I spent all day yesterday at a Microsoft event in Charlotte, and I have to give them credit – they put on a pretty good show. It wasn’t anything major or flashy, but I felt like the presenters a good job of interacting with the audience and presenting their information. What really surprised me though was the “extras” and their tolerance for hecklers. Upon arrival and check-in at the movie theater (yes, you read that right – a movie theater), they had quite the spread laid out for a complimentary breakfast, including, water, juices, coffee, sodas, bagels, donuts, and assorted other pastries. The freebie for the afternoon session was a really nice, leather-esque 3-ring binder portfolio stuffed with info about Small Business Server and the Partner Program.
Each session was about four hours long and was split in half so that each session could cover two topics. The morning session was a TechNet event and covered Securing Active Directory followed by a look at Exchange Server 2007 and ways to use it to comply with inter-company rules as well as legislative policies regarding retention and things of that nature. The AD session was informative, but not at a very high level like I was expecting. Most of it was simple stuff like “rename your administrator account” (Duh!) and how to use Group Policies to secure your AD environment. The Exchange stuff interested me more than I expected it to. Exchange 2007 has been abstracted into several layers so that you can run it on multiple servers, each with a predefined role such as “Edge” or “Filtering” or you can use one server to run all the different roles that you wish. I’ve never looked at Exchange, let alone used it, but it does look like a good product for larger companies. I really like the solution we use at work though – it’s from Ipswitch which and on Windows. Not nearly as bulky and complicated as Exchange. Back in the days when it was still called Imail, they apparently claimed you could take a clean server, install Imail and have a working email system in like less than 20 minutes. I believe it. It’s slick. That being said, it is getting expensive, so we’re hoping within the next eight months or so to migrate that to a open-source solution on Linux as well. Suggestions? OK – I’m way off topic – back to the MS thing…
At the end of the morning session they gave away prizes – some lucky dude in the front got a Xbox360. I was jealous. Very jealous.
The morning session finished at noon and I took off to Chic-Fil-A for lunch. The afternoon session for me was a TS2 (designed for system builders and small IT shops) event covering Small Business Server, Windows Vista, and Microsoft 2007 Office. Yes, for some reason, it’s no longer “Office 2007″ but instead “2007 Office” – silly I know. They talked a great deal about the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Partner Program which sounds pretty neat. Sign up, take an online Sales Assessment test and then one of two MCP tests and you’re certified and eligible for all sorts of discounts and are able to sell volume licensing then, if I understood correctly. I may look more into that to save my company some money down the road when it’s time to upgrade Office or Windows.
The Vista stuff was pretty, as I expected. Saw some things that I hadn’t seen when messing around with it on my own, and brought home a RC1 DVD. I think I’ll be upgrading my XP machine here at the office to the Vista RC1 soon just for kicks.
Finally, 2007 Office – by FAR the most impressive demo of the day, and possible, the slickest piece of software I’ve ever seen. I steered clear of the beta’s for some reason, but it is amazing. Some of the 3D artwork and charts are just mind blowing. Every time that “Indy” (short for Indika – not a racial slur thank you very much) would show off one of those artwork tools, the entire room of 80 or so IT professionals would gasp and shake their heads. I may grab the demo today and play with it myself. I wasn’t a big fan of the “Ribbon” idea when I read about it, but seeing it used was another story. It appears to be very functional.
Of course, we didn’t get out til right at 5:00 and I had to fight Charlotte traffic on 485 and 85 to get home – what a nightmare. But I think it was worth it. The Charlotte IT Professionals group had a table setup and I signed up to be a member. Maybe through that I can at least find someone to serve as a backup for me if I happen to be out of the country again.