In designing the conference, Microsoft emphasized interaction between presenters and attendees. The approach appears to have been successful.
“[O]ne of the best conferences I attended… ever!” Michael Van Horenbeeck, of UC Architects, wrote in his blog.
“Instead of having sessions where you’d be lectured by the speakers, [Microsoft] wanted to create more interaction between the audience and the speaker,” he wrote. “In fact, some speakers relied on the audience to ask questions: it was nice to see that some speakers didn’t even bring any PowerPoint slides with them.”
Even the keynote speeches were a cut above what’s typical fare at a technical conference.
“MEC has certainly provided a welcome departure from what we’ve all become accustomed to recently,” Carl Drechsel wrote in a blog for GSX. “Most notable among the differences is the atmosphere at the keynotes, each thus far has provided a hefty dose [of] interesting content, witty humor, and shots at a whole host of targets.”
Among those targets was how Exchange 2013 integrates email with social networking, he noted. Social networking vitals and status information are included with each contact in Outlook. What’s more, active content, such as maps, can be linked to messages.
One attendee left the conference impressed with the attention to detail that the Exchange team was applying to the new version of the software.
“They continue to recognize and understand the importance of email in today’s business environment and work to improve both the availability of the e-mail system as well as to enhance the user experience when accessing that email,” ContactPointe wrote in a blog posting.
The manager of IT networks praised the design changes in Exchange roles. It explained that the transport role has been split between the mailbox and client access roles. Client access is now a pure proxy back to the mailbox role. That reduces the data that’s needed to be replicated or duplicated for disaster recovery. It also allows roles to be deployed independently thus removing the restriction of deploying all roles in each site.
There were also some perks to attending a conference in Orlando sponsored by a global company like Microsoft, according to Sam McNeil, author of the Office 365 Evangelist Blog:
“Monday night was the big party at Universal Studios Orlando Island of Adventure,” he wrote. “The entire park was rented out for just the MEC attendees and their guests. This was a great time, never spent [more] than about two minutes in line for any ride or traction.”
One of the conference sessions that McNeil found particularly instructive dealt with hybrid deployments. Organizations currently running Exchange 2003 on their premises need to remember that they are required to use Exchange 2010 to create a hybrid deployment, he wrote. Exchange 2013 will only support hybrid deployments with Exchange 2010 and 2007, and only with them after installation of a service pack that won’t be available until the first half of 2013.
From start to finish, MEC appears to have kept its attendees thoroughly engaged in the conference’s activities:
“The closing session was excellent, if only because it proved that not even the fire alarm going off would make attendees leave the conference,” Exchange guru Tony Redmond wrote in his blog. “Talk about commitment!”
Will there be a Microsoft Exchange Conference 2013? Microsoft is noncommittal on the subject.
“I guess it is hard to repeat the kind of content-rich event enabled by the recent announcement of Exchange 2013 and the rest of the Office 2013 suite,” Redmond wrote.
“Perhaps a 2013 MEC might focus on the real-life deployment experience of Exchange 2013 and the changes in Exchange 2013 SP1,” he continued. “There’s probably enough good content there to warrant coming together again.”