Synergy 2018 - Inside Out

This was my fifth Synergy, having first attended six years ago and having missed the one three years ago, alas. A lot has changed since first attending in–of all places–Anaheim in 2013. There, I was first introduced to NVIDA GRID technology bundled with XenServer, got to even co-present a session on XenServer (oops, Citrix Hypervisor!) on stage with then Citrix employee, Tim Mackey, got to speak with quite an array of vendors, project managers, and end users from every imaginable sector, all while taking in the first-time exposure to the broad world of Citrix.


Fast-forward five years and while so much has changed, so much has also remained the same. I would like to focus on that perspective here instead of reiterating the many exciting and interesting things that have already been published by a number of very capable reviewers. Here's a short list of some, in no particular order (and I apologize if anyone is left out–there is no way to list them all in this short space and I have picked a few that I've managed to consume):


Rory Monaghan https://www.rorymon.com/blog/citrix-synergy-2018-review/
Jason Samuel  http://www.jasonsamuel.com/2018/05/14/citrix-synergy-2018-highlights-strategy-whats-new-and-technical-sessions-you-need-to-watch/
Dane Young http://tech.daneyoung.com/home-from-citrix-synergy-2018-and-excited-for-the-future/
Christopher Shrameyer https://www.mycugc.org/blog/citrix-synergy-2018-an-insiders-perspective
Nicolas Ignoto https://www.mycugc.org/blog/key-takeaways-from-citrix-synergy-2018-keynote
Benjamin Crill https://www.mycugc.org/blog/day-in-the-life-of-citrix-synergy


Now, as in the last couple of years, the difference is that I've attended in the capacity of a Citrix Technology Professional, NVIDIA GRID Community Advocacy group member, and a member and VP of the Citrix User Group Community Steering Committee. All of that has meant additional duties, responsibilities and branching out into these and other areas of interest. The emphasis here is ostensibly on community and while I'm lucky to hit just a few sessions (and thank you, Citrix, for now filming and making the videos of the majority of these online very shortly after they take place), there is so much to be learned through other interactions. There are also many other activities, including labs, examinations, Simply Serve, Lunch Table Sessions, Fireside Chats, Match.Geek, Meet the Experts, vendor events, demos, and more. It is truly impossible to take it all in, which requires some planning and making choices.


CTP/CTA Meeting

 

Being relatively close, I drove to and from Anaheim this year and ended up covering around 900 miles altogether. Other than the usual LA-area traffic congestion, the drive went smoothly, hitting around 100 degrees Fahrenheit along the way in various areas. The weather in Anaheim was very pleasant and we were spared from rain the entire time.

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The CTP meeting started with a get-together the Sunday evening before, which provided the opportunity to see many CTPs (whom you're lucky to see even once a year, plus be rewarded with the chance to meet many of the newly appointed members, six out of seven of whom made it to the conference this year). It was also the first chance I had to meet a number of Citrix Technology Advocates (CTAs) for the first time. Covering this entire spectrum of individuals in terms of the collected knowledge, the dedication of these folks is remarkable. Equally so are the Citrites who run the program. This year had the first-ever joint meeting of CTPs with CTAs, who joined for the warm welcomes of President and CEO David Henshall, plus Jeroen van Rotterdam, VP of Engineering, and PJ Hough, Chief Product Officer. The frankness and "tell it like it is" approach of all three was very welcome. Citrix has gone through a number of changes at its executive level regarding both personnel and structure, and this latest encounter left me feeling much more confident as to where things now stand. Joining these gentlemen were a number of product managers, engineers, and others from Citrix. The then scheduled so-called unconference provided this mixed group of employees and community members the unique opportunity to elect subject areas and discuss them in unfettered ways, terminating with a report from each of the several topics covered. As much of the content of these sessions was under Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), details can obviously not be shared, but suffice it to say that there were a lot of good information and idea exchanges, and I felt we walked away with a clearer idea of Citrix's focus and direction. This is a good feeling to end the meeting with.


Monday night was also the CUGC Pregame reception, at which over 500 T-shirts–emblazoned with the winning design by newly minted CTP Patrick Coble–were given away. That in just three short years, CUGC membership has grown from zero to over 20,000 members is absolutely fantastic. The officials, as well as volunteers behind CUGC, have done a fabulous job and the enthusiasm this year was as great as any. I may be a bit biased here, but ask anyone who was there and odds are very good that you'll hear similar praises. Monday evening was also the Navigators Reception, where Synergy attendees have a chance to meet those associated with CUGC in various capacities, and then later learn about finding their way around the conference. Both events were great places to meet and greet and even prepare for the next three solid days of events.


