Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals Are More Than Experts

Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals Are More Than Experts

This year’s Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Summit in Redmond, Washington was an excellent event that showcased over 50 technical sessions and brought together many influential people from around the World.

I’ve had the honor of being successfully nominated as a Microsoft MVP for seven years running, and I was eager to participate in this year’s event.

I’m also excited to share some of the highlights from the event with you because I believe in the MVP program and what we’ve accomplished as professionals in such a dynamic and deep industry over the years, and I wanted to give aspiring MVPs and the community some insight into the program.

So who are these Microsoft MVP’s anyway?

Microsoft defines the Most Valuable Professional Award as:

The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award is an annual award given to outstanding members of Microsoft's technical communities based on contributions made during the previous 12 months to offline and online Microsoft-related technical communities.

The nomination process is open to everyone over the age of 18, and it is useful to look at the information that Microsoft collects on the MVP application form here (You will need to login to access the form).

For the most part, the process to award MVP designation to applicants is not accessible to the public, however, I can share with you a few key elements that all MVPs get evaluated on.

An MVP is considered to be a subject matter expert in a Microsoft technology that they get nominated in.

A subject matter expert is a user of Microsoft technology that can have their expertise demonstrated through Microsoft certification (e.g., MCSE, MCP, MCSD), teaching courses or publishing content on how to use Microsoft technologies in the real world.

Recently, Microsoft has introduced newer classifications that allow MVPs to be recognized under a more broad scope of skills, however, the classifications remain specific to designation as there are still some very specific designations, e.g., Microsoft Project.

Microsoft has outlined some of their new classifications here, and how some of the designations have been consolidated into broader categories. Overall, the consolidation of roles makes sense, but sometimes it doesn’t fit your broader skill set.

Social engagement matters to MVPs

One of the driving reasons for the MVP program is to recognize visible members in the community who participate in sharing knowledge about Microsoft products. The goal is to ensure that the ecosystem of Microsoft products is supported by an engaged and active user base that works collaboratively to deliver professional solutions.

This doesn’t mean you have to restrict your contributions to only a specific technology, but it does help identify where you would best fit during the nomination process.

Sharing of knowledge can come in many forms:
  • Running user groups
  • Blogging
  • Social Media
  • YouTube
  • Whitepapers
  • Public speaking
  • Creating tools
  • Participating in technology forums
  • and many others

The nomination comes from inside Microsoft another MVP or yourself!

If you have completed one (or more) Microsoft Certifications, worked directly implementing your expertise into real-world solutions, or are an an active member of the community, then likely someone inside Microsoft or another MVP will put your name forward.

  1. Everyone who is nominated receives an email notice that his or her name has been put forward.
  2. If your nomination is successful you will receive a follow-up email that contains the onboarding instructions for the program.

Note. This sometimes doesn’t happen the first time. In the event that you don’t get accepted right away, I recommend that you don’t get discouraged and keep doing what you’ve been doing. I was nominated three times before I was finally accepted.
Generally speaking, technologies that have been around longer are the most competitive programs because you are competing against an established roster of MVPs who may be very active.

If you have decided to specialize in a new technology, then do so because it aligns with your professional goals not because you think it affords you a marketing advantage. I would strongly discourage aspiring MVPs from approaching the program this way.

Your MVP designation should be about your passion and not just an achievement.

If you’re an active member of the community, and you consistently produce quality content, then you will make it!

Tip. A great way to get feedback is to engage with MVPs in the designation you are interested in, and look up the MVP lead for your region as they may be able to help mentor you.

Why the MVP designation matters

At this point you might be wondering, what’s the big deal about the program? Does the significant time and effort required to qualify for a nomination provide a return on your investment?

The benefits of a MVP designation

If you ask me, the most important benefit is the recognition amongst fellow MVPs in my specialization and direct contact with the product group for my MVP specialization in Microsoft technology. I can turn to fellow MVPs to provide thoughtful, razor sharp feedback and support about problems and issues that emerge in my own environments.

High up on the list of benefits is access to the yearly MVP summit. This is where MVPs from around the World get to meet face-to-face and forge lasting relationships throughout their industries with fellow MVPs and employees at Microsoft. Microsoft takes care of a significant portion of the cost to attend, and, if that weren’t enough, they schedule an extensive array of technical sessions where Microsoft Product Managers and Developers showcase new developments and solicit feedback from the MVP community.

Beyond the yearly summit, my MVP status gives me access to the Product Managers and Product Team for my designated technology throughout the year. I’m able to provide the product team with valuable data and insight such as use cases not considered by the product team or errors that that cause significant pain to customers. This in turn helps improve the product design and helps prioritize issues inside the development team.

