5 days in Berlin.

As i said in my previous post I was lucky enough to spend last week in Berlin at Microsoft Tech Ed Europe image2009. I say lucky as it was also the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall so we managed to see some of the dominoes that represented the wall and were toppled as part of the celebrations. We would have liked to have seen some more of the events but due to the overwhelming amount of people, police and extreme cold our foray to the Brandenburg Gate was cut short. Anyway the main reason I was  in Berlin was TechEd.

Two become one (again)!

It was only when I got to the event and actually started looking at the sessions did I realise that TechEd Developers and IT Pro’s had been merged together again. Now I like my share of eclectic talks so it wasn’t too much of a big deal to me, but given Microsoft’s range of development tools and technologies and the lack of distinct European offerings such as Mix and PDC, it’s a shame that there isn’t a developer’s only event in Europe. Last year coming after the US PDC I really liked the European Developers Tech Ed (2008), this year I was a bit concerned that as TechEd was the week before PDC that all of the good announcements and sessions would be saved for that and whilst it wasn’t specifically the case, there was a continual reference to the upcoming PDC and it did feel that, especially on the developers side, that this conference was a bit lightweight.

Where’s my Silverlight?

One of the main issues many of my colleagues had was the lack of alternative sessions in each slot. In previous developer focused events there were often two or three sessions of interest in most slots, often this year there was often a time when there were no development slots of interest. Now that’s not so much of an issue for me as I can always geek out on some IT Pro IIS 7.5 scalability or Windows 7 Kernel changes, but for some of the more focused developers this was an issue.

It was especially evident around Silverlight, a major Microsoft technology which had gone through a major revamp with version 3 and in the ESRI field contributes to new development areas with MapIt and SharePoint web parts. Flicking back though my book I can see that there were about 4 Silverlight specific sessions all week, now I know that some of them were very good, but still I felt this gave a good indication of how the integration of the conferences squeezed the amount of content. In my opinion I’d have dropped some of the Web Forms talks and added a few more Silverlight ones, but hey that’s only my opinion, there is some other blogger out there complaining about the lack of Web Forms talks, I’m sure, hmm come to think of it, maybe not.

A Tough Crowd

Another area where I felt the IP Pro’s were getting the upper hand (they always do in the end don’t they!) was at the Keynote. There were two, one titled ‘Developer General Session’ with Jason  imageZander which was a good overview of Microsoft development technologies and included a few announcements and a reminder of the Visual Studio Ultimate offer. The interesting thing was that whilst this session was going on there were also sessions for IT Pro’s in parallel tracks. The second keynote was by Stephen Elop. Now I do understand in the realm of cheese he’s a big one, but not only was his talk focused on IT Pro’s, don’t get me started on the weird IT Pro dream sketches, but there was nothing for real men developers to go to.

Elop’s talk also gave a new meaning to the phrase ‘tough crowd’. Maybe it was the weird interludes, the massage chairs and beer for some ‘special’ members of the audience or the uncomfortable nature of the staged interviews with three corporate clients (which Mr Elop kept moving even through the halting silences like a real pro) but there was a lot of pauses for applause which were met with confused indifference from the crowd.

I went to a number of presentations during the week where the over the top positive attitude of presenters went down like a lead balloon. I even remember on guy mentioning that they usually got clap after mentioning a certain new technology, which again got a silent retort. Now I don’t know if Europeans are less likely to ‘whoop whoop’ for the presenters, but those people who used humour and a bit of self deprecation got the largest laughs and gave some of the best presentations.

Now this wouldn’t have been a problem, but as there was nothing else to go to (and being the first day you didn’t want to go through all of the hand on labs early) I assume there were quite a few developers in the session which would have just passed them buy. Coupling this with the fact that the Monday even saw the main ‘wall falling’ celebrations it saw lots and lots of people exit this talk early.

The weirdest thing about this was that I think it happened because of the arrangement of the keynotes to be at the end of the day and not the usual ‘start of the conference’. This not only removed the usual conference build up, big starting session to get everyone pumped up (so to speak), but also gave people a reason to leave the talk by the most senior Microsoft person at the event (to go to the Berlin ex-wall).

Best Two Sessions

It might seem from all this that I didn’t have a good conference. Actually it was quite the opposite, I had a very good conference personally having found lots of good talks by some very interesting and compelling speakers (and some less than compelling, but again if you don’t have a good word to say, well you know the drill). It’s hard to pick two best sessions but there were definitely two stand out presenters during the week, David Chappell and Mark Russinovich. I’ve been to a few Chappell talks before, all of which have been excellent, but I had never been to a Russinovich one before and ironically if this had been a split conference with the IT Pro’s coming the week after, I probably still wouldn’t have.

IT innovation

imageChappell’s talk about IT Innovation was an eye opener for people who work in a innovation lead technology field. His identifiers on what makes for good innovation being the 3i’s Idea, Implementation and Infusion. Each of which have equal importance to any real world realisation of innovation. He stressed that it doesn’t matter how good the idea is, if it’s not implemented and then sold (infused) to people as being of
benefit then it’s no use. For developers the message was clear, love your marketing and sales departments because fundamentally they are the people who get users and clients to part with the cash for new technology and that cash pays your salary.

