TechCamp 2013 Wrap Up

Yesterday we ran TechCamp 2013, the Irish community launch of Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and Windows Intune.  All the feedback I have heard has been positive – thankfully!  🙂

We kicked off with Dave Northey (Microsoft CAT Program Manager).  Dave was the IT Pro DPE in Ireland for quite some time and has spoken at every launch event since Windows NT.  It would have been wrong not to have Dave in to do the keynote.


After that we broke into two tracks.  I did the WS2012 R2 session and next door, Damian Flynn (MVP) did the Windows 8.1 in the enterprise session.  I wanted to attend Damian’s session – I hear it was excellent, covering the BYOD and mobile worker scenarios.


In the desktop track, some speakers from Microsoft introduced the new generation of devices that the various OEMs are bringing to market for Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1, and what Windows Intune now offers for distributed end users, mobile workers, and BYOD device/app management.

Back in the server & cloud track, Paul Keely (MVP) did a session on service automation.


Damian was back on stage in the server & cloud track talking about using SCVMM 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack to build a hybrid cloud on Azure and Windows Server 2012 R2.  Kevin Greene (MVP) wrapped up the track explaining how System Center can be used to manage service availability and quality.


Niall Brady (MVP), an Irish man living and working in Sweden, wrapped up the desktop & devices track by talking about System Center Configuration Manager 2012 R2.


We asked for a small registration fee to encourage legitimate registrations and to get a higher turn-up rate.  That fee went to a good cause, an NGO called Camara.  We had Mark Fox in from Camara.  This gave Mark a chance to tell the audience (after the keynote) about the good work that Camara does.  They take unwanted PCs from businesses, securely wipe the PCs, track them, and reuse those machines to provide a digital education to needy kids.  Education is the best weapon against poverty and war, and Camara is on the frontline. Mark also staffed a stand in the exhibition room, and hopefully businesses found a way to get rid of machines in their drive to rid themselves of Windows XP, and make a difference in the world while doing it.


We have a whole bunch of sponsors to thank:

  • MicroWarehouse: My employers were the primary sponsor.  This event would not have happened without the huge effort by John Moran.  I would have been happy with a projector in a shed (with VPN access to my lab) but John made this a professional event.
  • Microsoft: Thanks for the support from Ciaran Keohane, the help from Michael Meagher.
  • Ergo: One of the leading Microsoft partners in Ireland, regularly winning Server partner of the year.
  • DataOn Storage: One of the manufacturers of certified Storage Spaces hardware
  • Savision: Creating dashboards for System Center that aid IT operations.
  • Toshiba: who had some devices on hand (including their new 8” Windows 8.1 tablet), most of which aren’t even on sale yet!

A big thank you goes out to each speaker who prepared 75 minute sessions (two of them in the case of Damian).  In case you don’t know, that’s probably a couple of days work in preparing slides, demos, and rehearsing, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.

And finally, thanks to everyone who helped us communicate the event, and of course, came to the event to hear about these new solutions.  I hope the day proved valuable.

We had a number of people ask if we’ll run more events like this next year.  I believe that this is something that we will strongly consider.  There won’t be any launch stuff for us to cover for a while, so maybe we’d look at doing more “here’s how” content.  We’ll have to review and consider our options before we make any decisions.

Event: TechCamp 2013 Windows & System Center Mailshots Begin

Thanks to my employers, and sponsors of TechCamp 2013, MicroWarehouse, a shiny nice mailshot for the Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and Windows 8.1 community launch event went out today.

A special thank you to John who is working like mad on this event.

Business people group at meeting seminar presentation

Anyone can register for this 2-track community launch event.  In fact, we are recommending that more than 1 person comes from a company so that they each attend a track and share notes.

Even if you cannot go, please remember it’s a community event.  So help spread the word!!!  RT on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, smoke signals … it’s all appreciated.

A Beginners Guide To The MVP Summit

This post was edited/updated on 27/August/2014.

For the past few years I’ve been sending my “Guide to the MVP Summit” to friends who were newly minted MVPs. This year, I thought I’d share my guide (with hush-hush stuff removed) so everyone could get an idea of what goes on.

