MEC 2012, the Lost Conference was this week. I really enjoyed the conference overall. The Conference, for me personally, didn’t start off on the best foot as my beloved Denver Broncos lost to the Houston Texans! The Conference officially kicked off with a Welcome Reception in the Exhibitor Hall. This was a good time, got to mingle with the vendors and also allowed me to meet in person for the first time the MVP Support team. This was my first Microsoft Conference since I was awarded as an MVP. The MVP Team had a lounge setup for all of the MVP’s attending the conference to gather and interact with the MEC attendees. They even had a large board setup showing all of us and our Bios.

Monday morning we had two Keynote Addresses. The first being more background on why did MEC disappear 10 years ago and background on the team who runs the Exchange Team in Microsoft. The second was a technical overview of Exchange 2013. This second session was very good and gave a good level set for the rest of the week. Monday afternoon consisted of breakout sessions. These are 75 minute sessions on particular topics. The majority of the sessions I attended all week had some Office 365 connotation. More on session learning in a bit. Monday night was the big party at Universal Studios Orlando Island of Adventure. The entire park was rented out for just the MEC attendees and their guests. This was a great time, never spent for than about 2 minutes in line for any ride or attraction.

As mentioned the majority of my session dealt with Office 365. I attended one session on Hybrid deployments with Office 365 and Exchange 2013. One big note, is that if you are currently running Exchange 2003 on-premises, you will have to use Exchange 2010 to create a Hybrid deployment. Exchange 2013 will only support a hybrid deployment with Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2007, and only after you upgrade to the next available service pack that will be available for them around the time that Exchange 2013 goes RTM. Another requirement to setup a Hybrid with Exchange 2013 is that the Office 365 tenant is at the 2013 level as well. For clients that move to Office 365 after Office 365 goes RTM with the 2013 product sets, this will not be a problem. But for a client that wants to upgrade their Hybrid to have Exchange 2013 on-premises, they will need to wait until their Tenant has been upgraded to Office 365 with 2013.

What is very nice with Exchange 2013 and Office 365 is the new Exchange Administration Center (EAC) look and feel is identical whether you are managing on-premises Exchange 2013 or Office 365 with 2013. The Hybrid deployment has been streamlined, but still requires the additional DomainProof DNS TXT record to be entered. I talked to the speaker at the Hybrid deployment session, Ben Appleby, and he said they are trying to remove that requirement. He did tell me this can be created much earlier to avoid the wait for DNS record creation and propagation when running the Hybrid Wizard the first time.

With Exchange 2013 Hybrid deployments, certificates are used for the TLS Mailflow connector, no more Static IP requirements. Also the flow of mail is more streamlined and the way an organization wants to route email between the internet, on-prem and Office 365 is easily configured to allow for customization.

Another great session I attended was on Windows Azure Active Directory and Office 365. Very cool to see the way that these two services work closely together and how Microsoft is thinking of future needs for the two. One other session to point out was around the Exchange Online Service and how Microsoft manages it. Deepest dive I have seen to date on how Microsoft manages Exchange online at the massive scale. One quote, Exchange online is growing by millions a week!

That’s it for now, need to get back to work!

Above picture is from the large display showing all the MVP’s at MEC!