Imagine Cup 2011 (NYC) - Post 4 – Midway Thru the IT Challenge…

Day 3 of the Imagine Cup 2011 Competition!!!

Our IT Challenge competition is now 18+ hours into the 24 hour period and the competitors are still going really strong!  They’ve likely been up for over 20 hours and still have a good 8-9 hours to go to make it thru the rest of the competition period and judging…

Few things that have happened here in the past dozen or so hours…

12:30pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) – July 9, 2011

I had to write down the lunch they served us today, I’m sure somebody in the corporate office thought this sounded like a good lunch for a bunch of IT people…

  • Half Harrisa Grilled Vegetable Wrap (with baby arugula, Hummus, toasted feta and artichoke spread) on Pita bread (by the way, what the heck is a Harrisa???  Sounds like the name of someone who could be your ugly step-sister or something…)
  • Half Roasted Turkey (with arugula, grilled eggplant, aged goat cheese, olive and artichoke aioli)
  • Bag of Terra exotic vegetable chips (what happened to plain ole potato chips?)
  • Couscous with chickpeas, cilantro, and tomatoes
  • Brownie
  • Apple

3:48pm EDT – July 9, 2011Okay, this has to be the quietest Imagine Cup IT Challenge competition in the 7 years that we’ve been running it.  The environment has been calm and stable (no power outages, no network outages, they’re actually bringing in food to the competitors!), and these competitors are FOCUSED!  They have all be working non-stop on the competition case study for the past 6-hours and 50-minutes, no one seems to be slowing down and no one has taken more than a quick bio break…  Also, none of them are looking completely “lost”, they are just chugging along!

The calmness has the competition solution architect, Chris Amaris, a bit nervous right now as he’s second guessing himself whether he’s made the objectives and solutions “too easy” and all of the competitors are going to be walking out the door in a few hours completely done (which won’t happen, there’s a LOT left to do).  But still, makes Chris nervous, and since we’re all bored, we might as well egg it on and keep telling Chris that we better make dinner plans for all of the competitors when they finish the 24-hour competition requirements in 9 hours…

4:53pm EDT – July 9, 2011

The competitors just got a visit from Jon Perera, Microsoft’s General Manager in charge of the Imagine Cup competition!  It’s great to have Jon swing by and visit with the competitors, check in to make sure that us judges have what we need, and that all is going well!  Fortunately all has gone well so far, so nothing to report other than we’re chugging along!!!

6:00pm EDT – July 9, 2011We handed out the first of the mini-challenges an hour ago and had the competitors work to complete this initial interim challenge to earn points for the competition.  The requirement was for them to successfully send (and receive) emails, something that would seem simple, but assumes the competitor knows how to (and successfully is able to) configure Microsoft Exchange, Active Directory, setup DNS records, etc.  For this challenge, of the 6 competitors, 2 got this challenge completely correct, and 1 half correct…  This is not easy stuff and this is just 1 of many tasks, so no one is winning or losing at this point, it’ll be a tight race to the end!  The competitors continue to roll along!8:10pm EDT – July 9, 2011http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=471439523772.  It’s always GREAT to have ongoing support and participation from our past competitors, it’s a great family of competitors that support the Imagine Cup and all that it does for students around the world!  Thank you Jean-Benoit for joining us this evening, was great to introduce you to our finalists at the 11-hour marker into the competition!

This evening, we were visited by the Imagine Cup IT Challenge 2008 winner  from the competition in France, the Imagine Cup Alumni Jean-Benoit Paux.  Here’s a profile on Jean-Benoit from an interview he did with us end of last year… 

9:30pm EDT – July 9, 2011We’re at the halfway point of the competition and just completed the 2nd mini-challenge in the competition.  This challenge was to ensure the competitors have properly protected their systems from hacker attacks, which with the latest versions of Microsoft Windows, by default, firewall protection security is enabled, so as long as the competitors haven’t done anything to lower the default security, they should have ALL gotten full points for this challenge, and sure enough, they ALL got 100% full credit on this mini-challenge, so now All of the competitors have points on the board!

I have noticed in the past half hour the competitors are rubbing their eyes more, standing up and stretching a little more, a little bit of the fatigue is wearing on, however with everyone now completely in the game with points on the board, there’s a little bit of emotional relief and renewed energy!!!

11:00pm EDT – July 9, 2011

Okay, somehow between 10pm-11pm I must have dozed off as I don’t remember what happened in that hour long period, been a long day…  Chris, on the otherhand, has been taking advantage of Red Bull being a sponsor of the Imagine Cup competition and is wired up on the stuff! The competitors are still hard at work, this is one TOUGH group of competitors this year!!!

12:10am EDT – July 10, 2011We just had our 3rd mini-challenge, the competitors had to show “rich coexistence” between Exchange 2010 on-premise and Office 365 “in the cloud” to share calendar free/busy information.  None of the competitors have successfully gotten the integration between Exchange and Office 365 working, although they ALL got more points as they all had some progress in their work effort having at least either Exchange 2010 on-premise, or Office 365 in the cloud working…

The competitors have been at it now for over 15 hours, amazing group here, they are all working through the case scenario little by little and making really good progress, very proud of all of them!

1:23am EDT – July 10, 2011

Okay, I’m going to go forage for something to snack on, maybe head up to the room and take a quick shower too…

1:50am EDT – July 10, 2011Whew, a nice hot shower and a walk around the hotel, MUCH better, good for another few hours…  So as we cross past 16 hours of the competition with only 7-hours and 40-minutes left to go…

So as I have a few moments here with 3 of the competitors taking a break and all is pretty quiet, a moment to talk about the competition this year…  So as much as my initial blog post talked about the competitors having to build out an on-premise (Exchange 2010 / Active Directory) environment as well as a cloud-based environment using Office 365 and Microsoft Azure, this inclusion of “cloud” technologies is a huge shift in the IT Challenge this year!  The past 15 months, everything in this industry has been about “the cloud”, and in the business world today, organizations are looking for assistance in implementing cloud technologies, like Office 365 and Azure, so the focus of the IT Challenge is to test the competitors on their grasp of “the cloud”.

Things like Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and Office 2010 in the cloud is technologically no different than these products in a traditional inhouse datacenter, however since the cloud infrastructure is shared among multiple organizations (which is called “multi-tenant”), the administration and management tools and functionality are very different.  An IT Administrator can’t just remote into a server console and begin administering and managing the entire server, instead, the administrator is given a limited console with the ability to only do a limited series of tasks specific to the administrator’s organization.  Much of the underlying technologies are related to the cloud provider, in this case Microsoft, to handle things like inherent security, “fabric”, high availability, redundancy, and the like.

I just asked the competitors if any of them had previous installed or worked with Office 365 or Azure, and this is new to all of them.  Nothing like learning the latest and hottest technologies here and now, will say, these competitors will have a HUGE leg up in the industry with the experience they are getting in learning these cloud technologies!

Oh, by the way, Chris is no longer worried that the competitors will easily finish all of the tasks of the competition before the time is up, this is definitely a LOT to throw onto the competitors, and while they are all in the competition and doing extremely well, none of them are on track to finish everything up quickly and be done with before this 24-hour period is over...

I'll blog again later in the morning...

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