BriForum: The End of an Era

Thursday marked the closing of the 20th BriForum conference in Boston, Massachusetts, and the end of an era.  As the largest independent virtualization industry conference, it’s a place where geeks explain how products really work (or don’t) and where unfiltered side-by-side comparisons are the norm.

BriForum attendees love the conference because the 0s and 1s of technology—both literal and figurative—are presented by people that live and breathe the subject matter.  Presenting at BriForum is a challenge due to the highly technical audience.  Having had the pleasure (or gluttony for punishment?) of presenting at BriForum four out of the last five years, this means about 50 hours of work per presentation.  Questions are asked openly and almost always answered immediately by the speakers or other experts.

The breakout sessions and hallway discussions at BriForum have always been incredibly frank and provide the most honest depiction of the state of the virtualization industry, as well as where it’s headed in the next year.  While the big-name consulting companies write extensive (and expensive!) reports about technologies that they’ve actually had little or no real hands-on experience, whereas the real industry experts and influencers are actually walking the hallways at BriForum.

This year, there were several well-attended sessions related to Cloud.  It’s clear that this is the industry push, and the information provided by the presenters explained the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Most of the attendees were just starting to dip their toes in these waters, so the forthright and informative sessions were most welcomed by all.  It was quite clear that not everyone is jumping into Cloud just yet and that those that had started down that road for anything more than PoCs had experienced numerous bumps and bruises.  There are many “What if?” scenarios for Cloud that haven’t been addressed yet.  There was lots of hallway talk about the difficulties of presenting the realities of Cloud to CIO/CTO titles that have already become overly enamored with it conceptually.

As evidence that the Cloud isn’t taking over as immediately as Microsoft and others will lead you to believe, on-prem solutions continued to attract attention with several vendors showcasing various types of hardware, including hyperconvergence solutions and GPUs.  Let’s just say that their booths weren’t empty.

Many of the sessions revolved around getting existing technologies to work.  In some cases, that meant basic functionality, whereas in others, it revolved around optimization.  Sometimes it’s that one little checkbox that makes life miserable or can make a specific functionality work great, and having someone explain “if this, then that” can save hours or days of time.  All of this is exactly what made BriForum so special.  Geeky people talking to other geeky people about how to make geeky things better.

As a follow-on to issues with existing virtualization products, technologies that fill the gaps were highlighted both in presentations and on the vendor floor.  A strict rule at BriForum is that with the exception of a few vendor-sponsored sessions, speakers are prohibited from promoting any products where there is financial or other interest, especially where that speaker works for a vendor.  However, speakers can openly compare products or state where a specific product may address a need.

There’s just nothing like BriForum.  It’s overwhelming in a wonderful way.

What’s Next?

The event was bittersweet because we all knew that this was the last BriForum.  First timers were regretting that it took them so long to finally attend BriForum because they enjoyed it so much.  Long-standing presenters and attendees were glad for another year of awesome content.  And, of course, geeky friendships were made and renewed.

But with Brian Madden leaving TechTarget, the “Bri” in BriForum is no longer part of the event.  While there is a high expectation that TechTarget will continue some type of similar event in the future, it just won’t be the same without Brian hosting the Geek Out show with a system held together by Gabe Knuth and Jack Madden using more real and virtual duct tape than we’ll ever know.

Brian, we thank you for your contributions to the industry and for establishing the best geeky event on the planet.  Best of luck to you as you log off and reboot.

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