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Conferences, Trade Shows and Field Days

Sitting in the lab during the four days I have to get any work done between conferences, I'm struck by how different the events on my calendar this spring and summer have been. I've been to vendor/user love fests, end-user education driven events, classic trade shows and now I am on my way to my favorite insider-only deal-o-rama, an invite-only geek fest.  Very different events but each seems to serve a target market pretty well.

The season started with SNW in Orlando.  When I first started covering this event it was one part education conference, one part industry insider golf tournament and meeting place, and it even had tradeshow and hands-on labs. I had my problems with some of the education; for instance, there was a lot of theory about how Fibre Channel uses 10b/8b encoding. In an attempt to be vendor neutral, they never even mentioned a vendor. Try explaining NDMP without saying NetApp needed a faster way to backup filers, and Legato helped develop it. Makes a much less interesting story, doesn't it?

For several years, I had briefings booked with vendors from 8AM through dinner every day and had no idea what the user experience was. Sometimes I had just an hour or two for the show floor. Over the years, SNW management has become less attractive as a central place for industry players to have a two martini sit down. This year's SNW was in a smaller section of the hotel, so it felt suitably crowded, but vendors didn't bring the big booth to the exhibit hall.  I even had gaps in my schedule.

Then it was off to Vegas to speak at Interop. I actually like trade shows in Vegas, and I'm probably the only member of the computer press to miss Comdex. The glitz of the strip and the show floor go together, and frankly I'm a sucker for free booze and crap tables. While Interop has a pretty good line up of speakers, including this humble blogger, the show floor is more of a draw than the classroom.  

Interop's show floor was bigger and busier this year. Trade shows like Interop are for shopping. They are the best place to go when you're trying to research the spectrum of solutions to your problem, or if you are planning to buy technology in a well-defined product category.  At Interop, you could see five or six Ethernet switch vendors and discuss your network or discover there are applications that will tell you which servers are never above 10 percent CPU utilization, and how much power you'll save virtualizing them.

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