What’s an MVP?

A Microsoft Valuable Professional is, according to Microsoft:

MVPs are independent experts who are offered a close connection with people at Microsoft. To acknowledge MVPs’ leadership and provide a platform to help support their efforts, Microsoft often gives MVPs early access to Microsoft products, as well as the opportunity to pass on their highly targeted feedback and recommendations about product design, development, and support.


There are around 4,200 of us around the world with all sorts of expertise. For example, there are around 14 of us in Ireland, and I am in the Cloud & Datacenter Management (CDM) expertise – note the the program now allows an MVP to have more than 1 exptertise. There are other Irish MVPs have the Cloud and Datacenter expertise, as well as other expertises from across the Microsoft portfolio.

We vary from Xbox experts, Office365 gurus, and Windows Server wizards. Our community can be found on forums, writing books, delivering training, blogging, podcasting, updating wikis, speaking at road shows, presenting at launch events, and running user groups. And from time to time, we work too Smile

There are no exams to become an MVP.  After making contributions to the community over time, people get recognised by other MVPs or Microsoft employees.  A person is nominated and evaluated.  If they’re lucky they are awarded with MVP status.  And that status is good for 1 year.  At the 9-10 month mark, the whole evaluation begins again based on our contributions over the past year.  There is no sitting on your laurels when you are an MVP; you don’t want to lose your status and lose access to the MVP Summit.

What is the MVP Summit?

We get a number of benefits as MVPs but this is the crown jewel. The MVP Summit is a conference, held usually in Microsoft HQ at Redmond and in nearby Bellevue, where MVPs and members of product groups get together for several days. The contents of the conference are under NDA … it’s kind of like Fight Club: the first rule is not to talk about Summit, and the second rule is not to talk about Summit.


The sessions we attend are mixed, from general content to focused sessions with the folks who helped create the product that we are experts in. I can’t talk much more about it …. but these sessions can be amazing.  We can learn a lot from the makers of the product.  Why would Microsoft do this at their expense?  Simple: we’re out there talking about their product in markets that they cannot reach.  For example, I have used my education to teach Microsoft partners in Ireland, to blog here, to write a book, and to speak at many events and podcasts, and author whitepapers.  We are independent (VMware folks might say different about me, but I get a lot of heat from time to time for my … … independence) so people value what we have to say, instead of listening to the same old canned presentations from Microsoft marketing.

This isn’t just a 1-way flow of information. It is alleged that Steve Ballmer once said that MVPs were people who asked questions with exclamations at the end, e.g. “Will we get NIC teaming in Windows Server vNext!!!!!” Smile We tend to bring lists of feature requests and feedback. A lot of what’s in Windows Server 2016 was because of MVP feedback (I wish I could say what bits!).  The cool thing is that the program managers welcome our feedback, either because it’s unexpected or because it provides them with the metrics to support something that they’ve been pushing for.

One of the great things is the networking.  We MVPs get to meet each other and our friends from other countries. I’ve gotten to know developers, Office 365 experts, System Center people, and the list goes on. This proves useful for that “quick question”. One hand washes the other: sometimes we find work opportunities for each other. And yes, you make all kinds of friends. Some of the best people I know I met at the Summit, and they’re the sort of close friends that I was delighted to invite to my wedding.

Where is It?

Your life during this week will centre around Bellevue and Redmond.


There are a number of conference hotels. The big three are:

  • The Hyatt on the junction of NE 8th St and Bellevue Sq. This is the hub of social activity. A reception is usually held here. There are many bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity within walking distance. This is the hotel everyone wants to book … and it’s why I was pressing F5 on the night that registration started Smile I’ve stayed here all but one year.
  • The Westin is down the road across from Bellevue Square. I stayed here on my first year. Some of the Summit activity usually happens here, registration, overflow, additional sessions outside of the core days. There is an undercover walk between the Westin and the Hyatt (direct to where registration usually is at the Westin). I stayed one night in 2013; it’s comfy and directly across the road from the restaurants you’ll go to in Bellevue.
  • A more economic, but distant, option is the Red Lion. I’ve not stayed there but friends have. It’s out of the way, but it offers a shuttle service into Bellevue.
  • There are a bunch more of hotels within 10 minutes walk of the Hyatt. I’ve stayed in a couple, and they’re good hotels too. Trust me – on Summit week, if it’s an official hotel, then you’ll have plenty of out-of-town nerd company.

