Tim Vander Kooi has gone to Microsoft's TechEd North America many times since the late 1990s, but he's never been as enthused as he is this year about attending the conference, the company's most important event for IT professionals and developers.
The reason is simple: Microsoft is in the midst of a historic and extensive wave of upgrades for its enterprise products, and Vander Kooi wants to ensure his company rides the upgrade wave successfully.
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"I want to go in there and sit and learn and absorb things because there are so many new product releases and I want to understand how they all fit together," said Vander Kooi, Microsoft Systems Administrator at Explorer Pipeline in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Microsoft is working on new versions of Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics ERP applications, Visual Studio and Windows Server, and recently shipped new versions of SQL Server and System Center.
So when he walks into the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, where the conference will take place from June 11 to June 14, Vander Kooi plans to immerse himself in the proceedings, with a particular focus on Windows Server 2012, which is in beta and due out later this year.
Ross Eberle, technical support supervisor at Rockford Public Schools in Rockford, Illinois, is headed to his first TechEd, also motivated in large part by the upgrade wave, and is particularly interested in Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012.
"At the school district where I work, we are considering moving away from our current desktop management solution and the System Center products are looking pretty good. In addition, I'm a big fan of Hyper-V as we use it as our primary virtualization platform and the latest updates have definitely piqued my interest," Eberle said via e-mail.
It will also be the first TechEd for Heather Fitzpatrick, a senior technology trainer at NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) in Daytona Beach, Florida, who will be paying close attention to key existing products and upcoming upgrades.
"We want to make sure that anything we're going to deploy to our company is going to work seamlessly with any other products we have in place, so we definitely want to make sure we've looked into and fully vetted [products] before we roll anything out," she said.
Fitzpatrick, who will also act as a Microsoft Certified Trainer Ambassador at the show, advising other attendees about certifications and exams, wants to look into Office 365 and its features for document sharing and collaboration.
Explorer Pipeline's Vander Kooi is particularly interested in Windows Server 2012's new and improved security, permissions and virtualization features, and in how the changes will impact the applications.