Symantec ManageFusion 2009 and what made it successful

Symantec ManageFusion has a winning formula when it comes to trade shows -- let's hope they keep it as it merges into Symantec Vision

Symantec may have bought Altiris back in 2007, but the company has kept alive the Altiris-branded endpoint management conference known as ManageFusion for years ... that is, until now.

As a wrap-up to Symantec's 2009 ManageFusion show in Las Vegas, I wanted to take a moment to pay homage by trying to figure out what makes the show such a success in my mind.

[ Related: Symantec ups the ante of its virtualization strategy with its Altiris, AppStream, and nSuite acquisitions | Security vendor Symantec is using new virtual machine technology to protect Web surfers from online attack ]

  1. The keynote. Still, hands down, ManageFusion is the best at pulling off the keynote address. I have yet to attend a technical conference or computer trade show that can present a keynote session remotely close to this show -- a show that is hosted every year by Symantec VP of Product Development, Endpoint Security, and Management Group, Steve Morton. I say a hosted "show" because unlike other keynote sessions that can be, let's face it, boring, monotone, and driven as death by PowerPoint presentations, this keynote is delivered in a late night talk show format. Morton relays information to the audience through entertainment and pure comedic genius. With a desk, two guest chairs, and a band (yes, I said a band), Morton interviews people, provides top 10 lists, offers demos on stage, and showcases videos of customers and partners -- and then throws in some wackiness to tie it all together.
  2. Access. You get access to whatever you need. Participants in the show are treated like family members or royalty, as opposed to just customers or end-users. You can get one-on-one access to Symantec employees (executives, developers, trainers, support experts, and others). It's easy: Just sign up and ask. You also get access to the latest and greatest information through breakout sessions and hands-on labs. Even more information comes from Symantec and partner booths throughout the exhibit area. And to wrap it up and tie it all together, they've also created user groups and communities that show up at these events to provide more chatter at things like "birds of a feather" events and chat sessions during meals.
  3. Customers. No, I don't mean customer case studies. While the show did put customers on stage, on video, in breakout sessions, and made them available in one-on-one sessions, what I enjoy is how animated their users are at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and parties. These are friendly users who enjoy working with this technology and are willing to share their experiences with a complete stranger. And they want to know how others are using the products as well. Also this year, user group members from around the country battled for a trophy and bragging rights as they were pitted against one another in an obstacle course of wit and team work.
  4. Food... food... and did I mention the food? ManageFusion figured out that the best way to an IT administrator's heart is through his stomach. This show knows how to feed people. If you walk away hungry from a ManageFusion event, you're too damn picky. Pack a granola bar in your bag next time. Oh wait, you don't have to! They offer those during snack breaks. No need to worry about breakfast, lunch, or dinner either. The show has you covered in spades. In fact, I think I'm still stuffed.
  5. Parties. You want entertainment? These guys have it. Each day you get informative entertainment during the keynote session, but they also know how to have a good time later during the day and night. There are sponsored parties and events throughout the show. At this latest event, they brought in music, food, drinks, and fun and delivered it old-school style with pinball machines, vintage standup arcade machines, pool tables, air hockey tables, foosball, and more. And the big party this year was held at Wet Republic at MGM. What a fantastic venue. Great food, drinks, conversation, and music. A good way to wind down and end the evening.
  6. Intelligence. While past shows have closed out with very funny comedians, ManageFusion 2009 ended with Dr. Michio Kaku. Come on, when is the last time you connected with something like this? Dr. Kaku closed the show with fascinating scientific insights -- more than just String Theory happening here.
  7. The band. Have you heard that ManageFusion has its own band? Show host Steve Morton is a member of the band, ManageThis, and I've had the pleasure of listening to these guys a few times now. I think I still have an autographed CD somewhere around here in the office. Now where did I put that thing? Anyway, some companies have a group of people who jam together and sound good while doing it. But the members of ManageThis make up a true band -- and an entertaining one at that. While they won't be selling out the Garden any time soon (sorry guys), the members of ManageThis will make you sing along, dance, and have a great time. They do it every time they hit the stage. You can feel their passion for the live performance.
  8. Product. A number of announcements and product demonstrations took place during the show. For Symantec, probably the biggest and most anticipated announcement at ManageFusion was the launch of the latest version of the Altiris systems management suite version 7.0. For me, personally, the product that I wanted to hear more about was the launch of the Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite (EVS), made up of Symantec Workspace Virtualization (application virtualization), Symantec Workspace Streaming (application streaming), Symantec Workspace Corporate/Remote (desktop connection broker), and Symantec Workspace Profiles (roaming workspace customizations). I'll be talking about and writing about these and other products in the coming days.
  9. Venue. Again, ManageFusion selects a great venue. This year, the show took place at the MGM in Las Vegas, and the setup worked. I've been to too many shows in Vegas where it feels like all you do is walk around (or run) from one session to the next. But somehow, ManageFusion pulls it together so that I move from one thing to the next, and still feel like I have time in between to check out a booth, talk to someone in the hall, make a phone call to the office, send an e-mail, or grab a snack. In other words, event organizers seem to have the magic formula down.
  10. ManageFusion Internet lounge. Sponsored by Dell, the lounge is a place to listen to music (although the Altiris employee who normally DJs wasn't there this year, in a rather surprising and disappointing move), relax, check e-mail, or play Xbox 360 or Wii games on the big screen. Just don't get caught eating in this room! Bringing popcorn into the lounge doesn't win you any points, to be sure.

Sad to say, if you haven't been to a ManageFusion event yet, you won't be attending one in the future either. After speaking to a few folks at the show, I understand that this will be the final ManageFusion event as Symantec ends the Altiris-created trade show and merges it into Symantec Vision. In this economy, it is probably a wise and sound financial move to combine these events. And I'm sure it will expand the show to include more product news and coverage, invite more attendees, and allow for more Symantec and partner-sponsored booths.

If Symantec is listening to this, hopefully the big takeaway for them is to keep the Symantec Vision show name but let the remaining Altiris marketing folks "change" the Vision show format to match the ManageFusion style. Let Steve Morton continue to do what he does so well -- edutain people. Remember, you didn't just acquire great technology and great people with your Altiris acquisition; you also received a winning trade show formula. Please use it!

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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