Friday, October 10, 2014

VeeamON 2014: A post-event challenge

Branded as the industry's first and only "Data Center Availability" conference, Veeam's freshman effort was a success by almost any measure.

Disclaimer: I work for a Veeam Partner and my conference attendance was comp'd in exchange for some marketing/promotional activities prior to the conference. I have also been a long-time user of Veeam Backup & Replication, since before my transition to the partner side of business due to my vExpert status in the VMware community.

Because I work for a partner, I arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday, October 5 to attend the partner-oriented social & networking events and to be ready for the 8:30am start on Monday morning for the partner keynote.

In a twist from other industry conferences I've attended, the keynote was MC'd by comedian Richard Laible, with a format intended to mimic those of late-night talk shows. It was successful, and the give-and-take between Richard and his "guest" was well-orchestrated and amusing.

In the first "interview," Veeam CEO Ratmir Timashev was able to tell the story of the founding of Veeam, underscore the company's love of their reseller-partners and reaffirmed the company's longstanding policy of staying 100% "channel-based" (no customer may purchase directly from Veeam); most important, he talked about the shift of Veeam from being "merely the best" backup product for virtualization, but to strive towards producing the best availability product for the enterprise.

Other Veeam employees took to the stage, and customer success stories were played out. In other words, much like any other keynote.

The remainder of the day was filled with breakout sessions covering a wide range of topics--both technical and business-oriented--for the partner crowd. The obligatory sponsor exposition opened for a happy hour/dinner reception, which also capped-off the scheduled activities for the day.

The second full day of events (Tuesday) was opened with a second keynote which echoed much of the messaging in the Partner keynote, but with an obvious new audience: the customer & prospects attending the event. In addition to even more entertainment (a pair from X-Pogo performed), some additional features of the forthcoming Version 8 for the "Availability Suite" (a rebranding of the former Backup & Management Suite) were shared, as well as even more customer testimonials which underscored Veeam's commitment not just to protecting data, but to making good on their aim to create the "always available datacenter."

The remainder of the day was again filled with breakout sessions, again ranging from business to technical topics. The day was scheduled late, however, with the optional party at the "LIGHT" nightclub in the Mandalay Bay hotel.

The third and final day opened with breakout sessions, these principally seemed to be presented by sponsor partners rather than Veeam employees with Veeam-specific topics. None of the sessions I attended, however, seemed too far off-base at a Veeam-oriented conference: the connection and/or synergy between the sponsor's product & Veeam's products was clear by the end of the session.

A final keynote by reddit.com's co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, was both humorous and insightful, and essentially closed out the conference.

There are many other posts out there with even more details and insight into the conference; check out my fellow #vDBer Mike Preston's series from the conference at http://blog.mwpreston.net for more insight and reporting.



My retelling of this is all to aim towards one thought: Veeam did a great job on their first conference. The content was relevant, the sponsors were invested and made sense, and it was both informative and entertaining.

Here's the challenge: What about 2015?

Unless the breakout catalog is significantly expanded, I'm not sure how many folks will want/need to attend a second year. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that no one will attend. On the contrary: if they repeated next year with a cookie-cutter duplicate of this year, anyone who a) didn't attend and b) wants to learn more about Veeam's products and how they can boost the availability of the datacenter would find their time well-spent.

I'm saying that everyone that went was a first-timer, and they got that spot-on. They can still fine-tune it, but next year's first-time attendee will get great value whether they change it or not.

No, the problem is getting repeat attendees. The conference can increase their first-time attendee counts simply based on positive word-of-mouth recommendations, but the top end for that will be reached far sooner than getting both those new attendees and the repeat (alumni?) attendees.

As it was, the number that was rumored prior to the conference—around 1200 people comprised of attendees & Veeam staff—seemed to have some validity. The conference space at the Cosmopolitan was sized well for the attendees, and it was never crowded or crazy like VMworld can feel (with almost 20x the attendance). But I can't imagine that Veeam is going to be content with putting on a two-and-a-half-day conference for "only" 1000 people. Yes, you want a multi-day conference to help justify the travel costs, but let's be honest: the VMUG organization has chapters that manage to put together single-day conferences for that number of attendees.

This isn't meant as criticism: I'm identifying the challenge they now face, and send the call-to-action to Veeam to plan next year's event—as far as I know, TBA for place & time, yet expected from Doug Hazelman's parting "See you next year at VeeamON 2015"—with the goals of both increasing the number of new attendees compared to the inaugural "class" from this year, as well as compelling most (if not all) of this year's attendees to return.

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