Skipped Uptime Symposium 2010, is it worth the time and money? Cost Effective Alternative Lee Technologies on Tap

I've had these ideas for a while and with Uptime Symposium this week, and my skipping the event it seemed the right time to take some ideas and put them in a post. 

Uptime Institute Symposium 2010

Data Center Efficiency & Green Enterprise IT
May 17-19  Hilton New York

manhattan_smallThe Uptime Institute Symposium, one of the most influential events on the IT industry and data center operator calendar, is the only event focused entirely on data center efficiency and green enterprise IT.

It makes me laugh when I can take a quick call from an Uptime Symposium attendee while he is there, he stops our phone call and says "hi Andrew."  I tell the caller to tell Andrew Fanara I say hi.  The caller relays back Andrew needs to give me a call and gives me a ribbing about sitting in my home office staring at Lake Sammamish while they are at NYC Hilton in conference rooms.  This morning I saw an Eagle swoop down and pick up a fish.  Wish I had a video camera, but it was as cool as this YouTube video with the fish a bit smaller and he roosts in a tree 100 feet away.

This week is Uptime Symposium 2010 in NY.  I have gone to the last two and met some great people at the conferences.  My first Uptime Symposium was two years ago in Orlando, I was talking to Christian Belady and Mike Manos and they pointed out a guy from Google was at the conference.  I asked them have you talked to him?  They said they tried, but he doesn't say much.  Open to a challenge, I spent a bit of time thinking how I could talk to him.  The next day, I ran into Christian and Mike, and told them. "Hey I talked to the Google guy for 1 1/2 hours, and we sat together in a few sessions."  and we still chat whenever we see each other at data center events.

When I told Matt Stansberry the story he said "you should blog about what you talked about."  I told him no, I can't do that as all it will do is get me a bit of traffic and get him in trouble for not getting PR approval to talk to a blogger.  I joke that blogging is only 10% of what I do, sometimes taking up more than 10% of my time, but it is not where I spend 10% of my concentration on problems.  I blog 10% or less of what I know as I stick to public disclosures and ideas that are my own and can share.

Overall my past attendance to Uptime was well worth it as I made good friends at my first uptime event.   I think that is where I met Andrew Fanara for the first time.  and Michael Tran from Digital Sense.

I went to Uptime Symposium 2009 to speak on a panel regarding green data centers and media.  It was fun sitting down with Rich Miller (DataCenterKnowledge), Matt Stansberry (SearchDataCenter), Kevin Heslin (Mission Critical Magazine) in front of 30 people.  Between the group we get 10,000s hits a day, yet here we are in a conference room with 30 people.  When Uptimes skimped on food and logistics, I started to see the problems in the conference execution as well.

This year, I made no attempt to go to Uptimes Symposium 2010.  Two years in a row was sufficient.  I know I would see many data center friends, but the important ones I can easily send e-mail to or call.

An indicator of the problems at the conference this year was a friend  who had a speaking slot and  was 10 min into his 30 min presentation when the Uptime conference logistics told him he was in the wrong conference room.  Knowing the logistics at conferences can change, he had gone to the logistics area before hand to check on the room twice.  I regularly wonder about the paying sponsors who have a booth and speaking positions as whether it is cost effective.

Interestingly on the side, I have been having e-mail conversations with Steve Manos from Lee Technologies and how well his local monthly data center events, "Lee Technologies on Tap" (the event is held in a bar) have been working.  As a contrast to Uptime Symposium is it better to spend the time and money to develop local content for events like Lee Technologies on Tap?  DataCenterDynamics uses the local content method to hold conferences frequently, minimizing travel and is part of a green strategy.

One of the main reasons why people go to events like Uptime is to get in front of Steve's brother, Mike.  Now I am biased because I can call Mike when I need to, but I also know he is swamped running Nokia's online applications group.  I know to contact Mike when it is worth his time and my time to connect.  Which is one way to have a strategy for managing relationships.  Connecting can have little value if you don't develop the quality of the relationship as mutually beneficial.  Steve Manos is on the left in this picture.


