot more next year when Windows Phone 8 is released)
      • Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 (some sessions but not a big push)
      • SharePoint 2010/Exchange 2010/Lync 2010 (sessions but not a big push; expect more next year for the new releases)
      • Office 2010 (again expect more next year when Office 2012 is the hot product)
  • Specific session notes for the ones I attended in person… because a lot of what falls under my “official” subject area was not new material for me (when you work for Bennett Adelson you’re required to be ahead of the curve in your area!) I went a bit out of scope for some of the sessions…
    • AAP313 | Scrum Under a Waterfall (Benjamin Day) – A good discussion of how to do agile (or should I say “Agile” – big “A” – since it was Scrum-focused) in an environment where old school waterfall planning is required.
    • AAP401 | Real World Developer Testing with Visual Studio 2012 (David Starr, Peter Provost) – Ultimately I had mixed feelings about this session. I was not convinced the idea of “submit your problems and we’ll solve them” really worked as only a few problems were gotten to, and my real-world question of “how do you expect developers who can’t afford Visual Studio Ultimate to do these things” wasn’t answered. Yes, it was snarky, but it is a real-life problem faced by many. Further, a lot of time was spent on “that’s the wrong way” coding.
    • DEV370 | Nokia with Windows Phone: Learning How to Tile (David Middleton, David Mason, Kalle Lehtinen) – Ultimately very disappointing as the practical content was virtually zero in my opinion. If this was “DEV170” that would have been okay…
    • VIR317 | Lessons from the Field: 22 VDI and RDS Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid (Greg Shields) – A good, honest session about real-life implementation of VDI and RDS on Windows Server 2008 R2 and how changes/improvements in Windows Server 2012 help.  Highly recommended if you’re looking at these technologies or have already implemented them.
    • WCL290 | Microsoft Application Virtualization 5.0: Introduction (Andy Cerat, Matthijs Gates) – A very nice intro to App-V 5.0 (part of the upcoming MDOP release) showing some of the great changes and improvements. No more Q: drive? Apps can work with each other (think: Visio available from Word)? Updated, cleaner UI? Check, check, and check!
    • WSV325 | DNSSEC Deployment with Windows Server 2012 (Rob Kuehfus) – Presented by a member of the Wireless Networking and Services team and the owner of the DNS Server offering in Windows Server 2012, this is a nice overview of how DNSSEC works in general and how to use it in Windows Server 2012 (hint: it’s very easy), including practical guidance on the steps to implement in order. Highly recommended if secure DNS is important to you or if you work in an environment where it is mandatory (e. g. US Federal Government).
    • WSV331 | What’s New with Internet Information Services (IIS) 8: Open Web Platform for Cloud (Won Yoo) – A solid presentation on new expansion and control capabilities in IIS 8 including mention of features that have been or will be back-ported to IIS 7.5. Nice demos. Some amazing performance improvements demonstrated – for one case, the first GET on IIS 7.5 with SSL demo took 10.9 seconds and over 500 MB of RAM, while the same page first GET on IIS 8 with the new central file-based certificate store capability took 0.14 seconds (under 1/6 of a second is not a typo) with 44 KB of RAM (again KB not MB is not a typo) – and that was with with 20x as many instances of the site running under IIS 8!
    • WSV332 | What’s New with Internet Information Services (IIS) 8: Performance, Scalability, and Security (Robert McMurray) – A nice companion to the previous session.  Includes discussion of new dynamic security features in the web and FTP (yes, FTP!) service. Also discusses changes in warm-up functionality that can make it possible to show users a “I’m warming up, be with you soon” message while waiting for the ASP.NET hamsters to spin up.
  • Product/Exhibitor Booths – note that the “Attendee” badge gets you treated “seriously” – many exhibitors and Microsoft staff ignore a “Staff” badge holder or are even borderline hostile even at silly things like book signings (I won’t name names but I will say that it takes zero day-s for this to happen) so it’s nice to be treated appropriately for once… 
    • I visited the Windows Phone area to find out what was up with the Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco this week. They all made it sound like a press-only event, despite earlier talk of a two day developer event. The whole thing felt like a bit of a CF to be honest. At least the announcements – which world + dog expect to be all around Windows Phone 8 – will be streamed.
    • I visited the Office 365 area to discuss an issue a customer was having with their proof of concept where Lync Online refused to federate with anyone, even after everything was clearly configured right. It turned out to be some kind of Microsoft-side provisioning screw-up, although the Office 365 booth was not helpful figuring that out.
    • I visited the Windows 8 “Access Everywhere” booth to ask, essentially, “WTF is with Consumer Preview being Professional instead of Enterprise? You know we don’t get DirectAccess with that, right?” The answer was essentially:
      • “yes, we know it sucks, everyone is yelling at us [field people]”
      • “we hope to have some kind of resolution soon, maybe even in the next week, or at least an official acknowledgement that there will be no resolution”
      • “no one seems to know why that was the decision made by the client team”
      • “only TAP people have Enterprise right now.”
        So a major ball drop there.
    • I visited the System Center Enterprise Protection booth to ask, “why does SCEP turn off Security Center on Windows 8 every time the machine boots?” The answer was essentially “it won’t install on Windows 8 prior to CTP2 [note: that is wrong… speaking from office experience here], so do CTP2 and see what happens.” because going from CTP2 to the final Beta or RTM is painful we’re just leaving SCEP off Windows 8 machines right now and using the built-in Windows Defender instead, which gets us the same protection but loses us the management/reporting functionality.
  • Certification!  There were multiple free exams this year – specifically two Private Cloud exams and three beta exams (Windows Server 2012, Windows 8, and Developing with HTML5/CSS3).
    • The Private Cloud exams (70-246 and 70-247) felt tough but fair to me. That said, there were MANY 70-246 failures… so be warned. You really need to have worked with System Center 2012 as a suite and know how the pieces work together and individually to pass these!
    • The Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 exam had a nice mix of old and new. You will need to have worked with the product at least a bit, or have been exposed to it a lot without touching it, to have any chance of this one.
    • The Configuring Windows 8 exam also had a nice mix of old and new, and just like the server exam, you will need to have worked with the product at least a bit, or have been exposed to it a lot without touching it, to have any chance of this one.
    • The Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 exam had almost nothing Microsoft-specific on it, and did an okay job of covering the field, although I was surprised on some of what I was NOT tested on (although it’s a beta and I’m sure has a large pool so others may be different!). Of course I can’t tell you more details – test NDA and all 🙂

