Speaking Today At Global Azure Virtual (ONLINE)

I am presenting at 14:00 UK/Ireland, 3PM central Europe, 9am Eastern US in the Global Azure virtual/online Bootcamp. You can find the link to the session here on Day 3. Here is the session information that is missing from the event site:

Trust No-One Architecture For Services And Data

Security is always one of the top 3 fears of Cloud customers. In The Cloud, the customer is responsible for their network security design and operation. This session will walk you through the components of Azure network security, and how to architect a secure network for Azure virtual machines or platform services, including VNets, network security groups, routing tables, Private Link, VNet peering, web application gateway, DDoS protection, and firewall appliances.

Global ONLINE Azure Bootcamp

On one day every year, community members all across the planet get together at local events and host/attend sessions on Azure; this is the Global Azure Bootcamp. It’s been running on a Spring Saturday for years, and this year it is on April 27th.

Unfortunately, Microsoft Ireland wasn’t able to provide a venue so it looked like there would not be a local event in this part of Ireland. While I was at the recent MVP Summit, I threw out the idea of running an online version of the Global Azure Bootcamp … a Global Online Azure Bootcamp. The MVP Lead for UK& Ireland, Claire, loved the idea, ran off to the organisers of the global event, came back and said “do it!”.

So I did … I reached out to the speaker community and … was blown away by the response. So much so, that this will be a truly Global ONLINE Azure Bootcamp with content for all timezones:

  • We’re starting at 09:00 Perth/Bejing time
  • Finishing at 17:00 Seattle/Los Angeles time

The idea is that sessions will be pre-recorded and made available online on a scheduled basis on April 27th. That means anyone with Internet access anywhere on the planet can join this instance of the Global Azure Bootcamp – some of the presenters will actually be live-presenting elsewhere that day!

The content spans many tracks: dev, infrastructure, devops, data, AI, governance, security, and more. There really is something for everyone that is interested in Azure.

You can learn more here on the official event site.

This event has no sponsorship and it’s all be organized at the very last second. So here’s my ask:

Hopefully we’ll see (so to speak because we don’t have tracking) you there on the day!


Cloud Camp 2018 – It’s A Wrap!

Yesterday, Cloud Camp 2018, run by MicroWarehouse and sponsored by Microsoft Surface and Veeam, ran in the Dublin Convention Centre here in Ireland. 4 tracks, 20 (mostly MVP) sessions, 2 keynotes, and hundreds of satisfied attendees. It was great fun – but we’re all a little tired today Smile

Photo by Gregor Reimling

The message of the day was “change” and that was what I talked about in the opening keynote. In nature, change is inevitable. In IT, you cannot accept change, you’re pushed aside. Business pressure, security & compliance needs, and the speed of cloud make change happen faster than ever. And that’s why we had 20 expert-lead breakout sessions covering Azure IaaS, Azure PaaS, productivity, security, management & governance, Windows Server 2019 and hybrid cloud solutions. The conference ended with renowned Microsoft-watchers Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott discussing what the corporation has been up to and their experiences in covering the Redmond giant.

We had a lot of fun yesterday. Everything ran quite smoothly – credit to John & Glenn in MWH and Hanover Communications.

After the conference, Paul & Mary Jo hosted their Windows Weekly podcast from Dogpatch Labs in the IFSC.

And then we had a small after party in Urban Brewing next door, where one or two beverages might have been consumed until the wee hours of the morning Smile

Picture by Gerald Versluis

Thank you to:

  • MicroWarehouse for running this event – Rory for OK-ing it and the team for promoting it.
  • John and Glenn who ran the logistics and made it so smooth
  • Hanover Communications for the PR work
  • All the breakout speakers who travelled from around Ireland/Europe to share their knowledge and experience
  • Kartik who travelled from India to share what Azure Backup are up to
  • Paul & Mary Jo for travelling from the USA to spend some time with us
  • Alex at TWiT for make sure things worked well with the podcast
  • Everyone who attended and made this event possible!

A Twitter competition with the #CloudCamp18 tag was run – a winner will be selected (after the dust settles) for a shiny new Surface Go. At one point the #CloudCamp18 tag was trending #3 for tweets in Dublin. Now I wonder what will happen with #CloudCamp19?

