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PowerBuilder Developer’s Conference

This year all of the other Sybase products were incorporated in SAP TechEd

As you probably know, in lieu of a TechWave this year SAP hosted a separate PowerBuilder Developer's Conference (PBDC) co-located with SAP TechEd 2012 in Las Vegas from October 21-25. There was a separate but co-located event last year as well, but that was an actual TechWave that represented all of the Sybase products. This year all of the other Sybase products were incorporated in SAP TechEd, so the only products covered during the PBDC was PowerBuilder. (Actually among the 30+ sessions, PowerDesigner and SQL Anywhere were mentioned in one session, there was a session on InfoMaker and there was one session on SQL Anywhere Tips and Techniques.) There were roughly 90+ people in attendance, compared to 600+ at the last TechWave. The registration area for TechEd was the standard conference registration booths. The registration area for the PBDC was a single skirted table. In that regard it gave it a bit more of a roadshow feel than a full-on conference. In other regards though, as I'll cover later, it was a full-on conference event.

On the TechEd side, there were 1,426 sessions and 6,000+ attendees. With regard to Sybase products, the number of sessions that indicated they covered a particular product was as follows:

PowerDesigner

23

SQL Anywhere

20

Adaptive Server Enterprise

63

Replication Server

21

Sybase IQ

65

Afaria

35

Sybase Unwired Platform

79

Sybase 365

3

Clearly, Sybase products are getting good coverage in the TechEd event. Of course, there were 673 sessions covering NetWeaver and 365 covering HANA.

Being held in October, it was even later than last year's event which was the latest in the year that I can recall TechWave ever being held. As I've requested they do with TechWave for some time, SAP announced the date and location of next year's North American based TechEd, which will also be in Las Vegas in October. People need as much advance notice as they can for these things, particularly in a tight economy, to request approval and budget for them. If we'd had that much prior notice for the PBDC (it wasn't announced until late June, and we couldn't register until early August), we might have had an even better turnout. Whether or not there will be another separate PBDC next year, or if it might be a separate event, is still up in the air right now.

The schedule was much the same as last year: pre-conference courses on Sunday and Monday, general sessions on Tuesday, breakout sessions on Wednesday and Thursday and a special event Thursday night. This year there were no sessions on Friday, just a ‘meet the experts' brunch, which I think was a good move.

As with last year, the breakout sessions were 60 minutes long. However, this year perhaps they took my suggestion from last year as there was a 15-minute break between sessions. Great, because the person presenting before the first session I presented ran late and yet I was still able to set up and be ready on time without being rushed.

This year no PowerBuilder-based applications qualified for Demo Jam (Ronnie Po took second place with his PowerBuilder-based application last year). New this year was the incorporation of PowerBuilder as a tool that could be used in the pre-conference Inno Jam. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make that because of getting a somewhat late notice of the opportunity as I hadn't planned to come up for the pre-conference events. (The extra cost was also a factor given I'm of Scottish descent....) However, none of the teams ended up using PowerBuilder. It's largely because of the nature of the teams. They are randomly assigned and apparently include a number of non-developers. The event would make more sense to me if you could pre-arrange teams with other people you knew were coming that used the same toolset (and who were actually developers).

With regard to some of my other suggestions from last year:

  • Location, location, location. I indicated that I hate Las Vegas as a conference location, and this year's event didn't change that. However, as long as the event is co-located with SAP TechEd, it will probably remain there at least for a while.
  • Power. Didn't see much improvement there at the PBDC. I was also in one TechEd session that was standing room only and few outlets. However, there were some locations in TechEd where there were tables we could sit at and they did have an outlet strip on every table. There were also charging stations in the exhibit hall.
  • Internet Access. Still no wired access for the speakers in the presentations rooms. However, I was able to do my web services demos using the wireless access. It was spotty at times during the conference, but at least worked during the demos.

