Cloudy and Mobile in Las Vegas

I most often find time to write while on flights to conferences. And this evening I’m soaring over a thick layer of clouds, watching the sun’s bright orange and red colors fade beneath, while planning the rest of my week. I’m headed to Las Vegas, and while I’m normally not excited to go to Las Vegas, because I really despise everything that makes Las Vegas what it is, this trip I’ve been anxiously awaiting, and here’s why.

Escaping the Cold

I live between Chicago and Milwaukee. For those that aren’t familiar with this area of the USA, Chicago and Milwaukee are approximately 90 minutes apart, and I live right between them. This region is pretty far North, next to Lake Michigan, and usually has a pretty long winter season. This year has been a brutally cold winter, with a fair amount of snow, and when it snows in November, that same snow will be around until the spring time. When I left, the temps were in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s, and the snow was melting down, but it’s not going to be an overnight disappearing act. I’m sure when I get back, there will still be snow. But I’d love to be surprised. As a result, of all of this cold, the mid 70 temps and sunshine in Las Vegas sound really appealing.

Teaching others about My Technology Passions

I get really excited about innovation and technology. Two major innovations that I spend a lot of time deeply involve in are mobile and cloud. These two innovations have and will continue to drive changes in the way we do even the most basic things, like communicating with others, playing games and sharing media. Right now I’m on my way to Live 360 which is a group of conferences all going on simultaneously at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. These conferences include Visual Studio Live and SQL Server Live, and I’m truly honored to have been invited to speak at Visual Studio Live in Las Vegas for the past three years. This year, I’m getting to teach developers about some of the things that are most interesting to me, which include mobile and cloud technologies. My four sessions at Live 360 will be on Tuesday and Wednesday and the details on each session are below.

SQL Server in Windows Azure Virtual Machines

The introduction of IaaS and stateful Virtual Machines in Windows Azure has expanded the workloads that fit in Windows Azure. One of the most common workloads is SQL Server. In this session, you will learn how to get started with SQL Server in Windows Azure Virtual Machines. Next, Eric will show you how to architect your SQL Server VMs to be highly available and fault tolerant in Windows Azure Virtual Machines. Then you will learn how to optimize and tune the performance of SQL Server in Windows Azure Virtual Machines. Finally, Eric will walk through some tips and things to consider like database migrations, security, management and when to use SQL Server over Windows Azure SQL Database.

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 at 2:30pm – 3:45pm in Celebrity 5

Overview of IaaS in Windows Azure Virtual Machines

Windows Azure is a great cloud platform for scalable, on-demand computing power. However, there are scenarios that are not supported by Windows Azure’s Cloud Service web and worker roles. In this session, we will explore the traditional Windows Azure web and worker compute roles and walk through the common challenges encountered when using these. We will explore the architecture and internals of Windows Azure, and then explore Virtual Machines and the scenarios that are enabled with a statefull OS in the Cloud. We will walk through the lifecycle of installing, configuring and deploying a Virtual Machine to Windows Azure and we’ll consider the tradeoffs and alternatives to using Virtual Machines vs. Cloud Services. Finally, we will take a look at what’s new in Virtual Machines and how to get started.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 at 9:15am – 10:30am in Celebrity 8

Mobile App Development for the Web Developer Using PhoneGap

Developing mobile apps is very attractive for many reasons, but the cost and time investment to get started is intimidating for most. However, if you are a web developer with HTML, JavaScript and CSS skills, you can repurpose your existing knowledge and tools to create great mobile apps using PhoneGap and Apache Cordova. In this session, you will learn about Apache Cordova/PhoneGap, how it works and how to get started from a Windows PC using Telerik’s Icenium. You will learn how to build native experience mobile apps using HTML5 and how to accelerate your development by utilizing JavaScript libraries like jQuery Mobile, Kendo UI Mobile, Knockout. Throughout this session, Eric will also share some of the lessons he and his team have learned building real-world, production mobile apps using PhoneGap.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 at 2:45pm – 4:00pm in Celebrity 2

Debugging and Monitoring Windows Azure Cloud Services

Windows Azure Cloud Services is an awesome platform for developers to deliver applications in the cloud without needing to manage virtual machines. However, the abstraction that gives you this simplified deployment and scale, prevents you from attaching a Visual Studio Remote Debugger. Sometimes you need visibility into the execution of your production applications. What if you could replay the real production usage with the exact call sequence and variable values using the Visual Studio Debugger? What if you could collect production metrics that would help you identify performance bottlenecks and slow code?

