This year has been heavily Azure and Azure Stack for me, a departure from my normal VMware shenanigans. The change in focus afforded me the opportunity to attend MS Ignite 2017 in Orlando, a huge conference that is similar but very different from VMworld.
The conference was at the South and West halls of the Orange County a convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The two venues are linked by a passenger skywalk. Half way through the skywalk is the Hyatt where sessions and "Immersion Experience" are held. These seemed to be hands on labs and guides labs for various products. There was also a shuttle for a quick 5 minute drive between West and South.
The two buildings are huge, especially West. It may take a solid 10+ minutes to walk from one end to the other. There are also multiple levels and various corridors lined with rooms. Every room I was in held at least 900 seats. There were some rooms that may have had 3000.
In general, Orlando was hot and humid but has a lot of attractions. I brought my family and was able to take them to Disneyworld and a few other places. Las Vegas really can't top the family appeal of Orlando.
The sessions were of varying length from 20 minute 'theatre' sessions that are in hallways to 75 minute breakouts (some breakouts are shorter). I worried about having to stand in line for sessions but that never happened. Only the general session filled to capacity (as well as a nearby standby location). Every session since has had plenty of of open seats.
There were two cool things about sessions:
- All sessions were subtitled on the projected screens through Microsoft's technology. For the most part the translations were good.
- Select sessions were broadcast on a huge wall in the Hang Out area. You would plug into a receiver and select the channel corresponding to one of the eight or sessions being broadcast. There was no way to know which ones were on the screen ahead of time though.
Almost all sessions that I went to had LIVE demos, even on conference wifi!
VMware needs to hire these guys. I rarely had any issues with the wifi and it was everywhere, even under the chairs in certain locations. As mentioned previously, live demos were being done over the conference wifi.
I'm not ingrained into the Microsoft community for any of their products, but I think that the conference had some good ideas. There was a formal podcast center where various podcasts were recorded on a stage with lan huts and cameras. I don't think either of the two I attended used the video for their podcast, but it helped the audience to see the faces. VMworld has a similar concept but the addition of rf receivers for the audience to listen to the feed was top notch.
Breakfast usually consisted of eggs, bacon and fruit. Not bad. Lunch was worse than VMworld in SF. Small sandwiches and weird sides every day. My colleague went to Knowledge17 and said they had hot food for lunch (smaller conference though). I loved the open refrigerators for soda and juice. You could grab any drink and as much as you want and any time. Snacks were good as well, cheeze-it's one day, ice cream another, white popcorn the first day.
Overwhelming amount of content, but I narrowed my choices to the sessions that would minimize trips between buildings. I focused on Azure Stack, Powershell and Azure. There were a lot of O365, Sharepoint, desktop and server sessions as well. Some of which had huge crowds.
Huge and very spaced out. The aisles between exhibitors were very wide. I didn't see as much swag that I liked but I think that's just me not wanting to take anything home. There were a few vendors that are also VMworld regulars (Cisco, Dell Emc, HPE, Netapp, Rubrik, Turbonomic), but almost all of the other vendors I have never heard of. One cool thing was that the expo had free drinks or food almost every day around 5.
MIcrosoft pulls off a great conference which is the center of many companies world. Whether you use the end-user products, server products or Azure you are touched by something at this conference. The difficult part is that there isn't much of a universal theme across everything since the products are so diverse, making it hard to say that a new product was the "buzz" if only half or a third of the people are affected by it. Regardless, if you have the opportunity, it's well worth it to attend.