A conference and a few cribs

“Why have a blog if you cannot rant once in a while?” That seems to be the motto of all bloggers. It is almost as if you will not be considered a blogger if you don’t give your piece of mind about what is wrong  with this world once in a while. I rant and rave now, so that I too will be considered a serious blogger!!

I attended a conference last week and I am going to talk about a few irritants. While I talk specific to this conference, it is probably true about most of the conferences that I attend. The first thing that bugs you are these 50,000 feet views. I can understand some CXO talking about what direction the industry is heading and and all that but it becomes a pain when every marketing person starts giving his or her view as the opening address. There is generally very less substance in the talk and everyone is waiting for the tea break  so that they can have some cookies and a cup of tea. The speaker of the keynote address wanted to be very interactive and asked the audience, “What is the most important asset of any company?” Since he belonged to the storage industry he was hoping that the audience will respond with “Data is the most important asset.” Instead the audience in one voice responded, “Employees.” That is the last thing any manager wants to hear in these troubled times, when knives are drawn and you don’t know whose neck you have to chop off next. So he manfully continued. “Yes. People are an important asset. What else?” Some replied, “Data” and put him out of misery. Then started the 50,000 ft view. My request to all the keynote speakers is, unless you are a CXO, don’t make your talk so generic that it is of no use to anyone.

The speaker also made another interesting observation. “You may have heard of ILM. You don’t hear about it much nowadays. Why?” The answer is that the customers have realized that they have to do the bulk of work in ILM and the vendors would just come in with their regular products labeled as ‘ILM ready’. Not according to the speaker. “Nowadays many of the array can do automatic tiering. This is exactly what ILM is all about. So your ILM has been pushed into the array and that is why no one talks about ILM.” Wish life were so simple!!

Another request to all speakers. Please do not assume that the audience is so dumb that you need to simplify everything to ridiculous levels. One of the speakers was explaining about Data Deduplication. In order to ensure the audience understood this technology, he said something like this. “Take the case of water molecule. It contains Hydrogen and Oxygen. So you need not save lot of water molecules. All you need is Hydrogen and Oxygen and we can make whatever quantity of water that we need.” Honest.  I am not making this up. Another speaker emphasized the same fact differently. “You need not save details of all materials. After all, every material is made out of some 100 and odd elements. If you have the basic elements stored, we can make whatever substance we want. That is what Data Dedup is all about.” This would lead the audience to conclude that since every computer stores data in binary form, 1s and 0s, all that which needs to be stored for every file is one 1 and one 0. Exactly two bits!! You can then recreate any data that you want from these elements!! I don’t think it will do any harm in putting up a few bit patterns or talking about hashing instead of oversimplifying the concept so much that it can easily lead people to a wrong conclusion. So next time on, when you are explaining a concept don’t hesitate to talk intelligently. I can assure you many people in the audience will understand what you are talking about and will appreciate it.

(Another interesting anecdote here. One of the speakers, speaking about a software solution confessed, “Earlier whenever the client had any problem, we would say “Buy more storage.” Nowadays we don’t say that.” Turns out they are asking clients to buy more hardware and more software!!)

The last observation. In every conference I notice that the registration process is generally outsourced and young girls with business formals are the ones who do your registration. It is almost become a de facto standard. It is as if the companies are afraid that if attendees do not see this happening, they will most likely say, “What, no young girls in business formals ? I don’t want to register. I will not attend this conference.” This is really not a crib but an observation. I don’t mind it actually.

Before signing off, let me be positive. The VMware conference which I had attended a few months back was very good. All the speaker spoke sensibly and did not insult the audience intelligence. Attending such conferences is a joy. Hope others take a leaf out of it.