“Conference season” is about to start!

Every year in September, right after the summer holidays, there is an unofficial start of a new “work season”. For some this unofficial start moment comes a bit earlier, for others a bit later. Some even say their work season lasts the entire year… But that’s besides the point. The fall traditionally also heralds a myriad of tech conferences, each fighting for a moment in the spotlights. With Microsoft’s massive Ignite conference moving in from May, this year’s “conference season” promises to be exceptionally busy.

I’ve always liked going to conferences. Although content is important, having the opportunity to talk to peers and interact with the speakers (experts) is something I’ve learned to value more and more with each conference I attended in the past.

This year, I’m lined up to speak at a bunch of conferences again. If you have read some of my previous announcements, you’ll notice that I’m speaking at a pretty much the same conferences as before. Continue reading to find out why!

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Speaking at IT/DEV Connections & UK UC Day

It’s been a while since I last wrote an article… Although there’s no excuses, I have been pretty busy lately…

First of all, I’ve been ‘heads down’ preparing version 2 of the “Office 365 for Exchange Professionals” ebook.
As Microsoft recently announced, there have been a LOT of updates and those need to be reflected in the book too!
New items include information on the new hybrid configuration wizard, modern authentication, Azure AD Connect and so much more… As Tony mentioned on his blog, we plan on releasing “v2” at IT/DEV Connections in September. If you are attending IT/DEV Connection,  Tony, Paul and I will be there too. Make sure to come and talk to us. We’d love to hear your feedback on the book.

This brings me to the conference itself. This year, I am lucky enough to be speaking there again. IT/DEV Connections is without a doubt one of my favorite tech conferences. It runs at a smaller scale than e.g. Ignite, but there’s a TON of great sessions, all led by even greater speakers! The fact that you aren’t overrun by ten thousands of other attendees allows you to interact with all the speakers. If not during the sessions, there are plenty of opportunities at the evening events or in hallway! You still have time to register, so if you are looking to attend a conference this ‘season’, IT/DEV Connections is what I would recommend. As usual, the conference is held in Las Vegas from September 14 – 17, in the beautiful Aria hotel.

I have two sessions this year. One about Identity Management and Authentication in the online Microsoft world. Although I still have a lot of work to do for my sessions (making sure I provide you with the latest information!), I can share with you that I will also be talking about Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport. This session is on Thursday at 8:30 AM.

The second session is somewhat different from what you’ve usually see me present about. On Wednesday at 11AM, I will be speaking about automation. The idea is not to be giving a theoretical session about how e.g. PowerShell DSC is supposed to work or what PowerShell is; other people are probably better suited for that! It won’t be a level 400 coding session either. I’m no developer and I’m also not a PowerShell guru! It’s rather a hands-on, real-world approach about how you can use all sorts of tools (mainly PowerShell though, but also e.g. Orchestrator) to automate simple and more complex tasks. The idea for this session grew from visiting customers all over the world and seeing how they automated service tasks, onboarding etc… By the end of the session you should have picked up some ideas about what can be useful to you and how to best approach and build it!

Later in September, I will be joining another fantastic line-up of speakers at the UK UC Day in Birmingham. This is the first time this one-day conference is held, but the organisation did not spare any efforts. A lot of speakers from IT/DEV Connections will be there and it’s good to see some speakers join us from the US too! This time, I will be speaking about hybrid deployments in all its glory. Single-forest, Multi-Forest, AAD Connect and many other things will be discussed. A high-paced session, but definitely for you if you are in a hybrid deployment, you are looking to configure a hybrid connection or you’re a consultant that deals a lot with hybrid!

ENow will be represented at both conferences as well! In the UK we are joined by the team of Essentials. Make sure to stop at our booth and have a conversation! We look forward to another great conference and an even greater Scheduled Maintenance party!

Looking forward to seeing you there!




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ITPROceed as alternative to the missing TechDays in Belgium this year?

