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Connect opens Tech Forum sign-up doors

TechForumLogo The Connect HP user group opened registration for its annual North American show on Friday, the earliest opening I can recall since the event launched in 2005. Although this conference has little to offer the HP 3000 homesteader, any company who's considering HP gear as a replacement for their 3000 should find plenty to justify a trip between June 21-24 to Las Vegas.

HP's needs have helped to plant the show in the desert during the summer, since the vendor has always provided thousands of attendees to swell the crowds. Professional certification on HP solutions is offered throughout the conference, for anyone who needs to show proficiency in HP's Unix, NonStop, Windows or networking products. It's not a bad idea, if you're adding new skills to your IT resume, to aim for a certification.

The other advantage to HP's heavy involvement in the event is the HP Confidential Disclosure briefings. If knowing about coming product release specifics will help you plan that HP-UX server buy, then signing up for one of these is a unique value for a small or medium-sized customer. (The bigger ones get these briefings without having to travel.)

But being onsite at the Mandalay Bay Casino and Hotel mid-week wins you more than HP's peeks. If you're diligent and attend the right meetings, you can expand your network to extend your base of experience. There's nothing like forming a contact who's trying out things you haven't yet implemented. In-person meetings make that develop faster. Then there's the Expo, which managed a healthy show floor population among vendors even last year, a period when travel budgets were slashed all around.

IT'S PROBABLY a little early to send in a registration, since the group hasn't even posted session details to help plan and justify a trip. But since this will be time away from the office during family vacation season, making flight and hotel arrangements could benefit from an earlier start. Connect has an attractive three-day-minimum rate at the conference hotel of $433 for the whole three days. Vegas hotels can be very inexpensive, but the daily trip to the hotel from bargain lodging could cost more time than the savings are worth. I've stayed at the nearby Luxor on my trips, but I didn't save that much. Of course, the less-costly airfares are available now, and less so as vacation season arrives.

Connect is starting with early-bird pricing before it switches over to pre-show fees for attending. A full conference package costs $1,595 until April 30 -- but joining Connect (for $50) will earn you an extra $100 off the total show package, to drive down the fee to $1,495. Booking a $695 one-day-pass (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) could save you half the attendance fee, but that might not be the best way to maximize your travel costs. Day passes aren't being discounted. However, if a limited amount of out-of-office time is a better fit, a slice of the show could justify itself.

In past years the lower pricing extended through May, but Connect is saying the registrations will cost $100 extra starting April 30. HP 3000 users need to know that the content at the Tech Forum has a strong NonStop flavor, with a definite nod toward OpenVMS -- these are the user volunteers most involved with Connect at the moment. However, HP-UX has been well-represented in content, HP experts and attendees. A user group that glues together five operating environments can only slice its loaf so many times, so sessions that span environments are becoming more popular.

You can follow Connect's content and marketing updates on Twitter at, or up on Facebook at the same name. There's even a free iPhone app for the conference, a tool that might be genuinely useful if it could feed attendees updated information about talks and expo booths. (The latest Macworld Expo did just that with an app, giving me a way to plan on the fly. The Tech Forum is very spread out, in terms of walking.) An IT pro could do this conference well during June 22-23 in the Vegas summertime. If adopting a non-3000 skill set is a 2010 priority, this can be two days and three nights well spent.