The great thing about being co-located with SAP TechEd is that we get to take advantage of some of the features of a ‘big conference', e.g. a large networking reception and a top-of-the-line special event. Last year when we had a floor to ourselves and a more conference like registration area the difference between the events didn't stand out so much. This year the PBDC was held in one hallway of the main floor, and it the difference between the events was much more noticeable. I was badged for both events though, so I might have noticed it more than most PBDC attendees. In fact, I spent most of my time with SAP TechEd events (primarily with SAP Mentor meetings with SAP executives), so I don't have a good feel for how most of the PBDC sessions went or how many of the attendees felt about the conference.

That brings up the question about whether PBDC should continue on as a separate co-located event, move to a separate event, or simply merge into TechEd. One would think that at some point SAP would want their PowerBuilder customers checking out their other products, and would want their customers of other products to find out more about PowerBuilder. The latter was actually supposed to be able to happen this year, as people with SAP TechEd badges were supposed to be able to get into PBDC sessions as long a room allowed. When I first attempted that though with just my SAP TechEd badge, the security at the door turned me away until I got a PBDC badge (actually it was the color of the lanyard that differed, the badge was the same). So apparently there was some miscommunication. I'm not sure how SAP TechEd attendees would learn about the opportunity though, given how separate the events were run.

Combining the events makes sense from that regard. The number of sessions for other Sybase products argues that PowerBuilder wouldn't be neglected if we merged into the main TechEd event. I've had that experience with Flex at Adobe Max, where I had trouble finding sessions I was interested in that justified my going. I did hear from some of the TeamSybase members attending SAP TechEd sessions that the other Sybase products session weren't as much of a technical deep dive as they're used to, perhaps because the audience might contain more people who aren't as familiar with the products. I also wonder whether combining PowerBuilder into TechEd might make PowerBuilder sessions available in the non-North American locations. SAP holds several TechEds each year in addition to North America: one in Europe, one in India and one in China. If PowerBuilder remained a separate North American event, I don't see PowerBuilder sessions being incorporated into the other TechEds. But if it was one event, then we should be able to have PowerBuilder sessions in those other TechEds. For example, for the SAP TechEd in Madrid, the breakdown of sessions that reference other Sybase products are:

PowerDesigner

4

SQL Anywhere

1

Adaptive Server Enterprise

17

Replication Server

15

Sybase IQ

12

Afaria

25

Sybase Unwired Platform

40

Sybase 365

0

PowerBuilder

0

The main disadvantage is cost. The registration price for SAP TechEd is roughly twice the cost of the PBDC. That and I guess I'll have to live with having it in Las Vegas for a while longer (unless I want to pony up the money for travel to one of the non-North American locations).

If it was held as a separate event, we might lose some of the ‘big-conference' advantages. We'd also lose the opportunity to cross-pollinate with other SAP customers and perhaps not have the options to see PowerBuilder sessions in TechEds. The main advantages are that we wouldn't be overshadowed by TechEd and the cost would remain the same. We might have more control over the location though.

Or, it could continue to be a co-located event. That should keep costs the same. It wouldn't allow PowerBuilder customers to learn too much about SAP products, since they couldn't attend TechEd sessions. And the communication issues (and visibility) would have to be addressed to make sure TechEd attendees knew about PowerBuilder sessions availability. It also still doesn't address PowerBuilder sessions in non-North American locations. And we'd still be in Las Vegas for a while.

I like some of the advantages of being fully integrated into TechEd. However, given that as an SAP Mentor my registration is covered by SAP, I'm not sure I'm qualified to evaluate the impact of the higher registration cost. Also, given that at least at this co-located event I spend most of my time at TechEd, I'm not sure I can properly evaluate how most PBDC attendees would feel about that kind of change. Send me an email or, better yet, comment here, I'd like to see what you think.

More Stories By Bruce Armstrong

Bruce Armstrong is a development lead with Integrated Data Services (www.get-integrated.com). A charter member of TeamSybase, he has been using PowerBuilder since version 1.0.B. He was a contributing author to SYS-CON's PowerBuilder 4.0 Secrets of the Masters and the editor of SAMs' PowerBuilder 9: Advanced Client/Server Development.

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