My top 10 datacenter platform sessions at Microsoft Ignite!

Microsoft Ignite is just around the corner, so what better time than now, to lean back, relax, take a deep breath, and figure out how you’re going to fill your time for the week. Oh, and I mean during the day…you know…normal business hours and all that.

What you’ll find below is a selection of my hand-picked sessions, all focused on the on-premises (yes, with an ‘s’) datacenter technologies – the stuff you and I know as Windows Server, Hyper-V, System Center, Azure Pack and more. Sure, there may be some stuff on my list that you haven’t heard of before, or know too much about, but hey, that’s fine, however if it’s on this list, it’s generally because I think it’s important, strategic going forward, and frankly, downright cool technology that can make a big difference to your infrastructure.

The one that covers everything…

Well, a little bit of a lie here. This first recommendation isn’t just one session. It’s a bundle of sessions. A suite, you may say. Whichever way you slice it, these sessions are related, and are all very important. Let me explain through the help of a graphic, cleverly constructed, in PowerPoint no-less, by our very own, Rick Claus.

Microsoft Datacenter Strategy

As you’ll see, the flow, from top to bottom, kicks off with the keynote, delivered by Satya Nadella, who’ll outline the vision and strategy, company wide, from the datacenter through to cloud, from Windows to Office, and much more.  Very broad, with only a small chunk focused on our datacenter goodness (but having heard what they’re going to show, it’s still an awesome small chunk!).

You’re then into the green box, specifically the foundational keynote, titled Platform Vision and Strategy Overview: Bringing Azure to your Datacenter. Think Russinovich. Think Snover. One level deeper than the keynote, more focused on how we’re bringing learnings and code from Azure, to your datacenter, into the technologies you know and love.

Then, you’re on to the blue boxes. One level deeper again, and when I say deeper, I mean more technical. More nuts-and-bolts-level stuff. How things work, why we’re making these investments, and so on. Again, these sessions are delivered by top engineering talent from within those respective areas.

Don’t worry, from a scheduling standpoint, these aren’t all one after another, after another. The sessions in blue are spread over a number of days, so you can digest the multitude of announcements that will be made over that time too. We’ve worked hard on the schedule to ensure that other related sessions are thoughtfully scheduled around these technical overview sessions, so you don’t have to miss anything!

To give you a helping hand, here’s links to add those sessions to your schedule:

For the remaining overview sessions, if you’re a registered attendee, you can use this link to add these recommended sessions to your schedule builder via the MyIgnite session catalog. If however, you’re going to be watching online, you can use this link.

The one with Nano Server…

OK, no more cheating from now on, I promise. Interested in the future of Windows Server? Me too. Join Jeffrey Snover and Andrew Mason who will take you through everything you need to know, in their session; Nano Server: The Future of Windows Server Starts Now. Nano Server is tiny, cloud-optimized, ready to rock Containers, run as a Hyper-V host, and much more. These are the guys in charge of building it. Make sure it’s on your schedule.

The one with Containers…

Around the same time we announced Nano Server, we also gave more concrete details around our Containers strategy in the next release. If you’re interested in learning more about Windows Server Containers, and also Hyper-V Containers, join Taylor Brown and Arno Mihm as they introduce you to Microsoft’s New Windows Server Containers. If you’re not quite sure what Containers are or what they mean for you as an IT professional, I’d recommend heading to this level 200 overview.

The one with Virtual PC Guy…

Ben Armstrong’s a great speaker, and in this level 300 session he’s joined by the equally great Sarah Cooley, to take you through What’s new in Windows Server Hyper-V. Whilst Nano Server and Containers will inevitably steal all the headlines, Hyper-V, release on release, has brought new, powerful, relevant capabilities to the market, and I’m sure this release will be no different. If you’re an existing Hyper-V customer, or perhaps, you’re not…this session should arm you with lots of useful info on what’s coming next.

The one with Storage Replica…

I remember being in a room with a customer when I discussed that synchronous storage replication was coming, in the box, in the next release of the platform. “You have no idea how much money this will save us”. If you spend a pretty penny on replication, you’d be advised to pop along to the Exploring Storage Replica in Windows Server vNext session, hosted by Ned Pyle and John Loveall. This level 300 session should give you all you need to know, and they have swag!

The one with Storage Spaces and DAS…

Sticking with storage, Spaces has been around for a while now. Since Windows Server 2012 to be precise. 2012 R2 added some cool new Spaces-related features, tiering being one, but in the next release of the platform, there are not only improvements in Spaces on the whole, but also a brand new deployment configuration that allows the Scale-Out File Server to be deployed without external storage. No JBOD. No SAN. Just the disks that reside in the SOFS nodes themselves. Interested? Intrigued? Thought so. Check out the level 300 session, Enabling Private Cloud Storage Using Servers With Local Disks, with Claus Joergensen and Michael Grey.

The one with Network Virtualization…

Similar to Storage Spaces, Hyper-V Network Virtualization has been part of Windows Server since the 2012 release, however it’s only with the 2012 R2 release that we saw key capabilities arrive on the platform that eased the adoption. Integration with System Center was one, and the Hyper-V Network Virtualization Gateway was another. If your network virtualization knowledge is a bit rusty, fear not, Greg Cusanza and Aanand Ramachandran will bring you up to speed with existing capabilities, before blowing you away with what’s coming next, in their level 300 session entitled, Deploying a Scalable virtual edge for hybrid connectivity with external networks.

The one with extra security…

Don’t worry, I’m not saying that you’ll be asked to show your ID at the door (although most likely you will :-)). This session focuses on protecting your Hyper-V-based environment with new innovations coming in the next release of the platform. The capabilities and features that will be discussed weren’t part of the previous Windows Server Technical Preview, so chances are, this will be new to you, and, let’s face it, it’s security – it’s important! Join Dean Wells and Allen Marshall, as they walk you through how enhancements in Hyper-V and System Center, you can better protect your virtual infrastructure, in their level 300 session, Harden the Fabric: Protecting Tenant Secrets in Hyper-V.

The one with the Azure Pack roadmap…

I always find it’s good to know what’s coming next. I’m not talking about crystal balls or tarot cards. I’m talking about roadmaps of course! If you’re interested in delivering Azure-consistent services on-premises, the Azure Pack has been the way to do that for a while now. Trust me when I say, there are amazing things that are coming in the next release of the Azure Pack, and Robert Reynolds will give you the scoop on what those amazing things are, in this level 200 session, creatively titled Windows Azure Pack Roadmap. Tell it like it is, Robert!

The one with the lumberjacks…

This one is all about logs. Specifically the analysis of said logs. Azure Operational Insights is an incredibly powerful cloud service that collects huge amounts of logs and machine data, and crunches through it, so you don’t have to. The resulting visualizations, through rich dashboards, enable you to better plan, troubleshoot and remediate your environments. Convinced? Join Joseph Chan and Satya Vel, as they explore Log Analytics and Visualization Using Microsoft Azure Operational Insights in this level 300 session.

That’s all folks!

So there you have it. That’s my 10 recommended sessions (technically 18 sessions!). You’ll certainly see me in as many of those as my schedule allows. When I’m not in sessions, you’ll see me hanging around the Channel 9 stage, getting ready to interview some of our top engineering talent. If you’re nearby, make sure you stop by to say hello (but no heckling!).

//Matt

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