Tips for what to pack for Microsoft Ignite

A while back I did a video of “what’s in Ricks Suitcase” as a way to talk about what to bring to a technical conference. There are a multitude of advice blog entries that have all sorts of information – they should give you some good ideas to com up with your own strategy.

We’re two weeks out before Microsoft Ignite. In this countdown show, Joey and I cover off some stuff around what to bring, some more new things (like finding new session content and unpublished / recently published content) and how to schedule SIDE MEETINGS with yourself and other attendees / speakers.

My top 10 “cloudy” sessions at Microsoft Ignite

Pssssst: I thought I’d share a little bit of insider information on sessions at Microsoft Ignite.

There is a logical flow you need to know about in order to get the best understanding of Microsoft’s strategy and vision for what’s important in the industry and on our roadmap. You can miss this if you dive into building a schedule based on topics that interest you or specific technologies you are working with on various projects. I thought I’d share this flow with you BEFORE I give you my top 10 must see “cloudy” sessions at Ignite.  Check out this graphic:


  1. You start off with the Keynote – delivered by Satya Nadella. You can’t get much better then that for some inspiration and a vision, can you?
  2. Followed up by the Platform Vision and Strategy overview – by Mark Russinovich (CTO of Azure), Jeffrey Snover (Lead Architect for Server and System Center) and Jeremy Winter (Principal Group PM for System Center). Kind of has all the bases covered for a good On-Premises / Hybrid / Azure view.
  3. Deeper still into one of 7 different buckets of specific areas of technology.

Now you are primed up to get into the really deep stuff in those sessions that interest you the most. Let me give you my Top 10 “cloudy” sessions I am most definitely going to be checking out:

  1. Platform Vision and Strategy Overview: Bringing Microsoft Azure to Your Datacenter - Mark Russinovich, Jeffrey Snover and Jeremy Winter
    It’s the logical flow after the keynote for me, since I am interested in all things Infrastructure as it relates to On-Premises, Hybrid and Cloud.
  2. Evolve Your Network Infrastructure for Microsoft Azure Connectivity - Ganesh Srinivasan
    Customers always ask me about setting up VPN / High-Speed connectivity from their datacenters up to Azure. It’s a great way to get started in using cloud technologies. Whenever I have a question on Networking in Azure – Ganesh is the guy I ping internally at MSFT. He’s awesome.
  3. Getting Started with Microsoft Azure IaaS - Corey Sanders
    WHAT? A 200 level getting started session?  I thought Rick knew a lot about Azure, why is he taking this one? Well – Corey is a great speaker and he tends to put a lot of great tidbits into his sessions that lead me to other sessions I should take.
  4. Microsoft Azure and Its Competitors: The Big Picture - David Chappell
    David is an external industry leading speaker. He’s very polished and extremely knowledgeable about the cloud All Up. If you want to keep up with what is going on with Azure and all of it’s competitors – this is a Must-See session.
  5. Taking a deep dive into Microsoft Azure IaaS capabilities – Drew McDaniel & Mahesh Thiagarajan
    Drew and Mahesh are great as technical guys to talk to about how IaaS runs on Azure. This session will give you all the ins and outs about how to squeeze the most out of your virtual machines and get optimized workloads up and working in Azure.
  6. Automating Operational and Management Tasks Using Azure Automation – Beth Cooper & Chris Sanders
    I am all about automating my life and my systems. Makes things a lot easier. I’ve interviewed Beth before on the Azure Automation Gallery – she was great talking about all things automation. I am sure Beth and Chris will have some great stuff to share in the Automations world.
  7. Microsoft Azure Migration Roadmap - Nathan Muggli
    I have been called into a number of Datacenter migration projects lately and Nathan is the guy who can give you the inside scoop with what tools exist today and what’s coming down the pipe with regards to Migration. I am definitely taking this session in!
  8. Azure Site Recovery: Microsoft Azure As a Destination for Disaster Recovery - Manoj Jain
    More and more people are considering using cloud Datacenters as their second location for business continuity during the event of a disaster.  ASR gives you this capability and does a number of cool things based on what technologies you are using on-premises. Manoj works on the team who has been developing these technologies – can’t wait to hear what he has to say.
  9. Understanding Network Virtual Appliances - Yu-Shun Wang
    I’ve interviewed Yu-Shun before on networking all up. Here he dives into a new category of “things” that you can use in your Azure subscription. I’m a networking geek – I am intrigued.
  10. Managing Linux and Windows on Microsoft Azure with Chef - Kundana Palagiri
    Chef brings a very powerful capability of managing your systems at scale for configuration paired with deployment. They have been doing this for a while now in the OSS / Linux front – but they also do windows systems. I have come across a number of clients who are interested in shifting their Chef provisioned systems / applications over to Azure, so this session is a perfect fit to brush up on the capabilities this toolset has to offer!

