NetApp Insight 2011 in EMEA finished yesterday, and more than 2000 NetApp partners and employees have been wending their way home from Rome. With two thirds of the attendees coming from channel partners and technology alliance companies, the conference had a very eclectic, international and varied appeal to it.
Yes, all roads do lead to Rome for NetApp partners. And, for those of us lucky enough not to be on striking Alitalia flights, they also led back home.
This is a technologists conference, designed by technologists for technologists. It was short on marketing messages but long on technical training, best practices and networking.
As usual, the quality of the sessions was extremely high, being packed with value and information and delivered with élan. Of the keynotes one stood out head-and-shoulders above the rest, and indeed over pretty much every keynote I have been to at a tech vendor conference in recent years. Those of you who know NetApp will not be surprised at this. It was that of our very own co-founder and EVP, Dave Hitz.
It was an honor to have him at the event and a reflection of how important Insight EMEA has become in the NetApp ecosystem.
Dave had two messages he wanted to get across to the audience in his presentation. The first of these I will cover in this post, the second of which will follow.
Precisely how critical are our partners to us?
Well, Dave was unequivocal about it. NetApp is nothing without them. We invest very significantly in training them and giving them the same experience that our own staff members enjoy. We do that throughout the organization. We build respect and close co-operative channel working into our DNA. At Insight our partners are treated with total equality. You will not find different tracks, different messages, different technical explanations or secret sessions which differentiate our own staff from our partners. No, Insight is all about a shared experience. Partners are our arms and legs in the market. How can they represent us if they don’t know what we know?
This is somewhat in contrast to some other storage vendors that I might name.
If you need convincing of his passion for sharing his knowledge and experience with our partners, then consider this. What founder and presumably super-wealthy executive would agree to present to a breakout room at 8:30am on a Wednesday morning? Well, there’s one at NetApp. His slot? “Dave Hitz: Storage Efficiency Czar – “unplugged”. I felt rather sorry for the presenters at the other 22 parallel sessions at that time, but with 2000 attendees there were still a lot of partners to be educated in other tracks!