E2EVC Copenhagen - X marks the best of breed community conference spot?
The E2EVC Virtualisation Conference is a non-commercial, virtualisation community Event, its mission, to bring the best virtualisation experts together to exchange knowledge and to establish new connections, to boldly cram a weekend of presentations, Master Classes and discussions into one weekend. To bring together virtualisation vendors, product teams and independent experts with those IT admins, managers and consultants out in the field.
E2EVC started in 2003 with just 4 people and was called Pubforum. It continued until popular demand asked for a more expense/time justifying name change. Hence E2EVC. But it is more than just a sweet name change. After ten years of events around Europe the conference has grown to an industry recognized key event for its bringing together of key industry shapers in a social forum.
Two and a half days of presentations which cover topics from Systems Centre orchestration to Comparing EUC from Citrix and VMware through to how to be an Microsoft MVP...sounds good? To be fair - this is the one conference where I book up for the next one, while I'm still at the previous one.
I am not the only one who does this.
While there are many regulars (some Denmarkians* who couldn't make the event coming along purely to share a drink in the evening) there were a number of new faces. As we move into 2014 there is going to be a US version.
So, what is an E2EVC conference like? How technical was the technical content? Could you get wi-fi and at least answer some emails in a break? What makes this the type of event that convinces Microsoft MVPs, Citrix CTPs, and VMware vExperts to give up their family time, travel around the globe and pay high beer prices for?
A quick review of E2EVC Copehagen seems in order.
Location, Location, Location
There are typically two E2EVC events a year - one in the spring, one in the autumn. 2013's spring venue was the extensive Scandic Sydhavnen hotel just outside of Copenhagen.
The hotel's conference facilities were pretty good. Decent sized rooms, easy to see, plenty of plug sockets, good sized displays. Comfortable temperature. Plenty of room outside to mingle, all on a single level. For perhaps the first time at E2EVC, food was provided for lunch - which was good. .
Wi-fi that was both stable and good enough for browsing and checking email: And recognizable coffee that was drinkable, when available.
I had problems with my room - perhaps more so as I'd brought my family over so things like "no aircon" mattered more. Tripadvisor has my thoughts on that.
Still, a good choice as a conference venue, not so great a choice for an attendee having to accommodate more than themselves.
I think 2006/7 was the first time I attended a E2EVC event. Back then - sessions rarely started on time and the agenda could change hourly. I'm sure it made for cost savings as there was little need to print out agenda guides: but it did make it complex to navigate and plan. This became almost a running joke: if you attended, you could expect a certain amount of "agenda flexibility", still - it could rankle.
I was not alone in thinking this was the most professionally organised and managed E2EVC event to date. Perhaps all the more impressive as there is only a small team in charge and it is not their day job. Sessions started on time, sessions stayed to schedule: I'm sure that if any presenter had been late someone would have told them and they wouldn't have had to do it the next day. Now what was most difficult with the session agenda from an attendee point of view was actually fitting it all in: there was excellent content head to head throughout the event.
What was perhaps frustrating was the attendance in the Masterclass sessions. When the concept was first introduced the session size was small (8-10 people). However, the sessions have moved to ever larger rooms, while attendance has dropped. Perhaps it is time to reinvent/re-purpose that particular session format. The difficulty is, for some classes more than 2 hours is needed, but then you're missing a lot of other great content; for others, the titles of the sessions belied the new information that was available.
It was mooted that there could be a masterclass really shouldn't be about one product - but about integration: many admins are in the position of joining solutions together. Maybe to be a true master, you need more than one discipline.
To paint fences and wax cars?
Session showing how AppSense and RES could be utilized together? Integrating Mirage with XenClient? Netscaler with View? Are mashups the future? Oh to be a fly on the wall of the respective marketing departments...
Vendor sponsorship is always key to events such as E2EVC. As with many other events, such sessions struggle to put bums on seats. To an extent, I think vendors approaching all events with the same mindset can contribute to poor attendance. SMS Passcode again showed that they can promote their authentication product and still pack the room by making more creative use of their marketing session time: always interesting to see them in action. Still, it would be helpful to keep vendor sessions together so they're not up against independent content .. and maybe shorter more focused sessions would be of benefit - after all, vendors have a great deal of 1-1 time given the communal nature of E2EVC.
