Category: conferences

What Makes a Good Vendor Conference

Short, sweet, and to the point. The folks at Actifio did it right in my opinion. I wasn’t paid in any way to attend. Obviously it’s self-serving but the focus was on giving back to the community when they held their eCloud Summit 2015 in Austin. It wasn’t a pitch focused around them as a company. This is how they did it right.

  • It was the perfect length. 2 days.
  • Keynotes followed by panels in the morning and early afternoon.
  • Unconference sessions in the mid afternoon until the end.

Why does this work well? The keynotes set the stage and if you don’t enjoy them, you can ignore them but they’re not persistent pitching. The panels were of users and partners with very open discussion. This means that the vendor isn’t dictating what is valuable to attendees, they’re letting a chosen few help shape things. They also didn’t dictate or try to shape what the panelists delivered.

Lastly there was an unconference portion of the conference. This isn’t new to those who have attended CloudCamps or other unconference-style events. However, this is new for vendor-sponsored conferences. In all honesty, there were a lot of attendees who this may have been new to but for those who tried something new, I think it was incredibly valuable.

I didn’t realize this was Actifio’s first self-organized conference because it seemed like they had been doing it for years. I have to give a lot of credit to Dylan Locsin and the team around him both above and below.

#FutureCloud Think Tank

Dell and VMware invited a diverse group of people to come to San Francisco for a day to have an open discussion around a number of different cloud-related topics.  I jumped at the chance to go and participate.  The event was live streamed on for people to view and we had a healthy dose of participation from twitter. The discussion was quite intense and lively.  David Linthicum moderated the two sessions in the morning and Robert Scoble came in to moderate the sessions in the afternoon.

There were four sessions, Mobile and the Cloud, The Business of Enterprise Cloud, Influence of Government on Cloud Adoption and The Future of Cloud Computing.  The opinions were flying fast and furious with a lot of gems said on Twitter.

So what were my highlights?

There was a clear divide in the conversation about cloud adoption between those who deal with more web-centric workloads and legacy enterprise workloads.  The problem was those two views were trying to discuss opposing views which really apply differently to each side.  There’s also a strong view on governments and law being huge potential barriers to the economic benefit of cloud.  We spent a lot of time discussing the balance of privacy and openness as things like Big Data make the aggregation of personal information more visible.

I think Dell and VMware did a amazing job putting the event together.  My only feedback is that sometimes it seemed like the gloom-and-doom chamber and it would’ve been good to have a couple of people on the panel from the enterprise and agile startup world who talked about cloud successes.  It was great to be part of the discussions which many incredible individuals.  I’ve included the list of attendees below.

#Disclaimer – Dell and VMware paid for my travel and accommodations for this trip.

Kentucky KAMP GIS 2010 Summit Keynote

I had the opportunity to deliver a keynote on “Cloud Computing and the Public Sector” late last week to 225 GIS (Geographic Information Systems) professionals in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Trisha Brush was kind enough to invite me after we met at CloudCamp Cincinnati.  I tried to keep it at a high level but then drill down to some particular use cases.  I also tried to deal with some of the sticky issues like governance and compliance.

The two points I emphasized during the keynote are:

  1. The Cloud is an enabler.  It lowers the cost of entry for disruptive technology.  A use case example is using Elastic Map Reduce to solve huge problems we can’t easily or inexpensively solve today with traditional enterprise methods.
  2. GIS and mapping are extremely relevant these days. As admins, directors and users, they should work with developers  to create innovative mashup-style apps.  This can help disseminate information to wide masses or create revenue streams from a constituent and commercial perspective.

You can find the keynote preso here.

