To that end, some interesting stuff -
Seems like only yesterday that NT4 was the new cool thing (at least with SP3!) - but now the new Windows 2012 Server Beta labs are available.
An insight into Facebooks release management process.
A view on Microsofts new Cloud Management tools from a systems admin.
Pretty good so far - Microsoft did a pretty awesome job with 2007 and now 2010. I think this is reflected in the rapid adoption of SharePoint as the de facto standard for Intranets worldwide.
The conference itself is good - the keynote was a little dull. Focussing on the building of global SharePoint user-groups and communities - it came across as a bit more of a travelogue rather than a 'SharePoint is awesome lets see how people do cool stuff with it'.
The second keynote to kick off day two was much better - Dux is quite the dynamo. Covers alot of ground in terms of a successful SharePoint platform deployment from a business perspective.
The other sessions were a bit hit or miss - but there were definitely good bits in every sessions to file away for future reference.
High-lights (there was lots of good stuff but being a pessimist at heart the Lows outwiegh the Highs)-
* Pingar Auto-Populating meta-data
* Who knew there was a SharePoint Developer Debugging Dashboard you could enable for every page ?
* WebParts360 demo - a bit over my head but building an order system without writing code in five minutes was cool
* Clear explanation of CRM/SharePoint strengths and weaknesses plus integration options
* Community Solution - helping a Not For Profit make the most of their SharePoint system through community aide
Low-Lights (note really bad its just from an Ops perspective its useful stuff I'd like to learn about) -
* Its interesting that a lot of SharePoint 'stuff' appears to be done by Government or Education - they get hefty discounts on SharePoint - for everyone else its painfully expensive (don't get me started on internet connector licenses !)
* People bandying around 'Document Management' for scanning solutions (you're not really going to tell me a Fuji Xerox Scan to SharePoint solution is in the same league as a FileNet or DocsFusion solution ?)
* People talking about sync and offline use while bagging Lotus Notes . . . Domino web-enabled all databases several years ago !
* No discussion about SharePoint working with Team Foundation Server for automated builds
* No discussion around packaging SharePoint solutions or best-practises for deployment between environments
* No discussion on DR, BCP or High Availability
* No discussion about forming a suitable support team
* No discussion about permissions, roles or security delegation
Definitely recommended - and as a community driven conference (rather than vendor) it was very well attended and professionally run. There would have been a thousand plus people and four simultaneous streams running over two days. Thats alot of organising and coordinating.
With the launch of the iPhone, execs and directors have been clamouring for it as the latest 'must have' device. It certainly leaves the Nokias wanting in the style and functionality department but the iPhone is a pricey status symbol.
As a result we're evaluating some handsets at work as possible cheaper alternatives (and its a chance to play with new toys . . .)
First the Android phones - the Samsung Galaxy S (v2.1) and the HTC Nexus One (v2.2). In terms of build quality and styling the HTC Nexus wins hands-down. It has a slightly smaller screen but over-all has a better feel and a feeling of solidity that the Samsung lacks. As for the versions of Android - 2.2 offers significant improvements; particularly in the area of ActiveSync (which you'll need if you want to be taken seriously as a corporate mobile device). In particular; the security policy applied to the phone in v2.1 can be easily circumvented compared to v2.2 - not an ideal scenario if your CEO losses their phone. The Samsung also had appalling battery life and grew pretty warm to the touch over time compared to the HTC.
The Windows 7 device was probably the most impressive of the three. Microsoft have worked pretty hard it shedding the dowdy Windows Mobile baggage. The interface is responsive and relatively intuitive - the feedback tiles pass more information than the Android icons (how hard is it to put a new mail count on an icon?). The biggest problem was trying to get the Vodafone Corporate Connect APN added to the available networks list - not a biggy for the average user but a company with a corporate mobile plan will need to do some tweaking to get it to work. There are a few articles on the web about this issue and more general posts around the targeting of the device for consumers rather than corporates - lets hope some of the niggles are fixed in subsequent releases.
I haven't used an iPhone so my baseline for comparison is the old corporate workhorse the Nokia E63 - its reasonably compact, robust, activesync works, battery life is great and wireless and 3G data work fine. Its not particularly flashy, the Symbian interface is clunky as ever and it also freezes every 3-4 days requiring a hard-reset. But it does its job and its cheaper than the majority of other Smart Phones (Android, iPhone, Blackberry or Windows Mobile).
