Thoughts after Microsoft TechEd 2010 New Orleans

Like a storm, TechEd 2010 came and went pretty quickly and brought with it a thundering roar of activity from all of the vendors and partners and gurus all fighting to highlight their message through the creative use of Twitter, $2 bills, Ducati’s, Treasure Chests, and attractive people.  Here’s a nice collection of photo’s from somebody who goes by Sektormedia.

Here were some highlights of the New Orleans event for me.

The Location:

Compared to last year’s Los Angeles location and the ole conference standby Las Vegas, I think New Orleans is a great location for the events.  It’s got a huge (albeit aging) conference center and loads of places to see and things to do.  Unlike Vegas, it has some fascinating history and a culture and lots of great music.   I haven’t been to the city in about 10 years, and I’m amazed that each and every night, people on Bourbon Street party like Lindsay Lohan.  It’s really a surreal street, almost like a different planet, and when you leave it and jump on Canal Street you return back to a somewhat normal city with somewhat normal smells.  In the French quarter, the food was great.  I was treated to a fine meal at Cochon and had a nice meal with a large group at Mr. B’s where I had my first profiteroles.   Wow they were good.

The locals seemed to have mostly recovered from Katrina (at least the ones I met) and the latest disaster (oil) didn’t seem to faze them until you ask them where to get decent seafood.  One cab driver said he wouldn’t dare eat the seafood these days… too bad.  New Orleans really needs a break.

EMC Presence:

Booth:
We had a great theme that reflected the larger EMC messaging around Private Cloud and had lots of traffic and lots of questions… what is the private cloud?  Tell me about VPLEX…   90% of the time I was describing the Private Cloud and VPLEX.   There was a ton of traffic for all other areas of the booth as well.

Sessions:

  • Txomin Barturen and the Hyper-V Scalability Session – huge Hyper-V clusters
  • Txomin Barturen with Elden Christenson and the Geographically Dispersed Clustering session – automatic multi-site failovers
  • Brian Cote and the Exchange Archiving Panel Discussion – SourceOne is designed from ground up for Exchange and SharePoin
  • Dustin Smith and the Exchange Masters Panel Discussion – EMC knows Exchange

Things I learned:
The things you can do with SQL and a few developers is pretty amazing.  A couple of us played an XBOX that was connected to SQL Report Services and PerformancePoint and while we raced around the track, spectators could watch our acceleration, braking, average speed and about 10 other custom metrics – all plotted real-time on a big HD display.  Although we had fun racing around, it made you think about the power of real-time analytics that could be applied to various other industries.  A great demo, although the feel of the steering wheel reminded me of a 1985 CJ5 jeep I used to drive around in high school.  Anytime you hit a bump, there was about 30 degrees of freedom to the left and right.

Along the same lines in terms of visual eye-candy, an experienced SharePoint admin also gave an amazing session about how she put together a really consolidated view of a 19 prison in Alabama (Folsom County Prison was included in there for you Johnny Cash fans).    She used every possible connection point that you could imagine into SharePoint:

  • Outlook email invitations were tracked and meeting attendees were recorded in a central location
  • Agenda items from each meeting were tracked and saved for years
  • Dashboards were created to highlight the most significant items for a variety of roles (staff, warden, analytics, just to name a few).
  • And the whole thing looked great – way better than just a place for dumping files, it was a place where you were given information that matter to you and she made it easy for anyone to get the reports, metrics, and data they might need to do their job.  Teams don’t make portals like that, that is the power of one well-trained person being empowered to deliver results.

Great plug for EMC’s Replication Enabler for Exchange
Ross Smith spoke in his session about EMC being the first and only company to provide Exchange 2010 Third Party Synchronous Replication API Support.  We’ve done it through a product called the Replication Enabler for Exchange .. it’s a free plug-in for MirrorView or RecoverPoint.  What is the point?  It replaces native DAG log-shipping (asynchronous, LAN-based) with synchronous block-based storage replication (SAN-based).    This allows customers a better option for Exchange 2010 DR if they already have an existing investment in SAN, or who would like to receive the benefits of synchronous replication (zero data loss).  Also many customers want to have one DR product/strategy for all of their applications, and not one DR product/strategy per application.  It’s all about choices.    If you are a Symmetrix customer we have a product called AutoStart which has been updated to provide the same functionality.

Odd Stuff: Exchange Team’s Creating New Definition of the Term Thin Provisioning
There was a session that talked about Exchange 2010 and how they not recommending Thin Provisioning – which they stated is difficult and operationally complex.  I’ve talked about thin provisioning (EMC’s term for this is virtual provisioning) and the benefit of having wide-striped pools of disk – which can greatly simplify configurations and add a huge value where storage needs will grow to unpredictably large amounts over time.

A few excellent use cases for thin provisioning:

  • Exchange Mailbox databases
  • SharePoint Content databases
  • Exchange Archive databases (separating into different DB is new in Exchange 2010 SP1)

So am I wrong, where did I fall off track??   Why would I recommend thin when the Exchange team does not??

Well it turns out we are talking about two different things:

Exchange team definition:

You can start with less mailbox servers and fewer databases than you actually need! (they called this “thin provisioning”).    Then, over time, you can add more servers, and bigger databases, and then move mailboxes (move mailboxes!) to grow the storage to it’s full capacity.  huh?  Adding Less Mailboxes Now and Adding More Later is not thin provisioning.  It’s called “normal”.   Come on guys, you aren’t doing the industry any favors by making up definitions for terms that already have a definition.

Will the Real Thin Provisioning Please Stand Up?

EMC definition for thin provisioning:

Create a large pool of disk for use by your applications. Start it small and let it grow over time.  When the space gets used up, expand it online, non-disruptively.  Repeat as necessary.

There’s always something eye-catching and fun at TechEd, and I’m always happy to go – and always happy to point out the differences in the messaging between our company and the other schools of thought.


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