INTEGRATE 2016, after months of preparation I personally feel relieved and proud of my team for the proper execution of a global event at this scale. Without the doubt, I can confidently say, this is one of the biggest Microsoft integration focused event in the world. As a final count, there were over 380 people attended the event in person at London, over 70 people watched it via live streaming. Attendees came from over 22 countries representing over 190 organizations. Here is a testimony from Clemens Vasters on social media
There are tons of things that can go wrong when you are organizing an event like this co-coordinating 27 speakers + 450 attendees over the 3-day period, managing the timing, the breaks, lunch, registration, security, internet connectivity, live streaming, sponsors, event insurance, registration site, etc., etc. However credit to the great teamwork, the event went pretty smooth from start to finish, behind the scene we were managing everything quietly.
There is already good coverage of the technical sessions from various people who attended the event (see references below), hence, I’m not going to cover those in this post, instead, I’ll give you the glimpse of behind the scene work to make this happen. Just to give you the scale of this event, it’s a $250,000 budget event, to a great extent we take the risk. The money mainly comes through attendee registration fees, a small portion (about 10%) comes from sponsors. Hence, it’s so important for us to hit the numbers, else we will be literally losing the money from our pocket in addition to our efforts in organizing this event.
Why do we organize INTEGRATE?
We do not intent to make any money from this event, we focus purely on break even. Organizing an event like this for sure takes its toll, your entire team will get diverted from non-core activities for a period (roughly 12 weeks for us). We diverted our entire sales and marketing team to focus on the event, we also formed a small event team to coordinate various activities. You can organize an amazing event in the world, but still bringing attendees and sponsors to the event is a herculean task. We need to provide the same level of commitment, what we give to sell BizTalk360 in order to organize and run INTEGRATE. Lot of you might have seen INTEGRATE 2016 ads showing up in social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google + numerous other personal websites you visit, that’s due to the aggressive marketing campaigns we have done.
The reason we organize INTEGRATE is very simple, we wanted to bring the community together. I personally believe, it’s easy to create a software product, people can easily copy your product but it’s much harder to copy or replicate the community you have created. Building people’s trust is paramount, and it takes years of dedication and hard work to get there.
In the last few years, I believe BizTalk360 along with the help of few community members like Integration MVP’s played a crucial role in keeping the lights on for BizTalk when there was huge turmoil with the cloud adaption and confusions surrounding the future of Integration.
At INTEGRATE 2016, Jim Harrer and Jon Fancey set the clear direction of Microsoft Integration, making it clear on-premise BizTalk is going to stay, both cloud and on-premise integration is important it’s not either one, the hybrid is going to be the future.
The following slide is the most photographed slide in the whole event, where Microsoft clearly highlighted the future of Microsoft Integration vision, putting BizTalk server right at the heart.
BizTalk360 vNext inline with Microsoft Vision
During the event, we presented the vNext of BizTalk360, i.e version 8.1 which will be released soon. There are some key improvements that are coming in v8.1, the most notable ones are fully enhanced web end points monitoring which now allows monitoring any HTTP based endpoints in a sophisticated way (option to use get/post request, add get parameters, post body, HTTP headers, validate response time, content, XPath, JSON path etc).
The other notable features include support for Azure Logic Apps monitoring with seamless security integration, and platform to add more Azure services in the future like Web jobs, Stream Analytics jobs, API apps etc.
Version 8.1 will also start support for monitoring queues, the initial version will support MSMQ and Service Bus Queues, in the future releases, we will support more queues like MQ, Service Broker, Rabbit MQ etc..
Introducing BizTalk360 Lite and ServiceBus360
The biggest news for us during INTEGRATE 2016 is the introduction of 2 brand new products BizTalk360 Lite and ServiceBus360. BizTalk360 Lite is designed as a simple SaaS-based monitoring solution for BizTalk server, the customer does not need any complex setups on-premise, they simply need to install a light weight agent. All the monitoring and notifications configuration will happen in the cloud (running in Azure). We use some interesting Azure technologies behind the scene to make it happen seamlessly. If the customer requires advanced features like security, governance, analytics, BRE, BAM, EDI etc then they can move to full BizTalk360 version.
We also introduced our brand new product ServiceBus360, a single operation, monitoring and analytics platform for Azure Service Bus. The idea is pretty similar to BizTalk360 for BizTalk Server, we wanted to provide a single unified platform for customers who are using Service Bus. The standard Azure portal is very limited for managing and monitoring your service bus resources. ServiceBuz360 will address that gap.
