When I first heard that my request to go Citrix Summit in Orlando Florida, about three and a half months ago, got approved I couldn’t be happier. I mean going to a three day conference with non stop, back to back high quality, technical and pre-sales / partner orientated sessions is awesome on its own (it really is). But when it’s organized by Citrix, celebrating their 25th anniversary, you know you’re in for something special! As the event date got closer my expectations began to rise, and when the time finally came I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I can honestly say that looking back the whole experience was even better than I hoped it would be!
Stands for: Non Disclosure Agreement something we, as IT professionals, all agreed to when signing up for Citrix Summit. It means that everything you see and hear presented at Summit isn’t allowed to, and therefore shouldn’t, be shared with the outdoor world. Of course there are exceptions on what can and can’t be shared, but if you can’t figure that out for yourself, wel… And although we’re all human, you don’t Tweet NDA info five times in a row by mistake, if you get my drift! Use your social media wisely, which I think I did. All information is for internal use only until Citrix says otherwise, as officially stated by Al Monserrat during the opening KeyNote.
For me, as a Blogger, this is killing. I heard loads of good stuff (perhaps not earth shattering but interesting to say the least) I would like to share with you all, but, at least for now, I can’t. What I can tell you is that Citrix listens to its customers, positive as well as negative feedback is gathered, analyzed and finally (re)applied in their products in one way or another, as you will see in the coming months. I know it’s a vague statement but it will have to do for the time being. And although, despite of the NDA announcement, some information leaked during the opening KeyNote, I can’t imagine Citrix wasn’t prepared for that. I mean, with over 4000 people in a room, all holding a mobile device of some sort with their Twitter, facebook and or Linked-On accounts signed in and ready to go, it would be a bit naive to think that all information would stay indoors. Now I’m not going to repeat what information got leaked, but you probably know what I’m talking about right?!
I’ve already heard and read statements saying that this years Summit lacked in depth technical sessions and that it wasn’t renewing, or educational enough. I find that surprising to be honest. Of course, as a technician I’d also like to see more technical sessions and a deep dives from time to time, but that’s not what Summit is, or should be, about, we have Synergy for that. Let’s not forget that last years Summit was still all about (channel) partners getting together and collaborating, focussing primarily on the Citrix Solution Advisor programs, partner status (silver, gold and platinum) requirements, certification, Yearly sales-level requirements and overall revenue in general. The technology involved was far less important, hence Citrix Synergy. We all knew and nobody complaint. Even the (pre) sales kick-off was separated from the main Summit / Synergy event, which till last year both were held in the same week with Synergy being the bigger (technical) one following up on Summit.
It was only last year that Citrix announced to split up Summit and Synergy into two separate conventions and in the process making Summit more about technology as opposed to previous editions. Because of that Citrix added the ‘Better Together’ slogan, to their program announcements, introducing (pre) sales and a more technology oriented program. However, at the same time they also announced the retirement of their European counterparts, putting an end to the Summit / Synergy events in europe, a big disappointment for many. In return they now organize multiple one day events throughout europe, which unfortunately are more partner orientated and less about the bits and bytes involved.
Hopefully, not to long from now, they’ll rethink their strategy and reintroduce the European Summit / Synergy events. Back by popular demand! I think we, as technicians, got a bit carried away with our expectations and focussed too much on the technical side of things. The never said it was going to be a 50 / 50 deal, although I must admit that’s what I was counting on as well, but even if they would have, looking back now I don’t think that they were that far of, 60 / 40 is probably more like it. IMHO the balance was just right, it just depends on your mindset, what are your expectations coming in.
