I had a sad experience right away this morning. On the elevator on the way down to the conference area I ran into a guy from a very well-known company in California. We were the only people on the elevator and both of us were wearing EMC World badges. I introduced myself and then we shook hands. I mentioned that I was one of millions of people who had connected to their website. He said thanks and then said “but it isn’t hosted on Brocade switching.” I asked him why and he said that Brocade’s presence was few and far between, from his perspective, at his company location and that our competitor was there all the time. Then they were offered a deal that was hard to refuse and, as far as he knew, Brocade was never in the hunt for the business. Out of sight, out of mind I suspect. Sad, sad, sad.
By nature I am a hunter. Most of you probably know what that means. Marketing and sales are often broken up into personality groups known as hunters and farmers. The breakdown is that there are people good at finding new opportunities (hunters) and people good at nurturing current relationships (farmers). Of that group, I am a hunter. And when a hunter hears that an opportunity has gotten away from them, we are always sad. It is one thing to lose an opportunity in a fair competition – but to lose because we never showed up to the tournament – that is hard. No person and no company can be everywhere all of the time. And when there are conflicts it is critical to use resources to target the more important and valuable of those opportunities even at the expense of the others. But that does not make it any easier to lose an opportunity. This was not a mainframe opportunity, so I was never involved and would not have become involved, except for my accidental meeting with this gentleman on an elevator. I have already spoken to one of my upper management people about this and I will speak with others today. Lost is lost but we need to reflect on the reason why we lost and see if there are things we can do going forward to avoid as many situations like this as possible. In my mind all Brocadians must take responsibility for finding and nurturing prospects and customers and making sure that, ultimately, they feel like a part of the Brocade family. That is just one of the many ways in which we excel as a company and become trusted advisers to our customers and partners. I guess I am just on my soap box because I am competitive by nature and hate to lose so much. Enough said.
Today I attended a session titled, “Pivotal Data Scientists on the Front Line: Examples of Data Science in Action”. The room would hold about 500 people but I’d guess there are 150 or so in attendance. I find that I get in a rut and attend technical sessions that have special meaning to me and my mainframe background. Breaking out of that rut once in a while lets me catch a bigger picture of the industry as a whole. I was hopeful that this would be a big picture type of presentation.
Pivotal is a science team that builds a platform that enables customers to build a new class of applications that leverage big and fast data. They work with EMC and VMware and many others particularly in the cloud and data analytics areas. They explained that data scientists do data preparation, data exploration and visualization, feature creation based on data, quantitative modeling and model validation and the scoring of data. This company does point model development, multiple model development and helps in the transformation of data to help their customers. Unfortunately for me, this really was a product presentation (and I noticed their booth on at the Solutions Expo later that day). Their presentation talked about how this company meets with other companies and begins to understand their data needs and requirements. Then they begin to build models. They talked about segmentation which is a process of grouping customers by common characteristics. Then they went into some examples. Unfortunately, since I am not a brick and mortar customer attendee, this topic was just not relevant to me and I picked up after 20 minutes and left. The speakers were energized and the presentation graphics were interesting but the topic just wasn’t broadening my horizons as I had hoped.
I decided to move on to the Mainframe Tape DLM8000 Overview presentation. As luck with have it, I got there just as it was ending. I did see some familiar faces in the crowd including Lou Ricci. Lou use to work for IBM and was their top channels guy. After retiring he took a job with EMC and is working in the mainframe side of EMC’s business although I am not yet totally clear about his responsibilities. I know Lou from presentations he has done with Brocade at SHARE conferences and it was a delight to run into him again. It was no big loss that I did not get to see the presentation as I have seen this presentation before at other conferences and it is a good overview of their very high end capability of provisioning the DLM product for their largest mainframe customers. I just wanted to see if there had been any updates since last I saw the information. I will catch up with some of their EMC experts on DLM later on during the conference.
