TechEd is well underway now, and the contrast between Orlando's dripping heat and Colorado's  (the home of Windows IT Pro) crisp, rainy spring weather couldn't be greater. But all is cool and clicking along smoothly in the Orlando Convention Center, with a wealth of learning opportunities--including individual hands-on and instructor-led labs, breakout learning tracks, product demos, and exam cram sessions--live music, and ice cream.

     I found Microsoft Senior VP Bob Muglia's keynote this morning interesting, and not just for the amusing take-off on Back to the Future, with a live and still acting convincingly crazy after all these years Christopher Lloyd fueling the fun. Muglia focused on the evolution of IT from cost center to strategic asset (although I wonder how many IT departments today would honestly be able to identify themselves as true strategic assets—and not because they don't want to be) and outlined how an enterprise might change the typical allocation ratio of IT resources from 70 percent spent maintaining the status quo and only 30 percent, if that, spent focusing on the new and empowering.

The word "agility" was repeated often, and I was intrigued by Gartner's Tom Bittman's contribution to the address. Bittman defined agility as the ability of an IT organization to sense environmental change and respond efficiently and effectively to that change. We've seen a sea change in the IT environment over the past few years, such that connectivity is now pervasive, more relationships now occur online and are much shorter-lived than before, and the response-time window continues to shrink. In defining agility and the challenges that the current environment poses, Bittman talked about how Quality of Service (QoS), although once seen as the Holy Grail of IT effectiveness, has more often functioned as a straitjacket. Today, Bittman asserts, to achieve agility, IT needs to break down the walls between the infrastructure, applications, and the business and invest specifically to enable increased agility.