That’s about it. As you can see – there is a natural progression of topics, paired up with areas of technologies that are relevant to my recent and upcoming projects as well as specialty areas that I want to dive deeper into. When I am not hosting technical interviews at the Channel 9 stage – I will most certainly be taking in these sessions. If you happen to see me in my Green Tilley Hat – say hi!


Countdown to Microsoft Ignite: whole lot of What’s New

Microsoft Ignite is less than 3 weeks away… Holy Cow!  This week’s Countdown Show focuses on what’s new and noteworthy at Microsoft Ignite. If you’ve attended Microsoft events in the past, you’ll see some familiar elements at Ignite, as well as some new opportunities and experiences. Joey and I will walk you through what’s changed, what’s new, and what you can look forward to in Chicago.

Tuesdays with Corey: Taking Some Questions

Corey Sanders, Principal PM on the Azure Compute team takes a moment to answer a few of the “Tuesdays with Corey” questions that have come up online . Don’t forget – we’re always looking for Suggestions and Questions here in the comments section OR via twitter #AzureTwC.

You never know – you might make it to an upcoming episode and be a virtual star of the show – like THIS one!

Post any questions, topic ideas or general conversation here in the comments OR online on via Twitter.

Tuesdays with Corey: Quick Office Tour

Corey Sanders, Principal PM on the Azure Compute team gives us a whirlwind tour of some of his team members on the Azure Compute team. Don’t forget – we’re always looking for Suggestions and Questions here in the comments section OR via twitter #AzureTwC.
You never know – you might make it to an upcoming episode and be a virtual star of the show.

Post any questions, topic ideas or general conversation here in the comments OR online on via Twitter.

The impossible task of rapid Disaster Recovery – and how Microsoft Azure can help

I remember when I had to setup my first DR plan for a datacenter failover of critical systems from one datacenter to our backup datacenter.  It was a nightmare of logistical planning and near duplicate hardware / infrastructure required to have the bare minimum systems in place for some level of business continuity. It took months of planning and I-Don’t-Even-Want-To-Think-How-Much money in order to pull it off.

Oh – then we had to test it.

That was a fun weekend of 18 hr days I will never get back.

Virtualization has made things significantly easier than running on bare metal.  It makes your VMs are transportable between different systems running the same hypervisor and managed by tools like SystemCenter to ensure proper synchronization and coordination when something goes wrong.  BUT – you still needed to have duplicate resources / networking setups and physical datacenters in order for this to work… Until Public Cloud datacenters like Microsoft Azure became an option.  With hybrid connectivity,  virtual networks and subnets, firewall endpoints and a wide range of virtual machine base image sizes – you can dial in your configurations to be damn near identical to the VM spec of your on-premises systems AND only pay for what is up and running.

Our Disaster Recovery offering is called Azure Site Recovery.  It recently got a boost in capabilities that now allows you to include VM Guests that run on Hyper-V, VMware – so long as they are running a supported version of Windows Server and Linux distribution that is comparable in Azure.  In the past – Azure Site Recovery required that you had a comprehensive SystemCenter implementation in place in order to protect various workloads. that isn’t the case anymore (although still recommencement for more complex workloads of multiple machines) .  In case you missed it – I recently did an interview with Matt McSpirit (a fellow Technical Evangelist on my team who handles the On-Premises space) where he took us through how Azure Site Recovery works.

If DR is on your list of things to explore and possibly implement in the future OR if you already manage a DR implementation and are interested in simplifying it’s setup and execution – you need to check out Azure Site Recovery.

You should sign up for the preview so you can try it out yourself (scroll down to the bottom)… Once you’ve been accepted (or just want some more detailed step by step instructions on how it is setup) check out this article on the Azure site.


