teched-2013So here it is, Day 3 of TechEd, and I’m already two days late on the first of our “TechEd 2013 Favorites” series.  (sigh)  But if you’ve ever been to a TechEd, or any other big conference like this, you know that it’s hard to find a spare moment to do things other than A) attend, and B) enjoy.  Blogging isn’t high on the priority list this week.  Sorry.

But this morning, for you I’ll make an exception. Smile

On Monday, Day 1, was started with the traditional TechEd Keynote; this year skillfully navigated by Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of the Management and Security Division (MSD) at Microsoft.  After a cute video, he “rolls” onto the stage in an Aston Martin, and hints that we are about to witness announcements on new versions “of every one of our products that run in your datacenters”.  Hmm.. sounds like this might be fun!

His talk was roughly outlined in this way:

  • Your Cloud Platform - Devices
  • People-Centric I.T.
  • Enable Modern Business Applications
  • Transform the Datacenter

 

Your Cloud Platform – Devices

In the area of devices, Ian McDonald (Partner Director) came out and gave us a first look at some of the new UI features in Windows 8.1 (the version formerly codenamed “Blue”).  And other than a failed wireless print demo, the features looked pretty impressive.  My favorites were the built-in wireless projection support (through Miracast), being able to set up your PC as a local WiFi hotspot for other devices, and really the fact that BYOD doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing (domain joined, full control OR completely out of IT control), but that there is some room for secured access to protected resources while still maintaining company access policies. He also showed how IT can pre-populate and/or lock-down the start screen layout using Group Policy.

Ian also showed off some pretty cool looking new hardware, including Acer’s announced Iconia W3 “first Windows 8.1” mini-tablet with an 8” screen.  

People-Centric I.T. 

Brad next discussed how I.T., and the business users they support, will benefit from the ability to support BYOD and identity using the cloud and tools like Windows Intune. To support this, he introduced the world to Windows Server 2012 R2 – the next version of Windows Server.  He also announced System Center 2012 R2, and a new release of Windows Intune, also coming later this year.

Molly Brown, a principle development lead, came out to show off more of the “people-centric I.T.” to be found in the new versions of those product.  One very interesting idea was something called “Workplace Join”, where a user can easily user can use their own un-trusted (from the perspective of the company) device to still gain access to company assets, like the company SharePoint. Think of it as “a modern domain join, where users basically let I.T. know about all of the devices that they use.  And the user can then go through an additional step to enroll their device for management, which essentially registers it with Windows Intune and allows the company to manage and publish apps and policies to the device.  Once under management, it even pushed down the VPN configuration and certificates for the user for when (and how) they need to access the corporate network. 

“Work Folders” was introduced.  From whatever device a user is using, they can be granted access to a set of folders over the Internet.  It creates a local encrypted and protected copy that can be used offline, and when the user leaves the company, the device is un-enrolled and file access (even to the local copy) is lost.

Enable Modern Business Applications

Microsoft is the very first cloud provider to have a presence in mainland China.

Scott Guthrie, corporate VP, came out to discuss Windows Azure, and how it is a very powerful and agile dev/test environment.   

Big news: In Windows Azure there is no longer a charge for stopped VMs!  Yes, you read that correctly.  For months we’ve been recommending that you remove your VMs if you’re not using them, because even stopped VMs were being charged for compute-hours.  But no longer.  This is GREAT NEWS.

Also great news is that Windows Azure is moving to a charge-per-minute model.  And doing so immediately.  You only pay for the two minutes you use the machine, and not the entire hour.  Nobody else does that. 

And another announcement was a new MSDN subscription model – MSDN credits.  $50/month, pro.  $100 / month Premium.  $150 Ultimate.  No, this is not what it will cost you.  It is the credit that you get and can use in Windows Azure per-month.  It’s also per-person, so each person on your team can use this. 

And also, that is how the Windows Azure free trial will be handled going forward.  It will be a credit of $200 that you can just use for a month, or until the credit is used up.

In the area of “big data”, corporate VP Quentin Clark came out to discuss some examples of how data can be used and managed behind the scenes.  Scenario – How about phone app at a store that guides you through the store?  At checkout, all loyalty programs are automatically known and applied.  Behind all of that is big data.  Telemetry.  New data types and new data sources. “Data Changes Everything”.  Our approach -  find data, form theories, analyze, and refine, and then take action (operationalize). 

Announcing: SQL Server 2014 – making it easier to create availability, take advantage of Windows Azure, do more transaction processing in-memory. 
It began in Excel in power-pivot, and brought that work back into analysis server. 

Transform the Datacenter – the cloud platform itself.

Delivering everything we learn in Windows Azure and delivering it to you. 

Announced: Previews of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 will be available by the end of June, and released by the end of this year. 

And the new “Windows Azure Pack” will be delivering Windows Azure on top of Windows Server and System Center.  So it drops right on top of your own servers.   

Jeff Woolsey came out to talk about some of the new innovations in Windows Server 2012 R2 such as automated storage tiering, where you can create storage spaces made up of traditional and SSD storage, and the tiering will automatically keep more frequently used data on the SSD and the other storage on the slower device. 

You can also greatly reduce costs through deduplication.  But can you run VMs on that storage?  Yes.  R2 will provide better performance on a de-duped storage location, and in fact it actually will be faster than traditional storage because of the caching taking place.  “VMs booted twice as fast.”  Common blocks are intelligently cached, so it just goes faster.

Live Migration has also improved in the area of performance .  “Live Migration with Compression” takes advantage of surplus compute power to compress for the migration. 

Hyper-V Replica – “We want to be able to manage replication at scale”, and across sites.  Hyper-V Recovery Manager, in Azure!  Azure  just manages (orchestrates) the replication.  And you can even set up a recovery plan in the cloud that can document manual or automated steps for performing the recovery in an orderly fashion. 

---

Some amazing stuff!  Now you see why it took me so long to create this blog post! 

Here is the complete keynote, in case you don’t just want to take my word for it.