Typically, this time of the year Microsoft would organize its TechDays: a multi-day technical conference with tracks for both IT Pro’s and developers. This year, however, there’s no TechDays. This leaves a gap in the Belgian “conference market”. To my knowledge, TechDays was attended by several hundred if not thousand attendees every year. Speakers from all over the place would come over and present on the latest and the greatest of Microsoft. But in general there would be a lot of local speakers involved too.

Recently the developers community announced their “Tech-o-rama” conference which would both serve as a replacement for the Community Days and somewhat fill the gap for TechDays. This is exactly what the IT PRO Community had in mind when launching the ITPROceed initiative.

ITPROCeed is a community-driven one-day conference, to be held in Antwerp on June 12th. Although not officially organized by Microsoft, the conference has certainly the potential to reach a wide audience as TechDays did. Here’s why:


As mentioned earlier, there won’t be (many) other opportunities to learn from the experts first hand in Belgium, this year. As such, it seems like the perfect opportunity to catch up: for free.

The conference itself is divided into 4 tracks: SQL, System Center, Azure and Office Servers & Services. More than enough to create a balanced schedule with, don’t you think? It’s not only a good way to learn about new technology and features, it’s also great to interact with all of the experts who will be present that day.


The speaker-lineup is phenomenal, in my opinion. A lot of Belgian MVPs will speaking at this event and many of them have spoken at various international conferences before. To give you just a few of these names: Mike Resseler, Alexandre Verkinderen, Johan Delimon, Dieter Vanhoye, Thomas Vochten, Ruben Nauwelaers, Pieter Vanhove, Nico Sienaert, Tim De Keukelaere, Donald Hessing and many, many more. Every single one of them are experts in their field.

So, if you haven’t subscribed yet, I strongly suggest you do so soon. It doesn’t happen every day that you get the ability to witness all this for free (in case you didn’t get it the first time). I for one, know what I will be doing that day…! http://www.itproceed.be/

See you there!


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This was MEC 2014 (in a nutshell)

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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Why MEC is the place to be for Exchange admins/consultants/enthusiasts!

In less than a month, the 2014 edition of the Microsoft Exchange Conference will kick off in Austin, Texas. For those who haven’t decided if they will be going yet, here’s some reasons why you should.

The Value of Conferences

Being someone who frequently attends conferences, I *think* I’m in a position I can say that conferences provide great value. Typically, you can get up-to-date with the latest (and greatest) technology in IT.

Often, the cost for attending a conference are estimated higher than a traditional 5-day course. However, I find this not to be true – at least not all the time. It is true that – depending on where you fly in from – Travel & Expenses might add up to the cost. However, I think it is a good thing to be ‘away’ from your daily work environment. That typically leaves one less tempted to be pre-occupied with work rather than soaking in the knowledge shared throughout the conference. The experience is quite different from a training course. Conferences might not provide you the exact same information as in a training, but you’ll definitely be able to learn more (different) things. Especially if your skills in a particular product are already well-developed, conferences are the place to widen your knowledge.

On top of that, classroom trainings don’t offer you the same networking capabilities. In case of MEC, for instance, there will be a bunch of Exchange MVPs and Masters who you can talk to. All of them very knowledgeable and I’m sure they won’t mind a good discussion on Exchange! This could be your opportunity to ask some really difficult questions or just hear what their opinion is on a specific issue. Sometimes the insights of a 3rd person can make a difference…!

It is also the place where all the industry experts will meet. Like I mentioned earlier, there will be Masters and MVPs, but also a lot of people from within Microsoft’s Exchange Product Group will be there. What better people are there to ask your questions to?

Great Content

Without any doubt, the Exchange Conference will be the place in 2014 to learn about what’s happening with Exchange. Service Pack 1 – or Cumulative Update 4, if you will – has just been released and as you might’ve read there are many new things to discover.

