Coming from an AWS background, I wanted to talk about my experience at my first Microsoft Azure conference, Microsoft Ignite The Tour: London, hosted at the Excel on the 16th and 17th January 2020 and touted as the re:Invent of London's docklands.

What was the attendance like?

I was shocked at the attendance for a conference for the second most popular public cloud provider; while I have no official data, it seemed that the attendance was on a par with the supposed 12,000 people attending the AWS Summit London last May. This is testimony to the rise in popularity of the Azure platform. As you would expect from such a well-attended event, there were long queues for everything; registration, refreshments, lunch, toilets, but thankfully not entry to the breakout sessions!

Were the structured session useful?

I thought it was helpful the way Microsoft structured the sessions throughout the event using a fictional company called Tailwind Traders, a nod to its Northwinds database from the 90s, to demonstrate tangible ways that companies can utilise its cloud services.

The event felt to me like a launch event to promote its framework of online Azure training, called learning pathways, as each session, typically based around this same fictional company, including pre-recorded demos and git-hub repositories that can be accessed afterwards. This is no criticism as there is merit to the structured training approach. However, it felt a little weird doing something that I am used to doing alone with hundreds of others.

Would you recommend any improvements?

Being a relative newbie to Azure, I was surprised that after nearly a full day of (advanced) sessions, I had yet to learn anything. This is a testimony to the breadth and depth of the Azure training KCOM invested in the team earlier this year. Generally, I felt as though the conference was lacking any (expert?) deep-dive technical sessions that would have truly challenged me and progressed my learning and development.

What were the stand out moments from the tour?

There were two standout sessions for me; one was Scott Coulson's session on avoiding the pitfalls when provisioning Azure Kubernetes clusters at scale. Azure Kubernetes is a service that I need hands-on time with to fully understand, as I believe it offers great benefits for our enterprise customers looking to modernise in the cloud.

The other was Thomas Maurer's session on Azure governance and management, highlighting that the Microsoft offering is far more joined-up than its competitors. We were shown the recently released Azure Blueprints, which looks like an awesome service to enforce standards and compliance in a subscription. Again, something requiring further investigation so that we can leverage it to help our customers protect their environments.

Overall, I found the event valuable as a great technical refresh and networking opportunity, and I hope they will work on deeper technical breakouts and maybe queue management for future events.

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