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Connect delivers 21st Century handouts

Blades_in_sim The collection of this year's HP Technology Forum slide sets arrived in our mailbox this week. Connect, the HP user group, calls the DVD the Conference Proceedings. Back in the days when paper ruled and presentations came out one foil at a time onto overhead projectors, speakers at meetings like the HPTF called these "handouts," a literal term since they handed them to attendees in the room. They were very tough to acquire after the conference.

HP 3000 veterans remember returning from conferences with pounds of paper in their bags, or picking up handsome bound collections of papers of technical talks. It was a disappointment to get a talk which only had a set of slides, but now that's the standard. Without personal notes taken on paper, of course, the value of these presentation slide sets waned with every passing week.

Hewlett-Packard and the user groups who ran these shows had an interim period between paper and electronic files, a conference or two early in the decade when you could print a presentation on demand at the conference. Now these bullets arrive by mail, five months after the conference in this year's case. They're sent on DVD to every Connect user, regardless of attendance at the conference. It's a bonus of a Connect membership that can be had for only $50 yearly.

But the slides arrived in PDF format, rather than the genuine PowerPoint which attendees can download from the Tech Forum site. Sending PDF files via DVD seems pretty 20th Century, considering how many such discs (albeit CDs) the user group Interex mailed after its conferences. Or at some shows, had available for pickup before you left. Time matters here; the five-month gap can be a barrier while trying to make sense of all this PowerPointing from the past.

ServiceshiftsThere is some value in the disc, especially if you're a migrating community member who didn't travel to the Las Vegas show. New concepts such as integrated Lights Out (iLO) management for Integrity servers, environment choices for x86-based HP blades, and ITIL management are among the slide sets. For example, ITIL uses Services as its fundamental coin of the realm, so a good slide (above) helps get the new concept across.

But across 24 years, I've used most technologies to take notes at conferences, and PDF-only slides arriving five months post-conference carry less value to me than taking notes on printed handout slides, old-style. Most 2008 Tech Forum presentations got displayed on a screen, with a promise to make the slide sets available after the show.

Some slides from HPTF have an even more limited distribution than this DVD. HP e3000 expert Alvina Nishimoto offered a pair of presentations at Vegas, but only one made it onto the Proceedings DVD. The migration updates for HP 3000 users are available only from the Tech Forum attendee Web site (and you will need your registration ID and password to get at them). Nishimoto, who remains one of the few lab-trained HP employees to work during 2009 regarding 3000 (migration) matters, appears on the Connect DVD with a "migrate away from the IBM iSeries" slide set.

Sim_integrityblade But the DVD will hold some surprises and a lot of HP-inspired information. For example, the management capabilities of the very dense and infinitely-flexible blade servers came alive in a session on SIM Integrity Management and other tools. If you're an HP 3000 loyalist who doesn't even know what to ask about blade management, this slide set is one way to get a primer on the possibilities. After all, iLO is included with every blade server, although the better parts of the tools are extra.

Then there are HP's pitches on the DVD to steer others onto its servers. We didn't know much about the HP recommended iSeries migration and modernization tools from Infinite Software until we attended the conference. Karim Raad of HP Worldwide Alliances and Nishimoto talk about a solution which will

  • Recompile iSeries applications to Windows, Unix or Linux
  • Migrate data to Oracle or SQL Server
  • Redesign User Interface (UI) with graphical screens, deploy via browser and integrating legacy applications with the enterprise.
  • Delegate and redesign reporting functions and implement business analysis using the Business Intelligence (BI) tools

Some of these strategies will sound familiar to HP 3000 customers. At least the 3000 folks haven't been labeled as "companies still using the AS/400 [iSeries] because they don’t know there are other options." It's a little more complicated than that, when you don't bolt for the vendor's newest technology. There must be some value there that HP cannot see. But at least the DVD lets you see HP's view and another migration suite.

Wirelessfuture There's a delicate balance going on here in protecting a conference's training and education. You don't want to undercut attendance by making much of the meeting's teaching available online. And to be frank, the greatest value members find in Connect is its training, according to the group's own survey. Advocacy barely makes it onto the list. There are few places, outside of a sales meeting for a large customer, where you will see a detailed slide like the one above mapping the solar system of wireless capabilities, now and in the future. It's on the DVD.

But the current state of balance from Connect — while a lot better than today's departed Interex — is running behind other conferences. In 2007, the MacWorld training sessions could be had for couple hundred dollars, video and audio, about 45 days after the show. But this year MacWorld's organizers made a major portion of these materials free, in multimedia QuickTime format, to anyone who was at the show in any capacity, from lowly free expo pass to full-bore registration.

A $50 individual membership is a bargain no matter what you can pull out of it, so the DVD makes joining Connect worthwhile. But perhaps in a year or more the user group can follow the lead of the Mac community and make multimedia — just slides in real time, with audio commentary — available to the full HP community. They can always save the choicest bits of information for a Special Edition DVD. That sells for $149 from MacWorld.

It's okay; we can grow up and accept that paper has become a poor training medium to keep up with the change critical to IT in the 21st Century. Perhaps the DVD potential can take the same kind of leap, to give the only HP North American user conference more virtual reach with spoken words to go with the pictures.