As a rule, I tend to avoid vendor-specific shows. I tire of hearing all of the self-serving prognostications by “independent” analysts hired to say certain things. I am annoyed by the noticeable gaps in presentations — you know, where the technology of competitors might be framed in a positive light. And I am really annoyed at many of these events by the myopia of attendees — the fan boys and true believers who embrace the words of their favorite vendor as Gospel. I disdain cults — especially technology cults — and have a tendency to view followers with some measure of pity and possibly disdain.
A few years ago, after attending my Xth Storage Networking World, I created this satirical piece, leveraging a popular movie poster of the day for a great film called Shaun of the Dead.
Only IBM Edge 2013 isn’t like your typical SNW used to be (I say “used to be” because I haven’t been to that show in a few years, so I really can’t say if it has improved at all). What I like about IBM is that they, unlike many large vendors, actually innovate. They have distinguished engineers who deserve the title — who actually come up with semi-original or original thoughts and ideas. Moreover, IBM’s partner ecosystem (unlike that of, say, your popular server hypervisor vendor) doesn’t exist simply to remedy things that IBM technology breaks. Complementary technologies can and do exist in IBM world, and Big Blue seems to have the guts that its competitors lack — to open up some of their technology for third parties to enhance and add value.
Moreover, IBM conferences tend to grow from grass roots, or at least to be shaped by them. I am old enough to remember that SHARE was not a user group. It was an organization of IT folk who joined together to tell the vendors what they needed and wanted, not to march in lock-step to whatever tech the vendors were handing down. Remember the Mellon Mods? Mellon Bank decided to write their own JCL exits, then to share them in quasi product style.
At this year’s Edge, I am looking forward to rubbing elbows with intelligent attendees who are there for more than the tchotchke they can collect from a booth. I like how accessible the distinguished engineers are to impromptu discussions and debates. I hope they do another mix-up at the end of this one, a free-form panel discussion including many IBM engineering luminaries who will take on the queries of all comers. That was one of my favorite events last year!
I fully expect to hear some corporate speak, some mucky-mucks talking in carefully crafted code phrases that avoid forward looking statements. But I also expect a great signal to noise ratio, this being IBM after all. And I expect all of the humility that goes with the mental acuity of IBM experts and distiguished engineers.
Bottom line: there are no zombies at Edge. There are a lot of folks who have spilled a lot of blood in the data center mud and who do not consider themselves inferiors or students, but peers of everyone in an IBM badge or shirt. To their credit, I have yet to encounter an IBM operative at the show who holds him or herself in false esteem or comports with an air of superiority. At the end of the day, this is a show where old nerds and new nerds gather together to share ideas, share problems, and share jokes.