Microsoft Build 2017!


Thanks to Sequoia, I had the opportunity to attend the three-day Microsoft Build Conference in Seattle Washington. This was my first Microsoft Conference. I have previously been to a couple GoogleIO conferences when I was working on Google Geospatial products. Today, I’m doing logistics, cloud, and data manipulation. In my current position, we are using Java, Amazon Cloud, Oracle, and JavaScript products. Even though we are using those products at my full time position, I do work with C#, Visual Studio 2017, and MS SQL Server on the side for KnowledgeDNA. I was interested to see what Microsoft has been doing – especially now they are refocused on software and not just for the Windows environment. Personally, my goal was to learn where Microsoft is headed with their Azure, Visual Studio, Windows 10, .NET Core, and what software / plugins they are starting to provide to the developer community. Learning what Microsoft is doing and planning for the future provides me the ability to express a more well-rounded view for my full time position customers. The goal is provide ideas that may better support our various missions. For example, seeing that MS SQL Server can now be run on Linux may open new opportunities for running our database back-end. Below is a high level summary of how the event worked this year.


The conference was held at the Washington State Convention Center. I stayed within walking distance of the hotel, which was very nice – but not one of the “official” conference hotels. It provided me the ability to get to the check-in and get to the conference center for registration on the day before the official start of the conference. The registration process was painless. Those that had the barcode from when we signed up could go to self-scanning computers to check-in, and then go to the next desk to get you packets and a shirt. Unfortunately, I was one of the people that didn’t think about bringing the paperwork. Fortunately, they had a large area where they looked up your name and give you your information by providing a picture ID. I believe they should have given me a conference schedule at this time, but I did not receive one, or I missed where they had it stacked (foreshadowing…)

Conference Day 1

I made the mistake of cutting through the conference center about an hour early. People had started showing up, but it didn’t look to crowded, so I wandered off to kill some time and eat some breakfast. When I returned and the line was huge for the opening address. Lesson learned. At least, while I was in line, I had easy access to the seemingly unlimited number of donuts, coffee, and soda!
The opening address was packed! A lot of details that were previously discussed at other big events, but also a lot of new announcements, such as the Visual Studio on Mac, SQL Server on Linux, the Fall Creator’s update. During the presentations you receive a lot of information and updates on what is available, what is coming out in the near future, and where they are trying to get to in the future available, etc. Once the presentation is over, you start heading around to all the schedules. The MSBuild app, updates often with details of presentation, and changes. Annoyingly and incredulously, I have a windows phone, I love the OS, but their MSBuild app kept crashing! I had to take out my company provided iPAD (you too could have one if you join Sequoia :) and connect to the available wifi and use the Apple MSBuild app. The app worked well to keep track of your planned courses and available events.

The day ended at dinner time, with some fun food, drinks, and mingling around the various demos.

Conference - Day 2

A little less corporate, a little more nerdy! The day started with some pretty surprising and interesting announcements. They announcements are of course focused around Microsoft, but one of the most interesting was the Cirque du Soleil demo. Cirque du Soleil was using Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality to demo to the audience how they can use the technology to bring their new sets to reality, more quickly and at a great reduction of cost. Other interesting announcements included Microsoft SQL Server on Linux. Suse, Ubuntu, and other Linux distributions available to be run in a Windows 10 container.

Throughout Day 2, many of the goodies were food, drinks, and shirts, lots and lots of shirts :) Basically, each group you went to in order to learn what they are working on, provided a shirt, such as SQL Server team, or bots, or augmented technology. It was great to visit the live demos. I think some of the best presentations though were the live tech talks. The tech talks were set at three different stations and going on consistently through out the day. They were brief presentations ranging from Women in IT to deploying Xamarin applications to the Apple Store to developing in React.

The night ended with a Party at Citi Field!

Conference - Day 3

Day 3 was only a partial day of events. Fortunately, there were a few repeat talks that I had missed previously. They had conflicted with other presentations I attended. Day 3 is a good time to get your last looks at the Microsoft store that is at the conference, the last look at the various marketing (i.e. Virtual Reality demo's), and to talk with the Microsoft representatives for each of their products.

General Thoughts - Conference Value

If you like to go to the events for the swag, this is not the conference to go to. The two GoogleIO conferences I attended previously provide a lot of cool hardware to tinker with, although I think I have since heard that they are not providing the same level of swag. I do find value when the conference distributes hardware or software at these events. It encourages me, as a developer, to tinker with them and see what they do. I do believe that’s one reason Google took off with Apps, provide free products to develop against, and developers will try to put their ideas into solutions, and get them working on the device. Personally, I’m unsure if this conference was worth the cost. If you are big into Microsoft products, or have specific purposes to go, then it is a great place to see and hear many of the higher ups in Microsoft, as well as get tips and tricks from the worker-bees – a lot of really smart developers that you can interact with, give suggestions, or just listen to the ideas they have for where to lead their products in the future.
Would I go again? I most likely will not go next year, primarily because Visual Studio and other Microsoft products are not my primary focus. If that were to change, or enough time passed where it would be good to get another “crash course” on what Microsoft is providing, then I do think it could be worth going.

Sequoia Holding Inc

I would like to thank my company for the great opportunity! If you want the opportunity to be paid to learn as well as other great benefits, contact Sequoia Inc. They provide training hours as well as a generous annual training budget.

Benjamin Harrison – Lead Software Engineer
Sequoia Inc