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:
- Ignite 2015 Wrap-up (Toni Pohl)
- Ignite Day 1: From the Trenches (Don Jones)
- How Microsoft Can Fix Ignite (Don Jones)
- Ignite Afterthoughts: Choosing a Conference Based on Content (Don Jones)
- Ignite 2015 wrap-up: Very much a V1.0 product (Tony Redmond)
- The greatest Microsoft conference (blunder?) ever (Gary Steere)
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.
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!