Cloud computing will once again be a major theme for this year's Microsoft Tech Ed conference, according to the company. And attendees seem to be interested in finding out how the cloud can be used in conjunction with their own operations.
"Over the past six months, Microsoft has thrown new words at us -- like 'hybrid cloud' -- so I think a lot of people will be there to try to get their minds around these terms," said Rod Trent, the CEO for myITforum.com, which will provide the community forums for Tech Ed.
Participants, Trent said, seem eager to "understand how the cloud will fit within their organization. How much data can they push to the cloud? How much costs savings will it offer?"
Microsoft reckons that many of their customers are testing cloud deployments, evaluating these services and products for production use in the years to come. So this year's show, being held May 16 through May 19 in Atlanta, will focus on Microsoft's cloud offerings, and explain the development tools from the company and partners that were designed to help organizations better use the cloud.
The conference will kick off 9 a.m. Eastern Time Monday with a keynote by Robert Wahbe, Microsoft corporate vice president for server and tools marketing. He will be joined by Jason Zander, corporate vice president overseeing Visual Studio, who will showcase new technology.
As far as cloud computing, the company will have much to discuss. Over the past few months Microsoft has touted a number of higher-profile customer adoptions. The Target chain of department stores, for instance, now runs 15,000 virtual machines across its retail stores, using Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and System Center. Toyota is using Windows Azure for its next-generation telematics services.
But the company also has had its share of high-profile mistakes. Just this week, users have been complaining of outages from Microsoft's hosted Exchange offering.
Attendees should pay very close attention to how Microsoft details its cloud strategy, advised Charles King, principal analyst for the firm Pund-IT. Like Microsoft itself, companies such as VMware, Red Hat, Rackspace, Google and others have all made significant progress in their cloud software and offerings. "How does Microsoft think its approach is better than the competitors?" he said.
"If you've watched Microsoft over the last year or so, and all the reorganizations, it looks like they may be heading more quickly to the cloud than they were a few years ago," Trent said.
Trent set up a page, called Twitter Army, for attendees who wish to file reports of what they have learned at the show, so the knowledge can be shared with others.
Not to say that other topics won't be addressed at the conference. In addition to cloud computing, session tracks are also dedicated to topics such as databases, business intelligence, developer tools, middleware, Microsoft Office and SharePoint, unified communications, security, virtualization and Windows for the client, server and the mobile phone.
For one attendee, learning about Microsoft's Lync unified communications server will be one of the chief draws of the show.
Scott Ladewig, information services networking and operations manager for the Washington University in St. Louis' Olin Business School, is attending the show "to see what is current and what is coming" from Lync and other Microsoft technologies, he said.
The business school, like several other schools within the university, runs Microsoft Office Communications Server, Lync's predecessor. Ladewig will be looking for information on how to unify these systems, as well as get them to interoperate with other unified communications offerings, such as the one offered by Cisco.
"OCS has pretty much everything we are looking for but obviously we want to stay current," he said.