Partners applaud bigger Microsoft Tech.Ed

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Partners have responded optimistically to Microsoft Tech.Ed this year, saying the bigger event provided excellent networking and learning opportunities while the product releases and previews around new business software bode well for future sales.

Partners have responded optimistically to Microsoft Tech.Ed this year, saying the bigger event provided excellent networking and learning opportunities while the product releases and previews around new business software bode well for future sales.

Andrew Dugdell, senior consultant at Brisbane reseller Clariti, said Tech.Ed 2005 seemed "very different" this year. Microsoft seemed to have provided more opportunities for partners this time.

"One thing that's healthy is the number of non-Microsoft specialists. It's very refreshing. It's nice to see how other people have done things," Dugdell said.

Australia's isolation as a "nice little island in the middle of the Pacific" meant that transferring knowledge and expertise directly from the US didn't always work. IT people needed to get together and nut out local applications and relevance to Australian organisations and their needs, he said.

Tech.Ed was one of the best opportunities for to learn new things and for partners to catch up with peers. "Everyone goes to Tech.Ed," Dugdell said. "There is just a huge amount of skills transfer in a very short time. There are very few places you can go and soak up so much technical information in just a few days."

No matter how much one thought one knew, there was always new things to pick up, he said.

Dugdell was bullish about the potential for Windows Vista. "So far, it looks very promising. Although it is maybe a little early to tell," he said.

When XP came out, many of the most exciting bells and whistles appeared halfway through beta two. Vista would probably develop the same way, which meant that the best cards were still being played close to Microsoft's chest, Dugdell said.

That said, it presented excellent opportunities for partners like Clariti. "It's a new operating system, so for Clariti that means deployment and upgrade work. A lot of companies do a refresh every four or five years. Most have been through the big 2000 upgrade and are ready for replacement," he said.

Vista might be adopted much faster than 2000 was, partly because some businesses had held off upgrading until Vista arrived and because of certain new features, such as network access protection, he said.

"Companies have to justify a change and I think a lot of good reasons exist in Vista," Dugdell said.

Jason Buck, senior consultant and trainer at Victoria-based data warehousing specialist Tenix Connections, said Tech.Ed was great for networking. "And obviously training," he said.

Tenix Connections was promoting its flagship data warehousing product, Crossbow, that targeted organisations that wanted to put a relational database into the SQL Server environment. "And we're offering services as well," Buck said.

Herman Taljaard, managing director at US-based solution provider SourceCode ANZ, has been at Tech.Ed promoting SourceCode's sole offering, a .NET-based edge workflow application dubbed

SourceCode had its own booth in one of the busy exhibition halls and interest was high, he said.

"We wanted to start getting actively involved in Australia," Taljaard said. "It's really being driven by business requirements and we're starting to see more traction."

SourceCode's software aimed at assisting companies with compliance and business process management. A .NET-based platform could help companies centralise, monitor and control their communications with customers, staff and business associates and Australian businesses had really taken the idea on board, he said.

The Microsoft partner hoped that would help it reap a harvest from upcoming EA licensing renewals, Taljaard said.

Meanwhile, SourceCode was watching the latest Windows releases with interest. "Vista is interesting for us," Taljaard said. "Vista has a lot of focus on how the user interfaces with the operating system. So bringing those to bear on what we do will be exciting."

Kerstin Baxter, partner group director at Microsoft Australia, said partners should watch the products coming out around the end of 2005, previewed at Tech.Ed. Most of those should provide strong opportunities for Microsoft resellers, she said.

SQL Server 2005 would give advantages to business intelligence projects and should help partners previously unfamiliar with business intelligence get into the game, Baxter said.

"We're also launching products such as the Business Intelligence Scorecard, codenamed Maestro," she said.

Tech.Ed this year had provided some 150 technical sessions, a range of hands-on labs for self-paced learning and two-day 'deep dive' workshops under top consultants and trainers. For the first time, Microsoft was giving attendees a chance to sit the Microsoft Certified Professional Exam at the conference to attain industry certification.

Fleur Doidge attended Tech.Ed 2005 on the Gold Coast as a guest of
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