Another useful benefit of the MVP Award is a MSDN membership, which gives you access to software, Office 365 subscription and Azure credits so you can explore the Microsoft cloud.

There are some free support tickets to assist you if you really get stuck using Microsoft products in your lab environment and access to training materials found through Yammer, Pluralsight subscriptions and other channels.

Some vendors even offer free software or NFR licenses to MVPs which helps expand your understanding of the Microsoft ecosystem by exploring some third-party enhancements. If you do some research sometimes it is surprising what you have access to.
What has made the program even more valuable has been the additional mailing lists with related technologies and product group meetings.

There is a new trend towards openness (a relatively new phenomenon) within Microsoft, which I believe gives the program far more value than when I started many moons ago. The world at Microsoft has changed. There is more focus on customer feedback to drive design decisions.

I’ve also found it easier to reach outside of my designation and talk to product groups outside of my designation. Like many of you reading this, many MVPs consult on more than one Microsoft technology, as such, Microsoft’s commitment to openness more closely mirrors our daily experiences with customers and user groups.

One final benefit of the MVP program is that we are some of the first non-Microsoft professionals that are brought up to speed on the latest developments and technologies at Microsoft. This is often covered by a strict non-disclosure agreement, but I find that there is still value because I get quality information and the opportunity to give early feedback before these technologies are introduced to the public.

More About This Year’s MVP Summit

The MVP Summit is exclusive to current MVPs and Microsoft pays for your accommodation if you split your room with another MVP or subsidizes your room if you prefer a private room. The conference is free and meals are provided along with networking events. This is the time of year where MVPs get to meet with members of the product groups and some of the senior executives at Microsoft.

This year’s MVP summit takes the openness to a new level where the freedom given to choose which sessions you attend has opened up significantly. I believe this is more valuable because I can pick sessions outside my expertise, and even sit in on developer sessions where my specific MVP designation may not suggest my interest/experience in that technology.

The best thing I have seen overall is the shift in Microsoft to be more customer focused and really listen to feedback.

Even having earned the status of MVP, I had the opinion that some of the product groups were like a “brick wall” when submitting feedback. Having said that, it appears that the culture within Microsoft has begun to embrace openness and that has been exciting to watch as the organization takes on more aggressive product development cycles, and a willingness to listen and evaluate feedback from the industry.
The networking that happened this year was something I enjoyed very much, especially when you run into various MVPs from different backgrounds and regions. Everyone that I talked to was more than happy to entertain questions and share their insights on technologies and trends.

I had two main goals this year at the Summit. One, was to get feedback about Microsoft’s efforts in the cloud and, two, deepen my understanding about how Microsoft’s focus on all things “cloud” impacts my line of work and the future direction for my career.

The take home message when it comes to becoming a successful Microsoft MVP is to never stop learning and changing who you are. Especially with more emphasis on cloud technologies and agile development methodologies, you see products updating once a month or in some cases, even faster.

It is a new world almost everyday, and I find it exciting.

If you are passionate about technology and like sharing knowledge, then I recommend that you consider the route of becoming a Microsoft MVP!

Share your experiences about becoming a Microsoft MVP in the comments below.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Quick Query to Find Devices without Forefront Endpoint Protection

The status of the endpoint protection agent is stored in SMS_G_System_EPDeploymentState SCCM database view but the key to the query is filtering on the DeploymentState field. The query below will return any machine that is not fully managed via Configuration Manager.

select SMS_R_System.Name, SMS_G_System_EPDeploymentState.DeploymentState, SMS_R_System.Active, SMS_R_System.ADSiteName, SMS_R_System.IPSubnets, SMS_R_System.IPAddresses, SMS_R_System.SystemOUName from SMS_R_System inner join SMS_G_System_EPDeploymentState on SMS_G_System_EPDeploymentState.ResourceID = SMS_R_System.ResourceId where SMS_G_System_EPDeploymentState.DeploymentState != 3

What you need to understand is the different values of the DeploymentState column as the value 3 is the only true successful state. The values can be described as follows:

1 - Unmanaged
2 - To be Installed
3 - Managed (Success)
4 - Failed
5 - Reboot Pending

Happy reporting!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Real World ClickOnce and App-V 5: AFE Navigator 7.5


The reason I thought it would be good to look at a ClickOnce applications and App-V 5. Out of the box App-V does not handle the packaging of ClickOnce applications without changing the Sequencer configuration and jumping through some hoops afterward. Remko Weijnen provides a great overview as to how ClickOnce has played out in the enterprise and why some people just don't like leaving it alone with its default deployment architecture.

Why Sequence ClickOnce Applications?

