Microsoft Ignite 2019 – Day three

We are officially half way through the conference and if you have been following my previous two blogs posts this week you will have seen its been filled with a variety of things including sessions, discussions and keynotes!

Today I decided to change it up a little and go more ’hands on’ with some labs so decided to only schedule two sessions:

  • ‘Azure VMware Solutions’
  • – ‘Reaching for the cloud: Group Policy Transformation to MDM with Microsoft Intune’

My first session wasn’t until mid morning, so I decided to get in a bit earlier for some breakfast at the HUB as I did yesterday. The one bonus I have found at the event that I wasn’t expecting are the random conversations I have had with other attendees and just listening to their stories. I mentioned this in my last blog and today was no different as I heard perspectives from professional who work for a Christian charity, a kids network TV channel and a manufacturing company. They all had one thing in common which was they use Azure, and in some cases use similar services, yet come from totally different business enterprises. This networking and meeting people from different walks of life has so far been one of the highlights this week!

After breakfast it was time to get my first session of the day which was ‘Azure VMware Solutions’. This is a platform that was announced earlier this year and something I have unsuccessfully tried to get a trial of, so it was good to get a more in-depth understanding of it. The platform is designed for every type of workload:

  • Modern Apps
  • Business and Mission Critical services
  • Dynamic and scalable

According to Microsoft, 90% of VMware on-premises customers want to run VMware in the cloud and 63% of VMware customers also considering running in the cloud natively. These types of numbers are what has driven Microsoft and VMware to put there differences aside and provide Azure VMware solution and you can now run your VMware workloads natively in Azure.

A massive positive of this solution for me is that it lets VMware trained IT professionals utilise the skills they have honed over the years as its still managed via vSphere!! There are currently on 3 regions where this service is available, however 11 Azure regions will have this service by May 2020 which implies there is massive investment on this platform by Microsoft. The other concern around cloud platforms I hear a lot of is if they abide by certain standards like ISO and so on, and all standard certifications are also coming early 2020 so it will be a fully certified platform as well.

The second half of the session was demo based and it was great to see the compatibility with on premises VMware as well as Azure NetApp files.

My next session wasn’t until late afternoon, so I decided to get to the hub and have some fun with ‘Hands on Labs’. The first lab I decided to do was based around using Azure Migrate to move VMware workloads to Azure and was a great follow on from my session. Initially I found the lab really good, clear instruction and it just worked. Probably due to the early time I went but I didn’t have to wait for a seat either which was not the case later on.

The lab took around an hour to complete, mainly as I was trying to take my time and fully understand the steps was doing, rather than just blindly following them. Once id finished, I had a walk around and bumped into a few of the Microsoft Teams MVPs (Chris Hoard – @Microsoft365Pro and Adam Deltinger – @deltanr1) and had more great conversations about their own journey to becoming MVPs. When I first heard about the MVP program my initial thought was I really want to target becoming one…however the more I thought about, in my opinion this is not something you should really aim to become…don’t have it as an end goal. Contribute to the community because you enjoy helping others and if the MVP award comes its just a bonus, and hearing both Chris and Adams stories just backed up my own thoughts.

After lunch I decided to hit up some more labs, but unfortunately my experience was much different. Once I arrived, I had to wait for about 20 minutes for a spare seat. One criticism I have of the labs is there is so much demand but only a small number of seats…my recommendation for next year is increase the number of seats. When I finally got a seat I started to load my next lab which was going to be using Azure Site Replication to recover VMware workloads…or so I thought. For some reason it kept loading the wrong lab, and after about 30 minutes of the lab helpers trying to fix it they couldn’t so I had to abort.

‘These things happen’ I thought, so I decided to do another lab around Exchange Hybrid and making meeting room management simpler. This time the correct lab loaded, however it was very slow, buggy, crashed several times, and after an hour I decided to give up. One of the more disappointing aspects of this was that the technical helpers were not able to assist, and a lot of the time just shrugged their shoulders. The first and hopefully last bit of disappointment at the conference!

I decided I needed cheering up, so had a stroll around the HUB and took part in some of the interactive games which was really fun, including a game of Fuss ball against a robotic arm…which I lost as well as a few others.

I moved onto my last session of the day ‘Transitioning your group policy workloads to the Cloud’. This is something I was intrigued to understand as I have wondered what is the best way to migrate on premises group policy to Intune. Intune MDM is great for Cloud only users, and even Hybrid users can take advantage of a lot of the features. According to Microsoft, customers face the following problems:

  • Policy Gaps: Legacy Group Policy settings are note supported by Modern Management
  • Feature Depth: Modern Management does not support Group Policy features
  • Enhanced targeting: Targeting with AAD Security Groups isn’t as rich as targeting in AD/GPO

Microsoft have the following approach to solve these problems:

  • Fill the gaps: Intune support CSE settings for example
  • Add new features: Intune policy analytics to assist with understanding current Group Policy landscape & MDM support for example
  • Give real world guidance: Practical case study-documented approach guides customers with proven plans and results in the transition for example

The session was shorter than most others I have sat in and ended with a short demo which unfortunately was more of an overview of some features rather than a deep dive.  This brought an end to day three.

Shabaz Darr is a Senior Professional Services Consultant at Concorde Technology Group in the UK. Shabaz’s primary responsibility is providing technical expert knowledge in both Cloud and Security to Concorde’s customers and partners. As an avid techie, Shabaz enjoys learning and working with new technology and can be found on twitter at @ShabazDarr

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