Highlights from Day 2 of the Exchange Connections Conference

Phew... keeping track of everything that happens at a technical conference takes a bit of effort. But I tried... Here's my take on Day 2 of the Exchange Connections conference. Good stuff happened!

Day 2 of Exchange Connections dawned bright and sunny, as you’d expect in Las Vegas. Not that we see much of the sunlight when buried deep in the bowels of the Mandalay Bay conference center paying attention to sessions, or just drinking some pretty awful coffee while hanging out with different people.

In any case, here’s what I got from today’s sessions:

  • The avuncular Loryan Strant gave a good session covering Office 365 and its alternatives (from hosted Exchange to Google Apps). Above all, he proved his absolute mastery of PowerPoint transitions, something that made me think that he might be planning to swap his MVP specialty from Office 365 to PowerPoint (yes, there are PowerPoint MVPs…).
  • Mike Ireland and David Dean came from HP and described the process that had brought HP from datacenters distributed around the world to three grouped around Houston, Atlanta, and Austin. Those datacenters support some 60 petabytes of application data (on SANs) and 500,000 Exchange 2010 mailboxes. The sheer size of the deployment is staggering and the description of how a small team exploits automation to manage it was interesting. PowerShell wins again! HP is planning to move to Exchange 2013 soon – and will eliminate public folders along the way.
  • Steve Goodman (known as “sensitive” to his MVP colleagues) spoke about the real-world challenges involved in migrating from on-premises Exchange to Exchange Online, including lots of tips about how to set up hybrid connectivity and Active Directory synchronization. The best part of this session was the practical nature of the discussion, largely because it was well-founded in lots of hands-on experience. Some of his UK-English phrases might have stumped the audience. For instance, “Leavers mailboxes” means “mailboxes of employees who are leaving or have left the company”.  I should have caught that one when the deck was reviewed.
  • Paul Robichaux and Howie Rappaport led a BoxTone-sponsored session covering Exchange ActiveSync best practices and pitfalls. Paul has a chapter on this topic in his Exchange 2013 book so he knew the topic inside out. The biggest challenge they had was the size of the room, which even Mark Minasi would struggle to fill.

  • The UC Architects panel (above) was great fun. Everyone took part in the right spirit and the debate was hot and heavy at times – but lots of great opinions were aired on topics as diverse as the future of training for Exchange professionals (yes, more than standard MCSE-level training is needed by many companies) to product quality. I might have offended the person whose phone went off during the session by referring to it as sounding like a drowning cat, so sorry if I did. Expect the podcast (with all the gaffs edited out) available on The UC Architects soon.
  • Jethro Seghers ploughed ahead in another room while UC Architects was going on to talk about Data Loss Prevention, a new feature available in Exchange 2013 and Exchange Online. It is interesting technology that extends and enhances transport rules that allows organizations to create and apply policies to control user attempts to send possibly confidential data such as credit card numbers. The only downside is that Outlook 2013 Professional Plus is the only client supporting the policy tips to let users know when they might be sending data that contravenes policy.
  • Loryan Strant spoke about securing email with Office 365. Given the PRISM disclosures more companies are worrying about how their email (which might contain confidential intellectual property) can remain secure when held in a multi-tenant environment. Loryan did a fine job of explaining the options, many of which involve client-side options.
  • Load balancing is easier with Exchange 2013. This is a welcome relief because Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010 certainly posed many load balancing challenges. Load balancers are still valuable, as in the case when Client Access Servers are managed in an array by a load balancer (remember, the RPC Client Access array object is not present in Exchange 2013). Michael van Horenbeeck did a fine job of explaining the value of load balancers in an Exchange 2013 project.

All in all, a busy and productive day. Thursday is the last day of the conference and we still have some good sessions to come. I’m looking forward to learning even more!

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Tony Redmond

Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and the author of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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