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Eaton Postpones Partner Summit To November, Cites Coronavirus

Curtiz Gangi, sales vice president for U.S. channels and midmarket business for Eaton's electrical and data center verticals, tells CRN that the company may do a virtual event for partners as a way to highlight what it has planned for 2020.

Power management vendor Eaton Tuesday said it has postponed its upcoming Eaton Partner Summit in the face of growing concerns about coronavirus.

The Eaton Partner Summit, originally scheduled to be held March 16 to 18 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been postponed until November, the company told its solution provider partners.

Dublin, Ireland-based Eaton told partners via email and via the home page for its Eaton Partner Summit that it had anticipated about 250 attendees from eight countries to attend.

[Related: Coronavirus Crisis: The IT Industry Prepares For The Worst]

However, it said, an abundance of caution combined with the postponement and cancellation of numerous other IT industry events meant it felt postponing its own event was necessary.

In Eaton's letter to channel partners, the company wrote, "After careful consideration and with much sadness, Eaton is postponing our 2020 Partner Summit, scheduled to take place in Fort Lauderdale, March 16-18. We do this with deep disappointment as we had planned on having over 250 attendees from eight different countries. In light of developing circumstances regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus, we believe the risks involved with travel to the event cannot be dismissed. Despite the benefits of such a gathering, we have made safeguarding our partners' health the priority.

"Over the last few days concern has mounted rapidly about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The World Health Organization raised the threat level on Friday, February 28, the U.S. government canceled a summit meeting scheduled in Las Vegas and an increasing number of companies are instituting travel bans and restrictions. Additionally, border health checks are becoming more restrictive and there is growing concern about large conferences with people coming from different parts of the world. As our chief concern is the health and safety of all our colleagues, these developments made it necessary to postpone," the company wrote.

Curtiz Gangi, sales vice president for U.S. channels and midmarket business for Eaton's electrical and data center verticals, told CRN that Eaton instead may do a virtual event for partners as a way to highlight what the company has planned for 2020.

Gangi said the Eaton Partner Summit 2020 was expected to be its largest partner event ever, with over 160 channel partners planning to attend. "That's double the attendance of last year's event," he said.

Gangi said Eaton worked closely with the event venue, the Marriott Resort Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach, to postpone the Partner Summit until November.

"With the relationship we have with Marriott, we were able to assess the decision together," he said. "So we're not canceling the event, just postponing it. Marriott worked great with us. This is a big short-term issue for them, but hopefully not a long-term one."

Eaton joins a growing list of companies that have postponed or canceled events during the first few months of 2020 in response to the coronavirus, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Cisco, Aruba, Google Cloud and Google I/O, and the Mobile World Congress.

In addition, IBM and AT&T pulled out of the recent RSA Conference because of coronavirus concerns.

Eaton's message to partners was done very well, said Michael Goldstein, president of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based MSP and Eaton channel partner.

"They really had no choice," Goldstein told CRN. "What can you do in this day and age?"

The worldwide coronavirus outbreak has led to a lot of confusion, which has disrupted IT conferences for the foreseeable future, Goldstein said.

However, he said, the outbreak should not have a long-term impact on the importance of face-to-face meetings and industry conferences.

"Conferences still offer the advantage of meeting, seeing, and shaking hands," he said. "Look, there has been a major outbreak of flu going on for some time, and it's not stopping us. Things will go back to normal. The need to meet doesn't change."

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