When you are a sales driven guy, you are so excited to get Mike Manos's business card you can justify to your management it was worth the time to go to Uptime to get Mike's card and others.   No one asking what is the quality of the relationship you built.  You fall into the trap at events like Uptime, I met some of the top data center decision makers and got our company in the bidding process.  You have now fallen into the trap of delusional expectations from attending industry events.

I asked Steve Manos to share some of his insight running their own local data center events in Chicago.

Hope this email will get you the balance of what you may need to complete your post as it relates to the effectiveness of my Chicago-based DC networking event.  I have taken the time to contact several end user attendees, all of which represent 5 of the top 10 largest and most recognizable corporation names in Chicago and get there general feedback on why they continue to come to this event.  The primary (and overwhelming) response is that it offers the perfect blend of industry contacts in a very manageable, intimate setting where not only can one connect with local peers but also create deeper relationships with those they share similar issues and challenges with.

Getting the right mix of attendees to vendors is a method Steve Manos exploits to keep attendees satisfied.

With a group of roughly 40-50 attendees and a ratio averaging 12:1 end user to vendor, it allows everyone from a data center operator to a CIO the opportunity to discuss real world issues, current innovations and foster’s an environment where they can learn about what each face on a day to day basis.  We have heard loud and clear from the attendees that they are not opposed to talking to vendors that bring value, but that the bigger events make it tough as most of their time is occupied with those who are trying to sell to them and very little is spent on getting to discuss topics with peers (and how they are handling or have handled similar issues they face in their facilities).


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But, not just any vendor can attend.  Vendors need to be doing work for one of the attendees in order to attend.  Which cuts down on the sales BS, as the user is right there.

Our event overcomes these issues by only allowing vendors that currently work for current members and have done an exceptional job.  We then like to have those members make the introductions to the group based on what issues the client faced, how it was handled by vendor X and leave it up to members in the event to connect with that representative throughout the night if they are facing similar challenges.  We are also at a point where we are featuring end users to share their stories as a keynote to the group to provide additional value in fostering mindshare.  These topics can range anywhere from current projects (what is working, where they are struggling, new technology implemented), industry direction, green technologies (a big focus of many of our members), and good old fashion war stories.  We believe that these types of keynotes/discussions offer more to the group than hearing about the latest in a particular “widget.”  Finally, in knowing what particular issues our group will be facing or are currently challenged with, I can poll the group on trusted partners and invite them to that event so that they have the opportunity to possibly help without the need to force themselves on the group from a sales standpoint.  It’s all about providing value above and beyond what Lee Tech does.  Not that this isn't important to me in my quest to show how much we can help companies in the Central U.S, but I find that if you build the relationship on a solid foundation first, and do what’s best from the onset (whatever that may be), you will earn their business over time.

And, here is the focus on relationships.

With small groups, taking time to understand what each member is looking for and where I can help and then making sure they get that EVERY time, and a consistent gathering has created very strong relationships with one another in a very short amount of time.  Over 25 of our active members are now coordinating, consulting and actively participating in one another’s endeavors to help each other where possible.  This is what I feel what this industry sorely needs.

If you are interested in attending here is the next event with Steve's e-mail.

For your info, if you want to share, our next event will be on June 17th in the Chicago area.  Those that are interested in becoming a part of this group can reach me at smanos(at)leetechnologies(dot)com.  We are always looking to grow the group and I’m certain others can contribute volumes to this endeavor.

Thanks Dave and please let me know if you need any additional information.

See the smiling faces. When is the last time you this many smiles at a data center event? Well, maybe in the bar after the event.  Oh yeh, the Lee Technologies at Tap event is held in a bar.  Is the secret to a successful data center events is to host them in bar?  :-)  I know DataCenterDynamics opens the bar at 4p, overlapping with presentations.

For those of you attending Uptime Symposium sorry I skipped the event.  But, I am looking forward to visit my first Lee Technologies on Tap event.

The biggest thing I learn from sitting in presentations at  Uptime is I don't have to go to Uptime to learn, the true value is in building relationships with the attendees.