My Microsoft Ignite Strategy

Microsoft Ignite is running from Monday 24th until Friday 28th in Orlando, Florida, next week. Here’s how I plan to consume from this conference.

Why Am I Attending?

There are two answers to this question, depending on what you mean by the question.

Why would I care to consume content from Ignite? That’s simple – Ignite is a cornerstone event in the Microsoft calendar for techies. If you work with business software from Microsoft, then this is when the big stuff gets announced, and this is the best opportunity to learn from the product groups. Even as an MVP, I have a unique opportunity to interact and learn from product groups, but they focus a huge amount of effort on this particular week. The breadth of content is huge – over 1000 sessions covering almost every aspect of enterprise software from Microsoft. In this era of constant change, it’s foolish not to try to keep up. The real question should be – why would I not want to learn at Ignite?

As for the second interpretation of the question: why attend Ignite when every session will be live streamed and available to download within 48 hours? The realities of life are that if I’m around at the office, or even working from home, the phone will ring, the email will ping, and I won’t get a chance to focus on the content. I have a young family, and at night, they come first. Attending the conference gives me a chance to focus. It’s a few days away, but the value carries over for at least the next year, and beyond.

Note Taking

I always take lots of notes at Ignite – long-time readers of my blog know this because my notes are posts on this site. I open Live Writer and start typing as the speakers are talking. You’d be amazed how often I end up googling my own articles!

If you’re not a blogger, then I’d recommend opening OneNote and taking notes for each session. If work sent you, consider sharing the notebook with your colleagues. If you’re part of a team that is attending, then cerate a shared notebook, split up and attend different sessions – you’ll exponentially grow the organisational learning and value from the conference.


I don’t get any real value from the opening keynote. It’s all too airy-fairy and marketing speak for the general news media. For me, the meat starts immediately after the opening keynote. For the last few years, there have been “breakout keynotes” straight after the Satya Nadella session. That’s when the likes of Jeff Woolsey (Windows Server) and Scott Guthrie (Azure) flood us with news and features. As with the last few years, I will be attending lots of Azure sessions. And if it’s like last year, almost every session will have additional announcements. There’s no “how to” learning here, it’s more of a “what’s possible” learning experience – I can figure out the “how to” at home once I know what to look for. To be honest, “how to” learning doesn’t work when there’s only 60-75 minutes and you cannot do hands-on.

I typically only attend the 75 minute breakout sessions. Scattered about the hallways and expo hall are the theatre sessions, which are where most of the non-Microsoft speakers are talking. These are typically 10 minute sessions. There’s some value here, but the nuggets are so small, and the timing doesn’t work for me – this is the sort of thing I can get from a blog post or a YouTube/Channel 9 video. But that’s not true for everyone – some of the theatre sessions had massive crowds last year – bigger than many of the breakouts.

Hands-On Labs

My calendar is filled out with breakout sessions, but I often change my planning based on my gut feel for what’s being presented. Sometimes a track is dull, sometimes the same speakers are doing the same content 3-4 times but with different session titles, sometimes I hear of something exciting that I didn’t expect, and sometimes I hear about a great session that filled out but is being repeated.

When I first attended TechEd Europe, one of the best learning experiences I had was in the hands-on labs (HOLs). This gives you a chance to try things out in a sandbox environment. I haven’t done this in years, but I could be tempted to try out some AI, data, or Kubernetes labs if there are any.


I’ve got friends in this business that I only ever see at conferences. MVP Kevin Greene only lives 20-30 minutes from our house but I see him a handful of times per year – we have pretty full family/work lives. I enjoy meeting up with Kev, Damian Flynn, ex-MVP and now Azure CAT John McCabe, and a bunch of other MVP and Microsoft friends that I’ve met over the years, and even some folks that I know over social media. There’s plenty of opportunity to be social at Ignite. Tuesday is party night (watch out for invitations), but most evenings Microsoft has a “mini-party” in the expo hall – which is also a great place to learn. And of course, there’s the conference closing party on Thursday night in Universal – the Hogwarts ride is pretty cool, Spiderman is fun, and Hulk looks damned scary (it would make me puke but my eldest daughter did it 4 times in a row) – Rip Ride Rocket looks worse!

