A Dichotomy of IT Conferences

As I fly south from Toronto I am heading to two separate and very different conferences.  I am new to neither one, and am looking forward to both.  As they are very different conferences, I am looking forward to them both in very different ways.

SBS Migration – A Party with a Conference Theme

The first conference has several different names – the SBS Migration Conference, The IT Conference, or Jeff Middleton’s Conference.  This is a conference organized by Jeff to be by the community and for the community.  Indeed, all of the speakers are MVPs and none of us are being paid for the pleasure, we do it to give back to a group of our peers.

It has been several years since I have touched Windows Small Business Server, but I made a lot of friends while I was involved with that group, and when I can I always accept speaking at both Jeff’s and Harry Brelsford’s conferences.  It gives me the opportunity to see a lot of old friends, make some new ones, and again give back what I can.  If you ask some of the more passionate SBS crowd then may imply that I am actually there to convert people to Enterprise IT products and practices, and while that may not be entirely true I do admit that if I convince just one of them that you need more than one domain controller in your environment, and that wizards are not the panacea some think they are then I am not displeased.

If you have never been to New Orleans then you are missing out on a unique experience.  It is an incredible city that has to be experienced firsthand to understand and appreciate.  I have been there twice, and I admit I am looking forward to it because on my previous (multiple but adjacent) visits I was not able to experience two aspects of the city, owing to the fact that I was there the two weeks before my Black Belt test in 2010; I was neither eating nor drinking, and in a city known for its cuisine and its alcohol in the streets party every night, that was just a shame.

It is now two years later and while I will be watching what I eat and drink, I will not be denying myself good meals and the occasional drink.  I am also bringing my wife, which means we can enjoy what the city has to offer together, and I will not feel guilty (as I so often do) that I am experiencing things without her.

Oh yeah… the conference.  I will be participating in a number of panels, and will be presenting an abridged version of my VDI presentation that discusses Hyper-V, Windows 7, Citrix Xen Desktop, and the whole BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) story for businesses.  I forgot that I have to dance for my dinner, and that is my price of admission 🙂

The conference has a unique twist to it… after three days of learning Jeff feels there is no better way to unwind than for the entire group to get onto a cruise ship and sail to the Bahamas.  While I applaud his sentiment, I bemoan his timing.  After three days ‘with the gang’ Theresa will be flying home, and I will be heading to Orlando for my next conference…

Microsoft TechEd North America 2012

TechEd is considered by many the premiere IT Pro conference every year.  This year will be special for several reasons, not the least of which is that it is the twentieth anniversary of the landmark event, and I am sure that there will be no shortage of festivities commemorating that.

The second (and for me more important) reason why TechEd is going to be special this year is all of the product launches (on the IT Pro side) in 2012.  While end-users will likely focus on the new Windows 8 client that is set to launch sometime this year, IT professionals like myself are probably more excited about the new Windows Server 2012 (set to launch around the same time) and System Center 2012 (which was released in April).  In other words the vast majority of tools that I use and support are new and improved, and it is important to get out there and learn about the new features from the experts.

I will not be speaking at TechEd this year, and for the first time in the five years that I have been going I will not be working either.  Unlike years past I am showing up at the show with a fully paid ticket, and my only obligations are to learn.  That is very exciting for me – no booth duty schedules to coordinate!

That is not entirely true… I actually have three commitments at TechEd.  The first, I have been selected to compete in an event called Speaker Idol.  Modeled after American Idol, contestants compete as public speakers – more accurate, they compete as IT presenters.  There are three criteria to be considered a potential candidate: You must be attending TechEd (nobody is paying your travel or show pass), you must never have spoken at any TechEd event, and you cannot be a Microsoft employee.  The competition is always run by Richard Campbell and his partner in crime.  I do not know who the judges are, but I do know that Sean Kearney is going to be my biggest fan, and that he has already created several promotional videos that are up on YouTube.  The first prize, I understand, is an invitation to speak at TechEd next year, which would be cool.

My second ‘obligation’ at TechEd is the Windows Community Party – or Springboard Party as we usually call it.  For the last three years this has been the most sought after ticket of the week, and for the second year in a row I have been asked to man the door.  I guess Stephen Rose knows that not a lot of people are going to mess with me – either physically or verbally – and get away with it.  Attendance numbers are strictly controlled for several reasons, including cost and venue capacity.  It is always a blast, and I am counting down until Wednesday evening when we get to ‘get jiggy with the Windows fans’.

My last obligation is of my own making.  I do a lot of work with Microsoft Canada, and when I found out that none of the IT Evangelists would be attending the show this year, I asked ‘then who’s going to organize the Canadians Get Together that we all loved last year?’  Damir and Ruth asked if I would be willing to do it, and I agreed.  There is now an open invitation to all Canadians for Tuesday evening (late afternoon really) to join us for drinks and appetizers.  The time has been set, but the venue has not.  It will be one of the hotel bars to be sure, but which one will be determined on Sunday.  This has less to do with mystique and allure than the fact that I haven’t been to Orlando in five years and don’t remember which hotel bars are convenient.

All in all it will be a fun ten days.  I am sure I will be blogging about both events extensively so stay tuned… while I am not doing away with the Taekwondo talk, I am now back on track and focusing on IT and the IT Community!


One response to “A Dichotomy of IT Conferences”

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