As anyone who’s been to TechEd will attest, the event is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. With hundreds of technical sessions, workshops, labs and vendors, the annual Microsoft event doesn’t lack quantity. But what’s actually worth paying attention to?
Thanks to the timing of the event, the published agenda and the tarot cards found lying around the TechTarget office, we have a few informed guesses regarding what attendees can expect to hear a lot about, and where Microsoft wants the industry conversation to go. Here are the top topics we’ll be watching:
Windows Server 2012
With the recent name change from Windows Server 8, there’s a renewed anticipation for Microsoft’s upcoming server OS – and heightened expectations for all the things the company claims it can do. Server and Tools Business president Satya Nadella will be one of the featured keynote speakers at the show, and he’ll likely hammer on all of the many documented improvements within Server 2012, from enhancements to Hyper-V and PowerShell to the new Resilient File System. There are also 72 technical sessions in the Windows Server track, which should sate folks eager to play with the Release Candidate, available now.
It’s no secret that Microsoft is betting big on Windows 8, its “reimagined,” “fast and fluid” new client operating system. With the next iteration – dubbed the Release Preview – now available, you can bet it’ll be a major point of emphasis for many speakers, if not for the IT pros who remain skeptical of how the touch-centric interface will translate to the enterprise. The agenda includes technical sessions on Windows 8 deployment, Metro-style app delivery, Windows To Go and more. Developers will have plenty to chew on as well: Visual Studio corporate vice president Jason Zander will be speaking during Monday’s keynote session, and Antoine LeBlond, corporate vice president for Windows Web Services (with a focus on the Windows Store) takes the stage on Tuesday.
Sure, IT pros have been able to take certification exams at TechEd every year. But this year adds some intrigue, given the recent changes to Microsoft’s program, including the return of the MCSE and a focus on the cloud. Many are wondering what the changes mean for them, whether they should get recertified and what the value of these things are, anyway. If there is any place to get answers, it’s here.
Device (or user) management
It’s pretty difficult to avoid the topic of consumerization and BYOD programs at any conference these days, and for good reason: Any organization that isn’t dealing with it now will soon need to or risk being beaten over the head by iPad-wielding employees. One of the main ways that Microsoft is addressing the new reality is through improved device management. The revamped Windows Intune, which will purportedly give IT the ability to manage and deliver applications to iOS and Android devices in addition to Windows devices, will be featured in demos and discussions throughout the week (as will System Center Configuration Manager 2012). Expect to hear about Microsoft’s “user-centric” management model a lot, and get explanations as to why Windows RT tablets don’t need to join Active Directory domains.
The word “cloud” at a Microsoft conference usually means Azure. The public cloud platform will definitely be a major coverage area at TechEd, given both the timing – there was a recent branding brouhaha, and the company is scheduled to make a significant Azure announcement on June 7 – and the speaker slate (which includes sessions from Azure executives Scott Guthrie and Mark Russinovich, and purportedly something on the new Windows Azure Active Directory). But don’t discount Microsoft’s private cloud push, which includes System Center 2012 and Hyper-V.
System Center 2012
Though Microsoft’s updated systems management suite got plenty of time in the spotlight during the Management Summit in April, IT pros are looking to learn more about how to better monitor and respond to increasingly complex environments. Many of the suite’s most significant products, including Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager and Orchestrator, will get dedicated technical sessions, and should be touted as ways to tie together many of the topics mentioned above.
We’ve heard very little about how things are going with Office 365, Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps, and maybe that’s for a reason. But the roadmap should become a little clearer during TechEd, as there are several sessions scheduled that cover the cloud-based productivity suite in depth, including its tie-ins to the Sharepoint collaboration platform (and we may get more details on the new government-specific version). Though there’s nothing listed, we might also hear something about Office 15, which will reportedly be delivered to Windows devices before anything else.
Will you be at TechEd North America 2012? If so, what are you looking to learn? If not, what would you like us to cover? The SearchWindowsServer.com team will be on the ground in Orlando, delivering news and reactions from the event. Follow us on Twitter (@WindowsTT) for live updates.
IT pros eager to get their hands on the latest build of Windows Server 2012 won’t have to wait until June. Today, Microsoft made the Release Candidate of its new server operating system available for download on its TechNet website today in both 64-bit ISO and VHD versions. The new version comes at least a few days earlier than expected based on comments the company made in April.
It’s unclear just what has changed since the beta version of the software was released at the end of February. As we dig into the latest release, check out what we know so far about Windows Server 2012 (aka Windows Server 8).
Also available today is the Windows 8 Release Preview, whose availability was leaked via a (subsequently deleted) Microsoft blog post yesterday. The new version of Windows 8 will reportedly include Flash in the new Metro-based Internet Explorer 10.
Will you download the Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate or the Windows 8 Release Preview? What do you hope has changed?
Three weeks after it released its first System Center 2012 Rollup update, Microsoft patched issues with Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 Service Pack 1.
It’s a light second Rollup update for the product, patching just two issues. One only affects a managed Hyper-V cluster that has HP Cluster Extension Software installed.
The second and last fix patches the Self-Service Portal, which in some cases would not display all virtual machines if the user had 50 or more machines assigned.
The VMM 2008 R2 SP1 was last patched in July of last year, and this Rollup includes those previous fixes.
Full release notes and download links can be found on Microsoft’s support site.
Microsoft and the word “open” have a long history of being mutually exclusive, but that’s no longer the case.