You might find that certain groups or countries like to stick to certain hotels. If you’re an MVP, ask around and you’ll find out where your group likes to stay.

When to Travel

The Summit as an event runs for 3-4 days, but you might find additional stuff being added by the groups – some are better than others at this. They will be full and long days. I suffer from horrible jetlag, and that makes the 8 hour time difference all the tougher.  I usually fly in on the Saturday before.  The idea is to sort out my jetlag but that’s never worked.  On the Sunday, I register, relax, hanging out in Bellevue, wandering about, and spending time with friends, some of whom I might not have met since the last Summit.

Know your schedule before you book flights/hotels.  The more diligent might want to get back home as quickly as possible to minimise time away from work or family.  Are any elective sessions outside your core expertise available?  Is your product group laying on extra sessions or days?  Some groups have been known to do 2-3 days of extra content because they have some much content to share and get feedback on.


The local international airport is Seattle-Tacoma (SEA). From UK/Ireland, I used to go via Heathrow to take advantage of the convenient departure/arrival times of BA into/out of Seattle, but Heathrow Terminal 5 is a nightmare to change in now. Instead, I prefer to fly directly from Dublin into the USA (and do immigration in Ireland), and then get a short hope either from Chicago or Seattle.

The airport is about a half hour from central Bellevue by taxi. I can’t remember the price but I think it was around $50-$60. Note that some of the hotels, such as the Hyatt, run a shuttle service.

If you’re arriving in after 9pm then you might find it difficult to find food at the hotel. Plan ahead: get food on the way.  Yeah, that’s airline food, but it’s better than nothing. Joey’s bar across from the Hyatt front entrance is the only place I know of that serves food late, but it’s usually full of MVPs and the posers that parked their hypercars outside.

The trip to Redmond from central Bellevue takes around 15 minutes. Microsoft runs regular coaches from each official hotel to the hub in the middle of the campus. Buses are queuing up and leave when filled. Calling Redmond a campus is an understatement: it’s a small city with its own road network, buses, and taxis. You find out where your sessions will be when you build your schedule (online soon before the conference). At the hub, you catch another organised coach to get to your building – they run on a loop stopping off at different buildings. If you find yourself stuck at a building needing transport, there’s a buzzer outside the front door where you can request a Microsoft bus/taxi – you just need to know what Microsoft building (number) you’re going to … including the several Microsoft buildings in Bellevue.

The Social Side

The reception is a welcome party, usually in the Hyatt, where all MVPs from around the world and all expertise mingle.  It’s a chance to meet old friends and new ones. And the group of a certain country annoys everyone else with their endless chanting. Note to self: print a huge poster with their results from the world cup *evil laugh*. BTW, the food is often shite, but there’s a Wendy’s burger place around the corner 🙂

The product group evening session is a big deal. Here you’ll get to talk more with the presenters from the week, and meet other program managers that you didn’t get to see talk.  This event can be where you make those contacts that save your bacon in 2 years time, and it’s where the PMs figure out who are the right people for them to talk to when planning products.  This informal atmosphere is where a lot of stuff gets done.

