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Whither SNW?


Gaylordtexan_4 Last week marked another Storage Networking World Conference (SNW).  This time, the conference was held at the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel and Convention Center near Dallas, in Grapevine, Texas.  Billed as the "world's largest and foremost storage networking event," SNW has become more of a reunion of sorts for many in the storage industry, especially in the vendor community.  Although, finding out where former friends and colleagues end up transcends the vendor community as reporters and analysts take up new positions within publications and industry analyst firms that track the comings and goings in the storage industry.

As one reporter I spoke to who attended the conference noted, "it was like Vegas only without the casino."

Each Spring and Fall, SNW USA along with IDG and the Storage Networking Industry Association, and thousands of vendor representatives and executives, media, analysts and end users converge on venues in Phoenix, Orlando, San Diego, and now Grapevine, Texas.

The hope is as SNW promotes:

You can choose from over 140 educational sessions and network with peers from around the globe-plus visit with top solutions providers in the world's largest Expo and Solutions Center focused on storage.

With the power of the industry behind it, more vendor booths and more Tchotchkes to collect than a kid in a candy store would know what to do with, why does it feel like SNW is a shell of its former self?

Perhaps as Mary Jander from Byte and Switch appropriately pointed out in SNW in Pictures, the venue has taken on a turf war feel between conference organizers going to bat for sponsoring exhibitors and the non-sponsoring storage industry representatives whose clientele weed through agenda topics to find the right one to justify the trip and three plus days out of the office.  This Fall, though, the turf war got downright nasty.  So much so in fact, that as one reporter told me, company representatives were either escorted from areas they weren't welcome or asked to leave the conference altogether.  In large part, because in a variation of the words made immortal by Gold Hat in the 1948 film, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, they did indeed need "stinkin' badges."  We won't name names here to protect the innocent.

Rather than strong-arming individuals out of the conference, a courteous reminder to review the Conference FAQ probably would have sufficed.  Or, perhaps, conference organizers might insure that the press room is used for just that, press meetings, rather than sponsoring company sit downs for executives that weren't on the ball to get a suite.  But that's a post for another day.

Regardless, SNW is at a crossroads.  With vendor companies asked to justify value and ROI more than ever before on marketing and PR dollars and with IT travel budgets curtailed so end users are forced to choose between fewer venues to attend, SNW is competing with both vendor-sponsored end user conferences and shorter, tightly-packed conferences liked those hosted by TechTarget.  As such, SNW needs to find a way to re-establish itself as one of, if not the pre-eminent storage conferences it has long promoted.

If it doesn't, it will continue to be an easy target for the likes of Jon Toigo and others, who continue to question the value end-users gain by attending.

I, for one, am hoping that SNW can re-emerge.  If things don't change, however, then as one reporter who attended mentioned to me, "this conference runs the risk of being more of a snorage than storage event."

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