Say “Hi!”

I will be easy to identify. I’ll be wearing a Cloud Mechanix T-Shirt.


Be sure to say “hi”; I don’t bite … often Open-mouthed smile

Lots of Conference Stuff Coming Up

A busy few months are coming up. Work on Azure, etc, with MicroWarehouse continues to be extremely busy, Cloud Mechanix continues, and that’s all before some speaking that I’m doing.

Evolve, National Conference Center Birmingham, UK – September 10

I’ll be presenting my “Azure PaaS for the Server Engineer” session at this community event. PaaS can be scary for server people – imagine a world with no servers! Not so quick! It turns out that this stuff isn’t so alien and our role is increasing, not shrinking in the dev side of Azure. Join me to learn more.

IP Expo Europe 2018, EXCEL London, UK – October 3-4

At this conference, I will be representing Altaro. The session I’m doing is a new one called “Solving the Azure Storage Maze”. Azure storage offers a confusing variety of storage options, and figuring out up from down can be mind boggling. My plan is to make this easy for people, boiling it down to a few simple questions/choices.

European SharePoint, Office 365, Azure Conference Copenhagen, Denmark – November 26-29

This event is pretty big, but historically it’s been a SharePoint thing so those outside of that community don’t know of it. I’ll be talking about getting more performance from your Azure VMs, including planning, implementation, and management.

Microsoft Ignite 2018, Orlando, USA – Sept 24-28

I registered to attend Ignite yesterday. I did not apply for any speaking positions. Speaking at Ignite is a buzz, but I do lots of speaking. The obligations of that are required of speakers in the expo hall are too much for my liking. I’d rather be a normal attendee that makes the most of the Monday-Thursday content. This year, I will be doing lots of Azure, but I’ll also be trying to catch up on Windows Server. Ideally, I’d have a time turner at this conference, but no one has invented that yet.

Cloud Camp 2018, Convention Centre Dublin, Ireland – Oct 17

I’m one of the organisers behind this event, sponsored by MicroWarehouse, that will feature expert community speakers (mostly MVPs) from around Europe. An opening keynote will set the scene for 20 breakout sessions across 4 cloud, productivity & security, and Windows Server 2019 & hybrid tracks. And then a closing keynote with Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott will wrap things up. It’s going to be quite the show!

Call For Speakers – Cloud Camp, October 17th

My employers, MicroWarehouse, are running a community event in the Dublin Convention Centre on October 17th. Cloud Camp is a tech event, with four tracks covering:

  • Azure Infrastructure: Virtual machines, storage, networking, etc
  • Azure Platform: Web Apps, Containers, etc
  • Productivity & Security: Office 365, EMS, etc
  • Windows Server 2019 & Hybrid: Windows Admin Center, virtualization, clustering, storage, networking, private cloud, etc

UPDATE: We have enough submissions on Office, Intune, and M365 overviews. We need more on Azure IaaS and Azure PaaS. But we really want sessions on Windows Admin Center, Windows Server 2019, and data protection using Azure Information Protection & Client App Security.


Samuel Beckett bridge and Dublin Convention Center – Daniel Dudek, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dansapples/9563009141

We’re looking for speakers from around Europe to fill the slots. Expenses are being covered:

  • Flights
  • 2 nights accommodation – the nights before and after the event
  • Tickets to the event

If you’re interested in speaking then please submit your bio and session proposal(s) here.

Speaking at Global Azure Bootcamp 2018, Birmingham UK

I will be speaking at the Birmingham Global Azure Bootcamp on April 21st. This is a global event, community-lead in most locations. Typically, you’ll find a mix of content from expert speakers; infrastructure, data & platform, for beginners and experts.

I have two sessions:

  • Building highly available VM solutions
  • Monitoring Azure IaaS

The event is in the The Priory Rooms Meeting & Conference Centre, and runs from 09:00 until 17:00.  When I last checked, only 6 of the tickets were left, so act fast if you plan to attend!

Speaking at NIC Future Edition 2018

I will be speaking at the NICCONF in Olso, Norway, running 21 Jan to 2 Feb. It’s a big and very well run event, which I was happy to present at last year.