Bars and Restaurants

You usually don’t need to buy food during the conference days. Breakfast is served in the hotel in a conference room – what’s the story with turkey sausages? They are God-awful pale turds.  Seriously!  I usually skip that by getting cereal/milk in a local supermarket and eating in my hotel room.  There are frequent breaks and lunch at the sessions.  Dinner is taken care of most nights.  The reception at the Hyatt features weird tasting mini-burgers.  There are lots of options nearby:

  • Breakfast is served in a hall in the conference hotels on official Summit days. Day 1 it’s good. Then it switches to those God-awful “dog turd” turkey sausages. That leads me to …
  • Palaminos beside the Westin is OK.  Typical American food and a pricey but tasty breakfast.
  • Denny’s is a great way to fill up at breakfast, but there isn’t one near the hotels.
  • The Starbucks is across from the Hyatt gets very full.  There is another bigger one just 1 minute walk past that one and it’s never as busy.
  • The Italian across from the Hyatt is excellent.  I recommend the spaghetti & meatball.  There is another Italian (I think) beside the Starbucks on the corner.
  • There is an “Irish” bar across from the Hyatt that is popular with MVPs
  • The bar outside the Hyatt on the corner, Joey’s, also gets busy but is close by. It’s a pricey spot with lots of exotic cars being parked in the hotel courtyard.
  • There is a small restaurant/bar on the ground floor of the Hyatt.  Nice breakfast.  Don’t remember many MVPs in there.  I also think there’s a Mexican or a fish restaurant in the Hyatt complex.
  • Near Barnes & Noble (east of Westin hotel) is a really good bar.  Huge beer and food menu from what I remember.
  • There’s a pizza place around the side form the Westin. I ate there in 2013 and the pizza was good.
  • Cheesecake Factory is across the road from the Westin.  Huge portions of food and always busy.  If you go there with a big group, you will wait for a table (they give you a pager).  It’s usually full.  I guess this is a mandatory visit for non-American fans of The Big Bang Theory (get the barbecue bacon cheeseburger, delivered with barbecue sauce, bacon, and cheese on the side) Smile Go there hungry. Very hungry.
  • Breakfast is pricey everywhere. Add in coffee and you’re talking $35/person.
  • There is a Chinese across the flyover walkway between the Hyatt and the Westin. I hear it’s excellent – it must be because it is always full and busy.


Everyone wants to shop when in the USA, especially us gadget geeks.  The Apple and Microsoft stores are separated by an escalator doors apart in the mall.  It’s a big indoor mall, typical of USA.  There’s also a camera place.  But I’d also check out the Best Buy website if I was you.  Best Buy is about 1.5-2KMs away.  If you are going into either Apple or MSFT stores, don’t go in too late in the day – 2500 MVPs will also be in there.  The mall has lots of other stores and lots of small coffee shops and places to eat. Fry’s is huge, but it’s quite a distance away. You can get a taxi there, but it’s tough getting back. And do not even attempt to get on that road in peak traffic.

There have been discounts in the past for MVPs at the MSFT Store, such as a cheap Surface 2. And we were there in 2013 when the Xbox One was released and we got to see the madness in the mall and on the MSFT campus. That’s not an every year deal – wait until you register before you shop in the MSFT store … and do ask if there is an MVP discount before you pay.

There is also a Barnes & Nobel 1 block east of the Hyatt and Westin. I remember my first visit there: I got to see my name in print on the cover of a book for the very first time (Mastering Windows Server 2008 R2). 

There is also the Company Store in the Redmond Hub.  This is the place to get your cheap XBox Live Gold membership, webcams, etc.  Any time  I see one of my Hyper-V books on sale in there … another “happy dance” Smile


It’s actually a good distance away, about 20-30 minutes to the main part of the city, which is west of Bellevue.  You can get a bus (I am told).  There is lots to do and see.  The underground tour is supposed to be excellent.  The fish market is a must-see apparently.  A few did a harbour boat tour.  I did the spike thing last year.  You go up, pay for coffee, and go back down again.  I’m not much of a city-tourist Smile  I prefer going out into the mountains with camera gear.  If that’s your thing and you have time, then you’re in luck.  Olympic National Park (big snow mountains) is west of Seattle.  The Cascade mountains run north/south east of Bellevue.  Mt. Ranier National Park is southeast of you.

The Experience

Maybe you’ll get to learn loads, and maybe not – it depends on your product group and how interested they are.  To me, the Summit is the most important event I go to each year.  Part of it is meeting the MSFT folks, and part of it is meeting the other MVPs.  This is a conference like no other, because this is where you get to mingle with other experts and where you get to shape future versions of the products that you work with.


