The Windows Server Notebook

Jun 6 2012   6:03PM GMT

What to expect at TechEd North America 2012

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

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.

Windows 8

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.

Certifications

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.

Cloud

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.

Office

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.

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