I have two sessions:

Forget Virtual Machines – Use Azure Service Fabric For New LOB Apps

This is on Thursday 1st at 10:00 am and puts me right outside my usual comfort zone of IaaS. The subject is PaaS, but hold on IT pros, it’s all based on IaaS which has to be deployed, configured, secured, and monitored. I’ve found Service Fabric to be very interesting because it brings together so many IaaS pieces to create a cool platform for application deployment.

This session, aimed at IT pros (not developers) is an introduction to Service Fabric. I’ll explain what each of the features does, how they can be practically used, and why IT pros should strongly consider using the developer side of Azure for future deployments.

EDIT (Jan 29, 2018): I have built a cool demo environment with Visual Studio (!) and Azure Service Fabric, showing off a “Ticketmaster” that can scale when the likes of Ed Sheeran starts selling tickets, instead of hanging for two hours.

Monitoring Azure IaaS

On Thursday at 13:20, I return to my comfort zone and discuss monitoring your Azure deployment.

In this session I will explain how you can use the various management features of Azure to monitor and alert on the performance & health of your infrastructure deployment in Microsoft Azure.

EDIT (Jan 29, 2018): I have lots of things to show in a demo environment.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you in Oslo in the new year!


Would You Like To Learn More About Azure?

If you found this information useful, then imagine what 2 days of training might mean to you. I’m delivering a 2-day course in Amsterdam on April 19-20, teaching newbies and experienced Azure admins about Azure Infrastructure. There’ll be lots of in-depth information, covering the foundations, best practices, troubleshooting, and advanced configurations. You can learn more here.

My Review of Microsoft Ignite 2017

Another week of Microsoft Ignite has come to an end. I’m sitting in my hotel room, thinking back on this week, and it’s time to write a review – based on past years, emails, and phone calls, some people in MS HQ are sitting up a little straighter now Smile

Putting Minds at Rest

Let’s let those tensed up people relax – Microsoft Ignite 2017 was an extremely well run show and the content was the best yet. Let’s dive a bit deeper.


OK, Orlando in September is a bit of a gamble. That’s hurricane season in Florida, and Microsoft got lucky when Hurricane Irma swerved a little further west than it was originally projected to. There was a day or two when we were worried about the conference going ahead, but all was good. The venue, the OCCC, is a huge complex on International Drive, aka I-Drive. Two huge conference centres, North/South and West are connected together by a SkyBridge that passes the Hyatt Regency, which is also used. You can walk across the road, and there is also a shuttle service.


I heard that 30,000 people attended this conference, plus maybe 10,000 staff/vendors/sponsors. Imagine that crowd in one venue? At Chicago, there were 22,000 attendees and it sure felt like it. On day 1 in Orlando, it felt busy but that’s because there are fewer/larger sessions and the crowds felt oppressive. But once the keynotes were over, the crowds spread out and things were good – especially after I found a lesser used path between West and the Hyatt Smile

What makes a city? It’s the people. My favourite TechEd (Europe and North America) was in New Orleans – yeah, even with all the walking! The people were just so friendly and appreciative of us visiting their city. The staff in Orlando were almost as amazing – please take that as a compliment because it’s meant to be. There was always a hello when you passed by, and if you had a question they did their best (including a radio call) to find the answer.

Hotels & Buses

I-Drive is the main place of accommodation for anyone doing the Universal Parks/Disney thing in Florida. There’s an abundant amount of hotels, bars, and restaurants along this road, especially within 25 minutes walk of the OCCC. My hotel, the Castle, was exactly 25 minutes walk away. I took the bus every morning, and was at the convention centre in around 10 minutes – a far cry from the 1 hour in Chicago! Every evening, bar one, I walked home – on the Friday I ordered an Uber and the 4+ star driver arrived in under 2 minutes, and I paid less than 7 dollars for the ride home – a far cry from the minimum of $60 dollars that Chicago taxi drivers demanded!

The hotels were all close by to the OCCC, and because of the nature of the area, all had plenty of services nearby. My hotel had IHOP, Dennys, many bars & restaurants, and plentiful tourist shops nearby. The hotels were all of a good quality.

The bus service was fast, and all the staff had a friendly hello. The driver on the last morning made sure to have a joke with us all after the Thursday night party, and made a big point of thanking us all for attending – she’d been driving buses for conferences for several years. These little things make a difference.

