Hairy Causes: A Movember to Remember

clip_image002You may notice a trend during the month of November where lots of normally clean-shaven blokes are suddenly sporting (often embarrassingly hideous) attempts at growing a moustache. There’s a good chance that they are making a spectacle of themselves for a worthy cause. Over the past sixteen years, the Movember Foundation has raised over a billion dollars globally to promote awareness of men’s health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, depression and suicide prevention. Last year, participants in Australia alone raised $29 million. More than 75% of the money raised is used to fund at least 1250 men’s health projects, including Beyond Blue and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

For the past 12 years, I too have participated in one way or another in Movember, either by growing a mo’ myself or sponsoring others. This year I have joined the official Deloitte Platform Engineering (DPE) Movember team. My motivation has always come in part from my family’s history of prostate cancer: my dad and two of my three brothers have endured this disease. This year, I have even more inspiration, as I recently extended my family’s history via my own battle with prostate cancer. I will share a bit of my story below. Read more of this post

Life as a User Group Leader

Microsoft MVPs are recognised for their voluntary contributions to the technical community. There are many types of eligible contributions, but one of my more notable ones was serving as a user group leader. This is a significant undertaking, and in this post I hope to outline some of the aspects of the commitment and also some lessons I’ve learned over my 14 years of fulfilling this duty.

My Experience

In 2005, I was asked by Microsoft to start the Brisbane BizTalk User Group. The motivation came through working for one of several organisations that adopted BizTalk Server to handle critical enterprise integration processes. As a newbie to the product, I was heavily reliant on the help I received from the very few experts around Australia and the world, including Bill Chesnut, Mick Badran, and several other MVPs who blogged about their experience. With so little available knowledge and experience in Brisbane, Microsoft’s Geoff Clarke decided it would be a great idea to start a user group. It was a daunting challenge and Geoff had to twist my arm a little… but I was encouraged when over 30 people turned up at the first meetup, proving that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. I also had lots of support from Microsoft and my colleagues, and the group met monthly for years to follow.

Then in 2014, I was asked to take the reigns for the Brisbane Azure User Group, which had been established by Paul Bouwer about a year or two earlier. When Paul earned his “blue card” and became a Microsoft employee that year, he felt it was inappropriate for him to continue leading the group and that a community member would be more appropriate for the role. Again, I reluctantly agreed on the condition that I had at least two co-organisers to help. One of these gentlemen (Damien Berry) remains a co-organiser to this day.

I’ve also ran the Global Azure Bootcamp in Brisbane for four years, and the Global Integration Bootcamp for a couple of years as well.

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New Dev SKU for Azure Integration Service Environment (ISE)

Last week, Microsoft responded to numerous requests from the community by announcing a new developer tier offering for Integration Service Environments (ISE). The ISE has been generally available for several weeks, but the single available SKU prior to this announcement carried a hefty price tag.

(fromEldert)WhatsApp Image 2019-06-27 at 10.59.51 AMI had the great honour and privilege of speaking about ISE at the INTEGRATE 2019 conference at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA (USA) last month.  My topic was Four Scenarios for Using an Integration Service Environment, which attempted to shed some light on what type of situations would justify using this flat-cost product as opposed to the consumption-based serverless offering of Logic Apps.

While this presentation hopefully piqued interest in the offering, one of the burning questions from the attendees was “When will a lower cost developer SKU be available so we can try it out?”  All Microsoft was able to say at that point was, “Soon.”  Well, at least they were right, as it is now available only a few weeks later!

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Swift Service Fabric Deployments with PowerShell

Presentation

A few weeks ago I had the great privilege of presenting a 60 minute breakout session at Microsoft Ignite | The Tour in Sydney. It was thrilling to have over 200 people registered to see my topic “Seamless Deployments with Azure Service Fabric”, especially in the massive Convention Centre.

In the session I demonstrated the self-healing capabilities of Service Fabric by introducing a bug in the code and then attempting a rolling upgrade. It was impressive to see how Service Fabric detected the bug after the first node was upgraded and then immediately started rolling it back.