The Mobile 7 was too new to try out any applications, the Android store had a huge selection of apps but like a lot of Open Source stuff quality-control means it can be a bit hit-or-miss in terms of interface design and functionality.
Hopefully with Android 2.3 and Mobile 7 SP 1 will bring the goods and give the iPhone a good run in the corporate sector. As a personal phone Mobile 7 definitely has more polish than the Android.
The Gartner Group and their various IT informational resource offerings are often quoted as gospel by IT management - it will be good to see them justify how they make the decisions they do, given that they appear to be having their cake and eating it.
I've written brief notes and attached the presentations (click the ppt link) for each session I attended, plus added a few observations.
Exchange 2k10 new features - ppt
- Running down sis -> focus on performance instead of worrying about storage
- Looking at removing message recall
- Public folder still supported
- Free/busy federation and address lookup
- Exchange UM - Dial plans enhanced
- Exchange UM - Alternate follow-me type call plans
- Exchange UM - Message transcription for text preview
- Exchange UM - Private voicemail
- Exchange UM - MWI included
OK, I know everyone hates Lotus Notes but each version gets better, does more on slower hardware and allows for an in-place upgrade. Exchange is adding more features but the complexity is really starting to get out of control (try finding accurate doco on setting up UMS on e2k7; will the VOIP capabilities of e2k10 be any easier to implement?).
Azure - ppt
- Cloud computing platform
- Architected for HA (SQL runs across three nodes with multiple DB copies with load balancing built into the platform)
- Scale-out architecture
- Flexible pricing model - NZ one of the release countries
- Good for rapid prototyping - low setup cost, easy to migrate to, easy to tear down
Actually a real eye-opener - primarily a dev session - the audience was markedly different from the infrastructure sessions -> much younger with a better gender split. Azure looks fairly compelling. If I were in a .NET/ASP shop I'd start getting stuck into this stuff, at least for rapid-prototyping, to build familiarity with the platform. That way you'll be well placed to cut out the middle-man (ie infrastructure) when it comes to delivering client functionality.
Whats new in SCOM R2 - ppt
- Unix/Linux support
- Dashboards - up to 6 systems or services
- Services can comprise multiple systems
- Visio connector for live updates
My biggest SCOM gripe is that it seems to be an absolute resource pig and tuning the alerts takes an inordinate amount of time. I'd say wrestling with a from scratch Nagios and Cacti install, pre-built VM monitoring appliance or commercial offering such as WhatsUpGold or SNMPc would be time and money better spent. That being said if you are an all Microsoft shop then at least give SCOM a test run first - its certainly capable - it just needs a lot of attention.
Reinventing remote access with Direct Access - ppt
- IPv6 only
- Windows 7 Enterprise only
- Server 2k8r2 required - two NIC's - one external and one internal (no NAT or firewall in front of the external connection) -> I'm guessing the interfaces themselves can have the built-in Windows firewall enabled.
- Puts a domain joined machine directly onto your LAN from anywhere on the internet
- You can control endpoints to govern which target systems are accessible
- Falls back to IPv4 via a gateway service
DirectAccess looks very cool - implementing it is going to give people headaches and nightmares. We're looking to go IPv6 in the very near future - our servers are capable, we're looking at rolling out Windows 7 Enterprise early next year and our Cisco/Juniper infrastructure is capable (there'll be a fair few IOS upgrades in the works though). A couple of issues are going to keep old fashioned VPN around for quite awhile to come - no mention of cross-platform support or non-domain client access (ie home PC).
