TechEd 2010 started today, June 7, and will run through Thursday, June 10, 2010. In the past TechEd has run for five days (or ten days as an experiment a few years ago). At only four days this year, this TechEd is the shortest of the four TechEd events I have attended. Apparently reducing the event by one day saves Microsoft a lot of money, even though it is paid for by those who attend, and the rates to attend didn’t go down.
TechEd is designed to showcase Microsoft technologies, and is mostly a marketing effort put on by Microsoft, with a little training thrown in the mix to try and balance the content. Each TechEd seems to have a major theme, and this year it was all about the “cloud”. According to the keynote presentation today, the “cloud” is the future of computing and Microsoft. I’m not personally convinced this is true, but time will tell.
In past years, I have found TechEd to be well organized and fun to attend, but the first day of this year’s TechEd (at least from my personal perspective), has been disappointing. Below are some random thoughts about today.
1) Before the keynote presentation, TechEd started with a live Zydeco band on stage, which was a great start.
2) Unfortunately, the keynote presentation was uninspired and boring, not up to Microsoft’s usual great standards for keynote presentations. I would have much preferred to have seen a dynamic Steve Ballmer presentation than the less than exciting collection of presenters we had today.
3) While TechEd was the main event, the Microsoft BI Conference was being held concurrently, apparently another cost savings tactic. For example, attendees could sign up for the full TechEd conference, or just sign up for the BI Conference (for less money). Supposedly, full TechEd attendees could attend all sessions, while BI Conference only attendees could only attend BI sessions. I say supposedly because designated BI sessions didn’t allow regular attendees to attend as you would expect. Full TechEd attendees couldn’t take a seat in these designated BI sessions until five minutes before the session started, and then only if there were any seats left, which was not the case for the BI session I wanted to attend. This policy of giving preference to BI Conference attendees over full TechEd attendees was not publicly announced, and full TechEd attendees only found out at the door when they tried to enter a session, and they were told, sometimes impolitely by attendees at the door, they could not enter the room until just before the session started. Large crowds of full TechEd attendees had to stand outside of these sessions, blocking the hallways and generally creating a lot of havoc, and doing a lot of arguing with the door attendants (although the door attendants were not at fault, as they were just doing what they were told to do).
4) Talking about havoc, crowd control at TechEd was very poor. I don’t know if it is the design of the convention center, or just poor planning, but sometimes the hallways on the second floor of the convention center became human traffic jams, with easily 500 or more people stuck going opposite directions down the only hallway, bring movement to a virtual standstill. A similar thing happened when the vendor party started at 5:45 PM. Several thousand people were waiting to enter the event, and after a few minutes past the advertised entrance time, only four doors were opened to allow the thousands of people to enter.
5) As a DBA, I prefer to attend SQL Server-related sessions. Unfortunately, there are very few SQL Server sessions to choose from, and most of them were marketing related, not hardcore information. I overhead one Microsoft employee say that the typical SQL Saturday offers better SQL Server training than does TechEd. I tend to agree.
6) When I was unable to attend the BI session I wanted to attend, I decided to attend a SQL Server 2008 R2 session that was supposed to describe all the new features of the release. Unfortunately, the speaker was from marketing, and was not a DBA, and knew very little about the product. In addition, there was a lot of technical problems, and there was dead time as they were worked on resolving the technical problems. Eventually, two short demos were done, but very little of the new R2 features were covered.
7) Internet access died for several hours on Monday, preventing both attendees and presenters from accessing the Internet. Supposedly this was the fault of the ISP who was providing the service.
8 ) In the past, I have considered the continental breakfast and lunches provided at TechEd to be above average in quality. This year, at least on Monday, both the breakfast and lunch was disappointing. Again, it looks like Microsoft was cutting corners to save some costs.
9) While not TechEd’s fault, ATT’s cell phone and 3G service was horrible, often not allowing me to make calls, or not allowing me to connect to the Internet, making it hard for me to keep up with my e-mail and Twittering.
10) While I know I sound like I am whining (which I am), the best part of attending TechEd is meeting up with all my DBA friends. I had many good conversations with many people I rarely get to see. I also met up with a former co-worker who I had not seen in years.
I’m hoping that the rest of TechEd will go better than today. At least I am crossing my fingers.