The slogan "What Happens Here, Stays Here" has become a popular tag line since the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority started using it in ads to promote their city. However, "Ready for a New Day"—the theme of the upcoming Microsoft Exchange Connections show (November 6–9, 2006)—is catching up fast.

Personally, I love Vegas even though I don't drink, smoke, or gamble—three of the most popular activities in the city. I love the energy and glitz, and it's great fun to people-watch in the casinos and along the Strip. I wouldn't want to live there, but the occasional visit is invigorating. In the case of Exchange Connections, it's all the more exciting because of the stellar lineup of speakers and exhibitors at the conference.

The "Ready for a New Day" theme ties in with Microsoft's marketing campaign for Exchange Server 2007, Windows Vista, and Microsoft Office 2007. Microsoft is getting close to releasing all three products, so it's starting to focus on them as parts of a unified launch instead of as separate products. To that end, Microsoft's presence at next month's Exchange Connections show will be significantly larger than it has been in the past.

The conference begins on Monday, November 6, with "pre-conference" workshops, including Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Hands-On Labs, an all-day event led by Peter O'Dowd. The keynote address will be Monday night, given by Ron Markezich, Microsoft's chief information officer. He’ll be joined by Scott Guthrie and Brian Goldfarb, who, I understand, have some excellent AJAX-based demos planned.

We've informally been calling Tuesday "Microsoft Day" because almost all the sessions feature Microsoft speakers. David Lemson, a familiar face from the Exchange product group, will present the day's keynote address (which is at 8 A.M., so don't stay out too late the night before). He'll be covering some of the most exciting new features and changes in Exchange 2007.

Following David's keynote, buckle up for the irrepressible Tony Redmond. His session title? "All You Need to Know About Exchange 2007 and Were Afraid to Ask." Tony is known both for giving unvarnished analysis and for telling great jokes, so I'm looking forward to his session. The remaining sessions on Tuesday cover a good mix of topics, including Exchange 2007 management and deployment, records management, secure mobile access, Windows Rights Management Services integration, and even Microsoft Office Visio 2007.

Wednesday and Thursday feature a strong lineup of Exchange experts, including a number of Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs). Wednesday also features another great keynote address—Mark Minasi giving the straight dope on Vista. Sessions that I'm particularly interested in include Thomas Shinder's demonstration of using ISA Server 2006 with Exchange, Vlad Mazek's coverage of integrating Exchange with Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 in relatively small environments, and the formidable Pierre Bijaoui's Exchange 2007 performance and scalability presentation (expect some surprises!).

As a special bonus, we convinced Microsoft to send a real live Product Support Services (PSS) engineer, Tim McMichael, to present sessions on disaster recovery. Tim's sessions are heavy on both technical detail and "war stories." I'm excited to see the return of PSS folks to Exchange-focused technical conferences; PSS presenters were a staple of the old MEC, and it'll be good to have them back.

On the exhibit floor, there should be some interesting things to see, including the release version of Cemaphore Systems' MailShadow 2.0 and unified messaging gear from a variety of vendors. The conference organizers are once again giving away a Harley-Davidson Sportster to one lucky attendee (and, once again, I'm not eligible—darn it!).

There's plenty to see and do outside the hotel, too. If you haven't registered yet, it's not too late; visit the link below to sign up. If you can't make it next month, well, the spring show is just around the corner!

Microsoft Exchange Connections 2006
http://www.devconnections.com/shows/EXCHFall2006/default.asp?s=86