What I want to illustrate is a real world scenario using an application called AFE Navigator. The issue with this application is that it is a rather large ClickOnce application which is around 80MB. Now imagine every user installing this in a Remote Desktop Services environment where there profiles begin to bloat by 80MB a user. It was clear that App-V would be more than convenient to properly distribute the application by providing a master copy of the application that all users can share.

Sequencing AFE Navigator

First what you need to do is launch the Sequencer (I am using 5.0 SP2 HF4 in this example), go to the Tools menu and open the Options... tab.

In the options window go to Exclusion Items and remove the LocalAppData exclusion.

Of course you get the warning message confirming the deletion of the exclusion. Click yes to continue.

Click OK when complete.

Now you are ready to package AFE Navigator, click Create a New Virtual Application Package to begin the Sequencing process. I'll assume you know how to start up the sequencer to save a few standard screenshots.

I will stop on the Package Name screen as I do define the primary virtual application directory as being a folder off the root of C:\ rather than trying to figure out a way to make the ClickOnce application install to that folder. In App-V 5.0 SP3 and newer you will not see the option to specify the PVAD by default.

I will skip over most of the sequencing because there isn't much that is needed other than the shortcut used to launch the application. Before I finish sequencing I manually create a shortcut which points to the ClickOnce application. The shortcut would have the following properties.

Shortcut path: \\Server\Share\AFE Navigator\AFENavigator\AFENavigator.application
Icon: \\Server\Share\AFE Navigator\AFENavigator\setup.exe
Working Directory: \\Server\Share\Apps\AFE Navigator\AFENavigator

* Remember to launch the application at least once while sequencing to capture the locally installed files.

Now the big question is updates, ClickOnce is designed to have the application automatically check for updates each time it is launched. By default the VFS is not write enabled in the App-V sequencer so these upgrades will not work which is good in my opinion. If you did enable a writeable VFS future updates would be redirected as user settings for the application and would bloat the size of the user profile which wouldn't happen if we packaged the latest update. That is why I would recommend installing different versions of the application in different folders on the network share so the packager can access the latest version then package and deploy the the upgrade as a new sequence.

In the end the question is should we package ClickOnce applications in general? Some people do not like ClickOnce because it installs to the user profile and others might view App-V's ability to reset the application state via App-V application repair as an important feature for supporting users. Personally I find these applications mostly benign and small so I think this is going to come down to preference rather than a solid recommendation.

Interested in App-V training? Check out my offerings at: http://bighatgroup.com/courses/

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Where Can I Find App-V Training?

App-V training takes many forms and I recommend you take a look at the various offerings available to determine what best suits your needs from both a delivery and content perspective. Training for App-V is offered by Microsoft and a number of customized options also exist outside of that offering but I will first start with what Microsoft offers and go from there.

Microsoft Training
Microsoft offers a five day course for App-V 5 that is not lumped in with the rest of the MDOP suite as App-V 4 was. This exam also covers virtual desktops so it is not 100% App-V but I do believe the additional content in the exam will be relevant to many users of App-V. This exam is 70-694 and can be found on the Microsoft Learning Website.

In addition to the traditional learning track at Microsoft there are a couple courses on Microsoft Virtual Academy that I have personally took that offering and has quite a bit of useful knowledge for free. The first course is done by Aaron Ruckman the senior product manager for MDOP at Microsoft where he delivers a session titled MDOP Application Virtualization Deep Dive. The second course is hosted by Steve Thomas aka the Gladiator who is a senior consultant for Microsoft that often is engaged with very large accounts using App-V. His course is titled Deploying Office 2013 with App-V and again I highly recommend it.

Training by Industry Professionals 
Next I will put in a shameless plug for training that both Tim Mangan and myself maintain for App-V since 2007. Tim Mangan worked at Softricity before the Microsoft acquisition and managed the product development at that time. He has since become a semi-retired geek writing tools, teaching, some consulting and presenting at conferences around the world. My role has been more firmly placed in the consulting world as I was an early adopter of the technology as I went to get trained on SoftGrid 3.1 before I had my first SoftGrid project. I teach but my focus is consulting and trying to find time to blog with my schedule. Our course is five days of pure App-V focusing on infrastructure but more so on various advanced App-V sequencing scenarios as that tends to be the most challenging part of using App-V for most of our customers. We are both long time MVPs for App-V which has now transitioned to being a Windows IT Pro MVP and Tim also enjoys being a Citrix CTP. Our joint website is www.gridmastertraining.com but we offer our courses independently at www.tmurgent.com and www.bighatgroup.com. Do note that at Big Hat Group we have performed online training in real time to some North American customers.