BizTalk Mapping Patterns book
We released BizTalk mapping patterns ebook written by Sandro Pereira a couple of years ago in BizTalk Innovation Day Norway, the book was so popular among the BizTalk community and we received numerous downloads in the last 2 years. Hence we decided to publish and announce the physical book in INTEGRATE 2016. The 2016 attendees were able to purchase the book for £10. We didn’t give the book free for 2 reasons, one to cover our basic cost and two most of the time if you get something completely for free you don’t appreciate it that much. If you are interested you can buy your copy here http://shop.biztalk360.com/
We received a lot of request from people around the world asking us to organise for live streaming of the event. We were a bit skeptical at the start, thinking about the added complexity. We have a general motto, whatever we do we wanted to do it perfect, else don’t do it. After seeing too many request, we decided to go ahead with live streaming. We researched quite a bit on live streaming, spoke to few vendors and finally settled with a London based company. To cover the cost, we wanted to make it as a pay-per-view which added the complexity even further. We completely missed to calculate the internet bandwidth cost at the venue, which came as a surprise £3k bill.
Finally, the overall result was amazing, we received very positive feedback from 70+ people who tuned into the live streaming saying “It’s Microsoft /Build quality streaming”. We still ended up with one issue, we promised live streaming registration audience we will make the videos available on-demand, but couldn’t do it purely due to the upload size of on-demand video files, just to give you the perception it’s 170mb for a 90 second clip, you can calculate the size for the whole 3-day event!! However, we are working on it and will make the on-demand availability soon.
Behind the scene challenges
There is always a bunch of challenges behind the scene organizing and running an event of this scale smoothly, here are some interesting ones and how we handled it.
Finalizing the venue
This year we really wanted to keep the event bit low profile. We originally booked Microsoft venue in Reading with a maximum capacity of around 200 people. But when Microsoft decided not to do the US event and work with us for INTEGRATE 2016, it was clear we needed an alternate venue. Our team spent a lot of time looking at suitable venues (which also includes physical visits), negotiating the prices and finally settling down on ExCel, London.
VISA Rejection and hiring temp resources
Currently BizTalk360 team is split between London and Coimbatore, India. We are about 10 people here in London and around 30 in India. Clearly, we need more resources during the event and applied for UK visa to 4 of our colleagues to join us. Unfortunately, the UK embassy in India rejected the visa misunderstanding the intent of the visit, we didn’t have enough time to reapply or give justifications. In the last minute, we had to arrange for 4 temp resources in the UK to help us during the event.
Flight cancellations and delays
Quite a few of the European attendees decided to fly into the event on first day early morning. But due to the bad weather conditions, there were a lot of delays and cancellations. All of the sudden we started receiving a lot of support tickets related to the event, our team coordinated the situation well and managed to issue live streaming codes to people who got stuck at various airports across Europe.
New home for the main banner
We printed a beautiful 6×4 meter backdrop banner for the event, but only in the last minute we figured out there is no appropriate fitting available in the venue to hang them in correct position, finally, we managed to hang them on the dinner/sponsor area (the one you see in the above main picture), which worked out ok. This also means we need to put special lightings as the backdrop to the stage area.
Unexpected traffic and taking the ferry
Most of our team members live locally, about 30 minutes away from the venue. We decided to take a cab to and fro to the event every day. The commute also means journey via Black wall tunnel, which sometimes get really busy. On the second day for some reason the tunnel was closed and we had to take an alternate route using the ferry and reached the venue just on time.
The transportation company supposed to come and pick up stuff from our office turned up 2 hours late and screwed the entire plan on the day before the event. Everything is orchestrated in sequence, if someone miss the sequence, then we have an impact, things like extending the security, other teams presence etc. In a similar way, we ordered some special cups for the event, the guy didn’t have patients to wait and left without delivering, it means we need to find the alternate source for the morning coffee and rearrange delivery before the next break.
Handling event-related support
It’s quite astonishing to handle the event-related support cases for the 12 weeks period. We receive all kinds of questions, some of them really rude, interesting ones include will lunch be provided, can you get us VISA letter, when will you publish the videos, can you get us the slides, where is the nearest airport, do you have special hotel code, can you change the name of the attendee, etc., etc.,
Backend event support from India
We set up 4 member team in India remotely supporting the event, they were coordinating with the AV guys, taking care of live streaming support and updating all our social channels. The pictures were uploaded then and there via Dropbox and team in India were keeping the #INTEGRATE2016 twitter stream pretty busy with up to the minute content.
Pictures from the Event
We organised for one of the best photographers in London. There are some amazing pictures taken over the 3 days period. I noticed most of the speakers and some attendees changed their social media profile pictures to the one taken during the event. If you have attended the event, take a look at our Facebook page for event pictures. You can find the albums here
Overall as a team we are very pleased with the outcome, we didn’t see any negative sentiments. A lot of people personally congratulated and appreciated the efforts we put into organising INTEGRATE 2016. We still need to go through all the feedback forms and see whether we have missed out on something, taking both positive and negative points and make INTEGRATE 2017 even better. The videos and slides will be available soon on the main event web page http://www.biztalk360.com/integrate-2016/
What others are talking about INTEGRATE 2016?
A solid vision for integration – Day 1 Integrate 2016
Integrate 2016 – My take-aways