Tuesdays with Corey: OS Disk size update and IaaS Backup

Corey Sanders, Principal PM on the Azure Compute team brings us two quick tidbits about base OS disk size changes and cool information about the new Azure IaaS VM Backup service.

Post any questions, topic ideas or general conversation here in the comments OR online on Twitter using #AzureTwC. You never know – you might make it to an upcoming episode and be a virtual star of the show.

Tuesdays with Corey: More about Docker

Corey Sanders, Principal PM on the Azure Compute team brings us up to date on all the recent Azure IaaS and Docker news.

As per Corey’s comments: here is that awesome link to documentation about Azure VMs, Docker and Swarm courtesy of Ralph Squillace

Post any questions, topic ideas or general conversation here in the comments OR online on Twitter using #AzureTwC. You never know – you might make it to an upcoming episode and be a virtual star of the show.


Countdown to Microsoft Ignite: Craft Beers and Bacon

The Countdown Show continues, with Episode 8! Rick and Joey cover the details of remote badge pickup, which is our Hot Tip of the week. They also fill you in on some agenda updates and hopefully inspire you to get on stage with us at Ignite Rocks! They saved the best for last, as they take you to our final four “Best of Chicago” establishments. Beer and bacon, anyone?

Keep watching the Countdown Show! Next week’s episode will feature more news and tips. If you have specific questions (or suggestions), we’d love to hear them, so please share on the Forums at

Microsoft Ignite is May 4–8 in Chicago at McCormick Place. Register today.

Top 5 Reasons why you should pay attention to Containers on Microsoft Azure

In the continually changing world of IT – it is vital to stay on top of new trends as they are identified. Something that has popped up on my radar over the last year and has been gaining in popularity around dev circles is a cool technology called containerization.  Have you heard about it?  Like most trending technologies – it has reached a level of awareness that everyone needs to know about what it is and how it works.

Sounds like a nice topic for a “Top 5 reasons” you should pay attention to this and understand how it works – so you are informed when a CxO type comes up and asks you about it.  Here is my list in no particular order.

  1. Containers “compartmentalize” components or portions of apps / whole apps for use on any platform that supports the same containerization technology.  That means that you could have a developer working on a dev machine creating a multi-stage app / system and could deploy it to an internal cloud or public cloud. Same code, same containers – just literally changing deployment target. Kind of eliminates the “works on my workstation” syndrome, right?
  2. Containers can be shared privately or publically for reuse as building blocks for other applications by other developers. This generates a large wealth of reusable blocks that should make development time decrease and creativity grow with all sorts of rich community involvement.  You can take one public container and modify / enhance it for your needs and then share it back to the community for use.  It’s really cool – nurture the community by making it simple to share, things start to take off with regards to adoption and market share.
  3. Small footprint in order to be able to host the containers.  Think of a purpose built OS running the containerization runtime on which sit the containers.  Unlike a whole VM to run EACH container just for it’s app, you now just run the container sitting on top of this purpose built OS.  You don’t get 13 OSes with duplication overhead to run 13 containers – just need one to run. Better resource utilization = greater possible density of containers = less cost due to more efficient use of available resources.
  4. Scale, scale and more SCALE. Along with that – fast and consistent deployment as you need it.  Obviously you have to construct your app to work at scale – but now the deployment vehicle is consistent and identical when deployed in multiple locations. Oh – did I mention it is lightweight and small compared to full VMs.
  5. I alluded to it above when talking about the concept – “portability” and all that it brings (including cross-platform).  You don’t need to worry about setup of specific environments with identical configurations or specific editions of different supporting software.  You just worry about the container engine running correctly on your ON-Premises or public cloud / hosted cloud infrastructure.

don’t be fooled – this is not something that is “just for devs”… this is something that you should spend some time with to understand it’s architecture, how it is installed, how containers are managed and deployed to different environments.  Start small – then work your way up.

I have been playing around with Docker – just starting to get my feet wet. You Should Too! Great information about them and containerization technologies on their main site.  Everything from what this is and how their solution of containerization works.  You can try it out on their site with a little help and get up and running. Once you get a bit of an understanding – you can fire it up on Azure – we have docker ready images in the marketplace gallery!

Need a primer on Open Source technologies on Azure and want some Docker pieces added in as a bonus?  I did four modules on OpenSource and containerization technologies (Docker) in last Decembers Level Up Azure live stream.  You should check out the replay.