Tech Ed attendance hits new high

Architecture track garners praise

New Zealand’s largest IT event, Microsoft Tech Ed, drew 1800 IT professionals to Auckland’s SkyCity convention centre last week.

A new feature of Tech Ed 2004 was the architecture track. Roy McLaren, ASB’s manager strategy and planning, technology solutions, says the architecture sessions were a “big improvement” for the conference.

“It was good to focus on that, particularly around the business benefits,” McLaren says. “I have found it quite a struggle in the past to give architecture any kind of credence.”

McLaren was agreeably surprised by the turnout for the architecture track. “The first session I went to was absolutely packed — standing room only,” he says. “The sessions I attended were very good.”

Over 100 staff from ASB’s operations and technology teams attended the conference, McLaren says. Although the Sky City centre is larger than previous venues, it seemed smaller, he says, providing a “great opportunity” for meeting other IT professionals. “I seemed to bump into people more often.”

Richard Hook, principal architect at Gen-i, was also pleased with the architecture sessions. “The architects track is all new and that’s something we have been asking for, for some time.”

Hook also singles out presentations on security and Visual Studio 2005 as being particularly worthwhile for Gen-i staff. “Those have been incredibly useful in terms of what we’re doing today.”

Gen-i had 40 staff at the conference, and Hook says they got the information and assistance they were looking for. “We make sure people do their homework before they get here,” says Hook. “I haven’t heard anyone say that they’ve missed anything.”

Hook was also impressed by the calibre of those attending architecture tracks. “The depth of experience across the board is astounding.”

Mark Carroll, a Microsoft architect advisor and convenor of Microsoft’s Architects Council, says the architecture sessions were so well attended that presenters had difficulty in exiting the room for the following sessions to begin.

“You get really surprised with some of the backgrounds of people in the room,” he says. “There’s certainly a wealth of experience out there.”

Architects had made the most of the opportunity, he says. “It’s about people giving their feedback to people from Redmond, which is an opportunity they won’t get elsewhere.

“I was surprised and delighted with the [attendance] count that we got and the quality that we got.”

Microsoft’s development group manager, Doug Pratt, was the executive sponsor for Tech Ed. Pratt said on Thursday he was “relieved and delighted” with the event. “It exceeded our expectations this year,” he says. “We had expected to get fewer numbers because we had to put some prices up.”

Last year 1250 people attended Tech Ed, held at Auckland’s Aotea Centre.

Both McLaren and Hook hope the architects track returns at future Tech Ed events.

“We see Tech Ed as being one of the highlights of the calendar,” says ASB’s McLaren. “I think the exposure to architecture is something I’d like to see continue.”

He does have a request for next year, however — not to follow the New Zealand event so closely with the Australian Tech Ed. Some private sessions ASB had arranged were cancelled when Microsoft presenters had to fly out to Canberra, he says.

Ironically, the New Zealand event this year is larger than Tech Ed in Australia.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” says McLaren. “New Zealand is quite a step ahead technically, and we’re a good proving ground for new technologies. We have got the ability to quickly deploy because the organisations are not so large.”

Microsoft’s Pratt says speakers won’t have to fly out next year, because the Australian event will be held a week before New Zealand’s conference.

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