My take on Sydney TechEd 2014

This was the first time I was able to attend the famous Microsoft event TechEd which this year was hosted in Sydney, along side Melbourne, differing from previous years of being hosted in Brisbane.

My focus on the event going in was to learn about Office 365 from an IT Pro perspective, and any other Server and Azure aspects. In this post, I will summerise my take from the event and what I understand to be Microsoft's focus for the market and what it wants it customers and partners to focus on.

Day 1

Azure Announcement

To kick everything off, Microsoft announced that Azure has now live datacentres in Australia, and now a total of 19 regions of data center for the cloud service. Local services answers problems with off-shore data storage and can now be stored within Australia. Also, ExpressRoute allows customer to gain a direct fiber connect to Azure for further security, matching the AWS DirectConnect service.

Office 365 - Deployment and client on-boarding

In the morning my first two sessions I attended were focus of Office 365 deployment in a business environment and using Office 365 to streamline on-boarding of clients.

The session on deployment was simple in that it aim to "debunk" myths about Office 365 in a business and enterprise environment. The speakers Ben Fletcher and Yoni Kirsh went over common misconceptions of Office 365 regarding deployment, control and usage in the workplace.

Familiar misconceptions included that Office 365:
  • couldn't be controlled (ie. Group Policy) like that of the standard Office offering. Completely false and there are Office 2013 GPO extension that will work with Office
  • couldn't be used offline, which it totally will
  • couldn't be used in a shared computer or Terminal Server type environment. Using a customised install, Office 365 can be used in a shared environment allowing users to "carry" their license with them.
Some point I felt were repeated but the essential items were covered.

With the FastTrack onboard sesssion, this was very much a Sales or Pre-Sales conversation which Microsoft were again advertising an offer to help clients and customers make the transition to Office 365 and would help with migrations. This was a repeat for me from a Sales session at the Microsoft HQ I went to recently.

 Lync and Cloud-ready Enterprise

This session for me was a bit of a let down (and I wasn't the only one) and saw this to be more a pitch from Telstra than a tech presentation. The presenter was a rep from Telstra on Enterprise grade telephony system and enterprise voice system. The general theme of this session that without a enterprise-grade, high speed WAN network, Lync voice in the enterprise was still not quite there yet.
But the other message here was that it was attempting to replace conventional phone systems with cloud solution that aren't supported yet by even Microsoft. So the whole thing was a bit of a downer, not very technical at all.

Hitachi and System Center with Private Cloud

This was another session where a vendor was showing off a product, not showcasing the technical side of things I felt. Hitachi UCP works to extend the capability of Microsoft System Center for those managing private cloud data centers with extensive monitoring and availability software. While it was pretty comprehensive, I personally didn't find value in this as my focus is to find solutions to utilitize Azure and AWS technologies and reduce private cloud, or purchase hardware scenarios.

Azure Active Directory and Cloud DMZ

The final two sessions had more technical focus on  moving SOME of your existing on-premise services to Azure. First off, Azure Active Directory or AAD. This demonstrated how you could sync accounts between on-prem Active Directory and AAD. This provided end users with means of accessing internal systems and resource capabilities (like account management) from the cloud using single account credentials. Aaron Whittaker (from MelbourneIT) spoke about this from the experience from doing projects which involved the very scenario allowing him to provide first hand expertise on the subject while providing detailed video demo of performing the setup. Overall I found this session very interesting.

Lastly, this session focused on moving services that would normally reside in the DMZ section of the network, or Perimeter Network, and moving to the cloud to expand availability and increase security. This made sense in many ways where you would move services like Web, public DNS, and perhaps remote access services to the cloud. Orin Thomas provide guide demo on setting up networking and services in Azure to set that up and access to manage firewall environments to provide business networks with greater security.

Finishing Day 1 was a simply meet-n-greet with drinks and food which I found a good end to the day.

Day 2

I will say that I got less out of Day 2 despite I think having more technical focus than Day 1 being a lack of relevance on what we use at the office, not a reflection on the event.

Azure IaaS

This session was good in that it focused on what you could achieve with hosting VMs and infrastructure in Azure and the community availability in the service. With pre-created VMs and community VMs allows you to almost achieve anything  with Azure for IaaS.

Monitoring Virtualisation with System Center

Here the focus was heavily on System Center and Hyper-V system, both of which we don't use at the office (we are mainly a VMware business). I can't say that I really paid attention for this one.


With our company focusing a lot of energy in Office 365 for business, one thing that comes with it is Yammer. The private social network for business, or the Enterprise Faccebook. I went to this session hoping to learn some new things that weren't maybe obvious. I didn't. Essentialy, when you have Yammer, make sure you are posting and commenting on everything.


The last two sessions I attended comprised of using PowerShell for Hyper-V management and achiving Desire State Configuration through PS scripting. While again we don't use Hyper-V where I work, the PowerShell lesson was still engaging. Leandro Carvalho was engaging in that he repeatidly made it a point that he was a IT Pro and hated coding and scripting, but loved how easy PowerShell could be for managing Hyper-V and deploying/managing VMs with one-line commands. And he proved this with a demo which has inspired me to learn more and attempt it more in my work..

The Desire State Configuration was far more detailed and script orientated, but the idea was the same that you could achieve more through PowerShell quicker than manually or GUI.

One big thing for fellow Sys. Admins and IT Pro: if you don't start learning PowerShell now, you will fall behind. And that was a big message from Microsoft and how they are gearing future releases of the Server OS.

Free Stuff

As with all TechEds there was free stuff, but not like other years. No backpack for one. Instead everyone got:
  • Plantronics RIG Headsets
  • Office 365 Home 1 Year Subscription
  • $300 Azure Credit
  • $25 Microsoft Store credit
  • Food and drink
  • And whatever else you could nick from the tables

In the end

For my first time at TechEd it was hit and miss with the sessions but overall I enjoyed it. Where a session might not have provided, I found myself meeting and talking with others about common interests and sharing stories, whether it was in person or over Twitter. Just for the social aspect alone, I look forward to next year.


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