After much thought and consideration, Microsoft is going ahead with Microsoft Enterprise Conference (MEC) 2001, formerly known as Microsoft Exchange Conference. I agree with the decision to move forward with MEC. This year is a crucial one for Microsoft technologies, and despite the recent tragedy, it's time to get back to business and embrace Microsoft's next-generation strategy.

One part of that new strategy is to hold an infrastructure conference (for us "plumbers") in the fall and a developer conference in the spring. (In past years, developers have complained that neither TechEd nor MEC provided the development focus that they're looking for.) MEC 2001 promises to be Microsoft's premier infrastructure conference, and future MECs' content will focus entirely on infrastructure. TechEd 2002 will shift to an April timeframe and concentrate on developer content around the Microsoft .NET architecture. Hopefully, Microsoft's new approach will keep both infrastructure people and developers happy in the long run.

This year's MEC is especially important, as Microsoft struggles to reinvent itself. The challenge is to get out of the BackOffice Server business and into the Web services and solutions business. The only way Microsoft's .NET strategy can be successful is for its infrastructure experts and developers to jump on the bandwagon, so Microsoft needs us to join in its transformation. Although the conference will still have about 50 percent Exchange content, the rest of the sessions will help bridge the gap between where we are (as Exchange specialists) and where Microsoft wants us to be (as .NET architects).

So why should we buy into this strategy? I believe Exchange experts need to become .NET architecture specialists—or at the very least, .NET Enterprise Server specialists—to help guide our IT organizations into the .NET jungle. As our employers take a closer look at .NET solutions, they need us to take advantage of MEC as a learning opportunity. And we need to keep up with Microsoft's new focus for the sake of our careers, too. Fifteen years ago, I started as a "Microsoftie," following Bill G. in the OS/2 LAN Manager parade. Since then, I've reinvented myself several times—as a Novell guy, a VMS guy, a Banyan guy, then back to Microsoft as an Exchange Server guy. .NET is the next natural wave to ride if I want to stay marketable in the Microsoft space.

If you're going to MEC 2001 as an Exchange specialist seeking to dig deeper into Exchange, please do so. However, don't miss a great opportunity to experience and learn about other .NET technologies. Sessions will stretch beyond our beloved Exchange to topics ranging from Windows .NET to BizTalk Server and Mobile Information Server. Maximize your MEC opportunity! Remember, the "E" doesn't stand for Exchange anymore.