I am sure I am leaving many things out, but I think this is a reasonably-complete high-level brain dump. Please feel free to comment with thoughts or questions!

— Michael C. Bazarewsky
Principal Consultant, Windows Server and Security

The New Cloud Certifications!

One of the questions that came up during the Columbus Windows 8 Preview Roadshow last week involved the changes to Microsoft certifications for the Windows 8 release cycle.  At the time, all I was allowed to say was that Microsoft was working on some changes, and that development was underway.

Well, now a lot of the information is out there and public – and it’s big!

“MCSE” Returns, Sort Of, and MCSD Returns

Folks who have been working in IT for long enough remember the “old” certifications that existed before the Windows 2000 cycle.  The premier certifications were the MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) and MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer).  I hold both of those from back then, for example.

Today, Microsoft announced the new Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert – MCSE.  Yes, same initials, but a completely different certification.  Or more accurately, set of certifications.  Meanwhile, MCSD is also back as a certification with the same definition.  Both of these are on a new “Cloud” track.

MCSE: Private Cloud

The MCSE: Private Cloud certification focuses on building a private cloud in your organization (or a customer’s organization as the case may be), and monitoring and maintaining that private cloud, using the System Center 2012 suite.  It builds on the existing Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA – that’s a new definition also, replacing the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator definition for that acronym) on Windows Server 2008.

MCSE: Data Platform

The MCSE: Data Platform certification (exams not quite available yet) focuses on building on-premises SQL Server 2012 data processing solutions.  It is somewhat a replacement for the MCDBA certification.