Save money with OCS conferencing - ppt
- Focus primarily on audio conferencing / bridging
- OCS R2 can now do peer to peer HD (not multipoint though)
- Web conferencing (a la WebEx)
- Federation with other agencies
NZ Post Retail BI - ppt
Designed to solve monthly reporting headaches - inconsistent board and performance reporting
· Data in many Access DB's, flat files and distributed systems
· No single version of the truth
· Traditionally it took 5 Data Analysts 3-4 days to prepare monthly reports
Agile project - 3 weekly cycles with a functioning prototype delivered each cycle
Delivered self service BI portal to business in 6 months
· Access via web interface or cubes can be analysed direct from Excel
Aggregated data from 14 source systems
· Data from all retail PostShops across 400 individual products
· Live drill down through data and charts
No coding - all customisation of existing Microsoft solutions
Stack - all Microsoft SQL 2k8, PerformancePoint, SharePoint
3.5 FTE's with input from the Business and internal Post BA's and Analysts
Were able to run demo using a subset of data (1 year instead of 7) on a laptop
This was one of the sessions I was most impressed with. We have two and a half data-warehouses, hundreds of access databases and a number of business critical reporting systems - so this was great session with many similarities to my own workplace. To see it successfully implemented with minimal coding and a highly satisfied client was truly impressive.
Archiving and Retention in E2K10 - ppt
- Customer demand for compliance, auditing solution
- Mail can now be stored in online archives (which don't sync to client but are searchable online and via OWA)
- Unfortunately no concept of tiered storage - archives sit on the same stores as normal mail databases
- Broader range of managed folder options and retention / deletion policies including 'hold everything' (ie deleted mail isn't really deleted its kept as part of an audit or legal requirement)
- Compliance Officer role - enables someone to search across designated mailboxes - search results (incl deleted mail) presented in a dynamically generated mailbox
This should be awesome! No more messing around with oddball mail archiving systems. Rolling this sort of basic functionality into Exchange is going to cover 90% of peoples archiving and compliance needs.
A lap around Microsoft, Codename 'Oslo' - ppt
- Microsoft moving into the EA Modelling world - can use 'Oslo' to model IT and business functions and rules
- Uses psuedo-code to generate live SQL queries and visual models which can use real data as an input and be tuned to generate an appropriate output.
Next to the SCOM talk this was probably the dullest presentation - I'm sure for architects its a great tool. If you're not, then this was one of the topics to pass on.
Everything you need to know about VDI (joint session with Citrix) - ppt
- Becoming increasingly popular
- Thin clients (processing done on the server), fat clients (processing done locally)
- Key is a solid, stable and managed desktop *before* VDI - no point virtualising a mess!
- Interesting use case scenarios
· Network boot hundreds of PC's from single disk image and track changes
· Desktop and applications are streamed as required
· Vpro processor technology means laptops will have a built in hypervisor
· Means a business can tell employees to buy their own PC which will run as its own VM
· Business VM runs independently with business apps and tighter security rules
- Cost is not usually the driver for VDI (ie it won't save you money)
· Does offer greater flexibility and delivery mechanisms plus a consistent user experience across a number of devices (ie work, home, laptop, browser etc)
Another impressive session - a number of people at the session had implemented VDI in one form or another (amusingly most were using VMWare VDI/View rather than Citrix or HyperV). The flexibility angle seems to be the big sell here - access your stuff from anywhere either from your own PC at home or your work PC.
The Long Now Foundation has a Long Bet section where people can lay bets on the future. The first of these bets -
Proposed by Mitch Kapor (of Lotus fame) and challenged by Ray Kurzweil (technologist) with a stake of $20 000US.
Its interesting to read an evolutionist take on Ray Kurzweils Singularity theories - Singularly silly singularity.
For a 'Version 1' product it looks pretty impressive - it'll be interesting to see what Apple pulls out of the bag at todays WWDC to keep them a step ahead of the competition.
Take a look at Engadgets Palm Pre review - its pretty comprehensive.
This particular gizmo is based on the Sheeva Plug.
Pretty cool functionality in a wall-wart!
Whats interesting is the idea that merely being eco friendly and green is just not enough - the coming years will (potentially) lead to a radical lifestyle change for everyone. The comfortable consumer lifestyle is just not sustainable and people would be shocked if they knew what was really in store for them when systems we take for granted start to fail.
Whats fascinating is that beyond 8 cores there is no benefit to be had in terms of performance due to memory bottlenecks. Actually even between 4 and 8 cores the performance benefits to be had are reasonably marginal.
I guess one good thing is that virtualisation will make use of all the cores spread around multiple VM's - but even then theres no point having multi-core VM's beyond the sweet spot.