Kernel Madnessimage

Russinovich’s talk on the other hand  was purely in the field of the IT pro. With the snappy title of ‘Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Kernel Changes’. Now before you cast me into the realms of the insane for going to a level 400 talk about Kernal’s (and I was a bit unsure when I went in as I just going along to see who the Sysinternals guy was and didn’t know how well he would talk) understanding how a system works at the basic level allows you to understand why it might be performing badly in a real world scenario and how this performance might be alleviated. From performance and power saving to VHD support and scalability this talk covered it all and explained to me the reasons why Windows 7 feels so much better to use and why I’ll be implementing Windows Server 2008 R2 on my development server as soon as I get back (Windows Server 2008 = Vista = Bad). Marks other talks during the week (I missed one as the whole massive room was full) were equally as good and his slideshow of BSOD’s were inspiring.

Next Year

image If I’m lucky enough to go to TechEd next year, I hope they have manage to sort out some of the basic scheduling problems with the Keynotes (the developers TechEd had Ray Ozzie last year!) and arrange for a few more developer machines in the hands-on labs so people didn’t have to wait so long). I hope they have a bit more of a Mix feel (although that might freak the IT Pro’s out) and they somehow import the weather from Barcelona!

And finallyimage

As ever the sheer scale of organising 7000+ lunches (and a few evening drinks) for the delegates of TechEd Europe was amazing even if sometimes it felt like you were being herded like cattle towards a trough. It was here that you got to meet some new people and where even the condiments had a European feel.

Euro Tech·Ed Time 2009

image It’s that time of year again, when 5000+ programming geeks descend upon a European city of Microsoft’s choice (in the last few years it’s usually been Barcelona, intermingled with Amsterdam) in this case Berlin.

TechEd* is an unrelenting ‘fire hose’ of knowledge about Microsoft products and for a few years TechEd Europe has been split into two tracks, IT Pro’s (let’s be kind about them or they may delete our email and restrict our internet access) and Developers. Each is a separate conferenceimage and attracts around about 5000 people.

As an aside I find the split it kind of disappointing as you could always walk into some insane low level systems discussion to really blow your mind and test your stamina like some sort of weird Japanese game show. This is obviously a game show where people are forced to watch really complex technical discussions in an almost empty auditorium (I’m sure somewhere it’s on in Japan), maybe it could replace big brother after next year?

Last year TechEd came on the back of the PDC and some major announcements around the Cloud and Azure, this year the PDC comes the week afterwards so I’m wondering whether a) the same level of presenters will be at the event and b) whether any scoops will be left till the US conference. Time will tell.

This year there are some big products on the home straight for completion and release. Azure is almost out the door, my image last testing email said there would be new functionality announced in the next few weeks which could be tested after the PDC and before go live around Q1 next year. Still need to make time to drill into all the nooks and crannies but the hands on labs allow you to get some ‘quiet time’ at the event to do some digging and last year there were some really good labs.

Visual Studio 2010 has some big changes and developments with the IDE and .NET 4.0, but for me I’m imageinterested in seeing how the modelling and architecture tools are coming along. They looked ok last year but should be getting closer to Enterprise Architect and save much pain! There is a nice run down here, again I’ll use some hands on sessions to get myself acquainted with them.

There are many great presenters at the event, but since Don Box retired (or was he ‘retired’) from sitting inimage a bath on stage, then David Chappell has always been a good draw for getting a more ‘balanced’ view of the way Microsoft’s development platform is shaping up. I use brackets because he used to side more with the Java camp but has slowly been assimilated toward Microsoft and he has good reasons why and is very compelling in his arguments. David also gave an excellent talk at the ESRI Developers Summit this year (2009), hopefully they can get someone equally as good to do next years. In fact his papers are a must read before any of these events as they give a good back story to much of the big picture happenings:

SharePoint 2010 is another area with which it will be good to see what’s going on, especially in the light imageof the integration of it ESRI MapIt and SharePoint. Where a lot of functionality can exposed with no coding at all using standard Web Parts, hmm sometimes I wonder if it’s a good thing for us programmers. I do know that there were quite a few people interested in obtaining these parts for use with ArcGIS Server directly as well as working with them with MapIt, so there is definitely a growing market out there.

    The final area I am interested in is the area of scalability, specifically in the way that cloud-like technologies are becoming more and more available within the enterprise. Last year I happened on a talk on Project Velocity which is a memcached like in memory distributed caching framework that allows you to share objects around machines. It’s not a new idea but if it works its way seamlessly into Server 2008 or even Hyper-V then it could make for an even nicer scalable enterprise application platform.image
    See I’ve done a whole post about a Microsoft conference without mentioning Windows 7. To me, unlike Vista, there isn’t much to say about it now. It just works well, nothing to gripe about, it’s what Vista should have been. I’m installing it on all the machines I have courtesy of an Amazon family pack.
    Anyway in case that’s wetted your appetite and
    you wanted to come, you can’t as its sold out.

image

imageFortunately though if you can’t make it Microsoft make it easy to keep up to date with what’s going on with their TechEd Online service. This allows you to keep up with all the sessions and interviews so it’s almost as good as being there.

If you are going, see you in Berlin, it should be fun.

* I’m not going to bother to use the dot in the middle as it’s too hard to find on my keyboard.