Microsoft Developer & IT Pro Days in Gent, Belgium, day 2

Visiting this week the Microsoft Developer & IT Pro Days in Gent, Belgium, I caught another few presentations on new Microsoft products.

Search in SharePoint Server 2007 – Architecture, scalability and deployment.

I am not a great supporter of SharePoint, but it is a very strong product because of it’s tight integration with all things Microsoft.  That’s why I visited Kimmo Forss’s presentation on architecture, scalability and deployment of SharePoint Server 2007, and more specifically the Search function.

Microsoft made good progress with their search functions.  I still don’t like Live Search, because it does not work as good as Google, but on the desktop and own servers, they have done a great job.  I like the search function in Vista, and also on SharePoint Server 2007 it works swift and correct.

Kimmo went in deep detail on setting up server farms for big enterprisey environments, with all diffferent requirements and suggestions on hardware and software.  2007 gives you more flexibility in setting up different functions for different servers, but in enterprise environments, you’re in for a tough ride. 

High Availability in Exchange 2007

Jill Frank came back for an interesting presentation on the high availability options within Exchange 2007.  Most Exchange 2007 server roles can be load balanced by simple means: edge servers can be DNS round robined, other servers can be clustered.  The only difficult one is the mailbox storage, because you – as the word says – have to do with keeping storage availabe, op top of a service.

 To make Exchange 2007 mailboxes highly available both in terms of speed and in terms of failover safety, it features two options which work best in combination with each other: clustering and “local continuous replication”, which means the transaction logs are replicated over multiple locations on the same server on another data location.  Together, they become Cluster Continuous Replication, in which the transaction logs are replicated over both clusters, and no shared data point is needed in the cluster.  Exchange 2007 is cluster-aware on install, meaning that it integrates into a prepared cluster setup, as long as the cluster is pretty much empty: no Exchange 2003, no SQL Server, no other weird stuff.  Setup of a CCR is then very simple, as long as you build two identical machines, with identical installation points.

Optimizing Windows Vista & Office 2007 Deployments 

David De Backer gave a thorough presentation on different ways to deploy Vista on different environments, aided by the Business Desktop Deployment 2007.  BDD is a very easy one file download, which deploys a framework to deploy not only Vista, but even Windows XP from SP2 onto your environment.  In it, you can easily reach all tools and programs the framework incorporates, such as USMT or Application Compability Tool, which analyses applications and their compability with Windows Vista or XP and their respective user rights management settings.

Windows Vista reliability and management improvements

I didn’t plan on visiting Tony Krijnen’s presentation, since I have been working with Vista for 10 months now and know quite alot of ins and outs already, but I found Tony’s presentation very entertaining ánd informative.  Turns out I don’t know all about Vista!  Be sure to skim through his presentation, for it is much bigger than I can try to comment on. 

Bottom line of Tony’s presentation is that Vista incorporates a wide range of features that make it easier for end-users to understand problems and to troubleshoot and solve them.  No more are the days where an end-user is asked to check network connectivity with ipconfig and ping, or memory-hogging programs that slow down your system.  Also, do send all your error reports to Microsoft: they áre analyzed ánd used in creating hotfixes, patches, service packs and next versions. 

If you want to review the presentations of today, you can visit this link .

Microsoft Developer & IT Pro Days in Gent, Belgium, day 1

I will be visiting this week the Microsoft Developer & IT Pro Days in Gent, Belgium. On this first real day of the conference, topics are spread out for developers and IT pro’s on many of Microsoft’s products. My interests went among others to the Exchange 2007 efforts.

Visiting Jill Frank’s Exchange presentation was a bit of a let-down.  The first content, describing installing Exchange 2007 gave a good view of all the different options in installing the different Exchange roles and the list of prerequisites, but since you can only show so much in a 75 minute presentation, administration was limited to a very short view on the new Management Console, and some basic scripting features – which I still am not sure what their plus is, apart from automating some tasks.  I know the concept of using a command-line, but it is really not the best way to do stuff when you’re the one doing the administration instead of copy-pasting instructions from your head-admin.

