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Thoughts from the Microsoft Ignite 2016 Conference

Last week Microsoft held their second Ignite conference in Atlanta, Georgia with just 23,000 of their closest friends. This show is meant to replace Tech Ed, the SharePoint Conference and various other product specific conferences by Microsoft. There are other smaller conferences & events, but a lot of these now tend to be virtual (such as Connect();). They now focus on three major events:

  1. Ignite which is primarily for customers and has a product-specific & IT Pro (administrator) / Business Decision Maker (BDM) audience feel
  2. Build which is for developers and is much smaller than Ignite
  3. World Wide Partner Conference (WWPC) which is for Microsoft partners

I was a presenter at last year's Ignite conference with a front-loaded schedule. Presenting at a conference involves a lot of work ahead of the show as well as the week of. This year was very different as I attended as a member of the media covering the show on behalf of the podcast I co-host with Chris Johnson, the Microsoft Cloud Show. Quite a different experience for me... and I loved it! I really enjoyed seeing the reaction from our podcast listeners coming up to us & handing out stickers from the show.

Media Pre-Briefing Reception

Last week was a huge week for the podcast. It started with a briefing the Sunday night before keynotes giving everyone an update before the news hit. This was quite interesting experience. Basically all the details form the keynotes were shared in about 25 minutes followed by some pointed Q/A with executives from each business group:


From left-to-right: Kirk Koenigsbauer (Corporate Vice President, Office 365 Client Apps & Services), Julia White (Cloud Platform Product Marketing), Judson Althoff (Executive Vice President, Worldwide Commercial Business), Matt Barlow (General Manager, New Devices Marketing), Frank Shaw (Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications)

Afterwards there was a beautiful reception with an overview of the Atlanta skyline (with Laura Rogers):

Monday's Keynotes

On Monday we had two keynotes. The one in the morning was the general conference keynote. The biggest news for me was that Windows Server 2016 is now generally available which brings full support of Windows Containers for Docker! Yes, the Adobe deal is huge, but Windows containers have been heavily anticipated & join the game-changing impact Linux-based containers have had thus far.

As a member of the media we got a nice breakfast overlooking the keynote hall...

... and were then taken down to the door where we had special seating to tweet & socialize the keynote. Unfortunately, the promised hardline network drops were limited & it was hard to get a connection on the conference wi-fi so we were limited. But the seating was awesome!

The Innovation Keynote by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was at 4p. Microsoft was smart for this one and had an edgy mashup playing to liven the late-afternoon crowd up.

Special guest Dieon Sanders joined Satya onstage for a fantasy football / NFL / bot demo:

The biggest news from this keynote was the disclosure of field programmable gate arrays (FPGA's). The skinny on these is that they are hardware devices that look like a small video card that dramatically improve the performance of a server. Wired has a fantastic backstory and coverage on this... it's worth a geeky read: Microsoft Bets Its Future on a Reprogrammable Computer Chip. Microsoft is already using these in many Azure servers as well as powering Bing. The boost in performance is mindblowing... a serious game changer to computing for things like AI & analytics.

Microsoft Cloud Show at Ignite

What a busy week! This was my first time at a conference like this and not being a speaker. I thought that meant it wouldn't be as hectic, but no such luck... I was slammed! We pumped out 11 episodes including one live show:

A few folks caught us around while we were conducting the interviews and tweeted out some candit pix!

Microsoft Cloud Show's First Live Episode!

On Wednesday, CJ & I hosted our first live podcast, streamed live from the conference thanks to Microsoft. This was a ton of fun and a few listeners shared some pictures of it.

Some listeners even forced their poor kids to watch the broadcast over breakfast! This made us laugh during the show when we saw this come across the Twitter feed.

CJ & I can't thank Microsoft enough for this opportunity and all of our listeners!

Wait... did you miss the episode? The audio-only version is published as episode #154, or you can watch the recorded video stream here:

There's more to come too... this week we will publish episode #159 which includes an interview with Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President of SharePoint & OneDrive. I had a great chat with Jeff and tried to get some insights you don't normally hear when he talks about this stuff. The episode will come out on Tuesday, October 4... enjoy!

That's a wrap... this was a great week. I was on the fence about attending at first, but I'm glad I did. It was certainly worthwhile and I'll be there again next year! In fact, I've already booked my hotel for Orlando so I don't have the same challenges like I had leading up to this year's show.

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