Hopefully I can do the others justice as there are some newer options that are worth considering. Another new MVP Thamim Karim formally a Microsoft employee offers training in London UK and this might be of interest to European customers. He is a super bright guy and I have faith that he is delivering a solid course. His course can be found here and he also has a blog on the same side worth checking out.

Kalle Saunamäki is a long time App-V MVP and that also maintains what I think is one of the best third party App-V tools for sequencing called Application Virtualization Explorer. He unofficially offers sequencing workshops at www.gridmetric.com.

I personally don't know much about Erik Havarstien (sorry Eric!) but he is currently a Citrix CTP offing both XenApp training and App-V training programs. His course seems to be more slanted toward XenApp users and it is an online subscription offering from what I can tell. You can find out more about his course by visiting his website for App-V training.

For App-V training in the Netherlands and Belgium as well, you can take a look at AIMED Solutions. They are a leading consulting & training company in the application packaging area. Thier training center, the AIMED Academy is based in the Netherlands, they are offering several courses all related to application packaging / virtualization and desktop management solutions. These courses can be held on-site/in-company/abroad as well. These highly valued App-V courses (also available in English) run on a monthly schedule so if you're looking for their training schedules visit www.aimedacademy.nl.

QA which looks to be a training provider based in the UK offers a three day App-V training program that can be taken online. This course looks to be a mix of infrastructure and sequencing for App-V 5. More information can be found on the QA.com website.

Also in Finland is another company that offers App-V training on top of professional services. This company is offering courses for traditional packaging along with App-V. Visit Centero.fi for more information.

If you happen to be an AdminStudio user Flexera has a course available to better understand how to use the application virtualization features in their product to make App-V packages. This course is specifically intended for packagers using their AdminStudio packaging tool and can be found here.

Finally I did find some training for a group called Avance in the Netherlands. I am assuming the training is in Dutch and can be found here.

If you feel that I have missed something then please feel free to email me at kevin.kaminski@bighatgroup.com to refine this article further and good luck with your training effort!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

MVPDays is Back! 9 Canadian Microsoft MVP's to Present Content!!! (and counting)

MVPDays is a community roadshow for Canadians that was co-founded in 2014 by Dave and Cristal Kawula of Tricon Elite consulting to give the Microsoft IT PRO community an in person event that they could attend and get real world advice from recognized experts in the field. This year is the second year for MVPDays and the event is confirmed for Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. The content offered will feature Cloud, IT Pro and Black Belt tracks including sessions that cover and assortment of technologies. Expect to see sessions on hyper converged infrastructure, hypervisors, Windows Server, SharePoint, System Center, PowerShell, Microsoft Azure and other cloud technologies.

Interested? Go to www.mvpdays.com and register for one of the locations nearest you. Also if you register in the month of June you can use the promo code earlybird15 for free registration. Yes, we have to wait until the fall for MVP days but feel free to register and join the discussion on the Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/mvpdays or Twitter at #CDNMVPDAYS.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Confirmed App-V 5.0 SP3 Masters Class LAX May 11-15, 2015

For those of you watching the schedule the LA class for GridmasterTraining's App-V 5.0 SP3 course has been 100% confirmed to run. The course will be taking place at the Best Western Course held at the Best Western Carriage Inn, 5525 Sepulveda Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, CA. The course will run May 11-15 and is a full five day run of our masters level courseware for Microsoft App-V. More details of this event can be found using the following link.


For other class options and more information about the training course visit www.gridmastertraining.com.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Briforum 2015 USA!

Well it's another year and we've decided to throw our names in the hat for speaking at this year's Briforum USA. This year, Nike Kallen and I will focus in more depth the management challenges that some customers are facing with one of the largest and most popular management platforms known as System Center Configuration Manager.

As with the spirit of Briforum the conversation is meant to be candid and we hope that we can shed some light to real world Configuration Manager scenarios we get tapped to solution such as integrating with Remote Desktop Session Hosts. It is not that we are unimpressed with the change from packages and programs but we do believe we are still dealing with more of a 1.0 version of the application model and some of the previous challenges with Configuration Manager 2007 did not go away.

We are not the only ones that want to discuss challenges in the real world, the session list has been out for a few days and if these sessions catch your eye.

I've found the community to be good and this one of the few times I get to sit down with some very exceptional people and talk tech. If you are interested in making it out but not near North America there is also one in London as well. To check out both events go to www.briforum.com.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Microsoft Virtual Academy

I thought I would post a note over here. I did a quick piece on some of the new courses in the Microsoft Virtual Academy that you can take at your own pace online. I've gone through some of the courses and actually was surprised by the quality so I'm encouraging people to take a look at the course list I've compiled.