I got a lucky offer from Karuana Gatimu to help Carrie Doring present her presentation at SharePoint Saturday in Redmond. She was supposed to speak on "The Future of the Social Collaboration Experience - A platform and community overview for beginners". I have been working on finding ways to speak and present more and had some recent opportunities with the MS IT Institute and MS IT Showcase teams. This was a different opportunity for me.
Luckily, much of what Carrie and I were going to talk about was what we were actually using to manage our preparation for the presentation. Karuana sent us a copy of the deck. I stored that copy on my OneDrive for Business and shared it out to Carrie. She and I had a couple of chats on Lync to sync up on preparation. We met together to work on it in the web version of PowerPoint so we both could make updates at the same time. It was great to use this as an example as we walked through our presentation.
The audience was awesome and had some great questions. They were quite open to the information including the community involvement information I gave them. I was able to squeeze in a plug for #TheKrewe of TechEd when I was talking about community. After the presentation was over, I even got to spend some time personally with a couple of the audience members to talk specifics to their situation.
I had a blast and had to be ushered out by the following presenter a bit. I think that I will be doing more of this. To quote the old Life commercials ... "I think he likes it!"
By the way, here is a link to the deck as a PDF file that can be downloaded by anyone.
Have you ever started troubleshooting a performance issue with an application? Nothing else can be more frustrating that trying to resolve performance issues. Recently, I have been doing this on a SharePoint 2013 Server installation. Pages take a while, up to 5 to 6 seconds, to render the page properly. Sometimes, it was taking up to 20 seconds to render. I have been doing adjustments to the system as well as warming up the application pools. Much of this I will post on here in the future.
I listen to net/podcasts and thanks to Todd Klindt's Netcast, specifically Episode 152 - Splat Bang Click Hieroglyph, I found a possible answer for some of the performance issues I was seeing. He brought up Microsoft Support KB 952167 which is named "Certain folders may have to be excluded from antivirus scanning when you use file-level antivirus software in SharePoint". I had totally forgotten that AV scanning live systems like Exchange, SharePoint or SQL can make them crawl at times. It heavily affects PACS systems in healthcare, the Picture Archive and Communication System, for radiology imaging. I should have known better and went to the AV System Admin and asked to have these exceptions put in. Result was some improvement of the rendering. There's more to do but this did help.
Hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday in the US and getting ready for the holiday season around the world. I have been enjoying time with my family in New York including giving my niece and nephew a brand new Xbox One. They have been filling their free time since with many waves of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Even I am getting into it now. I am guessing there will be many multiplayer games on Xbox Live with them. Oh darn!
One of the things I forgot to blog about earlier is one of the best events online for IT Pros. The Azure IaaS for IT Pros Online Event that has been hosted by Rick Claus is giving IT Professionals some great information about Azure and specifically the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings. Azure keeps adding incredible services for Azure users including some recent additions:
Getting an opportunity to play with these services has excited me to what Azure can offer IT Professionals. One of the best uses of Azure for IT Pros is making "proof of concept" environments. You can prove how technologies work while not taking any of your current on-prem hardware. Another easy use is running development or QA testing environments. In both of these cases, you can turn on and off the environment while you need it and only be billed for the environment while it is on.
But I have buried the lead here folks. On Thursday, at 12:00 Pacific time, I will be talking about SharePoint on Azure. Yup, that's right … I will be talking about how to run SharePoint on Azure. There are some tweaks and best practices I will be talking about with SharePoint on Azure IaaS. I will also go over the new Cloud App Model (CAM) and how you can use Azure with it. Lastly, there's a few other things Azure can help with around SharePoint. I am including my introduction video here:
I recommend you heading over to http://aka.ms/levelupazure to watch the recorded sessions and to see me live tomorrow. If you can't see me live, you can always catch up on the recordings.
I got a great opportunity from Denise Begley from the Microsoft TechEd planning team to talk about my session selection process. She wanted to hear from several returning alumni (including Harjit Dhaliwal, and Michael Bender) about their process to help brand new attendees or others reading the official Microsoft TechEd Blog. I felt it was an honor and wanted to give back to the TechEd Community that has taken me in to offer my view on schedule building. Head on over to the Microsoft TechEd Blog to read the other posts with Harjit's and Michael's process. Here is my full process:
Going into TechEd 2014 in Houston, my selection process has changed for this coming TechEd due to many factors. In the past, I spent a lot of time looking through the schedule and trying to select which sessions I want to go to. To give a little bit of reference here, I have attended the last 3 TechEd North American conferences: Atlanta, Orlando, and New Orleans.
