For me there have always been two storage events: Storage Decisions & Storage Networking World.  There are others, but these are the two I have historically missed only if forced to.  Now I’m switching one of them out for a show I’ll bet you’ve never heard of and I’ll tell you why in this blog entry.   Click Read More for more.

This is a bit longer than my usual blog entry, so bear with me.  If you have no patience, already like Storage Decisions and are mad at SNW, then just skip right to The BD Event.

Storage Decisions (SD)

First, let’s talk about Storage Decisions conferences and seminars.  Tech Target does a phenomenal job of finding and recruiting end users — and only end users — to attend their shows.  They’ll send you packing if you’re a consultant or a vendor.  They turned down a number of my consulting friends, and turned ME down before I became a speaker.  I’ve actually seen them send people home who showed up for the show without being registered. You CAN’T pay to attend their show, but if you’re a qualified end user, you get to go for free.  As a result, they end up with more real end users than any other show that I’ve ever attended.  (I’m pretty sure they charge a premium for the access to all those end users, but that’s what we call business.)  In addition, they don’t do vendor pitches.  They get independent speakers that are consultants, analysts, or end users to give very educational, non-vendor talks.)  End users: lots.  Good, independent, educational content: lots.  I love those shows (and not just because they ask me to speak).

Storage Networking World (SNW)

Then there’s Storage Networking World.  Over the years, this show has developed into the show to do your business development and networking.  You know all the vendors will be there, so that’s where a lot of people schedule their bizdev stuff.  They do briefings, meet and greets, and hospitality suites.  There may be end users there, but they are a seriously small minority.  What I do see is a bunch of industry people with complimentary badges that were supposed to be given to end users. (They are badges that are included as part of the exhibitor package.)  I think the idea is that those badges are supposed to be given to end users, but end up being given to buddies.  That may explain why the numbers of end users that are supposed to be there never seem to match up to the number of end users I see there.  I would argue that SNW doesn’t even want end users there, or at least that’s what the cost to attend the show as an end user says to me.  Let’s see.  I can go to SD for free, or SNW for $1300.   It’s a down economy and budgets are limited… Let me think.  Finally, the majority of the content is provided by vendors and is therefore slanted to what the vendors want you to hear.

The real problem with SNW, though, is what happens if you can’t justify enough money to register for the show as a consultant ($4,000), a non-sponsoring vendor ($5,000), or a sponsoring vendor that can pay extra to do things like a hospitality suite ($I-don’t-even-want-to-know), but you’d still like to talk to some of the people exhibiting.  We’ll call people like this “renegades.”  Some of them use badges from previous SNWs (as they haven’t changed the looks of the badges in forever), and others just forego going to the official parts of the event altogether and just sit at the bar.

But if you’re a renegade you can find yourself shut out of the hotel altogether.  You see, part of SNW’s contract with the hotel says that they have exclusive rights to any industry-related events — of any kind — that go on in the hotel.  It was one thing when I saw renegades kicked out of the press room.  (Although it was done with no notice, and broke years of precedence that allowed those same people to use the press room.  For one thing, some of these renegades are future customers.)  When they were kicked out of the press room, they moved to the tables out in the common area (not in the exhibit area, of course, just out in the halls).  Not only did SNW kick people off of those tables, they even removed the tables!  Renegades then began meetings by sitting in the chairs along the walls in the hallways of the hotel.  They then roped those areas off and put a security guard to check badges.  You couldn’t even walk down the hall if you were a renegade!  I actually attended a number of briefings at tables that had been set up for the next conference two floors down!  As crazy as all that seemed at the time, you could argue that the common area and the halls around their conference were really their property, so they can do what they want.  But listen to this.  When they found out that some renegades dared to host briefings in their suites, they exercised the clause in their contract to cut off food delivery to those rooms!  I witnessed renegades running to convenient stores to buy drinks, cookies, and such so they could have something to give to their honored guests.  Suffice it to say that my opinion of SNW soured after witnessing all of this.  I actually left SNW steaming and wanted to blog about it at the time, but I was prevented from doing so for reasons that are now unimportant.  But the gloves are off now, baby!

The BD Event

Now let’s talk about the The BD Event whose website launched yesterday.  The event was created by Greg Duplessie, who has been doing BD work in the storage industry for more than 15 years.  Apparently he got fed up with the old ways of doing things.  Greg is not bribing or paying me for this blog entry, so I blog only about this because I completely believe in what they’re doing. To quote their web site, “this [non-profit] event will cater to core internal business needs of participants. We will offer a great venue for having meetings, presentations and for networking with other professionals like you. We will not charge exorbitant registration fees, or make you pay for things you don’t care about.”  They’re going to charge $495 for everyone who registers before 4/1 (excluding press, who are free) and only $650 for walk-ins.  That fee covers the cost of the meeting rooms and two open bars with appetizers.  For a good laugh, see their Sponsors & Exhibitors page.

My Opinion

So here’s my opinion, for what that’s worth:  If you’re a vendor that wants to see qualified end users, or an end user that wants to see good, educational content, go to multi-day Storage Decisions conferences or one of their one-day seminars like Backup School Hits the Road, or Data Deduplication (both starring yours truly).

If you’re a vendor , reseller, service providers, consultants, analyst, or member of the press wanting to talk to another vendor , reseller, service providers, consultants, analyst, or member of the press — and don’t want to do so at exorbitant fees — then go to the The BD Event.

If you have an unlimited budget (and who doesn’t in this economy) and want to pay more to talk to the same vendors you can talk to at the BD Event, or pay more to talk to fewer end users (because more for less has always been a good business prop), then I think you know where to go.

Hopefully, I’ll see you at The BD Event, June 8-10 in Boston.  You can save up $495 by then.

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Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.