As you can imagine, it took a fair amount of practice to get the demo smooth and functioning within the tight time limits of the average audience attention span. (In fact, I had to learn how to tweak both the cluster and the application health check settings to shorten the interval – perhaps the subject of another blog post!) Naturally this also entailed frequently “resetting” the environment so that I could start over when things didn’t go quite as planned, or if I wanted to reset the version number. If you’ve ever worked with Service Fabric before you would know that deployments from Visual Studio (or Azure DevOps) can take a while; and undeploying an application from Service Fabric manually in the portal is painful!

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How to Explain Messaging Patterns to your Grandmother

First of all, I’d like to apologise to all grandmothers out there… I mean you no disrespect. It’s just meant to be a catchy title, really. I know grandmothers who are smarter than most of us.

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of speaking at the API Days event in Melbourne. My topic was on Building Event-Driven Integration Architectures, and within that talk I felt a need to compare events to messages, as Clement Vasters did so eloquently in his presentation at INTEGRATE 2018. In a slight divergence within that talk I highlighted three common messaging patterns using a pizza based analogy. Given the time constraint that segment was compressed into less than a minute, but I thought it might be valuable enough to put in a blog post.

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Photo courtesy of mypizzachoice.com

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INTEGRATE 2018: Highlights from Another Great Event

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Photo by Tariq Sheikh

Two weeks ago I had not only the privilege to attend the sixth INTEGRATE event in London, but also the great honour of speaking for the second time. These events always provide a wealth of information and insight as well as opportunities to meet face-to-face with the greatest minds in the enterprise integration space. This year was no exception, with at least 24 sessions featuring as many speakers from both the Microsoft and the MVP community.

As usual, the first half of the 3-day conference was devoted to the Microsoft product team, with presentations from Jon Fancy (who also gave the keynote), Kevin Lam, Derek Li, Jeff Hollan, Paul Larsen, Valerie Robb, Vladimir Vinogradsky, Miao Jiang, Clemens Vasters, Dan Rosanova, Divya Swarnkar, Kent Weare, Amit Kumar Dua, and Matt Farmer. For me, the highlights of these sessions were: Read more of this post

6th Annual Global Azure Bootcamp Brings Azure to Brisbane

imageLast weekend I had the honour of both organising and speaking at the 6th annual Global Azure Bootcamp in Brisbane. This is always a large event to manage, typically sold out with a long waiting list – and this year was no exception! We had over 70 people attend this all-day Saturday deep-dive into Microsoft Azure technologies – and the response was extremely favourable by all signs.

As the name suggests, this is a global initiative which is organised by six individuals from around the world who donate a massive amount of time and effort to facilitate the launching of local community events on a specific common day. Through their website they manage to collect registrations from local organisers, disseminate information, create hands-on lab materials (e.g. racing game), obtain global sponsors (who donate free licenses and trial subscriptions of their products), set up support for sub-domains, and even help obtain local sponsorship (e.g. Microsoft providing free Subway lunches at most locations).  It is a massive undertaking. This year we had 262 locations from around the world participate.

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Local organisers were free to decide their own agenda in terms of content and activity. In Brisbane, we nominated to have a full day of presentations while allowing attendees to go off and work on hands-on labs whenever they wanted to. This has worked out well in the past, and this year was not exception. In this way we were able to accommodate seven presentations, from some of which you can download the content (I’ll keep updating this as they are posted, so please check back if a link isn’t available just yet):

Speaker Title Download
Adam Cogan Keynote: The Nine Knights of Azure Slides | Video
Todd Whitehead Azure Ninja Tips & Tricks Slides | Video
Adam Stephensen Bots – The Next UI Revolution Slides | Video
Alessandro Cardoso Identity Modernization with Azure Slides | Video
Dan Toomey Serverless iPaaS in Azure Slides | Video
David Alzamendi Ingesting, Processing & Displaying Real Time Information with Azure Slides | Video
Elliot Munro Automate Office 365 administration with Azure Functions and PowerShell Slides | Video

Dan-wAudience-DeanROne challenge this year was finding a venue after a building-wide power outage at Microsoft was scheduled at the last minute. Fortunately, The Precinct was available and was generous in lending us their Staircase Stadium. What an interesting space! It came with an excellent A/V package, free wi-fi, and a kitchen that was well suited to the catering. Although it did not offer the luxuriant comfortable seating one might prefer for an all day event, the attendees nevertheless seemed to agree that it was a good venue. AdamCogan-Keynote

Lunch was provided by Subway through the generous sponsorship of Microsoft. We also were served an excellent morning and afternoon tea by Art of Catering.