The Conference


The conference itself was well laid-out, well marked and the venue was particularly nicely decorated this year. The CUGC booth area was fantastic. It's always run by the friendliest people you can imagine and those who didn't get a T-shirt at the Pregame reception were sure to be able to get one there. I'm not sure what the overall membership increase was from just attendees who chose to sign up this year, but it was not small. The Pregame and Navigator events certainly contribute to the growing membership, as do other activities that are primarily led by CUGC members, such as the Lunch Table Tech Chat sessions, which were headed by extremely capable and knowledgeable folks; I stopped by a couple of times when I had a chance and quickly learned a few things, myself. It's really wonderful that these sessions were moved back to being held over lunchtime -- thank you, Citrix!


As mentioned above, picking and choosing from the myriad activities is a challenge, but being able to view or review recorded sessions is a tremendous thing that Citrix started within the last few years and which has led to almost all presentations being filmed over the last couple years. This way, you don't have to struggle to choose from overlapping choices, knowing you can catch them all at a later and possibly at an even more convenient time.


Over the last few years, there has been more emphasis on technical sessions and many this year did not disappoint. It was also a welcome sight to see many CUGC community members giving presentations, in some cases even pairing up with a Citrite. My impression is that there was a broad range of interests covered.


Even if you didn't find a session to satisfy your search for answers and knowledge, there is a very good chance of you running into someone who could help. Not only did Citrix provide areas where you could ask top engineers questions, but just walking around, there is a good chance of running into someone you recognize and in many cases, is willing to spend some time with you. I've had encounters like this before and last year, I recall spending a good hour with someone who ran into me and struck up an interesting conversation. I really love the way that so many people are willing to give so freely of their time.

 

But, There's More ...

 

There is plenty more to keep you busy, and certainly that kept me busy. Citrix Synergy is a great place to check out the many products offered by Citrix, as well as many other complimentary vendors. I have found that you will often encounter some of the top engineers and sales people, and have made it a point to take advantage of being able to ask and get answers to some perhaps tough questions. This holds true for both Citrix and other exhibiting vendors. One year, I probably spent easily four hours just talking to different vendors about a particular project and was pleased to be able to make good use of this freshly acquired information.


Another target audience is that of the engineers, themselves. I have the great advantage of knowing ahead of time who is working within some of the specific areas and being able to find out who will be there, and hence can make an effort to meet with them to discuss specific matters. That worked well this time, and I'm always blown away with the responsiveness of Citrix employees. Engineers, project managers, and VPs have been readily accessible and provided valuable feedback. I truly appreciate that, Citrix. Even if something remains open-ended, I know that there will be follow-up discussions and actions. How many corporations foster this sort of personalized service?

As Saadallah Chebaro quoted in his pre-Syngery 2018 blog from former U.S. Secretary of State, Gen. Colin Powell: "The bottom line in all of it is that, in life, it's all about people." In that respect, it's always been the most rewarding part of Synergy, from the keynotes, to the special guest speakers Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Michael Lewis, and perhaps even more so, the one-on-one and small group discussions that in many cases just happen spontaneously. Some of these garner the fondest memories and have led to incredible insights, enlightenment, the gaining of knowledge and friendships. There's no way or need to put any sort of monetary value on such experiences.


A number of updates on various products from Liquidware, Igel, and NVIDIA were presented at the Inside Track for EUC/VDI VIPs and this was another opportunity to learn more about products and network with old and new contacts. I had the opportunity to attend the CUGC Community Leader Facilitation Workshop, where great topics revolving around planning and hosting meetings were presented and shared.

 

CUGC Shines On and Even More ...

 

The CUGC Steering Committee dinner has been a wonderful experience and this one was no exception. A number of guests also came and dinner conversations were all over the map, highly entertaining, and often very informative. This group of employees and volunteers is unique and it's such an honor and pleasure to be able to contribute to CUGC in this capacity. It's amazing how entertaining Citrix Lego mini figures can be at the dinner table. I finally snagged two, which are the very first ones, ever! CUGC works because of the tireless dedication of so many individuals and they are a wonderful group to work with and also have fun with.


The opportunity arose to present a "theater talk" at the NVIDIA booth on projects we have been working on at NAU to deliver applications to our end users that leverage Citrix and NVIDIA technologies. I had to scramble to put this all together, but made it with about 90 minutes to spare. There's nothing like a deadline to push things to completion.


Throughout these days, there were still chances to attend a few sessions, meet lots of people, and interact with vendors. Even though things run at a whirlwind pace, there always seems to be a chance to squeeze in some unplanned time.


The closing Final Night Party provided a chance to wind down a bit and shoot the breeze on a variety of topics, as did various other impromptu gatherings. Again, the planned, as well as impromptu, meetings with people are to me the highlights of conferences like this and create the fondest memories.


Here's to best wishes for another great Synergy 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, and the hope to see old connections and make new ones once again.

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Synergy 2018 - Inside Out