Microsoft Ignite 2017. Orlando Florida. September 2017
It’s been a week indeed. This post might be humorous, and it might not be. My brain is still re-assembling after a busy week and finally getting some much-needed sleep. This is a rambling post, so I won’t blame you for skipping it (TL/DR), but if you’re ready, here goes…
I flew into Orlando on Sunday. As I left, my cat gave me the finger and my dog took a dump on the floor near my suitcase, which is how she lets me know she’ll miss me. All good. My air travel frequency had died down since July, but I was happily surprised that it was one of the first flights in a while without a single screw-up. In fact, we arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule. I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel, which was very very nice, and the staff couldn’t have been more nice. The flight back home was uneventful as well, and I arrived at midnight to a tiny little airport with my wife waiting in the car outside.
The Techy Stuff
There was a lot to absorb this year at Ignite. There were plenty of announcements, rumors, corrected rumors, re-corrected rumors, rumors about corrected rumors, and some incredible events that played out, which I had no idea would happen.
There was plenty of discussion about Configuration Manager, the new Intune/EMS capabilities, and co-management of devices. There were also quite a few sessions and discussions around Windows AutoPilotWindows AutoPilot, and Automatic Redeployment, as well as Tenant-Locking. There was plenty going on about Azure Cloud Shell (PowerShell), SQL Server 2017 for Linux, updates to Azure Automation, updates to Intune and EMS, Office 365, SharePoint, a new infrastructure platform for Skype for Business, and the big news about Teams moving into a central role.
OVERALL: The sessions I attended were all very well done. Even with the occasional glitches, everyone recovered quickly and kept moving without a hiccup. The audiences seemed to be on board with the topics, content and demos as well.
Some interactions that stuck in my mind:
- Leaving the first AutoPilot session to speak with the Lenovo folks at their expo booth, and the “device management guru” said “No. We’re not committed to AutoPilot, but we are evaluating the benefits and potential.” Then the next day, after session 2 I stopped back for a follow-up and he said “Oh, yeah, we’re in.” Must have got a delayed memo.
- One training services vendor rep at the expo kept repeating “we’re not the Toyota of training, we’re the gold-plated Lexus of training.” I immediately went into blank stare mode.
- I had a great conversation with the SQL Server 2017 folks about the possibility of someday, somewhere, somehow, that we might see support for automating Maintenance Plans via PowerShell. Not yet, it seems. But there are ways around it with duct tape and chewing gum.
- Nice discussion with the Fujitsu folks about their liquid-cooled (immersed) server rack. The best part was the incredible language barrier. Note to this vendor, smart as they may be, try to add some staff that speak the native language of the conference location, wherever that may be. Example:
- Me: “Have you calculated the return rate to break-even point between air-cooled and liquid cooled?“
- Them: “Yes, it is liquid.”
- Me: “How much power does the coolant pump draw compared with fans?“
- Them: “Yes, it is liquid.“
- Takeaway: Cleaner components due to no air-flow dust accumulation, and lower power consumption per time-unit compared with air-cooling fans. The rack itself is smaller due to not having air-flow channels or fans. The trade-offs include increased purchase cost and weight, as well as added space for the pump unit.
- A rambling Twitter thread with David James about where the line between “big” and “small” customer device-management environments might exist, and the ramifications of how best to manage devices in each realm. More on that another time/post.
- The “deep dive” sessions on Windows Server 2016 network services changes, BranchCache/PeerCaching by Andreas Hammarskjold, and Windows Deployment and Servicing by Ami Casto, Johan Arwidmark, Mikael Nystrom, and Michael Niehaus, were all indeed “deep”, and well-worth pushing the brain as hard as possible to keep up, let alone absorb the information fire hose. If you watch nothing else from Ignite, at least check these sessions out.
- I didn’t make it to any Mark Russinovich sessions, but I did catch a few by Don Jones and Jeffrey Snover.
- I missed a few sessions I really wanted to attend, due to conflicts with other sessions, nagging work-related phone calls, emails, and Teams chatting, etc. Such as two PowerShell sessions by Stephen Owen. But I was fortunate and honored to meet him in person as well as his wonderful wife, before the week was over. So I can’t complain.
- Other sessions I attended in Windows Servicing, Azure, Office 365 (Microsoft 365 now), SharePoint, Teams, PowerBI, Containers, and PowerShell were all very good. I can’t wait for everything to get posted for viewing online.