Having said that, I must admit that the opening KeyNote started out a bit boring for the first 45 minutes or so, lots of ‘we did great’ and ‘we couldn’t have done it without you’ including the numbers to back it up etc… Which, I guess, is part of Summit as well. Luckily there were some interesting announcements and guest speakers as well, like: Brad Anderson, the Citrix sponsor executive at Microsoft, who discussed several upcoming Microsoft inflection points helping to drive new Citrix deals including the end of life for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Next there was (quoted from TechTarget.com) Frank Palumbo, vice president of global data center / virtualization sales at Cisco, talking about how Cisco has invested heavily in validating the design, the infrastructure, the technical team support and the enablement of the company’s sales organization to be able to jointly support the Citrix channel as well as engage with the customer directly in a holistic and unified way.
As for the sessions, my personal agenda was packed with tech sessions only, 9 in total, and although each session still had some form of marketing / sales in it (some more than others) they were all well prepared and organized. The rooms from where the presentations were given looked great, the Hyatt Regency is an amazing venue altogether, huge rooms and corridors all breathing luxury, perhaps with the exception of the carpets as some of fellow peers pointed out on Twitter :-) With that being said, I cant wait for Las Vegas next year! The majority of the sessions I attended, with the exception of one or two, all lived up to my expectations as far as technical input was concerned. In fact there were two sessions in particular that did even better than anticipated, which is always nice. It goes without saying that I can only judge based on the sessions I attended personally. And since there were over 80 breakout sessions (tech and (pre) sales / partner combined) in total the impressions and thoughts of others might differ from mine.
Now that we’ve briefly discussed the breakout sessions, both technical as well as sales / partner orientated, what about the hands-on labs and instructor lead training sessions? Lets not forget about those. I haven’t attended one personally, I had my reasons, but I heard that the content and the experience itself was satisfying to say the least, I’ll just take their word for it. You had to pre-register for the instructor lead training sessions, there were 6 different subjects to choose from. My personal intention was to gather as much information as possible, and with sessions lasting up to three hours and more (lab and instructor lead) during a 2 day conference, I would’ve spend too much time on just one subject, at least that’s the way I feel. Perhaps the information gathered and the skills learned would have compensated for the loss of some of the other sessions, I guess we’ll never know. Anyway, another addition to the Summit portfolio, and a good one I might add.
Perhaps some sessions weren’t as technical when compared their Synergy counterparts, just remember that most of the tech sessions were prepared with pre-sales in mind, I do think that most of the sessions, at least the ones I attended, were all well prepared, presented and provided a good overview on the product(s) involved including some nice roadmap information from time to time. Again, I also think it depends on what you’re expecting to hear. For example, if you’re already up to speed with XenDesktop 7.1, than attending a technical session on ‘how to migrate from 5.6 to Xendesktop 7.1’ will probably not provide you with any new information, except for some roadmap info, which might just be what you’ve been looking for, but if not, then you’re probably better of at Synergy instead. Although note that at Synergy, if there’s nothing new to tell, well… they won’t. Meaning, you’ll just have to study a bit less in your spare time to keep sessions like this more informative :-)
You can say and think of Summit as you like, but I think we all agree on an excellent organized event! The venue, the Expo, the sessions, labs and exam rooms, (I know because I was there and successfully took the CCE-AD 1Y0-400 exam), during Summit 315 exams were taken in total, the people involved, all super friendly and always willing to help you on your way, lunch, snacks and refreshments in between, including coffee, hot and cold water and more, all of high standard. And what about the Appreciation Party? Sure, there was a line (or should I say queue?) at some point but I don’t think we really cared right? I’m trying to be critical here (really) it’s just hard to come up with something I didn’t like when an event gets organised like this.
