Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Conference As A Service (Cloud Conferencing)?

I have just returned from the RSA Conference in SF. RSA is a security conference, and, by most measures, computer security has remained relatively unscathed by the recent economic turmoil.

Not surprisingly though, attendance at this event was down – security budgets may be avoiding the scalpel, the same cannot be said for travel expenses. The organizers, while still doing everything that they could to fill seats, wisely (in my opinion) built in ways for “attendees” to get at content, keynotes, etc. remotely. …and once that cat is out of the bag, many of the same technologies were offered to physical attendees to essentially let them be in more than one place at the same time (twitter, etc.).

While the original motivation for some attendees opting out of travel may have been financial – I am guessing that a few of them will realize that they prefer this remote experience. Certainly, a percentage of the attendees took advantage of the complimentary online services and will now look for and expect this kind of value-add to any conference that they attend in the future.

Having said all of that, there is no doubt in my mind that there is no substitute for face-to-face networking – to build trust, to flesh out impressions of people and companies, to opportunistically (or in an ad hoc fashion) explore and discover unexpected topics…

Cloud conferences are cheaper, accessible to a broader population, and, in many cases, even preferable to real-world ones… but there will always be – in my view – a need and a demand for live events. …and the best conferences of the future will most likely offer a more seamless integration of online and in-person formats.

I may be projecting – but I suspect that nothing in this post so far is even remotely controversial. Why then, do we have such a hard time applying these concepts to applications rather than people?

Cloud-based application services are cheaper, accessible to a broader population, and, in many cases, even preferable to installed alternatives… but there will always be – in my view – a need and a demand for installed software. … and the best solutions of the future will most likely offer a more seamless integration of cloud-based services and installed (somewhere else) components.

New technology does not replace – it displaces – just as new social networking capabilities do not replace – they displace. Electronic documents cannot replace paper, clicks do not replace bricks, and clouds do not replace purpose-built, localized solutions. The optimal recipes integrate all available ingredients.

– Cloud conferencing services are here to stay – but destination events are never going to go away… The same can be said for cloud-based and installed application services.

PS - i will be traveling to LA, CA for TechEd in 2 weeks... go figure!