In the first year at Atlanta, I tried to get to every session at every offering. I had listed in my schedule one session per time period and spent my time running as my sessions were so spread out. If you stayed in one vertical of sessions, you didn't have to go too far. I was choosing sessions from all over. By the time I made it to many sessions, the rooms were full with no real empty seats to be found. I spent a good amount of time sitting on the floors with my back to the wall. I was shooting pictures of the slides and trying to scribble a ton of notes.
I learned many lessons from Atlanta and had a different plan of attack for Orlando. I also had the notion of taking more tests for my certifications. The sessions I went to were more focused on technologies I was investing in and I spent a lot of time in exam preps and taking exams. On top of that, I was doing more meetings in the hallways, Alumni area, and the Expo floor. I knew I was going to be able to get videos and slide decks from all the sessions when I got home. The focused sessions got me great content and I was very happy with the results of the sessions, just not of my test taking.
I went through the schedule planner and blocked out the specific sessions I did not want to miss. Then, I went through finding the presenters I really like to listen to. Lastly, I filled in my schedule with other sessions that caught my interest. In my OneNote, I noted which items were "had to attend", "nice to attend", and "just filler". I used this to block out my time to meet and stroll the Expo floor. I also planned multiple sessions per time block if I couldn't get to the room due to logistics or the room being full. All in all, I was impressed with the strategy.
So, you have heard my thoughts about prior years. Now, I will let you know about this year's TechEd. I am looking at some changes again for a couple of reasons:
So, starting my journey to Houston, I started my session planning by finding all the presenters I want to hear. Yup, that's right, I am starting with the Speakers. I looked for sessions from Rick Claus, Joey Snow, Pierre Roman, Mark Minasi, Mark Russinovich, Jessica DeVita, and Ed Horley. Some of these are friends I want to support and have great material to present; others are presenters I want to see in person. Next, I went through by Topic/Product and pulled up items like SharePoint, IaaS, System Center, Windows Azure, and more. Once that filled up my schedule, I looked at timeframes with zero or one session. In those blocks, I looked at the specific offerings at that time. Last thing in my schedule build is the Hand On Labs. In years past, I either did not take advantage on-site or took very little advantage. This year, I might look for more HOL work to try and learn some things that way. I will be keeping my schedule flexible as well but the items marked as primary are going to get me there.
Here are some of the sessions I have selected:
OFC-B220 - Stop, Collaborate, and Listen - Jessica DeVita
Jessica is talking about how to think about collaboration even before acquiring tools to do that collaboration. As she says in the description, "Before you start down the path of selecting a tool, you have to determine your organizational readiness and understand the what, why, and how of collaboration systems." With my current job in SharePoint, this is food for thought.
DCIM-B325/326 - The Real-World Guide to Upgrading Your IT Skills AND Your Infrastructure (parts 1 & 2) - Rick Claus, Joey Snow
Are you an IT Pro scared about what "The Cloud" really means for you? As they say in their description, "Two self-proclaimed “Server Huggers” will take you along their journey of how they overcame their apprehension of Cloud technologies to level up their IT Skills. In other words bringing clarity to the role of the IT Professional in a cloud world." I am starting to see where "The Cloud" integrates into my future as an IT Pro but think more folks can get a lot out of this session.
DCIM-B359 - TWC: Pass-the-Hash: How Attackers Spread and How to Stop Them - Mark Russinovich, Nathan Ide
I have heard about this presentation as it was given at the RSA Conference earlier and want to see it myself. Security is a theme for IT Pros in the future, regardless of The Cloud or on-prem. Mark's talks at TechEd always give you the best insights to Security.
WIN-B354 - Case of the Unexplained: Troubleshooting with Mark Russinovich
This session is always full! This session is always fun! I got to attend my first year in Atlanta and Mark returns every year with new cases of the unexplained. He goes through, showing how SysInternals tools were used to find either bugs in products or malware hidden away on user systems. While it is a full house every year, try and get into this one or watch it later.
OFC-B333 - Microsoft SharePoint on Microsoft Azure VM and Virtual Networks: How the Cloud (IaaS) Changed the Way I Work and Improved Customer Productivity - Patrick Heyde
At the same time Mark has his Case of the Unexplained, Patrick is giving his session on SharePoint on Azure IaaS. Knowing that Mark's session will be full, I am giving major consideration on passing it this year for listening to Patrick talk about this topic. As a SharePoint Engineer, I need to understand this as an option for hosting SharePoint to a group/company in an isolated space while the servers are in the cloud.
DCIM-B373 - How IPv6 Impacts Private Cloud - Ed Horley
Sign up for this session now! Go on … go put it in your schedule. IPv6 is coming for all of us and Ed is here to help all Windows Systems Admins understand its impact on us. Ed has written the book on IPv6 for Windows Systems Admins. This is going to be coming sooner than you might imagine so pop in and learn all you can.
