Microsoft’s New Efficency comes to Wembley

As I opened the curtains in my hotel room this morning, I was greeted with a very wet and grey view of North London. Wembley Stadium looks far less impressive on a day like today than it did in the night-time shot that graced the front page of Bing here in the UK yesterday but still it’s hard not to be in awe of this place.

I’ve been to a couple of events at the new Wembley Stadium before: last year’s Google Developer Day (sadly there was no UK event this year); and the recent U2 concert – but this time I’m here courtesy of Microsoft for their UK Technical Launch event and the main products on show are Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010 in what Microsoft is calling “The New Efficiency”.

I was twittering throughout the event @markwilsonit but this post highlights some of the key messages from the main sessions today, although I’ve skipped over the details of the standard technical product demonstrations as I hope to cover these in future posts:

  • There are more than 7100 applications tested and working on Windows 7 today and there should be more than 8000 certified by the time that the product hits general availability.
  • Windows 7 was beta tested by more than 8 million people, with 700,000 in the UK.
  • The Windows Optimised Desktop is represented by a layered model of products including:
    • Management infrastructure: System Center and Forefront for deployment, application management, PC monitoring and security management.
    • Server infrastructure: Windows Server 2008 R2 for Active Directory, Group Policy, network services and server-based client infrastructure.
    • Client infrastructure: Windows 7 and the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack for the Asset Inventory Service, AppLocker and BitLocker.
  • Windows is easier than ever to deploy, using freely available tools such as the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 to engineer, service and deploy images – whether they are thin, thick or a hybrid.
  • System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 provides a deployment engine for zero-touch installations, hooking into standard tools such as MDT, the User State Migration Tool (USMT), WinPE, etc.
  • PowerShell is becoming central to Windows IT administration.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2’s new brokering capability presents new opportunities for server based computing.

For me, the highlight of the event was Ward Ralston’s appearance for the closing keynote. Ward used to implement Microsoft infrastructure but these days he is a Product Manager for Windows Server 2008 R2 (I’ve spoken to him previously, although today was my first chance to meet him face to face). Whilst some delegates were critical of the customer interviews, his New Efficiency presentation nicely summarised the day as he explained that:

  • Many organisations are struggling with decreasing IT budgets.
  • Meanwhile IT departments are trying to meet the demands of: IT consumerisation (as a generation that has grown up with computers enters the workforce); security and compliance (the last few years have brought a huge surge in compliance regulations – and the global “economic reset” is sure to bring more); and an ever-more mobile and distributed workforce (where we need to ensure confidentiality and non-repudiation wherever the users are).
  • IT departments have to cut costs – but that’s only part of the solution as productivity and innovation are just as important to increase efficiency.
  • In short (productivity + innovation)/cost = doing more with less
  • Managing more with less is about: reducing IT complexity; improving control and reducing helpdesk costs; increasing automation; and consolidating server resources.
    Doing more is about: enabling new services, efficiently connecting people to information, optimising business processes, and allowing employees to securely work from anywhere
  • Microsoft’s New Efficiency is where cost savings, productivity and innovation come together.

It would be easy to criticise today’s event, for instance to pick out certain presenters who that could have benefited from the use of Windows Magnifier, but I know just how much work went into making today’s event run as smoothly as it did and, on balance, I felt it was a good day. For those who have never been to a Microsoft launch, they may have expected something more but I’ve been to more of these events than I care to remember and so this was exactly what I expected: lots of marketing rhetoric delivered via PowerPoint; some demos, most of which worked; and, I think, something for everyone to take away and consider as their organisation looks at meeting the challenges that we all face in our day jobs – even if that was just the free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate Edition… (full disclosure: I accepted this offer and it in no way influences the contents of this blog post).

I’ll be back at Wembley again tomorrow, this time for the Microsoft Partner Network 2009 – and expect to see more Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 related posts on this site over the coming weeks and months.

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