In this session, Eric Boyd will walk you through debugging and monitoring real-world Windows Azure applications. Eric will show you how to collect diagnostics like Event Logs, Perf Counters, IIS Logs, and even file-based logs from running Windows Azure compute instances. Next, Eric will also show you how to debug your production Windows Azure services using IntelliTrace’s black box recording capabilities. Lastly, you will learn how to collect CLR-level diagnostics and performance metrics without instrumenting your code using tools like AppDynamics and New Relic. If you feel like Windows Azure Cloud Services are a black box when debugging issues and solving performance problems, you will leave this session feeling like Windows Azure is radically more transparent and easier to debug than the applications in your own data center.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 at 4:30pm – 5:45pm in Celebrity 8

Collaborating with Others

I have always really enjoyed conferences, both as an attendee and over the past several years as a presenter. In addition to learning during sessions and workshops, conversations outside of sessions are extremely valuable. I love to discuss new and old technologies, exciting and painful projects, and the challenges that other developers and presenters are struggling with. There’s so much you can learn from others and their experiences, and it’s as simple as chatting over a meal, cocktails, or in Vegas maybe at a blackjack or craps table. I anticipate many fun, intriguing and inspiring conversations while in Vegas this week. If you see me around and would like to chat, feel free to get my attention and fire up a conversation. This is one of the things I enjoy most about being a consultant, trainer and developer.

I’m also looking forward to collaborating with Lenni Lobel while I’m in Vegas. If you don’t know Lenni, Lenni ( is a developer, SQL Server guru and MVP and if you can, you should attend one of his sessions because he’s a great presenter. Lenni is also my co-author on a new Microsoft Press book titled Step-by-Step Windows Azure SQL Database. We are at the end of finishing up this project and it’s expected to hit the shelves (or eBook readers) in June. Right now you can pre-order the title on Amazon at

There are a number of reasons I’m excited for Live 360 in Las Vegas, warm weather is certainly one of those, smoking cigars with Miguel Castro ( is another, but spending time with other software development practitioners tops the list.

Next Time

If you aren’t attending Live 360 in Las Vegas, but the sessions and conference sound interesting, there are additional opportunities in 2014.

May 5-8, 2014, Visual Studio Live! will be making it’s way to my area of the world in Chicago. You can still register and there’s a great lineup of speakers and sessions coming.

November 17-21, 2014, the multi-conference Live 360 conference will be in warm, sunny Orlando, FL. And as the date gets closer, there will be more details at

If you are just interested in exploring Cloud, Windows Azure, Mobile Development and PhoneGap further, my company does customized private training events and we’d be happy to explore that with you. To learn more or contact responsiveX, visit

My Windows Azure Data Services Session at WPC 2013

This afternoon, I have the privilege of joining Scott Klein and Joanne Marone on stage at the 2013 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. If you are wanting to learn more about key Windows Azure scenarios that we see with our customers and how Windows Azure Data Services help you drive more opportunities in these key scenarios, you will not want to miss this interactive session. You will have the chance to get involved, ask questions and get involved in this interactive session. The when, where and what for this session is below.

Drive Opportunities with Windows Azure Data Services

When: Monday, July 8th @ 4:30 PM
Session Code: SC27i
Room: GRBCC: 372 A

Create new business opportunities with Windows Azure, which enables partners to mix-and-match cloud-based data management services to reimagine application design and IT solutions. In this session, you will be exposed to a variety of real-world scenarios that can be used to solve today’s real-world challenges and, based on Microsoft experience, you’ll see where the hidden revenue potential lies.

