After years of writing one-off articles and technical books for all the major venues, I recall the day in late 2007 when I was asked if I would like to write a weekly column for InfoWorld called Enterprise Windows—a dream come true and a wonderful privilege, to be sure.
My first column was titled “Save XP? Why bother?,” which took an at-odds position directly against InfoWorld’s popular “Save XP” campaign. I received about 100 comments (many of them too nasty and profane to quote). If I was going to press on, I needed to do two things. First, grow a thicker skin (after wiping away the tears). Second, keep telling the truth from my perspective, though that would mean being at odds with readers at times, my editor at times, with fellow IT professionals at times, and with even Microsoft at times. I did so, to the best of my abilities, for nearly a decade.
Over those years, we moved from XP to Vista (forgettable … in fact, I’ve forgotten it already) to Windows 7 (loved it) to Windows 8 (which I initially called Frankenstein’s monster and stand by that description) to Windows 10. (We still never got a clear answer on what happened to Windows 9 but who cares? Win10 is fantastic.) Over the past decade, I’ve covered the move to virtualized systems, then to the cloud, with a brief stint as a promoter of converged architecture because I proclaimed the cloud unsafe for the enterprise. Hey, it was true at the time, and many would still say it’s unsafe (although they would probably be on-premises hardware vendors today).
Although I covered a variety of Microsoft tools like Windows Server, PowerShell, SharePoint, SQL, and System Center, readers would no doubt agree that my true love was Exchange Server. I wrote often about email woes, security concerns, migration (from 2007 to 2010 to 2013 to 2016 to your final destination, Exchange Online).
I’ve been amazed to see the acceptance of the cloud and even more amazed that Microsoft has turned things around both reputationally and literally with services like Azure and Office 365, which—as I have said repeatedly in this column—I believe will merge into a single SaaS offering (well, primarily SaaS, because we'll still need legacy pieces, containers, and such).
Hopefully Microsoft will call it something that makes sense, because I’ve never quite understood the Office 365 name decision. Azure always made sense to me: It means “sky blue,” and Microsoft doesn’t want to be another cloud vendor; it wants to take up the whole dang sky!
As I’ve watched the technology evolve, I too have evolved. One of my career highlights came seven years ago when I was first awarded the Microsoft MVP award for the Exchange technical expertise. After four years, I was awarded the Office 365 MVP, and most recently Office Servers and Services MVP (a bucket that includes Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype—the MVPs all under one roof). I’ve co-founded two product lines, ClipTraining (Windows/Office video training portals for users) and Conversational Geek (short, easy-to-grasp books for IT professionals written by subject matter experts).
And hopefully I’ve evolved as a writer. My editor, Galen Gruman, has consistently pushed me to be more objective, improve my style, and focus on original insights rather than simply regurgitate the current news or Microsoft’s marketing material. I could not have asked for a better editor over these many years despite the fact that we have, at times, been on opposing sides of the Microsoft technology table. He calls me a gonzo journalist, which I consider a compliment (although I’m not 100 percent certain that was his intention when he said it). When people ask me the key to being a good journalist or technical author, I always offer the same reply: “Having a good editor.”
It has been a great ride. And thank those of you who have loyally kept pace with this column, some of you perhaps since the beginning. After much deliberation, it is time for me to pass this torch on to another person, someone who can give it the time and focus it deserves. Although I’m sad to let it go, I’m happy to bring on Simon Bisson, whose version of this column will begin soon. As for me, I will continue to write features for InfoWorld going forward. Stay tuned!
Take it away, Simon!