I can't remember how many EMC Worlds I've been to over the years. These days, I don't pay much attention to the metrics: number of attendees, number of sessions, etc.
I'm far more interested in the soft side -- the discussions, the concerns, what is getting people excited, etc.
For me, it's not just a big technology event -- it's more of a tribal gathering.
So, if EMC World is a tribal gathering -- how is the tribe doing?
And I can safely report -- the tribe is quite strong.
EMC World In A Nutshell
Most of the IT infrastructure topics (storage, servers, backup, network, virtualization, cloud, management, etc.) are well represented, but there are healthy doses of security, content management, and -- more recently -- big data analytics.
Something for everyone ...
At first blush, you'd think you were at an uber-geekfest -- until you start asking people what they do. Very often, the folks at EMC World have broad and surprisingly senior responsibilities within their organizations -- much more than one might expect.
Over the last few years, the event has become exceptionally well produced by any standards. Cramming 15,000 people into a Las Vegas venue can potentially be unpleasant, but the EMC World team has thought of just about everything and more.
You usually don't feel crowded, rushed, herded, etc. Thoughtful touches abound everywhere, and there's a plethora of fascinating eye-candy to keep you engaged.
And plenty of places to chill and have a quick chat with someone ...
Not Everyone Can Attend
Not everyone in the global tribe has the luxury of traveling to Las Vegas for a week to join in. To compensate, EMC invests in a staggering effort to make it all as accessible as possible externally.
This year, EMC had more simultaneous streaming content and social feeds than ever before -- a mind-numbing river of content.
If you had the time (and the bandwidth) you could get a decent sense of what was going on at EMC World without ever leaving your desk.
If it wasn't streamed live, it was certainly posted very quickly afterwards.
Behind the scenes, there's now a large and well-equipped team that works tirelessly to keep the content streaming.
The Partner Angle
EMC World is now exceptionally partner-centric.
The first part of EMC World is also the EMC Global Partner Summit, but it's more than just a big event: I counted dozens and dozens of our partners who were hosting their own customer events. They tell me they like that EMC team is 100% accessible, resulting in hundreds and hundreds of impromptu face-to-face meetings where anything and everything is discussed.
I had more than a few of those myself -- they start early over coffee and go into the wee hours on occasion. I have to be on my game, as we go from topic to topic very fast.
EMC World is also our big event for our presales systems engineering team. We open the sessions for our partners: same content, same shared experience. Not only is this a great training event for our partners' presales teams, but important field relationships are formed and strengthened in the process.
My two standard questions for any partner I meet is (1) how's business? and (2) how are we at EMC doing for you? Most answered positively to the first one -- with only a few exceptions. That's good.
What I really liked was the uniform response to the second one. Every partner I spoke to said that EMC was now a key part of their growth strategy, and generally complemented us for the great partnership and working relationship.
While there will inevitably be exceptions, this is a far cry from just a few years ago where the responses were quite different. EMC has been intent on making partners successful, and it's paying off.
The Tech Fest
The meat of EMC World is technology -- and plenty of it.
EMC (and our partners) focus on the new tech -- both in the sessions, but more importantly in the Hands On Lab, or HoL. When you're trying to become proficient with a new piece of software, there's nothing quite like giving it a whirl for yourself -- no demo can come close to that.
Let me give you an example?
At EMC World, we announced ViPR -- EMC's vision for software-defined storage. You heard about it in the keynote, and then you went to a session or two that went deeper, and then finally you could sit comfortably in the HoL and try it for yourself -- live.
For the EMC World attendees, it's a win as well. Go broad, go deep -- it's all there if you have the time and interest.
The Mood Of The Tribe
The theme of EMC World 2013 was apropos -- "Lead Your Transformation". If you're a regular reader, you know I believe this is a time for strong IT leadership throughout the ranks. This is not a time to simply manage; it's a time to move forward.
My impression is simple: all the conversations I was involved with tended to revolve around this thought.
People shared their stories of how their organizations were starting to transform, and how they were playing a role. Partners shared their experiences of how they've learned to help their customers who have started to transform.
This was not frothy, bubbly chit-chat -- they were very intense and quite serious. But what I sensed was a mood of optimism that people were starting to see success -- some in small pockets, others in very large chunks.
One thing was notably subdued -- the typical "startup buzz". When IT tech types gather, one of the inevitable topics is swapping gossip about this startup or that startup. Not this time -- people where focused more on the work at hand vs. the latest shiny thing from a completely new (and unproven) vendor.
The Next Goal Is Clear
All the keynotes were quite good, but the one that drew the strongest reaction was Paul Maritz sharing the vision behind Pivotal. Deep concepts and seismic shifts, all delivered with the gravitas and authority that is uniquely Paul's.
Looking around the audience, everyone was enraptured -- no smartphones, no fidgeting, sometimes with mouths open. It was almost like a spell was broken when he finished.
I think most everyone saw this as the next mountain we all must climb together -- once we have this IT infrastructure thing reasonably sorted!
Where Did I Spend My Time?
This year, almost all my time was devoted to hosting a large number of strategy feedback sessions on behalf of VMware. The sessions were absolutely great, we learned an awful lot, and I'm looking forward to some killer products as a result.
My suspicion was that we'd get some great people at EMC World to offer up some very well-informed opinions. I was not disappointed.
For all of you who made the time to share your thoughts -- my personal thanks -- your time was very much appreciated!
Where's The Party?
Err -- it's EMC World in Vegas. If you can't find a half-dozen parties, you're not even trying.
From sponsored events to Twitter-coordinated meetups, there was no shortage of opportunities to relax, unwind and hang with other tribe members.
Connect with old friends, make new ones ...
I always go off to EMC World looking forward to all of this, but I am inevitably spent by the end of the day -- a quick drink and chat, and I'm off to bed at an early hour.
I did manage to rally for the Bruno Mars concert, and I'm glad I did.
He is a musician's musician --- absolutely worth seeing if you have the chance, no matter how skeptical you might be.
The Frustrating Part
I've connected with so many people over the years -- meetings, online, etc. -- and I always look forward to reconnecting with many of them at EMC World.
Alas, it never works out as I hope. My schedule gets blocked out months in advance, and many of them seem equally busy as well.
But there are also new people to meet -- maybe they follow me on my blog, maybe they think I can offer some useful insight on one topic or another, or maybe they just want to chat and gossip a bit.
It's all good.
For everyone I was able to spend some time with, there were dozens and dozens where I wish I could have made it happen -- but didn't -- despite my best intentions.
Maybe next year?