All good things must come to an end, and after a day enjoying some warmth and sun, here’s my thoughts on yesterday…

The first session of the day on SBS didn’t deliver any real surprises, apart from completely focusing on the Essentials version and the Office 365 integration component. I spent many years in the world of SBS, and have seen it grow and develop over the years, but it seems to be clear the direction the product is going in terms of cloud integration ie onwards and upwards. There weren’t any announcements made on new versions of the product which I was hoping for, the Windows Server 2012 banner on the SBS booth in the expo area was simply a mistake. Oh well. The session only had about 10 people in it, which really didn’t surprise me considering the target audience, and being at an extreme location in a large conference center.

Next up was another SMB focused session, this time on storage. This session gave a great overview of how SMB customers can take advantage of new capabilities in WIndows Server 2012, and seemed to highlight some of my thoughts about the direction of SBS. Unless Microsoft turns SBS into an EBS like product (and we know how that went…), SBS will never be able to deliver the reliability and capabilities that people would expect of it ie failover clustering with enterprise versions of the included applications. I just can’t see that happening for some reason. For SMBs to get that kind of capbility they need to invest in a not so cheap clustering solution, or move across to a hosted solution such as Office 365 which handles the back end data duplication and failover. I only see one of these as an affordable, viable option for most SMBs.

Next up was Windows Intune and consumerisation of IT. Craig Morris delivered a great session, and it was easily the best of the pure Intune sessions at the event. Live iOS application deployment as shown, along with his device PIN and password which I’m sure are now changed for his sake. A few things were clarified for me, and it was great to have members of the product team answering the questions from the audience. The level of interest in the product seems to be rising, and from the post session conversations taking place many people were going to be taking a closer look at Intune and see how it develops. Even today over lunch I was chatting to a friend who works for a television network and he mentioned that even for him Intune could be interesting, with the caveat of when it acquires some features that it currently doesn’t have.

The next session on client management in the Windows 8 timeframe was easily one of the best sessions of TechEd for me. Craig co-presented with Bryan Keller of the SCCM team, and there was much to be gained from reading between the lines. While it is never safe to assume that new features will be added, my takeaway was that the the teams were now joined at the hip, and really looking at how they will work together in the future. This is always raised by SCCM customers who don’t want two sets of client data that don’t integrate.

Windows To Go and Windows RT were also part of the discussion, again without a firm commitment to when they would be officially supported, but it was good enough for me. If anyone out there wants a Windows Intune consultant to test out their Windows RT devices, I’m happy to do that for you. I admit that I still struggle a bit with where WinRT fits, and see it as a short term solution until there are x86 chips that compete head on with ARM power consumption, but I can see that there really is a space for Windows to compete with the iPad, after finally succumbing and buying an iPad recently for mobile device management testing.

Wrapping up the day was a VMM 2012 server deployment session. I piced up a few useful hints on server base images I hadn’t really considered after being so client focused for such a long time, that are direclty applicable to some System Center 2012 projects I’m currently involved with. The demo gods weren’t playing nicely at the start of the session, but they eventually deemed Mikael Nystrom worthy and allowed him to continue.

That was day 4 for me, a great end to a conference I really enjoyed. Monday’s keynote renewed my faith in Microsoft’s server direction in the enterprise, but Tuesday’s keynote was a bit flat, maybe because I knew too much of the content already. Now I need to start thinking about whether I want to head to New Orleans next year for TechEd. I’ve been to New Orleans a few too many times for my liking, and the timing isn’t great from a business perspective.