Ready for IT/Dev Connections 2014

imageIt’s almost time to head off to IT/Dev Connections. This year, the conference will take place from September 15-19 in the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, USA. IT/Dev connections is a widely recognized independent, multi-disciplinary conference with tracks for Development, Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server and Windows related topics.

For the Exchange track, I will be co-hosting a session with long-time Exchange MVP and compatriot Jaap Wesselius, on PowerShell Tips & Tricks for Exchange. In 60 minutes we will show and demonstrate some Exchange-related PowerShell tricks, which are immediately usable in the daily life of Exchange admins.

PowerShell Tips and Tricks for Exchange
When: 9/18/2014, 1:00 PM- 2:15 PM
Room: Bluethorn 1/2

Note that Jaap also has a session earlier that day, Autodiscover – What’s the deal, which starts at 9:00 in Bluethorn 1/2 as well.

Other Exchange MVP fellows as well as members of the Product Group are lined up to provide some great content. Information on the sessions in the Exchange track can be found here. It appears you can still register for the event here, use SOCIAL14 for a $200 discount.

When you are attending IT/Dev Connections, do not hesitate to come up and say hi. 

I hope to see you there!

1.000.000 views reached!

1mWhat started out as a pleasant and rewarding journey on November 24th, 2009 reached another milestone today. This blog, containing just over 440 posts, went through the 1 million views mark in the past 24 hours. Together with the 1350 Twitter followers, seeing my small community contributions help you guys (or girls) out is keeping me motivated. A big thanks to all of you and keep coming back!

EighTwOne 2013 Annual Report

Happy new year to all my dear readers and followers. It’s been again a busy and interesting year for various reasons:

  • Becoming an Exchange MVP;
  • MVP Summit 2013 in Seattle;
  • TechEd North America 2013 in New Orleans;
  • (Finally) meeting in person with many of the Exchange fellows and PG and peers at the aforementioned events;
  • The UC Architects podcast increasing popularity;
  • Finding time to write some (popular) scripts which were on the to-do list;
  • Cancellation of the MCM/MCSM certification;
  • Going from 0 abroad travel for business per year to 5 (Denmark, UK, Thailand, USA);
  • After working with mostly local customers in the past few years, participating again in a long-term international project with expats, offshoring and local IT teams.

The end of a year is also a time of lists. I’d like to share with you some of EighTwOne statistics of 2013, in the blog’s 4th year running. The statistics come directly from the site and without additional observations apart from that Exchange 2010 still seems to be highly popular when looking for information.

Apart from the Archives, Versions, Builds and Dates, Schema Versions and Toolkit pages, these were the Top Posts of 2013:

All time Top Posts:

All time Top Scripts:

imageTop 5 visitor countries of 2013:

  • United States (84,869)
  • United Kingdom (23,838)
  • Germany (21,338)
  • Netherlands (15,768)
  • Canada (11,322)

Top 5 referrers of 2013:

  • social.technet.microsoft.com (TechNet forum)
  • exchangeserverpro.com (Paul Cunningham)
  • Twitter
  • blogs.technet.com (Microsoft blogs)
  • community.spiceworks.com (community)

Top 5 search terms of 2013:

  • isinteg exchange 2010
  • exchange versions
  • zimbra vs exchange
  • role based access control
  • msexcheseparamcachesizemax

MVP Global Summit Wrap-Up

Today is the day I returned from my inaugural MVP Global Summit 2013, the one often being tagged the November edition as there were two summits this year. Apart from some discomforts like back issues and jetlag, the summit lived well up to my expectations of being the place to meet fellow (Exchange) MVPs, engage product groups and with regards to the contents presented or discussed (which for obvious reasons I can’t disclose as they are under NDA). Only thing I can mention on the sessions is that the last panel discussion was hilarious as the MVPs turned it into a drinking game where all MVPs took a sip of their beverages when a PG member mentioned “That is great feedback” or “Yammer”. Epic.

The summit was well organized, hotels were great and relatively close to each other and transportation frequent from the hotel to the summit locations on Microsoft campus. Evenings were filled by regional or global events for meeting people or catching up while enjoying food and drinks. The closing party was held in the Seattle Aquarium with great people, good food, music, the Bumbys, caricature drawing, seals and a ferris wheel. And for some reason, all my evenings always ended up with the Exchange and Lync MVPs at the infamous Joey’s. Good times.

MVP Global Summit 2013 UCA

Being one of The UC Architects contributors, I got to meet some of the fellows in real life, like Michael van Hoorenbeeck, Serkan Varoglu (and the missus), Pat Richard, Ståle Hansen, Tim Harrington and Tom Arbuthnot. Other people I got to meet or catch up with – I’ll probably forgot a few – were people like Jeff Guillet, Jason Sherry, Paul Robichaux, Magnus Björk, Siegfried Jagott, J. Peter Bruzzese, Justin Morris, Norbert Klenner, Johan Delimon, Didier van Hoye, Peter de Tender, Ken Lasko, Damian Scoles and Martina Miskovic; the latter two being a first time MVP as well, like myself.