Keynote and Great Talks Tomorrow at GR DevDay

If you’re not from the Midwest and haven’t been to GR DevDay, you’re missing out. GR DevDay is a great one-day software development conference in the Midwest with quite a range of great sessions and content. Right now I’m riding on an Amtrak train, sipping a massive latte, and headed to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where tomorrow morning I’ll be keynoting and kicking off GR DevDay. I am really excited to be kicking off GR DevDay tomorrow and am excited to share my observations of the rapidly moving tech industry, some lessons from my experiences, and some actionable items that I hope will contribute to career and personal growth.

Transportation Sidebar
For those of you that are wondering why I’m riding an Amtrak train and not driving or flying to Grand Rapids, you likely haven’t experienced Amtrak. I love Amtrak. Now if I needed to go a long distance, like to one of the coasts, or even far south, Amtrak wouldn’t be my first choice. But a four hour Amtrak train ride is great! With Amtrak you can arrive minutes before your train leaves, instead of the 90 minutes that airlines suggest. There are a couple of power plugs at each seat for your laptops and phone chargers. However, in the car I’m currently in, the power plugs are not behaving. The Amtrak trains are rarely packed full like most of the flights I’ve taken recently. For example, the train car that I’m in has 4 people for 12 seats, and yes I have an entire row to myself. Compared to an airline, the comfort of the seats are significantly better. They have good cushions, are wide, probably wider than business class seats on your favorite airline, and I have the legroom of the back seat of a Maybach or Rolls Royce Phantom. The Amtrak is a lot more conducive to getting stuff done than a flight and doesn’t take much more time than driving, which is why I like taking the Amtrak to Michigan. My four year old would be jealous right now.

Interesting Sessions at GR DevDay
Now lets get the post back on track and direct our attention back to GR DevDay! I present at a lot of conferences, but I rarely attend sessions when I’m at a conference. Generally, that’s because I’m familiar with the material being presented, however the lineup of sessions and presenters at GR DevDay has captured my attention and I plan to attend some sessions tomorrow.

I’m not suggesting these are the best sessions at GR DevDay or that these are the sessions that you should check out, but these are the sessions that look interesting to me.

Heather Buchel‘s session on SASS and Compass titled “Better, Cleaner, Front End Development with SASS and Compass” sounds quite interesting to me. If you are doing a lot of work like I do with massive and unruly web applications, this session resonates with you too.

I’m guessing I’m not alone when I say I’m familiar with Git, I’ve used Git, but I typically use centralized version control systems like Team Foundation Server and other solutions like Subversion or SourceGear Vault. However, the buzz around Git is very intriging to me, which is why Dave Brondsema‘s session on more advanced Git features titled “Git – beyond push and pull” is interesting to me.

Much like Git, all the cool kids are doing server-side JavaScript using Node.js. Jay Harris is presenting how to create and distribute Node packages, in a session titled “Make Node.js Package. Become Famous.” I don’t much care about fame, but the Make Node.js Package part is kind of interesting.

It seems like I spend just as much time helping customers create great user experiences as I do helping them solve their deep technical challenges. As a result, Eric McKee session title “The Science & Art of UX”, as well as, Matt Fletcher’s talk titled “Visualization is for everyone” is quite interesting.

And since I’m planning to spend some time hanging out with all the cool kids, I’ll probably check out Brandon Keepers session on how they use Ruby at GitHub, which is appropriately named “Ruby at GitHub”.

Now there are a lot of other great sessions and speakers at GR DevDay. There are sessions on things like Windows Azure, SignalR and JavaScript, but I already know a little about these things. And there are sessions from some friends and great presenters like David Giard, Jennifer Marsman, Michael Perry and many others that I’m sure will be awesome. This is what makes a great conference like GR DevDay challenging for attendees, the menu is difficult to pick from, because there’s so much awesome going on! Thanks for all of the sponsors and organizers who make this possible, and thanks to Chris “Woody” Woodruff and J Tower for inviting me!

If you are registered for GR DevDay, I’m excited to spend the day with you tomorrow. If you are not registered, unfortunately, GR DevDay is sold out. It sells out quick, however, this is a conference you don’t want to miss, so be sure to follow @GRDevDay on twitter to stay in the loop for next year.

I just crossed the Michigan border! Hello Michigan! See you soon Grand Rapids!