I used Uber for the first time ever in Orlando at those times/places when the conference bus service wasn’t an option. Wow! Let’s leave it there Smile


Conference food is never exactly a Michelin star experience, but I am a man of simple tastes when it comes to food. I was disappointed when the North/South hall ran out of food on the Monday – it was the venue for the keynotes so that was where most people would be. We were redirected to the West hall, but that was 20+ minutes away! I went hungry because I had a session to be at.

After that, the conference had 30 minute breaks for lunch – enough time to grab lunch to go, which was sandwiches/fruit/salad/dessert in a box to go. I was quite happy with that because I was here to learn, not to dine. One day my lunch went into my laptop bag for later, others it was scoffed down.

For breakfast, I have learned to pick up a bowl, plastic spoons, cereal, and milk (kept in the hotel room fridge) for the week. I did that and was happy, but no-one was complaining about the food in the halls. There were no turkey sausages – REPEAT – no turkey sausages. What is it with Microsoft and turkey sausages?!?! Yup, it was good ol’ pastry, eggs, and bacon.

The Content

This is the reason we attend Ignite. The main keynote, Satya Nadella, was mostly the same thing that Nadella has presented since his rise to CEO. To be honest, I’m well bored of words I know, in sentences that mean little. The highlights were they keynote by a woman who was genuinely one of the most likeable &  enthusiastic people I’ve ever seen out of Redmond (boo-yah!), and a panel of scientists working on Microsoft’s quantum computing project that made us all feel stupid – in a good way.

I was here for the breakout sessions. My focus was on Azure, and I got lots of that. I also attended a pair of Windows Server sessions. For the most part, the session quality was excellent. I talked to loads of people during the week and they all said the same thing. In once conversation with a fellow MVP, he said “you know how you find yourself leaving a disappointing session, and try to find something else in that time slot …”, both he and I agreed that that hadn’t happened to us this year. The only time I thought about leaving early was during “customer stories”, which was nearly always a presentation by an Expo hall sponsor advertising their wares instead of talking about their experiences with the topic of the session. I really dislike being advertised to in a conference that I’ve (my employer, really) paid to attend. Luckily, that was only in a few sessions. Less of that please, Microsoft!

I didn’t attend any theatre sessions. Boy, have they changed since Chicago! I presented in Chicago and the organization of theatre sessions was … unorganized. This year, some of those presentations were drawing bigger crowds than the official breakout sessions by Microsoft. It seems now that a breakout is normally a subject that can be covered in 20 minutes instead of the 75 that is normal for the breakout sessions. And Microsoft presented a bunch of them too, not just community members.

I do have a bit of a downer – Friday. Friday is a dead day. Microsoft staff mostly abandon the conference on Thursday afternoon. Unless things change, book your travel to leave on Thursday night/Friday morning. I would have loved to have left on Thursday night, to spend the weekend with my family before heading off again on Sunday. It felt like, this year, that the weakest content was on Friday. Normally there were 30+ breakout sessions per time slot from Monday-Thursday, but on Friday it was 10-12, and not much got my attention. I ended up attending the first session, doing a podcast recording with a friend, and leaving early. That’s time with my family that I lost, that could have been put to good use, but was wasted. If Friday morning is dead, then I would prefer Microsoft to run a Monday-Thursday conference.

Overall Feeling

I got quite a lot out of this week. There was so much announced that it will take me weeks to digest it all. Between Monday-Thursday, there was so much that I wanted to attend that I will have to download sessions to get up to date. I came here wanting to learn lots of Azure PaaS, but so much was going on that I couldn’t attend everything – thankfully we have MyIgnite, Channel 9, and YouTube. I also missed out on the hands-on labs, but they will remain live for attendees for 6 months.

I was delighted to hear that the conference will return to Orlando next year. I’d heard a nasty rumour about Ignite merging with Microsoft’s internal MGX conference in Las Vegas, which would have been an unmitigated disaster. Orlando has been the best place so far for handling the huge audience. In my opinion, there’s not much that Microsoft has to do to improve Ignite – keep what’s there and rethink Friday. Oh – and invent a new way to absorb 4 sessions at once.