I have left some stuff out because I’m not sure of the NDA nature of it – better safe than sorry!  You’ll learn more about the event from your regional leads as we get closer to it.  Be sure to talk with local MVPs or others in your same expertise to find out what else goes on during the week.

Oh yeah: At MVP Summit there will be no photography, no blogging, no tweeting, no facebooking, no instagramming … and I am not joking. This is put on your serious pants time and take the NDA very seriously.  Assume everything is under NDA unless told otherwise.  If you are told it’s not under NDA then you can blog, etc, but I am careful with that stuff and ask for it to be reviewed before publishing, just in case I included NDA content by accdent.

Technorati Tags: ,,

UK and Ireland MVP YouTube Channel For Windows Server 2012

The leader for the MVP program in UK and Ireland, Claire Smyth, got a bunch of us together after the Windows Server Rocks events to prepare some videos to support the Windows Server 2012 launch.  Myself (my previously blogged videos), Patrick Lownds (Hyper-V MVP), Damian Flynn (Cloud and Datacenter MVP), and Thomas Lee (PowerShell MVP) contributed videos to this new UK/IE MVP YouTube channel.


Technorati Tags: ,

Windows User Group Ireland, September 10th 2010

The Windows User Group is back with a day-long event featuring updates on the latest in Microsoft IT infrastructure. Join us on Friday, September 10th in the Microsoft Auditorium in Leopardstown to hear expert speakers talking about Windows Server, virtualization, Exchange, unified messaging, and System Center for the small/medium enterprise. This day will give you valuable information that will educate you on what benefits new technologies from Microsoft will bring to your business.

The agenda is










Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: Dynamic Memory and RemoteFX

Aidan Finn (MVP), System Dynamics






Service Pack 1 for Exchange 2010

Nathan Winters (MVP), Grey Convergence






Communications Server 14

John McCabe (MVP), CDSoft Limited






System Center Essentials 2010: Enterprise Management for the SME Customer

Wilbour Craddock, Microsoft

You can register and attend the event for free.

Date: Friday, September 10th, 2010

Location: EPDC-2, South County Business Park, Leopardstown, Dublin 18

Registration: 08:45 to 09:15 with a strict start time of 09:15

The detailed agenda and speakers’ bios are as follows:

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: Dynamic Memory and RemoteFX (90 Minutes – 09:15 until 10:45)

Speaker: Aidan Finn (MVP: Virtual Machine), Infrastructure Team Lead with System Dynamics

Webcast: LiveMeeting

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is around the corner. It introduces some new features that will be of huge interest to anyone that is interested in Hyper-V or Remote Desktop Services (including Citrix software). Memory is often the main constraint in virtual machine to host density. Dynamic IT provides a new mechanism for configuring virtual machines with a variable amount of memory. Aidan will discuss what over commitment is and how it is bad. He’ll then introduces you to the mechanics behind Dynamic Memory and show it in action. Aidan will also introduce you to RemoteFX. This is a new solution to provide high quality graphics, such as 1080p video, to Remote Desktop clients. This will be used in Remote Desktop Services and compatible Citrix solutions.

About Aidan Finn:

Aidan is the Infrastructure Team Lead with System Dynamics, a consulting services company located in Dublin that provides IT infrastructure and business intelligence expertise. He has been working in IT since 1996 and has specialised in working with Microsoft infrastructure solutions including Server, desktop, System Center and virtualisation. Aidan is an MCSE and a Microsoft Valuable Professional with an expertise in virtualization. Aidan co-wrote Mastering Windows Server 2008 R2 (Sybex), is the lead author of Mastering Hyper-V Deployment (Sybex), and is contributing to Mastering Windows 7 Deployment (Sybex). You can find his blog at

Service Pack 1 for Exchange 2010 (90 Minutes – 11:00 until 12:30)

Speaker: Nathan Winters (MVP: Exchange), Unified Communications Lead with Grey Convergence

