Category Archives: Trade Shows

Cloud Computing East 2014

When we were selected to speak at this conference a few months ago, I was excited to visit DC and talk with decision-makers in the healthcare space who are in all parts of their cloud journey. The questions we got from the attendees varied widely as you could tell the attendees were in many different phases of their cloud migration. Some were still wondering where to start, while others were looking how to have a separate cloud for a very unique set of users (in this case, it was R&D engineers who needed test environments with more freedom and semi-persistence). It definitely reminded me of the breadth of places we find our customers day-in/day-out.

The sessions focused on a number of topics, starting with infrastructure and architecture topics, building all the way to workflow impacts when migrating to the cloud (Scott’s session). At one of the sessions, the presenter Roman Pavlyuk had a great pejorative question: “In the 1800’s western US (a.k.a. “The Wild west”, banks were getting robbed all the time, yet individuals still put their money into them.” Their security wasn’t believed-in, yet people still flocked to them as a “safe” place. He used this example to setup his perspective on security in the cloud. It was interesting to hear his perspective because it’s one we experience all the time: How much security risk are you willing to continue to manage? When you are running your own IT support group, you are taking on plenty of risk and probably don’t even realize it. What feels like the best that can be done is nothing compared to the world-class service that can be provided by a specialist in that area. The process designed and implemented by your local IT guy likely pales in comparison to the structured, methodical, and rehearsed practices that are managed and delivered by organizations skilled in that specific service. No one wants to be the guinea pig in any situation, but this is often what a SMB is when using their internal staff to solve ALL technology challenges. While it may cost more to get expertise from outside your walls, this would be a place NOT to be penny-wise and pound foolish.

The most difficult part of the security conversations has been requesting users to change their behavior. We stumble into this scenario sometimes in clients who have made simplicity and ease the guiding principle of their technology, even when it violates basic security protocols. When asking an organization to embrace common security standards, in this day and age of DNS attacks and corporate espionage, your security is only as strong as your weakest link. . I definitely recognize that security is a sometimes difficult balance between safe guarding your data and avoiding inconvenience for the user. That said, everyone must be on-board to protect the firm’s data, IP, and overall business. No exceptions, even for the founder and CEO

Scott’s speech was met with applause (speeches will be posted here) and he stayed on stage to anchor a panel to discuss additional healthcare / cloud questions from the moderator. True to form, he got the entire room to laugh at a metaphor three times during the Q&A session. We do take technology serious, but often times we can explain things to simply and comically, that the audience will actually remember it. Both of us feel the audience remembering the story/metaphor is more powerful a tool than being perfectly detailed on a technology concept. I guess it really goes back to “know your audience.”

It was a little tortuous to be in a windowless hotel conference room with picture-perfect spring days outside. We got out for one nice meal at Le Diplomate before the final day of the show and that meal was amazing. I highly recommend the pâté (smooth as ice cream), as well as their seafood platter. I love French food.

Wrapping up the Exact Macola Evolve 2014

We just finished taking down our booth at the Exact Macola Evolve 2014 tradeshow  in Grapevine, Texas. Surprisingly, the booth took about one hour to take down and it all fit into the case. We were unsure what would happen since it arrived in three boxes, and we had never even constructed it before. I guess you can tell how much confidence we had to show up at a show with no experience building a booth. We got a ton of comments on our race-inspired backdrop. Most of the attendees wanted to know what we did. It was our first year to be at the show, so we expected these questions, but as soon as we mentioned Citrix and “Cloud”, peoples’ eyes lit up. We could tell these were topics that were top of mind to many of the attendees.

Scott and I did attend one session, the opening large group session announcing the features for Macola version 10, being released at the end of Q2. They focused on four critical areas, but the one that caught my ear was workflow. Having seen a number of organizations in the same industry operate in drastically different fashions, I’ll be interested to see what the workflows look like, how structured they are, and how malleable they are. We use a collaboration tool called “Podio” for internal projects, and we’ve experienced a number of frustrations with getting it tuned just right. I cannot imagine the meetings and decisions that took place to get workflows decided for the next release, and I’m sure it will be a shock for many of the users as they try to use the tools provided. Trying to use the resources provided to you more effectively is a constant battle.

After the show we headed to Austin to have dinner with a vendor. On the way down I was hosting the first call with the Direct Sales Team. Scott was driving. When I looked over my laptop screen at the dashboard, I noticed he was going more than 100mph. The car was vibrating. I described the scenario to the guys on the call and commented “If you hear my voice tremorring, that’s why.” They laughed.

I’m looking forward to doing more tradeshows with users of software that we have virtualized. I think there’s a LOT of opportunity at these shows, and we can demonstrate our expertise when we comment to them that we virtualized industry/line of business specific software years ago when even the architects couldn’t accomplish it. So many IT leaders at the show were impressed with what we’d done, but they simply hadn’t heard of us before then. That’s what we’re out to change.

First Day at Exact Macola Evolve

We just arrived at the Gaylord Texan Resort for the Exact Macola Evolve 2014 Conference. The conference attracts users and prospects from many industries including retail, manufacturing, logistics, accounting and other industries. The Gaylord Texan Resort is like a mini-indoor city, but nothing in Texas is ever really “mini”. Google image search this place and you will be amazed. I think it’s a ten minute walk from the convention center to my hotel room, through a 9 story atrium.

