What a blast the Citrix Masters Retreat was! It was by far and away the most unique event I have ever been a part of. When Steve Greenberg described the open space format, I wasn't sure what to expect. It seemed like the sessions themselves would be more about engagement and discussion rather than a formal presentation. That was a little concerning, if the participants didn't want to engage during the session it could die on the vine. Luckily, our CUGC in Phoenix is awesome, we have core attendees who go to every meet up and are always ready to engage so I feel that lead into the success of open format for this conference. Couple that with the incredibly bright people who came all the way to Prescott from out of state and we had a winning formula.
The conference began with drinks, dinner and an eye opening keynote by Chris Matthieu. When signing in, we all had to pick a sticker for our name tag. It turned out these stickers correlated to a sticker on the tables in the dining room. We had to sit at the table which matched our sticker, that way the groups seating was randomized. This was a great idea!
At the keynote, we talked Skynet, IoT, AI and more. It was a helluva way to kick off a conference. Chris mentioned companies, services and products that I have never heard of before. This was a guy with a track record of picking up on and delivering on the next big thing consistently going into detail with our group about what he feels is the next big thing. The keynote was a mixture of exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.
After the keynote, we created the agenda. Everybody was free to write a suggestion for a topic on a giant post-it note. When ready we stuck them up on the walls of the conference hall. We would later put time slots against each session and boom, we had our agenda. It was open space so we could have multiple sessions running at once and the best thing about it, not all sessions were technical.
Having the conference over a weekend turned out to be a god send. Not having any work distractions allowed for a much more relaxing time and I was able to focus on the sessions and fun. On Saturday morning we started with sword training. We got on the roof of the conference hall and learned proper movements and technique. I wish I could say I'm a natural. I am not!
It was a great way to loosen us up. When you're thrashing about with a light saber with everybody, it makes presenting a demo a lot less daunting.
Which takes me to the first session on Saturday that I technically attended. Together with Ryan Revord, I lead a session on one of Citrix's latest acquisitions, Unidesk. I got a little unlucky in that Citrix released a new version of Unidesk earlier in the week. When I went to do an in-place upgrade in my demo environment it broke the appliance. I had to do a net new install. I finished recording my demo around 4:15am on Friday morning, got up for work at 6am and then drove up to Prescott for the conference around 3pm. It was a busy week :)
It was great presenting with Ryan! I am much more familiar with Unidesk 2.x and 3.x, Ryan suitably filled in for any knowledge gaps I had. I'd like to think I was able to give perspective regarding app delivery and what I like and dislike about the new releases of Unidesk. It was pretty amazing how well the session went considering that Ryan and I did not speak or co-ordinate a session beforehand. Kudos to Ryan for helping out! I will be uploading my demo soon, keep an eye out for that.
Our session lead right into Citrix Workspace Environment Management by the great Hal Lange, which I attended. When put together with Unidesk and advances with XenApp and XenDesktop, Citrix are building a great stack! Hal is a leading expert when it comes to WEM, his demos showcased why implementing WEM is a no brainer. Comments by Kevin Goodman during the session also further illustrated the effectiveness of such a product. It made me think WEM could actually make you re-think some of your system requirements when it comes to your applications or even if you have an app that just eats resources like Google Chrome, you can easily counter that.
We got treated to a session on WEM just as Norskale were bought by Citrix at our CUGC. We are very lucky to have super bright people like Hal as members. If you'd like to see a demo for yourself, check out some of the great videos that Hal posted on YouTube:
Kevin Goodman, CEO of FSLogix delivered a great session on containers, namely Windows containers and Dockers containers. It was really impressive that the CEO of a company would come in and share his knowledge on topics that are not necessarily related to his own product. All the more impressive considering they are a sponsor.
On the topic of sponsors. A huge thank you to the sponsors! This is the first conference I have ever been to in which the sponsors really did just integrate into the conference. There really was no sales pitch. Citrix, nVidia, FSLogix, Nutanix and ExtraHop all had representation at the conference and all were represented expertly.
On Sunday, I started the day by attending a session on mindfulness and meditation. It was really interesting hearing about everybody's experiences and what they felt helped with stress and focus. After breakfast, I went to a great session by John Smith on the power of wire data analytics with ExtraHop which also lead into some practical use cases for IoT through Octoblu. I went to the conference most interested in IoT and left more amped than ever to check out Octoblu. It feels like the possibilities are endless.
On Sunday night, I dealt with my free whiskey related hangover :)
The Citrix Masters Retreat provided unbelievable value for money. I encourage everybody to attend the next even, if you can. I can't wait to go again!