NexGen Cloud Conference Attendee Says The Conference 'Opened My Eyes'

Kevin Goodman went to San Diego with a good amount of skepticism last December to do something completely out of the norm for him -- attend an IT industry conference with his peers.

Goodman, a partner and managing director at BlueBridge Networks, a dedicated and cloud hosting provider headquartered in Cleveland, always found such events "preaching to the choir." He preferred, when he could spare time to travel, to go to venues where he would meet potential customers and drive revenue.

But his experience at the NexGen Cloud Conference, hosted by CRN's parent, The Channel Company, not only completely surprised him, but has also proven transformative to his business, he recently told CRN.

[Related: NexGen Cloud: IBM Tells Partners To Transform Before It's Too Late]

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"It was a wake-up call," he said.

Which isn't to say everything Goodman heard at NexGen made him rethink his business strategy.

"There was a lot affirming the concept that I was right where I needed to be for the next one to three years, which is as a hybrid solution provider. To see my role to facilitate that and to help customers launch into the digital age, that was really in a nutshell my experience at the event," he told CRN.

What Goodman learned over those two days in San Diego about where the industry is headed, and how his own business must evolve, has shifted his approach to partnerships and his thinking about how a regional service provider like BlueBridge could adapt to maximize its reach in the cloud era and become a global operator.

"It opened up my eyes to that which is the ecosystem," Goodman told CRN. "It's more collaborative, less combative. I saw how big, public clouds could facilitate what I can do and I didn't have to lose control of that customer, and I didn't have to worry that I would be commoditized out -- that there was still this standing and place in the ecosystem for the niche player."

With those insights in mind, Goodman had a long discussion with representatives of IBM's cloud division on the NexGen show floor.

"We're going to generate revenue with each other," Goodman said of his emerging partnership with IBM's SoftLayer.

One NexGen presenter who provided "inspirational thought leadership that really put together the pieces of the puzzle for me" was Tiffani Bova of Gartner, Goodman said.

"She stood out the most because she was talking about where the market is, where it's going, where's the exponential growth and how you have to have your messaging to the business objectives. It's not just technical solutions, but what kind of impact you're going to have for that business. I left there and continued to think about what she said," Goodman told CRN.

As BlueBridge has ramped up its cloud business, Goodman has noticed three-quarters of the company's revenue of late comes from "nontraditional signatures," meaning budgeting is approved from the likes of business owners, CFOs and procurement managers, and not by the IT department.

Goodman thought those revenue figures were aberrations, but was relieved to hear from thought leaders like Bova that industry trends were aligning with his own stats.

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He sees a divide in the industry where on-premises IT leaders are worried that cloud technologies will displace them but business decision-makers are pushing migrations, no longer believing the cloud is less secure than their on-site data rooms.

NexGen was a wake-up call, but one that reassured him the tectonic shift in his industry is still in its early stages and all he needs to do is "stay on your toes, keep learning, keep collaborating," he said.

While he has sold traditional IBM hardware solutions in the past, "prior to the event [NexGen], I didn't really understand the depth and breadth of IBM as a service provider like myself."

"I was able to learn about Bluemix, SoftLayer, Watson, the litany of products from IBM," Goodman said.

Those IBM cloud resources were more affordable than he had imagined and, more importantly, with their global footprint could help him get his customers access to international markets, he said.

"I was able to follow up with IBM teams and my team and we were able, from operations, sales, network, security, systems, to get a full understanding of how SoftLayer could not only augment, but facilitate, a closer reach for my customers in the global marketplace," Goodman told CRN.

So will the guy who made it a rule to stay away from IT trade shows and peer conferences return next year?

"I wouldn't have a year without at least one NexGen cloud to recalibrate," Goodman told CRN. "I want to be challenged, I want to be affirmed, and I think I was both."