The Semi-Techy Stuff
My daytime brain power was really really off this year. After weeks of finally getting settled into a consistent exercise and sleep routine, even with work travel, I suffered a setback that week. I was not an interesting person to converse with during the day. At night I felt fairly normal, or abnormally normal. Or normally abnormal. Eh.
Until the closing Friday, I averaged maybe 3 hours of sleep each night. The conference center was kept at a nice and cozy 48 degrees F. And the combination of insufficient sleep, forgetting to pack long pants and long-sleeve shirts, an unbalanced diet, inconsistent caffeine and hydration intake, and random work-related emails, along with frequent offensive messages from insane coworkers and former coworkers, left me in a zombie state. At least I didn’t do this.
Quite a few people approached me, all very friendly, and I tried my best to be friendly and talkative, but my brain kept saying inside, “Hey dumb-ass, you know how you didn’t go to bed until 3am and then got up at 6am? Yeah, I’m not doing that shit anymore. Let’s find a nice hard surface to make you do a face-plant.”
I watched the new Jerry Seinfeld show on Netflix. At one point he commented on being able to speak to a group, but not an individual. That’s exactly how I felt that week. It was very surreal.
Some years ago, I used to do a fair amount of public-ish speaking. I say public-ish because it was mostly to captive audiences (corporatey stuff). I did speak at one CAD vendor mini-conference back in 1998, to a room of about 500, and it was a blast. If I have an agenda, I can ramble to a crowd, but ad lib not so much. Anyhow, I got a case of decent wine, and a Chinese-made Swiss army knife as a token of appreciation. Not sure what happened to the knife.
I have found, through quasi semi pseudo scientific research, that it’s not so much how MUCH sleep I get, but WHEN I get that sleep. Even a shifting of sleep-wake periods by a half-hour can throw my entire pea-sized brain into a woodchipper. My normal sleep cycle is 2 A.M. to 9 A.M. (my company and most of my customers are in the Pacific time zone, but I live in Eastern time zone, so it makes my neighbors really curious). During the conference my sleep cycle shifted to 3 A.M. to 7:30 A.M., and yes, my math also suffered.
After each day I would try to get a power nap in. Usually, I’m great at power naps. My dad taught me the trick and it’s always worked. However, it only works when people don’t call your phone just when you get your heart rate down.
The Personal Stuff
Some of the other interesting moments…
- Getting to meet amazing people like Stephen Owen, Ami Casto, Johan Arwidmark, Mikael Nystrom, Andreas Hammarskjold, Maurice Daly, and Jordan Benzing
- A conversation with a valet at the hotel. Just a cool exchange of funny stuff and both of us went our separate ways in a great mood.
- A two hour late-night conversation with George, a colleague who shares many of the same life experiences as I: marriage, dysfunctional families, cancer, brain tumors, the effects of sleep and diet, religion, politics, work stuff, and so on. I live in an exceptionally red area of a red state, so the opportunities to have a rather unbiased discussion are few. Anyhow, it was fantastic.
The Random Stuff
- Compared with Ignite 2016, I had nothing as unusual or random during the after-hours time this year.
- I was also reminded of something a homeless guy said to me at a conference in Vegas, back in my Autodesk days: He patted my arm when I was standing on a corner during a lunch break, and when I turned he said “you might be a nobody going nowhere, but it’s getting there that matters. Don’t forget to pay attention to getting there.” Then he tried to sell me a plastic water bottle for a dollar. But it was the thought that counts.
- I was very much caught off-guard by people wanting to meet me at the conference this year. I wasn’t expecting that at all, which some found to be surprising. While I appreciate the attention, I wasn’t ready for it either. So, I hope that if you did run into me that you allow me to do better next time. If there is a next time.
- I heard quite often that people think I’m some sort of “weirdness-magnet”; that I somehow attract unusual events, but I don’t think that’s true. I suspect that I just notice small things more often than most others do. Human and social idiosyncrasies. For example, standing in a grocery store checkout line, waiting in a doctor’s office, or riding a bus. I typically stop to talk with people who are normally ignored in our society: The people who give directions at the conferences, store clerks, bus drivers, hotel staff, airline staff, TSA agents (well, sometimes), police officers, homeless people, random people, Uber and Lyft drivers; anyone who can’t run fast enough to escape my death ray of chatty-ness. The stuff that most people don’t see while staring at their phones. Basically: I’m really not that special.
And now I have to re-bond with my dog. She’s mad at me again.