Microsoft TechDays Jhb (27 March 2009)

This was my first time at this event and I was mightily impressed! I learnt more in one day than I have the whole year at work so far.

Mteto Nyati, the MD of Microsoft South Africa had an anecdote about the lion and gazelle that certainly got me thinking. The bottom line of the story was, “if you are standing still, you are going backwards”. His question to the audience was “what are you doing to stay ahead of the pack, for the organisation, for yourself and for your country”. Strong message. He also said that if your only tool is a hammer, all your challenges look like nails. Having various tools (technologies) liberates you.

The keynote speech was by Fred Bawnhardt. His energy was palpable and infectious. He gave us some stats of the projected profit margins for Microsoft this year and explained how much Microsoft are making an effort to give back to the community and their customers. Fred’s message was when deciding on a technology, ask “does it impact the efficiencies of the people, ie: does it amplify the impact of the individuals”. His vision for the industry is to change IT from a cost centre to a strategic asset; from a basic to a dynamic area. The key to this is learning to speak the language of business decision makers. When IT means server and strategic technologies, legacy modernisation, team infrastructure and security; business needs to hear Business Intelligence, ERP, CRM, collaboration, ECM, SOA and SOBA. Considering Microsoft has 129 product lines, I think they are definitely in the right position to know exactly what challenges most IT shops face.

Virtualisation is the next big thing, along with Software + Services. (Virtualisation allows any operating system to be run from any hardware). Business Intelligence, SQL Server and SharePoint are the buzzwords that will rule the near future. We are currently spending 80% of our time on maintenance and 20% on innovation. We need to reverse those figures as well as a plan to achieve that goal. Some stats were supplied on famous Hyper V environments which prove the technology works – TechNet gets 1 million hits per day, MSDN 3 million hits per day, and Microsoft 1 BILLION hits per month!

More good news is that Antivirus will be available free from August.

A new licensing agreement is available called an Enterprise Agreement Subscription. Essentially you can rent licenses over time and still get free upgrades.

It was interesting to learn that for every $1 spent on software equates to R10 in services.

Peter Willmot’s talk on Enterprise Search was enlightening to say the least, and is going to make for some interesting ‘conversation’ at the office. He is extremely knowledgeable on the SharePoint and I can listen to him for hours. He gave tips on moving legacy docs, planning, scalable results, ifilters and gotchya’s! The most important one being that the content index is not stored in SQL, it is an NTFS file system hierarchy, and you need to plan for the entire folder hierarchy to grow by around 30% of the size of the platform. The index engine connects to the front end servers which grinds them to a halt. If you are using single thread ifilters it is even worse. You need to configure the farm so that at least one front end server is purely for the index engine.

SharePoint Service Pack 1.5 is available but you must have SP1 installed on WSS too (not included in MOSS SP1). It contains a lot of fixes and features but there are some URL issues to resolve when installing it.

The differences between the baby boomers and GenY were highlighted. GenY work to live, baby boomers live to work. The challenge companies face now is how to retain the fresh, young talent in the GenY group.

Microsoft if supporting a drive to open systems, not open source.

Business Intelligence must be for everyone, not just the top 5% of the company.

Rory Headon-Weeks pointed out how important it is to get users on the Office 2007 journey as soon as possible to ready them for the Office 14 transition. They need to be prepared for a new world.

SharePoint 14 continues the ribbon theme and designed to remove complexity and give transparency to users. Rory wasn’t allowed to show us much on this, but he got us all excited for the release. The few he did tell us about are pretty amazing.

IE8 is now available with cool accelerators for translation and new searches.

SkyDrive gives you 25GB of free space.

Windows 7 is working like clockwork so far and being very well received. Live Mesh makes networking and sharing your docs in the Cloud across multiple devices a dream.

For the hardware geeks, the latest multi touch screen and extendible screen laptops are going to blow your mind!! I don’t even wanna know how much they are going to cost, but wow!! Check out Microsoft Surface.

You can pre-register for TechEd now, the dates are 2 – 5 August.

The funniest part of the whole day, was during the Exchange Server talk. The presentation was up, and don’t forget – splashed across a huge movie screen! And one of the links was – the first thing I saw was the highlighted bit, I had to read it 3 times before I knew what site they meant! Lol, nice guys.

The event was well organised and well attended; I will definitely be going to them all from now on. And the free movie premier you could invite a friend to was an unexpected bonus. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood) was on offer and is easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.

Thanks Microsoft.

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