At the end of the day, we were able to raffle off some excellent prizes to six lucky winners thanks to the generous donations of both the global and local sponsors.

There are several people and organisations I’d like to thank for their contributions to this event:

Looking forward to next year!

2nd Annual Global Integration Bootcamp a Success!

DZLx-R1UQAEhxvOLast Saturday I had the great privilege of organising and hosting the 2nd annual Global Integration Bootcamp in Brisbane. This was a free event hosted by 15 communities around the globe, including four in Australia and one in New Zealand!

It’s a lot of work to put on these events, but it’s worth it when you see a whole bunch of dedicated professionals give up part of their weekend because they are enthusiastic to learn about Microsoft’s awesome integration capabilities.

The day’s agenda concentrated on Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) offerings in Microsoft Azure. It was a packed schedule with both presentations and hands-on labs:

Time Slot Topic Speaker
08:30 – 08:45 Arrival & Check-In  
08:45 – 09:00 Introduction & Welcome Dan Toomey
09:00 – 09:45 Serverless Computing with Logic Apps, Functions & Event Grid Dan Toomey
09:45 – 10:45 Building a Smart Solution with Azure Storage, Event Grid, Functions, Logic Apps & the Computer Vision API (Hands-On Lab)
10:45  – 11:30 Microsoft Flow, LUIS and Bots Susie Moore, Dan Toomey
11:30 – 13:00 Creating a Smart Expense Claims Bot using Flow & Bizzy (Hands-On Lab)
13:00 – 13:30 Cognitive Services Adam Finster
13:30 – 15:00 Recognising People  with Cognitive Services Face API (Hands-On Lab)
15:00 – 15:30 Azure API Management Dan Toomey
15:30 – 16:30 API Management Tutorials (Hands-On Lab)
16:30 – 17:00 Integration Design Lee Simpson

It wasn’t all work… we had some delicious morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea catered by Artisan’s Café & Catering, and there was a bit of swag to give away as well thanks to Microsoft and also Mexia (who generously sponsored the event).

0a4f5bc5-e350-401a-b98d-a26c7cd6a502-originalOverall, feedback was good and most attendees were appreciative of what they learned. The slide decks for most of the presentations are available online and linked above, and the labs are available here if you would like to have a go.

I’d like to thank my colleagues Susie, Lee and Adam for stepping up into the speaker slots and giving me a couple of much needed breaks! I’d also like to thank Joern Staby for helping out with the lab proctoring and also writing an excellent post-event article

Finally, I be remiss in not mentioning the global sponsors who were responsible for getting this world-wide event off of the ground and providing the lab materials:

  • Martin Abbott
  • Glenn Colpaert
  • Steef-Jan Wiggers
  • Tomasso Groenendijk
  • Eldert Grootenboer
  • Sven Van den brande
  • Gijs in ‘t Veld
  • Rob Fox

Really looking forward to next year’s event!

MVP Summit: Microsoft Rolling Out the Red Carpet

Image result for mvp summit 2018 images

Last week I had the extraordinary privilege of attending my first MVP Summit at Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, USA. From hearing the stories and remarks from my many MVP colleagues over the years, I’ve known for a long time that this is one of the biggest perks of this highly coveted award. But even so, I was really impressed and humbled by the experience, particularly by the lengths that Microsoft went to ensure that we felt welcome and had a great experience.

