Exchange Connections preliminary schedule makes its appearance

DevConnections has published the preliminary schedule for the Fall 2011 Exchange Connections conference in Las Vegas, NV (October 31-November 3). I’ve been coming to Exchange Connections since Microsoft killed off the late lamented Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) to preserve the dominant status of TechEd. At least, that’s my theory and no one has been able to disprove it. And who doesn't love a good conspiracy theory...

At least we have Exchange Connections to fill the gap and provide the Exchange community with a place to gather to hear about the latest developments, swap experiences, and talk to vendors about products built around Exchange. And to be fair to Microsoft, the Exchange development group is sending along some talent to present on topics as diverse as the changes incorporated in Exchange 2010 SP2 (presumably Microsoft will have shipped SP2 by then) and interoperability with Exchange Online (Office 365). Two of the more interesting sessions are “Virtualizing Exchange with Database Availability Groups” and “Load Balancing Connections”. These topics should spark some lively interaction with the crowd as there’s a lot of attention being paid today to how best deploy Exchange 2010 (in particular) on both VMware and Hyper-V. I hope that Microsoft remembers that there are two major hypervisors to talk about when they turn up!

Load balancing connections is often a difficult topic for administrators because the Client Access Server (CAS) remains a black box in many respects. Figuring out how to ensure session persistence or how the CAS responds to load balancing for different protocols can expend many brain cells. As my stock of available brain cells is steadily reducing, I think I shall have to drop into this session to reacquaint myself with the topic.

Of course, it’s not just Microsoft speakers that are on the schedule. If this was the case, you’d think that Exchange Connections was just a chance to listen to some recycled sessions from TechEd (note to Microsoft – please update your decks. I know that you will, but I want to be sure). After a day of Microsoft sessions there are a further two days of content provided by people who have real-life experience of putting Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync into production, warts and all. I have already blogged about some of the sessions focused on Office 365. Apart from those, the session that caught my eye is “Exchange 2010 Mailbox Role High Availability – What’s under the hood?”. This session will be given by Tim McMichael, a Microsoft employee who doesn’t work in the Exchange development team. Instead, Tim is an intensely practical customer-oriented individual who lives with the intricacies of Windows clusters and DAGs on a daily basis. I believe that his session will cast light onto the reasons why people get into trouble when they design and deploy DAGs and should therefore be very useful to anyone who needs to manage this technology.

Exchange Connections runs alongside other events such as Windows Connections and SharePoint Connections and shares some keynote sessions with those events. Two keynotes have yet to be finalized but there’s already two interesting ones scheduled from Scott Guthrie, the Microsoft Corporate VP for Servers and Business Tools and Jeffrey Snover, a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft and possibly best known as the father of PowerShell. Scott plans to talk about Windows Azure while Jeffrey’s topic is Datacenters.

I’ll be doing the other keynote and plan to share some thoughts about why the cloud is exerting an increasingly important influence over Exchange and what I think this means for administrators and the product over the next few years. I’ll likely get some stuff wrong as such is the nature of the job any time you try to predict what might happen in the future, but you never know – I might have sufficient brain cells left and connected in the right order to be on the money and that’s always a good thing in Vegas.

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