Luckily, tomorrow features 2 other presentations which promise to go in depth in Exchange 2007 usage in high-availability environments and migrating from previous versions of Exchange. 

In all though, it was a pleasure listening in to Jill’s presentation. 

Vista Technologies

Next, I did a sit in at the session John Craddock and Sally Storey were presenting, covering mainly Vista but even XP technologies.  They gave a nice presentation with much demos of all the nitty gritty features any admin should know about before deploying Vista and applications. Memorable points were the new user security features – even “admins” get a standard user token, and they demoed nicely why you should keep the default security features activated.  Running as a standard user – even as an admin – is good practice, and I consider any admin circumventing this and working in day-to-day as a full-admin on Vista (or any other system) irresponsible and unprofessional.  But then again, I come from an environment where I had to learn the hard way why sudo was useful on Unix machines.

System Center Configuration Manager: Deployment 

Telindus’ Kim Oppalfens gave a very thourough presentation on deploying the SMS 2003 successor: System Center Configuration Manager 2007.  A mouthful for a product with many new features I deem necessary and have found to be necessary in the past.  This 2007 version goes deeper into factual deploying of it’s own client, and even supports updating client computers through HTTP: your never-VPNing road warriors (because they can reach your Sharepoint infrastructure and do their email through OWA or RDP) get their new packages and updates anyway!  SCCM is also a factor in setting up Microsoft’s NAP solution: Network Access Protection lives by a “health ratio” which Windows will gather from the settings and status of your antiviral and antimalware software, together with your security patch levels and much more.  If your computer is not up to par with company policy on recent antivirus and antimalware signature files, or lacks patches and service packs, your network connection is limited to a secure environment where admins for instance only give you access to Internet, while SCCM can update your system to get it up to speed.  You have visitors coming over and they plug in their laptop into your wired or wireless network?  They get booted too to this internal DMZ, defending your local network.  Múch better than administrating MAC-addresses in your switches.  These NAP-features work on many levels, from physical network connections, to different kinds of VPN’s, to other ways to connect to your infrastructure.

If you want to review the presentations of today, you can visit this link .

Microsoft Developer & IT Pro Days in Gent, Belgium, pre conference day

My first big conference while working for SkillTeam, I will be visiting this week the Microsoft Developer & IT Pro Days in Gent, Belgium. On this two day event, I will also attend the pre-conference day, focusing for IT professionals into Microsoft’s effort in Virtualisation solutions.

Microsoft currently offers already a few interesting products.  I personally find them not yet up to par with VMWare, but they are making a nice effort.  Their Virtual PC is the VMWare’s Workstation counterpart, where you can run virtual machines mainly for development and testing purposes.  Virtual Server looks very much the same, but is actually limited in on-hands features, although the server integration is better.  The not yet available – not even in Beta – offering is their Virtualisation services on the coming Longhorn server platform.

Licensing

I normally don’t stop when it comes to thinking about licenses, but Microsoft already offers their current virtualisation solutions for free for anyone, and even the full Virtualization solution running on/under Longhorn will be “free” (if you pay the dough for Longhorn, offcourse).  On top of these virtual environments – and even the VMWare and Parrallels’ environments – you are since december 2005 only supposed to make sure you have the necessary licenses for the necessary processes in running virtual machines.  Having 4 virtual machines in stand-by as backup can be done without having 4 licenses ready, and if you have in a 8 processor physical machine a SQL server running 2 virtual processors, you only have to license for these 2 virtual processors. Even more special are the R2 releases of Windows Server 2003, where the Enterprise Edition comes with 4 virtual licenses per physical license, and the Datacenter license includes any Windows Server 2003 edition license for an unlimited amount of virtual machines.

If you want to review the presentations of today, you can visit this link .