Trisha borrowed a lot of the CloudCamp unconference format for the KAMP Summit which worked well.  I also found out that they had an App Contest (Desktop and Web) similar to a sprint during StartupWeekend.  I spent most of the day there and this is what I walked away with:

  • Cloud in the public sector is still very new, yes it’s a journey
  • Unconference (a la Barcamp) continues to work well as a format
  • The midwest has a lot of innovation in it
  • Can’t underestimate the value of leadership and community (Trisha did an amazing job)

I had to leave during the Unpanel but I was getting a lot of questions about Cloud in general (security, resiliency, etc) and I tried to answer as much as I could.  I also met Angie Jennings of Swova who specializes in ArcGIS implementations.  Her company is also one of the first to help customers take their GIS solutions into the cloud from an IaaS perspective.

If you’ve got questions about the preso or cloud in general, feel free to comment below.

CloudCamp Cincinnati

CloudCamp Cincinnati is here.  It’s this Thursday, June 3rd, in Cincinnati from 4pm-10pm.  Registration and session info can be found here.  It’s being held at the MET Center which is supposed to be a pretty nice venue.

EMC is sponsoring and I’ll be doing a lightning talk on private cloud.  If you haven’t been to a CloudCamp before, it follows the unconference format.  CloudCamps have been extremely successful because of the user participation.

Here are some of the topics that have been covered:

  • Infrastructure as a service (Amazon EC2, GoGrid, Rackspace, Nirvanix, etc)
  • Platform as a service (AppEngine, Azure, etc)
  • Software as a service (, Yahoo! Mail, etc.)
  • Application / Data / Storage (development in the cloud)

The Five Rules of Tech Field Day Club

The GestaltIT Tech Field Day event just wrapped up and it was a very interesting event. Stephen Foskett and Claire Chaplais did a phenomenal job at keeping the wheels on the bus. I realized that the attendees were just as critical as making the event a success above and beyond the vendors. I learned so much from others who either knew more or had different perspectives. The genesis of this list comes from the question I asked myself and other attendees constantly which was, “What can we do to get deeper than a standard technical presentation or trade show booth demo.”

1. Ask yourself what you want out of it – Remember, some of your attendees have never heard of you but many know some of your pitch already. Figure out what you want to get out of the event ahead of time and ask yourself if attendees will walk away talking about your presentations the way you wanted them to.

2. Cover the basics and then get into the weeds – We love the weeds. Some of us do anyway. It shows us you know what you’re talking about. It separates you from your competition. Tell us your strengths and weaknesses. We are more effective when we are armed with more information.

3. Bring your best people – You want to bring your best and brightest because there will be people (like me) who will grind into the details. 3Par and Ocarina brought their rockstars and it was apparent to each and every attendee. They knew their stuff and didn’t push questions aside.

4. Think and re-think your demo or hands-on labs – Some of the ones we experienced were great but others weren’t effective. Demos and labs that cover the basics *aren’t* always the best. People who are following the event will say, “I could’ve done that. Show me something new and different.” Remember, some of us love the CLI and others could care less. Make sure your activity will keep people engaged. Data Robotics did this very well but a big reason is because their technology is *different*. They understood how to deliver an experience much like Steve Jobs and Apple does. Their CEO even did a whiteboard of their technology and he got into the weeds.

5. There is never enough time – Almost all the vendors were a bit over schedule. Don’t try to cram too much in if it won’t fit or get a bigger timeslot. Many vendors had this happen but kudos to them for rolling right through.

Remember that you will get both good and bad feedback but being in tune with your audience is what matters. The rules above are not a guaranteed recipe for successful but they’ll give you a good start. They are universal and apply whenever you are pitching anything, not just during a Tech Field Day event. Stephen will be posting the videos of the sessions, watch them and learn from what worked and what didn’t.

Getting Ready for Microsoft PDC09

I was invited as an “influencer” to attend the 2009 Microsoft Professional Developer’s Conference by Brian Prince.  This is my first PDC and I’m absolutely stoked to be here.  The event is important because it is the official launch of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

In case you don’t know what Azure is, here’s a description from Microsoft’s web site:

The Windows Azure platform offers an intuitive, reliable and powerful platform for the creation of web applications and services.

