Monday, May 11, 2015

Microsoft Ignite 2015: Things can only get better

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend Microsoft's new flagship conference Microsoft Ignite 2015. Ignite was meant to replace TechEd, MMS, MEC and a bunch of other Microsoft tech conferences. MEC 2014 was absolutely awesome because of the content of the sessions, the relatively small scale of the conference and venue and most important: ample opportunity for interactions with speakers, product group members, MVPs, MCMs and others peers from the Exchange or Office 365 field.

From the initial announcement it was clear that Microsoft had to work very very hard to offer a similar experience. The short answer: they failed to deliver. I won't go into the details too much, read one of these articles to get a better understanding of my experience:

As you may have noticed the feedback is very consistent and I agree with most of it. For me personally the quality and availability of food and drinks was the least of my concerns. It was the immense scale of the conference (23.000 attendees!) that made it very hard to do anything else then wait in lines or try to reach the next session room in 30 minutes and be able to enter before it's full.

Line for lunch starting in the bridge from the South Building

And being there with almost 23.000 attendees also means it was very rare to meet people, let alone to have a chat about the session contents. For me this was the greatest value of MEC and the greatest let down of Ignite.

Despite the many challenges I had a great time though. After a bit of a slow start, the Exchange track delivered some awesome sessions. Meet Exchange Server 2016 was a bit disappointing for a more infrastructure focused person like me, but the next sessions delivered great content, especially Exchange Server Preferred Architecture and Deploying Exchange Server 2016. And it was great to meet some people I only knew from their Twitter handle until then.

Ignite 2016 has been announced and will be held in the same city, same venue. So the distance between the venues and the hotels will remain the same, but I sure hope Microsoft can fix many of the issues with the first Ignite. Let's look at it this way: Ignite can 2016 can only get better!


Scott Ladewig said...

Can you elaborate on the reasons why you feel attendance numbers made it difficult to meet people and have discussions? Not sure I make the connection, other than at MEC you knew everyone was interested in Exchange. Just to note, I attended the last three MECs

Jetze Mellema said...

At MEC there were many discussions between sessions, for instance in the hallways outside the rooms and on the balcony (Austin). You’d regularly meet the same people and I loved the talking about Exchange there. Definitely learned a lot from the informal chats between the sessions.

At Ignite there was very little time to chat with people and even harder to meet fellow Exchange guys because you needed the 30 min between sessions to move to the next room. Especially because some sessions where in the East building, others in South.

Hope this makes sense. I have attended one MEC and numerous TechEds and smaller or local conferences. In this respect MEC 2014 was best, Ignite worst.