Which Sessions Stood Out?
If I had to pick three most useful sessions, clambering to the top of a very strong technical pile would be .
Wilco van Bragt's demonstration of the new personal disk functionality in Windows 2012 RDS - if only because he tried to answer questions that had come up in a previous session, live: real life experimenting with the product, with call outs from the audience to try different things. Wilco knew what the product did - but hadn't considered some of the new questions and he was willing to give it a punt in real time. We all learned stuff. Very cool.
Kees Baggerman and Duco Jaspars's session comparing EUC solutions of VMware and Citrix and wondering who was best: interesting debate in-session and some good post-session conversation.
And the session on Uberagent given by Helge Klein - Helge has developed an impressive agent that gives incredibly granular detail of the windows desktop logon process that can be collated and presented in Splunk. Well worth an investigation.
Oh, and an honorable mention to Royal TS. This remote console management tool had genuinely passed me by - when I tweeted about it, apparently I'm not the only one to think it a key admin tool. I've recommended products I've heard about at E2E before, but this is the first I've actually bought for use myself.
but what stood out, as always was...
E2EVC Geek Speak
If you've been to a Citrix Synergy event, or watched on-line you've heard of Geek Speak. One was the most popular session at Synergy recently.
Essentially, "a number of industry professionals sit at the front and talk about stuff, a room full of people maybe ask questions". Which can be nice.
Yet, what exemplifies the ethos of E2EVC is that the Geek Speak session is in fact a round table. Always the last session it is a session-in-the-round: literally. The room's chairs are moved and you speak in a circle. While there is a moderator, the floor is open to any speaker to talk about a range of topics. Typically early topics are "what did you think of the conference" but it expands to issues of deployment, configuration, industry trends. This is not a session where you are talked at, but a session where you contribute to. It can go on for hours: even without beer and pizza.
For the Citrix UK User group we've adopted this format for our end of day sessions: granted it only works for about 60-70 people, but it is an incredibly useful format as it is always one of our most liked session. The format allows a recognized industry expert such as a CTP, MVP or vExpert to learn from an admin in the field. Too often major industry events incorrectly elevate the highly qualified to exclusive tracks: E2EVC facilities the fact that everyone needs to learn, all the time.
All be it what one fact we all learned was it is always fun to share, but it is more fun to share over a beer and a pizza.
What did you not like?
Conference wise, not being able to go to two sessions at once. Found the lack of pizza and beer at the final Geek Speak round table session a little odd. I miss the part during the keynote where you have to meet people to win a prize: and I abhor "organised fun".
There - that's the best I've got conference wise.
Yes. That good.
First We'll take Berlin, then we'll take Manhattan..
The next E2EVC conference is in Rome. You'll be able to book from here.
I found it interesting that it has been mooted there will be an E2EVC in America: possibly post Citrix Synergy 2014.
What enamored me with this conference is its inclusion, sense of networking, sense of community. There are always people cannot attend as a weekend format undoubtedly impacts on family time. Still, the E2EVC conference has developed an overlapping core of attendees that drives the whole event. That core understands the ethos, welcomes it, encourages it. New attendees can find themselves having a beer with a blogger they've always followed, out to dinner sat next to a product manager, sharing a beer with a person they had a conversation with on twitter.
It doesn't rely on forums, but on personal connection.
Old school interaction.
It will be interesting to see how that ecosystem is translated to the US. Maybe it will just be some people meeting in a bar - like it was back in the day: a modern day vBeers. Maybe it will be a more extensive de-brief having convinced the tired and the weary to stay on just that little bit longer. We will see.
But whatever happens in the US, the E2EVC is still a best of breed community conference on virtualization and worthy of your time to attend.
Hope to see you at one in the future.
* a small shout out to my wife's cousin who didn't realise "danish" didn't just apply to bacon