Monday, June 3, 2013

TechEd North America 2013 Kicks Off Announcing Heaps of New MSFT Releases

Microsoft's flagship conference - TechEd 2013 - is kicking off today (June 3rd) in New Orleans. The Day 1 keynote speech by Microsoft's Brad Anderson is of particular interest due to the media storm that has been generated around the so-called Windows 'Blue' wave of updates across their client and server stack.

Here's a high-level summary of the keynote and announcements that have been made:

Windows 8.1

Microsoft announced the newest release of their client Operating System - called Windows 8.1. This release will be made available as a free upgrade to existing Windows 8 customers. The preview bits will be made available on June 26th and the final release will hit the shelves before the year is out.

The following Windows 8.1 features have been demonstrated or mentioned during the keynote:

  • Enhanced tile customization
  • Group policy management of the Start Screen
  • A new feature for Windows 8.1 and PowerPoint called Mirrorcast allows Windows 8.1 devices to easily pair with compatible streamless devices to allow seamless wireless presenting.
  • Workplace Join is a new feature that allows you to easily connect your non-domain joined device to the workplace and to just as easily remove all the customization and management of that device once you're finished working for the day.
  • Apps can be managed from the cloud with Windows Intune.

Windows Server 2012 R2

As the name suggests, Windows Server 2012 now has an updated release too. Here's what's been announced for it:
  • Work Folders is a new feature that should most likely see usage of applications such as Dropbox getting less and less use in the enterprise.
  • Active Directory on-premise now works with Azure Active Directory.
  • Storage spaces are taken to the next level with enhanced performance and scalability. With Storage Tiering, you'll get approx. a 16x improvement on Windows Server 2012 RTM.
  • Inbox VPN gateway for Network Virtualization


Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V has a number of significant enhancements, some of which are:

(Update - some of the info below has been added as features get mentioned in the breakout sessions)
  • Using DeDup storage with virtual machines can now enhance the performance of the virtual machines by intelligently caching the storage.
  • Live Migration compression now means that your virtual machines will migrate between hosts far quicker than with Windows Server 2012 RTM.
  • Using RDMA with Live Migration will enhance the live migration of your VM's even quicker than with the compression option.
  • Hyper-V replica can be managed across sites and with greater scale using the Hyper-V Recovery Manager feature of Windows Azure.
  • Remote Access via VMBus - this is seriously cool. It basically means we now get similar functionality to the HP ILO or Dell DRAC features with our virtual machines in Hyper-V.
  • Online grow and shrink of virtual hard disks to manage your virtual disk space allocations on the fly.
  • Replication of virtual machines can now be extended to a third site (as opposed to the two site limit in Windows Server 2012 RTM)

Windows Azure

Azure retains it original name but a plethora of new features have been added:

(Update - some of the info below has been added as features get mentioned in the breakout sessions)
  • Per minute billing
  • No charge for stopped virtual machines
  • Special rate for MSDN subscribers making dev/test scenarios much more feasible.
  • Uses the same Hyper-V hypervisor as in Windows Server 2012.
  • We can now see how much credit we've used directly inside the portal making it easier to keep the credit card bills down!
  • Azure Active Directory now works with Windows Server 2012 on-premise Active Directory
  • The Windows Azure Pack (WAP) has been announced. This is the new name for the Windows Azure Services for Windows Server (aka project Katal). Good whitepaper on this here (
  • Hyper-V Recovery Manager delivers enterprise level replication of your virtual machines between sites.

System Center 2012 R2

Like Windows Server, System Center 2012 now gets an 'R2' release. The only mention in the keynote of System Center was around Intune integrating with on-premise ConfigMgr to manage Windows 8.1 apps but this integration is nothing new. Hopefully as the week goes on, we'll get some additional feature updates on what's new.

(Update - some of the info below has been added as features get mentioned in the breakout sessions)
  • Built-in service template for Windows Server 2012 R2 Gateway functionality as part of SCVMM 2012 R2.
  • New Java Application Performance Monitoring (APM) functionality in SCOM 2012 R2

Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)

Here's what's coming for all you developers out there:
  • Team Foundation Server (TFS) and Visual Studio are getting new releases this coming year.
  • Microsoft has acquired a company called 'InRelease' that delivers integrated release management into TFS.
  • Enhanced load-test service will be delivered from the cloud.

SQL 2014

SQL has been given a new release too and we should see some preview releases towards the end of the year. Here's some of the new features:
  • New enterprise-level data insights with Excel project GeoFlow
  • Data Explorer helps to make use of big-data and translate it into tangible business use
  • Transaction processing now comes 'in-memory'


That just about wraps up all I could gather from the keynote without reviewing the recording again later but I think it'll give people the general feel of what's been announced.

You can check out the keynote video and a few selected live sessions at TechEd NA on Microsoft's Channel 9 website here:

Also, if you're looking for up-to-the-minute updates from some of the best sessions on the 'Modern Datacenter' track over there, then check out Aidan Finn's blog here:

I think it's fair to say now that if you're working in the IT space, there's some pretty exciting times ahead for us :)

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