The MVP Summit is an annual event hosted by Microsoft and open only to the ~3800 MVP award recipients throughout the world. (To learn more about the MVP award itself, please see my previous blog post.) The event features several days of presentations and interactions with the various product groups, affording rare opportunitiesiPhone Import 024 for MVPs to obtain exclusive NDA information about what is coming and to provide feedback to Microsoft about their observations and experiences from the field. It is in this role as influencers that MVPs provide Microsoft the greatest value, as it helps shape better products and maintain their competitive edge. In addition to the presentations, workshops and interactions, there are several events designed to facilitate networking including a Regional Meetup, Product Group Happy Hours, and of course the Attendee Celebration. Microsoft pays for accommodation (twin share), provides all local transportation via a fleet of shuttle buses, and lays out plenty of food – including a limitless supply of coffee throughout the day and alcohol at the evening events. So the only major expense for attendees is getting to the event  – not an insignificant cost for an Australian, but definitely worth it!

2018-03-05 JoeysAs with all conferences like this, one the greatest benefits is the ability to catch up with friends and colleagues from all over the world who share a special interest (in this case, enterprise integration). Despite a full five days of scheduled content and events (plus a pre-event day), there was still plenty of time to socialise, whether it be enjoying an exquisite meal at Moksha, downing a few drinks at Joey’s, or even making a side trip to a local attraction.

In addition to seeing so many friendly faces from around the world, it Dan&Justinwas also good to be joined by at least 90 MVP colleagues from Australia & New Zealand, including my esteemed Mexia co-worker Justin Yoo, my long time mentor & friend Bill Chesnut, and the familiar face of Kirsty McGrath who was also a first timer at the Summit (and yet invited to speak!)

Kirsty&DanAlthough Enterprise Integration was hardly a heavily featured topic at the Summit, Principal Program Manager Jon Fancey helped make the most of the opportunity by scheduling a special “round table” session where 25-30 integration specialists were invited to discuss topics and concerns with the pro-integration team. While the product group is always extremely responsive online, it was awesome having face-to-face conversations.  We all left feeling that the session was very productive and informative at both ends. In addition, we hosted our second Integration Down Under webinar right from the Microsoft campus, inviting Jon along with MiaoJiang, Paul Larsen, and Dan Rosanova as speakers. You can view the recording here

Daniels_1As a final surprise, the pro-integration team (including Jim Harrer) expressed their appreciation of the Global Integration Bootcamp organisers by taking us all out to a fancy steak dinner at Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue. It was a great evening, although I walked away feeling like I’d eaten a whole cow!

I would really like to express my deep appreciation to Microsoft for rolling out the red carpet for us! No detail was missed. For example, the endless fleet of shuttle buses taking us between the hotels and the Microsoft campus (which even had power outlets in the seats to keep our devices charged), the free umbrellas handed out to endure the wet weather, and the stylish MVP jackets that all participants were issued! In addition, all of the staff were so friendly and helpful. It certainly makes all the hard work leading to an MVP status feel appreciated. I hope I have the opportunity to attend for many years to come!

And lastly, I’d like to shout out the excellent work that Lana Montgomery does as our MVP Regional Manager for Asia. Not only does she keep us all informed, but she also tirelessly works to support our initiatives and events – and even schedules regular events in all our big Australian / NZ cities to keep us connected. Thanks Lana!

Integration Down Under… is UP & RUNNING!

For years now Integration Monday has been faithfully giving us webinars almost every week. There have been some outstanding sessions from international leaders in the integration space including MVPs, members of the Microsoft product team, and other community members. For the Asia Pacific community, however, it has always been a challenge to participate in the live sessions due to the unfriendly time zone.  (I certainly know what a struggle it was to present my own session last October at 4:30am!)  Even from the listener’s perspective, it is usually nicer to be able to join a live webinar and ask questions rather than to consume the recordings afterwards.

Thanks to the initiative of veteran MVP Bill Chesnut (aka “BizTalk Bill”) and the sponsorship of his employer SixPivot, we now have a brand new webinar series starting up in a friendlier time slot for our APAC community! Integration Down Under is launching its inaugural webinar session on Thursday, 8th February at 7:00pm AEST. You can register for this free event here.

This initial session will introduce the leaders and allow each of us to present as very short talk on a chosen topic:

    There are already more than twenty registrations even though the link has been live for only a few days. I hope that this is a good sign of the interest within the community!

Feeling really fortunate to be part of this initiative, and looking forward to delivering my intro to Event Grid talk! It will be a slightly scaled down version of what I presented at the Sydney Tech Summit back in November. Hope to see you there!

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