I attended my first SNW conference in over two years last week. (My previous employer was really good at scheduling me for competing events, so I wasn’t able to go.) Most of my thoughts about what I saw go hand-in-hand with Don Jenning’s thoughts here. I agree that it was very cool to see The Cube guys and to know that Infosmack was recording in the social media room. (I got to sit in on one of those recordings with none other than Dr. Dedupe, Larry Freeman. I look forward to that podcast.) And it was my first experience live tweeting from a big event that had a hashtag (#SNWUSA). That was definitely very cool. Here are my thoughts, some of which are about SNW, and others that are about the vendors.
First, SNW is still very much alive and well, but it’s definitely not the show that it used to be. There was a time when your company was considered dead or dying if your major reps were not in attendance. That appears to be the case no longer. Sure, there were a lot of companies there. But there were a lot of companies not there as well. Perhaps it’s because there are other options now to talk to analysts and other vendors (like The Exec Event) that pull budget money away from this. Perhaps its also because there is now a whole other group of people (bloggers) that you also need to reach out to. Vendors are either doing their own thing, like HDS’ recent event, or they’re sponsoring one of the Tech Field Day events (which cost much less than doing it yourself). Either way, that’s more money being pulled away from this “industry event.”
The other reason (if not the main reason) that vendors do a show like SNW is for new leads. New leads means new end users to talk to. I remain unconvinced that this is a show to find such people in significant numbers. Any time I ever scanned the room, I saw way more vendor, analyst and press badges than end user badges. I also kept seeing the same end users over and over.
As a former end-user, and someone who continues to see himself as an advocate for such, I am simply not drawn to the content offered by SNW. With very few exceptions, it’s one talk after another given either by a vendor or someone the vendor is paying to be there (either an analyst or an end user who was sponsored to the show by a vendor). I do like the SNIA tutorials, BTW, because I know they try really hard to keep those vendor-neutral. But every other presentation was (IMO) simply a marketing presentation. They should all be titled: The Correct Way to do X, Which Can Only be Done by Buying Our Product. I’m not saying that these sessions are bad, mind you. I’m just saying that they don’t draw me.
I’d much rather hear from independent thinkers that are mostly absent from this conference. There’s another conference that these people tend to speak at that tends to draw a much larger percentage of end users, and that is Storage Decisions. I like that show for its content and the make-up of its audience. It’s a real shame that I seem to be uninvited. This upcoming Storage Decisions is the first one I haven’t spoken at in a really long time. Although no official word was given, it’s no coincidence that this happened right after I started hosting my own road show: Backup Central Live. No worries. I’ve got plenty of other things to do.
In my final thoughts on SNW, I want to pass out the worst-designed booth award. Booth design experts tell you that you have 7 seconds to catch someone’s attention. Anobit’s booth display was whitespace with their company name and the phrase “add another bit.” What are they, anti-dedupe software? Are they hardware, software, service, what? Then there was RackSpace. Their booth, which I took a picture of, said they were the world leader in hosting and cloud computing, but never said the name of their company. This is something not lost on the people that worked the booth, because they took the ghetto little white sign (hung on the pipe and drape before the vendor gets there so they know which booth to go to) and hung it up and over their display. See this photo for what I’m talking about. So we have a booth with a company name and no description, and a booth with a very big description but no company name. I declare a tie.
I do have some thoughts to post about companies that I met and got briefings from. They will come soon.
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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.