The Windows Azure platform is comprised of Windows Azure: an operating system as a service; SQL Azure: a fully relational database in the cloud; and .NET Services: consumable web-based services that provide both secure connectivity and federated access control for applications.

Currently in Community Technology Preview (CTP), the services are free to evaluate through January 2010. We will begin charging customers on February 1st, 2010.

I’m excited to be a part of such a big event for Microsoft. One thing that seems to be consistent is that this is not your dad’s Microsoft. Their cloud group started with twenty engineers and has ramped up over the last couple of years.

Like I’ve done in the past, here’s a “What I want out of PDC09” list. If there’s something you would like out of PDC, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.

  1. Get the latest updates on the Azure stack
  2. Understand the limitations and where different services are best used
  3. See how Azure addresses challenges like deployment, scaling, security and private cloud integration
  4. Understand how Microsoft is making their software cloud-aware
  5. Talk to more people using Azure and see examples of how they are using it

Much of it is cloud-focused because I spend a bit of my time running Indy Cloud Users and involved with CloudCamp. It has been awhile since I’ve spent time with developers so I’m sure I will be learning a lot. I’ve been impressed with the dynamic nature of the company and individuals like Brian who deliver the message about what Microsoft is doing.

VMworld 2009 Recap – Clouds, Desktops and Mobility

VMworld 2009 was a great conference in spite of some bumps such as scheduling and lab issues. The social media aspect made the conference even better by allowing people to see what was going on where they weren’t.

The VMware datacenter probably got the most visual attention. A whole row of Cisco UCS nodes, Clariion, V-Max, HP blades, Netapp filers and other assorted infrastructure made it feel like you were walking into a blast furnace as you came down the escalators.

VMware formally announced their vCloud initiative with over 1000 service providers participating. vCloud Express was launched which provides an easily accessible platform for users to get started in the cloud and pay with a credit card. AT&T, Savvis, Verizon and Terremark spoke at the press and analyst event about their enterprise offerings and how things are taking shape. It was obvious that the service providers are still figuring things out. VMware also talked about their vCloud API which allows ISV’s to develop software that hooks into the clouds powered by VMware. That said, specifics on futures on vCloud were thin despite the fact that VMware is known for talking futures early.

SpringSource also demoed their software and platform. There was a lukewarm if not cold reception from many at VMworld but it’s because most of your VMware admins aren’t the right audience. The people who understood SpringSource were excited and thought it was a good acquisition for VMware.

The desktop was once again a very big focus. Dr. Stephen Herrod previewed virtual desktop mobility by moving a VDI session from one device to another. He also showed an android app running on a windows mobile phone. Wyse had a large presence on the show floor as did many other desktop virtualization solutions. It was clear that desktop virtualization is about more than shoving a desktop into a virtual machine and more about the operations aspect with things like profiles and persona awareness.

You can hear more commentary about VMworld 2009 on the Infosmack podcast led by Greg Knieriemen, Marc Farley of 3Par with myself and Devang Panchigar of CDS as guests.

Things I want out of VMworld 2009

Cloud Strategy – VMware’s cloud strategy is still maturing and growing.  We have been hearing from Maritz and others that technology is built into vSphere and other products to leverage it as a cloud platform.  I expect we’ll be hearing more about some tangible developments with cloud providers out there today. It will be interesting to see if VMware continues to build itself as a cloud platform or if it shifts gears and starts chasing after Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure platforms.  Though they have invested in Teramark, without some good explanation, it would be detrimental for VMware to try to be the provider.  I suspect the folks at VMware know this and are have no desire to be the provider but instead need to seed the field.

Enhanced infrastructure awareness – VMware and its network and storage partners need to more visibility to each other.  Not only do people need to be able to see what is going on under the covers (storage and network) with things like AppSpeed but they also need to be able to make intelligent decisions on how to fix problems.  It should be easy for an admin to see what LUN on the storage side has too many VMs without having to interpret naa392dxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx numbers.  This is continuing to happen but still has a ways to go.

