I don't know how things are where you are, but here in Colorado, I'm totally over this whole winter thing. Bring on the warm weather! Wishing won't make it happen, but in the meantime I can look forward to a trip to Orlando, Florida, in a couple weeks for Microsoft Exchange Connections. The event is going on from March 27–30, and will be co-located with shows about SharePoint, SQL Server, and other Windows and developer topics. You'll find top experts from Microsoft and elsewhere in all areas.
In the Exchange Server track, Tony Redmond will be delivering the keynote address. I connected with Tony via email to get a preview of what he'll be talking about as well as some of his thoughts about the conference experience overall.
BKW: In a post on your blog in January, you asked for feedback from readers about what you should talk about for you keynote address. How did that shape what you'll be talking about? Can you give us a preview of what you'll be covering?
Tony: Feedback is always good, and it helped me figure out what people are thinking about when it comes to Exchange 2010. I've managed to distil things into six challenges that I think almost every company will face as they approach the deployment of Exchange 2010, including the fundamental choice of going with a traditional on-premises approach or exploring the possibility of using email based on Microsoft's Office 365 hosted service. Given the cost benefits promised by cloud services, at least on the surface, this is a pretty important choice for companies and it deserves careful examination and discussion, so I'll spend some time on that topic.
BKW: As you also mentioned in that blog post, we're at a "fallow" point between Exchange Server releases. But many organizations are still investigating and learning about Exchange 2010, and of course there are sessions at the conference that will be able to help them with that. What are some of the first things businesses should consider when deciding if moving to Exchange 2010 is right for them?
Tony: Well, the first thing to say is that the majority of migrations are likely to come from Exchange 2003. At least, that's what people such as Ian Hameroff of Exchange product management are saying. I'm not surprised because I think people have waited for Service Pack 1 of Exchange 2010 to consider it a viable platform for their next deployment. And I think they've got it right because Exchange 2010 SP1 is much more feature-complete than was the RTM version.
So the first thing anyone needs to do is to get to know Exchange 2010 by deploying a few test servers so that the new features can be explored and any interoperability issues identified, including those that might occur with third-party products. This is a critical point because Exchange is never deployed on its own. Instead, it's the fulcrum of an email ecosystem that also includes products such as backup, compliance, antivirus and antispam, and management and monitoring solutions. All of these have to be assessed against the feature set of Exchange 2010 to decide whether to continue using the third-party solution (probably with an upgraded version), use the features built in to Exchange 2010, or seek another answer.
BKW: You've been attending and speaking at events such as Exchange Connections for years. What is it that keeps you coming back?
Tony: Good events form the backbone of communities built around a shared interest in technology. When Microsoft cancelled the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in 2001 or thereabouts, they created a vacuum for the Exchange community. TechEd is OK, but it has never delivered the range of in-depth sessions that a dedicated event can. Connections was the first event to step in to offer the Exchange community a place to meet as a replacement for MEC, and while it can't be a direct replacement for MEC, I think Connections has carved out its own niche over the years. There's a good mix of Microsoft and independent speakers that deliver interesting sessions, and many of the speakers have been coming to Connections over the years so the audience knows the kind of talent that they'll hear and the depth of content to which they'll be exposed. Along with the trade show, it gives technologists who are interested in Exchange a one-stop shop for updates, and I guess that's why I keep on coming back.
That being said, I think that Connections can improve in the future. There are a mass of very strong technologists who have never spoken at a Connections event and who are absolute gems when it comes to Exchange. Many of the Microsoft MVPs who have won their status because of their contribution to Exchange are in this category, and I would love to see more of them come along and speak at Connections. In fact, the event in Germany has recruited a very strong set of European MVPs to speak, and I am really looking forward to seeing how they do at that event in June.
BKW: For IT pros and Exchange admins who are coming to Connections, possibly for the first time, what should they expect to find, and how should they prepare? Are there specific sessions or speakers that you recommend?
Tony: No one, not even TV cooks, has a recipe that suits everyone. And just like I cannot pretend to have the answer to every question that someone will ask me about Exchange, there's no secret plan to navigate Connections. My advice is therefore to review the sessions as published on the website to identify a couple of high-priority "must see" sessions that contain information that's important to your own particular deployment. Use these sessions as the foundation for your Connections event and plan to extract as much information as possible from them. Then look at a couple more lower-priority but still interesting sessions as the next set to attend and round things out with some sessions that cover topics that you may be only starting to get to know. Complete everything with a visit to the trade show as there are all manner of solutions being shown there that may just solve a problem for you. But above all, come to the keynote!