Provided I get re-awarded in October and depending on when it wil take place, I am really looking forward seeing my old and new friends again at the next summit. But first things first, I hope to catch up with some of them at MEC 2014 in March/April, 2014. For now, a big thank you to the MVP Award program, the MVP Global Summit organization, my MVP lead for Benelux and Nordics, William Jansen, and last but not least the product groups for providing great content, interaction and finding time to engage with MVPs.

Note that while I was at the summit, Microsoft announced that Exchange 2013 Service Pack 1 is set for early 2014. It will be part of cross-product SP1 release, as Office 2013 SP1 was also announced for the same timeframe. Major changes to expect in Exchange 2013 SP1, besides the usual fixes and improvements, are support for Windows Server 2012 R2 and Edge server role; the latter being especially of interest to shops who want to standardize on Windows Server 2012 R2 as they will then be able to deploy all Exchange roles using the same OS.

MVP Summit November 2013

image

With receiving the MVP Award in October comes one of the benefits I’ve been looking forward to, should I ever receive it: the opportunity to attend the MVP Global Summit. My employer understands the value of these events and gave their approval, as it takes a week out of my busy schedule. So on November 17th I’ll be on my way to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport for my inaugural MVP Global Summit.

The event is held in Bellevue and at the Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington State, from November 18th to November 21st. The previous MVP Global Summit held in February, 2013, was attended by around 1,400 MVPs; worldwide there are around 4,000 MVPs in around 90 countries.

It will be great opportunity from a learning as well as a networking perspective, as you not only get to participate in in-depth sessions on the current and future versions of your product, but also get to meet the other “rock stars” and Microsoft employees from Product Groups as well.

Unfortunately, the event and all disclosed information or discussions are under strict NDA, so don’t expect me to post or tweet anything disclosed at the event.

For those MVP readers also attending the summit, see you there!

The UC Architects Podcast Ep28

iTunes-Podcast-logo[1]We’re glad to announce the availability of episode 28 of The UC Architects podcast. This is a special episode recorded with a live audience during DevConnections 2013 in Las Vegas.

This episode is hosted by Steve Goodman, Johan Veldhuis, and Michael van Horenbeeck. Special guests are Tony Redmond, Greg Taylor (Microsoft), Jeff Mealiffe (Microsoft) and John Rodriguez (Microsoft).

Topics discussed in this special episode are:

  • MEC is back  – registration is now open, so get signing up! What might await those thinking of going? And with MEC, is there still a gap in the market for conferences like Exchange Connections?
  • Where is the place for on-premises Exchange long-term and how does this affect the Exchange-centric IT pro? What kind of skills will they need in 2-5 years time?
  • Is there a need for top level training and certification for Exchange?
  • Product quality – Is is Exchange a victim of it’s own success?
  • Exchange in the public cloud. Amazon Web Services have released a guide on deploying Exchange on AWS. Does this give more choice to organizations?
  • Questions from the audience

More information on the podcast including references and option to play or download the podcast directly through here or you can subscribe to the podcasts using iTunes, Zune or use the RSS feed.

About
The UC Architects is a bi-weekly community podcast by people with a passion for Unified Communications; our main focus is on Exchange, Lync or related subjects.

2013 Microsoft MVP Award

I am pleased to announce that as of today, I am the recipient of the 2013 Microsoft MVP Award for Exchange Server:

image

MVP awards are given to individuals by Microsoft in recognition of their contributions to the technical community, such as this blog, forums or our very own The UC Architects podcast.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my readers, followers, fellow MVPs (always wanted to say that) and of course the Microsoft employees that have encouraged, helped and supported me over years.

My MVP profile can be found here.

TechNet Subscriptions Changes

In the wake of Microsoft’s announcement to retire TechNet and more recently cancelling the MCM/MCSM/MCA certifications, Microsoft is offering some changes in the TechNet area, in what looks like a move to regain some trust from the community.

After the TechNet retirement announcement, in which Microsoft suggested IT Pros to switch to the far more expensive MSDN subscriptions, use time-bombed eval software or make use of the very limited Virtual Academy and Virtual Labs, the community cried foul which resulted in initiatives like a petition which currently has received over 10,000 signatures (if you haven’t signed yet, please do so).

The changes announced today are published in full here. In short:

  • Non-Volume Licensing program particpating subscribers who were active on September 1st, 2013 who’s subscription expires on or before September 30th, 2014, may extend their subscription for another 90 days for free;
  • 180 day limited previous versions of software will be made available through the Evaluation Center. No details yet on the number of software generations that will be made available.
  • Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCT) will also get a 90 day extension for their TechNet Professional subscription. In addition, a replacement is in the works in which MCT’s get access to non-time-bombed software for instructional/training purposes.

While still short of the original subscription, Microsoft is moving. However, if they can quickly make arrangements for MCTs, why not for IT Professionals and their TechNet subscriptions?