Desktop Virtualization – The improvements from VDI (2.0) to View (3.1) and continuing to View 4.0 have been good but there is so much work to do.  When I meet with customers, the challenges that they face aren’t just getting applications and desktops virtualized from a technical perspective.  We need more flexibility to determine not only what desktop a user receives but what kind of desktop a physical location receives.  We need application persistence with a physical endpoint.  This is counterintuitive to what virtualizing desktops is all about but this is all going to drive back to the persona of both the person and the endpoint.  Entrigue Systems, which is being acquired by Liquidware Labs,  and other ISV’s are doing this but it needs to be seamless and well supported.

If you have anything you want to know or news to share with me about some of these things, let me know.

V-Max, Benchmarks and Social Media – EMC World Day 1 Recap

We’re off to a pretty good start here at EMC World.  I’ve gotten to meet up with many other twitter folks at the ZDNet Blogger’s Lounge organized by @lendevanna.  Last year social media was just a small lunch tweetup but this year we have the lounge and a lot more networking going on.  There have been so many good conversations going on and social media is creeping into EMC more every day thanks to the hard work of @lendevanna, @stu, @davidkspencer, @gminks, @davegraham and many others.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with my fellow bloggers (@storagenerve and @chrismevans) and others including the folks above and @basraayman, @storagezilla, @mike_fishman, @storageanarchy and many others.

Joe Tucci’s keynote was more or less the same as it has been in years past but he spent a lot of time talking about Cloud Computing.  Their cloud view was the same as what VMware is pitching.  Lots of talk about private and public cloud with federation between for traditional IT applications.


I attended a couple of V-Max sessions with @storagenerve on architecture and enginuity.  The architecture really is built to scale but a I’m not sure who will be scaling beyond 8 or 16 engines.  What will probably be more common is more V-Max engines able to federate data between systems instead of having one large global system.  Federation will probably be a big focus for EMC because most customers aren’t running the same modular but monolithic array for 5-10 years, they usually roll them after 3-4 because of technology and financial reasons.

We also saw a lot of numbers on IOPs and performance that I had never seen before for both DMX and V-Max.  I’ve always had the perception that EMC doesn’t publish much if any numbers but either that’s changing because of openness or the possibility that V-Max has good numbers and there isn’t much ambiguity on what is faster than what.  The numbers we saw were more about architectual limits and not benchmarking.

Powerpath/Powerpath VE:

Powerpath is getting some licensing changes where there will be an option of using a license server so licenses can be much more easily managed.  EMC did say that Powerpath VE for VMware will be released on May 21st.  As some admins may already know, multipathing for storage in VMware is manual and difficult today.  VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus will be required if you want to use Powerpath VE.  It will do multipathing across VMs, load balancing and EMC array optimization.

EMCWorld 2008 Day 3 and Day 4 Recap

I skipped out on some of the technical sessions yesterday to meet with some of the bloggers and folks on twitter.  I think a lot of people will agree that the social aspect is just as valuable if not more so than the technical sessions.

I had lunch with Bill Petro, Joyce Tompsett, Jon Collins, David Spencer, and Jason Benway.  We discussed about the benefit of transparency and social media for companies.  A great book to read is the Cluetrain Manifesto which talks about how companies benefit from genuine conversation with their prospects and customers.  Jon made a great point that Cluetrain is not the solution but rather a feature or ingredient that corporate social media must have.  A lot of the points I made as an EMC outsider were that pointing my customers to genuine conversations within EMC be it technical or business-oriented are much easier than me saying, “Trust me, they are listeners and truly care.”  One of my biggest challenges aside from competition has been convincing skeptics that EMC is not The Big Evil Machine(tm).

Later on I met up with Mark Twomey and Scott W. and talked with them for almost two hours.  Mark and Scott have the inside track and do a great job of blogging about EMC’s technology and how it honestly stacks up against the competition.  They’re not a marketing machine but rather two passionate individuals who go to bat for what they believe but take critical feedback.  No kool-aid there folks.

Overall a great last couple of days.