Directory Experts Conference US – and upcoming also in Europe

It’s been a long while since I blogged the last time, and I still have some things I want to tell you about. I’m trying to post those in the order they happend, so first of all let’s talk about the Directory Experts Conference in Las Vegas in April:

DEC was great – as usual. I just love this conference. It’s dedicated to Microsofts Directory Services, especially but not exclusively Active Directory. And this time my wife was able to join me – she was pretty sad not to join in last year but she had to finish her diploma. So we were visiting some friends in Minnesota first (I was living there for a year, and we still have very close friends there who we love to visit). And brining my wife does enlighten the conference and also justifies that I have to take vacation from work for couple conferences a year.

OK – so what happend at DEC?

Preconference Workshop
Laura Hunter, Gil Kirkpatrick, Guido Grillenmeyer, Jorge de Almeido Pinto and I were working for a couple month in advance to create the content of a “Windows Server Longhorn Workshop”. We created great content. Gil and Guido managed the logistics, Guido organized a lot of Hardware, Gil interacted with the Hotel to make sure we have sufficient power a.s.o. All of us created the content for the workshop, configured virtual machines, … We planned a infrastructure where we were able to provide about 160 Attendees in groups of two with four virtual machines each to follow the workshop. Guido got – apart from a whole lot of thin clients – two racks – one full of blade-servers configured with VMWare ESX and loads of RAM, and the other one hosted a SAN huge enough to store all machines. We also had WLAN-Accesspoints and all clients were connected via WLAN to the network provided by the servers.

When we arrived in Las Vegas on Thurday before the conference we got the hardware just the same evening. As the Hardware is being shipped across the world to serve conferences we didn’t get a grip on it until just before our Event. I started writing scripts and configuring everything so that the network infrastructure was set up, each client had the configuration it needed, and I even wrote a HTA-Application which outlined the lab-scenario – and if someone was clicking on one of the pictures of a server a RDP-Session was started with the right one of “his” servers. I also had to make sure that RDP-Configurations were created automatically in the background and configured that only the specific client was able to access his own four servers without networking with the other ones (we used the same servernames, SIDs a.s.o.).

However …

Some other issues started – we had some trouble getting the machines transfered over to the blade server. Then the images didn’t run in ESX, however we were able to fix this (but waisting a lot of time doing so). Then we had power issues – the hotel has confirmed that we’ll have enough power, however they provided us with a high current line which was 50 feet long. Nobody assumed that the length of the wire will give us trouble, however we had constant power issues that we weren’t able to start all blades. At some point (the last night before the show) somebody was running a heavy wagon over the wire, briefly afterwards the SAN went down and started to recover (which took hours) and the blades claimed to be unhappy without SAN and had issues as well.

OK – to keep the long story short – we had a lot of issues even after we had planned everything in advance but didn’t had enough time with the right hardware in advance and to much issues in a short timeframe to solve.

However …

We were working all night and got many of the machines up and running, but not enough. After working all night we were jumping in front of the audience and had to perform (I haven’t been back to the hotel room for almost two days in a row). So we decided to switch to a demo-format, had a MVP-Panel where we were talking and answering questions about Windows Server 2008, and I think we provided more knowhow than the attendees were able to expect in a whole week. We had issues before, but I was very happy with our performance. And at the end we got the best feedback of all preconferences (and the other ones were way smaller and had no issues).

OK, that was the preconf.

Start of the conference

Monday the conference started officially with the Keynote of Kim Cameron. I had the pleasure to meet Kim twice back in Redmond at the MVP-Summit, and he’s outstanding. The conference overall was great. Best thing about DEC is not only the very technical sessions, but also that the conference organizers encourage everyone to stay in the same hotel. You meet a lot of people you know from online communities or previous conferences. There’s a lot of interaction in the restaurants and bars after hours. Microsoft is bringing in many people from the Identity and Access Management Product Group (the home of Active Directory (Domain Services and Lightweight Directory Services), Identity Lifecycle Manager (Certificate Lifecycle Management and Identity Information Server) and Right Management Services). We had a lot of interesting conversations with members of the communities, first-time attendees, MVPs, MCTs, Microsoft Staff.

My Sessions

Apart from the Preconference, where I presented Windows Server 2008 Server Core and common Q&As, I was pleased to present two sessions:

A Directory Services Geek’s View on Access Control Entries
You have already deployed Active Directory (AD), but still have a lot of domain administrators? You want to increase security, decrease the risk of administration gone awry and offload daily tasks to delegated admins? In this session you will learn how Access Control works in AD, notes from the field about implementing role based administration and how to figure out what to delegate. Additionally we will drill down on implementing delegation using scripts and share details on what to delegate. After this session you’ll be able to design and implement role-based administration in your infrastructure.

A Directory Services Geek’s View on How to (not) update your Schema
Are you:
– supposed to integrate some 3rd Party Schemaextensions in your Forest?
– asked to design your own schema extension?
– trying to figure out how to administer additional or new attributes?
Then you have to see this session. We will clear up the fog around schema extensions by explaining the difference between schema extensions and schema configuration, talk about designing/evaluating schema extensions (when is a extension “smooth” and when is it dangerous), and provide guidance on creating administrative interfaces for additional / new attributes. We are also announcing how Windows Server 2008 helps you when extending your schema. Come to this very technical session to get the most complete coverage about schema extensions you have ever seen.

Both sessions were updated with the changes to the subject in Windows Server 2008. I really liked the second session – I wanted to deliver a session which is giving the full details on Schema Updates for a while – so far I’ve seen a lot of sessions which were always missing some important points. I was glad that I was able to deliver them first time at this DEC, and I’ve had a great audience. There were not only great attendees with a lot of questions and not anxious to ask them, but I also had a couple people from the Microsoft Active Directory Product Group and other Community Experts in this session, so we had a great session, lots of discussions and feedback to Microsoft.

Directory Experts Conference goes Europe (again)

After a couple years NetPro – the organizer of the Directory Experts Conference – has decided to bring the Directory Experts Conference back to Europe. It will be September 24th to 26th in Brussels, Belgium. I’m glad that I’ll be part of this conference as well (see the press-announcement), and I’m looking forward to another great conference!

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