At the same time, it’s been almost 1.5 years since Exchange 2013 has been released and there are quite some sessions that focus on deployment and migration. If you’re looking to migrate shortly, or if you’re a consultant migrating other companies, I’m sure you’ll get a lot of value from these sessions as they will be able to provide you with first-hand information. When MEC 2012 was held – shortly before the launch of Exchange 2013 – this wasn’t really possible as there weren’t many deployments out there.

Sure, one might argue that the install base for Exchange 2013 is still low. However, if you look back at it, deployments for Exchange 2010 only really kicked of once it was past the SP1 era. And I expect nothing else to happen for Exchange 2013.

As a reference: here’s a list of sessions I definitely look forward to:

And of course the “Experts unplugged” sessions:

I realize that’s way too many sessions already and I will probably have to make a choice which ones I will be able to attend…
But the fact that I have so many only proves that there’s so much valuable information at MEC…

Great speakers

I’ve had a look through who is speaking at MEC and I can only conclude that there is a TON of great speakers. All of which I am sure they will make it worth the wile. While Microsoft-speakers will most likely give you an overview of how things are supposed to work, many of the MVPs have sessions scheduled which might give you a slight less biased view of things. The combination of both makes for a good mix to get you started on the new stuff and broaden your knowledge of what was already there.


Austin, Texas. I haven’t been there myself. But based on what Exchange Master Andrew Higginbotham blogged a few days ago; it looks promising!

Microsoft has big shoes to fill. MEC 2012 was a huge success and people are expecting the same – if not better – things from MEC 2014. Additionally, for those who were lucky enough to attend the Lync Conference in Vegas earlier this month, that is quite something MEC has to compete with. Knowing the community and the people behind MEC, I’m pretty confident this edition will be EPIC.

See you there!


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Why I think you should attend IT Connections in Las Vegas

You might probably wonder why I’m writing this article; why on Earth would I try to convince you to attend this conference? Well, first let me start by telling you that it’s NOT because I’m one of the speakers ~ though if that were a reason to attend, I would be flattered if that would be the reason. Anyway, back to reality now…

I consider myself a frequent conference attendee. As such I’ve attended multiple conferences over the past few years. Despite what you might think, I did not attend TechEd Europe or North America. Although they’re definitely on my “to-do” list, I usually prefer smaller scale conferences like the recently demised “The Experts Conference”.

So what is it that makes me want to promote this conference above the many others that exist out there?

Just like you, if I spend my money on a conference, I’m looking to get the most value out of it. This means that I need to get valuable content and I need to be able to socialize with like-minded peers. I prefer having an international crowd – that way you get a more diverse view on things. After all, how things are handled in the US can be very different from how certain IT related problems are dealt with in e.g. Europe; if at all the same business problems exist.

How do you know if content will be good? Actually, you don’t really know until you’ve attended. However, there are some benchmarks which can help you identify if content is likely to be good. And I can assure you, the signs for IT Connections are good. Heck, they’re even great! First, let’s have a look at some of the speakers who will speak at the conference:

Mary Jo Foley, Steve Goodman, Martina Grom, Adnan Hendircks, Dan Holme, Tim McMichael, Jeff Mealiffe, Mike Pfeiffer, Tony Redmond, Paul Robichaux, John Rodriguez, Mark Russinovich, Loryan Strant, Greg Taylor, Rod Trent, Jaap Wesselius and many, many more.

Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock and will easily recognize most of these names. Every single one of them are reputable and well respected individuals that – in some way – have put their mark on the Technical Communities. Some of these speakers are MVPs, others are well-published authors, Certified Masters or Microsoft Employees. Each of these accreditations mean something. So, the likeliness to hear some crap come out of their mouths is very small. Additionally, you should know that all sessions in the Exchange track are subject to Tony Redmond’s scrutiny. I’ve spoken at several events and I have never had so much valuable input back as from Tony. He’s really working hard to ensure the quality, and by the looks of it you won’t be disappointed.

