I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. Sorry about the long delay. The holidays kind of took over for a bit and I lost track of this mostly-completed post in my drafts.
Anyway… In early December I attended a virtual SharePoint 2010 IT-Pro Ignite training that coincided with a physical session in Bangalore. For those who aren’t aware, Microsoft offered a limited number of these slots to select partners, with IT Pro and Developer tracks. This is approximately 40 hours of training provided by Microsoft free of charge (for the physical sessions, travel and accommodation need to be provided by the student). Note: none of this is under NDA. There were additional Virtual Ignite slots made available to a wider audience in early 2010, but I’m not certain what availability of those slots is looking like now. We were told in the training that all of the collateral (or similar) will be made public by RTM.
The sessions I attended were the first virtual offering and also the first since the public beta was released. I opted to attend the GMT+8 session despite the crazy logistics of doing so from London, as I really wanted this opportunity as soon as possible; I was feeling a bit behind the curve since I didn’t go to Las Vegas and we at Content and Code have ambitious, if (hopefully) achievable plans for SharePoint 2010 adoption. Having completed the training now, I can say I’m glad I’ve received it on the public beta rather than the Technical Preview release, and I think the format of videos and labs has probably been a better learning experience than a massive conference. This is a review of the tools, content and personnel on offer.
Virtual Training Center
The Virtual Training Center (VTC) is a very usable, if resource hungry client application that consists of a home page, LiveMeeting, Virtual Lab (basically a remote desktop MMC console), a user Manual for the VTC and a Course Materials document library. It is well supported by Exsilio, who responded almost immediately to the sign-in problems that greeted me at the beginning of day 4. I was able to dial in to the regional conference call number by phone so as not to miss anything in the “morning” Q&A while my login issue was resolved within about 15 minutes with an un/re-install of the VTC. I guess the only criticism I can make is that the daily update to the VTC that was pushed out that morning seemed to crash it for me and at least one other person, so users should be careful installing these updates. Oh, and actually the whole thing froze up a couple of times, but getting back in was painless enough and I sort of feel that it’s to be expected with an application that’s doing this much for this long over a rubbish cable modem line.
The training materials consisted of a couple of live presentations from Tom Wisnowski and Maurice Prather, and a number of videos from Todd Klindt, Steve Peschka and others inside or near Microsoft. By and large these were excellent, although some were still works in progress or regurgitations of earlier presentations. As it was the first virtual session, this was disclaimed from the beginning and is fair enough at this early stage. With Tom and Maurice on-hand to answer questions, I wasn’t left wanting for much.
The videos accounted for a little more than half of the total course time, with labs, Q&A and breaks filling in the remainder. Make no mistake that this was aggressive learning though. With some days stretching to nearly ten hours it was a lot to take in.
The content covered Architectural changes, Service Applications, Business Continuity Management, Security, Claims Based Identity, Health & Monitoring, Customisation, Upgrade, Search, ECM, BCS, Social Features (including a quick review of User Profile changes), Excel Services and briefly touched on PerformancePoint Services. There was also an excellent introduction to PowerShell, which is clearly going to transform SharePoint automation.
While I had a few months to review pre-release documentation and get acquainted with the Technical Preview release before attending the training, I found this deep-dive incredibly useful, as a lot of the content focused on key changes from 2007 to 2010 and the implications of these changes to planning and design. The Search, Upgrade and BCS sessions were particularly good.
There were a few things that weren’t ideal. The size of some of the first presentations was far too large to view on a lower resolution. Later on, the FAST presentation was too small. Ideally this would be standardised on a reasonable screen size given that many people were doing the training at crazy hours and were probably on home computers. Also, sometimes the training environments took a long time to spin up or to complete installation activities. Given that this should be correctable by adding physical resources, it was slightly disappointing, but I am picking holes in the interest of creating a balanced account.
Ultimately, I was really satisfied with the quality of the sessions and impressed that so much good content could be produced so far in advance of release. It would be nice if there were some form of a deeper dive in to some areas (I’d be particularly interested in CardSpace/Claims/WIF/FIM/ADFS), but I think that given how early this is, it’s probably about as good as it could be. I have no hesitation recommending it to others, particularly since SharePoint IT Pro information has historically been tertiary to end user and development guidance. And it’s FREE!