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:
    • 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