Notes from the Expo Floor - Home
LISA 2012
Brian Kirk
JAN 07, 2013 10:18 AM
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LISA ’12, Usenix’s 26th Large Installation System Administration conference, brought more than a thousand tech professionals down to sunny (well, partly cloudy) San Diego, and by all accounts, the conference was a success. It’s always intellectually invigorating to see so many smart people together in the same place, discussing the impacts of cloud computing, mobile security, IPv6m, system administration, and HPC. 
Taking place at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, even the threat of dark clouds couldn’t impact the excitement on the Expo Floor. Set up in a tent, the exhibition space looked a little small, but once inside, I was floored by how many large organizations were exhibiting in the space. 
But first, I have a question: what do Yahoo!, Google, Palantir, Disney, and Riot Games all have in common? 
Not much, right?
These organizations (and others) were all at the conference (some unofficially), recruiting from the talent pool of attendees at LISA. That fact alone is a testament to the perceived quality of attendees, with these organizations getting the word out about openings and possibilities in the field. 
I had my press badge on, and as such, I didn’t get any official statements from Google, nor did I get the rights to mention another tech company’s presence at the show (it’s a big name, though), and I had to take pause to remember that while some companies love to talk to the press, others shy away. I’m sure this has to do with market share in relation to expo-representative (a small company with a small staff is in greater need of publicity than a large company with a large staff, and the risk of impacting a small company with negative publicity is probably smaller than the risk of an employee inadvertently speaking out of turn), but even though I couldn’t talk to anyone in any official manner, Google’s display was pretty neat. Seriously, it looked like a beach. But I digress…
I had a chat with the folks from Palantir, and they weren’t what I expected.  A lot of the press around Palantir paints a picture of a pseudo-black-ops, private intelligence-gathering company, but their recruiters (all young enough to make me feel really old) were great, and they laughed at my dumb jokes about being spooks, so that’s good.
Disney Animation was there, too. When I talked to them about their presence at the show, trying to figure out why they were looking for animators at a system administration conference, they immediately re-focused my question. They were there recruiting, but they weren’t recruiting animators. They were getting the word out that Disney actually employs highly-skilled computer professionals from all branches of the tech tree. Surely a slow process, it gets at the heart of the exhibition hall: getting the word out to your potential audience. 
One of the more interesting exhibitors (as far as I was concerned), was Cambridge Computer. More of a collection of industry partners, Cambridge serves as a consultant for businesses and institutions in need of data storage and security solutions to their problems. What was interesting about their presence at the show was the sheer number of partners that were also on the floor. Going up to one of the partners’ booths, you could hear about their approach in a specific slice of the system-pie, but if you talked to Cambridge, you could get an overview of the entire partnership, seeing how they all could potentially work together, utilizing the strengths of each specific part of the collective. Pseudo-crowdsourcing on an enterprise level, these types of partnerships seem to be highly efficient at utilizing key strengths and tapping into each organization’s network. These sorts of things should increase in number over the next few years, especially as organizations seek highly-specific solutions.
The floor was eclectic, with publishers, analysts, hardware suppliers, and collectives all intermingling, but in talking with the exhibitors, both big and small, I kept hearing versions of the same response, over and over: “This is where some of the best potential recruits are.” With that stamp of approval, LISA should be a destination if you’re seeking the best and brightest. 
See you in D.C. next year!
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