You might think that this is no different from, let’s say TechEd. Maybe that’s true. However, Microsoft conferences are usually about “how things are designed to work” whereas conferences like these will give you more information on “how things actually work [in the real world]”. Both might seem the same, but there’s a subtle, yet significant nuance between both. It’s just that ‘small’ difference that YOU – as an IT Pro – is looking for. That’s why conferences like these have a chance to stand up against the much larger ones, like Microsoft organizes.

Anyway, enough eulogizing the speakers; I wouldn’t want them to become complacent over it… 🙂

A second point which allows you to benchmark a conference are the sessions. A good speaker is one thing, but if he/she talks about a topic which does not interest you, it’s likely not going to bring you much value. And that’s exactly another point where this conference stands out from amongst other conferences. I mean, just have a look at that session list (for Exchange)!

I highly doubt that – in this very diverse list of sessions – there’s nothing that interests you…

Then there’s the aspect of “socializing”. There’s actually nothing much I can say more than: “It’s in VEGAS, baby”! Although I have never been to Vegas before myself, I can hardly imagine there will be a lack of socializing-opportunities. Some of them are organized by the conference, but ultimately it’s up to YOU to socialize with peers. And believe me the best conversations I ever had were at dinner or while having a beer or two (or three, or four, or…). The fact that you don’t have to mingle amongst several thousands of other people is just an additional bonus as you’ll be much more easily able to connect with speakers and other attendees.

Finally, there’s the aspect of cost. Although there’s less impact for people living in the US, it’s usually more of a problem when you’re travelling from Europe.
So, let’s have a look at what this conference might cost you:

Airfare (Brussels – Las Vegas) +/- 800 EUR (just checked via SkyScanner.net)
Conference (Basic Registration) +/- 1.130 EUR
Hotel (6 nights) +/- 900 EUR
TOTAL +/- 2.830 EUR

Considering that a full week of training on Microsoft Exchange (Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013) will cost you about 2700 EUR EUR (incl. VAT), this conference is a bargain! You’ll find much more value from these sessions and the experience than you’ll have from a week’s training.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against training. But given the difference between both, the conference is where I’d put my money in.

Note   Because both the conference and the training would take up 5 billable days, I didn’t include them in this comparison as it wouldn’t contribute to the case anyhow.

The UC Architects

I admit, this part is a shameless plug. Nonetheless, if you’re still not convinced after all I wrote, maybe here’s something to think about. Next to some other extra activities and panel discussions that will take place at the conference, The UC Architects will have a live panel discussion (which will be recorded) with some very interesting guests! And you can attend! We are currently working very hard to make something very special out of it; so make sure to keep an eye out for more information. Whatever you do: don’t miss it!

Cheers, Michael

Events Exchange

So… I am at The Experts Conference (TEC) in Barcelona

Some of you might already noticed through my tweets (or Out-of-Office) that I’m attending “The Experts Conference” in Barcelona this week. The conference which is organized by Quest (now Dell) features three different technical tracks: “Directory & Identity”, “Exchange” and “Virtualization & Workspace Management”.

Last year was the first time I attended and I have to admit that I immediately fell for it’s smaller scale (compared to other technical events like MEC or TechEd) and it’s high levels of good and deep technical content.

I hope that this year’s edition will be able to live up to the expectation; at least the current speaker lineup sure looks very promising:

  • Greg Taylor
  • Tim McMichael
  • Tony Redmond
  • Nathan Winters
  • Jaap Wesselius
  • Nicholas Blank

Although speakers alone sometimes can make the difference, content itself needs to be appealing and interesting as well. When looking at the agenda for the upcoming days looks I can see some sessions I personally look forward to like Tim McMichael’s on Database Availability Groups, Greg Taylor’s on CAS and Nathan Winter’s on Archiving & Compliance. The best part is that – compared to MEC – I don’t really have to miss any of the sessions Smile

The keynote, just as last year, is presented by Tony Redmond and therefore – given his rather unique style – promises to be as useful as it is entertaining.

For what it’s worth – and for as long as the internet connection will allow it – I hope to be able to share as much information with you guys as I did at MEC. If not, I’ll look into writing a daily summary and posting it here.



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