Earlier this month, the company said it would support open-source operating system FreeBSD in its Windows Server Hyper-V products. According to a post on its Openness blog, Microsoft partnered with NetApp and Citrix to develop high-performance drivers for Hyper-V. It also enlisted the help of Insight Global, Inc., a technical staffing organization, to develop VMBUS drivers for the project.
Of course, this news came as a big plus for FreeBSD users, but the sole comment on the Microsoft Openness blog clamored for other platform support.
“Now, I’m waiting [for Microsoft to give] support to [D]ebian,” the commenter wrote.
The drivers will be released later this year in the vague “summer” window.
When it comes to migration planning, Microsoft moves fast. Just six months after the release the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 6.5, the company has now put out a beta for MAP 7.0.
According to the Microsoft Connect website the toolkit will help users determine readiness for the Windows Server 2012 beta, virtualize Linux servers, size server hardware for desktop virtualization and help with VMware-to-Hyper-V virtual machine migration.
If you want to get your hands on the MAP toolkit 7.0 beta, sign up at this link.
Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit gets “supported” status, receives update
Redmond also recently released version 3.0 of its Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit.
The EMET is intended to protect against hackers overtaking a system – even if a patch for a legacy piece of software does not exist – by blocking against known vulnerabilities.
Microsoft issued its first rollup update for System Center 2012, fixing bugs and performance issues. Products affected include: System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, System Center App Controller 2012 and System Center Operations Manager 2012.
The company tackled seven issues in VMM 2012, including fixing a behavior where a parent VHD wouldn’t be deleted when the virtual machine is deleted and performance issues that arise when creating or deleting virtual machines. The console update also fixes an issue where it would stop responding when sorting virtual machines.
Redmond fixed up a pair of issues in System Center App Controller 2012, including an incorrect single sign-on behavior and a bug with SQL database configuration.
System Center Operations Manager adds a new feature: support for Oracle Solaris 11. It also fixes 17 bugs with Windows monitoring and three issues with Linux and Unix monitoring.
Microsoft has complete release notes for the rollup update, with instructions on how to install. Applying the updates? Let us know if this fixes anything pressing for you in the comments or on Twitter @WindowsTT.
See also: Patch Tuesday brought 23 fixes in three critical bulletins.
IT pros can now get a glimpse of the future, as Microsoft teased its monthly patches in its Security Bulletin Advance Notification on Thursday.
There are three critical fixes planned for this month’s Patch Tuesday, which address vulnerabilities in Windows Server, the .NET framework, Silverlight and Microsoft Office. Four bulletins — deemed important – deal with Microsoft Office and all versions of Windows.
Wolfgang Kandek, CTO at Qualys, notes that this year has been more consistent than past years, with an average of six to nine bulletins compared with the “more bursty release mode” of previous years. Including this month, Microsoft has released one fewer patch this year — 35, compared with 36 in 2011.
As an IT admin, do you like the consistent numbers of bulletins so far this year? Or, are you superstitious and wish no one would point it out? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @WindowsTT.
Yesterday, IT pros learned that the Windows 8 Release Preview (aka the release candidate), would be released in the first week of June 2012. Here’s the announcement from Microsoft’s official Windows 8 Twitter account:
— Building Windows 8 (@BuildWindows8) April 24, 2012
Now word comes that the release candidate for Windows Server 2012 – formerly known as Windows Server 8 – will be delivered “in the same timeframe,” according to a company blog post. This timing would keep it on track for a general release this year.
It also means that Windows Server 2012 will be an even hotter topic at Microsoft’s TechEd North America conference, to be held June 11-14 in Orlando. The keynote speakers for the event were announced last week, and include Satya Nadella, the president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business.
IT pros got the official pitch from Microsoft on private cloud yesterday, as corporate vice president Brad Anderson announced the general availability of System Center 2012 during his opening keynote at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas.
Anderson and his fellow presenters offered many arguments for implementing cloud computing, and particularly using System Center 2012 in conjunction with Windows Server 2012, the new, official name for Windows Server 8 (which means that the product should be released this calendar year). Not everyone was convinced, though; we talked to a few people who still have reservations about re-tooling their environments. What about you: Will you try out System Center 2012? Let us know your private cloud plans — or lack thereof — in the comments.
If you missed the keynote, check out our Storify of all the big announcements and reactions from the Twitter audience.
Microsoft today released the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012, its product for automating deployment of Windows 7, Office 2010, Office 365 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
According to the company, the latest version of the toolkit has several updates, including self-service, user-customizable installation through System Center Configuration Manager 2012, one of the key products in the revamped management suite that is the focus of this week’s Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas. Administrators can also expect integration with the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolkit, and support for testing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. MDT 2012 is available for both x86 and x64 platforms; download it here, along with supporting documentation.
The release was one of several announcements Microsoft has made over the past couple of days.
On Monday, the company made note of an upcoming new version of Windows Intune, its cloud-based desktop management service, which will reportedly support mobile devices including Windows Phone 7, iPads, iPhones, and Android-based phones and mobile devices (via Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync). This matches with the recent updates to System Center Configuration Manager 2012, and like that product, Windows Intune 3.0 (not the official name just yet) will also feature a self-service portal for end users. Download the “Pre-Release Getting Started Guide” here, and stay tuned for more information on the official release during MMS.
Also on Monday, Microsoft detailed its plans for Windows 8 SKUs. In contrast to previous releases, there will be only three versions of the upcoming operating system: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT (previously Windows on ARM). Though the stripped-down structure is likely intended to reduce consumer confusion, some think the Windows RT name, which may refer to the Windows runtime library that supports the new Metro-style design, thwarts those efforts.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments, or via Twitter (@WindowsTT).