MCSE: Business Intelligence

The MCSE: Business Intelligence certification covers SQL Server 2012 BI solutions (e. g. Analysis Services and Reporting Services).  These exams are also not quite available yet; more details will be coming later.

What about MCSD?

Although this is primarily an IT Pro blog, I did want to at least touch on the MCSD.  That certification has been reintroduced, but no public details are available at this time.

The Other Levels

Microsoft is effectively positioning the MCSE and MCSD as “flagship” “Expert” certifications but not the top level.  Let’s look at what the certification site shows:

Tracks

Notice we still have the entry-level “Associate” MCTS and MCSA, and the very top-level “Master” MCM and the new Cloud version, MCSM.  We also have the current MCITP and MCPD certifications, although not showing under the “Cloud” banner.

“Cloud-built”?

Yes, when Microsoft says they are “all-in on the cloud” they are not just saying that for the heck of it.  As a company, top to bottom, it’s the new world order.  The certification changes are just another reflection of that; previously on this blog and in some presentations we’ve touched on the new Hyper-V functionality that is clearly cloud-related, and the new functionality in System Center 2012 for managing the cloud.  Therefore, these changes are really just the Microsoft Learning reflection of this mindset.

Oh Yeah, Recertification!

When Microsoft announced their Windows Phone 7 development exam, one tidbit that was there but was not called much attention to was the fact that to maintain the certification a developer would need to recertify:

Recertification requirements for Windows Phone developers

Windows Phone technology is updated frequently. As a result, the skills required to be a successful Windows Phone developer will evolve rapidly. To ensure that developers who hold the MCPD: Windows Phone Developer certification keep pace with the evolution of Windows Phone skills, they will be required to recertify every two years. This recertification will help demonstrate the developers’ continued competence as the skills needed to develop applications for Windows Phone change. Through recertification, we can maintain the value of the certification as the technology changes. More information about this recertification requirement will be provided at a later date.

This could be seen as a “testing the waters” for the new paths announced today.  The press release for example says:

The MCSE certification — or its developer equivalent, MCSD — also demonstrates an individual’s commitment to staying up to date on cutting-edge technologies because it requires recertification.

The details of this are not really fleshed out publically yet, but there’s enough time for Microsoft to sort that out before it will start to matter.

Uh Oh, More Exams!

True, this will mean more exams.  However, the official Microsoft exam provider, Prometric, currently has a 2-for-1 offer available.  Essentially, this offer means you can take the current exam now, and take the next generation replacement when it is available for free:

image

You can find more details on this at the linked site.

So Now What?

For those of us at BA, this means we will be looking at more exams (across many of our employees).  For you, this means that you need to think about what your career path and goals are and start thinking about your certifications.  Perhaps you can talk to your manager/supervisor about a certification goal – “if I get my new ‘Cloud’ certification will you finally start paying for my cell phone?” for example Winking smile

Michael C. Bazarewsky, MCT, Old-School MCSE
Principal Consultant, Server and Security

Microsoft Certification, The Private Cloud, Windows 8, and You

In an earlier blog post, I discussed why we value certification at BA, and I mentioned the new Private Cloud Certification from Microsoft.

One thing that has come up for us recently that directly relates to this new certification is how Microsoft is moving very quickly to being “all in” on the cloud.  I was recently giving a presentation at the Microsoft office in Independence about the future technology roadmap for Microsoft, and the impending release of System Center 2012 fits in to that.  The vision is to use one set of tools to manage your applications across internal, private clouds, and external, public clouds.  The same tools can be used to quickly and easily adjust capacity as necessary, and even (with Windows Server 8) move virtual machines from your datacenter to a service provider datacenter with no server reconfiguration – no network changes, no account changes – just move the VM up to the public host or move it back as you see fit.

That kind of new functionality fits in with the idea that as always, the IT industry continues to evolve and change.  In the recent presentation I talked about how we have moved physical to virtual servers, and now how we are again moving from disjointed, disconnected virtual servers to a unified collection of virtual servers that supply application services in an elastic, on-demand way.  This allows you to supply services on demand to your customers (internal or external) in a fast, efficient manner.