Webcast: LiveMeeting

Exchange 2010 SP1 was announced at TechEd US 2010 and contains some exciting enhancements to Exchange 2010. This session will first set the context for these new features and then walk you through what is now possible:

· Reminder of the Exchange 2010 core tenets

· An update on where Microsoft is with Exchange Online

· Introduction to the Feature Enhancements of Exchange 2010 SP1 such as:

· The New Exchange Control Panel Management UI

· Improved High Availability and Disaster Recovery functionality

· Improved Outlook Web App UI and Performance

· Better Mobile Device Experience

· New Information Protection and Control

Ø Personal Archive Enhancements

Ø Retention Policy Management Enhancements

Ø Multi-Mailbox Search Enhancements

· Demo

· Questions & Answers

About Nathan Winters:

Nathan Winters is the unified communications lead at Grey Convergence, a specialist Microsoft partner for unified communications and collaboration. Nathan has been working in IT for eight years and specializes in unified communications with a focus on Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications Server. Nathan has consulted at numerous Fortune 100 companies across a variety of vertical markets.

In 2006, Nathan founded the Microsoft Messaging and Mobility User Group UK, which holds regular meetings in the UK to discuss topics related to Exchange. In 2007, Nathan was named an MVP (Exchange Server) for his work with MMMUG and his regular contributions to the Mark Minasi Forum, and he has received the same honour each year since.

Nathan’s articles have been published on leading websites and magazines, including Windows IT Pro Magazine,,, Microsoft (TechNet Industry Insiders), and the MMMUG website.

You can contact Nathan at or through his blog at

Communications Server 14 (90 Minutes – 13:15 until 14:45)

Speaker: John McCabe (MVP: Unified Communications), Technical Consultant with CDSoft

Webcast: LiveMeeting

Communications Server 2010 (Wave 14) is Microsoft’s Next Generation Unified Communications Platform. It brings many new features including a completely new UI. John will bring you through the main features and some of the new supported scenarios available in this platform and discuss how you can even use it now to replace your PBX! This really will be a serious contender for businesses of all sizes.

About John McCabe:

John currently works as a Technical Consultant for CDSoft Limited providing solutions to the Irish Market Place across multiple industries. John has over 12 years in the IT Industry ranging different disciplines from security, networks and of course Microsoft Infrastructure. John has attained MCITP/MCTS/MCP in various tracks as well as a multiple other professional certifications. John was awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in October 2009 for extensive community work and promoting the Microsoft Product Group.

System Center Essentials 2010: Enterprise Management for the SME Customer (90 Minutes – 15:00 until 16:30)

Speaker: Wilbour Craddock, Partner Technical Specialist, Microsoft

Webcast: LiveMeeting

The aim of this session is to provide a technical overview of the key capabilities of SCE 2010, and how it provides an integrated management solution for SMB customers, from hardware right through to the virtual OS’s running on Hyper-V and applications/services in these VM’s. Attendees will gain valuable information around differentiating SCE with the other System Center technologies, which form part of the Server Management Suites, from both a technical, and pricing perspective. We’ll also cover DPM 2010; part of the new SCE Plus SKU, and how it provides a centralized, powerful SMB-friendly application protection and DR solution, protecting both virtualized servers, application workloads, and desktop data.

To help attendees understand the solutions better, we’ll be constructing a customer scenario to provide a complete solution that can be adapted for specific customer and partner engagements. This solution will include both licensing, and pricing information, to give a better idea of the overall solution cost, and ROI. We’ll focus on delivering a demo of this scenario, concentrating particularly on the virtualization management, PRO functionality, hardware integration, and overall management of the environment.

About Wilbour Craddock:

Wilbour is a former Windows Server MVP and Canadian User Group lead now working for Microsoft Ireland in the Partner Team and frequent speaker on the TechNet Ireland tours. Wilbour’s background is not that dissimilar from most IT Professionals, having started on a help desk and progressed through system administration to leadership roles in government organizations serving as a solutions architect overseeing development and deployment teams and helping set long-term IT strategies. He blogs with the TechNet Ireland team on the IEITPro blog.