Tim Vander Kooi has gone to Microsoft's TechEd North America manytimes since the late 1990s, but he's never been as enthused as heis this year about attending the conference, the company's mostimportant event for IT professionals and developers. The reason is simple: Microsoft is in the midst of a historic andextensive wave of upgrades for its enterprise products, and VanderKooi wants to ensure his company rides the upgrade wavesuccessfully. "I want to go in there and sit and learn and absorb things becausethere are so many new product releases and I want to understand howthey all fit together," said Vander Kooi, Microsoft SystemsAdministrator at Explorer Pipeline in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Microsoft is working on new versions of Windows, Internet Explorer,Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics ERP applications,Visual Studio and Windows Server, and recently shipped new versionsof SQL Server and System Center. |
So when he walks into the Orange County Convention Center inOrlando, where the conference will take place from June 11 to June14, Vander Kooi plans to immerse himself in the proceedings, with aparticular focus on Windows Server 2012, which is in beta and dueout later this year. Ross Eberle, technical support supervisor at Rockford PublicSchools in Rockford, Illinois, is headed to his first TechEd, alsomotivated in large part by the upgrade wave, and is particularlyinterested in Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012. "At the school district where I work, we are considering movingaway from our current desktop management solution and the SystemCenter products are looking pretty good. In addition, I'm a big fanof Hyper-V as we use it as our primary virtualization platform andthe latest updates have definitely piqued my interest," Eberle saidvia e-mail.
It will also be the first TechEd for Heather Fitzpatrick, a seniortechnology trainer at NASCAR (National Association for Stock CarAuto Racing) in Daytona Beach, Florida, who will be paying closeattention to key existing products and upcoming upgrades. "We want to make sure that anything we're going to deploy to ourcompany is going to work seamlessly with any other products we havein place, so we definitely want to make sure we've looked into andfully vetted [products] before we roll anything out," she said. Fitzpatrick, who will also act as a Microsoft Certified TrainerAmbassador at the show, advising other attendees aboutcertifications and exams, wants to look into Office 365 and itsfeatures for document sharing and collaboration. Explorer Pipeline's Vander Kooi is particularly interested inWindows Server 2012's new and improved security, permissions andvirtualization features, and in how the changes will impact theapplications. His employer is a heavy user of Microsoft software and hosts avariety of critical enterprise applications -- from Microsoft,other vendors and custom-developed in house -- in Windows Server2008 R2 and, to a lesser extent, on Windows Server 2003.
He will also seek details about Office 15, an early-stageinitiative that will involve an ambitious upgrade of the Officeproductivity applications, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, aswell as of Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and of Office 365, the cloudsuite that includes online versions of these products. "I want to get ideas about what I need to start pre-planning forand start doing now to be proactive and ready for these productswhen they hit the ground," said Vander Kooi, whose employeroperates an almost 1,900-mile common carrier pipeline system thattransports fuel from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest. Vander Kooi will also look for details about Windows 8, the newversion of the Windows operating system for desktop PCs, laptopsand tablets. So far, he is skeptical about the two user interfaces Windows 8will have: the traditional Windows environment and the newMetro-style interface, which is designed for touch-based screens. Many Windows 8 testers have complained that in the beta versions ofWindows 8, the Metro UI is confusing and difficult to use with amouse and keyboard in regular non-touch screen PCs, and thattoggling between it and the traditional Windows interface isproblematic.
Vander Kooi's company gives its employees desktop PCs, laptops andsmartphones, but not yet tablets, so he sees little use for theMetro interface among its 250 users. "What they've done is putanother layer between me and the stuff I actually want to get to,"he said. "It just makes life that much more difficult to do work inthe environment I want to do my work in." Explorer Pipeline recently finished upgrading most of its PCs fromWindows XP to Windows 7, but Vander Kooi wouldn't rule out anupgrade to Windows 8 if it were deemed worthwhile, or if it werenecessary to take advantage of key new features in Windows Server2012 and other upcoming upgrades. In fact, his company will be actively scoping Windows 8 tabletswhen they start hitting the market, and will consider providingthem to some users who could benefit from having such devices, hesaid. The company also recently acquired about 20 new laptops withtouch screens.
However, he thinks Microsoft needs to give IT departmentsflexibility to configure their Windows 8 interface preferences, sothat the Metro UI doesn't become an obstacle to productivity indevices and scenarios in which he finds it clunky, such as withdesktop PCs and docked laptops connected to the corporate networkand used with external keyboards, monitors and mice. "I hope there will be group policy settings we can use to makethings look the way we want them to look and work best for us,rather than having that whole Metro thing shoved down our throats,"he said. Windows 8, which is in its final development phase and expected tobe commercially available before the end of the year, will mostlikely be talked about at length at TechEd, as Microsoft continuesto promote it among enterprises. Aside from the new Metro UI,Windows 8 has a significant number of new and improved enterpriseIT features, Microsoft has said.
However, many industry analysts are skeptical about enterpriseadoption of Windows 8, since many organizations have recentlymigrated, or are in the process of migrating, to Windows 7. "Once Windows 8 is released, Microsoft can begin to haveconversations with enterprise customers," said Al Gillen, an IDCanalyst. "You'll see it utilized initially by customers who have animmediate need for tablet devices. As far as traditional desktopsand laptops, I don't think most organizations are going to rushinto Windows 8.
We'll see some deployments, but those will befairly light." Microsoft declined to say how many people are expected to attendthe conference, but the total has exceeded 10,000 in previousyears. For example, about 10,500 customers, partners and Microsoftemployees attended the 2010 edition of the show in New Orleans. Inaddition to its main edition in the U.S., TechEd is also held inother parts of the world. But right now, the focus is on TechEd North America 2012. "There'sso much going on.
I think this is going to be the best TechEdever," Vander Kooi said. Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaborationsuites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breakingnews for The IDG News Service . Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG .
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