Events, like people, have lifecycles. They are born, they grow up, they die. With Gestalt IT’s latest event, a networking-specific gathering in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stephen Foskett’s idea of a blogger-centric vendor tech gathering is becoming a teenager. It’s pretty much fully-grown, has its drivers license and a lot figured out, but it still has some awkward social moments, and even has to deal with obnoxious schoolyard bullies.
I count myself incredibly fortunate that I’ve been invited to two of these events. The first was the Tech Field Day in Seattle, focused on storage. This one, the sixth Field Day, was on networking. I found myself surrounded by battle-hardened networking gurus, outnumbered 11 to 1. Daunting, sometimes, but I was duly warned. Sometimes it was pretty clear how different the two worlds are, systems vs. networking. But more often than not it was obvious that, despite how heads-down we can be in our own worlds, the two worlds have much in common. Capacity planning, failover, monitoring and alerting, management, configuration control, patching, budgets vs. the need for speed, moronic users — the list is long. The two worlds may have different terms for each thing (for example, sysadmins might have ‘clueless users’ while networking guys have ‘sysadmins’ :) but underneath it’s really just the same old thing: people one notch up the OSI model keeping you from your beer.
The vendors were great, the delegates almost too polite at times. In a lot of ways Field Day is like prom. The dance is sometimes awkward, both sides are too shy to say anything, and you end up sitting along the wall, playing with your iPhone while your date dances with someone else. A few vendors, though, knew how to dance. Their folks got mega nerdy on us, we got excited, and after a few beers and some Difference Engine #2 porn at the Computer History Museum we were hoping the night would never end.
The night does end, though, and you better get some rest, because the next 14 hour day starts again tomorrow at 7:30 AM sharp. It’s really hard to retire to your room, though, because the guys you’re with are all sitting in the hotel bar, having a beer, telling jokes, mocking the guys talking about pumas and mountain lions, and explaining what the hell a chazwazza is, all at the same time. “Holy crap, it’s a talking muffin!” indeed.
I guess I can sleep on the plane ride home.
I did manage to take some notes along the way, but this no longer feels like the post I want them in. I’ll post them separately. I want to thank HP, SolarWinds, Cradlepoint, Force10, Juniper, Arista, and Xsigo for being sponsors. Without sponsors like them these events wouldn’t exist, and it’s nice to work with companies that get the idea of social media and that these events are high-bandwidth, in both directions. It was doubly great to meet Brandon, Ethan, Greg, Ivan, Jennifer, Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy, Josh, Steve, and Terry. Great folks, and while the vendors were educational I learned just as much or more from this crew, about a lot of different things. And as always, thanks to Stephen Foskett and his sergeant major, Claire Chaplais, at Gestalt IT. Without them none of this would exist.
 At least its Urban Dictionary entry won’t get deleted by Wikipedia Nazis. Poor FCoTR, gettin’ no respect from people who know nothing about computers.