Those are a few of my selected sessions. How are you planning your schedule for TechEd in Houston this year? Looking forward to seeing everyone there? I sure am. See you in Houston!
Change is something you cannot stop …
Change impacts you in multiple ways …
Change is just a part of the Information Technology industry …
Change is something IT Pros must embrace or be left behind …
Just over a year ago, I went through a pretty big change. I left the company I was working for to head back to Microsoft to join the on-prem SharePoint Custom Portals team with Microsoft IT. Looking back over that year has seen many changes with both my job, my team and Microsoft IT in general. Right now, we are in a major change around Modern Engineering practices within Microsoft IT. On top of that, SharePoint is undergoing a massive change around Office 365 and SharePoint on-prem with new releases slated for later this year. Change has been a constant companion and one should not expect anything different, especially in the world of IT.
Many people have talked about the change in the world of IT to allow for rapid evolution and growth of systems and teams. One of the names this has been given is "DevOps". Many may argue about what DevOps is and is not but the view that we are taking is one of the better views that I have seen. DevOps is not about tools. DevOps is not about process. DevOps is about philosophy. It is getting the agility and growth by having all aspects of IT working together and allowing evolution cycles to deliver the best services possible for the customer/user. It is not about developers setting up servers like operations teams. It is not about operations teams making changes to code bases. It is the feature team working together in the best possible manner to deliver the best products and focusing on the customers or users. That means that focusing on the live site and user experiences are the key to delivery in this new world. Some are scared by this change but I see this as where IT needs to focus. Money spent on services should be spent on the best possible experiences for the users.
As we are seeing this change, SharePoint continues to drive towards a major change in its own paradigm. SharePoint has been slowly moving from on-prem to the cloud with Office 365. While SharePoint is still entrenched in the on-prem world, new features are being created for Office 365 that are not making their way back to on-prem. Things like Delve and Groups are being built on the Office 365 infrastructure but are likely not going to find their way back to the on-prem version. We might see some more feature parity from Office 365 to on-prem but the Office 365 version will always have more features than on-prem due to the integration that can be done with Exchange and Lync as well as scale and Azure technologies. It shouldn't be a shock to see that products are changing. To see just how much SharePoint and all of Office 365 is changing, you should head on over to http://roadmap.office.com.
Now, in my previous roles, I didn't get to dive into the technology as my job was to be the Service Owner or Director of IT. In the Microsoft IT world, the Service Owner is the "buck stops with me" person for the service. They work with partner teams and customers to ensure the service is delivered to the users. They meet with all the various teams, provide data on the service, talk about the improvements to the service, and represent the team at all levels. Having been a Service Owner in MSIT earlier, I knew the role and the requirements for the position. In many ways, the Service Owner is the human shield between much of the IT bureaucracy and the team they represent. As I said, I have performed this role, both at Microsoft and my role as Director of IT. This can be a bit of a thankless position and if you are doing a good job, things just work.
So let met talk about why I came back to work at Microsoft. One of the things that I got offered by returning to Microsoft was to return in a very technical role as a Senior Service Engineer. My time would be spent working on the technology again. I got to focus and play with technology over the past year. Part of what I got to focus on was SharePoint 2013 infrastructure upgrades, running SharePoint on Azure and preparing for the next version of SharePoint. I was not a Service Owner anymore. This was freeing for me and I have loved the past year. On top of this, I got to work with and for a friend of mine I used to work with on my first stint with Microsoft. She was a good Service Owner in that she was the human shield allowing me to get work done. You might be wondering where all of this is going … Back in January, my Service Owner gave her notice of intent to leave at the end of the month.
I am now the Service Owner as well as being the Senior Service Engineer. I have been working with my peer to determine our roadmap and the future of our service. Being both the engineer and service owner, my time is taken up with more meetings, data gathering, and worrying about live site issues more so than just as the engineer.
I want to thank my friend, Aliya Kahn, for being that human shield for the past year. In just 4 weeks of being in this position, I can see exactly what she did for me and the team. Service ownership is very tough and can take a toll on a person professionally and personally. I will miss her, her jokes, and her optimism on a daily basis. She is missed but change brings opportunities. Here's to those new opportunities.
Many of you might be wondering why I haven't been on much of social media as of late. These new responsibilities of the Service Owner position has been keeping me very busy. I am still trying to figure out my schedule and keeping my sanity, but I will be back online soon.
I am very lucky to know many great people in the IT world. These people are experts in their fields, outspoken about what they know, and love to pass along this knowledge. One of these people is Phoummala Schmitt, aka Exchange Goddess. She is a contributor to the Petri.com website and someone fun to follow on twitter. She started a podcast with two other great IT Experts, Theresa Miller and Melissa Palmer, called Current Status. I have had a few friends appear with them.
