I’m on the way back home after the 2015 IT/DEV Connections conference, which took place this week in the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas. Thankfully, everything seemed to run smoothly and the Enterprise Collaboration track functioned without too many problems. We had to do one quick room switch and Surface Pro 3 and other PCs posed some “interesting” AV challenges to get output to the projectors. HDMI seemed to be a particular problem and the AV team was not impressed that many speakers ran Windows 10 build 10532. Apparently VGA remains the lingua franca for AV guys. In any case, a collection of connectors and some duct tape solved the problems.
Part of the joy of an independent conference is that we have a chance to assemble speakers who really know their stuff and are willing to talk about technology in a realistic and practical manner. In other words, warts and all. Tim McMichael is a great example and he gave an excellent session about “Office 365 Gotchas”, where he revealed some of the horror stories that arrive into Microsoft Support. Like people who blow away MSO user objects without realizing that this action can be really dangerous.
For instance, if you run the Remove-MsOlUser cmdlet and specify the RemoveFromRecycleBin parameter to hard-delete MSO objects, that instruction flows through to other workloads like Exchange Online and any associated mailboxes will be hard-deleted too. Remember, Microsoft doesn’t take backups for cloud workloads like Azure Active Directory or Exchange Online, so a hard delete is permanent and irrecoverable. The lesson is clear. Don’t run cmdlets with “interesting” parameters unless you know what will happen and the consequences of the action. And don’t complain to Microsoft Support if you remove some Office 365 data when you should not have. You can't expect them to rescue your career when hundreds of mailboxes have disappeared without trace. Maybe those who sell backup products for Office 365 have a point.
Other talks that I enjoyed included sessions from Justin Harris about Office 365 Groups (I’ve written a lot on this topic, but you can always learn from someone else), and Andrew Higginbotham on end-to-end troubleshooting. One of the troubleshooting exercises he went through described some bad performance issues experienced by an Exchange 2013 customer whose virtualized configuration featured some “interesting” vCPU allocations that ignored the product group guidance to configure vCPUs in line with the available physical CPUs on the host server. There’s no doubt that Exchange can perform well on virtual platforms as long as you follow the now well-documented guidelines (I wrote a white paper on this topic last year).
It was also interesting to hear Brian Reid speak about securing Office 365 data, Mike Crowley talk about Exchange Online Protection in-depth, and Jaap Wesselius attempt to explain the mysteries of Managed Availability. And of course, how could I fail to mention Michael B. Smith’s somewhat esoteric session “Telnet for Exchange Administrators” where even the VT52 and VT100 terminals got a mention. And the closing panel was both interactive and interesting, despite the failure of the audience to come up with a single question that stumped the panel.
Paul Robichaux and I have been taping quarterly episodes of the “Exchange Exposed” podcast for just over a year now. We actually started at IT/DEV Connections 2014 and it seemed appropriate to seize the opportunity to tape a new episode at this year’s conference. We got together with Bhargav Shukla of Kemp (he’s also an MVP) to talk about recent developments in the world of Exchange and Office 365, including the imminent release of Exchange 2016, whether it really is like a service pack for Exchange 2013, and if so, will this provide any comfort to the folks who normally refuse to deploy a new version of Exchange until a year or so after the initial release.
I happen to think that Exchange 2016 will be deployed more rapidly than its predecessors once the ecosystem that surrounds Exchange catches up with versions of products (backup, monitoring, reporting, anti-malware, and so on) that support Exchange 2016. We’ll see. In any case, the podcast is being processed now and should be in the Apple iTunes store imminently.
Speaking of Exchange 2016, Jeff Guillet did a terrific job of explaining how to deploy the new version while Paul Robichaux covered how to manage Exchange 2016, including some new cmdlets to tune the high availability features that have been transferred to on-premises from Exchange Online.
In passing, some weeks ago, I complained that I could not connect to the Office 365 Compliance Center with PowerShell after installing a post-RTM build (10525) of Windows 10 on my PC. The problem persists in Windows 10 Build 10532. After some investigation by Microsoft, it turns out that only European users were affected as the endpoint for that region failed when attempts were made to create remote PowerShell sessions. People might not realize it, but Office 365 is divided up into nine separate regions and a flaw that shows up in one region often does not appear in others. This is an example of an edge condition that crept into the European region. It’s quite some task to keep nine regions, twenty-odd datacenters, and hundreds of thousands of servers synchronized, so it’s understandable why these things happen. Hopefully, Microsoft will fix things soon.
I should also mention that Paul Cunningham, Michael Van Horenbeeck, Jeff Guillet and I took the chance to launch the 2nd edition of the "Office 365 for Exchange Professionals" eBook at Connections. The most hilarious thing was attempting to "sign" the book by inscribing our names using Sharpies on the USB keys provided by Binary Tree to distribute copies to folks who attended the launch. We did it, but the signatures weren't that great, as you can see in the photo.
It was great to meet so many old friends and colleagues at the conference but now it’s time to get back to work. We’ll start to prepare for the 2016 event (September 19-22) in a couple of months. The nice thing about technology is that you always have new stuff to discuss.
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