Before the conference started, we met with Rafael Sanguilly and Giovanni Sanguilly. I had met Raf at the Ingram Micro Cloud Summit in Miami a couple of weeks earlier, and had breakfast with him when I was in Long Beach a few days later for the Long Beach Grand Prix. This time, all four of us could talk, get to know each other, and explore opportunities together. We spent two hours talking about life, work, and everything in between, ultimately coming away with a list of ideas on both sides for how to improve our businesses. I’m looking forward to working with people that are so genuine and caring, and willing to think creatively about solutions. This is yet another testimonial to the IM Cloud Summit, as well as these two professionals.

Scott and I manned our booth for the first Solutions Center exhibit last night. Lots of people stopped by, as we are the only Cloud provider at this conference. There was curiosity, intrigue, confusion, and some disbelief about the capabilities of Cloud solutions. In fact, one IT Leader stopped by our booth and explained his predicament: He has spent so much money on a Citrix installation and it still wasn’t’ performing the way he (and the business) wanted. He’d actually already gone through 6 Citrix consultants who could not fix the issue. We asked him to give us a try, and being west coast based he had a meeting invite and e-mail from our Professional Services Director before he left the event at 8:30pm. When he said he didn’t think we could do what no one else has done before, we simply smiled and said “Let us be the first.”

The following days will have more time spent with attendees in the Solutions Center, and a couple of meetings with some leaders in the Macola family who are in charge of product strategy / roadmap, as well as partner relationships. Our first meeting went very well, and I’m looking forward to the next one. I think we are the kind of firm that Macola leadership wants to work with, and we have the technical skillset many of their users need. This conference is really shaping up to be transformational for VirtualQube.

If you’d like more information on our Macola Cloud Solutions, please check out our Exact Macola page.

Ingram Micro Cloud Summit Recap

Last night was the finale of the Ingram Micro Cloud Summit. This was a conference I hope to come back to next year. The sessions were great, the location was amazing, and the people/events were top notch. The three days concluded with an Awards Ceremony, which was really just a chance for everyone to get all gussied up and strut their stuff. Immediately afterwards, everyone strolled over to the Piano Bar across the street and got the chance to show off why we are in technology.

That’s the play-by-play of the event, but there was something else consistent here: industry peers who were looking to work together, to create packaged deals and offerings together, basically everyone seemed to be looking for opportunity not to sell, but to create solutions for their customers on many more fronts than their current offerings could satisfy. There were also loads of industry experts willing to share their experiences and expertise to every attendee. In fact, I checked out a session led by Erick Simpson of MSPU covered here: Erick was willing to share the knowledge he and his company have gained over the past two decades, knowing that the customer base for all who attend would benefit.  It was this eagerness to make everything better for all MSP customers that resonated with me.

It reminded me of my days in Management Consulting. One of our senior leaders trained a group of up-and-comers in the Boston office. His 3 part framework was (summarily): “First, you define how much money there is in front of the customer. Then you describe what is in the way of the customer getting to that money. Finally, you prescribe a set of actions that would need to take place for the customer to get that money. Only if you have provided value to the customer and served his interest with integrity, you have earned to right to answer his question of ‘How can your firm help us get there?’ “

A very similar philosophy was described to the audience during a session led by Rafael Sanguily. Raf is the CEO of Tensai Consulting, a leader in the IT Services Marketing and Advertising space. Raf’s session was the last one in the event guide, and I only attended it because an attendee mentioned he was a good presenter. By the third day of a conference, with 4-5 sessions per day, your mind gets pretty numb. But I was sitting up straight and fully engaged in the teachings, having them hit memory chords from my previous training. Rafael’s session talked about the difference in activities between being a sales person and a sales professional. Raf preached knowing your customer’s industry, their strategy, their roadmap, their performance metrics they focus on, their backgrounds and where they had struggled. Basically, Raf was saying “If you don’t know what it’s like to BE your customer, they won’t BE your customer.” At least, that’s how I would phrase it.

Looking back, I can see why people at this conference were so engaging, and why they mentioned Raf’s sessions with such enthusiasm: They had learned to be better servants to their clients, thus increasing their business. And this wasn’t a conference to find new sales, it was really a conference to find ways to better serve their clients’ needs when they returned home. Maybe that’s the way we should look at ALL conferences. It’s the way I will from now on.

Ingram-Micro Cloud Summit 2014

On Monday afternoon, I walked by the beautiful 3 story atrium and into the conference center attached to the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, FL. It was torturous. After experiencing a March in Seattle which had 3x the normal amount of rain, I was so excited to see the beautiful blue sky and feel the 70 degree temperatures. And it was just a few feet beyond me as I walked down the long hallway to the Conference Center.

Minutes later, I headed into my first session titled “Effective Executive Leadership Skills” led by Gary Beechum of SPC International. If you haven’t met Gary, you really should. He’s no-nonsense, direct, inspirational and articulate. He often references he time in the military and even uses some of the tools he picked-up while in the Army in his presentation. I definitely learned some things to bring back to our Leadership Team. One of the best parts of his presentation was the 14 Traits of Leaders.

At the reception that followed our classroom sessions I met a ton of new people. Many were from across the country and wanted to work with a firm like VirtualQube, and some who wanted to partner with us to deliver new bundles to customers. Our story really resonated with the attendees. There are a number of MSPs looking for a white-labeled cloud offering, and people would actually overhear my conversation and ask me for a card. I think one of the great benefits of this conference was since it was focused on “cloud” there weren’t MSPs who didn’t have any idea about how they were going to deliver cloud services. Many had come to the conclusion that they would rather hire-out a solid cloud vendor instead of re-invent the wheel and build their own hardware. Our story was like music to their ears. And we’ve even written about it recently here.

All-in-all, the first day of the conference has been so valuable that I’m excited not only for the rest of the conference, but for working more closely with Ingram Micro over the coming months.

Karl Burns