IT/Dev Connections 2014 Speaker Highlight: Darren Mar-Elia

IT/Dev Connections 2014 Speaker Highlight: Darren Mar-Elia

Part of an ongoing series, we're highlighting the excellent speakers selected by the community to present phenomenal and extremely valuable content at IT/Dev Connections 2014.

Today's speaker highlight is Darren Mar-Elia

Darren's IT/Dev Connection sessions:

Desired State Configuration for Windows Server Administrators

In this session, we'll look how Windows Server administrators, who leverage technologies such as Group Policy for Windows configuration management, can start to leverage PowerShell's new Desired State Configuration feature to manage their Windows Server configurations going forward. This session focuses on looking at how DSC differs from Group Policy (and other Windows configuration technologies) and the scenarios that DSC enables. We'll look at the architecture and tooling of DSC to give administrators a solid foundation to leverage it in their existing Windows enterprise. We'll also walk through practical examples of deploying and using DSC in Windows Server environments.

Best Practices for Group Policy Deployment and Management

In this session, Darren will cover a range of best practices culled from over 15 years of Group Policy learning, deployment, and troubleshooting in a variety of organizations. He'll cover topics such as best practices for deploying GPOs for performance and security, best practices for managing GPOs, and tips and tricks for how to get the most out of Group Policy in today's world of Windows 8 devices and BYOD.


Recently, we asked Darren to give us a little information about himself. Here's what he shared:


WITPRO: Give us a brief introduction to yourself.

Darren: I’ve been doing IT and software, alternately, for a long time. As an example, the first LAN environment I worked with was Netware 2.x! Most of my time has been spent working with Microsoft technologies in large enterprise environments as an engineer and architect, but I’ve also been a network engineer, Unix administrator and web performance engineer at various times in my past. I also love writing code—primarily in C# these days.


WITPRO: Describe the sessions you are presenting and why you feel the topic is important.

Darren: I’m presenting two sessions this year—both related to configuration management but one (“Best Practices for Group Policy Deployment & Management”) representing the old technology and the other (“Desired State Configuration for Windows Server Administrators”) representing the new. In my Group Policy session, I’ll share best practices and learnings gained from 15 years of designing and helping customers deploy Group Policy in enterprise environments. In the DSC session, I’ll introduce this new “DevOps” configuration feature within PowerShell v4 and how and when Windows servers administrators should consider using this technology. I’ll also demo the features within DSC and run through some real-world scenarios.


WITPRO: What should attendees expect to be able to take away from your sessions?

Darren: First and foremost, I want people to get actionable information from my sessions. My Group Policy session will be filled with practical advice that people can use to improve their Group Policy deployments. In the case of DSC, if you’ve not touched this technology or only just started to look into it, this session will get you up to speed on what it can do and give you a head start on testing and deploying it in your environment.


WITPRO: What is your primary reason to be excited about IT Connections?

Darren: IT Connections is really the conference you wish TechEd was. Lots of world-class speaking talent, but in a smaller venue and with a tendency to be more real-world, because it’s not just vendor product managers talking about the latest toggle in a product. It’s a great show and one that I’ve been proud to speak at for years.


WITPRO: What is the one key technology you believe is changing IT right now?

Darren: I could cheat and say both the cloud and mobile are changing IT. But really, it’s the cloud that is challenging IT shops everywhere. Whether it's introducing “cloudy” approaches to traditional hosted IT or leveraging SaaS or IaaS, I think the cloud is without a doubt the main driver for IT change today.


WITPRO: Do you think Satya Nadella can rebuild Microsoft into a Cloud powerhouse?

Darren: I don’t know Satya personally and only know what I read about him. I think Microsoft has proven to be both nimble and clumsy. In most organizations, it comes down to having the right people focused on your big bets. I do personally know some of the people in the Azure team and all of them are world-class. So, for that reason alone, regardless of whether every other business unit in Microsoft fails, I think Azure will make MS a cloud powerhouse.


WITPRO: To get to know the real you, give us one thing about yourself you believe will be of most interest to attendees.

Darren: That’s a good question. I don’t know what most interests attendees about me, but I’ll share two anecdotes—one personal and one professional. The personal one—I have recently become an amateur winemaker and if I had a chance to choose a new career today, it would be farmer and vintner! The professional one—my first exposure to Windows “NT” was helping a large financial services company through a 4 month firedrill of proving that NT 3.5 and SMS 1.0 could outperform a 10 million dollar Sun workstation deployment. The end result was that the Sun workstation order was cancelled and we designed and deployed a 15,000 user Windows deployment across 300 locations in about a year. That was the most fun I’ve had in IT to date.



IT/Dev Connections runs from September 15 – 19, at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas. IT/Dev Connections has been designed specifically for IT.

And, there's still time to register!  Here's some important resources to check out:


Windows, System Center, and Cloud Sessions

Travel and Lodging Information

Full Speaker List


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