MMS 2017 is a few weeks in the rear-view mirror at this point, and now that I’ve had some time to mull over everything I learned and the experience in general I wanted to put some of those thoughts and takeaways out there for those who couldn’t make it. This will be a two-part post; part one containing my thoughts on the conference and part two containing interesting things I learned in the various sessions.
2016 was my first year attending the MMS conference, and year over year I’d say the feel and attitude were largely identical. There were a hundred or so more attendees this year but the small community feel was unchanged. Speakers were just as approachable as ever, fellow attendees were respectful, and the sponsor presence wasn’t obnoxious. That really encapsulates why I love this conference so much; it feels like a community event. No crazy up selling and minimal marketing style sessions. Even most of the sponsor sessions had value outside of just selling their product.
One great change was made this year however, and that was extending the conference to 4 days and getting rid of the overlapping sessions. I had a love/hate relationship with the overlapping sessions last year. I loved it because it enabled my compulsive tendency to want to see all the things, but that just resulted in a whirlwind conference where I was running meeting to meeting with no breaks so I could fit in 8+ sessions a day. I would also end up skipping out on sessions before they were finished if they went long, and missed pretty much every Q/A. My main fear with the elimination of the overlapping sessions was missing out on content. I had some real Sophie’s Choice style internal dilemmas while planning my schedule. While there were definitely sessions I didn’t make it to, it was probably for the better as I retained what I did see much better than last year (and I got to eat lunch most days!).
Another change for me this year was the amount of events I had scheduled after hours. Not sure if there were just a ton more parties this year or if I was just more clued into it, but pretty much every night after the conference something was going on. The standout event by far was 1E’s party at Smaaash. VR games, go karting, and alcohol. Not much more needs to be said than that. Most nights ended with drinks at the excellent FireLake restaurant with other attendees, presenters, and Microsoft folks. Its cliche, but the best part of the conference was still networking with peers in the industry.
The Microsoft ConfigMgr product team was at MMS in full force this year, and are absolutely slaying it with new features.
- SCCM Primary Site Server HA – About damn time. Still very version 1 and not without its caveats, but this is supposed to make it into the 1705/1706 TP. Not sure why this took so long but a very welcome addition.
- Enroll SCCM Client From The Web – The product team showed off a demo of a feature that will allow you to install an SCCM agent on a PC over the internet that is only enrolled in Azure AD; no on-prem AD required. This is a huge change that will enable a whole slew of new scenarios for managing devices. One more nail in the coffin for on-prem only infrastructure.
- Integrated SCUP with SCCM – @djammmer actually updated the user voice item on this one live during the state of the union. This will enable MUCH easier patching of third party applications and has been a long time coming.
- Remote Task Sequence Debugging – During the hackathon, god level SCCM develper Kerwin showed off an insane task sequence debugger, that will let you back and forth through task sequences. No idea when this will make it into the product but when it does, it will save tons of time when testing new task sequences. He may have also recreated Skype in the ConfigMgr console. Don’t ask.
- Powershell DSC Integration with SCCM – I didn’t get many details on how this will end up working, but the thought is exciting. I could see this along with MDM policies providing a reasonable path off of group policy for endpoints.
What They Could Do Better
Despite all my gushing over how great this conference is, there are a few things that could make it even better.
- Post the slides early, even if it’s just the outline. Since we can go to fewer sessions overall with the end of overlapping scheduling, it would make choosing a session a bit easier. Yes I know there’s an outline in the session detail but often it’s too general. This would help avoid disappointment when checking out a session on a topic you are interested in but ends up being more basic than you were expecting.
- More detailed slides. Kind of goes hand in hand with the previous point, but since the sessions aren’t recorded and we can’t hit them all, it would be nice to be able to reliably get info from the sessions we couldn’t make it to. Some slide decks are basically 4 slides saying demo. This would also help so you wouldn’t have to feverishly take notes during the session in case what is being discussed doesn’t make it into the slide deck.
- You are never going to please everyone obviously but there were a few topics I’d like to have seen more on.
- App Deployment/Packaging – Yeah we all do it and its somewhat basic, but it’s a critical part of SCCM.
- App-V – Related to the first point a bit, but only one session this year for App-V was a bummer.
- Powershell/DSC – Might have just been my schedule, but didn’t see much in this area. Don Jones would have been great to have back.
- SCCM OSD – Most of the MVPs focus so much on MDT, it feels like SCCM native OSD doesn’t get much love.
In the next few days I will be posting a rundown of all the interesting bits from the sessions I attended. See you then!