Well, the Iron Architect competition at TechEd 2007 is over - the final showdown (with tasting and judgment) took place Thursday evening, and in the end I emerged victorious.
There were four contestants in the final showdown, each one of whom came up with an architectural proposal for the same problem posted on the MSDN Iron Architect Blog. Each contestant had a very different approach. My architecture was based on using SQL Server Analysis Services Data Mining as the core engine to segment and categorize attendees and to define relationships between new attendees during the registration process and the existing registered attendee base. This core engine would then be implemented as a discrete service that would then interact with external systems (such as the conference scheduling systems and the hotel registration systems) via BizTalk Server.
The competition was pretty fierce. I went second, and although I thought I did a better job than the first and third contestants, but the fourth guy started out really strong, focusing on the build vs. buy decision, which I had not considered at all. Still, in the end the judges (who were delightfully critical - I love getting critical feedback!) thought that my solution and my presentation were strongest over all, and awarded me the grand prize.
Of course, although this content was stressful, the hard work is now just beginning. The prize I've won is basically a scholarship to get accepted into the Microsoft Certified Architect program. Now I have to do all of the work for the MCA, and from what I hear, that's far from trivial. Time will tell, and I'll be sure to post about it here...