Wow, this review is sooo different to my TechEd Europe 2009 review Smile *dodges more bullets*

From IT Pros to IT Heros–With Azure DevTest Labs

Claude Remillard, Group Program Manager

How IT pros can make devs very happy!

Reason to Exist

50% or more of infrastructure is used for non-production environment. In an old job of mine, we have dev, test, and production versions of every system. That’s a lot of money! The required life of dev & test is up and down. The cloud offers on-demand capacity.

DevTest Labs

Solution for fast, easy, and agile dev-test environments in Azure:

  • Fast provisioning
  • Automation & self-service
  • Cost control and governance

Think of it as a controlled subset of Azure where the devs can roam free.

Test Environments

Typical pipeline:

  1. Check-in
  2. Build
  3. Test
  4. Release

You can pre-configure a lot of things to get a VM. Standardize images. Use an image factory.

Training / Education

A number of training companies are using DevTest environments. They can set a limit in the lab, and then let people do what they need to do in that lab.

Trials / Demos / Hackathons

Invite people in to try something out, experiment with designs/patterns, and do this in a short-lived and controlled environment.


DevTest Labs is just another Azure service. You create the lab, configure it, and assign users to it.

In Overview, you can see VMs you own, and VMs that you can claim. In virtual machines, you can see an environment alongside VMs; this is a collection of related resources. Claimable VMs are pre-created and shutdown. An IT pro could take a s/w build, deploy it overnight, and let devs/tests claim the machines the following morning.

When he goes into a VM, it has a tiny subset of the usual VM features. It has other things, like Auto-Start and Auto-Shutdown to reduce costs. You can create a custom image from a VM, which includes optionally running Sysprep. That image is then available to everyone in the lab to create VMs from. Images can be shared between labs.

Everything in the lab can be automated with APIs, PowerShell (and, thus, Automation).

He goes to create a VM. The new VM is build from a “base”. Bases can be custom/gallery images, ARM templates, or formulas. It sounds like the ARM template could be in a source control system and you could have multiple labs subscribe to those templates, or other artefacts.

If you select a VM base, there’s just one blade to create it. Name the machine, put in a guest OS username/password (can be saved as a reusable secret), choose disk type/size, select a VM series/size (restricted by admin), add other artefacts (additional s/w you can add to the VM at the time of creation, e.g. Chrome using Choclatey package manager, join an AD domain, etc), optionally do some advanced settings (network options, IP config, auto-delete the VM, number of instance, make the VM claimable), and click Create.

You can export a lab as a file, and use that file to spin up new labs.

Back in the lab, he goes to Configuration & Policies. Cost Tracking shows trends and resource specific costs. This is based on RRP costs – special deals with MS are not available to the DevTest Lab APIs. The goal here isn’t to do accounting– it’s to see spend trends and spikes.

Users: Devs should be “Lab Users”. You can share a lab with external users, e.g. consultants.

Policy Settings allows you to control:

  • Allowed virtual machines: You select which series/size can be deployed.
  • Virtual machines per user: You can limit the number of machines. You can limit the number of machines using Premium Disks. Enforced per user.
  • Virtual machines per lab: You can limit VMs and Premium VM disks per lab


  • Auto-Start
  • Auto-Stop

You can send emails and webhooks before auto-shutdown.

External Resources:

  • Repositories: Places where you pull artefacts from. Supports VSTS, GitHub and Git. The asure-devtestlab GitHub has lots of sample artefacts, scripts, and templates. This is the best way to share things between labs.
  • Virtual Networks: What networks will be available – should be pre-created by IT pros. You set up a default virtual network for new VMs, optionally with S2S VPN/ExpressRoute. You can control whether a VM can have a public IP or not.

Virtual Machine Bases:

  • Marketplace Images: What is available from the Marketplace: nothing / all / subset.
  • Custom images:
  • Formulas:

At this point I asked if Azure DevTest Labs is available in CSP. The speaker had never heard of the primary method for selling Azure by MS Partners. That’s pretty awful, IMO.

Image Factories

A way to build images that can be reused. It’s a bit more though – it’s a configuration that builds VMs with configurations automatically on a regular basis. This makes it possible to produce the latest VM images with bits baked in to your devs and testers.

That’s everything.