Great news: the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) is back from the dead!
During the first day of the 2012 MVP Summit, Michael Atalla (director of marketing for the Exchange team) surprised us with an announcement that the MEC was returning. We weren’t allowed to discuss it until today, but now some of the wraps are off.
I have many fond memories of attending MECs past, including taking a group of H-P’s European employees to the pistol range in Anaheim for a little American cultural acclimation. The MEC that probably stands out the most for me, though, was 1998 in Boston. It was the first MEC I attended, and at the time I knew very little about Exchange– yet I was on the hook for an Exchange exam study guide. I took feverish, furious notes and tried as hard as I could to cram knowledge into my brain. What stood out to me was that the presenters included actual engineers and support folks from the product team: Laurion Burchall gave a presentation on the internals of the Extensible Storage Engine, Daniel Chenault did an excellent troubleshooting session at Fleet Arena, and so on.
The sense of community and shared learning was palpable, and it continued on at each successive MEC. A huge amount of what I now know about Exchange, I learned there; many of the Exchange community members I now count as friends were people I first met at a MEC.
The MEC was successful in my view for 3 reasons: it focused only on Exchange; it was staffed by deeply technical presenters who could get all the way down to the source-code level to explain things; and it was well-funded and supported by Microsoft.
In its later years, MEC was renamed from the “Microsoft Exchange Conference” to the “Microsoft Exchange and Collaboration” conference, and SharePoint– then in its infancy– was invited in. Then the MEC disappeared, while SharePoint got its own conference. It long surprised me that SharePoint had a Microsoft-organized and -funded conference, while Exchange didn’t, given their relative market sizes and market shares. It also continually frustrated me that there was so little Exchange-specific content at TechEd, but that’s a function of the simple fact that Microsoft keeps adding new products, and each one has to have its day at TechEd. The same-size pie with more slices cut into it means everyone gets a smaller piece.
Sadly, the enthusiasm and commitment of the people who actually write the code for Exchange has been a long-missing ingredient in the Exchange conference world. I know that when I was the conference co-chair for Exchange Connections we tried hard, and often, to get Microsoft to send us some developers and/or support engineers. We were largely unsuccessful (although we did manage to pry Tim McMichael loose for a few visits.) This is not to demean the contributions from the many program managers, writers, and others who have carried the Exchange torch at TechEd, Connections, TEC, and so on– but as good as their participation has been, it’s not the same as having engineers presenting at a Microsoft-sponsored conference centered on Exchange. Other events have had one or two of the three factors I mentioned before, but without all three, they didn’t hit the same heights.
While Microsoft hasn’t announced any of the specifics around the MEC yet, they have announced the date and location, but you’l have to go to MECisBack.com for those details. Expect more details soon– and expect to see me there!