Looking at the way many fellows, myself included, work, that 180 day time-bombed is pretty useless or at least annoying and time consuming (like if I have nothing better to do than to redeploy and reconfigure lab environments).

With MCT nowadays mainly being a registration and fee donation process, I won’t be surprised to see a lot of “paper MCTs” after January, 2015 (September 2014 + 90 days) if the situation stays like this.

What do you think? Are these changes satisfactory?

The UC Architects Podcast Ep27

iTunes-Podcast-logo[1]We’re glad to announce the availability of episode 27 of The UC Architects podcast.

This episode is hosted by Steve Goodman, Pat Richard, Michael van Hoorenbeeck, John Cook, Serkan Varoglu, Tim Harrington, Johan Veldhuis and yours truly. Special guests are Andrew Higginbotham (Exchange MCM), Brian Reid (Exchange MCM, Instructor), and Jeff Guillet (Exchange MCM, MVP).

This is a special episode on the cancellation of the MCM/MCSM and MCA certifications by Microsoft, the impact on the certification market, MCM/MCSMs and those aspiring the certification and to the IT Professional community in general.

Special thanks to Andrew J. Price for some blitz editing.

More information on the podcast including references and a link to download the podcast directly here or you can subscribe to the podcasts using iTunes, Zune or use the RSS feed.

About
The UC Architects is a bi-weekly community podcast by people with a passion for Unified Communications; our main focus is on Exchange, Lync or related subjects.

MCM/MCSM & MCA R.I.P. (Update)

mcsmlogo Still recovering from the announcement to retire TechNet, IT Professionals get dealt another blow by the announcement retirement of the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) programs:

“We are contacting you to let you know we are making a change to the Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, and Microsoft Certified Architect certifications. As technology changes so do Microsoft certifications and as such, we are continuing to evolve the Microsoft certification program. Microsoft will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of October 1, 2013. The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine if there’s a different certification needed for the pinnacle of our program.”
(For the complete e-mail, consult MSFT and MCSM:Messaging trainer Neil Johnson’s blog here).

This announcement is causing quite a stir in the community and those having or aspiring the certifications mentioned. The general response is – I’ll use a less stronger word here – disappointment over the decision and the impression is that, together with the cancellation of TechNet (and perhaps what still lies ahead), this is part of Microsoft’s grand scheme to push their cloud strategy upon us. I can only assume that angry IT professionals mob is considered collateral damage.the-spanish-inquisition-framed

What also seems to frustrate people is the timing and notice period. First, the e-mail (which is the only information available at the moment) was sent on Saturday morning (GMT+1, so still Friday in the US) with labor day coming up on Monday in the US (holiday). Second, rotations are no longer offered as of now and exams will retire per October 1st, 2013. I read some tweets of people set for a rotation in October, receiving a 1 month cancellation notice. It can be real painful if you went to a rotation but still need to take the exam. That seems impossible and is bad PR. That’ll be some interesting e-mail messages and phone calls on Tuesday for @MSLearning, I reckon.

Given the full certification program costs $18k and recertification nearly $14k, apart from pre-reading, study, time and travel invested, some joined – or got employers to send them to MCSM – achieving to become a skilled IT Professional certified at a level which can compete with high level certifications provided by vendors like Cisco, making IT professionals stand out of the crowd, at the price of triennial recertification.Some customers even put in MCSM/MCA certification as a requirement for certain projects; that’s how MCSM/MCA is valued.

Now that total investment is set to expire forever. In what looks like an attempt at downplaying the impact of this, current MCM, MCSM and MCA certified may now to keep their credential and are not required to recertify, which was a requirement of the MCSM program to stay certified. But to be honest, how is an “MCM:Exchange 2007” certification valued by customers in 2013 when there are products of 2 newer generations?

Some responses from the community; as you can see, it doesn’t only hurt the Exchange and Lync professionals:

What are your thoughts on the MCM/MCSM/MCA retirement? Let me know in the comments.

Someone from the SQL community opened up an item on Connect where you can vote to keep MCSM. When you disagree with the termination of MCSM/MCA, let your voice be heard there as well.

Update (30aug): Tim Sneath, Sr. Director at MS Learning, provided a response on the decision to retire MCM/MCSM and MCA certifications in the comments section here.

Update (7Sep): The Connect item has been removed due to “trolling” per request of the original poster, Jen Stirrup. So, you can’t vote anymore and the feedback from the community on the decision – including Tim Sneath’s response – is now unavailable. You can find a cached copy of the page here and a copy of Sneath’s integral response here.

Update (10Sep): Apparently there was a (250 capped!) conference call yesterday, where MS claimed the program wasn’t delivering up to expectations (of MS Learning). Going after the article, it was more of Tim Sneath monologue as MCM/MCSM/MCA weren’t allowed to put anything on the table. What was announced was the following:

  • Exam offerings are extended for addional 90 days (December);
  • Refunds for those who have taken courses in order to achieve MCM/MCSM/MCA certification;
  • Preservation of course material until 2016.