Now, let's look back a few months and I get a DM from Phoummala. "Hey, we want you to appear on Current Status to talk about SharePoint." All I could think was, "Is she serious? Is she setting me up for some joke about wanting to talk about SharePoint or are they going to just make fun of me and SharePoint." Knowing Phoummala as I do, I knew that this was not going to be the case, or at least 100% of the case. We setup a time and away we go.
Guess what fans? That show is tonight. You can head over to YouTube and watch it live at 10:00 pm Eastern/7:00 pm Pacific. I will be joining from my hotel room in Dallas (crossing my fingers about bandwidth) to chat with Phoummala, Theresa, and Melissa on SharePoint, Office 365, unicorns, and probably some Azure. Won't you join in and watch?
So I post again to the blog. Many of you might be asking where I have been. Many of you might not care. I can accept both sides of the coin on that. It is something that I have been coming to terms with for a while now.
Before and after MS TechEd 2013 in New Orleans, I had a fire to get this blog up and rising. I thought I wanted to use this as a platform for my passion around technology and trying to energize people around me. I went to TechEd and learned a lot but also got to network with some of my "chosen tribe" of IT Professionals from around the world. Events like TechEd make me really sit back and acknowledge my spot in the world while enjoying myself. Many people disbelieve me when I say that I pay for it out of my own pocket and use PTO to attend. I feel that strongly about the experience you get there and the training offered through the sessions, labs, vendor discussions and testing opportunities. I came home excited and wanting to share that excitement with the world. Then, it happened.
At first, Microsoft pulled the TechNet subscriptions from IT Professionals. I understand that this is a way used by many pirates to get licenses to illegally sell but it is used by both IT Professionals and IT Departments to setup testing environments for the systems they have and future desired systems. If my company did not have our TechNet licensing, we would not have looked at SharePoint 2010 for some of our internal needs nor would we have done anything on Windows Server 2008 or 2008 R2. Luckily, we made monies available to get a MSDN account for that work to continue but other companies may not. The response we get from Microsoft is to use the limited day demos. I am sorry Microsoft, those are not functional enough for companies to create testing environments to test integrations and patching. What became worse was the patching errors that started in August and September. Many products had patches that were rolled back because they damaged environments. If we all had proper testing environments, we could find that out before going to production.
If the TechNet wasn't enough, Microsoft Learning tried to slip out their cancellation of the MCM/MCA certifications on a Friday night before a 3-day holiday weekend. Much has been written about this and many MCM/MCA's are upset to say the least. While I do not hold a MCM or MCA, I was building an education track to get one in SharePoint. Some of you may know that SharePoint is near and dear to my heart. It is an underused technology that gets vilified quickly by users. Many times, the configuration and management of the SharePoint system is what the users hate, not the product itself. But I digress. With this announcement, I put my education and certification plans on hold. I am re-evaluating them as we speak but they are vastly different than when I started.
What I feel through these actions is much like what Rod Trent wrote in his September 2, 2013 piece, "Does Microsoft Hate IT Pros?" and Paul Thurrott wrote in his September 30, 2013 commentary "What's Next for IT Pros?", is Microsoft trying to kill the IT Professional. In a way, yes they are. Microsoft is seeing a new future in the cloud and that IT Professionals should embrace this. In some ways, they should become "cloud developers" using PowerShell to manage systems where the infrastructure is a black box layer they need not worry about. For startups and companies with minimal regulations, that is a wonderful story. But to companies with heavy regulations, like SoX, SEC, HIPAA, Hi-Tech, and such, cloud computing is something that just does not make sense today. I can see that they have something in mind for IT Professionals but they are not saying what and that is the key issue.
They need to communicate to their base users, the IT Professionals. Let us know what is going on, what is coming down the pipe other than just cloud computing. Give us more clarity for that higher level of education. One good thing they have done is things like the Microsoft Virtual Academy. This resource has been a boon for many IT Professionals and I do encourage everyone to run over and check it out. Also Microsoft, remember that while developers can expand your platforms, IT Professionals ensure they get deployed into companies. The free stuff at Build would be nice to see at MS TechEd as well. The Surface offer was a great one but then to see developers coming back with 2 free tablets, that did feel like a solid hit to the stomach. Who ensures that the developers have platforms to develop on? The IT Professionals, that's who.
Now, I have got my words out. It has been 6 months in coming. What I can tell those of you that like to read what I write is that I will be writing again. I hope to write one good article per month that has some length to it. At the same time, I plan to use my blog as a "cheat sheet" for me as well. When I hit a brick wall, I plan to blog how I either worked around or knocked it down. To that end, plan to see a lot of how-to's and reviews as well. I have gotten some fun stuff since July and plan to get more. If you have any ideas, do not hesitate to let me know. I am open for just about anything.