As things wind down after a week full of excitement and – yes, in some cases – emotion, MEC 2014 is coming to an end. Lots of attendees have already left Austin and those who stayed behind are sharing a few last drinks before making their way back home as well. As good as MEC 2012 in Orlando was, MEC 2014 was E-P-I-C. Although some might state that the conference had missed its start – despite the great Dell Venue Pro 8 tablet giveaway – you cannot ignore the success of the rest of the week.

With over 100 unique sessions, MEC was packed with tons and tons of quality information. To see that amount of content being delivered by the industry’s top speakers is truly an unique experience. After all, at how many conferences is the PM or lead developer presenting the content on a specific topic? Also, Microsoft did a fairly good job of keeping a balance between the different types of sessions by having a mix of Microsoft-employees presenting sessions that reflected their view on things (“How things should work / How it’s designed to be”) and MVPs and Masters presenting a more practical approach (“How it really works”).

I also like the format of the “unplugged” sessions where you could interact with members of the Product Team to discuss a variety of topics. I believe that these sessions are not only very interesting (tons of great information), but they are also an excellent way for Microsoft to connect with the audience and receive immediate feedback on what is going out “out there”. For example, I’m sure that the need for some better guidance or maybe a GUI for Managed Availability is a message that was well conveyed and that Microsoft should use this feedback to maybe prioritize some of the efforts going into development. Whether that will happen, only time will tell..

This edition wasn’t only a success because of the content, but also because of the interactions. It was good to see some old friends and make many new ones. To  me, conferences like this aren’t only about learning but also about connecting with other people and networking. There were tons of great talks – some of which have given me food for thought and blog posts.

Although none of them might seem earth-shattering, MEC had a few announcements and key messages; some of which I’m very happy to see:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication and SSO are coming to Outlook before the end of the year. On-premises deployments can expect support for it next calendar year.
  • Exchange Sizing Guidance has been updated to reflect some of the new features in Exchange 2013 SP1:
    • The recommended page file size is now 32778 MB if your Exchange server has more than 32GB of memory. It should still be a fixed size and not managed by the OS.
    • CAS CPU requirements have increased with 50% to accommodate for MAPI/HTTP. It’s still lower than Exchange 2010
  • If you didn’t know it before, you will now: NFS is not supported for hosting Exchange data.
  • The recommended Exchange deployment uses 4 database copies, 3 regular 1 lagged. FSW preferably in a 3rd datacenter.
  • Increased emphasis on using a lagged copy.
  • OWA app for Android is coming
  • OWA in Office 365 will get a few new features including Clutter, People-view and Groups. No word if and when this will be made available for on-premises customers.

By now, it’s clear that Microsoft’s development cycle is based on a cloud-first model which – depending on what your take on things is – makes a lot of sense. This topic was also discussed during the Live recording of The UC Architects, I recommend you have a listen at it (as soon as it’s available) to hear how The UC Architects, Microsoft and the audience feels about this. Great stuff!

It’s also interesting to see some trends developing/happening. “Enterprise Social” is probably one of the biggest trends at the moment. With Office Graph being recently announced, I am curious to see how Exchange will evolve to embrace the so-called “Social Enterprise”. Features like Clutter, People View and Groups are already good examples of this.

Of course, MEC wasn’t all about work. There’s also time for fun. Lots of it. The format of the attendee party was a little atypical for a conference. Usually all attendees gather at a fairly large location. This time, however, the crowd was shattered across several bars in Rainey Street which Microsoft had rented off. Although I was a little skeptical at first, it rather worked really well and had tons of fun.

Then there was the UC Architects party which ENow graciously offered to host for us. The Speakeasy rooftop was really amazing and the turnout even more so. The party was a real success and I’m pretty confident there will be more in the future!

I’m sure that in the course of the next few weeks, more information will become available through the various blogs and websites as MVPs, Masters and other enthusiasts have digested the vast amount of information distributed at MEC.

I look forward to returning home, get some rest and start over again!

Au revoir, Microsoft Exchange Conference. I hope to see you soon!

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