The closing sessions was hilarious, although I must admit, I needed a few minutes to adjust, but men that guy was funny! They hired Joel Zeff a comedian and motivational speaker, he’s also a writer and author of the book: Make the Right Choice, for those of you who might be interested. He started out with some funny statements about Summit in general and threw in some of his motivational talk from time to time, when finally he included the whole audience in his Ta Dah! and bunny bunny bunny routine, it’s hard to explain and I won’t try, I guess you just had to be there. He also asked for some volunteers from the audience, twice actually, to play some improvisation games which were very funny as well, again, you had to be there to experience it yourself :-)
There was a third improvisation round which included some of the Citrix VIP’s from the first row (they were probably seated next to ‘the suits’) which for me, was probably the most fun to watch. A solid puppeteer performance. Next up were the Innovation Awards for Partners, Al Monserrat announced this years winners, have a look here: it’s a complete overview on all winners and finalists The session ended with ‘The Mobile Game’ which each Summit attendee could play throughout the conference. I didn’t compete, although it was good fun to watch the finalists go all out when they needed to dribble a football to the end of the hall and back in between the crowds, during the first round. We left early to freshen up before attending the Appreciation Party scheduled later that night.
As mentioned, Summit is also a conference where you meet up with peers, discuss technology and drink a few beers, so I / we did! To start, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Barry Schiffer and Kees Baggerman (and lots of others as well of course), both from the Netherland. Barry and Kees rented an awesome car near the airport with which they picked me up and brought me back to my hotel (it was a about 6 KM from the venue) on a daily basis, thanks again guys. Besides Summit we also had some great steak dinners, enjoyed the weather and drank a few beers.
On Monday we were invited to a party organized by Citrix (Netherlands) at the Howl at the Moon cafe (piano bar), which was really fun and a great opportunity to see and meet a lot of new faces! Of course we also visited some malls in the area, and during my last few days I visited Sea World and went for a run or two. All in all Orlando was, or is, a great place to be, not only because of Citrix Summit, although it was the main reason, but also because of its diversity in entertainment and great climate during this time of year! Oh, and one of my personal favorites, the I-Hop food chain a.k.a the International House of Panecakes!
The Appreciation Party deserves a chapter of its own, it would be an insult to not address it separately. Let’s start with the basics; excellent food, refreshing drinks and thrilling rides are a few things that come to mind. Citrix managed to rent part of the Universal Studio’s park with exclusive access for Summit attendees only. There were drink (bars) and food booths spread throughout the park and you could eat and drink without any restrictions, and some of us did :-) The Blues Brother performed on one of the smaller stages (next to a tasty hot dog stand) and a total 7 rides were open for all to enjoy. The Transformers, a must do ride… it’s as if they’re really there, amazing! But wait, there was more, there was someone else performing as well, that’s right, Jon Bon Jovi gave a live private concert rocking the (big) stage. I have to be honest, I’m not a big fan but it was a great experience nonetheless!
Again, I’m aware that I sound enthusiastic, perhaps a bit too enthusiastic (no, I’m not a Citrix employee and I don’t get paid for writing this :-) but that’s only because I am, I can’t help it. I tried, I really did, to come up with some negative comments, but they were all so minor, hardly even worth mentioning, I’ll try anyway: a few sessions got rescheduled, big deal? No, happens everywhere. Perhaps lunch could have been a bit more varied? Not really. Some more indebt technical (breakout) sessions? Ok, that’s a valid one, however Summit is always going to be a mix of partners and, as of 2014, (pre) sales getting together, collaborating, celebrating even, with technical sessions complement the portfolio, but we’ve already gone over this earlier. The line, or queue, for the busses? Who cares when you end up at a party like we did?! Not much more I can think of.
I loved the American, or should I say, Orlando, experience: the ambiance, the food, the people, the malls and parks, everything really. I’m definitely going back one day! For those who where there as well and don’t agree, please do share your thoughts, especially when it comes to the overall Summit experience. For me, the things that might have been disappointing were easily redeemed by all the other good stuff. I’m already looking forward to next year, hopefully I’ll be part of the ‘magic’ again! Although I wouldn’t bet on it :-) I’d like to finish with a big thank you to Qwise Nederland for making this possible, it was a great experience!
Bas van Kaam ©
Reference materials used: Citrix.com, Citrixsummit.com and Techtarget.com