Is SNW Relevant?

SNW needs to adapt to the current economic situation and the way that users are asking for information to be disseminated

George Crump

April 15, 2009

3 Min Read
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While I covered all the nitty-gritty details in my ongoing blog from Storage Networking World in Orlando, sometimes it is helpful to step back and get an overview of the show and ask the question: Do we really need this event anymore?

Going into this year's show, the big question was whether anybody would show up. With the economic downturn, travel budgets have been slashed for both suppliers and users. Obviously, people did show up; my schedule as you can see from my blog entries was as busy as ever, and though the SNW folks claimed that while there were fewer sponsors, end user attendance was slightly up.

I can certainly back up the claim that supplier sponsorship was down. End user attendance seemed about the same to me. Most suppliers I spoke to said they were seeing less end users and the overall attendance was definitely lighter. This includes speaking sessions that were put on. The ones I stuck my head in on were indeed lightly attended. The common phrase I heard from suppliers was: "We are speaking to less people, but the ones we are speaking to are more interested." I'm not saying this is the case here, but many times that translates to: "I have to say something to justify this expense."

More broadly though, what is SNW's relevance? The only major announcements that come to mind are Brocade's FCoE rollout, 3PAR's new mid-range F-Class, HiFn's Bitwakr, and Data Robotics's Drobo Pro. I'm sure there were others, but on the balance there were few new product announcements. Most suppliers had announced earlier in the quarter. I can't tell you how many meetings started with: "We really don't have anything new to announce, but..."

That comes down to the sessions, and while the arguments of de-dupe or FCoE are entertaining, I'm not really sure what the value is to the attendees. That said, there were a few sessions that were educational and not too promotional.The big problem for SNW beyond the current economy is it has competition now. With all the electronic media available -- Byte and Switch, blogging, OK, yes, even Twitter -- I'm not sure you need a show anymore. Even demos can be handled very well via WebEx or YouTube. Also more suppliers are getting into smaller regional events and seminars, essentially bringing the show to you so you don't have to travel.

The bigger challenge is from the specific manufacturer's user conferences, like EMC's EMC World or Compellent's CDRIVE. While the attendance is certainly smaller, the sessions are more relevant and, from what I have seen, far more educational because they focus specifically on how to get more out of the products you are already invested in. Interestingly, the complimentary supplier participation is brisk at these shows as well and, again, targeted on how you can use their technology to enhance the larger purchase.

While many of these user conferences can be replaced by Web presentations or virtual tradeshows, there is nothing like being there, seeing a live demo, getting hands-on with the product, and talking face-to-face with a speaker after they present or catching up with them at a lunch break.

I like SNW. I hope and expect that it will continue to be an important event within the industry. It is an excellent networking event for analysts and press, but for suppliers and end users you have to know what you want to get out of it.

That said, the show organizers have some work to do. SNW has really not changed much over the years. The format is still pretty much the same as when it began. For SNW to stay relevant it needs to adapt not only to the current economic situation but also to the way that users are asking for information to be disseminated.George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland , which provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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