There was a noon-time meeting with another large Brocade customer and I was invited to attend. Brocade has equipment in both their open systems and mainframe enterprises in several different locations. I had just visited with the mainframe group of this company in one of their locations about 6 weeks ago. The thought was that I might be able to add a little value to the meeting. AJ Casamento (Brocade Global Solutions Architect) was the principal technologist for this meeting. AJ has such an incredibly deep and wide set of knowledge that I always learn something when I am around him. The customer had just stated their intent for the meeting and AJ was just beginning his response when the fire alarms went off. We thought at first it was just a commotion outside (the sound was not a constant alarm) but within a moment the meeting admin came in to tell us it was a fire alarm and that we should evacuate the building. Well that certainly throws a bucket of cold water on a meeting. It is interesting that no one wants to believe that a fire is a real threat and waits to see if it is a false alarm or not. The customer hung around about 2 minutes and then headed out. The Brocadians were trying to find someone who might know what was actually happening before we just dropped everything and left. I talked with a security person, within 10 minutes, and they told me it was a false alarm. A forklift, somewhere in the building, had lifted a package up and had smashed into a fire nozzle on the ceiling. That set off the alarm. So it was a non-event, and not threatening to anyone in the building, but I have to say that there was never any announcement that I heard from the hotel or meeting area that called this event off. The fire alarms just quit ringing. It certainly seems to me that more should have been done by hotel and convention area personnel to reassure people that an emergency really did not exist and to go about their business as before. Regardless, I do not know if that customer meeting was rescheduled or not but I hope it was.
In the afternoon I had booth duty at the Solutions Pavilion. We have a large booth that is accessible from the main door and pathway, the fifth booth area down. It is very prominent and easy to find. I’ve attached a photo to the blog that will give you some idea of its visible nature. The Brocade booth is setup to host a Fibre Channel bay, a VSPEX bay, a VDX bay, an SDN bay, a welcome area and a theater area. Visitors to the booth and the theater presentation could begin a passport (stamped folio) where they have an opportunity to win $5,000. This is per day and not just once during the conference. Needless to say, during the theater presentations we have big crowds. I never got a count while I was there but at times I would say that more than 100 people were participating. We are getting a really good turnout.
Foot traffic is pretty heavy and constant. Being in the main aisle and about half-way down, the Brocade booth is in the heavily traveled flow of humanity. Really excellent demonstrations of high availability are being delivered by our VDX technologists where customers could view high availability in action and actually be part of that demo. I thought it was very well done. And the Fibre Channel Gen5 bay was often stacked 5 or 6 rows deep with people while demonstrations of Brocade Network Advisor was highlighting the capabilities of setting up and utilizing informative dashboards as well as the many other capabilities of our worldclass management software. Next to that big screen is a rack of our FC switching equipment including Gen5 6510 and 6520 motherboard-based switches, an 8-slot MLXe and a Gen5 FC 8510-4 Director-class backbone hosting both 48-port and 32-port blades. Booth visitors can see and touch these devices and have one of our experts explain any features/functionality the visitor is interested in and even discuss the technical and strategic advantages of Brocade FC technology compared to our major competitor. Lots of conversations like this were often going on at once while I was there today. The excitement and energy is very high around the Brocade booth.
I should relate a funny thing that happened while I was attending one of our competitor’s presentations. Another Brocadian and I were sitting in the back row and just holding a quiet discussion together. An attendee in the row of seats directly in front of us noticed my Brocade shirt and showed us the downloadable EMC World app on his iPad for this session we were attending. In bold letters, at the bottom of each page, was the word Brocade. I guess Brocade provided the app to EMC World (I do not know that for a fact) with the result being that Brocade is featured prominently on each page. I have a Blackberry and the app is only for Apple and Android so I had not seen it until then. What the attendee showed us was that the description of the session was at the top of the page, and in this case a presentation from our competitor. Then, at the bottom, in bold letters is the word BROCADE. He looked at us and said that it looks like each session is actually being hosted by Brocade. We all got a bit of a laugh about that but it was a powerful visual image. And if that attendee noticed it then others did as well. Good for us!
Tonight there is a Brocade Customer Appreciation Event which I will attend. I think Brocade is expecting over a thousand guests at that event. Conference attendees really do appreciate this kind of informal event, hosted by companies with which they do business, and it really helps build good will. And it is also a grand place to have informal conversations and potentially create even more business opportunities for the future. I am looking forward to it and so are many, many others.