Friday, May 9, 2014

Attending TechEd North America 2014

After a few weeks away from blogging due to work and family vacation time, I thought it was about time I got the laptop out and started talking about my visit to TechEd North America 2014.

The Lowdown

TechEd is Microsoft's flagship conference aimed at the IT Pro and Enterprise Developer. It's a large scale event that will see thousands of nerds come together for the best part of a week of technical presentations and networking.

For me, I'm a newbie when it comes to TechEd. Over the last few years, the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) was where you'd find me hanging out as this was the place to be in the Cloud & Datacenter Management space. This year however, Microsoft have made a decision not to run MMS as a stand-alone event and to instead, integrate it into the TechEd conference to bring the whole CloudOS story to the table. There's been a lot of debate over the past year about whether or not this was a good move by Microsoft and as a result, a number of newer Cloud & Datacenter Management focused conferences have gained prominence - System Center Universe and IT/Dev Connections for example.

One things for sure, TechEd NA 2014 is completely sold out now and I guess a lot of people are expecting big things from the coming week due to the MMS integration so fingers crossed it'll live up to expectations!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

TechEd North America is being held in Houston, Texas this year and my journey over has started a few days early and taken a little bit of a detour on the way. The reason for this is that I have family living in south Texas that I haven't seen in a long time so thought that it'd be a sin if I didn't make the effort to visit - seeing as though I'm in the same state as them. That being said, Texas is the second largest state in the USA and is nearly three times the size of Ireland!

I left my house on Wednesday morning at 6am with a drive up to Dublin, enjoyed a very comfortable flight over to Chicago, had a 4.5 hour layover there (hotdogs and beer are an excellent way to pass the time in Chicago airport), jumped on another plane to Houston and finally managed to check-in to a hotel close to George Bush International Airport close to 11pm local time. All-in-all it was approximately 21 hours total journey from when I closed the front door back in Ireland!

I then managed 5(ish) hours of sleep before getting back on the road with a shuttle bus over to the airport, a connecting train between two terminals and a short-hop 45 minute flight from Houston down to Corpus Christi. In stark contrast to the massive scale of the airport in Houston, the tiny one in Corpus Christi was more reminiscent of something that we're used to in Ireland - think Knock Airport and you'll get the idea! A final 45 minute drive down to Alice, Texas and I've reached my destination and base for the next few days.

Hooking up with family and friends (of which I haven't seen in 13 years), consuming copious amounts of Mexican food and beer (this city is pretty close to the border and I'm known as a Gringo in these parts) - and life is good!

On Saturday afternoon I'll be flying back up to Houston to meet up with all of my buddies that are starting to make their way over for TechEd next week.

The Conference

Like myself, most people will be arriving into Houston from tomorrow and after some (quiet) drinks that night, on Sunday, a few of us are going to try and head over to NASA and see if we can give them any advice on how to manage their IT infrastructure with System Center.......

Also on Sunday, ten pre-conference sessions are kicking off TechEd NA 2014 and there's a nice mix of technical goodness between them to keep everyone happy.

At 9am on Monday morning, Microsoft's Brad Anderson delivers the Keynote presentation that will kick off the conference proper and immediately following that, we get down and dirty with a full day of sessions right the way up until 18:00. After a long day's work, I'm sure we'll have one or two things to do at night to keep us occupied and stave away the hunger and thirst :)

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will follow pretty much the same agenda as Monday without of course a keynote presentation so it'll be a pretty full-on week of deep-dive sessions and fun. The graphic below shows the available tracks that attendees have to choose from for each day.

I'll be keeping this blog reasonably up-to-date throughout the week based on some of the sessions, vendor offerings and new announcements that I've seen and heard. If you're looking for a live 'up-to-the-minute' update of some CloudOS sessions, then I highly recommend you check out my buddy Aidan Finn's blog over the few days that the event runs. Aidan always has some great tips and tricks to take on board when attending these conferences and loves to live-blog his way through the sessions he attends.

As a side game, if you want to try and win a copy of Aidan's excellent Hyper-V book, then check out his Hyper-V Amigo Selfie Game for some fun (note to Aidan, that's a pretty old-school mallet head picture of me you have up there!)

#TE14D5 (a.k.a Friday)

Unfortunately for me I'll be returning home on the Friday - unfortunate purely from a nerd perspective but to be fair, I don't think I'd get a sick-note from my ever-suffering wife for any more than the 11 days I already have away from her and our two kids! As I booked my tickets so long ago in advance, I wasn't aware of the plans that my pals Cameron Fuller and Maarten Goet had put together to keep people entertained on a day when the official four-day conference ended.

They came up with the ingenious idea that seeing as there would still be many attendees floating around Houston on Friday and many MVP's still there too, why not have a side-event uniquely titled 'Day 5', whereby a number of MVP's and community leaders would present some sessions that couldn't be squeezed into TechEd around two different tracks. These tracks will focus on System Center, Hyper-V, Azure and Device Management.

If you're around on the Friday and are looking to hear some of the best speakers around do their thing again, then you can still register for Day 5 here.

Make Sure to Say Hello

So, that's it from me for now, if you're coming over to Houston, make sure to say hello if you see me rambling around and I'll be glad to try and answer any CloudOS questions you might have to help you get ahead in work.