It had been two years since the last time I hit Microsoft Ignite, so I was really excited to attend again this October. With more than 25,000 attendees, it was definitely the largest and most interesting Microsoft event of the year. In this post I will summarize the sessions and experiences I found most interesting. I also got some great footage whilst at the event, which I will upload so you can relive the experience with me.
During Ignite I was asked by many people what I thought was the most interesting session there. As I normally like to hangout in the Expo Area, there were only a few which really stood out to me. So, here’s a rundown of some of my “favorites” 😊
Exchange Server 2019
The new Exchange Server for 2019 will be released this year. During the session, Microsoft announced it will require 128 GB of memory, volume licenses, Windows Server 2019 and it’s best practice to run it on Server Core. Another important announcement was that Exchange 2019 will not include Unified Messaging (UM) anymore, meaning you will need to consider this before starting a migration. Stay tuned for more blog posts which will help you with this announcement. Or if you want to know more now, here's a recording of the session:
Organization Configuration Transfer (OCT) v2 will copy additional on-premises Exchange settings such as Address List, Malware Filter Policy, Organization Config, Active Device Access Rules, etc in a one-time copy to your Exchange Online organization. The release date is due soon, so keep an eye out for updates.
Hybrid Agent as part of Exchange Modern Hybrid in Hybrid Configuration Wizard (HCW) will install a hybrid proxy service to your Exchange servers or other servers that takes over the communication to Exchange Online, so you don’t need to open inbound HTTPs (Port 443) communication to your Exchange servers anymore. You also no longer need custom DNS changes, 3rd party certificates, firewalls or network changes. This eases the process for a hybrid configuration a lot, even making it possible for secure environments to setup a hybrid Exchange configuration.
However, it will only support hybrid-free or busy and mailbox moves, but no SMTP e-mail communication between on-premises and Exchange Online. The email communication will therefore follow your normal Internet routing you configured in Exchange on-premises. The release date has been announced as “as fast as we can, we're in private preview right now” – but as this functionality was already announced during Ignite 2017, I hope it will be released before the next Ignite 2019 takes place. We will keep you informed of any updates, and here's a recording of the session:
Exchange Tips and Tricks
Every year Scott Schnoll collects a ton of useful information and tricks for Exchange. Some of the top examples he shared with us were:
- Mailbox auto reply and time zones
- Best practices for health messages
- Mailbox auditing updates where mailbox auditing will be enabled by default in your tenant
- DL migrations from on-premises to cloud
- Exchange Online Archive auto-expansion
- Modern public folder deployment best practices
- Mail flow insights that are part of the reporting dashboard in the Security and Compliance Center (SCC)
Based on the insights I received from this session, I would highly recommend that anyone who is working with Exchange watches his session here:
Last but not least
A key technical announcement from Microsoft Ignite 2018 is that in the next couple of months you will be able to change the login of your users from Federation using Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) to pass through authentication (PTA) or password hash sync (PHS). This is a revelation for this technology, as currently to get rid of AD FS, you need to switch off Federation for the complete domain, meaning it’s completely an “all or nothing” approach. For larger organizations this was very challenging, therefore meaning a lot didn’t touch Federation until now. Want to know more about this? Find out more here.
In a couple of weeks this new feature will allow you to configure federation based on a user, thus you can turn off federation for a user and the user will immediately use either PTA or PHS. You will be able to change federation on the user identity using Azure AD admin center or using an API. If you want to see the live demo, check it out here:
The Exchange Squeaky Lobster turns 21!
Besides the technical session, we also had a special occasion to celebrate during the week: The 21st birthday of the “mascot” of Exchange Server, Squeaky Lobster! At exactly 14:15 pm (EST) on 26.9.2018 we sang him a loud “Happy Birthday” in the Community Central area together with many Exchange PG members, MVPs and other attendees. I guess the passing attendees were wondering what was happening. In case you don't know the Squeaky Lobster story, you can read all about it here.
When looking back at the event, I think my personal highlight, besides the most common “meet anybody that is important in the Microsoft area”, is the Hang-Out Area where you are able to watch 12 Ignite sessions at the same time! You can switch between the sessions without moving between rooms – very useful if you cannot decide for one session but want to see them all. The area also included very nice working areas where you had a table for your laptop.
My personal recommendations for Orlando
After Ignite, I often went out to explore Orlando to see what International Drive had to offer. Here are some of my favourite bars and restaurants:
- The Howl at the Moon: a live-music bar, perfect for blowing off steam with truly unique dueling pianos and novelty drinks.
- Mango’s Tropical Café: head here for the ultimate Club Tropicana experience like the famous one in Havana, Cuba. Expect Latin American and Caribbean inspired live-entertainment with exotic dancers and a tasty menu to accompany the experience.
- Charley’s steak house: hands down the best steakhouse on International Drive. They serve high quality meat which is hand-cut daily in an authentic American setting.
So to wrap up a great week at Microsoft Ignite 2018. I really enjoyed hanging out with fellow technical lovers, colleagues, MVPs and the Microsoft Product Group members.. Microsoft had a challenge of accommodating more attendees than ever this year, but they certainly stepped up to the mark by doing an exceptional job of organizing the whole set-up of the event. I’m really looking forward to Microsoft Ignite 2019, and they can definitely count on my attendance. See you in Orlando Nov 4-8th, 2019!
Siegfried is a Microsoft MVP for Office Apps and Services. He has great expertise in Office 365 implementations with a special focus on Security, Messaging and Identity for international customers.