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TechEd 2014 disappoints IT pros

By Diana Hwang

Microsoft was all about the cloud at this year’s TechEd North America 2014 but IT pros wanted something more down to earth: news and previews about the on-premises System Center Configuration Manager.

This was the first time Microsoft consolidated its annual Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) with TechEd and for many attendees, it was a bit of a letdown.

Microsoft combined MMS and TechEd  in part because many of the tracks overlapped, according to a blog post written by Brad Anderson, Microsoft corporate vice president.

Even Anderson’s keynote and subsequent demos failed to generate a high level of excitement about the cloud, said an attendee, which set the tone for a much more subdued conference.

Longtime MMS attendees were disappointed at the lack of news surrounding Microsoft’s flagship on-premises System Center Configuration Manger (SCCM).

Instead, the Redmond behemoth focused its attention on encouraging IT pros to move to a hybrid cloud model using Azure, previewing the ability to manage Office 365 using Intune, a new ASP.Net framework and unveiling Azure RemoteApps.

But more importantly, one of the key elements many MMS alumni missed at TechEd was the lack of attention on management topics.

The MMS community represents a more traditional customer and Microsoft wants enterprises to make the shift toward adopting newer cloud technology, said Steven Hosking, a consultant engineer for Vigilant IT based in Australia.

Attendees like JD Young, technology systems engineer for the Tahoma school district in Maple Valley, Washington, said they missed the sense of community surrounding MMS.

That missing feeling has sparked talks of a community-driven MMS conference.

“This would allow a focus on System Center and on-prem solutions, which are still pre-dominant,” said  an SCCM administrator for an IT consulting organization based in Massachusetts. “There is a lot of support among MMS alums for this kind of solution. It will be interesting to see where it goes.”

For some seasoned attendees, the classes disappointed.

“Almost every class and everyone is low-key this year,” said one system administrator for a Florida water utility company who requested anonymity, adding many sessions were too general. He did like some SharePoint level 400 classes and technical tips he received from the experts, however.

“It [seemed] disorganized this year,” the system administrator said.

Attendees also wished Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella was the keynote speaker this year to address the IT pro community. Since taking the helm of Microsoft, Nadella has repeatedly voiced his support for IT pros, calling the community the third constituency.

Whether Nadella’s appearance at TechEd might have made a difference for IT pros in how they responded to the conference is “cloudy.” But what is clear is that IT pros still want their on-premises SCCM and they’re looking hard for Microsoft to give them the answers.

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