Another change in the industry is that technology cycles continue to compress.  Users expect more functionality in less time, and technology companies like Microsoft (and Google, and Oracle, and so on) have been forced to improve their offerings with shorter turnaround times as a result.  One result of this is that certification gains value coming and going.  That is due to the fact that certifications on “the new thing” gain value because they show the ability to keep up with the pace of change, while certifications on “last year’s thing” gain value because a lot of organizations are unable to update their infrastructures to match the pace of change in the industry.  This means that a certification offering needs to be able to change rapidly to meet the new technologies head on while still supporting you on current technology.

One of the reasons BA likes the Microsoft Certification offering is because it continually updates, to help you keep your skills up to date in this changing environment; meanwhile, they don’t drop certification on a short timeframe, but instead keep it available to reflect what’s happening in “real life,” not just what’s next.  The Private Cloud Certification I mentioned previously will be joined soon by a Windows 8 Certification, in time for or soon after that product’s release.  That certification is being developed as I type this (I can say that for a fact).  You can get prepared now for Windows 8 Certification by gaining or upgrading your certification to MCITP: Enterprise Desktop on Windows 7, which will be able to be upgraded to Windows 8 through the standard upgrade exam process.  I can tell you from experience that upgrade exams are generally more productive for a taker than the “from nothing” version, because they can focus on what’s new and not have to cover an entire product functionality set.  Thus, if you are able to obtain one of the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop certifications on Windows 7 now, and begin working with the Consumer Preview as blogged about by Jason, you will be in a good position when the upgrade exam becomes available (likely later this year).

Oh, one last closing note on this.  Bennett Adelson isn’t the only company that cares about certification.  I am aware of a local company that is offering a four-figure bonus at the moment for .NET Framework 4.0 certification to keep their developer skills up-to-date.  And beyond my personal experience, a 2011 CompTIA study found that IT professionals gain an average 9% salary increase immediately after receiving certification, and 29% over the long term, versus peers who are not certified (channelinsider.com, 2011-10-19). And in a in a 2010 survey of hiring managers, 91% said they consider employee certification as a criterion for hiring (Microsoft Learning, 2010).

We will be doing a roadshow on Windows 8 in early April (post coming in the next day or two), and that would be a great way to get your knowledge on the platform kick-started.  In the meantime, grab the Consumer Platform and give it a try!

Michael C. Bazarewsky, MCITP, MCT
Principal Consultant, Windows Server and Security

The Private Cloud and Microsoft Certifications

This is the first in a short, occasional series of posts related to Microsoft Certification and why we care about it at BA.

One way that BA works to ensure that the Advanced Infrastructure group – and indeed all of our consultants – stay relevant is through training and certification.  Technology changes quickly, and our customers expect us to not only know what they are using now, but what they will be using next.  One easy way to demonstrate that is through industry certifications around the products we work with.  In the case of Advanced Infrastructure at a Microsoft Gold Partner, this often means Microsoft Certifications.

As I’m writing this, much of the industry is moving to a “private cloud” model.  We will be talking about this more in future posts and at future events, and if you haven’t seen this as a topic yet, you soon will.  The ability to provision new resources for end-users on demand – indeed, even self-service those requests – and do it in a cost-effective, manageable way is at the front of many organizations’ short lists for IT projects in the next 0-24 months.  Quoting the Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform website:

A private cloud delivers fundamentally new capabilities that represent a generational paradigm shift in computing.

Of course, with this change in model, there is a need for new skills and the ability to demonstrate that we have these skills.  Luckily for us, Microsoft has recently announced a new Private Cloud Certification which covers this rapidly growing field.  It builds on the existing MCITP: Server Administrator and adds two new System Center exams to demonstrate knowledge of how to use System Center with Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008 R2 (and later, Windows Server 8) to deploy and manage a private cloud.

Of course, while we’re waiting for the April beta of the certification exams, we’d be more than happy to help you improve productivity and lower cost – do more with less – today with these technologies.

— Michael C. Bazarewsky (MCITP, MCPD, MCT)
Principal Consultant, Windows Server and Security