Reflecting on Ignite

 Chris Rhodes is a Microsoft Certified Trainer, and awardee of the MVP award in Windows IT Pro. He is one of the co-founders of the Windows User Group who give talks on hot Windows topics around the country. Catch him on Twitter or at one of the WUG events.

Last week saw Microsoft host the new Ignite conference in Chicago. As the successor to the TechEd, MMS and other conferences all rolled into one, this was billed to be the big one, and the conference to attend this year. With 23,000 IT Pros and developers in attendance, it certainly was a big event!

 The first realisation that this was an event like no other (and I’ve been to numerous TechEd events in the past) was at the Keynote on Monday morning. This was held in a room the size of 5 football pitches containing 15,000 people that took 2 days just to put the seats out! (Even then, they needed a large overspill room as well). You really got the impression that we were all there to witness some amazing things as the tension mounted before Satya Nadella took to the stage. We were not disappointed.

Although at 3 hours in length, you may have been better off streaming this if you were not in attendance as taking a quick comfort break isn’t that easy in a room that big! If you missed it I would definitely encourage you to watch it back as hearing from Satya Nadella and other senior VPs such as Joe Belfiore and Brad Anderson about the future vision of where Microsoft and the cloud is going is well worth hearing. Certainly listening to people like VP Gurdeep Pall say “Workplace is a misnomer. Work is what you do; it's not where you do it” is liberating and shows us the direction we should be thinking in the modern computing world.

At times the event struggled with the sheer number of attendees, with queues for buses and food sometimes overwhelming. That was more than offset by the vibe, the enthusiasm and eagerness of people learning about new technologies and solutions, and by the passion of the presenters who lit up the conference with their enthusiasm.

What else did we learn? Straight out on Monday morning we found out that a slew of new product releases are imminent, some with previews downloadable now in fact. These include SQL Server 2016, Windows Server 2016, Exchange 2016, Office 2016 and most intriguingly Azure Stack which allows companies to run Azure within their own data centre.

Part of me wonders if we will get any more releases of on-premises products like this in a couple of years as technologies such as Office 365 and Azure continue to gain traction in businesses large and small? In fact being able to now use full-on Azure technologies in your own data centre certainly points that way as the future direction of where we are headed in this ‘Mobile First, Cloud First’ vision that Microsoft have now.

 I was there to help out as an MCT Ambassador this year, which meant helping out in the ‘Microsoft on Microsoft’ area on the show floor helping people with questions and advice on certifications and training which reflects my day job as a Microsoft Certified Trainer. I also went to find out more about Windows 10 which is close to my heart as one of the founder members of the Windows User Group.

I am particularly keen to learn more about how Continuum will allow phone and tablet users plug into monitors and use keyboard and mouse to use full fidelity Windows from their mobile device. We now may no longer need to carry laptops around! It was also interesting to learn about plans to make Windows 10 the last real release of Windows, and simply to move to a different servicing plan in the future. To that end, I’m also keen to try out ‘Windows Update for Business’ (see the keynote talk from Terry Myerson) so that IT organisations can create rings of distribution (similar to the way Windows Insiders receive Windows 10 preview updates today).

There was certainly no shortage of information – in fact I’m still digesting it and watching sessions I simply did not have time to see as there were 600+ sessions available to attend, not to mention exhibitors, meetings and chats with product group folks, MVPs and peers. Did someone say there were parties too?

Till next year, stay classy Chicago!
Now to catch up on all the sessions I missed…

Save the date! Ignite will be in Chicago again next year from May 9th -13th 2016.

Which announcements were you most excited to hear about? Let us know in the comments section or @TechNetUK

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